Wednesday's ride was 25 miles with a random sighting of four large, wild, green parakeets eating on the ground in a very urban setting. Odd but apparently not uncommon according to Merlin Bird ID. Apparently I hadn't worked out long enough so I ventured to the Austin Bouldering Project, a rock gym that doesn't use ropes for support. You have to rely on your own strength to get up and down the fifteen foot high walls safely. This is one heck of a workout and I had a blast! You are challenged both mentally and physically in new and exciting ways. A friend and I needed tacos afterwards so we went to Torchy's Tacos. I mentioned this place when I came down for Thanksgiving but I ordered new items off the menu this time. I usually go for their breakfast taco with bacon, egg and cheese, no matter the time of day. But after another long bike ride and climbing, I decided to fortify myself with a fried chicken taco (called the Trailer Park) and one with jerk chicken, jalapeno and mango (called Brushfire). The first was incredibly delicious in only the way fried chicken can make you happy and the second was super spicy and but definitely one to order again.
Thursday brought one last ride of 27 miles in two hours for a four-day-total of 115 miles and 8.5 hours. I was sad to return the Domane bike as she rode very well and I was incredibly proud of myself for not having fallen over due to being clipped in (or just plain succumbing to gravity...) once. After we dropped the bike off and I bought a new SPIbelt and Klean Kanteen (both red!), lunch at Whole Foods and ice cream at Amy's came next. Amy's Ice Cream is stupid good. Addictingly good. Oh man I could eat this forever good. This time, I ordered chocolate and coffee with Junior Mints crushed in. Daddy chose a Kahlua and coffee milkshake. Yes is all I can say.
This was New Year's Eve. I ended the Old Year and started the new one with my favorite little boy and breakfast with my favorite adult boy (nephew and dad in no particular order). La Madeline is a French cafe with locations in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and the D.C. area. It's no Standard Baking Company but their fire and antiques on the walls are nice to be around. It was then time for Christmas at my godmother's house. Toffee, Gatti's pizza, summer sausage and milk punch were accompanied by presents. Milk punch involves booze and ice cream. How can you go wrong? One more shopping trip to REI and dinner at my sister's house concluded my trip to Texas. I got three kisses from my nephew and then was pushed out the door by the little prince. The next morning, I got up at 5am and had a smooth flight home.
If I ever ponder leaving Portland, all I have to do is fly back in the daytime and look out the window of the plane. This area has never felt more like home. Maybe the dating or job opportunities are minimal to non-existent but at least I know in my heart that this is where I want to be (for now...)
Once I landed, I went straight to my apartment where a purring feline was waiting. I didn't stay home for long because I was to meet someone at Bao Bao on Spring Street. M was about to move to Virgina and hadn't been out much in Portland so I had to show him a good time. I book-ended my trip at Bao Bao and I couldn't have been happier. After Asian slaw, pork and cabbage dumplings, Kung Pow chicken and peanut dumplings and a Mai Tai, we moved on to Grace on Chestnut Street. Their Holier Than Thou cocktail was calling my name. Spicy in the throat and a glorious pink-orange color. One is perfect, two is dangerous. I had one as we then moved on to see the spectacle at Liquid Riot that is the ice ball. Formerly Infiniti, Liquid Riot on Commercial Street serves great cocktails with their own booze. Their Haute Fashioned as a giant ice ball instead of ice cubes which is made in a warmed mold. Made with cinnamon, this is an incredible twist on the Old Fashioned. Other interesting drinks were Port Royale, Rye Hilt and For the Love of Gin. Rye Hilt had an incredible layering effect of flavors as one after another hit your tongue and then left. Our final stop was a new one for me: Union at Press Hotel.
Union has a clean and bright atmosphere and their drinks are good but for $13-14, I would rather go to Sonny's or Local 188 for their laid back feel. We did get their cookie and candies plate ($9) which had both macarons (almond-based) and macaroons (coconut-based), a chocolate-dipped gingerbread cookie, cream filled rich chocolate piece, and more. That finished our evening but the morning brought Scratch Bakery. M had never been and to leave Portland without a fresh bagel is a real misfortune. The 15 minute wait for fresh bagels is always worth it too. We ate at Spring Point Lighthouse and watched a tanker come into the harbor. 30 degrees F in Texas is too chilly to sit outside for breakfast but in Maine, it couldn't be more right.