The Ocracoke race weekend is the official start of camping season and a time I always look forward to. We arrived on Ocracoke around lunchtime, met up with Barry, and set up camp. We had time to kill before packet pickup, so I finally got the chance to get tacos from Eduardo’s taco truck that’s in the parking lot of the Variety Store. It just seems that every time I’ve tried to go it was the wrong day, wrong season, or they’d just closed up for the day. I spent some time doing Spanish homework as well. And drinking some of the beers from Florida. Once we picked up packets, it was time to start making the rounds of our usual haunts. First stop was Zillie’s. We were sitting there, having a great chat with our first round of beers, then BAM!! Wasn’t sure what it was at first, but then figured out it was a bike tire. My bike tire to be specific. The boys did a great patch job on the tube and it held up all weekend. Next stop was PBRs at Dajio followed by wings and Willis Gupton at Gaffer’s. They have fantastic fries and onion rings. I’ll have to remember that for next time. We went back to the camp site, made a fire, and hung out a bit. I went to bed early and got a good sleep.
Saturday morning was the first race day – the 5k. Got up, got ready, and walked to the start line. Had a good run, but it certainly wasn’t my best time. I tried to race a guy at the end, which was kind of fun, but he had the better finish. After we had all finished, we hung around Gaffer’s for post-race beers, then post-race buffet, then post-race relaxing at camp. There was some journaling and reading and some napping done. The evening rounds began with delivering a growler of Trollingwood‘s Jalapeno Pale Ale to O-Bar. They were super busy when we came in, so we hung out and had a couple of beers so we could get a bit of face-time. Next stop was shrimp hour and PBRs at Dajio, then Zillie’s again. This evening’s Zillie’s adventure was a big thunderstorm. We sat on the porch and watched it blow past; it left behind a beautiful rainbow. Once the rain stopped, we went back to Dajio for pizza (one jalapeño and one chorizo) and some delicious crab dip. We wanted to have another campfire, but everything was too wet. Including Barry’s tent – the rain-fly blew off and the tent was flooded. He had to sleep in his car.
Sunday was race day #2 – the half-marathon. The morning started off with a chilly wind, but the sun was bright and warm. The first part of the race was through the village and was lots of fun. The second part of the race was straight down Hwy 12 to the campground, through the campground, and back to Gaffer’s. That was a long and bright stretch to run. Once again, a good race, but slow time. We had beers and BBQ at the post-race party (again) and then it was time to take down camp. It was a nice day and most of the gear was dry so we could take our time and put everything up right. Just as we finished, I got a call that the ferry was cancelled for mechanical problems so we had to go down to the Hatteras ferry and take the long drive around. Stopped in Manteo at Poor Richard’s for dinner and a beer. It was a nice break from the drive.
Another fun trip to Ocracoke in the books. I always want to go back immediately. Though I hear that it is crazy and crowded in the summer. I wonder if it would be as much fun. Either way, I’ll write about it!
Cue spotlight. Actually, don’t.
This April I played Snoopy in Farmville Community Arts Council‘s production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. After years of working backstage this was a very new experience for me. I think the biggest challenge was the fact that I had to work as part of a cast and team rather than do my own tech thing. I hadn’t been on the stage since my 1998 high school production of the same show (& same director). I found that others were better at acting than me and I was better at stage managing than others, so that was the role I chose to stick with. But when I found out that Janice, my favoritest director of all time was directing the show for Farmville, I knew I had to try for the role of Snoopy. My beagles, Sally and Chunk, are such rascals and I knew they would be perfect inspiration for the role. Well, Janice knew I would work hard at it, so she granted me the role. I was quite worried about learning lines and singing solos and the cardio feat that is “Suppertime.” But Snoopy mainly responds, so the line memorization wasn’t that bad and I did alright on the songs. “Suppertime” was still a challenge with all the dancing and singing and running around at the same time, but by Sunday I’d figured out how to do it and not run completely out of breath.
The cast was superb. Everyone really knew their stuff and it made for a strong show. No one had to worry that someone would forget a line or entrance. The set was great, as was lighting, costumes, and music. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of folks. And I had fun, which is just as important. I really let go and just did whatever I thought Snoopy would do. Or, really, what Sally & Chunk would do. And I think I did a good job at the role. People who knew me were genuinely shocked to see me on stage. And they all said that they enjoyed the show.
But now that is is all done, I know that my place is backstage in the dark. First, those lights are HOT. Second, audience members are weird when they just stare at you like that. Little kids who call you Snoopy and hug you shyly around the knees are pretty cute, though. But that’s a lot of pressure, to be some kid’s character. So unless the right opportunity comes along, I’ll stay in my tech blacks. Yes, there are a couple of roles that would bring me back on stage, but I’m not gonna tell you here! You’ll just have to wait and see.
The time had finally arrived. It was time for the Shamrock Marathon. This was an event nearly two years in the making. In 2014 I ran my first half-marathon at the Shamrock weekend. Afterwards, I got to thinking that I didn’t want to always have the “half” in front of that accomplishment so I decided to go for the full. And I drug a couple of running friends kicking and screaming along with me. I signed up for the 2015 Marathon and began the training plan. In late January, I was injured with a shin splint so that took me out of running for a couple of months. I deferred my race entry to the 2016 Marathon. One friend deferred with me and other went on to complete a marathon in 2015. Training for the marathon started again in earnest at the beginning of 2016. I was so afraid of another shin splint that in the last six weeks I cut out running during the week and only did the weekend long run. It worked because I made it to the starting line injury free. Except for a weird-looking toenail and a small rub on my pinky toe. Stupid dress shoes. But enough about the running. I want to talk about the fun weekend in Virginia Beach.
Left with my running buddy in the early afternoon and headed north. We took a route through Hertford that touted a swing bridge. I saw an article about it in Our State. Well, it sounded better in the article, but it was a nice little downtown to drive through and at least I can say I’ve been there. Drove on from there to Virginia Beach and the First Landing State Park campground. Found a nice wooded spot. It was closer to the road than we’d normally select, but it was higher ground than some others and heavy rain was imminent. Once camp was set, we went to the Race Expo to pick up race numbers and check out the vendors and walk around a bit. For dinner, we went to Wasserhund Brewing. They had a really great pizza – brat, sauerkraut, and mustard. Got a flight of beer and they were decent, but all yellow – Kölsch, Pale Ale, IPA, Wheat, etc. Then we met up with another runner friend and his girlfriend and went to Tapped Gastropub. We had some local beers and some dip and listened to the music. We were out a lot later than expected, but it was a really fun night.
Morning means breakfast at Doc Taylor’s. But first we had to take care of camp to make sure nothing would get taken away by the impending wind and rain. OK, let’s just call it what it was – a nor’easter. There was a nor’easter in the works. I’m surprised Jim Cantore wasn’t there giving it name; like Penelope or Hubert. so Doc Taylor’s was more of a brunch meal. We found a spot at the counter again so we could watch the amazing cooks work their magic. We had coffee and a couple of bloody marys. I opted for the French toast with eggs-over-easy and bacon. I added a side of sausage (a great combo with the syrup) and Parmesan tomatoes, a specialty of the house. It was every bit as good as I remembered from two years ago. After brunch we decided to walk to a coffee shop for some journal time and planning. We selected Bad Ass Coffee because of the name. We wrote and chatted and lamented running in the coming weather. A cold wind on the neck seemed to be the greatest concern so Googled and found a running store nearby, Running Etc. We selected Buffs – a very versatile tube of fabric that will serve to cover neck, ears, head, or whatever. Best. Idea. Ever. There happened to be a Total Wine in the same parking lot so I stopped in for a mixed six-pack of DuClaw to take home. Errands done so then it was time to visit some breweries. First stop was Reaver Beach Brewing. They had good beers and really nice sours. There was also a Thai food truck there and we got loaded tots to snack on while we sampled. The rain started up while we were there it was going to hang around for the rest of the day. Next brewery stop was Home Republic where we met up with Sean. The beer there was average. So next we went to Back Bay Brewing. This was the best of the bunch. Good and unique atmosphere plus excellent beers. While we were there, they tapped a cask of coffee stout that was just amazing. Hung out there for a bit then went on back to the campsite to get a good sleep before the race. Sean was asking if we would be OK in the wind and the rain… Of course. The woods actually sheltered us a lot and we slept well.
Race Morning! We got up early and broke camp. It started raining right as I was picking up the tarp. Really raining. So a lot of stuff just got crammed in a trash bag and shoved in the back of the car. Drove towards the race start, battled some traffic, and found a good spot in a pretty close parking garage. Also, a dry parking garage. The rain and wind battered us as we did gear check and so we huddled with all the other runners in a hotel lobby. Thanks Hilton! The rain tapered off as we got into the starting corrals. The race was as long as hard as I thought it would be. The wind along the boardwalk nearly took me down. At one point the wind caused one foot to kick the other leg mid-stride. That’s craziness. It took about 5 hours and 20 minutes to finish. But I finished! Got some cookies and a beer from the spectators along the way because, why not. This is only gonna happen once. The after party was incredible. They had the 80’s band The Deloreans and I managed to dance a little. I guess the warm stew and many beers helped with that. After the band was done, we went back to the park and showered then hit the road for home. We stopped at 80/20 Burger Bar in Norfolk for beer and burgers. Had a burger topped with pimento cheese and pork belly and a burger with brisket on it. So delicious. Will definitely be back again. The ride back made my hips hurt, but I slept through most of the ride so I didn’t feel it. Very glad that I completed the marathon and glad that it is over.
Uptown Greenville hosted a Small Plates Tour over a long weekend (Wednesday through Saturday) during Spring Break. We have tried to plan a food related event for a while and finally settled on the small plates concept. Basically restaurants offer a separate menu of Small Plates – tastes of items they might be testing out, or smaller versions of items they already have. It is a good way for the community to try new restaurants with little risk. Participation in the event was open to any independent restaurant in Greenville (not just Uptown). This meant we got some true champions involved with Basil’s and Villa Verde. My role was to coordinate the restaurants and put together the website and social media. Since I was helping with publicity, of course I had to go out and sample the menus! This is the perfect job for me since I love to eat and I wanted to try everything. I almost got to all the restaurants! Once I was back in town on Thursday, I went to The Scullery for breakfast then Crave, Cinnamon Indian Restaurant, and DAP House for a combo of lunch and dinner. On Friday I went to Villa Verde, Basil’s, Wasabi 88 & Crossbones. I wasn’t able to make it to Starlight, Villedge, or HI because I ran out of time. I know some folks who went to Villedge and Starlight and reported back; they raved about Starlight’s steak. With the dishes I got, I took pictures, posted on all the social media, and at least tasted them all. Most times I just ate the whole thing! My favorite was the Johnny Cakes from Crossbones – cornmeal cakes with bacon jam. These were amazing! I have to say the best menu overall was from Villa Verde. A great representation of what they serve, good portion sizes, and all of it delicious. Of the ones I didn’t eat right away, I put in my freezer. My freezer is now full of food that I can use for meals or, even better, camping. It’s always fun to pull something out and relive the memories associated with that food while making memories in a new place.
No I’m not in college, but I am in Florida for spring break. Sounds like a wickedly fun cliché. But I’m here visiting my dad who recently moved to this beautiful and warm haven. I left early Saturday morning and drove straight down. Takes 10 hours, says Google, but with some construction delays and some stops to handle the massive quantities of caffeinated beverages I consumed, it was at least 11 hours. Dad’s house is great – on a small lake, heated pool, lots of palm trees and exotic (looking) plants. And all the charm of a tropical oasis built in the 80s. Mirrors and all. Had a good dinner and early bed that night. Evidently other family was here last week and left behind a mix of Sierra Nevada IPAs. While not my favorite, it’s not Bud Light, the house beer. I’ll help them clean out the fridge.
Sunday I got up early to run a race. My training plan had a 13 mile run scheduled and there happen to be a race this weekend in neighboring Stuart – Marathon of the Treasure Coast. Dad dropped me off at the race start so there was no transportation stress. We ran through the sunrise over the water. It was great. Ran through a bunch of neighborhoods and over a bridge for St Lucie River. Twice! I enjoyed doing the race; not my best time, but each one is a good learning opportunity. Results say 22/59 for age group with a time of 2:18. After the race I ate heroic quantities of goodies at the post party. Tried a new concoction a student introduced to me – cheese pizza with crumbled chocolate chip cookies on top. Sounds crazy but it is a really good sweet/savory combination. That afternoon, I went with dad & Millie to the open air market in Stuart, listened to a musician, then went to an orchid show. Basically that is a warehouse filled with vendors selling expensive and delicate flowers to old, expensive, and delicate people. Talk about out of my element. We then went to Total Wine and I stocked up on a case of mixed Florida beers. So excited to try that. For dinner we went to Carraba’s and I ate way too much. Again. We, in good retirement fashion, used several coupons for the meal. Had a good early night for sleep to make up for previous days.
Monday could be referred to as beer day. Lots of stuff involving beer. Not much was happening in the morning so I did a little research and found some state parks nearby. Once in the car, I changed my mind between a few locations and finally decided on one. Well, the Google directions took me to the middle of a neighborhood. So I tried for a different one. The ranger there was great and he let me know that the trails were pretty muddy and bad but pointed me down the road to a good trail. So I walked that mile loop and took some pictures. It was all sand, so I ended up with sand in my shoes from minute one. Whatever, it’s all part of an adventure. So after the good-for-me-all-natural thing, it was time to find beer. First, though, it was time to find chocolate. I went to Kilwins in downtown Stuart for a few pieces. I did not give in to the coupon for Buy one, Get one 1/2 pound of fudge that was burning a hole in my pocket. I took my chocolate and walked (see, good choice) to a craft bar called The Crafted Keg. I had a flight of 5 beers and fell in love with Funky Buddah’s Last Snow. Next I met Dad & Millie at the “ABC Store” which is a beer/wine/spirits store like Total Wine and they do growler fills. I wasn’t overly impressed with the fill options, but I did strike up a good conversation with a sales rep there (Josh Beerman, no joke) and he gave me recommendations on good beers to take home. I used some taproom clout to get some extra attention and special recommendations. Sigh… Another case purchased. I also learned that the Last Snow wasn’t available anywhere for purchase, so I went back to Crafted Keg and was able to get a growler filled. Beerman also works at Side Door Brewing, a local brewery that I plan to visit tomorrow. Good connection. Dad & Millie got tired of waiting for me, so they went on to the grocery store and left me there. They weren’t done by the time I was heading back, so I stopped at another craft bar, House of Brews, for another flight. Also got an order of grit sticks – pimento cheese & grits made into sticks then rolled in grits and fried or baked. Served with sriracha. I should try and make those sometime. Met a good bar chatter, George, and we lamented the existence of Bud Light in craft bars. After my beer tour I went back to the house for a great dinner of BBQ chicken and jalapeño poppers. And good relaxation.
Tuesday was my last full day in Florida. We had an easy morning and Dad made a random-refrigerator-leftovers scramble for breakfast. I also made peanut butter toast and put my bacon on it. I ran errands with dad in the morning and helped a bit around the house in the afternoon. We went over to Side Door Brewing in the evening. I got a flight of all 11 beers they had on tap. I figured dad would help drink some. He actually liked several, the Whiskey Barrel Ale in particular. We got tacos from the truck outside and drank from the samples and dad got a snifter of his favorite. Turned out to be a really great time. I was worried that it would be awkward and that dad and Millie wouldn’t have a good time, but it worked out well. I’d done some research on the brewery so I asked about some other beers that weren’t on tap. By the end of the evening, they’d added in a sample of their mango-salsa pale ale, their key lime wheat, and the bourbon-barrel aged milk stout (straight from the barrel). After we were done there, I thought about going to another brewery, Tequesta Brewing Company, but it was nearly an hour away. I have an early morning, so that wasn’t the best idea. I drove to Frank n Stein, but the lot was empty and I just didn’t get a good vibe from that. So I went on home for the night.
Wednesday was a 4:00 start for the day because we all left the house and headed for NC. I stopped in Savannah, GA for the afternoon because I’d never been there. Found some parking and the visitor’s center and went over to the Distillery Ale House for a beer and onion rings. I used the time there to plan out a good walking route of the city so that I could see as many of the little squares as possible and some of the beautiful historic buildings. Basically I walked down to the river and visited some shops along the way. Got some pralines, chocolates and cookies to munch on while I walked. After walking down the river, I walked down towards the popular Forsyth Park. I went into the famous Leopold’s Ice Cream, but the line was long and I just didn’t feel like that much ice cream (after the sweets I’d already eaten). Along the way I stopped into Moon River Brewery (decent enough Brown) and then Jen’s & Friends Martini Bar. I selected the popular Rice Krispie Treat martini, and it was so good. Very sweet, rimmed with marshmallow fluff, and garnished with a Rice Krispie Treat. They have hundreds of different martinis, most of them cereal or candy inspired (you can see some of the list in my picture), and now I want to try more of them. After those two diversions, I went to Forsyth Park and took some pictures. I also stopped into the Savannah College of Art & Design student shop and bought a couple of pieces of jewelry. Then I headed back to my car and hit the road for NC. It was an easy drive back home.
It was time to go camping somewhere new. At the end of August I went west to Pilot Mountain State Park. I took along a new-to-me tent and camp stove to test out. Dinner on the way was samples from the Umbrella Market Mac n Cheese Throwdown. That was a fun and crazy event. The samples were excellent! A great treat to celebrate the end of the Market season.
Day two was a day for hiking. Packed the pack and went to the mountain. Went up to the iconic knob and went all the way around it. Watched some rock climbers, had some lunch, then hiked back down. After hiking it was time to explore the neighboring town of Mount Airy. Found a new beer place, Granite City Brews, that had a great bottle and guest tap selection. They hadn’t started brewing yet. Next was a wine tasting at Old North State Winery. Bought a nice bottle of Restless Soul red there. Went back to camp for a dinner of tasty items I got from the Market.
Day three was the trip home. Stopped at Gibbs Hundred, a fairly new brewery in downtown Greensboro, for a flight. Then I went to Lonerider Brewery in Raleigh for the Beers for Beagles event. It is a fundraiser for TriBeagles, the rescue group that had Sally. Appropriately, they had peanut butter Sweet Josie on tap. Stayed only a minute then joined the trivia team for the national championship. We had a bad strategy for betting, so we finished last. But we still had fun.
Sure fit a lot of stuff into that weekend.
I went to Cuba for 8 days in May of 2015 with a group from Pitt Community College’s Study Abroad program. It was beautiful and wonderful. It would take ages to try and write it all here. I’ve already written it in my adventure journal and my long-form journal. If you want to hear stories and tales, just ask. Here are some pictures to give a glimpse of my adventure. A note on the beer – there were two brands Cristal (like Bud Light) and Bucanero (like Yuengling). Bucanero, according to them, is Fuerte (strong). I was with a few beer lovers on this trip, so we found this incredibly funny. There was a couple of micro breweries in Old Havana that had three beers on tap: light (like Cristal), dark (like Bucanero), and black (like, well, black Bucanero). They have a ways to go before they create great craft beer. But they do have outstanding rum and cigars to enjoy on your travels.