Sunday, July 31, 2011

Metro North Chamber Challenge 5k Run

I haven't done much running since last February, when I started experiencing some knee pain. Since then I've just been focusing on cycling. But after a little bit of prompting from the community affairs group at work, I signed up to run the Metro North Chamber Challenge 5k with a couple of colleagues.
Team Google at the MNCC5k
The run was last Thursday, July 28 2011. It was a nice course, and except for a slower-than-usual check-in, I was pretty impressed by the organization, turn-out, and competition.

View Metro North Chamber Challenge 5k in a larger map

The run was mostly on multi-use paths, with some dirt service road terrain thrown in for good measure. The weather was just about perfect. An afternoon thunderstorm threatened but never manifested, so the temperature was comfortable. At first I thought the water stations might be a bit much for such a short run, but it didn't take too much of my panting to dry out my mouth, so their presence turned out to be welcome.

I didn't have any illusions about getting a spot on the podium, but I thought a goal of 21 minutes should be attainable. My official time was 20:35, which made me plenty happy. There were several really fast runners out there, though, who blew that time away (first place overall was under 16 minutes). I did get 2nd place in my age group (and 10th overall), and my teammate Jim got 3rd, but we didn't realize that and left before the award ceremony. Results are posted here.

The after-party was well done, featuring several local food providers. There wasn't very much in the way of vegan fare, but I planned ahead and brought a banana and Clif bar. My family was there to show their support, and they enjoyed the pizza, sandwiches, and sweets that were offered.

So despite the fact that Thornton will never be the athletic Mecca that Boulder is, it looks like we know how to put on a pretty good event.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hiking with the Family

Lately I've been feeling like I haven't spent enough time getting the family outdoors this year. We've done plenty of playing in the back yard, but we hadn't gone hiking at all this year. Since I'd already decided to skip out on the Mt. Evans hill climb race, I decided that last Saturday was the perfect time to go for a hike.

We had such a fun time seeing Cumberland Falls in Kentucky that I thought another waterfall outing would be a good choice. The plan was to go out to Ouzel Falls in the Rocky Mountain National Park. While the falls would all be smaller than Cumberland, there would be three of them along the route, so we could make up in quantity what was lacking in size.

View Larger Map

Our picnic lunch was prepared the night before, including sandwiches, salad, carrots, apples, and some pretty good carob & chia cookies. So we were actually able to get out of the house by 8:30, which is pretty good for our family. But that's not exactly early-bird by hiker standards, so the parking situation at the Wild Basin trailhead wasn't ideal. We ended up having to park about a mile up the road from the trailhead and walk along a horse trail to get to the trail. At that point I knew that our plans would have to change a little bit, and Ouzel Falls was written out of the itinerary.

The kids did great for the first leg of the hike. My eldest was talking about how it was the most beautiful place in the world. My youngest walked most of the way before we put him in the backpack.

The kids hiking along the horse trail
When we got to the trailhead, we stopped for a snack of cookies and carrots. Then it was off to see Copeland Falls, about 0.3 miles up the trail.

Lower Copeland Falls
My daughter and me by Lower Copeland Falls
My daughter's enthusiasm was waning by that point, and it was obvious that we weren't going to make Calypso Falls either. So we sat down on the rock at the upper falls under the shade of a pine tree and ate our lunch.
C and F at Lower Copeland Falls
On the way back, my daughter's attitude had turned around as completely as had our path. She was exhausted and cursed every rock that caused her to stumble. But she stuck with it and made it back to the truck just fine. My son fell asleep in the backpack.
Nap time on the trail
They say that the most important part about any kind of outing with children is to remain patient and flexible. Nobody in my family is particularly known for the former virtue, but our ability to adjust our plans according to the situation allowed us to have a great time, all things considered.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Don't just mind your own business

I made a coworker mad yesterday as he was telling a story about how his wife got hurt while riding on a bike path. "She was just riding along, minding her own business, when some Lance Armstrong type going way too fast tried to pass her..." I couldn't help but laugh. I don't think the accident was her fault, and I sure don't think bicycle accidents are funny. But all of these stories begin that way: "I was just riding along, minding my own business, when suddenly I noticed there was a puppy caught in my sprocket."

Upon further reflection, it occurs to me that "minding my own business" is double-speak for "had my head up my ass." Trust me. I have a vacation home in Rectal Vistas, CO, so it's not like I'm just passing judgement on everybody else, here. I have been guilty of not paying enough attention. And I'm fairly sympathetic to both parties in the accident related by my coworker.

You see, I'm pretty sure the guy that hit her was also just minding his own business. Two people in motion, each of them insufficiently aware of the other, is a recipe for disaster. Heck, one person in motion is enough to do the trick. The last time I nearly got in an automobile accident, I was just driving along the freeway, minding my own business, when suddenly the cars in front of me weren't moving anymore. (Hooray for modern brake technology!)

So whether you're a roadie keeping an eye on your power output, a runner with earphones blasting your favorite song, a dog-walker on a cell phone, or a motorist cruising down the highway, minding your own business is, at best, likely to be a nuisance to others; and at worst, liable to get you both seriously hurt.

When you're out there doing whatever it is you do, stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Make it your business to know what the people around you are doing. And above all, be courteous. It isn't always enough to avoid an accident, but wouldn't it be better to have a story that begins with "I saw him coming and tried to stay out of the way, but that erratic SOB ran into me anyway."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recipes from the weekend

I got to do a fair amount of cooking over the weekend, some of it turning out quite good. I'm not very good at plate presentation, so I didn't take many photos.

Quinoa with Almond "Cheese" Sauce

I made a batch of the "Basic Vegan 'Cheeze' Sauce" from the link above, using almonds instead of cashews (because that's what we had on hand). This was mixed in with some steamed quinoa. I thought it was really good, but my wife wasn't into it. It seems she just doesn't like nutritional yeast.

While it's quite healthy, the cheese sauce is also very calorie-dense. So if you're concerned about that kind of thing, you'll want to take it easy. I had to finish my wife's serving in addition to my own, and what little was left went on top of my salad. So I ate the whole thing in one meal. Oops.

Black-eyed Pea Masala over Quinoa

This was just a way of using up the leftover quinoa and a half a bag of black-eyed peas that have been sitting in the pantry for a while. It was well received, at least by my wife and me. It isn't the kind of thing that the kids are into.

Roasted balsamic onions

Inspired by a similar dish they served for lunch at work one day, I made this with young onions from our garden. I didn't try giving any of this to the kids either, but my wife and I both enjoyed them.

Onions from our garden

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

We had a baked butternut squash in the fridge that needed to be used, so I pulled this recipe out of my bookmarks. I had just started to prepare supper when the power went out, so after a good deal of grumbling, I got my improvisational juices flowing.

Since the squash was already cooked, I expected to deviate from the recipe's instructions. I sliced the apples (using just 2 Galas) and planned to saute them in Earth Balance and cinnamon. Fortunately our gas grill has a side burner, so I moved the cooking operations out to the deck.

After the apples cooked for a little while, I added the squash and a tablespoon or so of rehydrated dried onion flakes to the saute pan, along with 1/2 cup of water. Once that had cooked for a few minutes,  I added 2 cups of Rapunzel broth and the other seasonings, minus the black pepper and plus a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. I wanted a little sweeter flavor, and I'm a total blackstrap addict.

All of that was cooked down pretty well, but far from smooth. Fortunately the power came back on just in time to puree the soup in the blender before serving. Even my 21-month-old son loved it, eating a couple of bowls of soup while largely turning up his nose at the PB&J sandwich served on the side.

Turkey Hot Dog Stirfry

Hot dog stir-fry
This is something my daughter and I have made together a couple of times over the past week. We used her favorite vegetables - baby carrots, bell peppers, and spinach - along with the chopped hot dogs. The carrots (julienned) and peppers (finely chopped) go in first, with a tablespoon of oil. When they start to become tender, add the hot dogs. After those are heated through and starting to brown, put in about 1/2 cup of water, maybe less, and a couple of handfuls of spinach. Cover and cook until the spinach is fully wilted. Then remove the lid and continue to cook until the water has evaporated.

Since this was just for the kids, we didn't use any seasonings. My son picked the hot dogs out and left the vegetables, but my daughter had no trouble cleaning her plate. So while I have no idea what this tasted like, I guess it was good enough.

Overnight Oatmeal

I love having oatmeal for breakfast, but during the summer a hot breakfast isn't always what I want. So what could be better than cold oatmeal? There are endless variations, but this is what I did most recently:
  • 1/2 cup old-fashion oats
  • 1 cup sweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon carob powder
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
Just put that in a bowl, stir it up, and stick it in the fridge overnight. When you wake up in the morning, a tasty, filling bowl of cold oatmeal is waiting for you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Road-biking Denver's Northern Suburbs, Part 3: Thornton, Dacono, Fort Lupton

This third route in the "Road-biking Denver's Northern Suburbs" series is another loop through the farm lands north of the suburbs.

View Thornton, Dacono, Ft. Lupton in a larger map

The route begins at the ball fields on Holly Street, just south of 136th Ave. There is ample parking available, and it's a good spot to meet up with friends if you're going for a group ride. Construction is currently in progress to extend the complex with a skate park. There are several opportunities along the route for picking up snacks and drinks.

From Holly Street, go north and take 136th Avenue east to Colorado Blvd. From there, it's a long, straight shot up to SH 52. As you approach Dacono, the blue water tower just south of the highway becomes visible. Here we intersect with the Thornton, Erie, Dacono Loop from part 2. Combining the two makes for a nice, longer ride.

Colorado Blvd, south of Dacono
As in part 2, SH 52 is higher traffic than the rest of the route, but it's fairly moderate, at that. Heading east, the shoulder varies and is rough in places, but it's rideable throughout.

Just before Fort Lupton, you will cross the South Platte River before the underpass at US-85. Ride through town, through a couple of traffic lights, and turn left on what is variously known as Business US-85, County Road 27, or in these parts, South Denver Ave.

South Platte River, Fort Lupton
As you come near to Brighton, there is a large factory where wind turbine parts are manufactured. Sometimes the huge blades will be loaded onto railroad cars, ready for delivery.

The intersection at 168th provides another chance to extend the ride by heading east and following (in reverse) the Adams County Loop described in part 1.

Heading west on 168th Avenue, you will cross back over the river, past a concrete loading site, and then turn left onto Tucson. Here, and farther on Riverdale, there are some sand quarries which provide some large truck traffic, but I've never found it to be a problem.

From Tucson, turn right on Highway 7, or 160th Ave. Then take the first left onto Riverdale, just before the hill. The stretch along Riverdale is quite pleasant. At the stop sign near the golf course, turn right onto 128th, leading back to Holly Street and the end of the ride.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Road-biking Denver's Northern Suburbs, Part 2: Thornton, Erie, Dacono

This is another of the routes I like to ride in the morning before heading off to work. It quickly takes you out of town, past some of the outer subdivisions, and into the rural countryside. On clear mornings the view of the mountains out to the west is quite nice.

View Thornton, Eerie, Dacono in a larger map

I usually ride this loop clockwise, if only because the right-hand turns are easier to make. The map shows the ride beginning and ending at the parking lot of the shopping center at 136th and Colorado Blvd, but as with the first installment of this series, it is easily accessible from most of the northern Thornton area.

There is a landfill at the northern end of Sheridan Parkway which results in a little bit of extra traffic from garbage trucks. But it isn't bad and doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the ride.

It is common to see hot air balloons in the sky to the west as you ride north along County Road 5, and the view of the mountains is usually very nice. That road takes you past Erie High School, an airstrip community, and a salvage yard for old VWs. The route then turns onto SH 52 just before the county road turns to gravel.

SH 52 is the highest-traffic road on this route, as it is an I-25 tributary, but the shoulders are pretty good, and even at the intersection with the interstate, it is quite manageable. There are a couple of convenience stores accessible from this point - one near I-25 and the other just past the turn onto Colorado Boulevard, also known as Weld County Road 17 in these parts.

I like to note the four radio towers on the east side of the road just north of 168th Avenue, or Baseline Road, which serves as a good distance marker as you head south. Shortly after that is the intersection with 160th/SH 7, and then the home stretch back to the beginning.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Road trip

My family and I just finished a road trip across much of the country to visit family and friends. Our travels took us to Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Indiana. I brought my bike along so I could get some riding in. It's a great way not only to stay in shape during a vacation, but also to get a more intimate look at some of the areas we passed through. It's also a lot easier to make it through a day of driving if I've gotten a good workout before hand.

Of course we had some memorable meals, both great and not-so-great, along the way.

View Larger Map


We left Denver in the afternoon, so our first stop for the night was in Colby, KS. Supper that night was at the Village Inn. After interrogating the waitress for a few minutes, I managed to cobble a vegan meal together out of side items, including a piece of pita bread which was not on the menu.

The next morning I got up and rode my bike around on the back roads. As would be expected, the terrain was quite flat. But it was very windy, so about half of the loop was spent fighting the headwind, while the other half was spent cruising along at a good clip.

View Larger Map

Even though this route was mostly on US highways, traffic was pretty light. And the vehicles that did pass me always kept a respectful distance. I got half-heartedly chased by a dog while heading south on US 83, and County Roads J and K are hard-packed dirt and gravel (or American pavé, as I like to think of it) east of I-70.

While leaving our hotel, my helmet and gloves got left in the hotel lobby. Pro tip: when your 5-year-old says she wants to help carry things out to the truck, make sure she doesn't get side-tracked along the way.


We ate the second evening's supper in Columbia at Main Squeeze. This place was great, and I look forward to stopping there again.

After eating, we drove a while longer until we got to our hotel at Weldon Spring, MO, near St. Louis. This area has some small rolling hills, and there was a wildlife preserve near our hotel which offered some decent riding in the morning.

View Larger Map

Traffic wasn't bad on these roads, and the scenery was pleasant.

We had lunch at Saffron Bistro in Cape Girardeau, MO. There was a pretty good selection of vegetarian options on the menu. And while the waitress didn't know much about it, the manager was very knowledgeable and helpful in working out vegan modifications. I had the drunken rice noodles with tofu, with instructions to use salt and water instead of chicken stock. It was excellent.


We arrived at my father's house in Tennessee the next day. We had been planning to have a cookout with all of the family on Saturday, July 2nd. I made some stuffed portabella mushrooms which, if I do say so myself, were delicious.
  • 4 large portabella mushrooms, stems removed
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 handfuls of almonds
  • Green onions
  • Ketchup
  • Salt and pepper

Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Set the mushrooms on top, stem-side up, making sure the tops of the mushrooms get coated in oil. Drizzle some more oil and vinegar on top and let it soak for a while.

Crush the almonds in a blender and transfer to a bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of ketchup, chopped green onion, salt, and pepper. Mix, adding enough balsamic vinegar to moisten the mixture a little bit. It should be pretty thick and hold together well.

Spoon the filling onto the mushrooms and spread it out. Transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a grill at low/medium heat and cook until heated through and the mushrooms become tender. I wasn't paying very much attention, but I think it took about 15 to 20 minutes.

Market Fresh Produce, Jackson TN
Our grocery shopping took us to a wonderful little place in Jackson called Market Fresh Produce where we got some fruits and vegetables. We spoke to an old woman who said the place was owned by her family and had been in business for 56 years. She had been working there since she was a little girl.

I also stopped in at Bicycle City in Jackson to buy a temporary replacement for the helmet and gloves left behind in Colby, KS.

During our stay in Tennessee, I got out for a ride to see the countryside and another interval workout just before we left.

View Larger Map

I've been wanting to ride the roads of this area for quite some time. It's fairly flat around there, but whole area is very pretty.

Our outbound trip included lunch at Tin Angel in Nashville. It was actually a really good restaurant, but it wasn't what I was expecting. For some reason it turned up in a search for vegetarian restaurants, but the selection was pretty thin. I ate a black bean burger and ignored the fact that the focaccia bun couldn't have been vegan.


From Tennessee we caravanned with my sister up to her house in Kentucky. On the way, we stopped for the night at Cumberland Falls State Park. The cabin we rented there was very nice and easily fit all eight of us. There was a trail head leading down to the falls right beside our cabin, so that evening we walked the mile or so down to the falls. When we arrived there was a ranger giving a talk about snakes at the visitors' center, so we stopped in to listen to the tail end of that.

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
We ate a late supper of salad in the cabin. Breakfast at the lodge restaurant the next morning was pretty good and reasonably priced.

After arriving at my sister's house, I pulled up a map and began planning a ride for the next morning. I don't know how many people take advantage of it, but Kentucky boasts some very beautiful roads and hills which make for premium cycling.

View Larger Map

I was a little concerned that the narrow roads would prove problematic, but there was very little traffic. I think I got passed by six or seven cars on the whole ride. Tate's Creek Road runs along side a creek (as one might expect) and through tunnels of trees arching overhead.

For a time I worried that I was going to miss out on some of the hills which rose abruptly to either side of the road. But then I turned onto Highway 1156, startled a turkey vulture which was gnawing on an unfortunate rabbit in the road, and I got to experience one of those hills in all its lung-bursting glory. The rest of the ride was rolling, but nothing quite so severe as that first climb.

On our way out of Kentucky, we stopped at Good Foods Market and Cafe for an early lunch. Good Foods is a lot like the Whole Foods chain, in that it's a grocery store with a cafeteria-style eatery where you pay by weight. It was a little out of the way and chaotic with the kids, but the food was good.


From there, we headed in the general direction of home, stopping in Indiana to see an old friend of mine. After another hotel-room supper, we went over to his house and hung out for a couple of hours. It wasn't nearly enough time to get properly caught up, but it was a very good visit. He has a daughter one year older than F, and they got along famously.

Kansas (again)

The next day found us lunching in St. Louis at Govinda's vegetarian Indian buffet. While the selection was small, the food was tasty, and it was probably the cheapest meal we had on the whole trip.

We stopped for the night in Topeka, KS. Upon checking into our hotel, we headed down town to have supper at the Blue Planet Cafe. It turned out that a large section of the down-town area was closed off for some kind of Mexican festival parade, but we were able to park and walk just a few blocks to get to the restaurant. We did have to skip the parade in favor of eating before the place closed.

When we got there, we discovered that, due to a live music event going on in the back room, the menu was limited to a few items they had prepped ahead of time. Still, we got a great meal, and the place was very kid-friendly. The owner came over to our table for a little while and chatted with us. She said that when she was living in California and was making cross-country trips, keeping her daughter fed was troublesome. So when she opened Blue Planet, she determined to make sure kids could get good fare.


On the last day, we had a picnic lunch at a rest stop, finishing off most of the vegetables and other food we had with us. We stopped by the hotel in Colby, KS, and got my helmet and gloves, which were held at the front desk for me. And at 3:03 p.m., we crossed the state line into Colorado.

Except for the cabin at Cumberland Falls, all of our hotel stays were at Holiday Inn Express locations. I mention this not because there's anything in it for me (there's not), but because we've had good experiences at nearly every one of their hotels we've gone to. Their suites, having a king-sized bed and a pull-out sofa, are perfect for a family our size with young children. And the complementary breakfast is very convenient, if somewhat lacking in vegan variety.

So that's our big mid-summer road trip. For all the family and friends with whom we have parted ways, we miss you all already and can't wait until we're able to see you again.