Saturday, May 31, 2008

Budweiser and Bullet Shells: A Visit in NH

I spent two great weeks hanging out with friends and family in New Hampshire, including spending some quality time with my brother and his family, biking around southern NH, hanging out with my uncle at his house on a lake. Amelia biked up from Fitchberg, MA to hang out for a few days, just in time to join me at the Acworth Music Festival which was held on May 31st. Pretty much the whole town turned out to see all the local musicians rock the afternoon and evening away, despite the rainy weather. While there are definitely some great musicians in Acworth, my favorite group of the festival was by far the Ac-Tones, a collection of Acworth's finest singers, including my fourth grade teacher and several mothers of friends. Here's a beautiful self-written song that they put together as a tribute to all the hunters in Acworth (careful, it's pretty catchy and is likely to get stuck in your head):

Here are a few more photos from my visit in NH and from the Acworth Music Festival:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Baking with Noah at Orchard Hill Breadworks

Last night Amelia, who was visiting from Boston, and I took a trip up to East Alstead to visit Noah and check out out his new snazzy bread oven in action. For the last ten years Noah has been slowly building his bakery, Orchard Hill Breadworks. Last year Noah installed a giant, new oven built by a Spanish company. The oven is heated by wood from below and has a central cooking surface that rotates, allowing Noah to load the oven in fourths. By the time that he loads the final quarter, the bread in the first quarter to be loaded has rotated all the way around the oven and is, meaning that Noah is constantly unloading quarters of cooked bread to replace them with uncooked dough without having to sit around and wait for a batch to be done.

Amelia and I arrived around 9pm, just as the oven was getting hot enough and Noah was readying himself to load the first batch of the 1,200 lbs. worth of dough to be baked that night. With so much to do, Noah was in constant motion while we visited. Moving with practiced efficiency, Noah told us story of the construction of the new oven while he continued loading and unloading loaves. The oven was built by two Spaniards who arrived with the oven speaking no English. In a little over a week, the giant oven was built and then the rest of the wall and roof where built around the new oven.

Amelia and I hung out with Noah until the first batch came out of the oven. Noah gave us a warm loaf to take home (I think it was sunny flax wheat bread). Warm, just out-of-the oven bread is just about as good as it gets. Here are a few photos from the evening:

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Coyote Hill Classic (VT)

Back in the late 90s when I first started biking I did a couple of mountain bike camps at Coyote Hill and rode on the Coyote Hill Team for a year, so racing at Coyote Hill was a bit of a homecoming experience for me. That and this was my first race in New England in almost 8 years, so I was looking forward to some classic rocky and rooty New England riding and the Coyote Hill Classic didn't disappoint.

After pre-riding the course the day before and camping out overnight (while getting well acquainted with the loads of black flies and going to sleep to the sound of trucks muddin' off-road nearby), I was ready to race the tough course, but unsure what to expect in the competition. I've been finishes around 10th place in Sport races in DC, but with fields in the 35-40 people when 10 guys lined up at the start, I figured my chances of breaking the top ten were pretty good.

Coyote Hill sits on a steadily sloping hillside nestled amongst rolling, verdantly green mountains of central Vermont. The rugged hills, which are matched by an abundant supply of tire-hungry rocks and roots, mean that flat sections are few and far between. The race started off with a steep half-mile gravel climb where one other rider and I were able to pull away from the main group. The other rider (I'll call him Tall Socks because he was sporting knee-high wool socks) and I ducked into the single track with a good gap on the riders behind and rattled our way over the undulating rocky and rooty terrain for about a half a lap until I made a few mistakes and Tall Socks got by me along with one other guy who was descending like a maniac and quickly took off with Tall Socks in tow. I rode alone for the rest of the first lap but was able to catch up to Tall Socks and the Downhiller guy by the top of the gravel road, only to be dropped again on the single track.

I was feeling like my technical riding skills had grown soft living in the mid-Atlantic when I got caught and passed by one more rider from my class. After he rode out of sight, I pulled things together and redoubled my efforts in the hopes of catching up. Riding through the grassy, open uphill switchbacks coming into the finish I spotted the crazy Downhiller guy up ahead and was able to close the gap between us to about ten feet by the finish, but I wasn't able to pass him.

So I missed out on the money (or the t-shirts and waterbottles more accurately) by 4 seconds! Shoot! Regardless, I had a great time on the tough terrain, didn't land on my head, got a chance to catch up with Tom Masterson who runs Coyote Hill and had a great time riding and cheering with the friendly folks from the Monadnock Cycling Club, Jacob and Dave.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DC to NH with lots of visiting

I took the drive from DC to NH really slow, stopping to visit friends and family along the way. I drove just a few hours each day in order to stop and catch up with a lot of people who I hadn't seen in a good while. Some random highlights include:
  • Seeing all of my uncles and aunts between DC and NH and having a chance to hang out with them not during a rushed holiday where you only get a minute or two of catching up before getting distracted.
  • Watching a game of six-year olds playing t-ball in Hingham, MA and seeing them end up in a big pigpile fighting for the ball instead of throwing the runner out.
  • Taking the ferry into Boston with my uncle. He's the ferry captain so I was able to ride up front in the cabin (yep, I pretty much get excited about the same things as a six year old kid!).
  • Arriving in NH to peels of "UNCLE LOREN" from my now-six year old niece, followed by lots of "Uncle Loren, I want to show you something..."
  • Getting lost while biking on the snowmobile trails around my brothers house in NH and doing some good exploring to find my way back.
Here are a few pictures from the DC to NH drive. I didn't take pictures of everyone I visited, but this gives a bit of an idea of the trip to NH:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A good-bye brunch and scavenger hunt

The Sunday before I left DC I invited a bunch of people over for a going-away brunch. Just before people were supposed to arrive, my friend Lauren asked me to help her pick something up at a nearby house. Something in her tone made me suspect that something fishy was up, but I agreed to help her. We rode over to a house in Mt. Pleasant and Lauren disappeared into the house, exiting a few minutes later with two large boxes that I soon learned were filled with vegan and gluten-free muffins. I was so touched that Lauren would get something special like that for me! When we looked inside the box to admire the beautifully decorated peanut-banana and chocolate-mint muffins, Lauren noticed an envelope and said “huh, what’s that, you should open it, maybe it’s the invoice?” Scratching my head, I opened the letter to find the first clue of a scavenger hunt! The clue informed me that I was to go to a place where I could get burritos, mojitos and libros all in the same place and that all of my friends knew I would be scavenge hunting and were planning to show up later in the day.

I love scavenger hunts but I’ve never had one planned just for me, so I was pretty excited and blown away at the same time. With a little clue help from Lauren, I headed off to Kramer Books, a 24-hour book store/cafĂ©, to look for my next clue and Peter and Heather waiting for me. I found my next clue inside a Spanish dictionary in the bookstore, which said: "Go north and seek shelter on the street of brunch food and bars. Find what refugees are seeking when they flee abroad.” It had to be Asylum. I found Scott, Laura and Becca waiting for me at Asylum with my next clue which included directions to a nearby building and vague references to toasting. I arrived only to be stopped by the security guard who was doing a really good job of policing the building. After 20 minutes of arguing, making pleas, joking and phone calling, I finally got up to the roof top where Chris was waiting for me with mimosas. Chris put together this video of his champagne opening mishap as well as some photos from the day.

Chris then gave me my next clue which said “Before you head west we think it would be best if you let a good fiend know that you're on your way, nice and slow. Call your sailboat friend...” When I called my sailboat friend Chris who lives in Seattle, I got a message on his voicemail to go to a place where I could see a bridge over Rock Creek Park from another trail or bridge." It was a bit vague, but I thought I knew where to go. I pedaled to the Calvert Bridge and looked across the expanse below to see in the distance a giant sign hanging from the Connecticut bridge with the words “LOREN: GO HOME” written in large letters.

So home I went to find all of my closest DC friends waiting for me with brunch ready. All around it was one of the nicest things my friends have ever done for me.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Good-bye DC Camping Trip

Alright, so I've finally got around to putting a blog some catching up is in order: The weekend before I left DC, I went camping with a group of my close DC friends at Cunningham Falls State Park. After finishing my last day of work, I zoomed home to pack and head out, only to find that Amelia had come down from Boston as a surprise to join us for the camping trip. We packed up my new car for its first trip drove out of DC. Lauren put her cooking skills to work and set up a wicked feast of meat and veges that we cooked in aluminum foil wraps. After dinner Chris broke out his glowing juggling balls and put on a good show for everyone. We probably kept our neighbors in the other camp sites up with our laughter (ahem, Amelia) but we had a great time into the wee hours.

The next day hiked up to Cunningham Falls, with some stops for vine swinging, riving exploring and cold-lake swimming (only Kat and Chris were brave enough!). It’s easy to forget how much fun you can have just randomly exploring through the woods. You don’t need mountaintops and breathtaking views to have a kick-ass time hiking. My dear friends helped remind me that adventures really are just out your door and that all you need to do is put your shoes on, start exploring and you’re sure to find something extraordinary.

Thanks for the great going-away hiking extravaganza Kat, Chris, Lauren, Heather, Amelia and Scott!