26 August 2009

More MADSEN Madness

Those folks over at MADSEN Cycles have gone crazy. They are giving away a delicious MADSEN cargo bike every week! Click one of these MADSEN buttons to get more information.

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

To see how we've been using our Madsen bucket bike around Tacoma, click here.

23 August 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

Over at Car Free Days they're talking about how well Xtracycle's Every Day Adventures blog title/concept really captures the essense of bicycle transportation. I couldn't agree more.

Friday, I took two little ones in the trailer across town to visit my dad. They both napped for part of the five miles. The visit was short, but good. Dad gave me a pair of rain boots, which I tucked in the back of the trailer. The awake kids we're now eager to run, so we stopped at a new-to-me park along the route home to let them blow off some steam. With just half a mile to go, my youngest was losing interest in the trailer, just like she loses interest in her carseat, so I pulled over and saved the day with one of these cookies. Always bring a snack and a water cup for the kids!

Saturday I took the small ones to the local pocket park on the MADSEN. We took a slightly longer route home at their request so that we could go down a bigger hill. They love to put their arms up in the air and squeal delightfully on the downhills, something that they don't do in the van.

That night I took my girls on a dusk-light mission in the MADSEN to find the band that was playing Pearl Jam's "Last Kiss" to perfection somewhere in our neighborhood. We made it only five houses down the street before finding the amped trio. We paused to partake, waved our applause, then continued to the UPS campus to play tag. My 4 y.o. loves to go to "the campus" because of all the "teenagers" there, many of them riding bikes.

Today was home project day and it required no biking. However, I had a ten minute window after dinner to take a spin on my new-again road bike. I made it four blocks before getting sidetracked by a yard sale. I made a deal on some vintage school desks and told them "I'll be back with a bigger bike." As I rolled up moments later on the MADSEN, the seller said, "Woah, you weren't kidding!" I answered their questions about the bike, which went something more like "bikes are great."

(Those desks were meant to hauled in the bucket, btw. Easiest large cargo load ever and the kids love 'em!)

It's easy to make an adventure out of a bike ride every day, especially when you can share the ride with kids. They see things that I would otherwise miss; detours ensue and the line between journey and destination blurs.

22 August 2009

Race Ready

During the Courage Classic there was a raffle for a custom Courage Cycles frame. I put my name in the hat and have my greasy little fingers crossed that I'll be the lucky winner later this month.

The idea of having a "road" bike has been on my mind for a while. One friend had a Curtlo made for his very tall self while another friend received this awesome birthday present from his better half. I have road bike envy.

I dug through the parts bin for my clipless pedals, literally wiped the cobwebs from my SPD shoes, and put a fresh coat of shellac on my drop bar. Voila! Now I can at least pretend to ride with the pack, even though my largest gear is still 36x12. I've never done drop bars and down tube shifters, either, though I've mix'n'matched a bunch of other setups on this cross frame.

Speaking of which, cyclocross season is quickly approaching...maybe I should take off the kickstand and hit the course at Fort Steilacoom?

13 August 2009

Harvest Foods

I was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this spring and have started to dabble more and more into preparing foods at home with seasonal produce. My wife was raised in a "from scratch" kitchen, but I've had to work at it. So here are a few of this season's works-in-progress.

Home-made Pizza
Our tomatoes have finally ripened in the last few weeks, along with my mother-in-laws zucchini crop. You have to take advantage of the bounty. We put both on our homemade pizza last week, along with some left-over broiled chicken, and made a pie for the gods. The crust is easy, just throw all of this into your bread maker (in order) and use the "dough" setting (mine takes 1hr 20min).

1.5 cups lukewarm water
1 T salt
1 T oil (olive is nice)
2 T honey
3.25 cups whole wheat flour
1 T dry yeast
1 t each of dried oregano, basil, thyme, and garlic powder

It makes two 14" crusts, so cut the dough in half and work each onto a lightly floured pizza stone. Convect at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce temp to 350°F. Top each pie with 2 T of your favorite sauce, cheese, fresh veg, nuts, leftovers, and whatever else you can find. Return to oven and convect for 7-15 minutes to desired level of tastiness. I like the cheese to bubble a bit. Allow to cool on the stone for 10 minutes before serving.

Zucchini Bread
We still had zucchini piling up on the counter, so this morning I made a mega batch of zucchini bread. I'll get around to modifying this recipe soon, but needed a baseline. It's from Betty Crocker: Bridal Edition, which I've used quite a bit.

3 cups shredded zucchini (2-3 medium)
1.67 cups sugar
0.67 cups veg oil
2 t vanilla
4 eggs

Mix all of that around, then add:
3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
0.5 t ground cloves
0.5 t baking powder
0.5 cup each nuts and raisins (optional)

I baked one batch in a stone mini-loaf pan (4 mini loaves) for 55 minutes at 350°F. The other batch was split between two regular stone loaf pans. Those needed 5-10 more minutes, but came out a bit more moist. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing.

The stone pans are great. I try whole wheat flour next time and also sub flax seed meal and/or applesauce for the oil and maybe some of the eggs. Those are my standard tricks.

Next week: COOKIES.

12 August 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

On the way back from errands in Proctor this morning, I stopped to admire these signs posted on North 15th Street. I can't imagine that the city would have put them up - maybe an enthusiastic neighbor? They are located along Route 16, so maybe it was Pierce Transit? I like the artwork, which was also used during bike to work month.

Another sign that I've been enjoying is the new(ish) Satellite Coffee that went in on 6th Ave next to Masa. My family is all in agreement that they craft a damn fine cup of coffee. I would even call it beautifully brewed.

Plus, orders from the saddle are encouraged!

05 August 2009

A Courageous Weekend

Phew! Sarah, Blaine (BFF from CO), and I safely completed the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour on Monday. We all rode on the Harmon Bike Club/Rotary Riders team, which was 61 riders strong and raised over $61,000 for the cause. And we had one of the hottest looking team jerseys!

The ride started in Snoqualmie, WA, where we checked-in, loaded our over-night gear on a UPS truck (what a great event sponsor!), then hit the road en route to lunch at Snoqualmie Pass.

The ride follows the main interstate highway for most of the climb and part of the descent, which can be a little nerve racking. Blaine had two flats on the way up, the second within a stones throw of the first, which cost us enough time that we didn't reach the summit until noon. It was 86°F and rising when we headed down the east side of the mountains.

When we reached the campsite at the Suncadia resort, the Xtracycle was a handy bike for hauling our gear from the UPS truck to our tent spot across the field.

In an attempt to beat the higher forcasted temperatures on Day 2, we left Suncadia at 0610 and skipped the big breakfast in town. The rolling pastures were visually stunning as the sun rose over the mountains.

The Tacoma North Rotary ran the food stop on the way up Blewett Pass. It was a great place to refuel and stretch before the final 8 mile climb to the top. This climb seems to be a favorite for many riders, as we saw at least three people turn around before the check-in at the summit and head back down for a second climb. We felt good just making it up the hill once!

The ride down the north side of Blewett was pretty fast, but by the time we reached the water stop at the bottom, the temperature was nearing 100°F. Despite sno-cones and spray bottles of cold water at the rest stop, the last 13 miles into Leavenworth were brutal in the heat. I heard reports that temps hit 109°F on the outskirts of town. Once we finally made it to camp and had the tent up, we biked down to the Icicle River for a much needed soak in the chilly water.

The heat of Day 2 was so overwhelming that everyone collectively voted to move the Day 3 breakfast from 0630 to 0530 so that we could all get an even earlier start. I have to commend the Leavenworth Lions Club for so graciously accommodating this request.

In fact, this would be a good time to point out that the Courage Classic is such a fun and unique ride because of the amazing volunteer support from the Pierce County Rotarians, mechanics from Old Town Bicycle, medics from Rural Metro, support car drivers, and many others. It takes an enormous collective effort to make an event like this run so smoothly, and I'd like to offer my thanks to everyone who volunteered for not only helping, but for doing it with a smile on their face day in and day out.

Nearly our entire team was present for our team photo at 0545 and ready to hit the road soon thereafter. We reached the first rest stop in Plain with the sun barely above the horizon.

We followed the old Chumstick Highway up to Highway 2, where we had a chance to relax with a root beer float before the real climbing began. Our trio was one of the slowest groups each day, but we had finally learned how to work as a team by Day 3. With me out front pacing, Sarah and Blaine fell in line and we picked up other riders the whole way up. By the time we reached the last critical water stop, our pace line was seven riders long and we were working together like a well oiled machine. It was critical for morale and helped push some of us to a new level of cycling. Blaine and Sarah had never ridden in a big group like that before, and neither had ever climbed a road that steep for that long a distance. The strength of such a team effort is truly inspiring.

The last four miles of the climb are pretty steep. I ended up getting a flat about half-way through it, then rode the last bit in the heat of the day in the lowest gear of the Xtracycle. It may have been the most grueling section of road riding I've ever done. The reward for pedaling this beastly machine up the mountains is that you get to ride it down. I slide off of the saddle and sit on the Snapdeck for the descents and Stevens is the fastest of them all. Even with a stiff headwind this year, I'm sure I hit 50mph. Fat tires and disc brakes are the way to go on a free-fall like that!

Sharing this experience with such close friends was unbelievably rewarding. I was so proud of Sarah and Blaine for stepping forward to help raise money, training as much as they could in a short time, then putting their heads down and gritting out the pedal strokes when the road was steep and the heat was on. We're already making plans for next years ride.

Thanks to everyone who offered their support and helped get us over the mountains. Many of you have chipped in financially to the fund-raising effort, but it's not too late to contribute if you didn't. Extra thanks go to my sister for watching the kids and to my dad for loaning his bike and his truck - we could not have done this without you guys!!