Monday, April 08, 2013

The 24 hour vacation OR The Hunt for the Great White Squirrel

Spring break ended yesterday. For me, big vacations from school become opportunities to work more at the shop. Now that we are short handed*, being able to work more in the shop is more critical than ever, but it doesn't lend itself to taking advantage of one of the few perks of being an educator. Enter the 24 hour vacation. We decided to condense the traditional spring break getaway into one, 24 hour blast of fun.

Golden had a grad class Saturday morning, so final prep for the trip fell to Owen and me. Friday night I finished building up my new mountain bike which was integral to this trip since we decided to go ride Dupont State Forest as the focal point of the trip. So new bike in hand, Owen and I tackled all the other details while Golden got schooled.

Our first mission was to find someplace cool to stay and the +Sunset Motel looked to be just the ticket. Located in downtown Brevard, the renovated retro-fifties style beckoned us. With great amenities, reasonable prices, close proximity to restaurants and other downtown offerings, plus the all important WiFi for watching Sunday's live streaming of the Paris-Roubaix, we weren't disappointed in the least.

Second on the to-do list once we had unpacked the car was to get some food. I did a little searching and found a couple of candidate restaurants. Among them was a Mexican place called +El Ranchero . With a thumbs up from the guy behind the desk at the motel, we headed downtown for a mexican feast.

We sat down at an outside table beneath the crookedest tree Owen had ever seen and ordered some drinks. Checking out the menu, I found it difficult to decide while Owen immediately became intrigued by the "Mexican" cheeseburger and Golden chose the fish tacos (this was somewhat predictable given an in depth discussion of various ways to prepare fish tacos that we had listened to on "The Splendid Table" radio show while cruising down I-40). The waiter arrived with our drinks - apparently it was 1/2 gallon of draft Negra Modelo for $3 night (Score!) and I was now faced with entree selection crunch time.

I went for the Chipotle Chori which turned out to be a pork chop smothered with squash, onions and crimson chipotle peppers the size of a swollen thumb.

Then, quite possibly the world's worst mariachi band came out to serenade the diners. While the two guitar players weren't bad, the violin player sounded about on par with Owen after his first violin lesson and the trumpet player made up for his consummate lack of ability by steadfastly remaining wildly off key. After enthusiastically warbling renditions of La Bamba and Tequila, we decided to forego the remainder of the Mariachi Standards for Gringos playlist and wander around downtown.

In case you don't know, Brevard is a bit proud of their white squirrels. Lots of places in town reference the squirrels, which aren't albinos but are a white variant of the common Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciuris carolinensis). We had never actually seen one and I kind of thought the whole thing was just a bit of local color ginned up for the tourist trade. So we walked along playing spot-the-white-squirrel in which Owen points out all of the white squirrels on shop signs, town banners, or the stuffed animal variety sitting in shop windows, when I saw a white squirrel run across a parking lot and sit on the stoop of a derelict building. I pointed it out and Golden and I both pulled out our phones to capture the evidence.

Behold! Definitive proof of the extant white squirrel! Add another weird squirrel to my life list which includes the Abert's squirrel (Sciuris aberti), the Kaibab Squirrel (Sciuris aberti kaibabensis), and the Mt. Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciuris hudsonicus grahamensis).

Our impromptu cryptozoological expedition over, we headed back to the motel, bed, and a night's rest before THE BIG RIDE. Morning came. Coffee and breakfast were procured from the excellent +quotations coffee cafe (Three words: blueberry french toast). We packed and watched Zdenek Stybar play human pinball on the final cobbles of Paris-Roubaix as Fabian Cancellara went on to win his third cobblestone trophy. With all of that out of the way, it was time to ride.

We play fast and loose with our family mountain bike adventures. While some plan things to the nth degree, we printed off a map of Dupont State Forest trails, drove off in the general direction of the forest and picked a random parking lot with multiple trailheads after driving by it and finding a place to turn around.

One of the unique features of Dupont is its slick rock trails, something better associated with southwestern riding meccas like Moab, Utah and Sedona, Arizona. We had ridden the Dupont slick rock several years ago, but hadn't been back on them since. As fate would have it, the random parking lot we had chosen was the access to the slick rock section of trails in Dupont. What followed was an all day mountain bike adventure that took in some of the best views on a trail anywhere.

My new Niner SIR 9 (with a suspension fork!)

The key to riding with kids is to constantly shove food
 in their mouths...

We got back to the car, feasted on triscuits, cheese, hummus and pears, and then loaded up to head home. We stopped at Tupelo Honey Cafe South (a restaurant that we eat at every chance we get) to fuel up for the drive home and then pointed the car east on I-40 and booked it to the casa. Our 24 hour vacation drawn to a close.

*Contact us about exciting opportunities in the fast-paced world of Bicycle Retail! Experienced mechanics needed. No freaks. OK, the no freaks rule is pretty loose.

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