Soap Box

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2014 races

Posted by eemilla on February 20, 2015

After running the 2013 Runway 5k I spontaneously proposed running a 5k a month to my dear friend who agreed to join me.

Our first race was the The Hot Chocolate 10k, and I loved running the flat course until the last mile or so where it becomes a steep, convoluted uphill. Being slow and near the back I got to spend part of the climb huffing exhaust which really sucks.  The post race hot chocolate was delicious, and the pre-race flush toilets were handy.  I don’t like running in the cold and dark of winter as required by my work schedule, lack of gym equipment, and the Earth’s rotation, but I did plan to register for the 2015 race (although I found out at packet pick up that I had failed to do so).

February brought us the Frostbite 10k, and the shirt was premium quality. We opted for same day packet pick-up, and the line went quickly even though there were tons of people. The start seemed much delayed which is frustrating. The course was super hilly with the beginning of both the 10k and 5k races going up Howard Gap, and the 10k continued on Howard Gap to Jackson Rd. With the course being on such well traversed roads I understand that traffic control is difficult especially given the mid afternoon start, but it really stinks to run behind a vehicle (pun intended). This race is not one I would do again.

At the beginning of the 2014 Hot Chocolate Asheville High’s marching band played on an overpass, so when I saw the card for the Band Aid 8k I was down. Unfortunately both my running buddy and my childcare were busy so I changed my registration to the 5k as I had to push a jogging stroller and my daughter. The course is a good combination of hills, flats, and downhill around Asheville High, AB Tech, and Victoria Rd; I don’t know if it was the chilly March Saturday morning start, but I didn’t encounter more than one vehicle. Having the sections of the band entertains runners along the course was really awesome, and I look forward to running this again.  The shirt was a good quality light cotton, and this is a small race so race day packet pick up was a breeze.

I couldn’t pass up a race to support a green way that also earned me a Pisgah pint glass so in April I did the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge.  There was a long downhill that had me worried about the uphill return, but it was really quite manageable. In fact this was the first 10k that I ran/jogged the entire course.  Most of the course is on the road, but there was almost no traffic to speak of. The pint glass is offered in lieu of a shirt, but one can purchase the shirt separately. After so many easy same day packet pick ups I quit bothering with the extra trip, and this race didn’t prove me wrong. I will do this race again.

The Cradle to Grave 5k filled our May race, and the major climb happened at the beginning. While it is nice to get the hill over early, it was a doozy.  The course was almost completely paved for the 5k, and I enjoyed not having to run with any cars. Oskar Blues supplied post race beer, but it was a bit too early for me. The large t-shirt was much too small for me, my buddy, and my mom. Amazingly the 30k front runners were finishing as we were leaving. I’ve registered again for this year.

In June I registered for the Shindig on the Green at Carrier Park then I saw the Park to Park 8k for later the same month. Both races were were flat and began before the heat as well as being along waterways and busy roads for at least a portion of the course. Of the two I preferred the Park to Park even with its mostly in and back course; much of the course was shaded and had great volunteers directing runners. My mom joined me for both races pushing my girl in a jogging stroller, and she finished the Shindig race early when she missed a turn. Neither race offered a shirt I wanted to wear again.

July offered plenty of options for 4th races, but the Brevard Firecracker 10k seemed the best option. The 10k course is almost an out and back, and I had my butt kicked by multiple people pushing one or more kids in jogging strollers; the shirt went straight to the donation pile. Sadly this was my last race with my running buddy before she moved. I wanted to do the Highland Night Flight, but Beck came to town and put on an awesome show.

The race pickings were slim for August so we drove to Highlands to find a charity race as I committed to only running for a cause. The Twilight 5k was tough. I don’t know if it was the elevation or me missing my running buddy or my kid throwing a fit, but this race was tough and not much fun for me. The course runs only on streets, but the traffic control was good. It is a mixed grade course over pavement, and even with the elevation change it was hot, hot, hot. I would not run this race again as the course isn’t unique or interesting enough to justify the drive. I stumbled across the Foot Rx Cross Counrty Series after I’d registered for the Highlands race so I ended up running the Montreat 5k which was my favorite course of the series. The surfaces varied from gravel to grass to rooty trail to pavement, and if you register for the series you get a really nice pullover.

I chose to use the Foot Rx Cross Country Series as my September race so I ran at Asheville School which had the same terrain as Montreat albeit a much longer wooded section.  In October I began the  Foot Rx Cross Country Series Jackson Park race only to skin my knees pretty good on a tumble; I felt like such a whiny pants, but my knees were scabby for weeks.

I tried to come full circle with The Turkey Trot, but I had to have my wisdom teeth out so my honey, girl, and I did the Gobble Wobble.  My girl loves her racing water bottles, and my husband enjoyed doing the wobble. This will be a Thanksgiving tradition.

My daughter and I did the Jingle Bell 5k for my last race of 2014, and I somehow forgot to pack the jogging stroller so I carried her most of the 5k.  She loved the jingle bells we received at packet pick up, and I enjoyed the course through Montford where I encountered almost no vehicles.  I would run this race again.

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White Duck for the win

Posted by eemilla on February 19, 2015

I enjoyed White Duck in the River Arts District, but their downtown Asheville location has been such a blessing.  The service is quick, and the food is cheap and tasty. Our family of three can eat a meal including a beer for my honey for about $30.  I enjoy the bahn mi taco as of the two or three vegetarian options it suits me; we tried the black bean for our daughter, but it was too spicy hot for her. They do have quesadillas, but the cost is about the same as a taco so she eats the bahn mi too. My husband enjoys the fish and jerk chicken, and he wasn’t impressed by their duck taco.  We’ve eaten there on Black Friday when lines and waits scared us away from plenty of other eateries, and they’ve been the spot before shows with their proximity to Diana Wortham and The Orange Peel. Even when the line is to the door it moves quickly. Their salsa trio with the chips varies wildly in heat and flavor, and their margaritas just aren’t as intoxicating or as tasty or as much of a bargain as The Lucky Otter’s (which frankly could describe plenty of margaritas).  I do wish I could tip with my credit card as I don’t carry cash, but I love having a downtown Duck.

White Duck Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

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2013 Turkey Trot

Posted by eemilla on October 6, 2014

On a freezing cold morning, I joined tons of other runners to earn our gluttony later in the day at the 2013 Turkey Trot.  It was a nice route with some downtown and neighborhood streets, and none of the hills were killer.  It was my first road running experience so I didn’t appreciate the lack of cars on the route (granted it was Thanksgiving morning).  It was awesome to see the firefighters running in their gear, and it’s also pretty insane how fast some runners completed the race.  As I’m such a slow runner, I typically finish behind the pack so maybe I’m missing the lines, but the lines for post race snacks were incredibly long and slow moving.  I’ve registered for the upcoming race, and my honey and LB are going to do the Gobble Wobble.

2013 Turkey Trot

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Another local chain for South Asheville

Posted by eemilla on October 5, 2014

Since I live in South Asheville/Arden, I’m used to the only new restaurants being chains.  Our latest addition is Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, and it comes just as my friend who has been begging someone to put a pub within walking distance is moving away.  Maybe if I move we’ll get greenways and better bus service.  We have been a few times to check it out, and we love that we can pretend we live in West Asheville by walking our dog to the park and stopping by with him to eat and drink on the patio.  The staff has been great to him, bringing him water when we forgot and giving him some kind words.  I love being able to order a pitcher and share it without a bit of worry about getting behind the wheel.  Being a vegetarian, there are a couple of things I can eat.  While they may have tons of sides that qualify, it’s all stuff I don’t prefer.  I do love french fries, and I was not pleased with the almost soggy ones I had.  They do make a fried green tomato appetizer special which has been on the menu the few times we’ve dined there; it runs $6.95 which isn’t expensive for an appetizer, but Tupelo Honey right down the road serves a superior fried green tomato appetizer with grits for $7.95 (and a delicious, complimentary biscuit).

Since we’ve brought the dog every time we’ve been, we have not eaten inside.  From our trips to the counter and the restroom, I was surprised at how large the interior is.  They’ve got a big TV for sports along with a great beer selection and a full liquor bar.  We’ve had at least one pitcher with each visit, and even taking out the alcohol the food tab is pretty high for a chicken shack.  The beer menu is good enough and fairly priced which is enough for us to keep stopping by.
Rockys Hot Chicken Shack on Urbanspoon

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Gatlinburg and Dollywood

Posted by eemilla on October 4, 2014

Visiting Gatlinburg is not on my list of things to do; I’ve been a few times (twice at someone else’s expense), and none of them have been very much fun.  I’d also visited Dollywood as a pre-teen or maybe teenager, and I would have rather gone to Carowinds any day.  Dollywood with a pre-schooler made me more receptive combined with their much improved rides since my earlier visit.  Our first visit as a family confirmed the food is still the horribly overpriced junk that one expects when attending an amusement park or other captive consumer situation so we do pack a cooler and return to the car for lunch.  We also pack a snack to consume at the end of the trip before we return home.

We regretted not upgrading at least one of the season passes to the Gold Pass to avoid paying the $10 parking fee, but otherwise we’ve gotten enough good use to justify renewing our passes .  Unlike other parks Dollywood is open most of the year (including plenty of weekdays) which makes it really easy to come out ahead while still avoiding peak times and maddeningly long lines.

I don’t like Gatlinburg even though I tried on the last trip.  Everything is so bright and loud and tacky.  Both of our dining experiences were ridiculously overpriced with amateur service.  After looking online at menus Mellow Mushroom and Smokey Mountain Brewery seemed like the best vegetarian options (I believe I had tried Best Italian on my prior visit with disappointing results) along with best beer selection.  The Mellow Mushroom delivered its standard greasy mess of a pizza, and I was able to order a relatively local beer (out of Knoxville).  I don’t want a hot glass straight from the dishwasher, but the glass shouldn’t be so cold that ice forms in the beer either.  Our service was the normal slow Mellow Mushroom service.  Our wait at Smokey Mountain was about 40 minutes, and our service was better than at Mellow Mushroom.  However two adults and one pre-schooler somehow managed to spend too close to $100 on food that tasted like it could have come directly off the Sysco truck.  On the bright side my flight of beer wasn’t served with ice.  We wrapped the night up with a trip to the Donut Friar because I loved the stupid pun, and I’d had some really delicious doughnuts at a few apple orchards.  The guy behind the counter was not happy to see another customer walking through the door, and I should have saved my cash rather than bother him for a few stale doughnuts.
Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

Smoky Mountain Brewery on Urbanspoon

Donut Friar on Urbanspoon

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Lego Sculptures

Posted by eemilla on September 24, 2014

Last fall until about January 2014 the NC Arboretum had an awesome exhibit of Lego sculptures by Sean Kinney; it was great to see them up close with the thousands of blocks forming a hummingbird, a rose, a bee, and a gardener among other sculptures.  Check out Sean Kenney’s website to find out where you can see the sculptures.



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Thirsty Monk Biltmore Park

Posted by eemilla on September 22, 2014

I didn’t know what to think about another Thirsty Monk on the south end of the county, and I was glad to hear that both locations were staying open (although Gerber Village has since closed).  I like Gerber Village for its enclosed outdoor patio, but I like Biltmore Village for having a bigger menu and its long benches. Additionally Biltmore Park seems to have better tap takeovers and pint nights (buy the beer keep the glass) along with liquor.  I haven’t been back to Biltmore Park since the Gerber Village location closed so I don’t know if the pretzels that I so loved have moved to Biltmore Village; I appreciate that Biltmore Park has a kid menu, but I wish the options were less junky (the mac and cheese is so greasy and over-cheesed that I would be surprised if there were less than a pound of cheese in the small ramekin it is served in).   My grandmother holds a standing Sunday lunch date with her children and grandchildren which is great except when it coincides with Mother’s Day, and Thirsty Monk Biltmore Park was the perfect place for us to dine without a wait on Mother’s Day.  Even if I don’t love the kid menu, I do love that the ambience is family friendly enough to make me feel comfortable to bring my child and teetotaling grandmother and mother.


The Thirsty Monk on Urbanspoon

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Farewell diapers

Posted by eemilla on September 21, 2014

We’ve been diaper free for about eleven months, and it has been great not having to wash diapers every other day.  The trade off of wanting to explore all of the options for using the potty while in public has been irksome (it is better now that she doesn’t like porta potties), but it still beats rinsing poop diapers by a long shot.  LB expressed interest in using the potty around 18 months, and she pooped and peed in a training potty twice then decided that she’d rather not give up diapers for about seven months, and it took an additional two months for her to completely stop using diapers.


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The Local Joint

Posted by eemilla on September 3, 2014

A few months back I ventured to try The Local Joint as we’d begun to tire of our normal rotation of lunch spots.  After hearing lots of good noise about The Local Joint and Little Bee Thai (both of which are attached to gas stations), I decided we should have check it out.  We were disappointed to have to wait about thirty minutes for our table, but we were thankful for the nice weather as the waiting area consists of the parking lot.  Once we were seated we were greeted by our server and gave our drank orders, and we had all had time to decide on our orders during the wait so we were ready.  The restaurant is not very large and it was quite busy so there should have been enough noise to cover up the complaints of the wait staff, but it with our seats so close to the kitchen door we got to hear plenty of unpleasantness.

Overall the service was okay aside from drinks needing refills and a long wait to pay, but the food was enjoyable.  With the lack of a waiting area and the lack of staff privacy we haven’t been back, but I like to stick with a three strikes so I’ll give it another shot in hopes of a better experience.


The Local Joint on Urbanspoon

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Return to running (and blogging)

Posted by eemilla on July 20, 2014

The only sport I participated in while in high school was cross-country, and I really enjoyed it once I got in shape and moved from the back of pack to the middle. However, I got distracted in the off-season, and I lost all the progress I had made so I didn’t return for a second season. Years later, a friend talked me into running the Runway 5k. I had ample time to complete a couch to 5k program (running my first 5k distance in Central Park), and I let the summer heat keep me from training. I still ran (or jogged or almost walked) the race. At the end I was so flushed with endorphins I suggested running a race a month, and my friend agreed. We skipped October, and I skipped December; we’ve done at least one race a month since January. Even though she’s moving across the country we’re still planning on running at least one race a month  for all of 2014. I did not particularly enjoy the Runway 5k due to the exhaust from idling vehicles on the course, but for my first 5k since high school I could not have asked for a flatter course in Asheville.  The race will not happen this year which gives me mixed feelings; fortunately there are plenty of other races to choose.

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