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7+ Hills of Kirkland

30 May

When mowing the lawn, especially our back one with its expansive rectangleness, my mind settles into a spirit of inquiry and review (or if we’re being a little less generous, unaccustomed thoughtfulness). Such a mood is encouraged by the orderly rows, the back and forth coverage as I vector from one one edge to the other barbering Mother Nature’s hair. In answer to your question, no, there isn’t any laspsing into a lisp and aksking how Mother Nature’s day went. Really, it’s like meditation-via-mowing (Meditation-upon-Mowing is a charming town in the Lakes District, or is that Cornwall?), with a set playbook of ritual the first step of which is to ask, “Couldn’t I pay someone to do this for me? Time equals money etc” until the final step which is accompanied by byproduct answers, such as “Time equals time” and “My, look at what you’ve accomplished. This is actually something tangible, visceral even, the mannered rows, the fresh smell of grass and various environmental flora.” When parking the mower under the back porch, one last thought: “Damn my legs is tired, but I’m glad I did this because the forecast is for BLEEPING BLEEP rain all week.”

Today’s bit of revealed-through-mowing pseudo wisdom came during the poop patrol that preceded the actual grass mowing. I came across several little piles that were of a very odd color and consistency. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about, I play a poop doctor on TV. Basically what I’d found were little turds made out of cat litter. This by itself would ordinarily be an enigma wrapped in a stinky jacket of mystery and irony except that I happened to know both the source and the culprit. Cooper pup! Last week he’d gotten into a bag of cat litter, the ‘natural’ piney kind, ‘Ride the Pine’ brand, not the grey and gravelly stuff, and had joyfully shaken the contents all over the den. It turns out, as he turned out, that he must have eaten quite a lot of the stuff while in the middle of the spreading the litter.

All of which went toward reminding me that you get out of life, or stomachs, what you put into it (or them).

We went on a ride today, the 7 Hills of Kirkland. Things were progressing very well. KonaLad and JamisLad showed up fresh and early so that we could ride to the Kirkland marina from our burgh in the burbs up here near Lynnwood (whose idea was that exactly? would be a common question today, mostly from me… the asker). It promised to be about 28 miles of bonus miles, tacked on to the nominal 38 miles of the main 7 Hills route. What made it especially special was cranking slowly up Juanita hill, going southbound, and seeing all the northbound 7 Hillers already well into their riding come flashing past the other way. Gotta hurry! I thought. It was a chill morning, with portentous clouds above, but Juanita hill warmed up the old circulatory system fine.

At the starting joint in downtown Kirkland we pays our money and we gets our wristbands and then we pees in the urinals and then we goes… back up to Juanita hill. In reverse, we took a left for Holmes Point Dr NE (always wondered what that would be like – very Mercer Island reminiscent). A lovely downward swooping was followed by the loop along the water and then an amazing set of climbing along an unpopulated gorge type setting, with a fairly steep pitch. I passed one lady, with an apologetic pant, and she said in answer to the unspoken question, “This is the worst hill of the day I think… it just keeps going on.” There’s something so human and inhuman about a charity ride, being surrounded by many laboring others on hills; you can’t exactly blow past each other, so it’s a slowmotion affair, each person having an interior monologue with their heart and lungs, too tired for any exterior dialoging of the usual biking jokes and comradery. We crested back onto the main Juanita line and gathered up our crew again before heading downhill past St. Ed’s park and onto the Burke Gilman. At the foot of Juanita Dr was the first red light running bicyclist of the day – but not unfortunately the last. What is it about charity rides that makes people feel suddenly the rules are all off? Man it pisses me off, and in a passive/aggressive way I took off after her but with no clear idea of if I was going to say anything. Eh. I’ll just trust in Darwinian judgment, I decided.

In general, the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride is lots of fun as it twists and turns through the same basic suburban domain; what it lacks in true scenery it makes up for in charming climbs, a homespun organizational feel and low rider density. This might be a keeper ride; coming at the end of May, it might be perfectly positioned as a good training marker.

The next notable moment was the next turn off my previous experience, this one Norway Hill. I loved that hill! I especially like winding, wending climbs with hairpins, where you can see bikeys ahead and back, strewn out so. At one point a very buff tandem pair blew past and I quickly hopped on their wheel, although usually I stay away from tandems on uphills. However, they had the special sauce going and so that was fun following them. It seemed very soon were were all three gathered up again at the one rest stop, I guess about in the middle of the course. Standing around munching cookies and getting ready for the next leg KonaLad pointed out that I had a broken spoke in my rear wheel? WTF? When did that happen.

For drummers it's duct tape, for bike mechanics it's rubber bands...

And now we’re getting to the full circle of my thinking here, but before we do, I’d like to make a quick departure about the nature of thinking, mine especially. When KonaLad pointed out the broken spoke I immediately thought of contingencies, possibilities, mitigations… basically I turned to the instincts I have to use all the time at work as a project manager. Rather than, I’m trying to say, actually looking at the problem and thinking about it sort of intrinsically, focusing on the immediate material problem all I could think about was the (honestly) immaterial inconvenience. There were a few seconds of mild panic and furious downstream decision making; I hardly seemed able to focus. Then I thought, I’ll check with the experts and wheeled the Poprad over to the nearby bike support tent manned by the nice guys from Kirkland Bicycles (where I got the Sarthe!). As I had feared, there wasn’t much they could do – once a spoke is broke that’s all she wrote. It can’t be trued or fixed, if there’s no appropriate spoke replacement (and they didn’t have one). I stood there and spun the wheel, noticing the huge wobble from the untrue-ness. I asked the mechanic what the worst case scenario would be if I continued to ride. “You’ll either make it fine or ruin the rim.” Hm. Time for cost-benefit analysis. Dammit, I don’t care. I wanted to keep riding! And so we did, but I only got about 20 yards into it before finding the tire was rubbing the fender far too much; even a few miles with that and those gumwall Jack Brown tires would probably be in bad shape. So, back to the rest stop and the mechanic, who helped me cut the zip tie holding on the fender. As I held the fender up, trying to imagine how I was going to carry it in the Carradice bag, the nice chap offered to hold it at his store for me! Sweet! I’m back on the road.

This time I got maybe 100 yards before suddenly the tire started seriously rubbing against the frame. The untrue-ness had just gotten a whole lot worse. Damn. KonaLad and JamisLad had continued on to the Winery Hill loop, and would look for me on the way back, so I had some time to think. I called the SurlyLady, half fearful she wouldn’t be home. But she was! And she offered to come get me ASAP. And, even better, offered to bring the Vaya so I could finish the ride. What a girlfriend! (and Happy Anniversary gift, yo!)

To close this circle, what did I put into these wheels? They were deeply discounted used wheels from eBay. I put in some research, sure, but I also put in some crazy, outsized expectations. Tires too big for the fenders, tires maybe too big for the bike, wheels with tapering spokes… at this point I’m not sure if I wouldn’t take the weight penalty of the handbuilt Velocity Fusion wheels rather than the chance of a breakdown, as I do know I don’t want something similar to happen to me out in the middle of like Mason County on RAPsody, where I may or may not have cell coverage. I’m going to take these wheels to an expert, get her/his advice on their basic soundness, and have them rebuilt with some stout spokes. Whether I keep them on the Poprad we’ll see. Other measures: I’m going to get some drive and non-drive side spokes for both front and back and put them in the seatpost tube for emergencies like this. Additionally, I’m going to take a wheel building class. Because if KonaLad hadn’t been there, or the bike mechanic stand (imagine if I’d been many miles away from the rest stop or, worse, barreling down a steep hill) I’m not sure what I would have been able to do on my own.

Fender mullet! Business in front, party in the back!

SurlyLady arrived super fast, with Fred Vaya in the rack, and in short order I was back on the road. I missed the Winery hill stuff (sounds like there was a bagpiper?) but there was still plenty of fun ahead of us… and this finish was so much better than the alternative, i.e. going home and DNF. I really, really hate the idea of DNF. We finished up at the Kirkland Marina, had our strawberry shortcake, then headed home… up Juanita Hill… again. JamisLad was amazing, blowing up that hill like he had just gotten started for the day — I think he and KonaLad officially did like 12 or 13 hills on the day.

(Adding concentric circles): As for these buddies of mine, I hope I’m putting into my friendship with them something equal to how cool they are to me – sticking around to make sure I got taken care of, providing company on a new adventurous ride.

As for girlfriends, not only did she instantly hop into the car to come save my day, but she made kick-ass walnut brownies and then got vanilla bean ice cream and fresh blueberries and made this for dessert!:

Brownie points!

I’m going to pay it back to all of them by coming up with an amazing ride through the Snohomish area next weekend, along quiet farm roads, swooping hairpin curves and amazing scenery. More details to follow…

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Methow, and How!

24 May

we found lost river to be lovely in the sun...

Lucky ducks we, in that we went on vacation to the marvelous Methow Valley last weekend! We wound up in a nice cabin in the Lost River area, right on a little offshoot of the Methow River, with a kickass view:

To die for...

The sun was out, the air was springy crisp, I was positively shaking to get out on the hiking and biking trails. After we unpacked, we skeedaddled over to the West Fork trail (just off the road that takes you to Hart’s Pass) for a nice afternoon hike. Starting off from the trailhead it started to rain a pinch, but then it seemed the rain clouds were working their way westward, almost as if we were chasing them until eventually the sun prevailed and the whole landscape opened up in relief, as did our lungs. Scree slopes, snowy crags, wildflowers, pines, lightning-blasted pines, shingle, shale and through it all the roaring water. There were lots of blowdowns on that trail, requiring some circumspect circumnavigations, but gave some nice momentary pauses like these:

I laid down in the dirt for you on this one... I should at least get a thank you.

The pups and SurlyLady and I were happy to get out to stretch our legs after the long drive over Stevens Pass and up the Methow Valley from Chelan. Road trips are so much fun, full of iPod shuffle play, gas station Jolly Rancher candies, letting the dogs out to pee at rest stops, scary locals, slow non-locals, and that perfect feeling of propping your feet up on the dashboard and the crunch of driveway gravel when you get to your destination, the quick tour of the rental, marveling at this and that, the throwing of bags and gear on the bed. I’ll never get tired of them, especially the ones you can take in the Northwest. I love this place so much. You can take yer fancy Euro vacations and… wait, no I like those too.

Mountain climbing, in the Subaru small ring...

The second day we went on an amazing trail, Robinson Creek. There was a lot of climbing, and the views! Oh I couldn’t get enough of them. At one point we came across a washout spot with a roaring snow melt creek that was impassable… we didn’t want the pups to get swept up in the fast current and then off the mountain. So we grabbed a couple of logs and carefully wedged them in a few strategic spots in order to create a little bridge, careful not to worsen the situation by diverting water or further eroding the banks. This allowed us to go on for a few more miles until we ran into a series of snow fields that were progressively wider and deeper. Still a little early in the year for mountain hiking, but I was amazed at how far we were able to go into the Pasayten.

Later that day the SurlyLady drove me and the Vaya down to the Winthrop barn so that I could do some adventure riding. We ran into KonaLad and CannondaleLady (ha!) on the Lost River Road – they were riding up to see if they could find us. After chatting we continued on to Winthrop and I said goodbye to the SurlyGal. I was determined to find some gravel. And I did.

Pavement isn't forever, but solo careers can be...

Wolf Creek Road

Gravel Grinda Panda

I proceeded from the Winthrop Barn up to Sun Mountain and toodled around on the smooth singletrack of the Methow Community Trail. What a lovely ride that is! When the conditions are better (not as much flooding from snow melt everywhere) I want to go back and explore more. As it was I knew I was running out of time and hustled to find a way back up to Lost River. I exited the Methow Community Trail on a road that later became Wolf Creek Road, seen in the pictures above. This is a corker of a gravel grinder, with sharp short hills, rough road conditions and an isolated, beautiful setting. Wolf Creek ends on Hwy 20 and the Community Trail continues west. I hopped onto Hwy 20 to get some speed, and then took the Community Trail when I noticed it left the highway for an interior bent. Strangely the surface of much of that part of the Trail seemed to be made of multi-colored glass pieces; this was disconcerting at first, to say the least, and I spent a few minutes trying to avoid the shiniest spots while thinking, dang that’s a lot of broken bottles. But then I realized the whole trail was sprinkled with the stuff… my guess is it’s some kind of recycled material. This section of the Trail was fun, curvy, swoopy, and plenty dirt intensive, with views of mountains and the river. Soon I came to the Mazama Store and fortified myself, not with vitamins and minerals, but this kind of goodness

Mazama Store baked goods... like crack for a cyclist.

That place is dangerous. If I lived nearby full time I’d gain back all 115 pounds in no time! So ended my gravel adventure ride for the trip. The next day, Saturday, I hooked up with JamisLad, KonaLad and CannondaleLady (sheesh this anonymity stuff is tiring) for a ride up to Washington Pass. The road was still closed, and yet reportedly cleared up to the famous hairpin turn next to Washington Pass proper. Closed road! No cars! Not having to hug the shoulder while 18-wheelers whip past, threatening to blow you off the road entirely with their slipstream!

This ride is, in my mind, what it’s all about. JamisLad and I struck off from our friends who had said they weren’t going to go all the way up… we were yakking along and not really noticing the grade. Before the Lone Fir campground I mentioned, “Once we get past that campground, that’s when the real climbing begins!” which in retrospect was pretty darn funny to say. Up to that point I’d been feeling fine, a little tired as JamisLad and I had come up from Winthrop, but feeling pretty good. That steep grade just past Cutthroat Pass however was a brutal wake up call! But again, that’s what it’s all about for me… pain, suffering, sure a little bit, but adventure and achievement! We coasted to a stop to take a break, next to some gigantic snow crushing trucks, had a snack, and mulled things over. Should we continue up or not? To up the ante, we heard then saw a small avalanche of snow come tumbling down about 50 yards ahead of us. Yikes! But, having relaxed a little, we soldiered on, the scent of the destination in our noses, that feeling of “we’re almost there, let’s do it!”. I think if either one of us had said, “Eh, let’s turn around now” it would have been easy to do just that. JamisLad was kicking butt at this point on his compact double gearing, grinding away slowly, while I felt like Pepe le Peu in my granny gear, bouncing along merrily. Then I saw the hairpin area and got so excited and we started surging forward and ran into this:

Avalanche!

Bummer, we couldn’t go the last 100 yards to the hairpin! Oh well, it was still so worth it because very shortly we turned around and had an absolute ball going back down the mountain. With no cars around I just made for close to the middle of the road, didn’t touch the brakes, and whooped and hollered all the way back to the Lone Fir campground. I wanted to turn around and do it again!

Sunday,  with eyes bigger than my quads and calves, we took off for the Twisp River Road for some hiking. We’d intended to do a shorter route along the Southern rim of that valley, but the snow precluded this within 50 yards of the car. Instead we tried the northern side, the Scatter Lake trail to be exact, even though the 1988 edition of the Mountaineers book we had called it ‘grueling’ (80s hypberbole!). It was fairly grueling, but so much fun hiking with the pups. As we were driving back to Twisp I saw a road leading off to the North, Elbow Coulee, and remembered it from the map as part of a loop I’d like to do someday. We turned and found it to be a lovely little backroad route from the Twisp River Road up to Sun Mountain, bypassing the town of Twisp. Imagine a loop that wanders along the secluded Twisp River Road

Twisp River Road

then over this dirt/gravel combo:

Elbow Coulee

On up to Wolf Creek and then on to Mazama. That would be a fun ‘cross bike day indeed. I can’t wait to go back!

Heavenly Down Poor (aka Pope Inclement the Thurd)

13 Mar

It’s one thing to head out on your bike for a day-long adventure with the expectation that you’ll see some scattered or even certain showers. It’s another to know with certitude you’ll be soaked to the core within 5 minutes of your garage. Yuck!

Yesterday wasn’t so bad at all and in fact, at one point in the afternoon, I looked out the front window, said, “Hey, it stopped raining. And… OH MY GOD THE SUN’S COMING OUT!” Within seconds, the SurlyLady stopped packing her suitcases, the kettle was left whistling on the stove and two dog bowls spun round and round in concentric clatter as the four of us bolted outside, up the street a pinch and into the nearby field where SurlyLady threw a tennis ball and Cooper and I chased it and each other while Adelaide rolled her eyes. It was a glorious moment, a wedge of unsoaked splendor in an otherwise besodden gloom. I even thought about hopping on a bike for a short ride but the whiplash-sore neck and the wee bit of a snotty head cold seemed to argue otherwise, as did the ‘Lady.

Sunday, then, I said, shaking my fist angrily at the heavens, Sunday I’ll bloody well do it!

Well, we all know how that worked out. So what to do when you can’t go for a lovely ride in the countryside and you’re instead cooped up inside with the Cooper and the Adelaide who’s so snide? You go to Epulo (our new favorite place) and et:

Margherita bonita!

This is truly the best wood-fired tomato-and-basil pizza I’ve had since coming home from Italy. And then you et some mo:

Fig and blue pizza - Sort of like a Fig Newton Salad on a slice of heaven

And then you et just a wee bit more:

Handmade cinnamon donuts with caramel dipping sauce...

And then, when you get home, you’ll be so inspired you decide to make these, with a batch for your old team at work who were so kind as to take you to an Irish pub last Friday night, and and a batch for your new team whom you barely know yet:

Giant lemon cookies (to scale)

These are fun to make because you roll the little dough balls in a mixture of sugar and lemon(d) rind that’s been pulsed together, like a snickerdoodle with lemon instead of cinnamon!

Okay.

Burp.

Now I REALLY need to go for a long ride.

Navy Nurse Hum and Other Considerations

27 Feb

While it’s been snowing for a good part of last week, and as SurlyLady has mentioned, we’ve been bikeless lately – save for the spinning classes. Today it was yoga, and I feel all glow-y and peaceful-ly as I sit here, reflecting on all the stuff happening lately. Namely:

What *is* that humming noise at the beginning of the Fiery Furnace’s Navy Nurse, and that repeats with each massive bass and geetar twin riffing sequence? A Leslie speaker indirectly, the whir of the motor, or machine hum?

Holy crap: Wisconsin, and the Middle East? If a Poli Sci professor or grad student studying the liturgical surgical histories of revolutionary people, movements and means had gone into a coma in December and woke up today to read the NY Times they’d look around and ask the first person they saw, “WTF? Am I in some alternate universe?” In Wisconsin Republican Tea Partiers continue pulling propaganda wool over Fox News eyes but real people, with cheese on their heads, are actually rallying and civil disobediencing? As in like the 70s? And of course much deadlier, sadder and foundational, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya. I almost can’t believe my own eyes and I’ve been watching the increments each day. At work, a very smart co-worker who is only a larger stock portfolio and a few parenting years away from truly turning conservative (as it stands there are still a few whiffs of his younger liberal days drifting through now and then) is completely freaked out. Oil prices will disrupt our economic recovery! What if whackos get in charge! What if this, what if that! And I respond: if you want Democracy, it has to be self determining. And Democracy, and self determination, are messy things. This isn’t a plutocratic corporate oligarchic board meeting type of dealio, this is about people who are hungry, angry at bread prices rising (seen the crop failures in Russia, China and even stocks razor thin in US?)(remember panem et circenses?) who, if trained to be a teacher, are unemployed taxi drivers. And besides, wasn’t there a whole lot of noise just a few years ago, when the NeoCons were the au courant under a Republican administration and Congress, about how the whole Iraq war thingie was about bringing Democracy to the region, and that it and Afghanistan were just the start of this wave of populist uprisings etc? It wasn’t so freaky back then was… Oh, right. They never really meant it, did they?

Dinner tonight: SurlyLady is making Saag Paneer. Yum!

Biking isn’t the central biggest thing in my life: There, I said it. I’m diversifying. So while this crappy weather makes me frustrated I can’t get out on the roads, and while I still am spoke tension aimed at RAPsody and High Pass Challenge, I find myself just suddenly okay with not putting in 6000 miles a year. I’ll still ride, but it’ll maybe be more of the fun stuff, with the commensurate base miles even more fun than previously, less obligatory in other words. The last two winters I would bike commute in weather in the 20s, even down to 16 degrees one day. Back then I was obsessed with losing more weight and getting in shape, and I still needed it. Today my efforts are more at the refinement side. I even find myself not daydreaming as much about the longer Randonneur rides; the idea of riding two days straight sounds like a noble goal but it also just sounds like a lot of time commitment. My goals are less number driven and more quality driven, i.e. I want to be Fit, Strong, Healthy and… have fun doing it. Ultimately, for numbers, the more I can lose this winter and spring the better hill climbing I’ll do in summer. And for me, summer hill climbing will be the dessert on all this winter veggie base.

This isn’t to say I’m quitting. When nicer days roll around I’m going to be fairly twitching to get out on the Salsa Vaya or the Poprad – every time I go to do a load of laundry in the bike/utility room I look over at the bike stable and promise them that soon we’ll be out on the road seeing beautiful vistas. And this year, going even faster and further than before.

New job at work: I’ve been at the same company for over 13 years. The department I’ve been in has presented lots of challenges and learning opportunities (that’s the polite way of putting it). But the good news is I’m officially moving to a new department this week. I’m over-the-top excited about it! It’ll give me a chance to work on larger projects, with bigger budgets and teams, on matters that are more squarely on the heartbeat of the company (less back-of-the-house). Even better, our first major cap project will intentionally be run with Lean/Agile, which I have a great interest in, and fondness, for those few times I’ve been able to adapt pale pieces of it in my old department (they weren’t Lean/Agile, were more in fact Heavy/Inflexible). Best of all, I feel like I earned it. For the past 6 months I’ve become a serious student of how an IT org hires, plans for high potential/leadership tracks, how the process of growth and selection works, the science of that (and there is one, along with a lot of soft-skills art). I’ve gone out on a limb and scheduled chat meetings with a series of folks in leadership positions, higher and lower, for advice. I was surprised at the diversity of opinions and advice, but also took notes, particularly those things that every single manager was telling me: get into a different department, one where you’ll be recognized, and reach out for mentoring opportunities as much as you can. Circulate, in other words, get to know lots of people. All stuff I tended to dismiss previously, thinking more along the lines of “keep your nose down and work hard and rewards will come” and while the second part is still true, acting like an ostrich wasn’t getting me anywhere. All of this prepped the way for the interviews I had for this new job. I hadn’t had a real interview since 2005, and was awfully rusty. I started to consider those responses and qualities I would like to hear if I was hiring a project manager type; I exercised some of those general muscles that were out of use: meeting new people; talking about self, but not too much; looking engaged, informed, happy, passionate and centered all at the same time… and I nailed the interviews! They offered me the job at any rate. Starting immediately I believe I’ll see quite a difference in my daily stress count and, where there is stress, it won’t be wasted on repeated, remedial measures but instead spent on higher band quality issues. I’m super stoked.

All in all, even with the snow and freezing rain, life is full of Beatles mornings and Wings afternoons lately, and I can’t complain. But I will admit a good part of me is thinking ahead to these kinds of days:

Mountains, your Majesty


Epic Ride! To, uh, the QFC!

30 Jan

January’s been a toss. We rode the Centennial Trail for a hangover cure back at the beginning of the month, then spent the majority of the rest hunkered inside, peering fearfully out at the acid rain from slightly drawn curtains. When not doing that, we had carpet installed in the back half of the house, pulling out the old stuff in the not sweet master suite which had likely been there since 1998. The carpet and the not sweet master suite. Having carpet installed in half your house means you have to move half of your crap into the un-to-be-carpeted half. It’s a pain and a half.

Good news is, we were inspired recently by sites like that 57 Things joker that Bike Snob loves to pick on, sites where young people just out of college “discover” minimalism… and package it like it’s a multi level marketing pyramid… which they organically “discover” like it’s a totally new thing… it’s so cute, I have to say. Maybe one of them one day will spend a summer in a cottage near Walden Pond and then find, to their delight, while surfing on their iPad, that some old dude had done something similar way back in the paleolithic somethin somethin, some chap named Thoreau, and they’ll “discover” him and tweet all about it.

Where was I? Oh yeah, well in my day we had to walk 20 miles, uphill, in the SNOW, before we were allowed to be sarcastic.

Inspired as we were by this neu-minimalism (gosh, really they are so cute… maybe they’ll discover meditation, or, like, using coupons?… oh right, Groupon) and while packaging up all the crap in half of the house to store in the other half, we decided to streamline and get ourselves down to 5700 things. And I can with confidence admit the house is much, much better for the pruning. You just don’t need all that stuff. No, you don’t need the WWII magazines. No, you don’t need all those Martha Stewarts from the early oughts. No, you don’t need the paper invoice from your subscriptions to WWII Magazine and Martha Stewart Living, circa 2001.

But in slimming things down to 5700 items, and consequently re-arranging the entire house (that’s the new bedroom, this is the new cat crap box room and SurlyLad’s closet combo, that is SurlyLad’s new music room, this is the new dining room, this is the new TV room and office, that is my head exploding) and slimming down at yoga, spin and kickboxing classes, we just haven’t had much time lately to do anything outside. I do worry this bodes ill for the big bike riding plans this spring. We need base miles, not home-base trials.

And other commitments: every Saturday morning our two pups look at us like they have some kind of biological clock that tells them ‘Ah, hell’s yes it’s Saturday and you owe us a trip to Marymoor Park, you BEEPING BEEPS’. Then when that doesn’t work they bring the slippers and The Economist. When that doesn’t work they make us coffee. When that doesn’t work they go to the sad eyes, and so we spend hours driving to-and-from from Redmond… and not a single software programmer in the car. It’s sad.

But today, in between errands and errant errand intentions, I was damned and determined we were going to get on our bikes… at least for a little ride. Baby steps, baby. So there I was tooling along in the Toyota truck (that’s one of the 5700 items; does that count as one, or do I have to include the engine and the radio etc?) with the windows down, the KZOK blasting, and the cool springtime breeze blowing around with sun breaks and happiness. Then there I was walking with the SurlyLady and the two pups all the way up to the dog park here in Mountlake Terrace, with sun shining down, and barely needing that jacket, yo. And then there I was as it started lightly rain snowing and the sun went away and our noses turned red and runny and suddenly it wasn’t funny or sunny. And yet! After drinking some warm tea and looking at pictures of randonneurs (rando porn) I shrugged off the January blues and declared that, what we really needed, what the world really needed, was some of SurlyLady’s amazing mini lemon cupcakes!

So we got out the old bikes, didn’t even bother to check the tires or anything else for that matter, stumbled unfamiliarly through the bike tog routine (Where’s my other glove? What’s this stupid metal thingie on the bottom of this shoe? And where’s the other shoe with the stupid metal thingie on the bottom of it?) and hit the freezing road, pushing off into a stiff breeze in 39 degrees, on a quest to go to the QFC for some lemons, buttermilk and powdered sugar. Brrr.

Surly-i-cicle Cycle.

But the good news is we made it home from the epic ride. It wasn’t even long enough to warm up the old bones. Poor SurlyLady looked so cold. For my part, it felt great to get out on a bike, even for a 5 mile ride. Then it was back to re-arranging the house, cooking up some beets, parsnips, salmon and bread, and then of course, these for the kicker:

When life hands you lemon cupcakes, you make lemon cupcake crumbs.

Blueberries (and Hills)

22 Aug

What a nice lazy day! Woke to the sound and later the sight of rain. Enough to form rivulets off the roof. SurlyLady went off to volunteer at the Burlington Goat Factory (heh) and I stayed home to hang out with the pups and watch some depressing documentaries, all about man folk who stay home to hang out with the pups and watch depressing documentaries.

Then I snapped out of it (at the same time in the documentary when the subject snapped out of his torpor, weird that) and said, with one finger pointed inspirationally upward, “I shall go to the Farmer’s Market (swell of music) and buy some froo-it!” The dogs shared a look. “What?” I asked, wounded. They pretended to not know what I was talking about.

So I went to the Lake Forest Farmer’s Market where I purchased a purple pepper, onion, carrots, radishes, redleaf, and a ton of blueberries and raspberries. My sudden inspiration earlier was to go get some froo-it and freeze it, so that when the rainy season starts (monsoon hits Seattle around September and lasts for the next 9 months when we have a bouncing baby spring, born late!) we can reach in the freezer and grab a little bit of summer goodness. Here’s what they look like tucked into the freezer, the poor wee ‘uns:

Summer goodness, about to be frozed to death.

On the way back home, I noticed a text from JamisLad – DY wn2 ride 2day??

Hell’s yes! So JL drove up north with his newish Jamis Quest, which looks awesome, and leading out from my house he proceeded to spank it all the way down to Sammamish River Trail and Marymoor, bunny hopping over bumps like a pro. Dude’s got legs like pistons! There were times when he’d switch gears that I could literally see his back tire rubber compound almost deform the way that dragsters do. On the way back from Marymoor, we took a detour up the Woodinville hills and he was sprinting the whole way. What a motor!

Wound up being a perfect ride, everything had that fresh-from-the-rain smell, sun was out, nice puffy clouds here and there… in short, a consummate goldilocks ride, not too long, not too short, just right.

Now my main mission this week is to get a few ride commutes in, a gym session or two to loosen up this old guy’s body, and above all, sleep, sleep and more sleep… all in prep for RAPSody next Saturday.

this little piggy went to the farmer’s market

13 Jun

So the lad packed up a suitcase full of dollar bills and jetted off to Vegas, leaving me to drown my sorrows with beer and baked goods. Tonight, while he’s probably treating some showgirl named Destinée to all-u-can-eat shrimp at the Howard Johnson, I’ll be chowing down on this humble crumble made with fruit from today’s farmer’s market:

it's what's for dinner

We’re really lucky to have an awesome farmer’s market so close to home. I strolled through the stalls in the blessed sunshine, talked to the people who grew all these gorgeous veggies in Monroe, Mt. Vernon, Duvall – probably farms I’ve ridden right past on countless bike rides. Today the rhubarb really spoke to me:

psst...I'm delicious

So strawberry-rhubarb crumble it had to be. A little sugar, a little cornstarch, a little lemon, super-sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb—all of a sudden it seemed like summer might actually be here after all:

It brings a little tear to my winter-weary eye. As did the crumb on this puppy—there were some serious boulders of sugary goodness:

Hopefully it’ll be enough to lure the lad home – unless Destinée’s boulders are better. Harrumph.