Biking for Lunch along P’tit train du Nord and a visit to Mont Tremblant

We woke up early the day before we left Montreal and decided to adventure out of the city to Mont Tremblant and do some biking along the P’tit train du Nord Trail.  Katie had discovered these locations before we departed for Montreal, but we did not have definite plans to go there; we are glad we did.  After three days of exploring Montreal by foot, bike, and rail, we felt the urge to expand our adventure.  Under overcast skies and a light rain we drove off from the hotel.  On the way to the mountains we found a nice breakfast stop (more on that in another post) and then an interesting stop on on the way back (more on that later too).

Once we were out of the Montreal traffic, the drive into the mountains of Quebec was picturesque and quite pleasant.  As wonderful as Montreal is, it was nice to have a break from the noise of the crowds and most of all the construction that seems to have engulfed almost every corner of the city.

After about a 90 minute drive, the GPS put us in the pretty village center of Mont Tremblant, but it sure didn’t resemble the Vail-like ski resort full of boutique shops that we were expecting.  Turns out we had missed the turn for the ski resort, so we turned around and saw the mountain and resort across the lake and headed in that direction.

Mont Tremblant lived up to expectations with beautiful scenery and a quaint yet bustling ski village with a multitude of summer activities for visitors.  A highlight for us was the free ski lift ride from the village to the base of the mountain.  We ended up doing things in reverse by taking the lift down from the village to the base and then walking uphill to visit shops along the way.  I suppose the extra exercise was a nice bonus, but I sure was feeling the week of biking and running.

After our visit to the resort and shops (no purchases, but well worth the look), we headed back down for some biking near the village center.  The P’tit train du Nord runs a couple of hundred kilometer in Quebec and offers great riding adventures long and short (which was our choice for the day).  We unloaded the bikes at a parking spot just outside the village and set off.  Along the way we encountered  many bikers, runners (a couple running at a such a pace that they passed us as we were riding our leisurely pace), and walkers.  We offered our easily detectable American “Bon Jour” to all we encountered.  As the week progressed I got over my accent fear and offered a few Bon Jours, but the Quebecois saw right through me and knew that was the extent of my conversational French.  They were always quite friendly though.  A cool adventure we hope to do some day is bake and camp along the trail as several groups of bikers we saw were doing.

After a short ride through the village and along the lake, we parked our bikes at a converted rail stop (it had a neat art gallery inside), and made our way for some lunch at Au Coin Resto Pub, part of the Hotel Mont Tremblant.  Our lunch included a delicious broccoli soup, delicious beet salad (with goat cheese that had wonderful flavor and little after-taste), and some freshly-made hummus.  It was a perfect lunch sitting on the patio and a great server who tolerated some terrible Francais on my part.  Katie managed to get us seated and order our meal using her new improved French.  The server knew I was hopeless linguistically and did converse with me in English during the meal.  At the end I decided to end our meal by asking, “Le factuer si vous plait.”  We’ve been debating this, Katie is sure that our server was just surprised that I was speaking au Francais, but I’m sure I butchered the words and offered a profane the wrong phrase.  In any case our server answered with a distinct, “What!?” after my request for the check.  We laughed it off and ended a great meal amicably.  Following the lunch we leisurely rode our bikes back the car and made our way back to Montreal for the final evening of our magical Quebec excursion.

On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Roadtrippin’ For Breakfast – Great stop at The Local Hub Market and Cafe

Katie and I set out for Montreal this past Sunday, and so far it has been an awesome trip.  Before crossing the border, we had a nice surprise for an unplanned breakfast at The Local Hub Market and Cafe in Greenwood, ME.  This part of was somewhat unchartered territory for us.  It seems most times that we have headed to Canada we had to go south and then north through New Hampshire and Vermont.  I guess circumstances such as dropping off one or more of our children to be watched or picking up family or friends caused our route to be altered.  This time, direct from Portland we had barely any highway time and spent a good portion of the ride through Maine on Route 26.

At the get-go, we decided that some quick snacks and coffee from a local Cumby’s would not suffice nor the dreaded DD (or is is just Dunkin now?), so we were determined to find a quick local stop along the way.  The only other rule was that the stop had to be on our route.  So off we went from Portland to Cumberland, to Gray, to Poland, to Oxford, to Paris, and it seemed much to our dismay that breakfast might not be happening.  Out of now where came The Hub. Katie pointed it out and I slammed on the brakes and we pulled in (sorry to the driver behind us for the near death experience).

The Hub definitely gave a different vibe for its first impression.  It definitely is our winner of the category for best breakfast from a restaurant with signs on the front saying “KAYAK RENTALS” or even better, “GET YOUR WORMS AND CRAWLERS HERE.”  When you enter though, The Hub has the feel of a cozy cafe and local artist hangout.

By just smelling the fresh baked goods and seeing the finished products on the counter, we knew that this was gonna be good and probably would deserve a repeat visit our next time through.

The Hub has a great selection on their menu, so it was hard decision for both of us, but I ended up with The New Sandwich Deluxe (would like to try the old one too if it’s still around) and Katie went for The Breakfast Burrito.

After a short wait, which we didn’t mind since we were able to enjoy our coffee drinks and the art on the walls, our orders were ready.  Rather than eat in the car we decided to sit out on a picnic bench just outside The Hub.  It was a pleasant day and it was nice that it was right on the water.  Both orders looked great.

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I’m not usually a fan of goat cheese, but it really worked on this sandwich when combined with the pesto.  The bread had great flavor and was perfectly toasted.  A win all around.  Katie loved the burrito and the couple of bites I had had nice flavor and a perfect touch of heat.  The portions were large enough that we could only eat half and wrapped up the rest for the rest of the trek north (I finished my sandwich a couple of hours later and I think it tasted even better then).

The Hub seems to have a solid local following.  There was a steady stream of regulars and visitors coming in and the staff provided great service to everyone.  They also had a great selection of local meat and other products that I would have tried if I was staying local.  Next time we roll through Greenwood, The Hub will be a definite stop.

See you on the road!

-Mike

Who Says Hotel Breakfast is Awful? Nice breakfast Buffet at the Montreal Doubletree.

A nice perk for our stay at the Downtown Montreal Doubletree Hotel is that breakfast is included each morning for Hilton Honors members.  Usually, we avoid these buffets like the plague, but we decided to give it a shot before setting out on some morning bike adventures around town.  The buffet turned out to be excellent with high quality pastries, fresh fruit, great hot breakfast selections, and possibly the best fresh squeezed grapefruit juice I’ve ever had.  It was a pleasant surprise!

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Here’s what day 2’s breakfast looked like:

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Just as good as yesterday.  Went for even more of the charcuterie route this morning.

The goodness continued on day 3:

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I went a little lighter today, since we were eating later in the morning and we had some good lunch stops in mind.  I have to admit the egg Benedict with salmon did not work for me.  I’ve enjoyed charcuterie in the morning, but fish just does not work.

We had vouchers for two more breakfasts at Doubletree, but decided to explore more local fare for our last two mornings north of the border.  As I said though, this breakfast buffet far exceeded our expectations.

On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Morning Run Lost In Montreal

Bon Jour!

Katie and I have ventured to Montreal for a few nights.  We had a nice drive up from Portland (a post on that to follow ASAP).  After checking in to our downtown hotel (great location right near Old Montreal), we wandered around a bit and found some nice treats for a dinner in our room then turned to get some rest from our travels.

This morning I woke up around 5:30am and decided to set out on a short run around our area.  I decided to skip C25K training for today and headed out to run and take in some scenery and see if I could stretch out a little distance:

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I’m happy to report that I’m showing signs of progress with this round of C25K.  Started Week 5 yesterday and based on this run, my distance and pace are improving.  Still a long ways from where I want to be and the scale has yet to descend (@%#$!!!!), but it feels great nevertheless.

After seeing the evening crowds around town last night, it was peaceful to run about the city with little vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  I had no specific destination in mind, but once I caught sight of the big ferris wheel on the river La Grande Roue de Montreal, I decided to head in that direction. Plus, it was a huge relief to be running downhill after a killer hill into Old Montreal from our hotel.

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My two favorite times of day to run have to be dawn and dusk.  Love the lighting and quietness.

 

 

 

 

The run took me through parts of Old Montreal (watch out for those cobble stone streets!) and down to the riverfront.  I did a short run on the river walk because I was approaching the point of no return endurance-wise and then meandered my way back to the hotel.  There were some great sights along the way including great architecture and beautiful fountains (Montreal sure loves its fountains!).

Thank goodness for the Maps App.  I did get myself turned around a couple of times and ran a few circles, but finally made my way back to the hotel.  A cool finish was running the perimeter of Place des Arts, which has a couple of cool fountains of its own.

On se voit sur la route!

-Mike

Bike for Breakfast? Time for a Sip of Europe.

Somehow a Sip of Europe has been in Portland for three years with us knowing. It was my charge to find a new breakfast spot for the morning and I came upon this spot through some online research during the evening while at work.  Sip of Europe specializes in crepes, so while I’ve been failing at trying a Keto Diet, Katie suggested that I could just dump the ingredients out of the crepe and enjoy.  Once I saw the crepes (and an another item), I was like, “Screw that!”

We hopped on our bikes and ventured forth for a Bike for Breakfast:

I just love those green rims on my Fixie!

On our ride to breakfast, we were passed by a parade of antique cars, which was cool to see (the pic doesn’t do it justice).

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I’ve probably gone by Sip of Europe dozens of times the past three years and have not noticed it.  Not surprised since the signage does not exactly shout out to you.

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The other thing is that I’m not a pancake person.  Give me three slices of French Toast and I’m in breakfast heaven.  I suppose that crepes are not pancakes, but Sip of Europe was enough to make me a convert!  First though, I have to address the opener which was this beautiful pitcher of Mimosa’s made and served by the owner herself, Yulia.

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The mimosa had nice flavor and the addition of lemon gave it a nice tartness.  I’d usually go for a Bloody Mary for breakfast, but will definitely repeat this on our next visit.  One side note is that Yulia and Katie did scold me after my initial order for Margaritas.  Not sure where that brain cramp came in.

So…about the menu.  Not the actual offerings (which you will see, are fantastic), but the printed menu itself. It had the feel of a dumpling restaurant in Boston’s or NYC’s Chinatown.  Maybe I’m off here, but take a look:

No doubt that the description were perfect of the offerings.  I guess the pictures threw me off.  They were unexpected, and the first I’ve seen for breakfast, but they did represent the product well.

So, on to the main event.  Not realizing that the $19.99 for two special (three crepes and 2 drinks) was only available Tuesday-Friday earning me another scolding from Yulia, we ordered two savory (the Hawaiian and Mustard of Ham -with goat cheese replacement with Yulia’s permission-) and one sweet (the Baklava).  It was a bit of a wait as Yulia served two regulars, but no doubt we were very satisfied as the crepes came out one by one:

Top left is the ham and cheese.  The ham was top shelf (I’m guessing Boar’s Head) and with the addition of the balsamic glaze on the side it was a taste explosion.  Next came the Hawaiian which was fantastic with the only drawback being that the pesto drowned out the pineapple flavor some.  Finally, the Baklava crepe was otherworldly as a sweet end to our feast. We ended up taking some of our treats home in to-go containers, but I’m sure they did not make it to the afternoon before being devoured in a second round.

A pleasant surprise was that our total bill came to $37.00.  I thought this a great deal for a very satisfying meal with the pitcher of Mimosas despite a another minor scolding (joking?) from Yulia about drinking and driving biking.

We will return to Sip of Europe and hope to bring friends.  Next time I will be sure to read the fine print on the Specials Board.

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BTW, starting week 3 of C25K today!

See you on the road!

-Mike

Bowling Not Running

I have to say it, 33 Elmwood bowled me over was AWESOME!  Yes, this a running-eating blog, and yes, we did not run there, but we will set PRs going there a second time.  Great food, great adult beverages, and a fun time on the lanes.  Not to mention that the lane was super cheap ($15 for one hour with shoes included) for a Wednesday night.  I did manage a Bowling PR of 150 too.  We gathered with our four offspring to celebrate Frank’s 18th(!) birthday.  A $10 bottle of Presecco  paired nice with a Fried Green Tomato sandwich and the pizza was great!

Redemption (again?)

Well, you can always start again.  Surprised to see my last post was Thanksgiving.  Actually had a failed running reboot in March, but it only lasted into April.  I love the Runkeeper app because it archives all of the activities that you track.  Often, I like to look back on my past accomplishments (cue: Glory Days) and think what I can do and hope to improve upon.  This time, I was curious about my last run:

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So, that was a neighborhood run during our chilly spring.  I had a rebound March and completed 65 miles, which was a nice improvement from the ZERO miles that I did in January and February the start of the year.  That last run put me at 55 miles for April and I had dreams of 100+ months leading to a goal for 1,000 miles for 2019.  Let’s just say now, that’s not happenin’.

I’m trying to remember what was going on.  Still was teaching and must have just completed April break the week prior.  The biggest change at that point was that I was assistant coaching Addie’s softball team.  Not an excuse, mind you, but I was certainly was (am) lazy and did not even attempt to do early morning runs. At least it turned out to be a fun season and the team won the city championship!  Championship game was quite exciting.  We were down 6-0, but we came out on top in the end.  That’s Addie down below.  Quite the Beauty, but not (yet) into running.

But I digress…Thing is, there has a been a lot going on in both our lives that has interfered with our running. There has been injury (Katie has a serious case of Plantar Facitis), family changes (high school graduations, ups and downs of Joe and Maggie’s college years), professional highs and lows (mostly high for Katie, downs a disaster for me), and the realization that we’re a lot closer to 50 now.

I don’t know what to say.  I just read back to the start of this blog in 2015.  We were both running the 2015 Maine Marathon and feeling on top of the world; completing double digit runs at the drop of a hat, and having great meals, while all else was great.  Now it as if we we’re both like this:

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I’ll point the finger at myself.  I’m at a low point personally and professionally (I recently left teaching for the final second time and don’t know what to do) and I am fully ready to admit that MY alcoholism is ruining our lives.  I’m an alcoholic and I admit it to our scores handful of readers out there.  It is ruining our relationship, my friendships, my career, and my running.  Heck, I’ve probably been an alcoholic since my binge drinking at 18 years of age, but now it brings the whole house down. 30 years later I just see myself as a broken down drunk. This won’t cover it, but I apologize to all I’ve wronged with my drinking, but most of all to Katie. Anything I’ve accomplished is due to her and her inspiration.  You can put it in perspective of this blog: It was her idea to start it and keep me motivated to run and write.  I’ve been able to bask in great accomplishments and tell brag about great adventures, but none of them would have occurred without Katie.  All people should be as lucky to have such a great partner.  I hope to recover and be a good person and partner.  If I don’t, I know Katie will make a great path in both running and in life.  I don’t know where my path will go, but I hope it is by her side…

OK, that was a lot to dump load on everyone, so back to running.  I was convinced that new shoes would be the magic cure to my lack of running since April.  My sister was kind of enough to give me a Visa gift card that would have covered the cost of some new shoes, so I was all prepared to hit Fleet Feet and start logging some miles.  Instead, I ended up with these:

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Ignore the ghastly toenails (and Gosh, are those really my ankles? Look away, I’m a creature).  It took a while, but Addie convinced me they looked cool, and now I’m wearing Birkenstock’s.  I don’t recommend them for running, but they feel awesome post-run.

Katie actually convinced me to be smart patient and try one of my old pair of running shoes to start a new running program.  How right she was.  I uploaded the Couch to 5K (c25k) app to my phone and then dug out these Hoka Clifton 5’s (I know that I don’t need the apostrophe there).  IMG_0772 (3)

A little history on these shoes: I purchased them at the 2016 San Francisco Marathon Expo (which I did not run -a bit of a long story, a little bit due to the above narrative) and they carried me through training for the 2016 Maine Marathon, which I was able to complete using the Galloway run-walk plan.  Pretty sure they logged 500+ miles until I replaced them with a pair of Saucony’s, which in the end were not a great fit for me.  Turns out that these old Hoka’s still have some life in them.  So, a little over one week in, I have completed two weeks of C25K.

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Yes, those times are ugly, but remember there is a lot of walking going on.  I’m doing it right this time.  Walking when called for and running at a good pace (sub 10:00) when instructed.  Next week some longer runs that may be ugly difficult.

It’s a start.  Will this be redemption (running and otherwise)?  I can’t say.  So far it has not been for our relationship, but I hope and pray for the best.  Will it be for running?  The same answer.  Last time to success was a long haul, but I made it.  The lesson I know now is to take it day by day and not rush the process.  The only thing I can say is to keep moving.

See you on the road!

-Mike

 

A Rangeley Run and Some Thanksgiving Cooking

After the Birthday Celebration at The Farm, we made our way back to Portland on Sunday morning and decided we should make the treacherous drive to Rangeley the same evening.

A shared 5 hour terror drive across ice covered roads in pitch-blackness wilderness brought us to the warm confines of our Rangeley Lake Resort cabin on a cold Sunday night.

We celebrated our arrival with some Perogies and onions…

Rangeley is a western mountains town known for its snow and cold temps and it certainly lived up to both for this Thanksgiving trip, but I did set out for a Tuesday morning run.

We also had some wildlife visitors…

I do admit that Addie can be wild, but she is not local wildlife in the 2nd pic above.

Our tradition at Rangeley is to have Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night with a full compliment of Arlington Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” and Ray Davies’ “Thanksgiving Day” while I cook. We fulfilled that promise as the pictures below share.

We ended up having a, “Thanksgiving Feast that couldn’t be beat” with many toasts and lots of good conversation.

Thanksgiving Day was low key watching plenty of football and enjoying leftovers. No running that day, but we did manage to work off some calories at Moose Alley. Katie and Maggie managed to bowl the top scores.

I hope you also enjoyed a great holiday, and see you on the road!

Running at the Farm

The weekend before Thanksgiving, we all ventured to New Boston, NH to celebrate the 70th Birthday of Katie’s dad, Tex (aka Peter). We celebrated at Tex’s own Swallow Ridge Farm where he raises cattle. The Farm, as we call it, has been a place of many memorable events including holiday celebrations, a large family reunion, and my favorite, Maple Syrup Making weekends. It is an amazing place to visit and even more amazing is that Tex (with some family help) has rehabbed a once long abandoned property into a working farm virtually on his own. Some images of this great place:

That truck is especially awesome. It’s a 1948 (not sure of make and model) that Tex bought and had customized for the Farm.

Running in New Boston is always beautiful, but it does have a couple of drawbacks. 1) The roads are quiet, but mostly lack a shoulder which can make things scary against oncoming traffic. 2) New Boston puts the HILL in hilly. A great workout, but some of those climbs are soul-crushing! The route I took is a peaceful run mostly along one of the many dirt roads in the area. It was a chilly morning, but I was thankful for my new Smartwool PhD running tights (more on them in a later post). Things were so pleasant that stretched the run to 5 miles, which I had not achieved on some time.

It doesn’t look it, but that the road in the top picture is up a seemingly endless hill. One bonus: I hit my fastest pace of the run on the way down.

See you on the road!