Bluebird Down

The pursuit of domestic bliss, one glorious debacle at a time.

Recap: Hockey Roadtrips 2011-2012 (or How I Almost Bought a Max Talbot T-shirt) April 15, 2012

This post wasn’t supposed to come so early. It was only to be written after the Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2012 Stanley Cup. And, right, the Pens aren’t out of it yet, but they are down 3-0 to the Philadelphia Freakin’ Flyers. And, you are right, they could have a gut (and heart) check to come back blazing Wednesday night. Stranger things have happened. (See: Boston Red Sox, 2004 or watch the movie Fever Pitch — and don’t go to any costume birthday parties Wednesday night.)

Patterson and I went to our first NHL game in February 2011 — the Pens at the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Pens lost. Our second game was in Pittsburgh for the last game of the season in April. Pens beat the Devils to make it into the playoffs. We were officially hockey fans, specifically Pittsburgh Penguins fans, and it was going to get extreme.

The evolution of our hockey love is kind of a long and arduous story, but it goes a little something like this: Local minor league hockey coach’s wife starts working with Patterson in Fall of 2010 > Local minor league hockey coach’s wife doesn’t like to sit alone at games > Local minor league hockey coach’s wife gives us tickets to the games > Local minor league hockey coach’s wife gives us the behind the scenes scoop of the real hockey action > A sickly afternoon marathon with HBO 24/7 featuring the Pens and Caps takes it to the next level > Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours.

After the misguided dismissal of local minor league hockey coach at the end of last season (and pretty much the entire team, for that matter), we went to a few games this season, but it wasn’t the same. Good job on those dismissals, by the way. We went from just missing the playoffs last year to being dead last (with a bullet!) in the league this year. Best laid plans, I suppose.

We turned to the NHL to keep our hockey buzz alive. We went to seven games and had a 5-2 record. I’m starting to think we should have shown up for the playoffs.

 

 

Patterson swears Marc-Andre was practicing proposing to her.

 

 

Saturday, November 12 — Pens at Carolina Hurricanes (L)
We had hoped to see Sidney Crosby back after being out for nine long months, but we were a week or so too early. Highlights included sitting beside the bench, good naturally harassing the security guy at the end of our row and meeting the Pens Knitting Lady and her husband (who takes amazing photos of the games, by the way.)

 

 

Sid's back! (This is my screen saver on my phone. Is that creepy?)

 

Saturday, December December 3 — Pens at Carolina Hurricanes (W)
Sid was back and it was the first time the entire Pens team was healthy and on the ice after a litany of injuries. It didn’t last long though — Jordan Staal was nailed in the face with a puck, right in front of his parents, and spewed blood all over the ice. I swooned, and not in a good way. Highlight of the game was discovering that sitting behind the goal is pretty dang cool.

 

 

Got a Sidney Crosby doll for Christmas. Took it to Tampa. This is how we found Sid after housekeeping cleaned the room.

 

Sunday, January 15 — Pens at Tampa Bay Lightning (W)
Good grief, this trip started out as the Journey to Hell. The drive down was dull and slow. We arrive at our hotel to find it covered in feathers. Patterson is highly allergic to feathers. She turned a weird color and oozed from every pore. It was gross. And she still had to haggle with the front desk to be released from our reservation. (This was after they claimed to have hypoallergenic feathers. No joke.) We moved to the lovely Marriott that was, hands down, the best hotel of the trip. We walked past Tyler Kennedy as we were leaving Precinct Pizza. Now, poor Tyler Kennedy has taken a bit of a beating from me because he’s the only non-beautiful kid on the Penguins. I mean, tell me he doesn’t resemble one of the pigs from Angry Birds. Yeah, see, I told you. But let me tell you, put TK in a suit and set him out in the Florida sunshine and that kid sparkles. I kid you not. We were still giddy when we watched Geno score a hat trick later that day. [Hockey Bucket List Checkoff: Witness a Hat Trick]

 

 

Flower took the pow-wow literally.

 
Saturday, February 16 — Pens at Philadelphia Flyers (W)
I was slightly afraid of walking into the Wells Fargo Center with my Crosby jersey. Flyers fans are, um, serious. Happy to say we made it out alive with only mildly hostile razzing from disheartened Flyers fans. We beat them pretty squarely. Further convinced that behind the goal seats are the way to go.

 

 

The guy in the front row's big head was blocking all of my photos of Zach Parise.

 
Saturday, March 17 — Pens at New Jersey Devils (W)
I like the New Jersey Devils — OK, I like Zach Parise. Pens won and we went into NYC to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. A good time was had by all.

 

 

James Neal in the penalty box. (He had just fixed his hair.) Wish I had video of Geno in the box. He talked to himself the entire time.

 
Sunday, March 18 — Pens at Philadelphia Flyers (L)
Hockey insanity. We decided that since we had to drive by Philadelphia on the way home from Newark, we should stop in for the game. Our seats were behind the penalty box. That game was intense. Pens lost in overtime with .9 seconds left on the clock — there is a point in front of that 9 and that’s less than a second. The crowd was crazy. I had to tell Patterson to stop talking about James Neal’s hair because we were on the verge of being beat up. In fact, an older lady in a Flyer’s jersey had her husband watch us as we walked to our car because she feared for our safety. We were so dejected by the loss, we didn’t even realize we were in harm’s way. On the way out, I almost bought a Max Talbot Flyer’s t-shirt because I loved Max as a Penguin. I wanted our relationship to continue. But he switched sides and it’s time to let him go. Good-bye, Max. It’s for good this time. [Hockey Bucket List Checkoff: Overtime Game]

 

 

We became besties with Matt Cooke during warm-ups.

 

Saturday, April 6 — Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh (W)
It’s officially tradition. Our second annual last game of the season in Pittsburgh. We ponied up for glass seats and it was totally worth it. I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to the third row.

Our own version of NHL Awards:
Best Venue: Consol Energy Center
Nicest Event Staff: Carolina Hurricanes
Best Fans: I can’t believe I’m saying this… Philadelphia Flyers. Sure, they are homicidal, but they know hockey.
Best Restaurant: Marra’s in Philadelphia with the best buss boy ever, Mario. Honorable Mention: Jerome Bettis Grille 36 in Pittsburgh
Best Hotel: Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina

On Tap for Next Season:
Washington, DC to see the Pens play the Capitals
New York City to see the Pens play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Boston, MA to see the Pens play the Bruins
The first and last home games in Pittsburgh
Every game the Pens play against the Hurricanes

But this season isn’t quite over yet…

 

 

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My Fake Date with a Hockey Player February 28, 2012

Filed under: NHL,Road Trip — Teri @ 9:07 pm

I was reminded last night that February wasn’t all bad. There were a few ridiculous, hilarious moments that poked through the haze of daily life.

 

Nope, that's not him.

 

My favorite February moment was my fake date with a hockey player. OK, it wasn’t my date — and, ok, it wasn’t a date at all, but remember I am fragile and work with me. Our local minor league hockey team ran an auction to win dinner with a player. It wasn’t cheap. Your car payment is probably more than their monthly paychecks, so the winner had to buy the player’s steak dinner. And you don’t get to keep the player at the end of the night [rip off!], but you do get two glorious hours to interrogate him on all things hockey. [Squee!] I bid on a player under the guise that it would be an excellent practice date for P, who was due after a lengthy divorce. [And secretly I really wanted to break bread with a full-blooded Canadian.] When the auction made a 6’3″, 220 lb professional hockey player suddenly available, it clearly meant my plan was endorsed by God. I told P that I placed a bid in her honor. She panicked, then recovered her senses in time to ask for an additional bid on the player with the sketchiest reputation. And while I’m quite sure said sketchy player came with a bonus supply of penicillin, I told her we were sticking with my original pick. I mean, pace yourself, Woman.

 

Nope, that's not him either.

 

P and I were both deathly ill the night of the big date. [Did I forget to mention that I’m chaperoning?] My head was stuffed with kindergarten paste and I hadn’t had color in my cheeks in weeks. P was wearing twelve layers of makeup and weird sounds kept escaping from her throat. Just to dial things up a notch, I decided to see what really does happen when you mix Magic Cough Syrup with Blue Moon beer. [Answer: You say just a little too much about your inner most hockey secrets.] We walked into the banquet room of our local old money steak house and were directed to the only player sitting alone at his table. See, the auction was actually for season ticket holders, but no one told me that when I bid. Essentially everyone in the room knew each other — except for the random girls that just walked through the door. Freakin’ details. Get you every time.

 

Cha. You wish.

 

Take notice, NHL teams, this chick can pick an awesome hockey player. First of all, he was incredibly, insanely nice. Secondly, he was handsome. We’re talking NHL good looking. Like Pittsburgh Penguins good looking. [Stop. You know they are the best looking team in the NHL.] We chatted nonstop. We wanted to know all about Canada. It’s a lot like here. [Bummer.] We wanted to know about hockey fights. Typical southern hockey fans. We wanted to know who he knows in the NHL. He used to work out with Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning during summer breaks. We told him about our monthly hockey road trips. He was worried about our chances in Philly. [But I suspect secretly thought we were awesome.] We mentioned the hockey blogs we read. What?! Hockey blogs? Hilarious. We asked what he wanted to do after hockey. Fireman. [Awww.] He told us about playing hockey in Europe. We talked about traveling. Has he ever been to Austria? Yes. Definitely go. It was like we were trying to shove a filming of NHL36 into a two hour dinner. The only question he really had for us was: So why did you pick me? We froze. Did I tell the truth? Was I really going to look him in the eye and say, “Uh, cause you are, like, hot and you had the best Movember stache on the entire team.” Noooo, I was not! After dodging the question twice, I lamely muttered, “Seemed like a good idea.” He gave a little Canadian smirk and went back to debating goalies with P.

Amazing night. Call me, NHL. I know what I’m doing.

 

Runners to the Starting Line! January 10, 2012

Filed under: 5K,Exercise Follies,Penguins,Road Trip — Teri @ 7:16 pm

That's right.

I’ve been out of commission for the past three days, but couch time is a good time to research and organize your race schedule for the coming year. I’m going to do a mix of 5Ks and 10Ks this year. If I can successfully get through this year, I *may* work my way up to a half marathon. I like the idea of doing the Rock ‘n Roll Half in a major city or the Flying Pirate Half in Nags Head. I have absolutely, positively no desire to do a full marathon. Running is not easy for me. I don’t have the willowy limbs of a natural runner. But that doesn’t mean I can’t put some effort into it and accomplish a few miles. I just don’t want to accomplish 26.2 miles at one time.

Preach it.

2012 Race Schedule
March 3 – Saint Patty’s Run Green 8K, Raleigh, NC
March 31 – USO of NC 4th Annual Run for the Troops 5K, Fayetteville, NC -or- Cooper River Bridge Run 10K in Charleston, SC
May 5 – 11th Annual Cinco de Mayo 10K, Fayetteville, NC
June 2 – 5th Annual Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation Run for the Legend 10K, Fayetteville, NC
TBD – Hot Chocolate 5K, Chicago or DC

Despite being born and raised in the muggy south, I hate hot, humid days. I will not be running outside during July and August. I’ll run with limited enthusiasm in September. Give me a freezing cold race in the depth of winter any day.

I’m going to cut down on travel time this year too. Traveling to a race in the pre-dawn hours was more stressful than I thought it would be. If I can’t stay overnight near the race, I’m skipping it.

Fall races that I’ll repeat:
Moonlight Madness 5K, Winston-Salem, NC
Women’s Only 5K, Greensboro, NC
Ardmore 5K, Winston-Salem, NC
Trick or Treat Trot 5K, Wilmington, NC
Reading Rocks! 5K, Fayetteville, NC
Monster Dash 5K, Raleigh, NC
Joint Special Operations 5K, Fayetteville, NC
Turkey Strut 5K, Winston-Salem, NC
Mistletoe Run 5K, Winston-Salem, NC
Ryan’s Reindeer Run 5K, Fayetteville, NC

We have the same running form.

I tried to find races that coincided with The Official 2012 Pens Stalking Tour. No dice. I hoped participating in an organized race would keep me from chasing the team bus. If you know of a race, let me know. I’ll pay your entry fee with my unused bail money.

Tampa, Florida for the weekend of January 14-16
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the weekend of February 17-18
Newark, New Jersey for St. Patrick’s Day weekend {Really? No beer runs have been organized?!}
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for Easter weekend

 

Race Report: Crimestoppers Run for Justice September 13, 2011

Fact.

I should have gotten a Purple Heart for this run. After calculating how long it would truly take to get to my sister’s house on Saturday morning, I realized I had to wake up at 4:30 am. Just the knowledge that I had to wake up at 4:30 kept me awake until 11:00 pm Friday night. My body works in mysterious way. I got up, jumped in my running clothes, downed a cold slice of pizza (what?!) and hit the road by 5:00 am. When I got to my sister’s exit, I called her to let her know I was close. “OK, cool,” she said. “Oh, and I read the starting time wrong, we don’t have to be there until 8:30 instead of 8:00.” She pretty much couldn’t have said anything that would have wounded my heart more in that moment. I grieved for the lost 30 minutes of sleep, but made my peace before I got to her door.

The great thing about being early is that you don’t have the panic of finding parking, finding the starting line, finding the port-a-potties before the race. You just wander. Calm and free. As we were walking up the sidewalk, my sister commented that there weren’t many runners. It was true. It looked as if the local running club showed up, maybe a few family members but that was it. Easily less than 100 people. I was feeling inadequate. These were serious runners. I am… not. Yet. I told my sister she didn’t have to wait for me. She’s been running for years. She would be fine with these people. An older woman heard my strategy and said she would linger back with me. She was wearing a knee brace. Behind us were a group of blind runners. That’s right, blind runners. Some had escorts, some ran independently. Talk about motivating. Those folks had no fear.

We were walking up the sidewalk as the Kid’s Fun Run finished up. A group of ladies were blocking the sidewalk. The first of the two kids racing ran past. I checked for the second kid. She was a few yards back and running near the center of the road. I stepped off the curb to slide past the ladies blocking the walk. In a fury, one of the ladies reached out and grabbed my upper arm. She jerked at me. I pulled my arm away as her nails dug in and scratched me. Seriously, what did she think I was going to do? Run out and trip the kid? I turned my head and shot her a look that stopped her group cold. “I was just going around you,” I said in a growl. Crimestoppers, I would like to report an assault.

All was well once the race started. Knee Brace Lady and I traded positions for the first mile or so. I walked up the hills, ran down them. (What?!) We made our way up 4th street, across Cherry, then down 5th. Halfway down 5th Street, I noticed I was being passed by very lean men moving very quickly. I seriously thought they were just random people running — because I’m clever like that. When we came around the corner and headed back up to 4th Street, I was feeling pretty good despite having walked more than I would have liked. A sign said three miles. Something seemed off, but I wasn’t going to fight it. I followed the Lean Guys. We were nearing the starting line. Suddenly a race official stuck out his arms and yelled at me, “This is for the finishers!” I think I looked stunned [because I was]. Two other race officials were nearby. “Go around this way to keep going, Honey,” one said. I stopped for a moment and said, “So what? I don’t look like I could finish in 20 minutes?” I gave them a “pssshh” and ran on. The old guys laughed. The Finish Line Nazi did not. [In case you are wondering, the fastest man finished in 16 minutes. The fastest woman finished in 19 minutes.]

My little bolt of defiance gave me a burst of energy. I wasn’t thrilled to do the loop again, but at least I was halfway through. The second loop was pretty quiet. I ran alone. I walked alone. My sister doubled back and met me on 5th Street as I was coming down. She ran part of the way with me, then cut through the park to wait for me at the finish line. When I was making my last turn, one of the ladies from the sidewalk group earlier cheered me on. “I like your headband,” she said. “Thanks, it’s from Active Bands,” I told her. Apparently that was more chatting from me than she approved of because she said, “Keep going, you aren’t finished.” I looked back to nod at her [and secretly roll my eyes] when I caught sight of the Knee Brace Lady. I waited for her. “I’ll run with you,” I told her. Sidewalk Lady yelled, “Run! You can beat her! She’s wearing a knee brace!” I’m not making that up. I repeated to the Knee Brace Lady, “We’ll cross together.” And we did. In 41:45.

Race History:
Crimestoppers Run for Justice 5K: 41:45 minutes
Tour de Lila
[15 miles]: 70 minutes
Run Wild at the Zoo 5K: 44:04 minutes

Currently Reading: Stuck on The Happiness Project. I don’t know why I can’t get through this book.

Training Log: Yesterday: Walk/Run, 2.6 miles, 36 minutes; Today: Spin, 16.6 miles, 45 minutes

 

Race Report: Tour de Lila September 6, 2011

Head cow said to the other cows, "Nobody move. That girl ain't right."

I was about eight miles into the ride when I realized a cow was staring at me. Actually, not just one cow, but a field of cows. They had stopped grazing and seemed to hold their breath as they watched me chug down mouthfuls of water. I suppose I was a sight. I was alone on a country road where forty-some-odd bikes had already ridden through. I was red faced, dry mouthed and was working on a hateful disposition. Moments earlier Z had been riding behind me. After too many “we need to catch up!” and “use your gears!” I told him to go ahead of me. Instead of drafting, he took off. Insert the hateful disposition right there. As I caught my breath, I noticed an old farmer was watching me from the barn. Deciding I was too pitiful to be a threat, he moved along with his Saturday morning chores. The cows, though, they were suspicious. Why was this chunky girl trying to ride a bike down their road? Why didn’t the skinny men in tight pants wait for her? Is that milk in that bottle?

The Tour de Lila was the first bike ride Z and I had participated in. We loaded our bikes and headed to my mom’s house the night before. She stuffed us with spaghetti and meatballs. She gave us the big bed so we would be rested. The ride was 15, 25 or 50 miles. I was told it was a family ride. In truth, the only “families” that showed up were professional riding teams from the local bike shops. They all headed out on the 50 mile ride on their $5,000 bikes. As I watched them roll out, I thought that they really did look like the guys from the Tour de France. Z and I were signed up for the 25 mile ride. We were riding our mountain bikes. My spin instructor, Justin, assured me that I could easily do 25 miles. As I stared into the deep brown eyes of a cow, I thought, “I’m a fool. There is no way I can do 25 miles. This isn’t freakin’ spin class. There is wind out here!” Z had doubled back, so I ended my water break. We were almost to the point where a decision had to be made — turn left and go 25 miles, stay straight and go 15. Up ahead [he left me again], Z signaled to turn left. I stayed straight. I figured if I was going to ride alone, I might as well blaze my own path. The local bike shop guy came by in his van to see how I was doing. Good, I said. Keep going, he said. The 50 milers passed me too. They cheered encouragement. I was doing a respectable job (meaning I hadn’t fallen off my bike), when the first hill came. And it came with a vengeance. It’s true, I don’t entirely understand how to use my gears. I thought I had the general concept, but in practice, I was failing miserably. I got off of my bike and walked for a moment. The bike guy in the van was back. “Are you OK?” Yes. “You sure?” Yes. “Bike OK?” Clearly he did not think I was OK and wanted me to stop being delusional. “I’m fine. That hill almost killed me.” He looked concerned. “I’m fine,” I said and got back on my bike and peddled off. There were three more major hills, but I didn’t get off of my bike. At one point I looked like I was barely moving, but I was on the seat with my bike in the upright position. Small victories, people.

The irony is that when I finished the ride, I felt good. Good and energetic. I finished 15 real road miles in an hour and 10 minutes. The bike shop riders were averaging about 22 miles in an hour. In spin class I can finish 25 miles in 50 minutes on a base ride. I probably could have done 25 miles for the Tour de Lila. I know now I could have done 25. Next time I’ll have a little faith in myself.

Currently Reading: The Happiness Project is still sitting on my bed stand and Sarah’s Key is in my bookbag waiting to be read. I really haven’t read anything since I went back to work on August 25th. According to Stephen King, if you don’t have time to read, you have no business writing.

Training Log: My training has been off the rails since the beginning of August. Next 5K is this coming Saturday. I absolutely get the NO EXCUSES, JUST DO IT! philosophy, but I also get that I have to show up at work and do household chores and finish my freelance articles and shower and sleep. I’ll figure it out, because I think two blogs saying “I did it, but it wasn’t pretty” is enough.

 

Race Report: Run Wild! 5K at the NC Zoo August 21, 2011

Filed under: 5K,Exercise Follies,Road Trip,Training Log — Teri @ 4:05 pm

I had to reassure him that my headband is faux giraffe print.

No one told me that the zoo has hills. I take that back. Patterson told me, but I didn’t believe her. We were sitting at the Ale House Friday after work when I reminded everyone, as I ate fried pickles and drank sweet tea, that I was running my first 5K race the next morning. There are a lot of hills at the zoo, Patterson said. No there isn’t, I countered. I have always lived within a few hours of the North Carolina Zoo and have been at least a handful of times, if not more. I didn’t remember any hills. Apparently I have early onset dementia.

Z and I rose at 5 o’clock, so we could hit the road to Asheboro by 5:30 a.m. I drive through Asheboro and past the zoo every time I go home to visit my family, so I knew it would be about an hour and a half of travel time. The race started at 7:30 a.m., so there would be time to pick up our race packets and stretch before the start of the race. I banked on there being even more time since I assumed no one other than us would be on the road in the predawn of Saturday morning. I totally miscalculated. It took two hours and we got there just in time to make it to the starting line. [I won’t talk about how we took a wrong turn and lost even more time because Z trusted the GPS over me. I also won’t mention how snarky he was when giving those misguided directions.]

I figured my frustration would propel me through the race. I don’t think Z wanted to be near me any more than I wanted to be near him, so he bolted through the crowd. The starting gate was a narrow walkway leading back to the African exhibits. The beginning of the race was incredibly congested with strollers and walkers and shufflers. The serious runners were mad because the congestion cut into their finishing times. I was just glad that everyone didn’t break out into a sprint. The zoo is a beautiful place for a run though. Unfortunately, It was too early for the animals to be strolling around their exhibits. I don’t think they had to be at work until 9.

I felt good starting out. I decided to keep pace with a girl wearing an orange bandana in her hair. I guessed she was about my size and my fitness level. By the end of the first mile, she left me. Clearly, we are not the same fitness level. I lowered my expectations and focused on a middle aged man and his son. The kid was probably five or six. The dad was a runner. He had that lean look about him. If nothing else, I could keep pace with the kid who was verbalizing the whines I was screaming in my head. Another hillllllll?! By the end of the second mile, they left me. Turns out that kid is pretty scrappy when promised a breakfast of ice cream. By then I was running down the hills and walking up them. I settled in beside a huge kid in his early 20s. You could tell he played the defensive line in high school football. He was probably 6’2″ and chunky. He huffed loudly as he pounded down the hills, gravity pulling him along. That’s OK. When I was keeping up with Orange Bandana, I could barely hear my iPod over the sound of my panting. We only had a 1/3 of a mile to go (Big Kid asked a route volunteer.) when I saw Z coming down the trail toward me. He had already crossed the finish line but came back to finish with me. He finished in 30 minutes and I finished in 44 minutes.

My goal when I concocted this goofy 5K plan was to run my entire first race without walking. Well, I didn’t meet that goal. I probably split the time between running and walking. I didn’t really keep up with it. I was more focused on avoiding runaway strollers on those freakin’ hills that weren’t supposed to be there. So new goal is this: By the October races, I should be running all the way. Then as I work my way through the November and December races, I just want each one to have a better finishing time than the last. I have a long way to go. To make it happen I need to follow my training schedule. I need to lay off the fried pickles. And maybe next time they should just release the lions to motivate the chubby runners in the back of the pack.

 

Tiny Room Tour: Out With a Bang August 12, 2011

Filed under: Currently Reading,Family,Field Trips,Food,Road Trip,Writing — Teri @ 8:35 pm

Oh, the luxury! The Tiny Room Tour finished up the summer dates in spectacular style. Monday afternoon we loaded up and headed out to Banner Elk, NC to stay at the Mast Farm Inn. Along the way, I was making phone calls and recording interviews for my article due to the community paper the next day. I tell myself that I work best under pressure. By the time we rolled through Boone, then along the back roads of Banner Elk I was thrilled to see the green roof of the inn. We walk in and meet Danielle, the innkeeper. I instantly love her. She’s loud and friendly and laughs a lot. When we asked about local restaurants for dinner, she enthusiastically told us about her favorites. She won my heart when she kept saying, “they specialize in local, organic food.” She asked what we wanted to do while we were there. I said, “We — oh,” and looked over at Zef. “OK, well, I used ‘we’ loosely, because I haven’t asked Zef, but ‘we’ want to hike and kayak.” Z cocked his head to the side and look at me as if he hasn’t had a say about anything since five minutes into our first date. Danielle howled. She took us up to the Aunt Leona Room, a third floor dormer room without a TV and directed us to Vidalia for dinner. Danielle promised the onion rings were amazing and they were. Z had spaghetti with lamb meatballs and I had a tomato and goat cheese salad. Z loved the lamb. I told him to enjoy it, because I was never, ever making it at home.

 

Profile View. See the Indian head?

 

The next morning we woke to our 8 o’clock coffee delivery. Breakfast was at 8:30 in the dining room. It was a vast and amazing plate of homemade yogurt with granola, vegetable quiche. ham and biscuits. I was stuffed and the forecast said it may rain, so we opted to go for a hike and put off kayaking until better weather the next day. My idea was to wander down some paths, maybe take in a waterfall or two, then head back to town for some shopping. Z had other plans. He looked at the list of trails and immediately zeroed in on Grandfather Trail, where you access part of the trail by climbing up wooden ladders on the mountain face. I thought he was insane, and luckily so did the park service, because they closed the trail for the day because of high winds. We were told we could go to the west side of the mountain and take the Profile Trail. I suppose because we were still full from breakfast, we didn’t pack very much water or food for the hike. I suspect we also thought Profile Trail would be easy. And the first mile was easy. We passed a rocky stream where we played in the cool water. We marched up the inclines past Foscoe View, Profile Campsite and Profile View. Once we reached Shanty Springs, I was starting to think this wasn’t much fun anymore. This is where the climb became technically strenuous. I had already finished most of my water and it was starting to get hot. We passed a couple on the way down. The man, probably in his late 20’s with a bandana wrapped around his head and a professional camera hanging from his neck, was invigorated! He told us to keep going, it was totally worth it. A girl about his age came down the rocks a few minutes after he did. She nodded meekly to his enthusiasm. I looked her in the eye. We exchanged an all-knowing glance that all men are deranged. The couple moved pasted us and kept descending as Z and I started up the rocks. The path is a series of rock formations that we had to navigate. At some parts I found it easier to climb up on my hands and knees. Other parts, I slid on my butt. I asked Z how far we were going. He wanted to make it to the west side head of the Grandfather Trail. “It’s about three miles. Actually, 3.1,” he yelled back at me. It was like a 5K to the sky. I could do that, I told myself. When we reached Calloway Gap, Z decided we should go a little longer. “We’re almost to the peak,” he pleaded. I dragged behind him. My big breakfast had fueled the way up but was now gone. I didn’t have any water left. My legs were shaking. We had the option of going to the Watagua View or Calloway Peak and the elusive Grandfather Trail. Watagua View was closer. “I’m not going the long way,” I told Z. That climb was the hardest thing I had done in a while and I was done. But first I had to get back down. Where going up the trail was physically challenging, going down was mentally challenging. I turned my left ankle three times since I lost the ability to land my foot squarely. I slid down rocks. I was slightly concerned about falling off the trail and down the mountain. When we reached the bottom, I chugged a hot Coke and downed a snack pack of walnuts from the truck. My hands were shaking and I had no strength in my legs. Z, on the other hand, was fine. He leaned against the back of the truck and stretched his legs while I debated going into diabetic shock. When he hopped into the driver’s seat, I informed him that we were going straight to Mellow Mushroom Pizza — despite dusty ankles, despite reeking of bug spray and sunblock and despite the wild look in my eyes. When we got back to the inn, I was still feeling pretty down on myself for having such a hard time on the trail. We met Danielle’s husband, Ken, in the hallway. We told him about our day. He seemed genuinely impressed that we finished the trail in four hours. I used the burst of confidence to will my tired legs up to our third floor room.

 

I think I said an expletive when I saw this portion. Silly me, I wasn't even to the strenuous part yet. (Trail is much steeper and rockier than appears in photo.)

 

The next morning I had to roll myself out of bed because all of my muscles were locked into position. I winced going down the stairs. My upper thigh muscles were unforgiving. I tried to convince Z that antiquing would be a fun alternative to kayaking. He scowled at me and asked for the nearest outfitter. As I ate my fruit danish and drank my OJ, I was grateful that you sit while kayaking. We were the only kayakers on the river with a few tubers and fishermen. And why were we the only kayakers? Because everyone else had the sense to know that it was too shallow to kayak. The mountains, it seems, are also suffering through a drought. At points in the river, we had to get out and drag our kayaks through ankle deep water. Other times, I just reached out and pushed off of the river bed. Z christened our outfitter Rocky Bottom Kayaks. I hate this was Z’s first kayaking trip because it wasn’t as fun as it should have been. Luckily we have a knack for coming away with stories even in the dullest of circumstances.

Currently Reading: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Finished Reading and Loved: The Help by Kathryn Stockett