Thursday, July 26, 2018

Red Wing Roots Music Festival

Last year I attended the Red Wing Roots Music Festival for one day, and I liked it so much I told myself I would return the next year and camp for the whole weekend. And that's what I did two weeks ago.

I took Friday off work to pack up and get ready (which always seems to take longer than you'd think). Finally I left town and drove the hour+ to Natural Chimneys Park in Mount Solon, Virginia. I schlepped all my stuff from the overflow parking lot to the "no frills" camping area (thankfully they had a golf cart shuttle to help with some of that), and set up my tent. It was pretty hot out, so when that was finally done and everything was stowed away I headed to the music meadow to sit in the shade and listen to some tunes. John Moreland and Kuinka were great. Trampled by Turtles were also fun but I was getting pretty tired by the end of the night so I cut their set short to shower and hit the hay. I needed a good night's rest because I had a bike ride coming up! Who doesn't love a music festival with a bike ride?! (They also had organized runs and yoga.)

The natural chimneys lit up at night.

Fun lights in the beer garden

Saturday morning I woke up and ate some breakfast in my tent, then got ready for my bike ride. That meant walking a long way in one direction to fill my water bottles and then walking an even longer way in the other direction to my car and bike. I ended up starting the 8am group ride about ten minutes late, but luckily I figured out which way to go. The first fifteen miles or so (I don't remember exactly) was through rolling farmland, and then we headed into the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Which means we also started heading uphill. At about mile 17 there was a water stop, and the intermediate ride turned around there and headed back. But I decided to attempt the "intermediate/advanced" ride and head another 6.5 miles straight up to the top of Reddish Knob. It was a slow and painful climb, and I'm so proud of myself for making it. I passed some other riders, and one guy commented "you're fast!" but it's all relative because at one point I was logging 13- to 15-minute miles, which is pretty darned slow. I had heard we'd be riding along a ridge at some point, and I looked forward to that flattish ridge so badly. When I finally got there about four miles in I was feeling pretty spent, and then I spied a spur road making a steep and immediate left turn up to the top. I couldn't make that turn right away, since I'd psyched myself out so much about the flat ridge. So I stopped and ate a snack and drank a lot of water and then actually rode a little ways out on the flat main road just to get my legs spinning again and to gain some momentum. Then I turned around and headed up that dreaded last two miles. I saw some of the people I'd passed earlier make that turn without stopping, so in some ways I feel like I cheated. But I still made it (and re-passed those riders). I made it to the top just in time to hear the bluegrass band play their last song before packing up. I ate some snacks and enjoyed the 360 views of Virginia and West Virginia. (I knew I was seeing West Virginia somewhere, but wasn't sure in which direction. And it wasn't until I got home and looked at a map that I realized the state line was actually right up there on the knob, and that some of the rode up actually crossed into West Virginia a couple of times. So I was in another state without realizing it.) Then it was time to head back, which was pretty miserable. You'd think having several miles of downhill would be relaxing, but it wasn't. I clenched my brakes almost the whole time, which was actually kind of painful for my hands and arms. Not to mention the general tense stressful feeling of not wanting to crash and die. And then it was a strange sensation to have to start moving my legs again when the road actually started to level out. Overall it was a forty-mile ride and definitely the hardest cycling I've ever done. It was also my favorite part of the weekend.

Virginia? West Virginia? Beautiful either way.

Parking lot at the top, with drinks and snacks (and musicians packing up).

Back at the festival, Patrick arrived to join me for two days of music in the mountains. Saturday some of my favorites were the Secret Sisters, the John Stickley Trio, and of course my favorite performing artist of all, Josh Ritter. He didn't come on until 10:30, but he was also the only set of the weekend I actually stood up front for. I love him. Patrick and I also made the short hike up to the top of the natural chimneys to check out the sunset.

Yes I bought a fanny pack for this festival. It was perfect. And it wasn't cold, that's just the newly-purchased festival sweatshirt Patrick bought me that I didn't want to carry all the way back to the tent.

Josh Ritter!

Sunday morning I had originally intended to go for a run on my own (since the group runs were only on Saturday), but I didn't have it in me. So I hung out in the music meadow enjoying a dirty chai and watching a man make giant bubbles. Then it was more music. Favorites included David Wax Museum and the Steep Canyon Rangers. 

Giant bubbles!

Enjoying a set from inside the shady beer garden.
The whole weekend was amazing. Yes it was very hot, but other than that I loved being outside all weekend, camping and biking and listening to great music. I love Red Wing Roots and definitely want to go back next year.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

busy busy

I'm so neglectful of this poor blog. I was going to post about my trip to Montauk, where I spent two nights at an ocean-front resort with Celia on another work trip of hers. It was pretty great. One day we got a few hours of sunny warm beach time in. The next day we got some chilly windy beach time in. We also ate lobster rolls two days in a row, took a private water aerobics class, and had a two-hour spa treatment with full body massage, facial, and foot scrub. All free (to us). But that was several weeks ago now. Time flies.

Our trip was all courtesy of the company on the paddle board!
nerdy beach time
bundled up on the beach

I finally started writing my dissertation, which is now sort of consuming my attention. As of today I have a whopping twelve pages! Only a billion (or so) more to go! It's kind of stressful.

I'm also training for another triathlon. Olympic distance. I've been trying to do each of the three activities 1-2 times per week in a sort of "base building" phase, but next week will start a more official 8-week training program. After my marathon last fall I stopped running for several months because that race messed up my IT bands (I used to just have problems on one leg, now it's both!). I've been building back slowly, and have run up to five miles but I take regular walking breaks. I'm hoping I'll be in shape enough to be able to run the 10k during the triathlon without having to stop, but I'm not going to try to push myself so much that I just get injured again. Don't worry.

And I'm a little obsessed with house plants recently. Some day I'll share pictures of my growing plant family, though they never come out nearly as well as all the plant photos I look at on Instagram.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

I went to London!

Two weeks ago I got to tag along on a friend's work trip to London. I haven't been back to London since I spent a semester abroad there in 2004. It was a short but awesome time!

I arrived Friday morning, and made my way to our Kensington apartment. I arrived a few hours before Celia, and after dropping off my bag I headed to the Gloucester Arms for lunch. When I got back I had a shower and then Celia finally arrived (her flight was delayed). After she had a chance to freshen up we headed out to dinner (Nando's for Peri-Peri Chicken), then walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum. They had a neat special exhibit on fashion and nature. After the museum we stopped by a shop for a late-night snack and provisions for breakfast. Back at the apartment we enjoyed cheese and crackers and the free bottle of sparkling wine left for us.
Our adorable street in Kensington

Our apartment!

View from my bedroom.

Spotted at the V and A
Saturday morning after making breakfast we hopped on the Tube and visited Westminster Abbey. We had to stand in a long line in the drizzling rain before we could get in, but it was worth it. We used the audio guide and saw a ton of famous dead people.
Westminster Abbey
From the abbey we took the Tube back to Kensington, and after grabbing a quick lunch we visit Kensington Palace. They had a special exhibit on Princess Diana's dresses. After touring the palace we took a tea and scone break at the gift shop, then visited the sunken garden.
A Catherine Walker day suit owned by Diana
More of Diana's dresses
Break time
So many tulips! And clouds.
After the palace we headed toward the City of London and walked around St. Paul's Cathedral, then across the Millennium Bridge. Happening to see the Globe Theater we stopped in to see about attending a show, but the only tickets available (for the next night) had obstructed views and since it's an open-air theater it would have been pretty freezing. Next time. Then we visited the Tate Modern. By this point we were pretty tired and achy (getting old!) and hungry, so we didn't enjoy the modern art quite as much as we might have otherwise. When we finally found a comfy bench to rest on we were stuck with a view of Duchamp's Fountain.
St. Paul's

A view of the Globe across the Thames

We cut our time at the Tate short and walked back over the river to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for dinner. It's a really old pub that was frequented by literary guys like Charles Dickens, and was also the site of my end-of-semester party when I'd studied abroad. After dinner on our walk to a Tube station we happened upon a sign for Samuel Johnson's house, and naturally wanted to take a peak. The sign was a bit misleading and turned us down an alley, and more signs kept pointing us farther down the dark (kinda scary) winding alley so that at one point Celia said "this is the nerdiest way to die." But we finally found his house and we didn't die.
Fish and chips! And mashed peas! And a pint!
Sunday we enjoyed our last breakfast in our apartment (finishing off the sparkling wine in mimosas), then packed up our things and walked a few blocks to our new accommodations, a fancy five-star hotel looking directly across at Kensington Palace. (Don't forget, this was a work trip for Celia and we didn't have to pay for either of these awesome places.) After checking in (the butler said we had the "best junior suite") and getting a little tour of the joint we headed out for a tour of the Tower of London.

Our new digs.

View from our only window. If you zoom in, that's Kensington Palace behind the big tree in the forefront.
We spent several hours at the Tower of London, first enjoying a guided tour with a beefeater, then wandering all the other sites inside on our own. The place is so old! And we got to see the crown jewels. It was also really cold.

Tower of London

Neat Tudor buildings inside the Tower of London

Tower selfie. That building is from the 11th century!

View of Tower Bridge

Guarding the Crown Jewels

We finished up at the Tower just as it was closing. From there we headed to Trafalgar Square, then walked to an Indian restaurant (Dishoom) in Covent Garden that our concierge had recommended. We had to wait outside in the freezing cold for about 45 minutes, but they brought us hot drinks which was nice. And the food, once we finally got to sit and eat it, was delicious.

Trafalgar Square

After dinner we headed back to our hotel, where we found scones and Negroni makings. The Negroni makings were compliments of the hotel (they said Meghan Markel likes them), and we later learned the scones were actually thanks to my brother calling up the hotel!

Drink makings and late-night scones.
Monday morning we enjoyed traditional English breakfasts at the hotel, then took a train ride out to Windsor. Celia had an interview scheduled with a shoe company so I looked in touristy shops and got a coffee until she was done. Then we headed into Windsor Castle! We got the audio guides and listened to all the stops. St. George's Chapel is inside, and is where the royal wedding is happening soon. We were there for a few hours, then enjoyed a cream tea break before our train ride back to London.
Breakfast! (Yes, I at least tasted all of it.)

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle selfie!
St. George's Chapel
Cream Tea

Back at the hotel we changed into nicer clothes, then went to a dinner appointment with a PR person. The restaurant (Galvin at Windows) was on the 28th floor and had amazing views of the city. The sky also cleared for the first time during our trip so we could actually see the sunset! The food was fancy and French, and really good. Before we left for the night our waitress said she had a special treat for us, and walked us through the kitchen to a small balcony with a view of the full moon and lights of the city below.
Dinner views
fancy appetizer
special treat night view
Tuesday was our last day, and the most hectic. After another nice breakfast in the hotel we went across the street for the Kensington Palace photo op we'd missed the day we'd visited, then hopped on a bus and headed to Celia's interview with a well-known clothing atelier (maker of the red suit above). It was pretty neat to see the workshop and get to sit in on the interview. From there we went to two more interviews with royal warrant holding jewelers, and at the first one we each got to try on a diamond tiara!
Fancy photo-op Kensington Palace gate
We loved riding in the front on the top of the bus!
Gorgeous fancy clothes

Festive Piccadilly (and blue skies!)
The interviews ran a little long, and as soon as we finished with the second jeweler we had to rush back to the hotel to change clothes, check out, and head our separate ways to different airports.

It was a short trip, but so much fun. And while I repeated some of the same touristy things I'd done years ago, I also got to experience a much fancier side of the city thanks to Celia's work situation. I'm so grateful she invited me!