Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Baja Prelude: Third Time's the Charm?

I really didn't think I'd be going to Baja this week. I mean, it's been on the calendar for months, and I've caught myself saying things like, "Yeah, I think I'm riding to Baja sometime in April," and I even hung up the maps and turned down work to keep the dates open. But I really didn't think I'd be going. For starters, I'm a bit queasy about crossing the U.S. border these days. Even back in 2015, during my border-to-border Return Migration (still only a draft-dream, as far as posts go), I had a headache doing so. Detained for no reason what-so-ever. Held in a small room by my own countrymen*. And Pilot Guy, in no uncertain terms, was given no other option but to pass through without me and wait. For what? For how long? All's well that ends well, but... I have no interest in experiencing that again.

My Baja motorcycling track record is not a good one**.  You know about my first try.  Round about November, 2015, I heard from Adrian. "I'm ready to try again. You in?" My response sizzled with excitable electrons over the wire. "I'm in."  April 2016 was blocked off the calendar.  In pen. We're in! Li'l Burro was fully refreshed and ready to go.  All wheels were in motion.  But mom got sick, so, I was, of course, out. Adrian, stout soul, went on his own, and has made at least two additional trips since then.

Fast forward to 2017 and the calendar was blocked out again. In pencil.  This week my dog pretended to have lymphoma (she doesn't), and Li'l Burro, in all his good humor, pretended to be broken (he isn't).  Like I said.  I really didn't think I'd be going***.

Miraculously, there is a heap of gear in my dining room, an array of devices charging in the next room, and a Yamaha**** out back, waiting, ever patiently, to be packed. Maybe I'll check the oil. And the tires, even. Third time's the charm?

Wish us well.

Since I haven't posted an actual photo of a motorcycle in... forever, here's one from Li'l Burro's 2016 Pre-Baja Check Ride.

 *Global Entry status not withstanding, even! Harrumph.
**My Baja by Little Aeroplane record is substantially better.
***Oh great. I've just been informed "five planets are in retrograde." That's bad, right? Carry on.
****New speedo gear and larger gas tank, even!

Saturday, March 18, 2017


When you open the hangar door to reveal a veritable and volatile pond beneath your aeroplane, well... it makes for the quickest pre-flight ever.   There goes 80 gallons of 100LL*. Can I just say, it's not always the Ducati that breaks down?

AvGas evaporates pretty quickly in these parts.

Day off! Let's go to Yuma! (??) There was a bit of sense to the plan. Pilot guy's friend is out there for an airshow, helping manage the smoke generators. You know, the letters in the sky? That smoke. Turns out, Pilot Guy helped design the system, based on GPS clocks, some years ago. Why not? And? There's a motocross demo to be seen!

As is the case with motorcycles, some days involving aeroplanes don't always go as planned.

The task of the day was more along the lines of siphoning 50 or 60 gallons out of the wings (who doesn't love the taste of AvGas first thing in the morning?), rather than any diagnostics. But on first glance it appears the left wing and the fuel selector valve are both leaking. Go big or go home!  (AvGas is blue, by the way.)

So we went out to eat, instead.

We've always been curious about the airport convenient, Flamingo bedazzled Sunny Daze Cafe. The  posole was pretty good!

This Sunny Daze flamingo didn't survive pre-flight, either, it seems.

And so, instead of presenting you with a photo of a motorcycle leaping through the air, here is a photo of a... horse. Because that's just kind of how the day went.**

Tucson Dressage Horse Show
Might as well, right?

*That's aviation fuel, to you and me. And about $500.
**We swung by Arizona Zipline Adventures, too, with the hopes of making today an even stranger collection of activities, but they were booked. It's a fun looking place! I'll be back. On a motorcycle.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hope for 2017

They said it couldn't happen. Wouldn't happen. Until it did. One day, a tiny gray bird named Lucy unexpectedly made her nest in a decorative little bird house in one lucky Tucsonan's yard.  Despite her declining habitat, Lucy had, until then, steadfastly refused to rear her young in nest boxes. Lucy prefers the holes and crevices found in trees - mesquites, thank you very much - especially those of the dense stands found in riparian areas. Make no mistake: it's just these types of areas and trees that are in rapid decline.  Poor Lucy.  Consider her the next time you are tempted to buy mesquite charcoal.

Truth be told, I've become a little bit of a "crazy bird lady" recently.  I thought it was prompted by my having to cut down my old chinaberry tree/starling apartment complex this fall (both invasive, for what it's worth), but Pilot Guy reminded me of this strange day, and the haunting dream I had about both my mother and the yellow bird months later. No matter the reason, I've enjoyed watching, listening to - I'm a flutist, after all! - and photographing birds ever since.  (Here's a haphazard selection of some of my early attempts.)

So today, the Ducati and I - noses high in the air, inhaling the orange blossom and sweet acacia scented morning breezes - headed east, to volunteer for the Tucson Audubon Society's nest box project.  Our task? Install 100 nest box "replicates" to aid in determining just what sort of box, with what sort of height, and/or orientation, Miss Lucy might, if we're lucky, decide to patronize.

The boxes are almost as light and delicate as Miss Lucy herself. Until you try to push a wheelbarrow with 50 of them (and your lunch) through deep sand under an uncharacteristically hot March sun, that is.

Ducati No-Fly Zone (Yes, this is a river.  A desert river.)

Two teams installed, in random order, five different types of boxes in each of 20 sites, recording their GPS coordinates, height, arrangement, and orientation along the way.

Which one will Lucy prefer? I'll ride out for Audubon from time to time this spring, in an attempt to answer that very question.

The five "replicates," installed just in time. The migrating Lucy's Warblers are beginning to arrive in Tucson this very week.  (The first photo in this post is an extra credit box in the mesquite in my back yard. I'm hope, hope, hoping...)

The installation site is delightfully close to the base of Mount Lemmon, but my reward run up the mountain was slower than Sunday. The ascending traffic, a long snaking line of cars so slow it was nearly outpaced by the sweating, panting bicyclists, left me wondering if today was a holiday.  The smart rider stops for a sandwich constructed of Bosnian leftovers and enjoys the view.

Windy Point, Mount Lemmon

The return trip? I may have done a little - just a little - flying myself.

With our nation poised to leap backwards into an abyss of ecological apathy, if not downright assault, consider volunteering an hour, making a choice, planting a plant, or writing a check for a bird, bee, or tree near you.

April 24, 2017 Update!
I've checked the boxes twice, with no sign of activity, (I'm going back again tomorrow), and I don't know what other volunteers have seen (or not seen) at the other two sites, BUT...
I have a friend with a decorative bird house in her tree. Guess who moved in?

Photo courtesy of FastWinn Photography

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Things I Love

Is there anyone who doesn't love these things*?
 *Not Shown: "Free Speech," "Twisty Roads," "Transparency," "Education," "Facts," "Heath Care," "The Great American West," "Clean Elections"

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Neither Zen Nor Art

My mother died, so the motorcycle didn't make it to Utah*, so I thought I'd do some things I usually don't because I'm busy motorcycling instead. So I'm planning a maybe backpacking expedition to King's Peak (3 days, 30 miles) and I need granola, so I pick some cherries and dry them, but I need some butter, too, so I have to spend three hours fixing my bicycle to get the butter, and then the chain gets jammed up anyway on the way to the store, and I never get the butter (way better than oil, by the way), but -look!- there's one of my favorite brilliant yellow birds**, dead in the middle of the road, and suddenly I turn back; I must carry the dead bird home in my bicycle basket (what am I, eight years old?), and it makes me cry and cry and...see?  This is why I hate fixing motorcycles*.  The End
*This really does all make sense.
**Yellow Warbler? Wilson's Warbler? I'm not sure.

Granola tips: Use whatever bits and pieces you like, but instead of plain oil, used browned butter or coconut or olive oil,  and instead of honey/sugar/agave syrup/whatever, use maple syrup. Put in the dried fruit after baking. Cook it low and slow, turning it over often.  If you want it "clustery," grind up some of your oats and coconut into flour and let your final mix sit for a few minutes before baking it. Then pinch it together into clumps before baking.  (See here for the method, but I think this recipe itself is too sweet.) Mom, however, in her final weeks, had a sweet tooth that never would have been obliged in earlier days. She requested I pour caramel all over her granola when I made it for her this spring.  She remarked candied orange peel would make a lovely addition, and she was absolutely right.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Coffee Break

The last few months of my life have been spent not on a motorcycle, but on the commercial airlines. Something along the lines of AZ-FL-AZ-FL-AZ-CA-AK-FL-UT-FL-UT-AZ-UT.

Except for the trip to Alaska (miraculously not cancelled, whereas the repeat ride to Baja was cancelled and, by the way, hooray for Adrian* for making the ride with out me), these journeys have been filled with heartache and loss.  And in saying that, I'm not talking about the time American Airlines delivered me to the wrong city on the wrong day, or the times they charged me twice for the same checked bag.

As I sit waiting for the final leg of this reluctant game of hopscotch to end, I take more than a little pleasure in a coffee done right.

I admit, Cartel Coffee Lab hasn't been my absolutely favorite coffee in AZ, (Why does their downtown Phoenix location seem perpetually closed, anyway?), but they've just won me over for life. I could almost forget I'm sitting in a airport. Thank you.

This one's for you, Mom. 

So much to love:
The caffé macchiato is actually a caffé macchiato.
The caffé macchiato is served in a real glass.
The caffé macchiato is served with the appropriate glass of water.  I didn't even have to ask for it.
The olive oil muffin is not only delicious, with its crispy sweet sugar crusted top and golden rich interior, but is not the size of a truck.

*Yes, you've met Adrian. How could you forget?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Recipe: Christmas Dinner in Thirty Minutes or Less (The Feast of Three Fishes*)

Did you ever make pomanders as a kid? Remember how much those pokey cloves hurt your fingers? Clever adults use a lobster pick or other implement to poke pilot holes, first.

When you decide at 12:30 pm on December 24 that you’ll host dinner on December 25, you’re going to have to throw money at the problem. That means shellfish.  Since you’ll need to have grocery shopping, cookies for tonight, and cake for tomorrow all completed, and be showered (bonus!), coiffed (hah!), and out of the house by 4:00 pm to attend your Christmas Eve festivities, plan on making, rolling, and filling the Russian Cigarette cookies promised to your Christmas Eve hostess with one hand, while mixing up a cheesecake with the other. And I do mean this literally. The cookie crumbs that fall into the top of the cheese cake will be covered up by cherries, so don’t fret.   And because you simply can't survive one more year without those anise-seed Christmas cookies of your childhood, mix up a batch of those, too.  Oh, and cook an artichoke, so you don’t have to do it tomorrow. They take a while.  Finally, praise the deity of your choice with hearty song on high when your still warm cheesecake remains steadfastly in its pan, despite your 4:15 pm unscheduled tire squealing collision avoidance maneuver.  Don’t forget to pop the cheesecake in the fridge before the Sugar Plum Faeries do their dance, but let it cool to room temperature first.

Ready, set… GO!

T-30 min: Set a big pot with a few inches of water to boil.  Dump a half jar of the sour cherries you preserve each summer in a small pot with some of their juice, a bit of lemon, sugar, and cornstarch.  Set over medium flame, stirring as often as your hands are free of other things.  Rinse and section out king crab legs.  Waste 15 seconds or so pondering just how seriously big of sea beast this thing was,  then swear at it when its sharp shell slits your finger open.  Band-Aid, STAT!  Glass of wine, STAT! Do take a brief moment to savor the drama and excitement of it all.  The cherries are boiling now. After a minute or so of this, pour them - schloop! - into the nearest appropriate container.  Put it on ice.  The big pot is boiling now.  Sling the crab legs into it, and cover. Work in a snap and twirl to for effect.  Yank the leaves - pop! pop! pop! - off the artichoke you cooked last night, and smear the base of each one with a dollop of spicy, garlicky cream cheese.  Oh, right, you mixed up the cream cheese yesterday, too.

T-25 min: Pull out the crab legs from the pot and throw them into a colander whilst doing the "Gah! HotHot!" dance.  Dump and rinse the pot, avoiding a steam burn as best you can. If you forget to save a bit of the crab leg broth for two steps from now, you won't really miss it.  It was a bit too salty, anyway. Set the pot back on the burner, add olive oil, a lump of the garlic you prepped and froze earlier (because you hate prepping garlic on a daily basis), paprika, and slices of the Russian sausage “Babcia” gave you last night. Sausage is forbidden in the traditional feast of any number of fishes, but desperate people do desperate things, and, well... sausage!  Sauté for a full precious minute while you keep on keepin' on with those artichoke leaves. Dump a jar of tomatoes, that almost gone bottle of white wine at the back of the fridge, a quarter of the onion you were slicing for the salad (yes, you are also preparing a green salad), a bay leaf, and some cayenne into the big pot. Rethink. Take chances. More cayenne. Wish you had some spinach on hand to toss in at the last second, but don’t waste too much time here.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to the slightest simmer or less. You will come back to this later.**

T-20 min: Arrange the artichoke leaves artfully on a platter, put a caper on each one (because the jarred roasted sweet red peppers you found in Pilot Guy's fridge don't taste all that good, pretty as they may be), and sprinkle with smoked paprika. (Under the gun, you can do this incredibly rapidly. Trust me.) There. You have an artichoke sunflower on the table, should people arrive early.  Nuke butter with more of that frozen garlic in two little espresso cups, and set them on a platter with the drained crab legs. Oops! Pilot Guy is not equipped with crab cracking instrumentation. It’s easy to slit each side of the legs with kitchen scissors, but it will cost you two, possibly three, precious minutes.

T-15 min: Meanwhile, Pilot Guy is making fondue from a kit. Scorn the kit, but admit the ingredient list is suspiciously…. fondue like. Imagine that! His maneuver is approved.  Fire directives at him: toast bread cubes! Not too much! Cut up the apples we got at the orchard! (Oops, never posted about the orchard run.)  Set out olives and pickles! No, not those, these! Go! Go!  He complies with a knowing smile, sweet man that he is.

T-10 min: The cherries are cool. Maybe too cool. Nuke for 10 seconds. Chicken out and remove them at 8 seconds. Unmold the cheesecake pan side, but leave the cake on the pan bottom, because you just don’t dare at this point. Set it directly on the cake stand, instead, and pour the cherries on top. Allow them to spill over just so. My God, but those are good. Put the whole thing back into the fridge, and be good and smug about it, because you were clever enough to re-position all the space hogging beer bottles earlier today. Ta da! Should the slightly too soft cake collapse later under the weight of the cherries when you’re doing battle with a stuck fridge drawer, no matter. Tomorrow you can slap the creamy heart of the leftovers into martini glasses, poke in a Russian Cigarette, call it parfait, and pretend you meant to do that. My God, (again), but that is good.

Disaster recovery plan

T-5 min:  Finish a simple salad of greens and thinly sliced radishes and onions. Have at the ready the nice vinaigrette your friend made and gave you for Christmas last week, and also that speech your mom makes every single time about how the French eat salad***, since she won’t be there to make it herself. Pop bread in to warm.

Ding Dong! Pop the champagne cork, snap a hasty photo, and high five with Pilot Guy.  You did it!

Not a pretty photo, this is purely for documentation. It's the only course that got photographed, so you'll just have to believe me on the rest of it.  Thirty Minutes or Less does not include time for food styling or even proper exposure settings.

*A hasty version of the southern Italian tradition of La Vigilia, or “Feast of Seven Fishes,” in which seven or more seafood dishes and/or fishes are served before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.  With a little more thought, surely we could work in the other four?  See below for the two fishes I haven't explained yet.
**Start with the fondue, artichoke sunflower, crab legs, and champagne. When it’s time to move to the table, crank up the heat on the big pot, while Pilot Guy clears the dishes. Throw in a heap of mussels and little neck clams. You bought every last one from the store yesterday. <tap tap> Yep, they're still alive - don't prepare dead ones! The clams go in 1-2 minutes ahead, as they take a little longer. When the shellfish open, retrieve and toss the quarter onion, pour the shellfish and spicy rich broth in a big wide bowl, sprinkle with fresh herbs, and serve with crusty, warm bread and that green salad. 
*** Make the dressing: a proper vinaigrette of shallots, mustard, salt and pepper, and oil and vinegar (never balsamic!) in the bottom of an overly large bowl. Cross the business ends of your salad tossing and serving devices in the bowl, and place your plain greens – nothing else! – on top. Okay, thinly sliced onions and radishes are allowed, but nothing else! Not like those ridiculous American salads.   (Optional: insert discourse on composed vs. tossed salads here.)  Oh, wait, sometimes blue cheese crumbles are permissible as well, especially if you want to combine the cheese and salad courses, but nothing else!  Salad is eaten last, not first!, and gets tossed just before serving. Unless, of course, you're eating it with quiche, in which case, it may (must!) be eaten with the quiche, but that's another set of rules. See how the greens don’t get soggy while waiting?  Salad and pasta can never be over-tossed! (To be fair, that’s my own personal addition to the system, and by this I mean no amount of tossing will be too much. Toss! Toss! Be sure to appoint someone else for this particular part of the rite, then hover over the victim and correct his technique.  Ditto for cake and pie serving.)  P.S. Mom’s way really is the best way!