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.