Sunday, March 2, 2008

Remember Chalk Hill?

Okay, this past week an unnamed individual accosted me in person for not posting anything for the previous weekend. When this person suggested they might have to camp in front of my house to get the inside scoop, I decided it was probably worth my time to post something!

Work has certainly been keeping me quite busy, these past weeks I've been stringing cable for voice and data in our new offices, which will mainly be used by the Carolina Thread Trail project. We are all, well most of us, excited about this great project. On Friday I was putting on a lot of the finishing touches. I brought in a lot of my own tools and was very disappointed to "remember" my drill no longer works. Thankfully I'm not the only person who likes to carry around power equipment. That reminds me of the great band of yesteryear, Power Tools for Women, that was quite celebrated by my circle of friends growing up. Trust me, it would mean a lot more had you been there!

Thankfully I wasn't completely trashed when work was over and had not stapled my forefinger to the wall. That night Julie and I walked over to our new Panda Express for some take-out. To complement such sophisticated fare we paired it with our favorite chardonnay, Chateau Ste. Michelle. I was the one that naturally introduced the wine - the winery/chateau is located just minutes north of where I grew up in Washington - though the vineyards themselves are in the eastern part of the state.

We watched the movie The Last King of Scotland, which came out in 2006 and told the true story of Idi Amin's brutal dictatorship in Uganda from the fictional perspective of a young Scot doctor. I must confess I have somewhat of a problem with these stories, although they do give a perspective that may be true and perhaps never would have been documented. The movie itself was outstanding! A few notes on the actors involved - we both are huge fans of the novel Atonement, and breathed a collective sigh of relief that the movie lived up to the hype and quality of the novel. It's a shame it did so "poorly" at the Academy Awards though. Screw 'em! Okay, the obvious connection is James McAvoy. He acting was superb in both. And then the blast from the past- you know I'm talking about Gillian Anderson! I often feel bad for some actors who get wrongly typecast - some deserve it, others don't. It wasn't a huge role, and I didn't recognize her at first (a good sign!) and she nailed the part. But the real award (my award!) goes to Forest Whitaker - just out of the park!!! I won't be a history snob pointing out the inconsistencies, as I was only vaguely aware of who Idi Amin was to begin with, but the movie did weave in some actual events like the hostages at the airport, etc.

Saturday morning brought fantastic weather for the group run from the Dowd. I was hoping to see my buddy Franco before he was deployed to Mexico City for two months, but apparently he couldn't make it. This is the new group I run with, although some of the old Sharksbite regulars like Bruce and Chris were there. Kathy, the fearless leader, knows apparently every runner in Charlotte! We went out thinking about 12 miles - I was just following for a change. The route started with a new flip along Tryon, which obviously took us very close to my place of employment. And when you're close to there, you're close to Uptown Cabaret!!! (for the record, I have never gone in nor am I a "registered" online member). One section new to me was running down Park the whole stretch. From there it was down East towards Freedom Park. We then swung back up Roswell and at that point Kathy had to peel off. At the Kindercare on Providence (apparently a huge strategy point for these runners) we went up Providence, continuing past my favorite Charlotte theater The Manor. Their route then dipped into our Monday night run, which delves in the Eastover neighborhood. Once Chris peeled off it was down to Tom, Bruce, and myself. From there it was the dreaded climb up Morehead back to the Dowd. When I later mapped out the distance, I was satisfied to learn we had just clipped under an eight minute mile pace, which is great for me on these longer distance runs.

Once home at noon the Duke/NC State game was on. It was hard to watch because NC State outplayed them pretty much the whole game. Amazingly enough they found a way to win and give Coach K his 800th win. For the record, I am not a blind Coach K worshiper. I think he's a total asshole, but he is a fabulous coach. One of my favorite memories of Cameron Indoor Stadium was being close enough to hear him swear. In Durham I lived near his church, and for the record I thought they were a**holes too (bad neighbors acting like the 800 pound gorilla in the room). And WTF is up with the Bob Knight worship crap? I seriously dislike that hothead. I think he tosses a mean chair and salad, but that's about it. Then again, it is about perspective, and apparently at the time that Krzyzewski played for Knight he must have made a positive lasting impression. People do change. Knight must have. Did I mention college basketball is better off without Knight? Amen!

The real game to watch that afternoon though was North Carolina/Boston College. Holy cow. BC was ripping up UNC by a stellar performance of one Tyrese Rice. It's a shame UNC found a way to contain him and limit him to 46 points. Oh well. We'll just wait for the UNC/Duke rematch which is coming up shortly! I think the moral of the story is clear from both games; just because you think you're a big talent doesn't mean you are going to win the game. These things are earned by hard work and determination.

That evening was certainly memorable. Julie's father and step-mother were in town, so we met them for dinner at the swanky new steakhouse Del Frisco's, along with Julie's twin sister and her fiancé. When I got there I realized in the rush (we had to find Julie's watch) I forgot to change out of my sneakers. Wow, how tacky. It reminded me of the time at the spring 2002 Duke graduation when I realized I was wearing two different shoes. Thankfully though, they weren't showing most of the time! Everything was absolutely delicious, starting with the bread, shrimp & crabcake appetizers, and salad. When Julie was looking over the wine list I was perusing the Sonoma varieties and was delighted to see a chardonnay from Chalk Hill Winery. And it wasn't because I had tasted the wine before! Chalk Hill is the major hill on the 112 mile bike course of the Vineman Ironman Triathlon which I completed last August. In fact, I climbed the hill twice, once at Mile 45 and again at Mile 100. In the fact, the title picture you see above was taken quite near Chalk Hill! So this was just another savoring of completing this event! I thought it was so cool too I took the bottle home with me.

Maybe I should start collecting bottles from all the wineries I passed along the way? As for the main course, I followed Helen's advice and went with the 22-ounce bone-in Prime ribeye. I think it was an understatement that it was the best steak I've ever had. Wow. For dessert we had some creme brulée (how could i not think of Amélie?), which had a little more cinnamon than usual. Most importantly, the company was absolutely delightful! I did go to bed wondering if I would ever eat again or be able to bike in the morning!

I did feel better in the morning, excited that the weather was supposed to be even warmer! I had to get up earlier than usual, mainly because the server was down at work. My call to Windstream yesterday, the evil company that took over CTC, was not helpful at all. I was on hold as I walked around preparing for my ride. I had the last of my biscuits and gravy (a shame compared to the wondrous biscuits and gravy served at Camp Parsons). Thankfully I did learn that morning this was the weekend they were switching broadband to Windstream. Go figure. I left shortly before 8:30 decked out in way more clothes than last weekend (I nearly froze on the figure-eight loop ride). The route today towards the Dowd was more orientated towards South Boulevard since I had to stop at the office first. Once there I rebooted the firewall and launched up the server. I was running against the clock but thankfully the Inside Out Sunday ride members (there were plenty today!) were still mulling around. Thankfully I told Ma Bell yesterday when I saw her at the Dowd I was interested in riding!

We started by riding through Uptown, which is fun because it's mostly vacated. I did have an opportunity to talk a good deal with Lat - sounds like we both struggle to find time in our lives with work (unlike another individual we know whose workweek consists of reading books) to find time to train for an Ironman. He and big crew are doing Ironman Couer d'Alene this June. That might have been my first choice, but I was too late to sign up. From uptown we climb up to Rozelle's Ferry and then out Oakdale, which is a lovely road. I am always reminded of my co-worker who lived for a little bit out there near where I-485 now comes through. We then made our way to Brookshire to cross the Catawba River. Only a couple of sprinters for the "Welcome to Gaston County" sign. I was most surprised at our first rest stop. During the interim that I've been away from this ride, there is a new power station! Then for something new we coursed down 273. I was definitely feeling good. At Mt. Holly the main group turned in towards Belmeade. I was wondering if this would be too short for me.. I definitely opted out of going back down Wilkerson, Melissa shared my distaste for this super highway. We had a great talk about her school work as we approached the hill of Old Dowd that always get me. I put in a hard effort to make it up with the group. No new routing on Walkers Ferry. The group splintered again at Dixie River, now it was down to just two other riders. This is definitely the most desolate road in Mecklenburg County. We wondered aloud when we saw a yellow Porsche scream by what it was doing "out here." Once at Steele Creek, I decided to do some snaking to make sure I had at least 50 miles this time. I came in at 54 miles, with an average speed of 17.7 miles per hour - a HUGE improvement versus my solo rides at the unmentionable average I get from other "social rides."

That evening I watched a movie that was a huge punch in the gut - Dirty Pretty Things. It is a story of the underside of London, specifically the plight of well meaning illegal immigrants. The center of the story was a hotel that appears to be nice but is rife with illegal activity, specifically a scheming night manager who harvests kidneys in return for a passport. I thought Audrey Tatou was hardly believable as a young Turk, but then again it was interesting to see her in her first English-speaking role. I enjoyed the dark message much more than any particular actor.

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