Tuesday, July 22, 2008


At Cafe du Parc on Pennsylvania Avenue, just a short jaunt to the White House sits a stellar place to dine. It has been several weeks since I have been here, but I have been trying to get to this since I left DC, but something always seems to pop up and prevent me from talking about this restaurant. I just can't let this meal go without some fanfare - it was that good.

After describing certain chain restaurants as "evil", I thought that I would try to describe what I consider to be a good meal. I had the gazpacho, which isn't as good as mine and I chose for an entree what I thought was a butterflied pork loin (actual menu listing: Poitrine de cochon croustillante 24 hour sous-vide pork, sautéed crisp, with natural thyme and garlic jus), but  turned out to be crisped pork belly sauteed in garlic with a side of fresh green beans lightly sauteed with a butter shallot reduction. Personally, I would not have ordered this dish had it not been written in French (sure, there was an English translation but can you make sense of it?) and simply didn't understand what this was. I am so happy that my skills in the French language have slipped in the past several years. This meal was one of the finest I have had in a very long time. The difference... fresh ingredients and cooked to order by someone who cares what they serve. 
I did find a little guilty eating the pork belly - it really is NOT a lean cut of meat. That is why I had a couple of glasses of red wine to wash it down.    Another nice thing about the restaurant was the staff. I must have talked to Sally (Sarah, S... damn! I thought I would recall her name - if you are out there, please respond and correct me) for 15 minutes about food, my trip, her goal to open a restaurant and several other topics - I think she took pity on me since I was alone. It was a very nice dinner. 

As Aaron and I headed to one of the many wineries surrounding Charlottesville, VA we encounter a good sized black bear loping across the road onto one of the many farms near the winery. I wish that I could have had my camera out quicker, but unless I find a way to grow a third arm in the near future, there won't be any spontaneous photos from the saddle. He was a good sized bear and was more scared of us than we were of him. 

After APT drank me under the table and I whined about it the next day, we headed over to her place in Schuyler, VA. If you haven't been here, it is a house in the hills of Virginia on like, 84 acres of land. There is a labyrinth in the making, a swimming pool, seclusion and views that are picture perfect. It was definitely a quieter evening than it was the night before on the mall in Charlottesville, but I think that is to be expected. 

It did seem a bit cooler in the hills than it was in C-ville and DC, but it got much cooler on the Shenendoah Parkway. Unfortunately, I have to be in Alaska at a certain time and that is always on my mind when I am working on my ever fluid schedule. I spent too little time in DC, C-ville and all the way into NYC.
How can I explain how amazing the Blue Ridge Parkway is? First of all, the temps dropped 20 degrees from what I had seen for 4 weeks - that in and of itself was a HUGE break for me. It can become extremely oppressive when you can't get out of the heat for 10-12 hours a day. With the humidity along the coasts it is hard to escape it. I have found that I lack the desire to explore as much as I would otherwise - that has all changed with this new, unknown temperature that I am experiencing here in Shenendoah. 

If nobody has been here I will try to explain it to you. This National Park runs the along the top of a "mountain" range in Virginia up to West Virginia. It is windy and has great overlooks. There are bears, deer and other critters (critter is not an unknown word in these parts). There are plenty of winding curves, winding hills and winding vistas for a motorcycle to to chew up and spit out. One of the great things about this road is that there are plenty of places to stop, grab a drink, rest or look out over WVA or VA. The bonus of that is that you can meet other people that are riding in your direction or the opposite direction on this 100 mile scenic highway. 

With this being a national park with a fee to enter, you will mostly find people that are camping or motorcyclists that are looking for the same sort of entertainment as I was. A few of these people peeled off from one of these views at the same time I did and we fell in together for about 40 miles. What an amazing treat it is to ride with 5 others that seem to be in sync with what you are doing. For a little while I led the way, but after I spotted a little black bear in the trees our order changed and I was in the middle. When everything is going well on a motorcycle, you can just float from one curve into the next. When everything is going well for a group of motorcycles, it is a lot like dancing. Dancing very well. It is a series of dips followed by rising into the next dip. If it is done right with a group of people you will pivot into a turn as the last person in line is pivoting up from the last turn - sort of like a line of Rockettes leg kicks. All synchronized and fluid. About 20 minutes into this I was feeling very poetic. It was one of the few times I have had a clear mind with no outside thoughts while riding. 

If you can't imagine how that feels, picture a perfect line down Prima then Pronto and just when you feel as if your legs are on fire, you drop off the catwalk into Log Chute to cap it all off. If you have done those right and found the right line, you know what I am talking about. If you don't know what Prima, Pronto and Log Chute are... spend a little time at Vail this winter. If that isn't in the cards, think about 12 inches of fresh powder and carving figure 8's. That is probably closer to the feeling than the knee grinding bumps of Pronto.
Okay, this isn't Virginia, but I placed this pic in here and now I am stuck with it. I found that I learned more about the war at Gettysburg in this short day trip than I recall from it being taught in high school. For some reason I always thought that it was Grant facing Lee instead of Meade vs Lee. I don't recall a teacher ever telling me that it lasted all of 3 days with Lee retreating back across the Potomac. The size of the battle is also something that can't be learned in a book. It really is hard to envision 165,000 people when you are reading a book - it is also hard to imagine that many people when you are looking at it, but you can almost get your arms around it to the point that you can imagine hearing troops walking through the woods that line the battlefield.

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