Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hug the people that matter!

So...I'm feeling a little contemplative today. Yesterday, one of our dear friends underwent heart bypass surgery.  (He came through with flying colors and is already on the mend!) It brought back a flood of memories from December 2001 when my dad - then 52 - went in for triple (became quadruple) bypass surgery. It was a hellish morning - with all of the waiting and worrying, not to mention saying "we'll see you in a few hours" in the pre-op area with all four of us in tears. I could imagine what our friend's wife and children were going through yesterday and I certainly did not envy them.   

On top of that, another dear friend of mine is going through a terrible loss - her best friend's boyfriend passed away yesterday afternoon. The best friend - R - came home from work when her boyfriend didn't answer his phone or respond to texts.  R found him seated at the table in front of his laptop; he was gone. I can't even begin to imagine...

Needless to say, I came home and hugged Chris extra tight last night. And I'm looking forward to hugging my parents when they come to visit this weekend. There are plenty other people who matter to me. You're probably one of them. So the next time I see you, I'll hug you. Be ready for it. And hug me back, OK?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Felt-Like-Spring Winter Meet

This weekend was the 5th annual ST.N Winter Meet at the Lodge at the Cacapon Resort State Park just south of Berkeley Springs, WV.  Chris has been attending since its inception.  This was my first year attending.  I guess I sort of cheated by driving my car down, but in the absence of winter/heated gear and certainly not expecting 60 degree temperatures for the first weekend in January, I opted to take Scooby and "take it easy" this first year by planning a spa visit and some exploring in town while Chris was off riding.

On Thursday, having failed to find a spa in Berkeley Springs that completely wowed me with their services and prices (I kept thinking I could do just as well or likely better here at home at Designer's Denn), I started second-guessing my decision to go and considered staying home to de-Christmas-tize the house.  However, with a little help from Chris and some second second-guessing, I decided I would go down Friday afternoon after doing a few things around the house Friday morning - including baking a batch of cookies for the Winter Meet crew.  As for my plans for Saturday, I figured I'd just go with the flow and see what I felt like doing when I woke up that morning.

I left our house at 3 PM and dialed in the Cacapon on my new-to-me (read: Chris' old) GPS.  Estimated time of arrival was 5:01 PM using a direct route - I-99 to US 220 to US 30 to I-70 to US 522.  Easy peasy!  I hit just a little bit of traffic in Berkeley Springs and I stopped at the Food Lion in town to pick up a six-pack of bottles of Diet Coke.  I arrived at the Lodge at 5:20 PM and found David had just pulled up to check-in.  I piled my tote bag on top of my rolling suitcase, grabbed the cookies, and rolled up to the main entrance.  I noticed Chris, Jeremy, Rachel, and Greg sitting in the lounge area, so I stopped in there to say hello and grab the room key from Chris.  I dropped off all of my stuff in the room, changed my shoes to flip flops (I'd just gotten a pedicure the night before - a dark blue to match the Concours!), and joined the group in the lounge.  I did step outside briefly to take a picture of the bikes that were parked in the outside.

Jeremy's Concours, Robert's Concours, Greg's BMW GS, and David's Concours

The Lodge at Cacapon Resort State Park

Chris' Concours and Shane's FJR (photo credit: Shane Smoker)
David joined the group once he was settled into his room (temporarily...more on this in a bit) and Robert came down from his room to join us as well.  We waited for Shane to arrive and then the eight of us headed to the restaurant for dinner.  Six of the eight of us ordered the special - prime rib.  Mistake.  The meat had clearly been frozen (probably for a very long time) and it was grilled.  It was unlike any prime rib I've ever had.  As an overcooked "piece of beef" (I ordered it medium, it came out almost-well), it was OK.  As "prime rib," it was an epic fail.  Chris ordered the ribs and Shane ordered the southwest chicken salad.  They enjoyed their entrees "well enough."  Thankfully, the company at our table made up for the lackluster meal.  

Matching shirts, haircuts, and facial hair - MSF instructor clones Chris and Shane!

My "prime rib," mashed potatoes, and green beans.

Chris' ribs, fries, and green beans.  Don't worry - his green beans went untouched!  :)
After dinner, I returned to our room to retrieve the cookies, beverages for Chris and me, and the Shutterfly book I made of Chris' and my 2011 riding adventures to show to Jeremy and Rachel, Greg, and Robert.  We chatted away the evening and were joined by Scott, Jamie, and baby Keira later in the evening.  Chris had appointed Shane the ride leader early in the week, so Shane presented two routes to the riders on his laptop and everyone agreed to do the longer route (a total of 350 miles).  Meanwhile, I'd mentioned to Rachel what I thought my plans might before the next day - ride into town, check out the shops, maybe turnaround and head south toward Shawnee Springs Market (something I'd seen advertised on a billboard on my way through town), and/or relaxing at the lodge with a book.  We all agreed to meet for breakfast at 8 AM (when the restaurant opened) and Shane declared, "Kickstands up at 9 AM."

That's a whole lotta handsome at that table, folks!  (Chris, Shane, and David)
Unbeknownst to the rest of us, once David had returned to his room, he'd decided to shower (thankfully...whew!).  Unfortunately, all that came out of his shower was brown water.  Even after letting it run and having the maintenance man come to his room, the water ran brown.  Fortunately, the man at the front desk was very accommodating and offered David a two-bedroom cabin on the park property (within walking distance) for the same rate as David's lodge room.  While we were all tucked in and snoring, poor David was relocating for the night!

The next morning, we met for breakfast at 8 AM - the eight of us from dinner, plus Scott, Jamie, and Keira.  Unlike dinner the night before, I think everyone was pleased with their breakfasts.  As Chris says, "It's pretty hard to screw up breakfast."  I had the French toast with bacon; Chris had the bacon and cheese omelet.  Following breakfast, all of the guys got suited up to head out.  Rachel and I stepped outside to snap a few pictures of the menfolk.  

Shane departs the VIP parking area.

Chris departs the VIP parking area.

Gathering in the parking lot, ready to ride!

A shot of all of the guys and their bikes with the lodge in the background.
In the following video, you'll see the first four bikes roll out.  I got a new SD card for my camera for Christmas and had failed to set it up properly to record video.  Therefore, I only managed to catch Chris, Shane, Robert, and Scott ride by.  Behind a waving/thumbs up Scott are Jeremy and Greg.  David was behind me, having ridden over from his cabin and turned around on the road directly behind me. 

Once the guys were on their way, Rachel and I decided to meet in the lobby at 10 AM to take a ride up to Berkeley Springs to check out the thrift store, the antique mall, and the other little shops in town.  Back in the room, I put a stopper in the bathroom sink and sat two bottles of Diet Coke and my container of Cruzan Cream Rum in it.  After three trips to the ice machine, I had our Saturday evening beverages iced down for the day.  

When I went downstairs at 10, Rachel was running back up to her room with a purchase from the gift shop.  While I waited for her to come back down, I noticed the back side/porch of the lodge was lined with rocking chairs that overlooked the golf course.  I decided that would be a splendid place to spend the afternoon waiting for the guys to return while reading, listening to my iPod, or - what we wound up doing - chatting (but that's later).  

Once in town, our first stop was The Rag Shop - the thrift store.  There I found a towel rack/shelf for $4.50 that I plan to sand and repaint and Rachel found a sea horse to hang on the wall at her and Jeremy's basement bar.  We walked along the main street and ducked into a few other shops, including the Mountain Laurel Gallery where I purchased a forged steel leaf necklace made by Glenn Horr from Highland Forge.  Around the corner from the gallery shop and opposite Berkeley Springs State Park, we checked out Portals - A New Age Shoppe.  As excited as I was about my forged steel leaf necklace, I was super pumped by my find at Portals - a malachite ring!  I have a malachite pendant, a malachite bracelet, and malachite earrings...and now a ring!!!  It's fairly plain - no elaborate or ornate band or setting, but it's perfect!  

We wrapped up our browsing/shopping at the antique mall at the end of Fairfax Street where we saw a couple of things of interest, but made no purchases.  Back at the car, we decided to have lunch at Earth Dog Cafe.  Chris speaks very highly of Earth Dog, as do a few of the other ST.Ners, so I was anxious to try it.  We had a great lunch there.  I had the beef brisket sandwich; Rachel had the catfish nuggets with remoulade sauce.  We each ordered homemade Old Bay potato chips - most likely fueled by our earlier conversation about steamed crabs and oysters!  Rachel and I had great conversations throughout the day (weekend, really), but I thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely lunch and chat (and subsequent rocking chair chat).  On our way back to the lodge, we stopped at Ridersville Cycle on US 522.  I just wanted to check out their gear selection (which was practically non-existent!) and the Husqvarna dirt bikes.    

When we got back to the lodge, we headed up to our rooms.  I dropped off my purse and purchases, added more ice to the sink, and grabbed my tote bag filled with two books, a magazine, my iPod, and my camera.  I joined Rachel out on the back porch and we spent the afternoon relaxing in some rocking chairs.  We chatted some initially before I started playing around with my iPod and Rachel used her Kindle Fire.  We watched Greg return to the lodge with two new bikes - they belonged to his friends Tammy and Rue.  Oh!  I forgot!  When we returned to the lodge a little after 2 PM, we noticed Robert's bike in the parking lot.  We found out from Greg when he, Tammy, and Rue came by a little later that Robert had gotten a flat tire while on the ride and cut his ride short to return to the lodge.  

The view to the left from our rocking chair perches on the back porch of the lodge.

The view directly in front of our rocking chairs Saturday afternoon.
We also noticed with Chris H. and his girlfriend Liz rolled up the road to the lodge and while we were talking to Greg, Tammy, and Rue, Chris and Liz joined us on the back porch.  Chris, Liz, Rachel, and I sat outside for a bit chatting.  We were joined by "another" Robert - Robert A. - who had driven down with his youngest son Alex.  Robert A. stood and talked with us until Rachel and I decided we needed to go inside to warm up to wait for the guys to return.  Shane, Chris, and David returned around 5:30 PM; Jeremy and Scott returned about 15 minutes later.  The guys had gotten separated when Shane, Chris, and David missed a turn while Jeremy and Scott didn't see them miss the turn and actually took the right road!  Nevertheless, everyone made it back in one piece and grinning from ear to ear following such a spectacular day of January riding in West Virginia!

After the guys got cleaned up, we assembled first in the lounge and then in the restaurant.  Our numbers had doubled to 16 with all of the new additions!  Our dinners were significantly better this evening compared to the night before (at least for those of us at our end of the table...not sure about the other end).  I ordered the meatloaf dinner and Chris got the fried chicken.  Nearby, David got the lasagna (which looked deelish!) and Shane got a burger (although initially that's not what I thought he said he was getting...LOL!).  Rather than salvaging a mediocre dinner with great conversation as we did Friday night, Saturday's "better" dinner was complimented by great conversations among friends.  

As Chris paid our bill, I ran up to the room to grab the cookies, the Shutterfly book, and our beverages.  I poured myself a cream rum and I took a swig out of a bottle of Diet Coke so I could top it off with bourbon for Chris.  (I may have taken a nip of bourbon from the flask in the process.  Shhhh!)  Back down in the lounge, Chris and Liz helped others in the group "rehydrate" with a variety of Victory Brewing beers and a bottle of Gulden Draak.  Shane asked the guy at the front desk to come light the fireplace.  And another night of friendly banter and chatter continued!

One by one, folks drifted off to their rooms until the last of us headed up at 11 PM.  We decided we'd all try to meet at 8:30 "ish" for breakfast.  Greg, Tammy, and Rue met a little earlier in the morning and set out while we were still eating.  Most of the rest of us assembled in the lounge where we said goodbye to Scott, Jamie, and Keira who were also leaving early.  Then we made our way into the restaurant to snag "the big table."  We enjoyed another delicious breakfast together.  I got the Dawson's omelet (peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese) and Chris got chocolate chip hotcakes.  The restaurant was out of tea bags (the HORROR!!!), so I had to settle for a Diet Pepsi with my breakfast.


Right to left: David, Chris H., and Liz

Jeremy and Rachel looked a little tired this morning.

Chris looked contemplative.

Robert A., Robert (behind Liz's coffee), and Liz
While I was packing my bag in our room, I'm pretty sure I spotted a Yeti en route to Cabin 16.  Or maybe it was just David.  :)
After breakfast, everyone prepared to check out and depart.  Robert left fairly quickly after breakfast, no doubt wanting to get an early start for home (Delaware) in the event his plugged tire didn't hold.  Shane and Chris & Liz were the next to leave (Chris & Liz were intending to follow Shane on the backroads for a bit).  David rode over from his cabin where we said goodbye to him, Jeremy & Rachel, and Robert & Alex.  

Chris and I stopped at the Sheetz in Berkeley Springs for petrol and a hot tea for me (finally!).  Rather than take the direct highway route back home, I opted to follow (chase!) Chris home on the backroads.  We took US 522 north to the MD line where we skirted through Hancock to pick up PA 655.  We ran PA 655 all the way up to PA 994, which we followed to PA 26 to US 22 to PA 453 to PA 45 to...yup, you guessed it...Marengo Road!  We got home in about 2.5 hours; highway drive time is just about 2 hours.  This way was so much more fun!!!  Scooby and I were running behind Chris rally-style!  I decided on my ride home that I need a racing seat and a five-point harness in my car; there were some G-forces today, for certain!!!  As much as I'm sure I would have loved to be on the back of the Concours on those roads today, I was positively giddy behind the wheel of my car this afternoon!

We got home around 1:45 or so and were greeted by an enthusiastic Oscar, who spent the weekend here at the Homestead with our friend Amber.  Chris did about 700 miles this weekend and has a very dirty and salty Concours to show for it!  I had a great relaxing weekend and I have two new pieces of jewelry to show for it!  And now it's time to plan the spring meet for early May and look forward to other meets/rides like the "Ride to the Rides" at Knoebel's.  It's funny how a spring-like weekend in January can get me thinking ahead to warmer days and thousands of miles on two-wheels with Chris and our many ST.N friends!

Chris' filthy Flying Pig sticker
Special shout-out to Chris who has attended every Winter Meet since its inception (good work, babe!) and another to our friends Jerry and Sara who were sorely missed this year!!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fire in the hole!!!

It's a quickie tonight, folks!  Remember the cannon I got Chris for Christmas?  No?

This one:

Well, we finally fired it for the first time tonight.  Twice, actually!  Enjoy!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Searching for a new hobby...

Recently, Chris told me about a geocaching trail with caches near or within a day's ride of our house.  Last month, Chris bought a new GPS unit - a Garmin Montana 600 - and while we've talked about getting into geocaching before, it wasn't until we had this new unit that geocaching would be easier.  Our old GPS unit was just that - old.  The maps were outdated, the memory was limited, and the functionality was quite basic.  This new unit offers multiple profiles and can store geocache data.  

Anyway...back to this geocaching trail (the Legacy of Conservation Geocaching Trail)...it is the work of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and is a collection of 30 geocaches in the "Pennsylvania Wilds" region of the Commonwealth.
The idea behind the trail is to put you on some of the best sites the Pennsylvania Wilds has to offer on state lands (State Parks, State Forests, and State Game Lands) and significant conservation locations. Each geocache on this trail will have a collectable “Legacy of Conservation” card, featuring one of Pennsylvania’s notable environmental heroes/heroines. (DCNR website)
The other day when we were discussing our Friday educational sojourn and what we might do this weekend, I mentioned to Chris that I thought we should start 2012 by starting on the DCNR geocaching trail.  He said he'd had the same idea!  (Great minds!!!)  So that's what we did this morning...we set out for Bald Eagle State Park to find the first of 30 geocaches.

Chris is ready to go in search of our first geocache.  He's even wearing his Garmin hat!

We've got the location dialed in and we're headed in the right direction.
The description for this geocache directed us to Bald Eagle near the new Nature Inn.  The title of the geocache was "Room with a View" and the hint was "...for the birds."  We found the geocache in a bird box along the park road.  Don't worry...the hole for the bird box was plugged; it's not an active bird box. 

Yay!  Success!!!
Inside the bird box were two snap-lock containers.  The first one held the log for the geocache where we recorded the date and our name.  It also contained the collectible cards; the environmental hero for this geocache was John J. Audubon.  The second snap-lock container held the trinkets for this geocache.  At many geocache locations, the cache contain little trinkets; you take a trinket and leave another in its place.

Here, we decided to take the LOTR button and leave the mini-flashlight.
After swapping trinkets, I put the two snap-boxes back into the bird box and replaced the nail that held the bird box closed.

Back at the car, Chris logged our first geocache as "found."

On our way out of the park (and on our way to a second geocache), we drove past the Nature Inn at Bald Eagle State Park.  It is gorgeous!  It is very "green" and they were giving tours last year that showcased all of the green practices in play at the Inn.  I hope they offer those same tours again this year since I didn't get to attend one last year.  

Another geocache was located nearby on PA 144 above I-80.  I suggested we take PA 150 back to Milesburg and hop onto I-80 to Snow Shoe and then head north on PA 144 from there...or take PA 150 to US 220 to Wingate and take PA 144 all the way from there.  Chris foo-foo-ed both of those ideas in favor of a "back road over the mountain in Beech Creek."  (It was a turrrrrible idea.) 
Why is it?!?  Why is it that men are opposed to taking the most direct route?!?  Why does everything have to be the long and winding way to get there?  Particularly when the long and winding way is a DIRT ROAD with potholes so large I feared for both my car's suspension as well as my fillings because both were rattling!!!  (Love ya, babe!)
We made our way to the second location (finally), but did not realize that the cache information that had downloaded to our GPS was incomplete.  We were missing the second half of the clue to help us determine the exact latitude of the cache.  We milled about for a little while hoping we'd happen upon the cache through pure luck, but then the rains moved in and we abandoned the cache.  We had to log this attempt as "did not find."

Even so, we had a great time getting started with this new hobby.  We're already making plans for future cache hunting; we've even talked about taking Oscar with us for some of them!  We also realized we should probably keep a stash of trinkets in my car and Chris' truck in case we happen upon some other geocaches in our travels.

After our unsuccessful attempt, we decided to stop at Wal-Mart to purchase our 2012 fishing licenses.  Between geocaching, fishing, and the hiking/backpacking we've been talking about...not to mention our motorcycle rides...2012 promises to be quite the outdoorsy year!

Happy New Year!