Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vegging Out in NYC: Gobo

It isn't the kind of place I want to live, but I love visiting New York. Running beside the river around the southern perimeter of Manhattan is a nice change of scenery.
Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges at sunrise
And of course, there is a great selection of vegan restaurants.

Earlier this month, on my most recent visit there, I was disappointed to find Bonobo's closed. I'd eaten there before, and it was an excellent vegan fast food joint. I went with some coworkers to have dinner at Blossom, which is deservedly one of the most famous vegan restaurants in the city. That was a very fine meal indeed. But I was most delighted to have an equally wonderful meal one night when I went out alone one evening to Gobo.

Should read: "food for the five senses"
I found Gobo on Google Maps, and it sounded pretty good, but I'd never heard of it before. It turns out that I couldn't have picked a better place.

Multi-grain bread with pumpkin puree
The complimentary appetizer was multi-grain bread with what looked like hummus, but I think was a pumpkin puree. At any rate, it tasted good, and it was a step above what I would have expected.

Tofu rolls with mango puree
I also ordered the "five spice tofu rolls with mango puree" from the appetizer menu - also recommendable.

Yam fries
The side of yam fries was enormous. They were cooked with a crispy batter on the outside, and the insides were perfectly soft and melty. The homemade ketchup was great, with kind of a sweet-and-sour sauce taste to it. I ate over half of the fries, but I eventually had the waiter take them away to save me from my uncontrollable urge to eat them all. They were definitely the most fattening thing I ate there.

Butternut squash risotto
My main course was the butternut squash risotto with toasted almonds. It was delicious. After dinner, I had a nice cup of chai.

And to make a great meal even better, the service was excellent and prices were quite reasonable. I think this meal was under $40 before tip.

The lady at the table next to mine, when she saw me taking pictures of everything, said "Is this going to be a meal to remember?" My reply was, "You never know." But I think it really was, and I look forward to eating there again on my next visit to NYC. The only thing that could make it better would be to enjoy the meal with family or friends.

Friday, December 9, 2011

In Soviet Russia, the trail hits you!

There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Just go toward the light.

The tunnel in question is an unlit pedestrian underpass, just east of 128th and Holly, 2 miles along one of my regular running routes. There is a faint glow at the other end, showing me where I need to go. All that can be seen inside the tunnel is the reflection of that dim light on the water - or ice, as the case may be - that has accumulated on the floor of the passage.

So I always just run through, keeping an eye on the frozen sheen before me, expecting that one of these days I'm going to misstep and hit the concrete. Still, I was taken by surprise this cold and foggy morning when I hit the ground. And it wasn't the ice that got me, but a shopping cart.


Someone had left a shopping cart in the middle of the tunnel, hidden in the deep shadows, entirely invisible to eyes drawn to the light at the other end. So I ran right into it, knocked it down, and went over it and onto the concrete with a loud groan.

I picked myself up, righted the cart, and pushed it out of the tunnel as I took inventory of my several new aches and pains. I determined that there was no damage beyond a few minor scrapes and bruises. And I didn't want to blow my third week in a row of 35 running miles, so I continued on to finish up the ten-mile workout I'd been intending.

As I ran, I was tempted to wonder what kind of person would leave a damned shopping cart in the middle of a tunnel. But that line of questioning seemed pointless. I see them overturned in drainage ditches pretty often, presumably left by ne'er-do-wells who stole them from grocery store parking lots in the middle of the night to go careening down our suburban hills. It's very rare to see vagrants in these parts, so I can't imagine that they are being abandoned by the homeless as they upgrade to a new cart without so much wobble in the rear left wheel.

So instead of pursuing the question of who would do such a thing, I started wondering how much abuse my body can take. I'm 34 years old, which is not elderly by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't have much left of the resilience of youth in my frame. Last year's running season was brought to a premature end by knee pain. Recently, my right hip has been expressing complaints resulting from over-tight tendons or under-developed muscles. One of these days my luck will surely run out and I'll suffer a broken something-or-other when I take one of these spills while running or cycling.

But I've seen more bodies permanently broken from disuse than from being pushed too hard. From my viewpoint, it seems one retains physical faculties on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. So can I relent, taking it easier on my aging body in hopes of avoiding deterioration or damage that will manifest some day in the distant future? No, all I can do is keep going, try to use my body better and make it stronger. If I go fast enough, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to outrun old age.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A December Morning Run

4:30 alarm, five degrees.
balaclava, base layer, body heat.
it isn't so bad.

a fresh dusting of snow on the trail.
tracks of rabbits, foxes, coyotes,
none of dogs and their people.

stray scents from waking houses:
breakfasts cooking, laundry drying,
steamy soap from frosted shower windows.

cars idling in driveways, warming up.
exhaust offends heightened senses.
blinding headlights line up and begin their march.

how can I not feel grateful?
I'd rather wake at this hour to go running
than to go to work.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers -> Cranberry Strudel

We didn't have that many leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast, so it isn't like I'd been agonizing over what to do with all of that cranberry pear sauce. But Saturday morning, I woke up inspired. In my half-wakeful state, an image of some phyllo dough we've had sitting in the freezer came unbidden to my mind. And with it, a resolution: "Today I will make cranberry strudel."

Ingredients for a cranberry strudel.
I sweetened the cranberry sauce with a little bit of honey (I know, I'm a bad vegan), and one of the strudels got some walnuts added. That one ended up tasting better, but my daughter doesn't like nuts, so I wanted to make one without.
About an hour later
The truth is, the idea was better than the outcome. I've never made a pastry of any kind before, so I'm not being too hard on myself. But there were a few issues (aside from the fact that the strudel split its side open in the oven).

  • I'm not sure if butter would have behaved differently than the Earth Balance spread, but that's largely an academic question, since I will not eat butter.

    • There was something missing. My taste buds say that it may be salt. Whatever was lacking, it's more pronounced in the pastry without walnuts.
    • The sauce soaked into the phyllo too much, I think. The layers in the lower half of the strudel are indistinguishable - it's just cranberry-soaked dough.

    Still, they turned out edible, and it was a good idea and a good experiment. If anyone has any tips for how to do better next time, I'd be happy to hear them.

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Argentine Adventure, Part 4: Things to Do and See

    I don't know why, but this post has been sitting in draft state for a really long time. I guess I feel like I'm leaving something out, but if I don't post it now, I probably never will.

    This is the last post in the Argentine Adventure series, and it's about having fun instead of logistics and places to sleep. Both Buenos Aires and Rosario provided plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy the culture we were there to experience.


    As previously mentioned, Rosario is a city which has played a major role in Argentine history. There is a huge monument down by the river commemorating the first raising of the Argentine flag. I passed by it a number of times, but C. and the kids got to give it a better look while I was at work.

    Monumento a la Bandera, Rosario

    M. and F. near Monumento a la Bandera

    M. and F. near Monumento a la Bandera

    Rosario also has lots of parks and plazas. The largest is the Parque de la Independencia. Though it was right across the street from where I was working, I only saw it from a distance. Again, my family explored it more thoroughly.

    Much of my sight-seeing in Rosario was done while running in the mornings, or while walking to and from the office.
    Taken while running down by the river.
    We had dinner at a restaurant by the river one night with my coworkers. We discovered that one of these old warehouses was full of ramps and so forth for BMX bicycles. We stopped and watched the guys in there jumping and doing tricks.

    My daily walking commute took me down Boulevard Nicasio Oroño.
    Buenos Aires

    Buenos Aires is a very big city with lots of cultural attractions. Just hanging out in Puerto Madero can prove to be pretty entertaining. On Sunday morning I got up to go for a run and came across an area being set up for a running event. I later discovered that one of the women at the office was there, and it was a charity run benefiting some kind of women's health cause. Later that morning, when we were heading out on the town, the Prefectura Naval were having a ceremony right in front of the hotel which included a parade of their marching band.

    Parque Mujeres Argentinas, near our hotel in Buenos Aires had the biggest aloe vera plants I've ever seen.

    M. and some really big Aloe plants.
    On Sundays there is a huge street market in the San Telmo district. There are all kinds of vendors selling souvenirs, food, clothes, and just about everything else. We saw a few classical guitarists performing, and at one of the booths selling musical instruments, a spontaneous jam session broke out with drums, flutes, and shakers. It was awesome.

    At the street market in San Telmo
    Along Av. Paseo Colón
    The day we left, I was working the first part of the day. While I was at the office, my wife and kids explored La Recoleta Cemetery - very apropos, considering it was Halloween.
    La Recoleta Cemetery

    La Recoleta Cemetery
    Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), a modern art museum, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. We met up there after I got done working. My daughter was especially taken with some of the optical art pieces.

    MALBA was our last stop before heading to the airport. I was excited to be going home, but at the same time, I was a little sad that we couldn't stay a bit longer and see more of that wonderful city.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    A Beautiful Thanksgiving

    There are many things I am thankful for, not the least of which is that I live in a state where we can have the most beautiful weather in the middle of November. On this Thanksgiving day, when Americans take some time to spend with family and reflect on those things for which we are most fortunate, the only thing I could wish for was that more of my family could be present.

    I had looked forward to getting some extra sleep, but that was not to be. I got paged around 5:00 this morning for work, and while it wasn't anything that required immediate action, I couldn't get back to sleep. So instead I sat enjoying some quiet time before the rest of the family woke up.

    Then, I cranked up the blender and made a terrible racket, preparing the desert for what turned out to be a marvelous Thanksgiving feast.
    A feast for four

    The menu included

    The kids also had some ham, but aside from that, the whole meal was vegan. And with the exception of the pie crust, it was pretty healthy, as far as feasts go.

    We washed that down with a bottle of Malbec from Nieto Senetiner given to us by my colleagues in Argentina, and some sparkling peach juice for the kids. I know that a white wine would have been better paired with the food, but drinking a gift wine seemed appropriate for the occasion.

    Vegan Roast with pumpkin, mushroom, and zucchini

    My beautiful family

    Pumpkin Pie!
    During my quiet time this morning, I read a blog post from Seth Godin which I thought was absolutely lovely. I wish I could copy it here, but I wouldn't feel right about doing that without permission. It's worth the two minutes of time to read.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    Office pudding

    For some reason I've been really lazy about finishing up the Argentina series. I guess I've been letting too many other things take up my time. There is more of that to come, I promise. But not right now.

    I want to share a pudding recipe that I've been making at the office. Well, "recipe" might be a little grandiose a term for it. But it tastes really good and is pretty healthy. Mind you, I work in an office with a well stocked micro-kitchen, and I also keep a few special ingredients in my desk drawer. And if you think I'm talking about booze, you're wrong. That stays on top of the desk. In the drawer, however, I keep a box of Roastaroma tea, bottles of cinnamon, cayenne pepper, stevia extract, blackstrap molasses, and a can of vanilla Biochem Vegan Protein powder.

    Coupling some of these things with foods that are available around the office, I'm able to make a decent "banana pudding." Here are the ingredients:

    • 1 banana, well ripened
    • 1/2 cup soy milk (at home I use almond milk), sweetened
    • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
    • 2 tablespoons of something crunchy. Usually a blend of seeds & nuts, but sometimes granola or some other kind of cereal.
    • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
    • a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon
    Only the first three ingredients are really necessary. Everything else is optional, though I really recommend not compromising on the crunchy part. Molasses can be an acquired taste, and it doesn't do much for the pudding's appearance, but I love the flavor as well as the extra minerals it provides.

    All you have to do is mix all the stuff together in a bowl and eat it, but that doesn't make for very interesting blogging. So I'll share the one small innovation I have to bring to the table, as it were.

    Our micro-kitchen has these flimsy disposable forks that aren't very good at mashing up bananas. So here's the secret that took me months to discover: you can mash the banana by hand while it's still in the peel. You'll want to do this quite gently so as not to break the skin open prematurely. Work the banana radially rather than length-wise until it's good and mushy. Then you can either peel it as usual, or just break the stem end open and squeeze it like a pastry bag.

    So there it is: office-expedient banana pudding. Simple, delicious, healthy.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Argentine Adventure, Part 3: Hotels and Language

    This post will cover a couple of different topics, since I don't have a whole lot to say about either of them.


    As mentioned in an earlier post, in Buenos Aires we stayed at the Hilton in the Puerto Madero district. This area used to be where cargo ships docked and exchanged loads. There had been cranes and warehouses along the waterfront at one time. Some of that remains - the cranes are now scenic features - but Puerto Madero is now mostly an upscale area with condos, offices, and nice restaurants (mostly catering to the carnivorous crowd).

    The Hilton is located just off the water front. The staff there were very friendly, helpful, and all spoke very good English. The lobby is lovely, and the restaurant was pretty good. I completed a survey after we got home and suggested that they could offer more vegan fare. To my surprise, I got a response from them saying that they would be looking into adding vegan items to their menu.

    There is a nice exercise room in the hotel, but when weather permits, I'm much happier running outdoors so I can explore my surroundings. While the early spring mornings were quite brisk, nothing prevented me from doing just that. So I didn't get to see more of those facilities than the view through the windows afforded.

    It costs extra to use the internet at the hotel, which I thought was a little bit chincy. We ate breakfast in the hotel each morning, and it was quite good. But after staying at Holiday Inn Express hotels so often, it didn't occur to me that it was not included in the price of the room. But these are small issues.

    The only reason we chose to stay at the Hilton was because of a special corporate rate I got through my company, but our experience there was such that I'd be happy stay there again.

    We stayed at Hotel Rosario when we were in that city. I chose it because it within reasonable walking distance from the office. It is close enough the Río Paraná to go there for a run. It is also conveniently located near the Cordoba pedestrian mall. From what I've been told, Argentina isn't well served by online retailers, and I saw no evidence of the kinds of major discount stores that we have in the US. So the shops and streets along Cordoba were always bustling.
    M. playing with the curtains at Hotel Rosario
    This hotel and its accommodations were much humbler than the Hilton's. But it does have free internet access and a complimentary breakfast buffet. The latter is a simple affair, with breads, meat and cheese, and your choice of tea or coffee. But we were pretty content with the food, nonetheless.
    F. having breakfast at Hotel Rosario
    Rosario is a city of historical importance to Argentina, most famously because it witnessed the first raising of the Argentine flag. But it is visited by fewer tourists than Bs As, though that number is growing in recent years. As such, there are fewer English speakers in Rosario. That includes the hotel staff, waitresses, and cab drivers. But even my meager Spanish skills were enough to get by without too much trouble.


    What knowledge I have of the Spanish language I owe to two years of studying Castelian Spanish in high school (Hi, Ms. M!). And that remained largely unused until we went on this trip. The strain of Spanish spoken in Argentina is heavily influenced by the large population of Italians. I don't know the language well enough to make many intelligent contrasts, but there were a few things that struck me as interesting.

    When saying "good morning," I always heard the singular "buen día" rather than the plural "buenos días" which I was used to hearing. Now that I think about it, the singular makes much more sense. I am told, however, that both forms are used. To say "goodbye," the Argentines say "chau."

    The pronunciation of 'll' and 'y' are different in Argentina (and other parts of South America). Except at the end of a word, they make a 'zh' or 'j' kind of sound. When a coworker was teaching me how to drink from a maté, what he said sounded like "zherba maté" rather than "yerba maté."

    The consensus there seems to be that Castelian Spanish, as it is now spoken, is a bit silly. I was told that they attempt to keep the language too pure - for example, calling a computer mouse a ratón, which made no sense to my Argentinian colleagues. "It's not a ratón, it's a mouse," they said.

    Mexican Spanish, they said, was the most universal. They said that all of the movies with a dubbed Spanish audio track used Mexican accents and dialect.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Argentine Adventure, Part 2: Eating

    Bodegon Criollo, Bs.As. (non-vegan)
    I was a little worried about how well I would be able to deal with the food in Argentina. It is a nation known for its love of meat, and what I'd read about vegetarianism and veganism there did not make me feel very optimistic. It turned out much better than I had expected. With some planning and searching, I was able to make out alright. And we had a few very good vegan dining experiences.

    One thing that's worth knowing is that restaurants in Argentina keep different hours than what I'm accustom to in the US. Most restaurants open for lunch, but then close for the afternoon and reopen around 7 or 8 p.m. for supper. That's a later meal-time than we usually have with the kids, but then, we were also three hours ahead of Colorado time, so our schedules were kind of out of whack anyway.

    Food is less expensive in Argentina than it is here in the States. Entrees at good restaurants were typically in the neighborhood of $50 or $60 AR, which at current exchange rates is under $15 USD. Some of the main dishes were a little more expensive, but at non-vegan restaurants, I wasn't looking at those very much. Though tap water was generally potable, we didn't eat anywhere that served it. If you ask for water, you buy a bottle or two for the table.

    On nights where we couldn't make the restaurant hours work, we stopped by supermarkets and had improvised picnics in the hotel room. Without a means of heating food, these meals were a little tricky and less than stellar. But it worked out pretty well.

    On the recommendation from my coworkers, I picked up some crackers and cookies made by Granix, an Argentine company that makes healthy grain-based products. They feature ingredients like chia and flax (lino in Spanish). The crackers, paired with a soy cheese spread that I found at the supermarket, were very good.

    These are some of the vegan or vegetarian restaurants that we visited:

    BIO - a small, all-organic bistro in Buenos Aires. We ate here on our first night in town. It was pretty far from our hotel, but we loved it. The food was great, and the staff were very friendly. Either we arrived a bit early, or the neighborhood is a bit sketchy. They kept the door locked while we were there.
    BIO, Buenos Aires
    Sana Sana - my coworkers in Rosario took me here for lunch one day. It's another small venue with nice patio seating in a residential area. I had a really good stir-fry, or wok, as you'll see it listed on the menu.

    Rotiseria Vegetariana - an Asian vegetarian take-out buffet in Rosario. (I don't remember exactly where this was, and the name is fairly generic.) This provided one of our hotel room picnics, though the food would have been much better if we'd been able to heat it up.
    Rotiseria Vegetariana, Rosario
    Verde Te Que Quiero Verde - on the upper level of the Palace Garden shopping center on Rosario's Cordoba pedestrian mall.

    Granix - an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet by the company that made the afore-mentioned crackers. In Buenos Aires, it's in a shopping center off of Florida street. I had lunch here with coworkers on our last day in town.

    Picnic - vegan fast food. We didn't actually get to eat here. It's in a banking district where everything is closed on Sundays, which is when we tried to go. It's essentially across the street from Granix.

    I actually saw a few signs that there is a healthy population of Vegan militants in the area. On the bus ride to Rosario, I saw a building on the road-side with "Meat is Murder" spray-painted on the wall. And I saw two different "Go Vegan" graffiti in Rosario.

    Go Vegan!
    So while I expect that Argentina will continue to be famous for its beef and barbecue traditions, it's definitely a place where a determined vegan can have a good time and enjoy some wonderful meals.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Argentine Adventure, Part 1: Logistics

    When I was given the opportunity to travel to Argentina for work, my first thought was that there was no way I could go without taking my family with me. None of us had been to South America, or for that matter, the Southern Hemisphere. So in the last week of October we set off for a very different kind of adventure than those we usually enjoy.
    The family near the Presidential residence, Buenos Aires
    Rather than give a chronology of the trip, I thought it might be more helpful to just write about a few aspects of our experiences there. And then I figured out that there was too much that I wanted to write to put it all in one blog post. So I'm breaking it up into a number of posts in hopes that it will be easier to get them finished and published; and easier for you, Gentle Reader, to wade through the whole thing.


    The flight to Argentina is long. There's no way around it. It helped a little bit that the flights in both directions were at night, so the kids spent a good bit of the time sleeping. The rest of the time they read books, drew, colored, and did other activities we had brought with us. My wife and I spent a good bit of the time reading and failing to sleep.

    When we booked our flight, there was no way to specify meal choices or dietary restrictions. I was unaware of the fact until supper was being served. So on the way to Argentina, there was very little in the way of vegan fare available. I had some of the meager salad they offered, though I had to go without dressing. The rest of my meal consisted of granola bars and rice cakes.

    I had intended to contact the airline to make better arrangements for the return flight, but I didn't get around to talking to anyone until we were checking in at the airport. The woman at the counter said that they required at least twenty-four hours notice for that kind of thing. But I was better prepared this time around with some fresh fruit, a large salad bought at a restaurant in the airport, and some other snacks.

    Leaving the country with fruits and vegetables was not a problem. Had I failed to eat them all during the flight, U.S. customs would have confiscated them after we landed. But of course, that never became an issue.

    Most of my work was in the city of Rosario, a little north of Buenos Aires. At the Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro, buses leave about every thirty minutes, so we had no trouble making the trip on Tuesday morning without making prior arrangements.
    The kids at the Retiro Bus Terminal, Buenos Aires
    Returning to Bs As from Rosario on Saturday was almost as easy, though we had to wait a little longer, since the next bus to depart was already sold out. While we waited, we ate the food we bought for lunch at the supermarket and hung out at the playground behind the terminal.
    Near the Rosario Bus Terminal
    Taking the bus was a good opportunity to see some of the Argentine countryside. The span between cities is very flat and agricultural. In truth, the landscape itself isn't very interesting. But it was nice to be able to see what the terrain is really like, and we passed several small villages along the way which I thought were worth seeing. And we saw many of the horses which are a national symbol of Argentina.

    One of the few communication problems we experienced occurred upon arriving in Buenos Aires. After picking up our luggage, a driver for a non-taxi car service offered to give us a ride. We were tired and disoriented, so I figured it was as good as anything, though it turned out to be quite a bit more expensive. We were headed to the Hilton hotel in Puerto Madero, and of course we pronounced "Hilton" like Americans. He acted like he understood, but it turns out that he didn't. We should have said "Heel-tone." It took some doing to get things straightened out, but we made it to the hotel just fine.
    M. playing near the Hilton at Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires.
    When it came time to leave, we found out that there is a flat taxi rate of $140 Argentine Pesos to get to the airport. Considering the distance, this was a very good price. The concierge made sure everything was understood with the driver - I didn't want to get ripped off by paying a metered fare if the driver didn't think we knew any better.

    It is probably no surprise that taking taxis in Argentina is a cash-only affair. There are none of the on-board credit card machines which are becoming ubiquitous here in the US. Most of the time, no tip is expected unless the driver helps with luggage or otherwise goes above and beyond getting you from point A to B.

    So the logistical aspects of our trip went as smoothly as could be expected. The kids did great with the long flights and bus rides, all things considered.

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Two and a Half Days at Sea

    Experience is the essence of life. We can either pursue it through the objects of our own passion, or share in the passion of others. The former enriches our lives and deepens our love for those things, while the latter expands our horizons and gives us a new appreciation for others' world view.

    I had never been on a boat on the ocean, so I was excited when I got the opportunity to go deep sea fishing with my father and a friend of his in southern California. Really, I was pretty apprehensive about the fishing part of it. I am vegan, after all, in diet if not fully in philosophy. But it was an opportunity for a new experience and to spend some time with my dad.

    I flew into San Diego on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011, the day before we were to set off. That gave us time to see a bit of the town and eat at a couple of the local veg-friendly restaurants. I ended up having lunch at Evolution Fast Food twice while we were there. Both the "South of the Border Burger" and the "Raw Cashew Cheese Burger" were quite tasty. And they had an excellent curried tofu soup as well. We ate supper at Pokéz on the first night. I enjoyed the tofu mushroom enchiladas, and the house-made salsa was excellent. The place has a kind of cool punk-rock/Mexican hipster vibe going for it.

    While in San Diego, it is well worth the time to check out Balboa Park. My father and I explored it a little bit on the first day, and I made it back out there a couple of times for early-morning runs during our visit. Along with the trails and gardens you would expect in a good park, Balboa also features museums and other cultural attractions.
    Balboa Park, early in the morning
    We also spent some time walking along the harbor to check out the old ships at the maritime museum.
    Old ship at the Maritime Museum
    Before going down to the dock, we stopped at the local Whole Foods to stock up on some food items for the next few days. Meals would be served on the boat, but I wasn't sure what to expect out of them. It was my father's first time in a store like that, and he said that he had no idea that there are entire grocery stores dedicated to people that eat like I do.

    Having booked a three-day outing on the Big Game 90, we boarded on Thursday evening. My father, his friend, and I were all renting our fishing gear from the folks who own operate the boat. So as it weighed anchor, so to speak, and headed south, we settled in and watched as the other 25 or so fisher(wo)men spooled line onto their reels and otherwise prepared for the next day's fishing.
    Me and my Dad, aboard the Big Game 90
    We traveled all night some 150 miles into Mexican waters, where we would spend the next two days tracking down schools of yellowtail, tuna, and whatever else the Pacific might offer up. We were out far enough that there was no land in sight, and only the occasional ship broke up the vast blue view that surrounded us. At the end of the second day, the crew took us North through the night, and we arrived back at port around 8:30 Sunday morning.
    Water, water everywhere...
    One of the best things about passionate people is that they are always eager to share their enthusiasm with the uninitiated. And the crew and other passengers on the Big Game 90 were nothing if not passionate about fishing. I was impressed at how warmly we were received by everyone on board. And nobody gave me the least bit of disrespect for my dietary choices or my obvious land-lubberishness.

    When asked why a vegan would be out deep-sea fishing, I simply said, "I've never had a chance to go out and do anything like this before, and I wanted to see what it was all about." They seemed to appreciate that.

    And they also generally sympathized with me in my sea-sickness. Though I had a motion sickness patch to help quell the nausea, I had to spend a good deal of time below deck in my bunk to keep from feeling completely wretched. The waters were pretty choppy nearly the whole time, but settled down on the last morning as we approached San Diego Bay.
    Point Lomas, San Diego
    I have a great deal of respect for the outdoors sports-men and -women who engage in the primal drive to seek out the prey which furnished our ancestral tables with nourishment. It's hard to justify doing it much myself these days, since I no longer eat meat, but hunting and fishing were among the childhood activities which led me to my love of the outdoors. And I believe that harvesting game in the wild is a more humane means of consumption than eating farm-raised animals. Wild game is, after all, allowed to live life in their natural habitat as intended.

    So I did do a little bit of fishing while we were out there. I even caught a yellowtail, which I'll be serving to my still-omnivorous family some day soon. After catching that one, though, I had little motivation to do much more fishing. And I started feeling kind of bad for the anchovies who gave their lives serving as bait.

    Sea-sickness and moral qualms aside, I had a good time. And if I never go out on a fishing boat in the ocean again, I will at least be able to say that I've done it once; have spent time with the people who do it all the time, either for a living or because they love it; got to see some beautiful places; and spent some good, quality time with my father.
    Mr. W, my Dad, and me

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

    One of the values that I like to cultivate in myself and instill in my family is an appreciation for the rhythms of nature. The seasons mark the progress of the year as we move along the time-lines of our lives. Our forebears celebrated holidays marked by observable phenomena, both terrestrial and celestial. It's something which resonates with me more than most of the other holidays that mark the modern calendar, so I feel like it's a tradition worth upholding. The world in which we live is worth celebrating.

    Throughout the week, my wife and kids have been putting up seasonal decorations around the house. And today is the first (official) day of Autumn!

    We didn't do anything too elaborate in our observation of the Autumnal Equinox, but after work, my daughter and I made a delicious Harvest Bread for this evening's desert. It has apples, carrots, and zucchini. Given our modest carrot harvest, and the fact that our apple tree isn't producing any fruit at all this year, only the zucchini was home-grown. But that took little away from our enjoyment of this tasty Fall treat.

    I hope the crispness in the air inspires you to do something adventurous, make something warm and comforting, and otherwise find reasons and ways to celebrate life.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Look, Ma: No Shoes!

    There has been a lot of focus on barefoot running in the past few years. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall popularized the technique. After hearing about the knee pain I had experienced while running, the physical therapist who did my bike fitting suggested that I look into barefooting. "I think there's really something to it," she said. Vibram 5-fingers and minimalist running shoes are showing up all over the place. And yesterday at work I attended a presentation by Barefoot Ted pitching the benefits of shoe-free running.

    I'm usually not one for following fads, but this barefoot running thing seems to have gained a strong toe-hold in the athletic world's popular consciousness. I've definitely got a strong case of intrigue.

    So this morning, after getting back to the house from my morning run in conventional shoes, I sat down on the porch, pulled the shoes off, and went around the block in my bare feet. I have to say, it felt pretty good. The feedback from my foot strike was so much more pronounced than when wearing shoes. On normal runs I've been trying to shorten my stride, increase my cadence, and strike with my toes. But it has been really hard to tell if I'm doing it right. Without shoes, there was no question.

    The loop around the block is just under half a mile, and I think that's probably a pretty good distance for me to start with. The pads of my feet aren't used to concrete, so they're feeling a little raw now. But it's nothing I can't adapt to. Since winter is coming, I'll need to look into something that will keep the frost bite at bay while maintaining the natural sense of feeling that barefooting provides.

    So I'm not sure if I'm going to commit 100% to this, but I'd like to give it a serious try. The thought of trotting around with no shoes kinda has my inner caveman doing a little dance around his fire.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Labor Day Weekend

    Ah, Labor Day. For many American youth, it's the first holiday of the school year. For adults, it's the last long weekend of the summer. We get the day off to reflect on workers rights, organized labor, and our forebears who struggled to create the safe and fair workplaces which we enjoy today.

    Okay, so maybe the meaning of the holiday is lost on most of us. But while plenty of retailers lure us with three days of discounts, at least nobody has tried to push some kind of Labor Day gift-giving tradition on us.

    I left work early on Friday and squeezed in a quick bike workout before supper. I was cooling down from a set of power intervals when I hit a bee, which stung me on the cheek. Hooray for not being allergic! I've hit plenty of insects while out riding, but this was the first one that hit me back.

    I got back to the house just before an evening shower passed through, so I went out on the deck to enjoy the cool rain. While I was out there, I picked a little shard and kale from our garden to put in a salad.
    Kale and Swiss chard from our garden
    We recently picked up a new Weehoo bicycle trailer so I can take my daughter to school on my way to work without having to give up my bike commuting. I'm also hoping that it will breathe new life into our family cycling efforts. To that end, we all went for a bike ride along the South Platte River trail on Saturday morning.
    F. during a snack break.
    A birthday party would be putting us in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Sunday. It has been many years since I was up there last, and none of my family had been there before. So we decided to use some of our Priority Club points on a hotel room for the night and spend a little extra time in the area.

    Home-made salsa
    One of our cats has diabetes, so we had to put him in boarding at the vet on Saturday so we could leave town without reneging on his insulin shots. When I got there, they were giving away peppers from somebody's garden. On Friday, I'd gotten some tomatoes from a coworker and was planning to make some salsa, so that worked out perfectly.

    The party in Cheyenne was for the daughter of a dear friend of mine. Happy first birthday, E! Our hostess graciously provided several vegan options, so I didn't go hungry or have to bring my own food. Afterward, we went to the Sierra Trading Post outlet store to do a little shopping. We scored some clothes and a new backpack which I'm anxious to use on my next bike camping adventure.

    On Monday we drove west on I-80 to the Medicine Bow National Forest. When visiting Cheyenne back in February of 1998, my friend had taken me on a hike in Vedauwoo, and I've been wanting to revisit it ever since. We all had a great time, and the kids did amazingly well. Even my youngest walked on his own the whole time.

    The family at Vedauwoo
    Online, we had found a listing for Sweet Melissa Vegetarian Cafe in Laramie, so that was our destination for lunch.
    Alas, it didn't occur to me that we weren't the only ones getting the day off.

    No lunch.
    We walked up the block and stopped in at the Cross Country Connection to see if someone there could give us a recommendation for somewhere else to eat. We were provided with a plan B (Jeffery's Bistro) and C (Coal Creek Coffee Company). B fell through (also closed). On our way to C, we passed by the Pedal House, which was listed in the current issue of Bicycling magazine as one of the best bike shops in the nation.

    They were also closed, but it looked pretty cool from the outside.

    In fact, from what we saw, Laramie is just a generally cool town. I think I might like to spend a little more time there in the future.

    The coffee shop provided adequate fare for our lunch, after which we headed back home via US-287 - a much more scenic route than the interstate.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Time to Go

    The autumn school term started this week, not only for my wife, but also for my daughter, who started kindergarten on Monday. So not only do I need to be home from work early twice a week, but I also have to get my daughter to school in the mornings. And as will happen with the year waning, sunrise has been gradually coming later and later each morning. These things have necessitated some major adjustments to my schedule.

    My routine throughout the summer had been to get up at 5:00, eat breakfast, and get out and ride for an hour or two after the sun was up and my food had a chance to start digesting. Recently, I've been trying to get out of the office for an afternoon run a few times a week.

    But now, by the time the sun is coming up, my daughter needs to be well on her way to getting ready for school. And she needs to be there earlier than I was typically returning from my morning ride. Running in the afternoon cuts into my work productivity and sometimes conflicts with my ability to get home to watch the kids so my wife can go to class.

    It has been tempting to complain that there are just too many obligations and needs competing for my time. But I'm not the only one having to make adjustments to accommodate the changes we're experiencing. So I've just got to try to figure out something that will work. The best plan I've come up with is to turn my whole work and exercise schedule on its head.

    1. Get to work earlier. After dropping my daughter off at school, I'm going straight to the office. Heretofore, I've enjoyed coming in a little later, but that's going to have to change.
    2. Leave work earlier. I have to do this some of the time anyway, so I'll make it part of my normal routine.
    3. Daily morning rides are out. The weather is too nice for me to resign myself to spinning on the trainer in the basement. Since I don't want to ride on the road before sunrise, this is just going to be a fact of life for a while.
    4. Daily morning running is in. I like pre-dawn running, and right now my mileage is low enough that I can get back to the house at a reasonable time. This morning I set my alarm for 4:45, started running at 5:30, and was back just in time to wake my daughter. I think I can do this five times a week.
    5. A few afternoon rides during the week will have to do. On evenings that my wife doesn't have school, I should be able to squeeze in a ride after work but before supper. They can't be long rides, but an hour or so of intervals will serve just fine to keep me in shape.
    6. Weekends are for longer, more enjoyable rides. If cycling were just about getting a workout, I'm not sure I'd be able to keep up my motivation. Hopefully I'll be able to do at least one fun ride each weekend to help me relax and recover from the higher-intensity work during the week.
    Between these changes and some help from the rest of the family to keep things going smoothly, I just might end up in better shape that I have been all summer. We'll see how it goes.

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Bike Camping

    All summer I have been hearing the siren song of the open road urging me to get back out there and ride to places I've never been. While I have not had the time to take another long tour this year, there are ways of squeezing adventure into tight schedules.

    A colleague and friend of mine, who left Colorado to live in London, was in town this week. He invited my coworker Jim and me to go out for some mountain biking on Monday. So we met up that morning at Betasso Preserve and rode the trails for a while. It was my third time mountain-biking, and it was a blast.
    Riding with friends at Betasso
    Afterward we had an excellent lunch in Boulder at Leaf vegetarian restaurant and a beer at Mountain Sun before heading back to the office for a very productive afternoon.

    As fun as that was, it was merely a warm-up for what was to come later in the week. For months now, Jim and I have been talking about doing some bike camping in the mountains west of Nederland. Indeed, that was the entire reason for buying a mountain bike. After a drawn out series of negotiations with our work and family schedules, we decided to make it happen last Wednesday and Thursday, August 17th and 18th.

    My daughter told me that I was going for a hike-and-bike. I told her that we weren't planning to do any hiking, but as shall be seen, she has once again proven herself the wiser.

    The goal was to ride from Nederland to Winter Park, camp overnight, and return the next day. But that itinerary wasn't set in stone, and we went out with the understanding that we'd be winging it to some extent. What we actually did looked something like this:

    View Bike Camping, August 2011 in a larger map

    After parking at the West Magnolia trail head, we consulted our map and chose to take Forest Service Road 355, which becomes 105 and 503, to Tolland Road. We got our bikes and gear ready, and headed out.
    At the West Magnolia trail head
    That forest road barely earned the right to share the same title as its civilized counterparts. It's like calling a yard with a few chainsaw sculptures a museum. But while it was more of a semi-navigable trail than a road, it served us reasonably well. And when we made it out to Tolland Road, we were rewarded with a view of the lovely valley that stretches west from Rollinsville.
    Looking toward Rollinsville
    Although it is dirt and a long, gradual climb, Tolland Road was pleasant. Once we got to County Road 117 (marked Rollins Pass Road on the map), we were ready to stop for lunch.

    The road up toward the pass is rocky and bumpy, but not at all inappropriate for mountain bikes. As it climbs up the side of the mountain, sweeping vistas of the valley below are sometimes revealed.
    View of the valley from CR117
    Since we were out there in the middle of the week, only the occasional 4-wheeler or pickup disturbed the meditative focus which accompanies all long climbs.
    Yankee Doodle Lake
    In time, we came to Yankee Doodle Lake, above which the road terminates just before the Needle Eye Tunnel. We stopped to rest at the road closure where a nonplussed marmot chattered at us in the most threatening little bark it could muster.

    Needle Eye Tunnel
    The Needle Eye Tunnel is blocked off, but there is a foot path that goes over and around it. This was the first time the weight of my bike and gear became a serious problem. I pulled the panniers off and we brought them over separately.

    Beyond the tunnel, the road is quite bad. While it may have been rideable by the less-encumbered, we found ourselves walking our bikes most of the way. It was approaching 4:30, and we began to question our ability to get over Rollins Pass and down to treeline before dark. So we decided to turn back.

    Rather than lugging our bikes back over the tunnel trail, we decided to take a path that cut down and connected to the Jenny Creek trail near Yankee Doodle Lake. It probably did save us some time, but it was more of the same harsh terrain that had been plaguing our progress on top of the mountain.

    Home for the night
    Near the junction with Jenny Creek, we decided to start looking for a place to camp. Immediately Jim said, "Hey, look! There's a place." And sure enough, there was a clearing just off of the trail with a nice fire circle and a big log to sit on. We set about getting our sleeping quarters arranged, and then built a fire to chase away the numerous mosquitoes. Supper tasted great after a day of tough riding.

    If I lacked certainty before, the next day convinced me that the trails through this area were actually built by clearing some of the forest floor to connect the scree slopes, glacial deposits, and creek beds that were there already. It felt like we spent at least half of our time walking the bikes. There were several times that streams and creeks crossed or overflowed onto the trail, sometimes requiring a portage around the water. In time, we made our way back onto CR117.

    Muddy Me
    When we got to a point where we could see the valley below, Jim pointed out that there were trucks spraying Tolland Road with water. This turned out to be an entertaining turn of events. By the time we got to Rollinsville, we were covered in mud, and the brakes and deraileurs on our bikes were beginning to act up.

    We opted to take Highway 119 back to the trail head rather than scramble up the forest roads again. Before returning to the car, we stopped by the Kelly-Dahl campground to wash off a little bit. Trying to avoid getting the car seat too filthy, I made the trip back to Jim's place in nothing but my bike shorts. Back at the house, we cleaned up and hosed down the bikes while drinking one of the best beers I've had in a while.

    We learned a lot on this trip and have been discussing what went right and what we will do differently next time. Jim took more of a bike-packing approach to his gear, while my own was more like road touring. While I don't like riding with a lot of weight on my back, I think Jim had it right.

    What appears to be ideal, packing-wise, is to put clothes and camping gear in two waterproof compression sacks, lashing one below the saddle and the other on the handle bars. Food can go into a medium-sized hydration pack.

    Jim also opted to forego hot food and just brought pre-prepared fare. Tofu scramble for supper and oatmeal and hot tea for breakfast were nice, but I think I can do without such luxuries for two days. I had some "Nature's Burger" mix, available in bulk from Sunflower Farmer's Market, for lunch the first day. I'll be packing that again. It tastes pretty good uncooked, especially with a little nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper powder.

    We had a SteriPen with us for treating stream water. Since we haven't gotten sick, I'll assume that it worked as advertised. It was definitely faster and easier to use than a filter pump, and those don't kill microbes. So that's a piece of gear that I'll consider essential on any future trips.

    I took this trip as an opportunity to try camping in a hammock instead of a tent. I never sleep very well on the first night of camping, so it's hard to say whether my sleeplessness was due to the hammock or not. But I think I would have been more comfortable in a tent.

    We'll see how things go next time. For now, I'm enjoying the joys of riding unladen on carbon fiber and smooth pavement. It's good to be home.