Having moved nearly 700 miles away from my parents several years ago, I often worry about how they’d fare as empty-nesters. Would they be lonely? Would they eat well? Would they stay active in their retirement years? I think it’s funny how, as both myself and my parents have grown older, our roles have reversed and I find myself worrying about them so much.

Last week, I managed to clear my work schedule and travel home for a much needed visit with my family. I asked Mom to be my “tour guide” and line up a few trips and special projects for me to do while I visited – since she probably needed something to keep her busy in her spare time, you know. My week long itinerary included spending some time with friends and family members, shopping, dining out, and tagging along on a Saturday drive with the Tri-Cities Miata Car Club. Mom and Dad have been members of the club for a couple of years now and I thought it would be fun spending the day riding along with the “seniors” in the slow lane.

Early Saturday morning, we met the other club members at the designated meeting place, lowered our tops (car tops, that is), and all the cars – about 11 in all - lined up and headed out to our final destination of Backbone Rock near Damascus, VA . I was riding shotgun with Miss Wanda, a friend of my parents, and we puttered along the scenic drive chatting and laughing. We were the third car in line as we started up a steep, curvy mountain incline and the next thing we knew, we were lagging behind no doubt because we were busy talking. The minute Miss Wanda realized she was getting left behind, my Driving Miss Daisy experience quickly turned into what seemed like the final lap of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. She grabbed the gear shift, shifted into overdrive, and our little toy car sped up the mountain slinging rocks and dust all the way. We quickly (very, quickly) met up with the others and also happened up on Farmer Brown who was out for a Saturday drive on his tractor. Not content to be behind a slow mover, my driver (is that really Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the drivers seat??) pulled out, drafting behind the car in front of us in true NASCAR fashion, passed Farmer Brown, and sped on down the mountain road.

Once we arrived at Back Bone Rock, everyone got out to admire the beautiful scenery and have a Kodak moment. There was a group of young adults repelling down the side of the rock and as I stood there on the ground below watching them, I realized that yes indeed that was my father hanging off the side of the rock above snapping photos of them as they scaled down. How in the world did he get up there, I wondered, and then I saw that our little group was hiking up the side of the rock. I fell in line with them and tried to hide the fact that I was actually feeling a little winded as I headed up the elevation. I was, after all, the youngest person in the group and I couldn’t be outdone by these so-called seniors. After a few more photo ops, we jumped back into our cars and headed into town for lunch at The Old Mill in Damascus.
The food was good and the company of the other club members was nice.

As we started on our journey back home, I began to reflect on the events of the day. Here I had been worrying that my parents were spending their days sitting at home staring at the walls when in fact they were out behaving like teenagers, driving in the fast lane, climbing rocks, socializing with friends and then it dawned on me that I was exhausted and needed a nap. Talk about role reversal!!

Rocky Mountain High

Several years B.C.S. (before Captain Sturm), my friend W. and I took a 10 day vacation trip out west. We opened the map and each of us took turns pointing out places that we'd like to see and then we created an itinerary that included most of those places. Our trip started by flying to Denver, Colorado where we rented a car and drove south to a little town called Buena Vista. We spent the night in a quaint little motel and the next day we headed out for our half-day white water rafting adventure. It was early May and when I called the rafting company a month earlier to make the reservations, I was told that May was a little too early in the season for them to be taking tourists down the river but we were in luck because on that particular day they were taking a group of potential guides down the river for training purposes and we were allowed to accompany them. It was a cool, crisp day and after we suited up in our wetsuits we spent the next several hours navigating class I, II, and III rapids on the Arkansas River. The scenery was absolutely, breath-takingly gorgeous - the rugged mountain peaks were covered with snow and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. I took alot of pictures that day but the camera just didn't do justice to what my eyes actually saw.

Four exciting hours later, we were finished with our excursion and you cannot imagine how ravenous I was! I felt like the kind of hungry beast that was no doubt roaming the steep, rugged snow capped Rocky Mountains that stretched for miles in front of me. We drove a few miles down the road and stopped at a restaurant that looked like your average steak house. I was so hungry that I probably would have eaten almost anything put in front of me. The entree that I chose was a chicken breast covered with cheese and bacon. This wasn't something that I would have normally ordered - while I do love me some bacon, chicken and cheese, put them all together on a plate and it's just a bit much for me. But I was hungry...beastly hungry...bring on the chicken...smother it with cheese...throw some pork fat on there too kind of hungry. I don't know if it was because I was so exhaustingly hungry or maybe I had suffered a reaction to being exposed to thin Rocky Mountain oxygen, but honest to goodness that was the best meal I had ever eaten.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I ran across a recipe called Chicken Lombardy from a source that I can't even remember now. The recipe as it was written became a staple in my catering kitchen and one day while preparing it for a catering job, I had to make some minor adjustments out of necessity for what we had available to use. As I tasted the revision, I immediately had one of those "When I bite into a York Peppermint Patty I Get The Sensation" moments. I was navigating Class III rapids down the Arkansas River. I was eating that fabulous chicken cheese bacon dish in the otherwise non-descriptive steak house restaurant in the quaint little town of Buena Vista in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

So, without further adieu, I give to you.......

* Exported from MasterCook *

Buena Vista Chicken

Serving Size : 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
4 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper -- to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter -- divided
1 onion -- sliced
6 slices bacon -- cooked and crumbled
1 cup fresh mushrooms -- sliced
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
4 slices Provolone cheese

Place chicken between 2 sheets of wax paper and flatten to 1/8" thickness with the flat side of a meat mallet. Season flour with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken lightly with flour.

Heat vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add chicken and cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until chicken is golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet and place in a baking dish, overlapping edges.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to drippings in the pan. Saute mushrooms and onions, about 3-4 minutes. Add crumbled bacon and sprinkle mixture over chicken. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up browned bits. Add chicken broth and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon sauce over chicken.

Top each chicken breast with a slice of Provolone cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

A nice golden brown....

Gimme some cheese and pork fat, pleeze....

Take me back to that Rocky Mountain High....

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