Moving Mountains

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February passed by quietly, without a single blog update or weekend adventure. But beneath that seeming hibernation stirred a flurry of activity, as we decided to move away from Washington, DC. Almost two months short of having lived in the nation’s capital for two years, we gave up our city dwelling for a new start in the mountains. Or perhaps, it’s better referred to as an restart or an old start in the mountains, because this area of the country is my home with roots that run as deep as the rivers in the valleys. Starting this month, Hiking Mountains from the Metro will center on Asheville, NC, and trail into the outdoors, stores, and culture of the Blue Ridge mountains. I hope you will continue to follow our journey.

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A Change in the Currency

Today I encountered an older man waiting for the bus, Subway sandwich in hand, clutching a dollar bill the way that only paper money can be held.  No matter how many times we wrinkle it into our sweaty palms paper bills recoil back, a material reminder of how many germs it probably carries.  Needless to say, even in its current curl, the money would still be accepted by the bus meter.  With the new rates, he would need two dollar bills to pay the $1.80 fare.

“You could save money by using a SmartTrip card,” I offered.

“I prefer using cash,” he replied.

I inferred the rest of our conversation, starting with the premise that he didn’t believe in using cards.  But he must believe in them, because seeing is believing, and I had a SmarTrip card in my hand.  A better statement would be that he didn’t put value in the card, preferring instead the familiar currency of our forefathers, appropriate given the day-before celebration of our independence.

Our brief interchange brought up so many questions though, starting with the usefulness and over-use of cash, the idea that one-day we will all use cards or smartphones to make payments, and the encompassing recession and inflation that will challenge our worth as well.  For more information on the cost of riding the metro or on these other topics, see the sites below:

WMATA Fares in Washington D.C. and the reasons to use SmarTrip cards

Why Cash is Losing its Currency – as examined by CBS Sunday Morning

NBC Washington Reports that D.C. Cabs will Accept Credit Cards

Intermittent Storms (and Power)

We weathered the derecho, a type of storm that I hadn’t heard of until Friday, just a few hours before it struck the city of D.C.  We lost power in our apartment with the first wind gust and watched the subsequent lightning flashes in total darkness. Our power stayed off overnight, so we slept late and ventured out around noon to access the damage.  The building and car remained unscathed, though tree limbs littered the streets and sidewalks.  Starbucks up the street still had power and fresh coffee, as did the Safeway and other restaurants.  We decided to charge our cell phones in the car and enjoy the AC, which we got even more time in as we tried to find a navigable road out of the city.  By mid-afternoon, Canal Road still had large trees blocking several lanes.  Fortunately, we also had power again.  It’s been off  since then, but always returns by evening, and we hope our neighbors across the city regain their electricity soon.

D.C. in bloom (and in green)

cherry blossoms

A visit to the cherry blossoms in D.C.

For this weekend’s adventure, we plotted a running route that would take us through the famous cherry blossoms of D.C. and result in a half-marathon, 13.1 mile distance.  This would be my longest run to date and my first time visiting the tidal basin in bloom.  We started at 9 a.m. and kept a good pace through Rock Creek Park, until traffic – vehicular and pedestrian – picked up.  We also saw plenty of bicyclists and the occasionally rollerblader, both of which seem to be a smart way to see the sights.  Even though it’s early in the season, the trees were already in bloom, providing a gorgeous, lace-like cover to parts of the path.  Our run slowed to a walk and eventually to a halt to take photos.  We stayed along the river, where I was surprised to see a father and son fishing over the railing, and even more surprised when one of them actually pulled something in.  Otherwise, we only shared this part of the peninsula with geese and ducks and a fair amount of debris that had been washed ashore.

Georgetown canal

The Canal in Georgetown

Our return route took us by several of the monuments, which continuously draw a crowd, making it somewhat difficult to navigate the baby strollers at a descent pace.  The number of runners also increased, possibly because of the nice weather, though I had expected to see fewer runners since most competed in the Rock and Roll half-marathon.  By the afternoon, no doubt, they were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  For our Saturday, we enjoyed the natural green that can be found in D.C. We ended in Georgetown via the canal path, which offered a view at the backside of a quaint part of the city.  Here, the pavement turns to cobbled bricks and stones, the path narrows, and eventually the running surface returns to dirt. Though I noticed that several of the weekend athletes avoided the ground altogether, preferring instead to take to the water, on a cherry blossom boat ride, a paddle boat or canoe, or one of the many rowing teams that broke through morning fog and continued to row well into the afternoon.

The Great Sandwich Debate

Taylor Gourmet

A well-lit meal at Taylor Gourmet

In honor of the Superbowl and Subway’s Februany month (where all of their footlong subs are a mere $5), I’ve recently engaged in a variety of sandwich eating endeavors.  Though Subway makes a fine, and by all accounts expected, sub, there are some other great sandwich shops in D.C.  My friend, Ashley, reviewed one for Borderstan, so when I found myself near the Taylor Gourmet after the D.C. Auto Show, I knew I had to try it.  The Cherry Street roast beef, brie, and arugula sub was  more than I could eat, literally. With meat piled high, it barely fit into my mouth, and as Ashley suggested, I easily had a half for lunch the next day.  Not only was this cost effective, but it made my co-workers jealous as well.

However, even after this delicious experience, I’m still partial to a closer and perhaps less well-known sandwich shop – Jetties near the Georgetown campus. Tucked away on Foxhall Road, this mostly outdoor spot is a favorite of families with dogs and the occasional pundit, and the menu varies from a loaded breakfast sandwich to the essential comfort sandwich creation pulled straight from the Thanksgiving left0vers, but served year-round.  On a recent visit, I sampled The Dreamland, a great combination of turkey, brie, arugula and fig spread, which added a nice layer of sweetness.  The proportions are equally substantial, for about the same cost, and everything is served to go, though just like Taylor, the shop has a few tables for those who want to dine in.

Consider the sandwich challenge served.

A Different Sort of Sunday Drive

Washington Auto Show

Washington Auto Show

My husband convinced me to watch cars this weekend, not the animated movie ones, but the one’s under the bright lights at the 2012 Washington Auto Show.  For those interested in this event, there’s still another weekend to catch the two-story exhibited, and for those who are brought along for the ride, there’s plenty of comfortable seating, including the passenger seat of most of the cars on display.  The show features a full exhibit hall of American automakers, who certainly show signs of revival, along with a second exhibit hall of every other make and model imaginable.  Anyone car shopping can test out everything under one roof, but you won’t be able to drive it anywhere.  In fact, given the show’s location in the middle of the city, I recommend taking public transit to get there.

The Cupcake Craze (or Cure)

A half dozen of Georgetown Cupcakes

At least three cupcake shops reside on or near M Street NW: the TV-darling Georgetown Cupcake, the cult-favorite Baked and Wired, and the newer West Coast-transplant Sprinkles.  I’ve officially tried all three, starting with Georgetown Cupcake, only because it had a line waiting out of the door.  Then I moved onto the other two because they didn’t require a wait.  Baked and Wired serves larger, messier treats, with a smattering of icing on the top and the best cake base.  Sprinkles looks similar to the Georgetown Cupcakes up the street, perfectly crafted and smooth on top with a few sprinkles or other embellishment.

Georgetown Cupcakes are traditional and creative, and the seasonal offerings often steal the show. On a recent visit a few nights ago the menu favored chocolate items, from the chocolate2 to the lava fudge.  Both were delicious.  But it was the coconut that surprised me the most, not because I tasted it myself, but because my grandfather ate the whole thing and picked it over the milkshake I brought to make him feel better.  In my family, milkshakes seem to be the cure all from sore throats and wisdom-teeth removal to cancer and hospital stays, but the McDonald’s milkshake that I purchased was completely overdone.  The fast food chain no longer serve slightly congealed dairy products in a plain paper cup.  Now they make premium shakes in a clear plastic cup with whip cream on top.

Needless to say, I thought the cupcake craze could be confined to a few streets in D.C., but the confections really do make the perfect get well, farewell, or pick-me-up.

A Sense of Direction

I spent some time this weekend in Georgetown, partly because I wanted a weekend close to home after traveling for the holidays, but mostly because I wanted to check out the sales, which were surprisingly reasonable, even on the busy M Street.  Other shoppers flocked into the stores, and like me, congregated in the sale sections toward the back of the one-story establishments and on the second- and third-floors of the multistory ones.  Several stores including J.Crew and The Loft had an extra percentage off, and I literally had  a $10 sweater grabbed from under my hands at Zara.  My only purchases were some lip balm from Sephora and a coffee from Dean & Deluca, both which remind me of watching the show Felicty in high school.  Little did I know then that I would one day venture into the city to live. It’s somewhat ironic, because even when I still feel out of place in the city, I always get asked for directions while I’m walking on Wisconsin Avenue. Fortunately, even with a bad sense of direction, I manage to point the visitor toward the famous shops and restaurants or toward campus, but their maps are little help to me.  Whether printed or on a phone, the maps never seem to match what I see on the streets, and I always have to turn them in the direction I want to go.

 

 

 

Happy New Year (and Welcome to D.C.)

So I’m a few days late with this post, but it doesn’t really feel like a new year until you write the previous year on a work email or a check and someone notices.  Happy New Year!  I never imagined last year at this time that we would be living in D.C., but a year can change everything.

Speaking of noticing new things, have you looked closely at the flag that waves just this side of the Key Bridge.  It’s not your typical United States stars and stripes, but one from a different era and inherently connected to the bridge.

 

The Zoo – Round Two

Entrance to the National Zoo

A friend convinced me to give the National Zoo a second chance.  I first walked through the outdoor Smithsonian exhibit just before summer, in May, on a morning that felt like it could have been in the middle of summer.  At that time, the animals appeared lethargic, if they appeared at all, and I left the place feeling gypped in some way, though the zoo is free, so I couldn’t complain too much.  I took a few photos of tigers lying in the sun, of birds standing still in their enclosures, and the highlight of the day – the orangutan crossing the O-line that rises above the main path.

Lions at the National Zoo

Lions at the National Zoo

On this trip, we missed the time for the O-line, but timed it perfectly for seeing the other animals in action.  The male lion roared in his exhibit, pacing from end to end of the half circle, and we joined several dozen humans and four female members of his pride to watch him.  The younger lions played with burlap blankets and frolicked in fall leaves that they might never see in their natural habitat.  The nearby tigers, separated into separate habitats talked to one another over the concrete wall and paced around the doors, as if waiting for their dinner. We never saw the food, but 2 p.m. was the prime time for big cat action. The bears were out for viewing as well (to continue the Wizard of Oz theme), in an exhibit that is only open on weekends. The inhabitants include a family of four spectacled bears.

In between these outdoor exhibits, we ventured into the warmth of Amazonia, where the monkeys that we had seen earlier in glass enclosures roamed freely above our heads in a living tropical forest.  We stopped by both the Think Tank, which was empty at the time, and the great ape house, which provided instructions for kids to make friends with their nearest animal ancestors.  Zookeepers played hide and seek with the younger apes and feed the others, creating a playground indoors for the children who ran up and down between to the two levels.  We discovered reptiles in the aptly named reptile discovery center, which was less scary than expected, and found oceanic and other invertebrates in the exhibit by that name.  Expertly curated, the indoor exhibit ends with somewhat disturbing spiders, whose webs are within arms length and not enclosed, opening to a peaceful butterfly garden.

The zoos famous pandas took some time to find, given the options of a upper, lower, and indoor viewing area.  By 3:30 in the afternoon, they lounged indoors, eating bamboo.  The elephants stayed at far end of their exhibit, and the animals along the Asian Trail once again stayed largely in hiding, although the Asian otters made an appearance.  The American counterpart exhibit was closed for construction, leaving part of the main path devoid of open exhibits. The zoo counteracts this span with isolated exhibits for the emu and prairie dogs, and adds the occasionally American squirrel in its natural habitat to the delight of some of the children, who seemed as excited to see this creature as any of the more foreign ones.