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.