Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hemi's Sunday Adventure

A varying group of us have been riding on Sundays for a few years. We generally meet at the Coon Rapids dam along the Mississippi and follow West River Road to downtown Minneapolis. We meet up with other riders at the historic Stone Arch Bridge. This past Sunday was the inaugeral 2011 Sunday ride, for me anyway. However, we couldn't take our usual West River Road route, due to the tornado damage of two weeks ago. These Sunday rides are usually led by Hemi, (also known as Dave). Hemi had spoke to Berger, another Sunday disciple, who meets us at the Stone Arch. An alternative route was formulated. We would cross the Coon Rapids dam to the East side of the river, and make our way to downtown Minneapolis. We got across the dam with no problems. We could see and hear the roar of the swollen river going through the dam locks. All that water flooding parts South. The other side of the dam is a regional park. The entire road system is tore up. All dirt. Not exactly road bike friendly. But, there is the paved bike trail that runs alongside the river. 

We went about a mile at most, and came upon this. The Mississippi had overflowed the banks. Now what?

Hemi is thinking real hard. He is trying to envision new a route in his mind.
He said he knows where to go...

Off we went, on a muddy trail that turned vertical. Would have been perfect if we had mountain bikes! Oh well, it's all part of the adventure, right?

We finally made it to the Stone Arch, where we picked up Berger. Berg is great to ride with, because he loves to talk about food! He also is the only rider I know that can eat a Holiday egg muffin in the middle of a ride and keep going strong. He also has several mansions scattered about the Twin Cities. It's always fun to ride past one of them. Not that we ever get invited in.
This is CJ. Mountain biker extrordinaire. He has been one of the hardest working people that I know of helping to build the new mtb course in Elm Creek. I think he's planning on putting in a 50 foot jump ramp, but, only if JT will give him the elevation necessary. CJ's nickname is Griz. That story is for another day.

We take off from the Stone Arch, heading to St. Paul, taking in the sites (read: pretty female runners around St Kate's). We get to the state capitol and head to the Gateway Trail. After a few miles we run into this:
Berger is up front. There are multiple trunks of the tree to negotiate.
CJ finds that maybe it is easier to go underneath, rather then up and over!

We finally get going again and hit the Holiday Service Station in White Bear Lake. Sure enough, Berger gets his egg muffin sandwich! We head on up the trail till we get to MN Hwy 96, and head back to White Bear.
You don't ride this route without stopping at the Cup and Cone! Hemi and Berger split a sub. CJ and I split a "kiddie sub."
Berg on the left, Hemi on the right. Remember, it wasn't 45 minutes ago that Berg ate an egg muffin!
This route is officially called the "Chile Dog", because of the availability of chile dogs at the Cup and Cone. I think Amy is the only person to eat one and continue riding! We're still about 20 miles from home.

The rest of the ride was so-so. A little rain, I had a flat, and then we couldn't find our way back across the Mississippi. Other then that, it was great!

Final tally was 83 miles. Didn't break any speed records, but, who cares when you have an adventure?

If you want to see the GPS route, click on the link:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Geez, been a while.

 Four months is a long time not to post anything. Part of it is facebook. It's just so simple and quick to let out your opinions or post a photo. I'm also disappointed with how the blog operates. Some changes happen and I don't understand why. What happened last time was that no one can post comments. I have no idea why. I've never changed my settings and I've checked them at least a half dozen times. There is no place to get help, except through forums, which have never been a good source for me. You either get someone talking in geek-speak or some one asking a question who's even dumber then I am. So much for my ranting. Here are some food photos. I still haven't done my Anguilla post, and people have been asking about that. I appreciate your comments! Even though you have to email me or tell me is person....

See, it just happened again! I tried to preview the blog, something I've done dozens of times. I hit the preview button, a new window opened up, and the window is blank! That's part of the reason I quit writing on this. Things you've done for 3 years all of a sudden quit working for no effing reason.

Ron and his wife Sue came over to celebrate Ron and my birthdays. I promptly put Ron out on the deck to fry up some sunfish that I had left from last summer. I was in the kitchen cooking risotto.

The meal: fried sunfish, risotto, and a 7 layer salad! Awesome!

Last night I fried up some scallops in olive oil and butter. Get the oil pretty hot and then sear the scallops about 3 minutes on each side.

Finish with some sea salt and ground pepper, and you have a delightful side dish.

I don't know if I've posted any pictures of Henry on the blog. After Charlie died, we spent a lot of time looking for a replacement. Through sheer luck, we discovered the lady that bred Charlie's mom. So, our Henry has about 7% of Charlie's blood line in him!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Blizzards, blow jobs, beer, and chicken tikka masala

I knew the blow jobs would grab your attention, those of you with your mind in the gutter. I mean snow blow jobs! We all survived (we being everyone besides the Metrodome) a pretty decent blizzard. Haven't seen that much snow in ages. My deck is officially out of commission, fully loaded with about 3 feet of snow drifted on it. This includes my grill, which I use year round. It will be sometime before I get all that snow removed! It will have to be chopped, lifted, carried, and thrown over the side of the rails. A good workout, for sure. Anyway, back to the snow blow jobs. Three of us neighbors got together several years ago and bought a snow blower. Neighbor Norm finished up his driveway around 4:30 Saturday, I donned my snowmobile suit and headed over to get the machine and take care of our driveway. I was done by 6:00, and had worked up a powerful thirst! I also had plans on making an Indian dinner, chicken tikka masala, for the first time. I didn't take pictures of the dinner process. I was having too much fun swilling, cooking, and listening to the Beatles.

Here is the recipe:

Chicken Tikka:
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain whole yogurt (low fat yogurt will work, but whole is best)
2 Tbl veg oil
2 med garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbl grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce
3 Tbl veg oil
1 1/4 cups diced onion
2 med garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 serrano chile, minced (heat will vary, if you keep the seeds and membrane, it will be hotter)
1 Tbl tomato paste
1 Tbl garam masala (a fragrant spice blend found in some stores or specialty shops)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cream
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.

2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.

4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

And, as a salute to the blizzard and to my amigo Bob, I purchased some special beer for the evening:

All in all, not a bad evening!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pork Stew with Fennel and Butternut Squash

I've made lots of stews, and particulary love this type of dish on a winter Sunday. And as we all know, it's always better the next day! So, when I saw this recipe in Lunds & Byerly's Real Foods, (my employer), I had to give it a try. Now, I love fennel, the dry spice. I use it in just about every pasta dish I make. Whether it's tomato or olive oil based, fennel is in there. I don't use a lot, just enough to know it's there. However, I've never used fresh fennel, which kinda looks like celery dressed as a hooker. Now, when I cook a recipe for the first time, one of my rules is to follow the directions and don't change the ingredients! (my wife doesn't agree) However, when I took my list of ingredients to Byerly's to shop, I came across a couple things that caused me to change course a bit. The recipe calls for 4 oz of pancetta, which is Italian bacon. Well, that 4 oz was going to cost nearly $8. Hmm, I thought regular bacon would be just fine, plus I had some at home already. Then I got to the fresh fennel, located in the produce aisle. The recipe called for "4 large bulbs." I'm still not sure what a bulb is, but, one stalk was almost $3. Since I hadn't used it before, I didn't know how strong it was, and I sure as hell didn't want to spend $12 on it. I bought one stalk or bulb. The recipe called for a 4 lb butt pork roast. No butt roast in the meat case, but, boneless pork chops were buy one get one free. Good enough for the girls we go with! So, with all this said I will print the recipe as written in the book, and will tell you what changes I made. Oh, I suppose I should tell you, it is a wonderfull dish! I've made it twice now. It goes into the rotation at our house. It definitely feeds the bear!

Spice Rub:
3 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp fennel pollen or ground fennel (never heard of the pollen, I used a spice mill on whole fennel)

4 lb pork shoulder (Boston butt) roast, trimmed and cut into 3" chunks
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
3 cups chopped onion
2 Tbl chopped garlic
3 cups pork or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
4 large fennel bulbs, leafy part trimmed and chopped, bulb cut into chunks
5 cups butter nut squash
salt and pepper to taste

Combine rub spices.
Cut meat into 1" chunks (this is where I used the boneless chops). Toss the cubed meat pieces with rub. The original instructions didn't specify. I left them season for a couple hours.

Fry the diced pancetta (or bacon) in a dutch oven. Brown for 10-15 minutes. Remove from pan, add 1/2 of the rubbed pork pieces. Brown for 10 minutes, stirring a couple times. Remove browned meat and repeat with other 1/2 of pork.

Add onions and garlic to the pan, cook for 10 minutes. Add stock, wine, and tomatoes. Add pork and pancetta to pan. Turn oven to 325. When the pot starts to boil, take it off. Put a cover on the pan and bake for 90 minutes.

After you've placed the pan in the oven, now it's time to peel and cut the squash into chunks. When you finish that, chop the fennel as directed. After 90 minutes, take the pan out of the oven. Add the squash and the fennel to the pot, stir into liquid. Put the cover back on and bake for 30-45 minutes. All you want to do is cook the squash so it's done, but not mush. The original directions say to remove everything from the pot, skim off the fat, and cook the liquid down if too thin. The boneless chops are very lean, and not much grease was on top. I thought the liquid was just fine, so I haven't done that either time I've made it.

So here is what I used:
2 1/2 lbs of pork, and only 1/2 the rub seasonings.
Bacon instead of pancetta
1 bulb of fennel
Home canned tomatoes, which 1 jar weighed 17 oz.
All the wine, stock, and garlic.
2 cups of onion.
I just bought a squash and used it all. What the hell you going to do with a partial squash?

This stew has a great flavor, very different from anything else of this type of baked dish. I think 4 bulbs of fennel would be too much. The one head plus the dry fennel are perfect. This made enough for 2 meals for the two of us.

Boneless pork chops.

Seasoned pork.

Fennel, onion, bacon, porn squash, fresh canned tomatoes from my neighbor, Karla, and red wine.

Browned pork and bacon. Chopped garlic, fennel, and chicken stock.

Peeled and cubed squash, with the fennel.

After the meat bakes for 90 minutes, stir in the squash and fennel. Bake, covered, for 30-45 minutes.

Mmmmm good!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Landmarks in Elm Creek

The new trails in Elm Creek are coming along quite nicely. There are some sections that are ridable, although, I'm not sure how much we should be in there. The fact that it's been extremely dry has been good for the trail. I've seen other tire tracks on the trail, but, no damage because of use. Bob and I spoke with the contractor today, he didn't have any problems with us being in there. Some of the stuff I rode last week that was fresh has been tamped down and is great for riding.  The 2-3 miles that are hard packed already have some distinct land marks. I took a camera in on Sunday and took a few shots.

What else can you call this, but the bucket in a tree?

Big ass tree.

There are several rocks on the trail, this is just one of them. None stand out, yet. I'm sure that eventually some rider will nail one with a tire or pedal!
The Narrows. A short stretch of trail with trees close together. Anyone flying through better be paying attention!
Elm Creek Roundabout. 3 trees angled outward with a big dead one in the middle. You have to go around the big tree to follow the trail. So far, it's my favorite landmark.

It will be fun to see and ride the trail as more work is complete. I've been waiting for this for 17 years!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Chequamegon 2010: Cramping my style....

I've done the Chequamegon 40 mile mountain bike race 6 times now. I love all there is about it. My friends that race it. My friends that come to watch. The hundreds of people that watch all along the way. The feeling that you get when you come down that last hill and make the big "U" turn and climb back up the hill and cross the finish line. Even though I finish way in the back, I still can hear my buddies hollering my name as I pedal that last 50 yards or so to the finish. That is a simple joy that always makes me smile. Competition for some, but the joy of pedaling for most everyone else, myself included. So what drives me crazy is cramps. It doesn't matter how good or how bad I feel, I always get cramps around mile 32.

This year, my heart rate was too high the first 15 miles, but then it settled down and I felt great. My bike was performing fabulously. My full suspension bike loved the rocky, rutted out fire roads, and I found myself passing people on these rougher stretches. The week in Breckenride, CO was paying off in that respect. But, in the back of my mind I kept thinking, when are the cramps going to hit? As usual, after Firetower Hill, at about the 32 mi mark, I had my first spasm in my left quad. I stayed on the bike and massaged it out. Rode for another mile and they hit again. I got off the bike for a few minutes and rubbed it out. This seemed to be the pattern. Ride a mile, get cramps, massage, ride another mile, get cramps. I started walking up hills that I would have no problem pedaling, trying to keep them at bay. I finally thought I had it made, but, they hit again so bad I was off the bike about 2 mi from the finish. After they subsided, I pedaled until 1/2 mi left, all I had to do was ride down the hill and back up to the finish. They hit hard, again my left quad and then my left hamstring at the same time. I had thrown the bike down on the ground, and a spectator was holding my bike, encouraging to me "just throw your leg over and hop on, you'll be fine, only 1/2 mile left!" The guy obviously never had cramps before. Finally, I got on and made it the last 1/2 mi. I was so disappointed to see the time, 3:45. My slowest race ever, and 15 minutes slower then last year. At one point during the race, I felt so good, I was hoping for a personal best. Effing cramps. They have taken the joy out of the race for me. Part of me wants to quit doing the race, because the pain and frustration are so great, year after year.

But, then I think of all the things I love about the race, the things I listed earlier. I decided that I'm not going to let 15-20 minutes of cramps change my love of the race. Bastards! I'll just keep researching cramps and trying to find the right concoction of electrolytes or witch's brew that works. Here's something I found that I may try. Even though the company is in New Zealand, they have a distributor in Canada and the US. Maybe it'll be the Kiwi solution for 2011.

Anyway, here is a short pictorial of Chequamegon 2010. Leading off is Dave...

Dave finished 92nd overall, 82nd in his age group. GREAT RIDE!!
You made us all proud.

Loading up Friday.

This cabin beat the hell out of the one we stayed in last year!

John and Bob trying to figure out where all of our crap is going to go.

Dave is contemplating 2:30, Bill is contemplating his "own personal hell."

Matt making salad.

The group. Thanks to Madonna, Berger, Larry, and CJ for taking the time to ride up and support us!
Photo taken by Luke.

My email buddy, Scott. We finally got to meet face to face!

A little bit muddy.

Loading up Sunday morning. Four bikes and gear.

Sunday morning, just before we left.

The weekend was dedicated to our good friend, Larry Cain. One thing we always said about Larry, that guy could ride!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Breck 2010 or, picking up guys in a bar is a good thing...

Well, the bride and I arrived in Breckenridge on Sunday afternoon Aug 29. Got into our condo and headed off to the Breckenridge Brewery. This has been a tradition of sorts for several years, to go there on the first night. We've gotten to know a couple of the bartenders and we've had good conversations sitting at the bar meeting new people as well. This year was no different. I was speaking to a young couple on their honeymoon from Wisconsin. A few snippets of our conversation: "We got married in the spring, but, we're farmers and couldn't get away till now." "I was never in a plane before until last week." "Driving in the mountains is pretty scary." "It sucks that you have Brett Favre, ha, ha, ha!" Actually, they were very nice, and the fact that they made their own organic ice cream was interesting to me, since we were once in that business. I even managed to steer the conversation to mountain biking. Imagine that. Diane was engaged in a conversation with a couple on her side of the barstools. The husband came over to me and said he heard me talking bikes, and asked if we could ride together the next day. I said sure. Turned out he was from New Jersey, and had been out there a few days celebrating his wife's 50th birthday. Chris and I decided to meet the next morning and rent bikes. I knew where I wanted to go, and that was up the Burro trail, to a place called Crystal Lake. The elevation is over 12,000 feet.

Here's Chris and I after the ride. We never made it to Crystal Lake. It was drizzling and cold, with patchy fog. Neither of us were dressed for that type of weather. We decided it would be much smarter to head back down. We still managed to get well over 11,000 feet. Riding with Chris was fun. He's similar to me, more of a roadie then mtb, but likes both sports. He's also a veteren of the Mt. Washington Road Race in New Hampshire.
Chris had great legs for the climbs on the Burro trail, but the altitude was getting to him as well! After the ride, we went to Rasta Pasta with our wives and had the Natural Mystic, a curry pasta dish with chicken and pineapple. They had bananas added to it was well. Chris, it was great to ride with you, let's do it again next year!

The 2nd night, we went back to the Breckenridge Brewery, because I knew Dave was bartending. The picture above is from last year. He offered to take me out last year and I chickened out. This year, he asked me again, and I decided I better take him up on his offer. He took me on trails I hadn't ridden before, which was a welcome change. I don't have any pictures of our ride, because I was chasing him the whole time. He runs a single speed 32x18 gear, and he climbed every hill without a problem. He's a very strong rider (and patient as well). We ended up with about 20 miles. It was a lot of fun to have someone to ride with and to see new trails. A big thanks to Dave for taking me out.

On Friday, I decided to re-ride some of the trails that Dave took me out on. I wanted to get some photos of the trails. There are 3 Flume trails, Upper, Middle, and Lower. We rode all 3. We also went on the Colorado, and Blair Witch Trails. The photos below are all Flume trails.

Dave kept telling me I needed to rent a Santa Cruz "Tall Boy". It's a full carbon, full suspension, 29" bike.
It was comfortable and rode great. I'm not sure I like the 29r style bike for short, steep switch backs. It would be great here in the mid-west. I'll have to try it again next year.

On Thursday, I decided to try and climb to Crystal Lake again. As you can see by the photo above, it was a glorious day! I rented a Yeti ASR 5 full carbon, full suspension 26" bike. This bike was incredible! I rode it for two days and loved it. It would be my next bike.
This is part of the "road" to Crystal Lake. The lake is about 1/2 mile from this point. I was only able to ride about 1/3 that distance.

You can read the elevation, 12,015 feet. I started out at 9,608. It took me 2h 7m to go 6.3 miles! Now, I did stop and take many pictures and videos along the way, but, that probably accounted for 15 minutes. I have videos posted below this posting.
I love this spot! This is part of the Baker's Tank trail. It's interesting because the trail turns red after being gray, and it's only red for a short distance. That's the Yeti leaning on the rock, Beely style!
I took this shot on the Sallie Barber mine road. I missed the turn and had to double back. This is a valley and there are a few nice house back in there. I have no idea how they access their homes in the winter. The road isn't too bad, but, I can't imagine how much snow they must get.

It was a great trip again this year. I was able to ride a bike all 5 days we were there. Thanks to my wife for being so understanding! I also want to thank John, Rich, and Mark at Avalanche Sports. The kept me in bikes and gave me a fabulous deal on the rentals. Thanks guys!

I have several videos posted below, please check them out!