"A whole new world..." (sing it with me)

As I'm sure you can imagine, a lot has happened since the end of March. Briefly...
1. Co-led a 21-day backcountry trip with Brevard College. Lotsa learning going on, myself included.
2. Moved to Brevard, NC.
3. Started my new job.
4. Andy graduated with his Master's degree.
5. Raced 12 Hours of Tsali, again.
6. Andy started his job back at Camp.

Life back in NC is going exceedingly well. The area makes it easy to be a one-car family. My 2 mile commute to work takes 7 minutes with minimal sweating, I can take the greenway into downtown and be there in 30 minutes, and I can also ride my mountain bike from my house straight in to Pisgah National Forest (also a 7-10minute ride). We are renting a cute house from a good friend in a quiet area. It's all good.

Working at The Hub is ultra-chill. I'm up to my eyeballs in too much leftover fall/winter clothing and a bunch of new spring styles. We're blowing out some demos & new floor models mid-season to make room for some *new* (shhh!!!) stuff. Oh, and there's delicious beer on tap.

For the 4 year, I rode on a team for 12 Hours of Tsali - this is my third women's team, and my first 3-person team (as opposed to the usual 4-person). I thought I was looking forward to getting in an extra lap, but when the weather turned bad around 1:00p, I wanted to be done as soon as possible. The two other gals on the team this year were two fellow VeloVixens, one of whom was racing for the 2nd time ever! I started us out with the LeMans start (I hated every minute of it... I am not a runner and the run was far too long... it took me the entire gravel road climb to recover), and we jumped into second place, which we held through the finish. The folks at GoneRiding called the race at 10.5 hours due to pouring rain & dropping temps (which I was stoked about, as I was about to embark upon my 4th lap). Wet, muddy, and cold, we took the podium and quickly returned to our cabin for a hot shower.

I got quite a few compliments on my bike streamers at Tsali. "Hey cool handlebars!" ... well, my handlebars are cool, but my streamers are cooler...
These streamers are custom, handmade bar ends made in California. Visit Barflies (her website is fairly terribly designed, BUT she's legit and it gets the point across) and order yourself (or your wife/girlfriend/sister) a pair! Pick out up to 3 colors to legitimize your bicycle riding!! (Don't worry, they're light and XC-ready)

Last, but not least, I met an awesome woman, Kara, who is the lady behind SkinFare body balm. She was hanging out at Tsali and gave away some of her awesome skin salve product in the prize bags. This is a great product to get behind. Use SkinFare for dry skin, chapstick, blemishes, anti-chafe, wound care... you name it, it works. And it's USDA-certified organic AND made in Asheville! Pick up your stick at The Hub!


Adventures (and Misadventures, I'm sure of it) in the Woods

236 page views on March 26?! Geez. A lot of you out there apparently care about my life... shucks :)

The week in review:
Friday, 3/22: All is normal, business as usual.
Saturday, 3/23: (Technically Sunday) 4AM wake-up from the monsters that live upstairs.
Sunday, 3/24: (Technically Monday) 12:30AM wake-up from the monsters that live upstairs. Two nights in a row is 2 too many... Put on my bathrobe, marched around the building to their front door, rang the door bell, and served a slice a' Liz.
Monday, 3/25: 8:30am, receive phone call that JB had been in a wreck and had visited a hospital near me. JB in ICU. I choose to take over JB's contract work with Brevard College co-leading the 21-day trip (that leaves this Wednesday). Minor freak out about change of events and having to quit my job :-\ (What are they going to say?!) Quit my job (they were sad & disappointed, but understood). Visited JB in ICU. Took husband out to eat at my "new" favorite calzone joint.
Tuesday, 3/26: Half-day at work to clean house. Boss took me, Michele, & Henry out to lunch at my "new" favorite calzone joint (2 calzones in 2 days!). Visited JB in normal hospital room, looking perkier.
Wednesday, 3/27: Enjoyed a hike in the woods with the dog. Packed my crap & ran errands. Made lodging arrangements for my trip to Brevard. Cooked a couple meals for husband.
Thursday, 3/28: Visted JB in hospital (definitely more "out of it" and in pain). Enjoyed a hike in the woods with the dog. Made final packing arrangements. Will leave for Brevard this evening.

Friday, 3/29: Tour a few housing possibilities for when we move to Brevard full-time. Meet at Brevard College to turn-in employment documents, pack food & paddling equipment, and get general run-down of trip. Stay with friends.
Saturday, 3/30: Hit the trail. Backpacking & paddling for a couple weeks. Life could be worse.

Whew! What a whirlwind. See you in a couple weeks. Updates on JB on Facebook...


A New Adventure

This is going to come as a shock to some, exciting to others, and perhaps both to most. And I apologize in advance for the "impersonal" nature of this post - all of you deserved a phone call, but this way I could thoroughly and best explain the situation for a mass audience... And if you have questions, concerns, or complaints... well, sorry, I don't have time for them.

You know, my husband says that I'm really good at planning things and seeing them through to completion. He would also say that I'm probably equally as bad at flying by the seat of my pants and taking life by the horns. Fair enough. Well, today I've had a solid training session in laying aside "plans" and doing what needs to be done...

This morning, around 8:30a, I received a phone call that a my best friend, my college roommate, had been in an accident and was out "my way" in a hospital. It was nonchalant, which led me to believe that things weren't too serious... as my girl, JB, also has family in this direction. After making a couple phone calls, I finally was put through to the SICU waiting room, now nervous for the outcome of my friend's accident. Long story short, she's "fine" - she has, and can move, all limbs and will not have to have surgery... she is, however, healing up 5 broken ribs and a fractured L2 and also suffered the death of her dear left kidney (it's alright, the right one is coping nicely with the additional work). This same gal was contracted to co-lead a 21-day paddling & backpacking expedition with a Brevard College professor as part of the undergraduate Immersion semester for the WLEE (Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education) program. Clearly, this was no longer an option.

After making a few phone calls and having a spur-of-the-moment, intense conversation with my husband, I've decided to quit my job at Scott's Bicycle Centre and move back to Brevard to sub for JB on the 21-day trip... and stay indefinitely. And this is effective immediately. JB's accident started a domino effect that left no doubt in our minds - Brevard is where we're needed right now. My last morning at Scott's is tomorrow. I head for Brevard on Thursday, and hit the trail on Saturday. No cell service or facebook or email or anything technological for three. whole. weeks. Awesome! I'll be back at the end of April to pack up our apartment and see Andy graduate... (that's when we'll have the see-ya-later party!)

You see, home has always been Brevard for us. When we moved to Chattanooga, we left our hearts in Brevard, and anticipate our return. The last few months have been filled with long, middle-of-the-night conversations about our plans after my husband's grad school graduation in May. And ultimately, we decided that moving back to Brevard is best for our family, as, pure & simple, Chattanooga doesn't offer many options for folks with Andy's Master's degree... and we've gone through too much to waste it. We've really struggled with this decision - my job at Scott's is wonderful. Sure, I haven't always enjoyed the folks I've worked with, and sure, taking inventory and cycle counting really is the bain of my existence, but ultimately I discovered an area of cycling that I'm really, ridiculously passionate about (women & cycling) and I've seen tangible growth in helping women realize that bike shops really aren't all that scary!

Really, it feels like I've finally gotten the train chugging along at a quick clip... and I'm jumping off the train.

Here's the thing: Scott's is the best shop in the Chattanooga area, hands down (and I'm not just saying this because I worked there. I mean, I quit. What do I owe them anymore?!). We visited several when we first moved to town before happening upon the "family" atmosphere that Scott's provides. Would you drive a few extra miles for the best doctor around, the one who really knows you and what you need? Probably. When you love your bikes as much as we do, it's not a big deal to drive a little farther to know you're going to receive great, knowledgeable service with a 24-hour turn-around, no bullshit required.

And the best thing: Scott's will still be this great without me. (Yeah, yeah, I know all you people visited Scott's juuuuuust for me... right.) And there are definitely no hard feelings involved... only a little sad to be jumping off the train.

I'm very, very appreciative of the folks in Chattanooga who really gave me a chance; the folks who let me work for them, volunteer for them, who trusted my knowledge and opinions, who asked me for advice, who gave me advice... Rock/Creek Outfitters, Scott's Bicycle Centre, VeloVixens, SORBA-Chattanooga... and the countless friends I've gathered along the way. If I could take all of you to Brevard with me, I would in a heartbeat, and it'd be the best thing EVER. But alas...

I hope this explains a few things. I certainly never meant to deceive anyone, and don't mean to "let down," sadden, etc. folks. You know you'd do the same thing if it were you. We're leaving a bunch of awesome people and awesome opportunities, and we trust the same are waiting for our return in Brevard. PLUS I'll get to take care of JB while she gets back on her feet.

Brevardians - here we come!


Adventures with Heels & Wheels

You know a story's going to be good when it starts with, "So it all started with a Google search..."
So it all started with a Google search...
I've been really amped on women & cycling recently. I'm attending the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. next month. In addition to the Summit, I'll also be attending the Women's Bike Forum slated for the day before. In getting prepared for the Summit (this is the first political thing I've done in my entire adulthood), I've been reseaching the speakers at both the Summit & the Women's Forum. And let me tell ya, there are some really awesome women doing really cool things in their local communities... and I really feel like this is an avenue that I'm drawn to, and would really enjoy! 
Anyway, I started searching women's cycling accessories, and one thing led to another, and I found myself searching for clipless-compatible high-heeled cycling shoes. This photo came up on my search:
Of course, my wheels started turning. Instructables had a tutorial on its site, but after reading the entire thing, I got confused & frustrated. Well, while Michele, Erin, & I were out purchasing items for our Ladies Night Out craft table, Zack made a prototype for us!!!! 
I do my own stunts. And I was clipped in for all of this! Thanks Zack for making a girl's dreams come true!
More photos on Facebook.


[Mis]adventures in credit scores, Adventures in advocacy!

The past week has been an absolute emotional roller coaster.

Three years ago I worked for a boarding school as their medical coordinator - basically, I performed mini-triage on the students, took them to doctor's appointments, coordinated their medical care with parents, teachers, doctors, etc., and all around made sure they were taken care of. Easy enough, right? Long story short, because I followed protocol and signed my students' releases and such for their appointments, I've gotten "stuck" with 2 VERY delinquent collections on my credit report. YIKES! After a nearly-major freak out, I've been able to contact the debt collection agencies, the businesses that are owed the money, AND found supporters from my former employer to help me fix this credit snafu! Luckily for me, and through several stressful days, I've started the ball rolling and should have my credit score return to perfect in about 30 days time... but I won't believe it til I see it.

And all in the same week I have: been a "single parent" (Andy is out of town for 2 weeks) making it to the gym by 6a, hitting the trails with the dog by 7:30a, and getting to work by 10a; hosted a women's roundtable luncheon to discuss clothing and events for my bicycle shop; "narrowed" down and solidified what clothing we will be pulling in for the Spring 2013 season (at least the first half of the season); received a ton of new merchandising accessories (including mannequins! YAY!); trained my new inventory helper; fulfilled my officer duties by attending my women's cycling club/team meeting; designed/completed/sent the weekly shop email; continued to create & remind participants of upcoming events using all forms of internet marketing & social media, and...

Won one of 25 $1000 scholarships to attend the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. in March. Wait, what? That's right, not only do I get to attend the summit, which is amazing in itself, but I also get $1000 credit to pay for my registration, travel, lodging, food, etc. And, of course, I've devised a game to see just how thrifty I can do this thing (Do you know how expensive Washington, D.C. is?!). So far, I've registered ($375) and booked a plane ticket ($158, standby!) and secured lodging (hostel living, .5mi from the Summit, 1 block from a bike share station, walking distance to Chinatown... all for less than $150 - SCORE!)... So looks like I'll hopefully have a bit of money to play with (food, Smithsonian, bike rental...)!

Oh, and hopefully I'll finish some laundry, vacuum, and make it to the grocery store today. The low temps and threat of icy conditions, along with a belly ache (hmm... can't imagine what could have caused that... ::stress::), kept me home from work today - so I have no excuse.


Adventure with Spaghetti Squash & CouchSurfing

After a friend recommended the substitution of spaghetti squash for actual spaghetti to lay off the gluten intake (we eat a LOT of gluten), I found myself picking up a couple of these mysterious squash at the grocery store a week ago. In the past I've found spaghetti squash so scary, in fact, that I was given one by my sister a couple years ago from her CSA box, and never used it... letting it literally rot in my produce bin at the bottom of the fridge :-\ So, after a week of sitting in the produce bin, I figured - now or never.

Yes, that is a Care Bears mug behind the Misto
I have the "How to Cook Everything" cookbook, and it stated that the "best and easiest" way to cook the spaghetti squash was to poke a few holes in it using a thin, sharp knife and baking it at 375* for at least 45 minutes. I left mine in for about 1'20" before giving in a bringing it out of the oven. I sliced it in half, carefully scooped out the squash brains, and used a large metal spoon to scrape the meat off the peel and into a greased baking dish. By the way, if you've never heard of or used a Misto, I highly recommend visiting your local TJMaxx and picking one up. It's great - I can use my own oils (whatever you want), pressurize it by hand, and spray it into my dishes. It makes me feel better about my food & the environment.

 Anyway, while the squash was roasting, I sauteed a cornucopia of vegetables (just whatever was in the fridge, really) and seasoned them with a few favorite herbs (oregano, parsley, & crushed mint - my secret ingredient... oops!) and salt & pepper. I piled all this on top of the cooked spaghetti squash, covered it in Newman's Own vodka sauce, added a layer of fresh spinach, and a bit of finely shredded mozzarella cheese (for my cheese-loving husband). I put this back in the oven at 350* for 30ish minutes (or whenever the cheese is melted).

We weren't really sure what to expect, but the outcome was... DELICIOUS. Yum. Not scary. Not hard. Perfect. I just takes awhile to roast the squash, but we have plenty left over for another meal (no cooking tomorrow, yay!). This was a simple dish, made up in my head, and I'm sure there are far more delectable ways to eat spaghetti squash - and you should definitely explore!

MMM sooo good!

In other news, we hosted a CouchSurfer last night. To protect his privacy, I won't give you all the nitty gritty details, but he was a great guy and, come to find out, spent time as a child at the summer camp that we've been working for over the last few years! Sing it with me, "It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all..."


[Mis]adventure in Prentice Cooper

Yesterday, my husband, dog and I set out to Prentice Cooper for a mini overnight backpacking trip. Andy is getting some training in for a Grand Canyon backpacking trip that he's leading, and I just enjoy the activity, especially when it's been wet & rainy and I can't get on the bike. Anyway...

Raider is SO ready to go!

We hit the trail about 10:45a with our sight set on Hemlock Branch campsite, an easy 5.7 miles away. We reached Hemlock relatively early, ate lunch and set up camp, then hit the trail again (sans packs)  to hit up a couple other overlooks.

Home Sweet Home. LOVE the Granite Gear White Lightnin'!
We made it to Ransom Hollow Overlook about an hour later, enjoyed the views, and decided to try to squeeze in Raccoon Mountain Overlook before it got dark.

 We hiked quickly, but were quickly running out of water, so we decided to turn around about a mile away from RMO. Pot Point loop, on which Ransom Hollow and Raccoon Mtn Overlooks are located, is not as well-traveled as Mullins Cove loop, so we felt a little more secluded, and it was awesome. We also got some pictures of an old still and a LARGE amount of scat. 

 Anyone know what animal made this? Consistent with bear poop, but seems a bit large, and a bit loosey-goosey to be bear... but maybe s/he had diarrhea?

So we headed back to camp, hoping our things were still there, ready to make some dinner and get some quality R&R. We had a full  7 miles of packs-off "dayhiking" added to our 5.8 miles of packs-on backpacking from earlier. We were definitely getting tired. About 5 minutes back at camp (and our things were there untouched!), a gentleman named Gary "sneaked" up on us from the other direction, sending Raider into complete decomposition. I don't know what it is, but if she feels snuck-up-on, it's go time. She was ready to take out Gary. About ready to get supper started, Andy asked about the fuel, to which I remember leaving it at the house. Whoops. Luckily it was me who forgot the fuel, because I'm sure Andy wouldn't have lived it down had it been the other way around. We were just going to sup on trail snacks, but Raider still was going berserk over Gary (who was innocently trying to enjoy a night in the woods) and we were quite hungry. So, we filled up water bottles, packed up, and began our trek back to the car in the dark. Oh wait, did I mention that Raider chases light? The first few minutes were interesting, but we turned off our lamps and decided we could see better light-less. Raider stayed behind us as we hiked about .5 mile to a gravel road (Whew! Hiking back on the trail in the dark wouldn't have been that fun), and another 50 minutes (we guessed 3 miles?) on the road back to the car. Those 50 minutes felt like forever.

 Tired and hungry, 16.3 miles and 9 hours later, we got to the car, mouths watering for some Waffle House. We thought it'd be 100x more epic to say we didn't make it to Waffle House until 2a, but it was only 8:15p. Andy finished the event with pecan pie, I with coffee. We drove home, I put Raider in the shower (yes, shower) with me, and we hit the hay.

We'll just chalk this one up to a great training hike.