Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ode to Bananas

Since this is supposed to be a running blog and since Christmas is only a few days away, I thought I'd talk about bananas.  This post has been brewing in my head for quite a while and it's time it got out.

Bananas.  I genuinely appreciate them.  And after much thought, I have deemed them My Favorite Fruit.  Really? .... you say.  How boring is that?! 

The criteria for this honor goes beyond taste.  I fully agree that one can be momentarily distracted by a sweet June strawberry or ..... (be still my heart) ... pineapple..... (reverent pause) ....  or a fresh peach .... oh, and need I mention ..... apricots?  LOVE.THEM.ALL.

But bananas offer more than that.  They are reliable.

How many times have you perused the produce section, hovering around the apples and wondering .... which type will be good THIS week?

Fujis?  Braeburns?  Jonagolds used to be my choice .... but that was years ago and they just don't seem the same anymore.  How about Granny Smiths?  Too tart.  I did eat a delicious Gala recently.  And those Honey Crisps are amazing .... but the price!  My old Fall Back is the Golden Delicious.  I can usually count on it, emphasizing the word usually.  GDs, in my humble opinion, are the safest to use in pies and dumplings, and their mild flavor works well in my favorite Waldorf salad.

Then there's the citrus season, which some mistakenly think is Christmas.  Oh no.  Too soon.  Wait a month or two and they'll be sweeter ..... that is, if we're all talking about oranges.  But you never really KNOW, until that first bite.  However, grapefruit is usually fine from the get-go but that may have something to do with the sugar I dump on them.  (Don't even TRY to talk me out of my sugar.)

Grapes are another God-sourced gift to humanity ..... but which color is best THIS week?  Green?  Red?  Can I, with a clear conscience, sample one at the store?  Or would that be stealing?  And I refuse to buy them at over a dollar a pound.

And in the Pacific Northwest, we have Blackberry Season.  I recently asked a 19 year old transplant from Arizona what he thought about them.  His hushed response:  "Duuuude".   There's nothing like Nature's generous road-side snack during a run.  But only in August.  Then it's gone and the bushes return to being noxious and invasive weeds.

Hence, the banana.  It's always there.  The price is generally consistent.  And you always know,  by the color, how it'll taste.  Green, yellow or black-ish .....  You never bite into one and think ... too sour, or pithy, or too dry ....  you know, with confidence, that if it's yellow and firm, it'll be good.  It'll be as a banana is meant to be.  You don't have to tap on it like a watermelon .... (does that really work?)  You don't have to squeeze or sort.  You never have to guess.  You just know.  There aren't a million varieties to muddle the choice and they are NEVER wormy.

I might also mention that they are a great source of potassium .... a personal necessity, because my legs love to torment me with cramps and restlessness.

As I am typing this, there is a banana peel next to my laptop.  As there often is, each morning.  If I wake in the night hungry, I always head for a banana.  I keep a supply frozen and ready for smoothies.  Although I'm not terribly keen on banana bread, my homemade-from-scratch banana cream pies are legendary.  And the thought of a fresh banana milkshake has been known to pull me across several lanes of traffic, directly to a Dairy Queen drive-through window.

I like predictability.  I like being able to count on things.  Unlike the volatility of the weather, or the economy, or my bathroom scales, I like the security of knowing a banana will always taste like a .... banana.

However, it's important to note:  Bananas don't store well left in a backpack, weeks after the hike.  Just ask Husband who tends to leave them there ..... or ask ME, who tends to find them.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Road trip!

I love road trips.  They involve hours of time next to the Husband, with eating out and hopefully .... conversation.  We love to talk, but after 37 years of marriage, we have covered most, if not all, topics.  So when one of us happens upon a new topic like a found treasure, we tuck it away for whatever upcoming road trip we might have planned.  Then one of us announces we have something about which to talk, which is akin to saying -- I just bought you a present -- and then we both settle in for an enjoyable 30 minutes or so.  When or if either of us (usually him) has been with, or talked to, a third party who might happen to be an Interesting Person .... the other one (usually me) is full of questions.

"So, why did ________ call?"

"And then what did he/she say?"

"And what'd you say?"


If any of this sounds the least bit ...... pathetic ....... it's okay.  We like it.  It keeps the relationship humming along.

So yesterday was my birthday and hence, I got to choose the day's activity.  And I chose a road trip.  Just for the day.  Not an over-nighter .... I like to sleep in my own bed.  And, as I said, it was my birthday.

And what does this have to do with running?  Our mission was to scout out the route of a relay that I am interested in doing with my kids next summer.  I learned about this relay from an alert, semi-running friend who is thinking of doing the same with her own kids.  It's a one-day relay, 60-some miles, ending at the coastal town of Newport, Oregon ..... WHICH, if you have a keen memory, you'll remember that it was where I ran my marathon a year and a half ago.  The route of this relay finishes on the same road.  How cool is that?!

I don't usually scout out relay routes in advance, but this one involves a lot of gravel roads which raised a red flag.  I don't like to run on gravel.  Plus add in several hundred vans necessary to the functioning of relays, and you have dust.  Lots of dust.  I wanted to SEE these gravel roads and decide if they are tolerable.

So off we went.  And yes, there was conversation.  And food.  And a whole day together.  However, an hour and a half of driving to the start of this relay and several miles into it, we discovered a washed-out bridge and an impassible road.  The facebook page of this relay mentioned this wee problem, but one would think they'd have the updated 2013 route (which is the same as the 2012 route) posted on their website.  They didn't.  So most of the route will, by necessity, remain a mystery until next July.

Another bridge that wasn't washed out.
 (Too bad this shot doesn't show my cool new boots.)  
But we drove on to Newport anyway, via the main highway, and Husband got to listen to me relive my marathon as we revisited that memorable stretch of road ......

"THIS was the Mile 15 turn-around spot ..... I don't remember this part ..... wow, it seems so far! ..... I don't remember this part either .... HERE's where I was cursing the stupid bridge that refused to appear in the distance to tell me I was getting close to the end ..... and HERE was where a girl/angel stood by the road with a water hose to spritz us in the heat ..... and HERE was where I couldn't run anymore because of leg cramps and where you ran out to meet me ..... and that last hill ..... and the finish line!!"

 ........  Wow.  MY finish line ..... where everything melted into relief and triumph and joy that I NEVER have to do that again.

The weather yesterday was awful.  Rainy.  Windy.  And the daylight ended before Husband could capture a few photos of the raging gray surf.  And we ate WAY too much at the restaurant on the return home .... because they served mudpie which is one of my favorite desserts and it WAS my birthday ..... but now I'm a little concerned about the weight limit of the bridge in the photo ... assuming we'll be crossing it next summer.

So, in spite of a failed scouting mission, we think the relay will go on our calendar.  And in spite of my advancing OLD AGE, having weathered another year, I will give it a go.  And it will provide another topic of happy conversation with the Husband ..... on our next road trip.