Hasta Luego

Late one night in October of 2012, Andrew and I stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Vienna for a drink. I’d read about the place a few weeks prior, but our visit was just a random answer to the question of what to do that evening. The bartender (who had been called “surly” in the review I’d read) was friendly and made good drinks, so we decided to come back again soon and have dinner.

Our next visit was equally enjoyable. The food was great and the atmosphere was lively and welcoming. We became regulars, stopping in at least once a week, and gradually came to know the staff and other frequent visitors. Fernando, the bartender and manager, became a good friend. Andrew had a dish in the restaurant’s computer named after him and I stopped having to ask for guacamole because it would appear shortly after my arrival, along with a glass of wine or tequila. We brought our family and friends to try the place and established friendships with many of the regulars. It was our version of Cheers and my favorite place to spend an evening.

When Andrew and I got married a year ago, we couldn’t think of a more fitting place to hold our post-wedding dinner than Alegria. We celebrated birthdays, stopped in on Christmas Eve, rang in several new years, and toasted our first wedding anniversary there. When the place transitioned into Bazin’s Next Door, we kept coming and found new dishes on the menu to love (not a hard task, considering the talented chef Yuri). We danced away the Salsa Nights and stayed well past last call on more than a few occasions. It felt like home, but with better food and drinks.

Then we got word a few weeks ago that the place was closing and would only be open for private events going forward. This past Saturday was the end, and we spent the entire night going out with a bang. So many friends gathered around the bar and shut the place down in style (so much style that I’m still recovering a few days later). We made plans to keep in touch, to meet at the restaurant next door, and to try to hang on to the spirit of our collective watering hole, but it was still sad to say goodbye. Alegria, although you were hell on my liver at times, I loved you and will miss everything you came to represent. Thanks to everybody for the wonderful memories.

Celebrating my fake birthday in the summer.Shots from our friend ScootsZach, looking great.The famous chocolate cake on my birthday.Clowns at the bar on my birthday.Cinco de Mayo sombrerosGetting into the spirit of Cinco de Mayo. Dessert from Yuri on my fake birthday.Happy fake birthday to me!Ringing in a new year with multiple drinks.Fernando working his magic.Alegria people at Madison's Homecoming.Salsa Night!Family fun with Dad.Lindsay and Dad at the bar.Partying away the last night.A very sad final farewell.Everybody loves Alegria.

Posted on in Family, Friends, Life 1 Comment

Acknowledging marital bliss with rancid food

Happy anniversary! We made it through our first year of marriage without killing each other, so let’s eat some really old cake and see if that does it instead.

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Nothing like Harris Teeter sheet cake fresh from a year in the back of the freezer.

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In which I totally like communed with Mother Earth

I camped and, despite my initial apprehension, it turned out to be a really good experience. Yes, it was freezing (literally) and I slept for a total of fourteen seconds. But I also discovered that there is something wonderful about the simplicity of being in the middle of nowhere but nature. Before going to bed (and with inspiration from a hefty dose of wine), I convinced Andrew to go on a midnight hike and lay down in the middle of a field to look at the stars. (I would also like to note that it was HE who fussed, “But I’ll get my jacket dirty if I lay down!“) The moon was so bright that everything was illuminated and the only sound was wind rustling the nearby trees. In that moment, I couldn’t figure out why I’d want to go home again.

Now I’m back here and grateful for the return of feeling in my extremities, but admittedly, I miss being that tiny speck in the vast everything.

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It was 30 degrees warmer at my house and in a large percentage of America when we arrived at the campsite. WHY DID WE DRIVE TO WINTER TO SLEEP OUTSIDE.

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When we first arrived, Andrew used the remaining daylight to set up the tent. I used the time to put on all of the clothes I’d brought, including tights, lined pants, sweatpants, two pairs of wool socks, a tank top, two baselayers, a hooded sweatshirt, a wool coat, a neck gaiter, a hat, and thermal gloves. You could have hit me with a truck and I’d have simply bounced off with a soft thud.

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Caitlin laughed at my coat, saying, “You’re probably the first person ever to go camping in a pea coat.” Dude. I don’t own non-cycling outdoor apparel.

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I spent 90% of my waking hours at the campsite glued to this fire. At one point I was so close to the heat that my shoes started to smoke. Apparently $7 sneakers from Target are highly flammable.

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One of several hikes I took while camping. (That is not a sentence I expected to write at any point but life is all about evolution.) Other than actually enjoying the experience of hiking, it was also the only time I stopped feeling cold. The land we were staying on was breathtakingly beautiful.

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Of course I roasted vegetables in addition to marshmallows. I’m a cyclist with an eating disorder. Duh.

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Because my life is an indie movie, one of the guys pulled out a ukelele and played/sang for the group around the campfire.

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Andrew and I awoke to a beautiful fall morning that was still absolutely fucking freezing.

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Hooray! Caitlin did not die of hypothermia overnight.

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I got restless after breakfast and set off into the wilderness without telling anybody because that always ends well.

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It’s like every autumnal landscape stereotype threw up to create this moment. It was incredibly beautiful.

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I found a patch of cottony flower things that were very Dr. Seuss-like.

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Taking one last moment to soak in the natural beauty before getting in the car to head back to summer.

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Coffee stop in Thomas, WV. I wanted to go to the counter and be like, “Hi, can I get every ounce of boiling hot caffeine you have here just poured directly onto my face?” but instead settled for a large Americano.

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One final stop before crossing the VA line towards home. I’m not sure what shiny object had caught my attention in the woods. Also, those enormous $12 sweatpants from Target quite literally saved my ass this weekend. They’re so warm and soft that I’m going to wear them until April.

Posted on in Friends, Life, Travel 1 Comment

Into The Wild

I am going camping tonight. OUTSIDE. UGH.

This is my friend’s idea and because she is my oldest and dearest friend, I agreed. This is the same friend that laughed when I cried out of fear of roaches, though, so perhaps this is all a glorious set-up engineered to make me hugely and hysterically uncomfortable.

I do not camp. Being outside is great. I love outside. But when I am ready to sleep or take off my pants, I like to go inside. Camping to me is like, “Hey! Let’s grab the calendar and pick a few nights where we don’t want to sleep!” The last time I camped was for the Shenandoah Mountain 100 race, and I had just managed to doze off when somebody let me know it was already time to wake up by yelling WELCOME TO THE THUNDERDOME, BITCHES though a megaphone. I love the sounds of nature.

Because I do not camp, I have Googled the following things in the last 12 hours to help me prepare:

  • Campfire foods
  • Easy campfire foods
  • Sleeping bag
  • Weather in Davis, WV
  • Hypothermia
  • How to stay warm while camping
  • Sleep in car
  • Mast cell tumor dog elbow

That last one is not related to camping; it is related to Scout. He has a concerning lump on his elbow that I noticed last night and am now going to worry about until a vet tells me everything is fine. In the short term, however, I have bigger concerns. Namely, the weather today in Davis, WV:

Weather in Davis
This sounds like wonderful weather for a cozy night spent indoors. But instead, I am going to sleep in a bag on the ground outside in the woods. And I am doing this on purpose. FOR FUN. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH ALCOHOL IN THE WORLD.

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All of this talk because BOOBS

There are a number of people complaining that the women’s World Championship road race this past Saturday was not sufficiently exciting to watch. I’m sorry; did you confuse the race with your Netflix queue? The race happened the way it did because that is how the race happened. The racers shouldn’t have to implement tactics to make it more “interesting” to watch. I find baseball to be excruciatingly dull, but I am not going to say the the pitcher should be required to juggle and sing while also doing his job just so I am entertained. That is why Gossip Girl is streamed online.

Somehow this conversation – like every other that relates to women in cycling – has circled back into the dialogue about equality in our sport. Equality is good. I don’t believe a professional male racer is better or worth more than me simply because he’s a dude. Frankly, his parts look weirder than mine and I probably smell better. But I am pragmatic and outside of my cycling career, I work in business, an industry where nothing happens “on principle” or just because it’s right. Business is impersonal, fiscally-motivated, and controlled by economic logic. Because that’s the mindset in which I operate so much of the time, it is also the basis on which I form my opinions on the current conversation about women’s cycling.

Here is what I believe. Women racers are equal to men racers. Not better, not worse, not any more or less interesting to watch or support. Women racers are more interesting to me because [a] I am one, so they are my peers (hahaha Marianne Vos is my peer, lemme just marinate in that fantasy for a sec), and [b] economic and life factors have led a majority of women racers to be highly educated and have fascinating careers outside of cycling. Lawyers, scientists, doctors, PhD students, etc. It adds depth to these racers that I find compelling.

I also believe that women’s teams should not have salary minimums. Yes, there are men’s teams that do and it’s unfortunate that our sport and the surrounding industry isn’t such that women’s teams are equal. But if you enforce salary minimums, then what happens to the teams that can’t afford to meet them? They go away. The last thing professional women need is fewer teams.

I believe the same thing about race prize purses. If an event offers equal payout, then that event is AWESOME and I want to support and praise it. But if an event can’t (and, as the treasurer of a cycling club that puts on races, I do know that sometimes there simply isn’t the money), I don’t want the event to disappear entirely. I’d still like a chance to race, and for other people to have that chance as well. I don’t want to punish other racers – pro or amateur – just because it’s not a fair situation. I’d rather show up and speak up and ask for better in the future. It is so wonderful that the NCC races in 2015 are required to have equal prize purses for men and women, but I’m also afraid that the calendar will lose some beloved events that couldn’t afford to pay out that money. I want equality, but I also want racers and spectators all over the country to have opportunities to be engaged in our sport, and losing events works against that.

My underlying feeling is that there must be economic drivers for everything. It is not enough to just ask for financial equality, because that doesn’t answer the question of where to get that money. I don’t want teams and events to disappear because we legislated monetary requirements that they can’t meet. I think the conversation should be about how to enhance and display the value of women’s cycling to both the industry and the world so that the price tag represents something tangible. We have the supply; now we need to show why there should be demand.

That doesn’t mean the women should throw away their races in pursuit of putting on a show. I think it means creating race events and courses that are interesting to spectators. Finding ways to engage the audience and showcase the athletes to give fans somebody to cheer on. Convincing our governing bodies within the sport that they must see women as equal to men. At a personal level, racers should work to engage people and sponsors outside of cycling. Create fans, don’t wait for them to come to us. Calling for equality is a start, but developing a sound, fiscally-logical approach for reaching it is the only next step that will actually work.

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