Sunday, August 19, 2007

Holy Adrian Fenty, Batman! We are in a drought!

This summer has been awfully dry precipitation-wise by DC-area standards. Crops harvests are projected to be down across the region. 80 percent does not sound promising at all. Thunderstorms are supposed to be an at least twice a week occurrence in the early evenings during summers here. Not this year, only once have I not gone running because of thunder and lightning in the area. While I did get rain-delayed inside a Target three Sundays ago, with walls of rain coming down and lightning bolts flashing across the street, that may have been the only really nasty storm I've seen all year.

Two events this past weekend really reinforced my feeling that we are in a drought. Yesterday, I hiked with a group of people from to White Oak Canyon in Shenedoah National Park (we hiked from bottom towards top). I don't have pictures developed yet, but the falls and pools below them were quite small. The streambed near the parking lot was, well, not a stream at all. No rain, man.

Today, I bought some ribeye steaks from Safeway on the way home from the gym. I put the fast burn, no lighter fluid needed, charcoal in the grill, fire it up, instant cooking heat! The problem was I noticed that the ground was near tinder dry. The flames were never in danger of spilling outside the grill and burning anything. but living in very dry Colorado for four years, I became reminded of how careful I need to be when grilling in very dry areas.

Final result: A fantastic rib eye steak and some chicken for the week's lunches. All in all a great day. The one damper was no rain after it threatened all day. I say that because we could really use rain. Finally, this has nothing to do with Adrian Fenty, his was the first famous area name I happened to think of.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Light Purple Skies over Alexandria and Fairfax County Restaurants

Two unrelated topics, but I'm tired, had a long day at work, and I want to post about these things so I don't give a damn. I had a solid if unspectacular run tonight, not as fast as the same course last week but a solid, sort of pain free run. Yeah, my back bugs me from time to time. But at least I wasn't light-headed and nauseous like on Tuesday, when I barely made it to mile two before stepping on a curb the wrong way, almost breaking my ankle in the process. Yeah that five mile run ended way before mile five.

The coolest thing about last night though was what I saw when I left the Metro train to go home for the night. Looking north towards Alexandria, now keep in mind it was sunset time, I saw light purple skies. No, I wasn't on LSD or a half a bag of ganja, I actually saw a purple sky for the first time since my I really wasn't high, the Copper Mountain sky was that messed up moment. The rain was gone for about an hour or two over where the sky was purple, but I didn't want to figure it out, just enjoy it.

I promise I will write an entry about my Tuesday and Thursday Fun Runs. But for right now, I want to talk about food. Fairfax County Restaurants actually. I remember reading in the Washington Post last year a tidbit about how lots of good restaurants are opening in suburbia for 800,000 reasons. While I live in a slightly gritty, sort of urban part of Fairfax County that isn't really suburban or city, I'm going to review restaurants in the largely suburban county anyway because I feel like it.

Tippy's Taco House - 5912 N Kings Highway Alexandria, VA:This place is right across the street from the south entrance of Huntington Metro Station. I was lured there by 99 cent tacos on Wednesday, and that I was getting a haircut that night in the same strip mall. Not awful food, but not tacos I would pay more than 99 cents a taco for either. A bit bland, when I combine a haircut with dinner in the future, I'll go elsewhere. But if you're on a budget, and need something quick, you can do worse too.

ABI II - 59 something N Kings Highway Alexandria, VA: Can't find a link to this restaurant, but it's in the same strip mall as Tippy's. Another haircut and dinner Wednesday, a better but still not-great meal. Service could have been speedier, the burrito I had was pretty decent though. And it was good sized. So it works, but next time I eat at this strip mall, I'm going to Cosmopolitan because it gets excellent reviews and they show soccer on their TV set. PERFECT for a 6:30 dinner when I'm just going straight home afterwards.

Dishes of India, 1510-A Belle View Boulevard Alexandria, VA:I was hungry one night, feeling all stressed out and borderline depressed after a crappy work day (I like my job but that particular day sucked, I won't lie). So I decided to drive to a random restaurant that I had never eaten before. That and I didn't want to cook during a thunderstorm and have the power go out on me.

I almost went somewhere else when I found out the buffet they have is only at lunch. I would have been very dumb if I didn't stay. Appetizer: Samosas, better than most places I've had the pleasure of eating. Keema Naan: Minced lamb sprinkled in the traditional naan bread. YUM! Entree: the Aloo Saag might have been the best dish I have head in at least eight months, if not more. Perfect mix of potatoes, spinach, peas, and rice. I'll be very hard pressed to try something else the next time I go. The wait staff is superb as well, always checking to see if you have water, which comes in handy with the spicier dishes. Belle View Shopping Center is a bit out of the way for a lot of folks, but definitely worth the trip. While the gas station is a rip off and their air machine sucks, this restaurant, Dunkin Donuts, and an excellent bike store = yeah, some suburban strip malls are very cool with very cool stuff. Dishes of India is most certainly worth the 3 mile (if that) trip down the GW Parkway from Old Town.

As I go more places in the county, I'll start writing about them. Or maybe I'll remember details about places I've eaten at on Richmond Highway (Route 1). Something like that.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Now I didn't hike much vertical, now I did

Or something like that. I figured it's time to update my blog since I haven't done it in ages. Trying to become a MCSE while learning a new job will do that to you. I haven't gone hiking, one of my favorite things to do, since January, ironically the last time I updated this. Since I'm going to partake in the Pikes Peak Challenge again this year, I needed to get my butt to a trail somewhat near me.

I chose this trail to Mount Marshall, accessing it from a trailhead just east of Shenandoah National Park. Heck, I hiked for three minutes and I was already in the park. I needed a long distance hike in hot weather to test my current hiking ability, distance, and patience. While neither North or South Marshall were much to speak of summit-wise, this hike did all the tricks for me. 17 plus miles if you count the side trip to Devils Stairs, which I took. Distance, check. Heat, check. Enough water, check. Patience test, passed. 4 am planned wakeup, 4:40 is good enough for me.

After taking the wrong Route 622 (yeah there were two 622's on my side of US 211, and another on the otherside), to the trailhead and driving longer as a result, I finally started hiking. Looked up, yeah I'm getting a couuple thousand feet of vertical gain today! It all felt like it started at the start of the hike, but when I got near the "summits", I wasn't hiking much more vertical. The trails were nicely maintained, and empty (I saw 11 people in my 17 mile trip, not counting those I saw when crossing Skyline Drive, the main road through the park).

While the summits had nice overlooks but not the treeless, bare, summits I am used to, it was almost all good. After a tough week of work I really needed to get out there and hike for a day. I'm dead tired but will be refreshed tomorrow. Boy, am I glad I brought a gallon of water in my backpack, I used it all in temps that even at 3,000 feet were in the 80s. When I got down to the bottom of the trail, I looked up and realized that, hey I did hike some good sized vertical after all. And 9 hours after I started, my car was still the only at the trailhead!

The Good:

  • Seeing someone in my fun run group on the Big Devils Staircase side trip and hiking with him for a bit until he had to take a separate trail to his car
  • Finding a Qdoba in Gainesville, VA to eat at, thanks to a new Qdoba card I have a new post-hike dining spot
  • Knowing I can hike that long of a distance in very warm weather is a confidence boost as Pikes Peak gets closer
  • Getting back on the trail again, this time in my new boots, with only minimal post-hike aches and pains
  • $2.76 gas in Gainesville. I guess last years' 1.999 promotion wasn't that much of a stretch after all, 3.019 is as cheap as I've seen it inside the Beltway area in weeks.

The not-so good:

  • Merging on to I-66 from US 29 in Gainsville. Couldn't tell if the driver in the right lane was going to speed up to make sure they passed me, or slow down to let me merge easily. Then again I-66 sucks in general so what do I know.

Excellent day! I'll blog about my fun run group on Tuesdays and Thursdays next time. Awesome to be out on the trails! Time for some AC though.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What time of year is it again?

Okay, I woke up in time to do some hiking on the Billy Goat trail I posted about in my last entry. I took the long way to the west side (up river near Great Falls) start of the trail, getting some casual hiking done on the trails in Chesapeake @ Ohio National Park. A bit uneventful, other than how great it felt to be hiking again, first time since October. The Billy Goat trail is quite tricky for a 1.7 mile hike next to the Potomac River. Lots of hopping from rock to rock, and some scrambling (climbing on a less vertical pitch than used by rock climbers but still requires two hands to grip the rock). I remembered why it took over an hour to hike it. It's tough.

I decided to hike in a long sleeve wicking T shirt and nylon pants, figuring that even if high temperatures were supposed to be near 70, it would be cool and breezy in the morning. Wrong! Tow things stood out today. One was how I didn't want to do anything after hiking to my car besides stretch down, go home, and jump in the pool. The second was in hindsight, I was sitting down eating lunch near the waterfall. Chillin out on a rock, eating a sandwich, warm as all heck, tons of people in the park, a gray cloud passes by the sun, it may drop a brief May shower, what a great spring day this was.......


A little wisecrack, but I was really conflicted today. Half of me appreciated this warm, springlike day more than you can imagine. The other half is terrified that 70 degree days in January here in the DC area are that start of a dangerous trend. Maybe more on global warming when I'm not so tired.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Running, Over-Hydration, Billy Goats, and NFL Playoffs

Happy New Year! The Bowl Games are almost done, three more left. I really wish I could have stayed up to watch the end of the Fiesta Bowl, i.e. the Boise State arrival game, but I could not. I'm up to a lot in 2007, not only a new job but I am continuing with a running group that I started with in December. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, fun runs leave from Pacers running store in Old Town Alexandria. On any of three courses, these runs are 5-6 miles, with many different paces from people training for long distance races to slow schmoes like me who just want to get in better shape. It's come on all and run, which is great for me. Having never been on a steady running program before, I find it much easier to get motivated to come out for runs when groups of people are also running. If I can keep up there are people to talk to. If I can't, it's motivation to keep running (and eating better) so I will be able to soon.

I've been to 5 runs now, and while I'm getting used to running 5 plus miles, I cut the run tonight by about a mile, taking a shortcut on Madison Street. To make a long story short, I needed to make a facility break at a Safeway. I over-hydrated all day long, no TMI or further description. Those things happen, live and learn, but it did force me to cut the run short so I could catch up with others. I did not want people to be waiting around for me for minutes upon minutes. I learn something new everytime I run. Maybe I'll learn something when I run on my own Saturday.

If I don't go hike the Billy Goat Trail instead. I can make the hike longer than four miles if I get up early enough, seeing as I have to be on the REI Sales Floor at 3 pm. The hike is about a 40 minute drive from me, and includes a short strech of scramling up some steep rocks. I obviously take the path that takes me up those rocks instead of down the rocks. Me no like climbing down steep, rocky things unless they are covered with snow and me have skis. It will be in the 60s on Saturday, no snow.

NFL Playoff Preview:

I like the Chargers to beat the Saints for the Super Bowl on February 4. But I'll make my picks round by round. Home teams are in capital letters.


Dallas 27, SEATTLE 23: I don't have a feel for either one of these teams. Quite frankly, neither are very good. The Cowboys have forgotten how to play defense and lost to the freaking Lions for Jim Rome's sake. But Seattle has been about as consistent as the weather on Mount Washington (New Hampshire). I guess the terell owens tenure in Dallas lasts another week.

PHILADELPHIA 34, NY Giants 17: The Giants really, really, suck. They are the worst playoff team in NFL history. I, like ten million other NFL fans, was dead wrong when I thought they were headed for 6-10 after Donovan McNabb was lost for the season to injury. They've perservered, rediscovered their defense, and will win this game with ease.


INDIANAPOLIS 37, Kansas City 31: I could see the Chiefs winning this, with a 220 yard rushing effort by Larry Johnson leading the way. Indy can't stop the run to save their lives, but it won't bite them in the ass this week at home. Next week, different story. I do see them scoring enough to overcome their defense in this one.

NEW ENGLAND 20, NY Jets 13: Belichick gets the better of his former pupil Mangini. I am quite concerned about this game with Rodney Harrison being out. I don't think Chad Pennington and his receivers will be able to take full advantage of his abscence. James Sanders will step it up, and a total team defensive effort will lead the way to victory. I see an unspectacular but solid, never really in serious doubt, victory.