The first two months of the year have been quiet for us with little travel planned. This wasn’t exactly deliberate but it just played out that way, a nice run of domesticity and routine leading up to what will be three months of pretty active travel. First up will be a three week plus swing through the south, taking us to Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida with the ACUI Conference in New Orleans as the linchpin.
We’ve started the trip as I write this with a first stop to see our friend Carolyn in Birmingham and I will cover this visit in my next post. This one will focus on how we stay physically active when it is too cold to ride our bikes, which has occurred a number of times in Charlotte throughout the months of January and February.
Once or twice a week Joanna will head over to Nomad Aquatic and Fitness, a gym she belongs to and join a workout class, then take part in an aerobic swim session. I try to join her in the swim activity every now and then as I find the exercise moderately taxing, doesn’t put much stress on the joints in my lower body and provides a good workout for my upper body which doesn’t get much when I ride the bike. One nice thing about Nomad is the fee structure; no contract is required and a number of different plans make it quite affordable.
Our weather the last couple of months came in bouts with some weeks where the day time temperatures were moderate, highs in the 50’s, reasonable for bike riding, particularly for us native Angelenos. When it was not cooperative, we did quick one hour hikes on the greenway near our house and when time was available, and we really wanted to get out of the house, we’d venture to hiking destinations within an easy drive of Charlotte.
Our first of these three local hikes was to Boone’s Cave Park, up I-85 about an hour north of Charlotte on the way to Lexington. The cave in this park is rumored to be the where Squire (his first name, not a title) and Sarah Boone spent their first winter with the then teenage Daniel upon entering the region in 1751. There was a total of 25 people in the group, with all 10 of the Boones children, and other family members and neighbors who all left Pennsylvania together. The Boone family and everyone else soon built homes near the cave, located next to the Yadkin River.
This is a Davidson County park and retains a distinctly local flavor; the first thing you notice upon entering the park is the hand routed lettering on all of the signs. Indeed, our one complaint about the park would be the insufficient maps and trail marking there, causing us to hike around in a state of perpetual confusion.
It was a briskly cold day, requiring warm clothing and gloves. A key to comfortable outdoor activity in this kind of weather is the right kind of attire, warm enough to keep you from getting chilled and yet breathable to let moisture escape as you exercise. We were properly attired and comfortable as we hiked over the varied terrain in the park, up and down short hills, across boardwalk covered swamps, clambering like kids up a frozen set of steps leading to the actual cave itself.
We finished up our time in the park and made haste to get back to Charlotte and a rendezvous at the Flying Saucer with Doug and Ann, new to Charlotte and the University, good folks who will enjoy their move to the Queen City and who we hope to get to know better.
Next up was a short drive to the South Fork Trail section of the Carolina Thread Trail. The Thread Trail is a regional network of greenways, trails and blueways that span 15 counties, 2 states and 2.3 million people with over 220 miles of trails open to the public. The South Fork section we’d do is a 2.0-mile natural surface trail running along the bank of the South Fork of the Catawba River, connecting the towns of McAdenville (famous for its annual Christmas light displays) and Lowell. Suitable for both hiking and biking, it gave us a flat and easy four-mile round trip hike.
We had the trail to ourselves with the exception of an older gentleman that we ran into in both directions who was out with a pair of shears clearing areas of invasive plants. We made good time on the flat path, reaching the end in a small housing sub-division, then turning around for the quick walk back to the car. With plans to go out to celebrate Valentine’s Day the next afternoon (Sunday), we returned home for a nice meal and some quality TV time.
Our last outing a couple of weeks later took us the short distance to Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, adjacent to the park that is the Plantation. We’ve been out to the Plantation a few times, taken a tour of the restored house there, enjoyed their famous Raptor center, viewed the historic re-enactments they stage (colonial farm life, Civil War, WWII, etc.). The problems we ran into at Boone’s Cave are not apparent here with good trail maps and excellent signage. Our goal was to hike five miles and we set out from the parking lot near the stables (any surprise that we parked nearby horses?) and began hiking north to the outer edge of the park.
The terrain is varied here, some ups and downs with sections of smooth trail interspersed with rocky and rooted surfaces. It was a bit warmer than our hikes in the previous month, a hint of spring on the horizon, heralding our ability to spend the next week or more putting in some serious miles on the bikes.
We ended up just doing four miles, but for that morning it was the amount we needed to cover and so returned to the car. Joanna made a brief detour to the stables to see the horses while I set out the simple lunch we’d brought, ham sandwiches made with some of the La Brea Sourdough bread we can get at our local market.
We grew up in West Los Angeles eating some of the best sourdough bread on the planet, made fresh each day at Pioneer Bakery in Venice. You could find the bread in every super market, but the real treat was to stop in at the retail counter at the bakery itself to pick up a fresh loaf, often still warm from the ovens. My fondest memories are of finishing up a long Sunday ride with my bike bike club (MDRCC) and at the end of one of our routes which brought me back through Santa Monica, stopping at the bakery to pick up a 1-1/2 pound round, sliced.
Wrapped in a plastic bag I’d stick it under the front of my jersey, now with the appearance of being roughly five months pregnant, and ride the last couple of miles’ home. The loaf would be a little light as I couldn’t resist reaching in to snag a piece or two, particularly my favorite, the end crust. Once home you’d pull out a fresh slice, open a jar of super crunchy peanut butter (Skippy our family choice) and savor the goodness that a simple treat can bring.
With an eye on the clock we made our way home in order to head up to Concord for dinner with members of the Piedmont Adventure Club, the outdoor oriented social club we belong to. Scheduled to take place at Sticky Fingers, a BBQ chain, we arrived in time to a disappointing turnout, indicative of the struggles of this well established group, with aging members, unable to attract new younger recruits to keep the energy alive. More disappointing was the mediocre BBQ plate we shared and what has to have been the absolute worst dessert we’ve ever experienced (with the exception of that sesame/dough thing we ordered in Chesky Krumlov), a peach cobbler so bad we only ate half. The only redeeming quality of the thing was that you could have used the crust, soggy and tasteless, to repair damage to the drywall in your home.
So, that’s some insight to our winter time activities. Early March weather grew warm allowing us to get out on the bikes; I had a 130-mile week with a couple of near 40 mile rides to boost the total. I think we’ll have a good spring, interspersed with travel and exercise, not better combination. Well, add in a few good meals and great craft beers and it could be a lifestyle. Maybe I’ll write some blog posts to commemorate them.
Yadkin River: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yadkin_River
Carolina Thread Trail: http://www.carolinathreadtrail.org/
South Fork Trail: http://www.traillink.com/trail/south-fork-rail-trail.aspx
Latta Plantation Nature Preserve: http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/ParkandRec/StewardshipServices/NatureCenters/Pages/Latta.aspx
Latta Plantation: http://www.lattaplantation.org/latta/index.php?page=home
Pioneer Bakery: http://www.lamag.com/longform/the-sons-also-rise/
Sticky Fingers: http://www.stickyfingers.com/