Doing it all the hard way...

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Apple Butter time at Casa de Evo

We have a Transparent Apple Tree in our backyard.  Just to be clear, the tree is not transparent, it is a tree that grow a variety of apples known as transparent apples.
First we wash them in the sink.
Then I use this awesome tool Hottie got from Williams Sonoma.
Then you chop them up and put them in a big pot with a tiny bit of water and turn on the heat.
After a while it gets gooey.
Then you wail on it with a potato masher.  You now have applesauce.  Lots of applesauce.
It then goes into the crockpot.
See it even says, "Crock~Pot"  
After cooking all night you get up and the goo is dark and thick.  It is now apple butter.  Put it into sterile jars and you have jars of apple butter.   

A full shopping bag of apples turns into eight quarts of cut up apples in a pot which turns into four quarts of applesauce which becomes two quarts of apple butter.

After moving into our house the tree did nothing until 2008 when we had a monster crop of apples. Then little or nothing until 2013 and here we are.  The transparent apple is also known as "The June Apple" as it drops in late June and early July.  If you ask me I would call it the five year apple.  As I recall you didn't ask me.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Volcanoes Day 5 Take me home country roads

The last day we needed something extra to make it through the stage.

In the Tour de France they drink champagne on the final stage. We weren't in France this year, we were in AMERICA !

Although day four had been easier, the toll of four days of epic riding had caught up with each of us. When it caught up with us it attacked and dropped most of us. Many of us had diminished appetites. That was either a sign that we hadn't burned as many calories on day four, or a sign that our bodies were just giving up and shutting down. I'm just sayin'.

Despite the fun we were anxious to get going and get done. We ate, put on our costumes and assembled out in front of the hotel as the mortals stared at us in wonder. For those who watched us diligently, they probably learned a thing or two about chamois cream application. One of our group remarked on day four that while you can't put on too much chamois cream, you can put it in the wrong place. If you want to know who said it, I am withholding his name to protect the guilt

MP's kit was voted "best asphalt camouflage." He pretty much disappeared when he got a hundred years away from other riders.

See ?

While this may look like a picture of Big John farting, it in fact is not. Someone had pointed out something out in nature and we thought we would all stop and look at nature. Some of us set our bikes down and some did not. We decided to call it a "natural break." After viewing nature many of us would stretch. My guess is I caught John beginning his stretch.

We had a lot of miles in thick forest. We were glad for the cool morning. The hot sun was coming.

I don't know if it was fatigue, or if I was losing my mojo in convincing myself that I should continue to push even as my legs said things that would make a sailor blush, or perhaps my fun to suffer ratio had finally reached its tipping point; but I just didn't want to dig very deep.

Upon reaching Old Man Pass I was my turn to drive and I was glad to take a shift. As the rest of our band departed I put the last of the food away, jumped in the drivers seat and paused.

It was quiet and still. It was really quiet. The closest I had experienced to quiet was riding solo on some of the climbs, but even then I was moving and the sound of my drivetrain (pretty quiet) and the wind passing over me were my companions. This silence was rejuvenating and I soaked it in for a minute or two.

Then it was time to chase the riders and prep for the next food stop. There was a long hot climb and I wanted to make sure everyone had enough water. I stopped a couple times and handed out some bottles

McWoodie wants some whiskey..

McWoodie reaching for the whiskey in the back pocket of Brad's jersey.

Hank and The MP hotting up
The VFW makes its way up the climb.
The climb was hot and I filled some bottles for my mates.
Note the "shine"
Finally a break and Michael disappears.
Cooked !
After giving some water to those who needed it most I zipped to the front and set up the final food stop. Out comes the table and then pretzels, bread, Nutella, peanut butter, cheeses, salt tablets, tomatoes and salt, mixed nuts, cold water, the list goes on. As the riders arrived I was impressed at the small size of the the time gaps. I put my riding shoes back on and someone else took their turn to drive.
We had twenty six miles left on our trip and I thought to myself, "we can be at the cars in less than an hour..." Off we went and contrary to our "take it easy" talk, it was a bit of a drag race. I was impressed with my max speed on the descent being in the upper forties until Dave E confessed he hit fifty seven mph.
In less than an hour we were done. We had become well drilled at packing and unpacking and in just a few minutes we were on the road.
There was time for one final indulgence...
They say that when all is said and done, a lot more is usually said than was ever done. In the case of this journey, we did more than I can say. We buoyed each other when needed and kidded each other when that was appropriate. I will, however, stop short of any band of brother comparisons.
Riding four hundred and fifty miles isn't easy, but it was the preparation where the hard work really took place. From McWoodie sending dozens and dozens of emails to set up hotels and coordinate us to El Jefe's "we need more pickles" pre-trip Costco run, all these made the trip easy for the rest of us. The Saturday morning rides that got longer and longer and the solitary miles each of us logged so we wouldn't die on this trip were a key to success. It was kind of cool that we could count on each other to be ready for the trip in every way. We only had three flat tires while covering more than five thousand miles (combined).
Maybe some of the other guys didn't miss a beat, but I took off five days before riding. This was a hard trip and my body is still either recovering, or trying to figure out what the heck I was trying to do.
Next up......
Cyclocross ! !


Volcanoes Day 4 Down to the river to pray

There were lots of roads like this on the way down..
We awoke to the sound of skiers clomping across the parking lot to get on the ski lifts. With "spring-like" conditions my guess is the goal was to start early and end early before the snow got too soft.
Speaking of soft; by this time our bodies were in full rebellion. I could hear my legs complaining, "We put up with the long miles and the big training push in June. What the hell is THIS?" I had slept better but still could have dozed another hour if I had been given the chance. We were all excited about the prospects of an easier day.
It says a lot about the trip when eighty five miles with only four thousand two hundred feet of climbing is an easy day. In an attempt to keep the identities of the guilty private, I will only say there were intense discussions about chamois cream and skin "repair." On this trip more than one hotel found an inferior pair of shorts in their trash cans upon our departure.
Feral Dave had different plans as a commitment required him to ride to Portland to catch a train back to Seattle. I took a morning walk and found him getting ready with a Zen-like focus. His attention was so focused that I snuck up from behind and grabbed his bike and hid behind a mini van. When he noticed the missing bike he looked around with genuine concern until our eyes met. His expression then changed and what it changed to is between he and Evo.
I continued to walk around and enjoy the views
That is until I discovered they had COFFEE !
Coffee and cycling are like peas and carrots
After another breakfast that left our server in awe we prepped to leave.
McWoodie is ready to roll !
Check out the salt deposits on my Road ID. I washed it out the evening of Day 4
It was still early and despite being 6,000 feet above sea level it was warm. We descended in shorts and nobody was cold. The road was way more fun to ride down than it was coming up in the hot sun the afternoon before.

After getting down to Government Camp we went along a highway for another forgettable stretch. Finally we were on lightly travelled roads where we could either spread out or go fast. The smart thing would have been to take it easy. We weren't that smart.
Big John's seat was smarter than us this day. We drilled it.
We were rewarded for our efforts by good roads.
Crowne Point viewpoint parking lot. This was pretty typical of our stops. Food water and adoring fans.
Big John and Hank above the Columbia (we aren't sweaty yet).
The easterly descent was as scenic as it was fast.
By now there was a layer of low clouds that kept us cool.
Le Pirate enjoys some bike trail as we parallel I-84.

If you could look over the freeway, the views were impressive
It was fun to ride as a peloton for most of the day.
Even so, some felt compelled to maintain a small gap.
We passed under the highway...
We crossed the Columbia on The Bridge of the Gods again. This time there was a strong wind blowing from the west. As you recall the bridge deck is a steel grate and our tires were squirrelly in the wind. The wind dictated than we lean to the left as if we were CNN commentators. Brad ducked into the draft of Big John like a pilotfish seeking shelter. Evo took the sprint as we crossed back into Washington.
This was more of a processional as the trail for the final miles dictated a mellow pace.
As we approached the hotel we were back on the road. Our pace slowly ratcheted up and when we made the turn the race was on. Brad had launched early and had a gap but the rest of the "plastic boys" were closing. As the road turned Brad kept the hammer down and took the win.
We arrived at the hotel to find that not all of our rooms were ready. Hank and Michael (The MP) had gone on ahead and Big John was worried if they were okay as we didn't see them when we arrived at the hotel. I assured him that Hank was resourceful and worrying about his well being was a waste of effort.
Sure enough soon there was a knock on the door which revealed a grinning Hank clad in a white cotton robe having just returned from the sauna. He looked like Hugh Hefner in his heyday. Big John acknowledged his worry had been misplaced.
The shorter distance and moderate climbing had resulted in a arrival before four in the afternoon. We tool the time to watch the stage of the Tour de France and relax.
My room had this neat oak bike stand. While not what I am used to, it worked just fine for lubing my chain (note the blue glove and dirty rag below the chainring).
We had a nice dinner and for the first time we didn't all order two entrées. We had our jersey presentations and had a gentlemen's agreement not to pip jerseys on the final day of our grand tour. We noted that we were down to eleven with the departure of KB on day two and Feral Dave on day four.
The easier day was a welcome treat and knowing there was only one more day of riding gave us the confidence that we would all make it. Hank was sporting a sore Achilles and all of us had sore legs and tired southern exposures.
We set alarms and fell into bed. It was a fun trip and finishing the next day wasn't too early, nor too late.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Volcanoes Day 3 "Not a pretty girl in the bunch"

Our destination in the distance..

The alarm came early on the third day of our odyssey. In addition to the volume of riding the change in eating and sleeping habits was catching up with me and several of our clan. We shuffled off to breakfast and consumed oats, eggs, pancakes, French toast, fruit and notable quantities of coffee.

Ready to roll !!

The packing of bags and saddling up went quickly as we had all independently found our individual routines. We knew it would be hot and we drank as if there would be no food stops.

Brad found something even more comfortable than his saddle !

We crossed over into Oregon on The Bridge of the Gods.

It looked like this straight down.

It looked like this if you didn't look down.

Rolling through the town of Cascade Locks two codgers stopped their waddling as we rode past. They studied us intently and as the last of us passed one said to the other, "Not a pretty girl in the bunch." I guess they were hoping for some sexy females in Lycra and we were, therefore, a severe disappointment.

Despite our planning, we had to ride a short stretch on I-84.

This sucked.

Soon enough we were off the highway and waiting as our driver had to return to the hotel to get his forgotten laundry. In about ten minutes he arrived and we were filling bottles and eating Nutella slathered bread and sliced tomatoes liberally salted.
We rode right past the world headquarters of Tallman Ladders. If you are tall enough you don't even need a ladder. Right?

The terrain looked like California and the hot dry air only confirmed that impression. We spread out as nobody was in a hurry because the day would only get hotter and the road would only get steeper. Pushing it here made as much sense as arriving early to your own flogging.

The transition from high desert to forest was very gradual. My arms glistened with sweat and looking down my legs were likewise sweaty. I was drinking and taking on salt and electrolytes. We were all chomping our own personal poisons. I was downing Clif Shot Bloxs, DG was going through Stinger Waffles.

Glancing at my gloves I noticed white salt deposits on the few black spots on my gloves. Dave E calls them sea monsters because they do take on weird shapes. I looked at my shorts and they also had salt marks. This would be a good day to wear my helmet into the shower and rinse the yuck out of that.

After a long dry stretch we were due for a van stop at the top of a pass and when we arrived, nobody was there. This was NOT the time to have another van screw up. We debated for less than a minute and rolled on. We descended and the rushing air cooled us. When the road turned upward in a few miles we settled into what I will call "quiet resignation" pace. Someone else called it survival pace. It was hot and we were out of water.

We climbed and descended and climbed again. Based on the signs we were getting close to something.

We came to the turn off to for the final six mile climb to Timberline lodge and at the very moment I was weighing the option of riding without water for another hour or waiting I spotted the van.

I filled bottles and drank one right there and filled it again. I found some calories and ate as I listened to the explanation from the errant driver. It reminded me of a friend who called his group "the lost patrol." We had made it and I was on the path back to hydration, so all was forgiven.

The climb to the top was steady and I got into a good rhythm which was aided early on by a hundred yard Tour de France type pull by the team car as I held the side view mirror. I watched the elevation tick off and I could feel the altitude as my breathing was faster than it should have been.

There was a real sense of arrival as we reached to the top. Those who arrived before me praised me and I passed on the same sentiment on to those who arrived after me.

Looking south to the Sisters.

I was glad we didn't have to put on boots and go the rest of the way.

In no time I was in the shower (helmet and all) and washing the salt off of everything. The dry air and slight breeze afforded excellent drying weather and we set up accordingly.......

Matthew (Le Pirate) sorts clothes and tries not to make eye contact with our bibshorts.

Le Pirate is a slave to fashion even at 6,000 feet above sea level.

There were plenty of stairs in this hotel and our legs were clearly mad at us. We all made faces as we climbed or descended stairs. During a discussion with Michael (The MP) I theorized that the challenge our bodies had was that at home I go to sleep three hours after I finish eating and with our late arrivals we finish eating after nine and try to go to sleep thirty minutes later.

Based on that theory I joined some of the lads after dinner for a post meal stroll. When I did go to bed I slept better and counted that a victory. We kept the window open and soaked in the clean air.