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All posts for the month July, 2012

A crash that almost happened

Published July 15, 2012 by livinggraciously

I almost hit a cyclist with my car last night in Lakewood. Why? Because he was riding on the sidewalk, and shot out into the crosswalk from behind parked cars just as I was turning right. He had the walk light, but he was in the blind spot caused by the pillar between my windshield and the passenger-side door, and I simply didn’t see him. Fortunately, my passengers saw him and yelled for me to stop. We were all shaken by the close call.

Following that, we were walking on the sidewalk and almost got hit by cyclists three times. They weren’t riding recklessly, they were just riding on busy sidewalks, and trying to weave around pedestrians.

This would all have been avoided if they had all been riding on the street where they belonged. It’s great seeing so many more bikes out there, but the education of both motorists and cyclists needs to continue. I’m seeing more bikes, yes, but I’m seeing a lot of them on sidewalks, which is dangerous to pedestrians and dangerous to the cyclists.

Sidewalks were okay for bikes when they weighed 40 pounds, had only one gear, and traveled about 8 miles an hour. Now, I can easily be flying along at 15 miles and hour, and I’m not a very fast cyclist. I know people who regularly ride about at 20+ mph.

Do you really want that barreling down on the small children playing in your yard? On your grandma?

Additionally, cars pulling out of side streets or onto the aprons of driveways are not going to be prepared to deal with a bike shooting toward them at 15 mph. Most of my close calls have been caused by the times I foolishly rode on the sidewalk and almost collided with the side of someone pulling up to the intersection from a parking lot. Bikes simply move too fast to be safely on sidewalks.

I’m tempted to counter-program the people who honk at me and yell for me to get back on the sidewalk. I’m tempted to honk and yell at sidewalk cyclists and tell them to get in the street where they belong.

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BBA #12 English Muffins

Published July 9, 2012 by livinggraciously

With the Cranberry Walnut bread out of the way, I’m enthused about the next batch of breads in the book, and today I tackled English Muffins.

English muffins are different from most other yeast breads as they are initially cooked on a griddle or other flat surface. The first part of the dough was pretty standard, then after the first rise the dough is divided and the muffins are shaped. They then rest on cornmeal for their second rise.

Cornmeal is also sprinkled over the top. After another hour of rising, the muffins are carefully lifted into the skillet. They are puffed up on top, and puff up even more.

Once they are flipped, they flatten on the second side.

I had a little trouble at this point because my “medium” heat was too hot, so the muffins were getting browned too fast to cook the middle. Next time I will definitely have a cooler griddle.

Once the griddle portion is done, the muffins go into the oven to bake for another 5-8 minutes. This is when I was really glad that I have a huge skillet that could cook all six muffins at once, because the instructions were to get the ones that were done into the oven without waiting for the others, so it could have been a bit chaotic.

As my muffins were a bit underdone due to the too-hot skillet, I baked them a couple minutes extra. When they came out, the family was hovering in the kitchen, eyes gleaming in hunger. There were loud protests when I told them that they had to cool for half an hour.

After 20 minutes I couldn’t hold them back any longer. I insisted on fork-splitting them, and then we dove in.

They were absolutely delicious. I could probably make them at least once a week and people would complain it wasn’t often enough. They rose nicely, flattened nicely, and looked like English muffins. I am very happy with this one.

Next up: focaccia!

Cooking from the back of my bike

Published July 8, 2012 by livinggraciously

Today was the first true long-distance ride in my training: riding out to Vermillion, Ohio, and back, a 60-mile trip. Erin, who has now signed up for Pedal to the Point and is planning to undertake this crazy ride with me.

We chose today because the weather forecast was for cooler temperatures, and in fact the worst of the heat did break last night. We planned on a 7am departure, riding along the shore to Vermillion, where we would stop for brunch before turning around and coming back.

But before we left, I wanted to make sure that there would be something for dinner this evening. And I knew that I wasn’t going to be in the mood to start cooking something after 60 miles of biking. So last night I got a nice roast out of the freezer and this morning I got up at 6 and chopped onion and garlic, then seared the roast, sauteed the aromatics, and added broth for a potroast.

Erin and I got on the road at about 7:30. The ride out was going well, but we got a little confused in Lorain we suddenly found ourselves getting cheers and encouragement from the people along the street. I mean, Lorain is certainly a friendly town, but this seemed a bit extreme.

It turns out that we had biked right into the middle of a triathlon in which the biking segment was well underway. So well underway, in fact, that we appeared to be stragglers in dire need of encouragement. We had no choice, really, but to keep biking along, returning the smiles of our supporters as bikers in sleek jerseys, leaning heavily into their drops and also giving us a sideways glance of pity.

When we started running into cops who asked if we’d taken a wrong turn, we realized how pitiful we appeared to everyone. But when we reached the turnaround, we were only a short distance behind the last turners. We waved off the last of the helpful police, explaining that we were on our way to Vermillion.

The rest of the ride out was uneventful. What I hadn’t taken into account was how quiet Sunday morning is in Vermillion. We managed to find one little place open and got some breakfast.

Then we started back. Into a headwind. This is when the started draining out of the day.

We eventually made it back, tired, sweaty, legs hurting, and pretty much beyond moving. Now dinner is about done, thanks to the addition of veggies. And I am very glad I took the time to start dinner this morning!

Biking to Death

Published July 6, 2012 by livinggraciously

How has more than a month passed since I last wrote in this journal? Time flies.

It’s been kind of crazy busy, and a lot of that has to do with the biking. I’m closing in on 1,000 miles for the year–assuming this weekend goes as planned, I will surpass that mark. And now I have a riding companion. My older daughter, Erin, is living with us temporarily while she is getting resettled here in Cleveland, and she has taken to this biking thing like the proverbial merganser to a lake. We are a well-matched team, and companionably putting in the miles.

July 4 was a bit of a challenge, though. Patti’s Paladin’s had a breakfast training ride, for which I assumed we would ride our usual 20-mile path. This is the path that is 5 miles steadily uphill, 10 miles of rollercoaster hills, then a 5 miles cruise back to Patti and Mike’s.

The predicted heat index for July 4 was 104 degrees.

So I was already steeling myself for this ride–though not really prepping myself, in that Ferrett’s birthday party was the night before and I didn’t actually get to bed until after 3am. And I had to get up at 6:30 in order to finish the fresh bagels I was making to take to the breakfast. (Which went over with great success, and many people being gobsmacked at the notion that anyone would make bagels at home!) So I wasn’t exactly rested and refreshed for the ride.

Then Mike informed us that the ride would be to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and back. Which meant that all the downhill was at the beginning of the ride. And we would have to climb back up the cliff face that is the climb back up to Cleveland Heights. At the end of the ride. In the mounting heat.

Gulp.

Erin and I started out with the rest of the pack. The rest of the pack consisted of 9 men who have a combined body fat of about 12 pounds, and that crazed look that says “25 miles an hour is an okay average speed, if you’re really not up to more” We were pedaling hard to keep up. On the downhill portion of the ride. Once we flattened out and headed west along the shoreway, I have to confess that I abandoned Erin to the tender mercies of one fellow rider who had stayed back to help her along. Mostly because I knew that if I slowed down to accommodate her, I would lose far too much momentum and we would just fall further and further behind. I had to just concentrate on the slowly receding rider in front of me and try to keep that distance from increasing.

By the time we pulled up under the trees at the Rock Hall, the temperature was 91, the heat index was 100, and I was vaguely nauseated. Erin pulled up behind me and said, “I think I hate you a little bit right now.”

It was all right, though; I hated me a little bit just then, too.

I could not imagine biking uphill all the way back to Mike and Patti’s. And I realized that we didn’t have to: we were already halfway to home, where Ferrett was still waiting for us to let him know we’d finished the ride and was planning to drive over for the post-ride picnic. Our house is at a much lower elevation. There would not be a steady, uphill ride with a big cliff in the middle!

Now, my friends on either coast will laugh at me for my struggle against this relatively minor elevation change. And I fully acknowledge that back when I lived in Alaska I used to bike up and down mountains. But I have to say this in my defense: I’m old and fat! Also, humidity is a bitch, and so is heat. If it had been in the 70s, I would have attempted the ride back.

With weather that felt like 100 degrees? No. Bloody. Way.

So Erin and I continued west, accompanied briefly by this collection of bike warriors. We biked along the shoreway and through shaded neighborhoods, and that part was good.

Then we got back out into the sun, and things began to go pear-shaped. Neither of us is good with heat, and the sun was beating down on us with mid-day intensity. We were still drinking water, and still moving forward, but our pace was going off and we were starting to get leg cramps. By the time we were 3 miles from home, I was genuinely worried about heat exhaustion.

Did I mention that there was a Severe Heat Warning in effect?

Fortunately, I remembered that there was a McDonald’s nearby and steered us toward those golden arches. I never imagined that I would find myself this grateful for the existence of fast food. We locked up our bikes and staggered into the blessed air conditioning. Erin was trembling. We ordered large drinks and grabbed packets of salt and sat for 20 minutes in the cool, gulping down iced beverages and eating salt straight from the packets. Recovered, we were able to finish the ride back to the house, showered, and went back for food and companionship. But it honestly took most of yesterday for us to really feel recovered. I honestly think we were on the edge of being in serious trouble. And I hope this heat breaks soon, because I can’t imagine going through this for 75 miles.

Oh, and I also made the next bread in the BBA challenge, cranberry celebration bread. I was just as unimpressed with it as I expected to be, but at least it’s over now!

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