Archive for December, 2008

Year in Pictures 2008

December 31, 2008

In the tradition of my friend at The Daily Bacon, I’m posting a year in photos to remember and celebrate 2008. For me, the year started in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, where I lived for six months starting in Oct. 2007. It took me through Argentina, Boliva, Peru and Ecuador with my sister and then back to my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina in time for fall. The year ended in kittens and a Christmas tree (and, incidentally, kittens IN a Christmas tree).

JANUARY

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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

I went outside early one morning and caught the sky on fire.

FEBRUARY

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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Swarms of mosquitoes drove us into pants and raincoats as soon as my two friends and I descended to the campsite by Lake Dickson on the second night of an eight-day trek. The bloodthirsty bastards swarmed our faces and bit us through our clothing, though we wore our hoods and zipped our jackets to our chins. Then they held us hostage in our tents, buzzing incessantly at the door waiting, just waiting, for a crack in the zipper.

Aside from the insidious insects, however, the campsite was beautiful. It was located on a peninsula between Lake Dickson and the beginning of the Paine River:

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MARCH

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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Chapa, who works in the park as a hiking and kayaking guide, often played soulful folkloric music for us that he composed himself. He played for the horses sometimes too.

APRIL

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

I am capable of fitting inside a large duffel bag.

MAY

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Copacabana, Bolivia

I row, row, rowed a boat on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, on the border of Bolivia and Peru. It took a while to master the shortest distance between two points.

JUNE

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Machu Picchu, Peru

The llama figurines my sister Laura and I bought at the Witch Market in La Paz met their real-life counterparts at Machu Picchu. The real-life counterparts were unimpressed.

JULY

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Ecuador

Strolling the sidewalk in Ecuador during a bus trip layover, Laura and I glanced skyward and saw this dog staring down at us with crazy eyes. We were sure he was going to jump off the roof and onto our jugulars. Lucky for us, he stayed where he was.

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AUGUST

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Sylva, North Carolina

The Spring Street Cafe serves up the best plate of shrimp and grits you’ll ever have (they’re topped with sun dried tomatoes, asparagus, goat cheese, thyme and cayenne). As usual, we stopped in after a long day of paddling the nearby Nantahala and Tuckaseegee rivers.

SEPTEMBER

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Charlotte, North Carolina

The swimming leg of the SheRox Triathlon held on an old plantation near Charlotte felt great. The biking leg was invigorating as well. During the run, however, I wanted to die.

OCTOBER

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Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

As the sun dropped through the sky and behind the Smoky Mountains, casting brilliant yellows, reds and oranges over everything, we watched from a lookout rock on top of Mount LeConte.

NOVEMBER

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Denver, Colorado

I ascended St. Mary’s ice field about 45 minutes from Denver with my friend Andrew and his dog during a trip to Colorado.

DECEMBER

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Greensboro, North Carolina

We got kitties for Christmas. The kitties got boxes.

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Main Street Chattanooga, revamped

December 22, 2008

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Walk down the sidewalk of East Main Street in Chattanooga, and you’ll see dilapidated, falling apart, crumbling-right-before-your-eyes buildings next to freshly-renovated places open for business. You’ll see graffitied walls next to iron sidewalk sculptures, brick streetscaping next to weeds in the cracks on the curb.

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The shell of a brick building, no roof on the top, glass in the windows… or doors, for that matter.

Having recently spent millions building parks and paths along the Tennessee River that runs through downtown, the city has turned its attention to revitalizing a four-block stretch further inland. The idea is to move restaurants, businesses, galleries and art studios into the once gritty part of town, and to encourage people to live there.

Even as I strolled down the street during my visit to Chattanooga last week, change was happening: jackhammers pounded, construction workers in hard hats yelled conversations at one another, signs proclaimed “Coming Soon” and “Will Build to Suit.”

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The mural painted on the side of Madia’s Healing Arts studio

Private foundations have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the project, and it seems to be working. The Bluegrass Grill was packed with lunch goers eating Greek salads or corned beef and Swiss cheese sandwiches, Madia’s Healing Arts had a full schedule of yoga classes and spa treatments available and people were tapping away at their computers in the office of CreateHere, an organization that supports the economic and cultural development of the city.

I stopped into Niedlov’s Breadworks, an organic, artisan bakery in a refurbished building at 215 E. Main, where the motto is “We love to knead. We knead to love.” The ambiance was simple and nice — wooden tables, walls of exposed brick and pumpkin-colored plaster, a barn-like wooden ceiling — and the baked goods were delish. I had a cinnamon roll made with Indonesian course-ground cinnamon. I could taste the difference. OK, not really, but it was light, fluffy and melt-in-your-mouth.

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My breakfast

With all the changes taking place on Main Street, I can guarantee a year from now, it will be a completely different — and a really cool — place to be.

Here are a few other pictures of Chattanooga. Sorry, I can’t resist:

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The Walnut Street walking bridge across the Tennessee River, which connects the shops and parks on the North Shore with the arts district downtown

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The Tennessee Aquarium as seen from the opposite side of the river

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The really-old, sort-of-old and new wings of the Hunter American  Art Museum, taken from the Walnut Street Bridge

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The Hunter Museum and the Holmberg glass pedestrian bridge. (I hear they put that metal strip down the middle of the bridge so people on the road below can’t look up women’s skirts.)

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A glass and iron sculpture around a balcony in the Bluff View Arts District

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Broad Street, from the Tennessee Aquarium

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A bench and trash can in front of a grassy hill in Renaissance Park

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My sister Laura on the stadium-seating steps at Ross’ Landing, in front of the aquarium. (This is right before she broke out in a dance routine to the Britney Spears’ “Womanizer.”)

Public Enemy No. 1: Lake Michigan

December 11, 2008

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Nobody is safe.

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When in Boulder

December 6, 2008

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The Flatirons, by Boulder Artist Phil Lewis

Almost every inch of floor space was covered by yoga mats in the Om Time studio in Boulder, Colorado. As we class members moved from pose to pose, our heads mere inches from each other’s asses, we tried to ignore what might have been, under other circumstances, a very uncomfortable situation.

My sister and I adopted the “When in Boulder” mentality during our stay in Colorado last week. We ate organic vegetables, walked to breakfast, hiked every afternoon, and went to a yoga class that made us sweat so profusely onto our mats that our hands and feet slipped out from under us as we tried to hold the Downward Facing Dog.

The 100,000-person city of Boulder, Colorado sits 30 miles northwest of Denver, right up against the front range of the Rocky Mountains. A hundred and twenty miles of trails extend from the edges of the city, most of which you can reach by stepping off your doorstep and walking a couple blocks.

Boulder is all about green and healthy living, outdoor adventure — and Patagonia’s latest Retro-X Jacket (a cult classic with a feminine cut!) or whatever other trendy piece of outdoor gear is new to the market. It’s residents all seem outdoorsy, fit and well-dressed. The art and music scene is strong and the bookstores, clothing shops, art galleries and restaurants along the brick walk-only section of Pearl Street gives the downtown a quaint feel.

One drawback: For the privilege of the close proximity to the outdoors, residents end up paying $9 for run-of-the-mill deli sandwiches.

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The Breadworks bakery on Broadway. Producers of tasty baked goods and so-so coffee.

Several afternoons, we ascended Ninth Street to Chautauqua Park, where we followed the trails at the base of the Flatirons, the five huge slabs of sedimentary stone that overlook the city (see the super-cool drawing by artist Phil Lewis above for an idea of how they look). The trails, which traverse forests of ponderosa and lodgepole pines, offer panoramic views of the city once you get high enough; especially striking are the red roofs on the buildings on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. You can even make out Denver if you squint into the distance across the flatness to the south.

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Me hiking, eyes closed, with my sister Laura (right). And yes, I am wearing a fanny pack.

One quick note: Be careful not to step on the prairie dogs that scamper around — and sometimes across — the trails north of town. Their camouflage works dangerously well.

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Prairie dog territory

And, one more, pretty:

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Magnolia Moonrise by Phil Lewis