Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Honeymoon Synopsis -- Part One

We safely returned from Costa Rica earlier this week and wanted to update our blog with details of our trip before we forget them like everything else. I can’t even remember what I did two weeks ago… I remember wearing a white dress, though…

Anyway, Costa Rica. We departed early on Monday, November 25.

Day One
We arrived in San Jose around 12:30 PM. We knew we had to get to the Hampton Inn “across from the airport” because that’s where the shuttle to our first hotel would be picking us up in a few hours. So, we walked out of the airport past all the eager-to-getyourmoney-help you taxi drivers thinking we’d walk. Soon figured out that wouldn’t work, so made a full lap of the airport back around to the drivers and hopped in a cab. A few minutes later, we’d reached the hotel and decided to go the neighboring establishment for lunch. Denny’s. That’s right. Our first meal in Costa Rica was at Denny’s.

A little pricey if you ask me...

The shuttle picked us up around 4:00 PM. We boarded and were immediately greeted by a man and wife/woman from Texas who had brought a full bar onto the bus with them. Thanks for those vodka sodas, guy. We had to say good-bye to the bar partway through the ride, though, as their end destination was not the same as ours. Another guy on the shuttle with us, we learned, was an American who lived in the town we were headed to (Tamarindo) and owned a bike shop. Fate, you sneak! How did the universe know we wanted to rent bikes while in Tamarindo? Perfecto.

We got to our hotel around 9:00 PM. The entrance was dark; we walked in past the office (closed) and down a short path to an open area where the pool and bar/restaurant (also closed) were. A staff person was waiting for us with a flashlight. He spoke no English, but had a piece of paper with my name on it, so I let him know it was me and he led us to our room. Very formal check-in. The pathways to each room were paved or boarded and surrounded by tropical plants and greenery, which allowed for an element of privacy. Our little house was toward the back of the property. It was simple, but charming.

Our room at Hotel Pasatiempo

After we dumped all our stuff into the room, we walked into the town of Tamarindo, found a bar where we ate some food, drank a couple Imperials and watched the Redskins lose. Then we crashed – it was a long day of traveling!

Day Two
We woke up early and enjoyed our first complimentary ‘tico’ breakfast at the hotel. Ticos are what native Costa Ricans call each other. So, the tico breakfast is a typical Costa Rican breakfast, which included eggs, rice and beans, toast and fruit. Pretty good. Also, delicious Costa Rican coffee. Can’t forget that.

Tico Breakfast

After breakfast, we walked to the beach – Playa Tamarindo – and stayed for a few hours relaxing and swimming. The weather was beautiful and the water was warm. That was my first time swimming in the Pacific Ocean! Around lunch time, we walked back to the hotel so we could continue relaxing – but by the pool with drinks in hand. That evening we did a “hike” where we walked a very short distance back a dirt road at the end of town that led to a “viewpoint.” It was pretty cool, you could kinda see across the gulf.

Playa Tamarindo on a beautiful, sunny day

We went to a place called El Coconut for dinner that night, which was recommended to us by our bike-shop-owning-shuttle-bus friend. The food was pretty good. After dinner, we grabbed some more wine and went back to the hotel. And that was pretty much it for day two.

Day Three
After enjoying our tico breakfast, we walked into town to the bike shop. Rented ourselves a couple bikes and started pedaling toward a nearby beach called Playa Conchal – aptly named for its “sand” made entirely of shell pieces.

Renting our Bikes

The ride ended up being about 12 miles. It was beautiful riding down the Costa Rican country roads. Passed a chicken or two, a tico or two hundred. About five miles in, we had to turn off the paved road onto a dirt road. Still enjoying ourselves, we bumpily rode along until we reached a small intersection. We paused to figure out our route. As we slowed, we noticed a herd of cattle passing to our left. How quaint! There was even a cattle dog nipping at their heels which made me think of little Romy…

Anyway, then things got interesting for a minute. To our right, a group of Ticos stood off in the distance. And when I looked their way, I could have sworn they were pointing a gun right at my face. I remained calm – shocking, I know – and told Jon what I was seeing. We shuffled our operation across the street and out of their line of sight. Jon didn’t admit until later than he was pretty sure it was, in fact, a gun pointed at us though he didn’t think they were doing it maliciously. Still – wtf?! We hopped on those bikes and pedaled fast to get the heck outta dodge. Scary.

A little while later we made it to the beach. It was really beautiful and there were not many waves, which made for nice swimming. After relaxing and swimming for a bit, we got lunch at a restaurant facing the beach. We were about ready to head back to Tamarindo, so our server said he would coordinate a taxi for us that could accommodate the bikes. I was obviously not going back down that dirt road to find crazy Ticos waiting for me! It also looked like an afternoon storm might roll in (which it did).

Picturesque Playa Conchal

Then things got interesting again. The “taxi” rolled up a half an hour or so later – an old, rusty, rust-colored pickup truck. Jon loaded the bikes into the bed of the truck while I sucked down my margarita real quick. When I walked over, Jon was climbing into the non-existent back seat. His seat was the truck’s speaker box. Umm… ok. The very old driver, who spoke no English, put the front seat back in place so I could climb in front. Off we went… at 5 km per hour. Poor Jon was stuck on that speaker box as we crawled down the roads to get back, while our driver fielded many calls from his horse-neigh-ringing cell phone (which only led to even slower driving). We’d been told at the restaurant that the taxi ride would be $40, which we thought was a little steep anyway but figured whatever. Well now that we were in this interesting situation, neither of us really thought that $40 was fair. We silently agreed to give the old man only $20 when we got to our destination.

When we arrived, we handed him the $20. He fumbled in Spanish (no Ingles, remember) trying to tell us that the cost was $40. I did take three years of Spanish in school, so I knew what he was trying to say but didn’t remember enough vocab to express our dissatisfaction. I tried pointing to the truck and spewing out a few words to give him an idea. But it was mostly just an awkward face-off. Then Jon, who knows next to no Spanish, just throws out, exasperated, “TRUCK MUY PICANTE.” If you don’t know Spanish either, then this might seem normal to you. But if you do know even a little, then you probably know what he meant to say was the truck was pequeno, meaning small, but in fact he told the man his truck was hot and spicy. I had to stifle my laughter for the sake of the face-off, which we eventually won, the old driver succumbing to the language barrier and leaving us.

The day did turn around after that. We returned the bikes then walked out onto the beach for sunset. We found some lounge chairs at a beachside restaurant and ordered a few margaritas and watched the sun go down. It was very pretty. Afterward, we got pretty ourselves and went to a place called Dragonfly for dinner. It was probably the best meal we ate during the entire trip. It was fabulous. After dinner, we went back to our hotel that was hosting an open mic night. We sat and enjoyed the music and a few more drinks for a while before calling it a night. And that was day three.

Delicious Dinner at Dragonfly

That’s all for now – part two coming next!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Back in the Saddle

It's been a crazy fast summer, and Jenn and I often talk about how we haven't updated the blog. Wedding planning has our full attention and it's the busy season for my work. So fall is here and I got a rare opportunity. In January I tried registering for this race - Big Mountain Enduro down the Whole Enchilada in Moab. I didn't get in (filled all the spots in 3 minutes), but was put on a waiting list. Two or three weeks before the race I was asked if I wanted a spot. Struck while the iron was hot.

I hadn't raced any bike in over 2 years. I made a fork change to the Moto, dropped 2.5 lbs. off the bike, and decided to enter a $10 downhill race at The Canyons in Park City a week before the big race. Turned out to be good test, my race run was 8 minutes 20 secs - a long enduro-like dh race with a lot of pedaling. That time was good enough to land me 2nd overall in amateur, 11th fastest time overall - a big confidence boost considering I was purposely pacing myself and riding conservatively. For a $10 entry fee, I won a 661 dirt lid and a t-shirt. Needless to say, even if I only have a tricycle, I'll be doing this race again next year.

The courses weren't posted until the Wednesday before the race. I wasn't too excited when they were. The first day was 3 stages on trails I've never ridden, and 2 stages down the Whole Enchilada, making the 17 mile-long 5th stage longer than the previous 4 stages combined. I looked at it as a nail in the coffin for me. I was not in good enough shape to do a long stage.

Day 1 - Magnificent 7 trails
I've never ridden down any of the Mag 7 trails, but I have been to Gemini Bridges. Which led me to think I knew how to get to the start of Stage 1. Instead of taking a smooth dirt road for 4 miles we took 9 miles of a popular 4x4 trail in our new Jeep Liberty. I told Jenn we were just going for the full Moab experience. For 3 trails I have never ridden before, I followed the course markings pretty well and only had to put a foot down twice. When I got to the start of Stage 3, no timing equipment was set up! The race promoters played it off as "a big party." I spent over an hour hunkered in the shade of a scrubby tree. It did give me a chance to look around at everyone's bikes and I came to the realization my bike was outdated and also much heavier than what everyone else was racing. The 3rd stage ended up being my best finish with the 15th fastest time out of 57 racers in my category (Amateur 30-39). Overall (combined stages 1-3) on the first day I was 25th, which being in the top half considering I never rode those trails, was fine with me. With the long 5th stage looming, and feeling like I brought a broadsword to a gun fight, I told Jenn if I don't lose any positions on Day 2 I would be happy.

Day 2 - Whole Enchilada
I've ridden this epic trail twice before. It starts over 11,000 feet up in the La Sal Mountains and finishes 26 miles later at the Colorado River at 4,000 feet. But before the weekend it snowed up in the La Sals, so it was a last minute decision but it was announced Saturday night that Stage 4 was going to start as planned at the highest point - Burro Pass. In the morning, this brutal hike-a-bike was made worse by cold temps and sticky mud that picked up rocks as I pushed my bike up the trail (the picture doesn't do it justice). Also the shuttle driver drove so crazy he twisted my bars slightly while it was on the roof rack. Once I labored up Burro Pass, I scraped the mud off my bike with a tiny spruce branch and fixed my bars. I didn't do a great job because the first switchback on Stage 4, I caught the 2 guys ahead of me and crashed in the same icy corner simultaneously twisting my bars again. The trail looked even icier ahead. Despite the ticking clock, I just needed a minute to gather myself and approach this with a new setup. I took my good old time straightening my bars out, let some air out of my tires to get as much grip as possible, and turned down the power on my rear brake to ease the sliding of my rear tire. It worked, and I ended up passing a few people after that - despite crashing in another icy switchback. I'd like to think my Stage 4 was like most others - a shit sandwich - but mine seems like a lot less soggy than most. I remembered how to ride slippery roots and rocks like I came fresh from PA - despite downhill with an average grade of 15%. A couple of stream crossings later, the snow faded, most of the mud flew off my bike, and Stage 4 was over. I climbed up to the top of Hazard County trails and ate some food before the start of long Stage 5. Not much to say for Stage 5, I grinded along UPS and LPS, rode everything clean including the infamous "Notch", but my legs just wouldn't put down the effort I wanted in all the short climbs. Basically when I finished I had the feeling that this was one of those trails that's awesome to ride, but not to race.

Looking Back Monday
Right after the race, Jenn picked me up at the bottom of Porcupine Rim, drove over to the race headquarters at the Archway Inn, got my free lunch and Oskar Blues beers (did you know they make Dale's Pale Ale?) and hit the road as soon as I got my total time - 1hr 55 mins- because I knew that was nothing close to the podium. Final results came in Monday and I was pleasantly surprised. I finished 19th, moving up 6 spots from Day 1! My wreck and mechanical on Stage 4 only cost me one spot - maybe two at the most. On Stage 5 I finished 20th so what I thought was going to be my downfall ended up being the boost I needed. Stage 5 comprised of 63% of my total combined finishing time. This was an "epic" event, and my first real multi-stage enduro, so it was a learning experience. Would I do this particular event again? Not unless I shed some weight - on my bike and my body.  

Twitter: @ZerbingOut


Friday, May 10, 2013

Long Time, No Blog

Hello there old friend. It’s been too long. Sorry I’ve neglected you. I make no promise not to do it again, but I’ve been feeling like I need a creative outlet lately and then I thought… oh yeah, our blog. So I’ll try until I ultimately get distracted with something else again.

A lot has happened since my last post in October 2012 (yikes) – most notably, Jon and I got engaged. Yay! We got engaged in November. And don’t worry! We don’t disappoint. There is a comical engagement story to go along with it. If you haven’t heard it, you can read about it on our wedding websiteHere’s just a photojournalistic summary of the events:

Where we were supposed to get engaged (Donut Falls)

Where we actually got engaged (the Saturn)

Only us, right? It was still super exciting, of course! And my ring is b-e-a-utiful! Snaps, honey! After I said yes and we made out like high-schoolers in my car (just kidding… kinda), we took a soak in this baby:

Homestead Crater Hot Springs

Then we headed to Park City where we enjoyed dinner and champagne interrupted by multiple texts from my family asking to see the bling. Love you guys! ;) Anyway, it was awesome! We are planning to get married on November 23, 2013 and honeymoon in Costa Rica. It’s getting so close already and we. are. PUMPED!

So, nothing else really trumps that news, but let’s see. Since then, we have also: 
  • Gone home to celebrate Christmas with family and got to see friends in Baltimore.
  • Started wedding planning.
  • Enjoyed another visit from the one and only Andrew Schmidt.
  • Hit up some Jazz games.
  • Went on a snowmobiling trip in Yellowstone with Jon’s parents.
  • Enjoyed a visit from my “sister,” Geoff.
  • Enjoyed a visit from the awesome Mr. & Mrs. Jason Anderson, who (shout out) took our engagement photos.
  • I took a trip home for Easter, dress shopping, wedding planning and visiting with friends.
  • We hosted Brian DeCann during the weekend of the Collegiate Road Cycling Championships where we also got a small visit with Mr. Matt McKinney and our first fishing day of the year at Pineview Reservoir.
That kinda brings us up to date! Things we’re looking forward to in the next month or so include: 
  • Warmer temperatures – Halle-FREAKIN-lujah. Holy harsh winter. (Me no likey)
  • LB (my sister) and Jason (Jon’s brother) will be in town over Memorial Day weekend.
  • Bridesmaids dress shopping!
  • Jon’s Bday.
  • Camping.
  • Bees games.
  • My first go on a mountain bike.
  • Flag Day. What? You don’t celebrate that?
Okay, that’s it for now. Until next time, kiddos!
X’s and O’s from Salt Lake City!