Monday, August 31, 2009

2 Tours and 20 Pounds Ago

Hello friends. This blog post is in honor of the Fellow Fitness Foodies over at All Recipes. You see, about a year ago, I had a crazy dream. I dreamt I was running a race, in Africa of all places, against many of my online AR friends. Several of us were trying to get into shape and/or trying to improve our work out regimens. We would touch base, daily, on what was then called the "shrinking chatter" thread. Luis Bueno (of Muddy Runner fame) immediately commented on my dream saying that if there was truly, indeed, a running race in Africa it would be "totally awesome" (okay, I may be paraphrasing but you get the point). The seed of an idea was planted! We planned and launched a virtual safari last September. In a few short months we were able to log and tally all of our miles to complete a journey from Cairo, Egypt, on through to Johannesburg, S. Africa! But we weren't finished, yet. Next on our agenda was the Great North American Tour (GNAT for short). We began this tour in Luis' home town of Riverside, CA this past January. We have now travelled well over 7000 virtual miles and have ended up at my home in North Carolina on today, of all days, my birthday! What a wonderful experience this journey has been. We have forged wonderful friendships and have bonded with a diverse group of people of various backgrounds. We have been eachother's motivation in are quest to be fit. All the while losing weight and gaining confidence in the process. So here's to the GNAT! The following photos are for you. (More photos and information can be found on our final thread, here)

Mr. Mayor pro tem and (hopefully) our future mayor
and his lovely bride
welcome the GNAT to our humble town.

Oh, I have so much to do.
I best get my grocery shopping done.
This store has the best prices, and double coupons, too!

Would you look at that! Some fans from the Great White North
have flown in to greet the Canadian contingent of the GNAT.

I am busy preparing a fabulous feast for all my GNAT friends.

Shall I serve it in the dining room?

Maybe the kitchen?

Or better yet, we'll have it outdoors on my porch/deck.

I hope there's enough room for everyone.

Let's see...I best travel down to the SC border
to get the best deals on adult beverages.

I have plenty of wine, I think.

I've set a pretty table.

Oh no, I see some of you have already eaten at the local cafe.
I hope you didn't eat the quiche. It's not very good. Trust me.

Let's start the party with some appetizers.

And homemade pita bread....

With my wonderful cucumber yogurt sauce!

Now everyone likes pizza, am I right?

Oh! I can't leave out prawns from the menu. Jephy's Mom brought some for me to serve all the way from CA. I'll make prawns in a creamy tomato basil sauce.

Mmmmmm....potatoes au gratin goes with everything.

I've decided to honor LB's heritage with some delicious enchiladas served with black beans and rice. Thanks for the Wisconsin cheese, Larkspur!

And for our vegetarian friends here's some spinach pie.

Pioneer Woman's crash potatoes are sure to be a hit.
I better grill up some Carolina country style ribs for some local flavor. How would you like your BBQ? Eastern NC style or Western NC style. There is a difference!

And the feast wouldn't be complete without my stuffed flank steak and roasted asparugus.

Chicken gizzards, anyone? Anyone?
Oh well, all the more for me!

And finally, some steamed crab from the coastal waters of NC

No worries, friend, we only need your milk.
This little critter lives about a mile up the road from me.

Now it's time for the party to start! The grub's ready!

Fireworks are about to begin!

What a show!

The band plans to play all night...great rock and roll hits from the 70's and 80's!

Where will everyone sleep? I can put a few of you up in the bonus room and there's an extra bunk in my son's room. I don't think Daisy will mind sharing porch space with a few more. Glad I had the foresight to set up the cabana for the overflow.

The next morning:
Uh oh...those prawns didn't sit too well with us.
Good thing the hospital I work at is just down the road.

It didn't help that we finished off all of the wine from the wine cellar either.

After having our stomachs pumped we decided to take in an Intimidators game. They are one of the farm teams for the Chicago White Sox.

Fernando decides to don a uniform and play an inning or two.
Is there anything that man can't do?

Gitano...I didn't forget about you. Would you like to see a race?

Lowe's Motor Speedway has a pretty fancy entrance.

I left tickets for you at "Will Call".

See this pretty windmill?

It graces the entrance to an unusual facility about 3 miles from my home. The country's largest indoor greenhouse...over 16o acres. This photo doesn't do justice to the majesty of the place.
You can google "metrolina greenhouses" for more information.
Ready for some lunch?
My homeschool group has decided to host a buffet luncheon for us.
Wasn't that sweet of them?

How about a day trip to Ashville to visit the world famous Biltmore Estates?

The Biltmore grounds are breathtaking!

The Biltmore conservatory is home to some luscious gardens.

Oh look at that! Some of our old friends from the Safari and early GNAT days decided to meet up with us: I see Loves to Host, Pam, Mi being Mi and AZ!

Wilma and Tahoe, get out the kayaks and let's paddle our way around the lake!

For the nautically challenged among us, Mr. Sister and kids
have graciously offered to take you all on a hike up Table Rock.

Yes, we are hiking up there! Just's worth it!

See? I told you! Just look at the stunning view!
Can you see the Blue Ridge mountains in the background?

My son is pointing out the impromptu synchronized swimming stylings
of LB and BellyDancer. Looking good! (Stop giggling, son)

Well, it's almost time for my dear guests to depart.
Let's take a trolley ride around uptown Charlotte first.

As my friends depart to destinations across North America,
Queen Charlotte bids you adieu from the heart of the Queen City.

Good bye my friends. This has been a wonderful experience and I thank you for staying with and supporting the efforts of the GNAT. God speed!


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