Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ready... Set... SUMMER!

I'm only a few days into summer, and already having so much fun!

Here's the strangest coffee contraption ever, the "Vesuvius," as seen at a friend's in Santa Fe. We didn't fire it up, but I will insist upon it next time I'm there. (As part of an expanded Hatch Chile Fest 2010 trip?)

My absentee host in Colorado brews for the Left Hand Brewing Company in Longmont. He left a well stocked fridge for me. Additional cases of beer not shown.

I arrived the night before the Farmer's Market. What good timing! I'm not in Kansas (aka the Sonoran Desert) any more... mushrooms!

I took a fantastic ride through Rocky Mountain National Park and took the "long way" home (of course!). It was really, really hard not to add in a proper hike, and take an even longer way home, but for just a few more days, flute practice comes first.

I had a run in (well, not literally, but darn close!) with Big Daddy Elk. The only way you would believe how big, how close he was would be if I had a picture to show you. I don't. Having to keep one eye on Big Daddy One, another on Big Daddy Two (yes! there were two!), and third on any traffic that might pop over the hill and run me down.... well, I just didn't have a spare eye to rummage around my tank bag for my camera. It's really a shame. He, THEY, were spectacular.

Speaking of cameras, it turns out I'm handicapped for the time being. Last year was the summer without a computer. This year is starting out as the summer of the disabled camera. It chooses not to focus on anything at all, for oh, 40% of my shots, more or less. So all my pictures of the beautiful, beautiful park... they're hardly even identifiable. My choices for my posts are going to be pretty limited until further notice.

It took me a good 10 tries to get this picture when out for lunch today. My aunt took me out for a fantastic meal at "Salt Bistro" in Boulder. Can you guess what I ate?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part Six (Butta La Pasta!)

I made it! The final post in my "What I Did Last Summer" series. Just in time... summer 2010 is about to begin. The moto and I hit Colorado in less than a week. I am off the walls excited!

Actually, I'm not sure it was officially still summer by the time I visited Scottsdale Culinary Institute graduate (and former teacher) Scott Morisson's boutique pasta factory in Tempe, AZ. In fact, I think it was well into autumn. But I figured I'd catch up on my summer blogging soon enough (hah!) and keep things in chronological order.

I first found DeCio Pasta at the St. Phillips Farmer's Market here in Tucson. Wow, that market has come a long way in the past few years. There's actual, well, FOOD there now, as opposed to just trinkets and emu oil. Anyway, at the market they had pasta samples to taste. Woo! This was the real deal, similar to the pasta I had at Chez Panisse which I wrote about here and Flips in OK mentioned here. I grabbed more than one package to bring home with me. Closer examination revealed that the pasta was made just "up the road" from me, and I tracked the maker down on our glorious inter-web.

Scott is my kind of guy. First of all, when I asked him for a look-see of his place, he didn't feed me the "sorry, our insurance doesn't allow it" line. Honestly, when I hear that I get a bit leery of the place. What are they trying to hide? No, Scott's response was more like "Come on down!" He proudly (he should be!) and humbly showed me his shop and loaded me up with generous samples at my departure. He also happens to ride a CBR 600, which doesn't hurt. Even better, he bottle fed a lost pup he found in a gutter, "Noodles," now the shop mascot. Like I said, he's my kind of guy. Here they are:

Scott takes pride in his pasta for good reason. He uses pure semolina from N. Dakota, freshly pureed natural vegetables for unique flavors, and filtered water, if he needs water at all. The pasta (literally "paste" in Italian), first goes through a mixing and extruding machine. The dies used are of brass, with etched teflon linings. So he gets the beautiful texture of artisan pasta, with the ease of teflon. Then the pasta is dried slowly on racks, using no supplemental heat to speed the process. These two things really DO make a difference. It's obvious. But don't expect this pasta to be $1.50 a lb. Those dies I talked about? They can cost several thousand dollars a piece. And think about the space it takes to naturally dry 280,000 lbs of pasta a year. In fact, pasta was a luxury reserved for the very wealthy for a long time, because it is so labor intensive.

Here are a few of the dies from which the pasta is extruded.

And the finished product, before packaging. Lovely.

This pasta is truly, truly delicious. My only wish would be for the option of a DeCio "plain jane" pasta, in addition to all the wonderful and creative flavors offered. When I asked about that, Scott just shrugged. "That's not the way I roll," he said. I can respect that!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part Five (Hatch Chile Fest!)

What? Where's Part Four, you ask? Surprisingly, I wrote about that in a timely fashion. I returned to AZ from WY via, OK, of course!

So, on to Part Five.

First stop - Mt. Graham and its Swift Trail Parkway, outside of Safford, AZ. It's a fine place to enjoy the anatomy of a turn. What a way to start a trip! I camped there one night under a glorious full moon and amongst the company at least one skunk rustling around my tent. Thankfully I did not become a victim of my little nocturnal friend.

Next stop - lunch and a walk around the old town area Silver City, NM. 1Zero6 caught my eye, but they didn't open until dinner. Instead, I enjoyed a yummy Italian Mushroom Melt at Vicky's Eatery. Since I don't get mushrooms through my CSA, I often order them in restaurants.

The smell of chiles roasting and growing is getting stronger and stronger as I approach...

Hatch, NM, Chile Center of the Universe! Everywhere you turn there are chile fields, roasting factories and warehouses to process and send chiles in every form all over the nation, not to mention the smaller "Mom and Pop" outfits on every street corner.

I got a fine seat for the Chile Parade, thanks to the generous fellow riders who offered to share their ring-side table with me at the "Pepper Pot." Ironically, I have no chile shortage at home, in Tucson, so I ordered French Toast. It was a bad idea. When in Hatch, eat chiles.

Mike and Mary, new found dining companions, and fellow riders.

The Chile Queen!

Ristras on every corner

I headed back towards Silver City via NM 152, which turned out to be the surprise of the weekend. What a great road! I'll be back there for Hatch 2010, I hope.

Now on to the bargain of the century - NM 15 is signed "44 miles, Travel Time 2 hours," which should give you an idea of its twisty goodness (free!), the Lower Scorpion Campground in the Gila National Forest with its pictographs and small ancient dwelling on its "Trail to the Past" (also free!) and the the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument ($3!).

Cliff Dwellings

My pretty little campsite. No the weather doesn't look good, does it? It's about to get exciting...

Remember that fun (aka treacherous) Rt 15 I rode to get UP here? It was similar to the road up Mt. Timpanogos, UT which I seem to remember describing as something the Shriners and their little tricycles might build? And how I'd never, EVER want to ride something like that in bad weather? Well, it poured the entire way down Rt 15. Not drizzled, not sprinkled, but poured. I survived, but I can't say it was enjoyable.

After (literally) wringing the water out of my socks and having a well deserved rest, snack and iPhone weather radar map consult at a Shell station in Silver City, I headed up towards Alpine, AZ in fine, fine weather. It's at that point that I learned that if one is to use a hefty bag to protect one's sleeping bag from rain, one should arrange it such that the hefty bag in on the inside of the luggage, not outside. Bits of hefty bag stuck in your brakes significantly reduce braking power! No harm done, lesson learned. Since then I've actually purchased a REAL raincover for my luggage. The fine, fine weather didn't hold. I rode in the rain most of the way to the Bear Wallow Cafe in Alpine, AZ where I stopped for a grilled cheese sandwich and strategy session. Do I brave several miles on a likely very muddy, rutted and slippery road to get to where I had planned to camp, wander around looking for an alternative site, spring for a hotel? As I'm considering my options, a fellow motorcyclist tells me his group is throwing in the towel and going home early because of the weather. I'm welcome to his campsite, which is right off a nice, comforting paved road. Yay!

Alpine Divide Campground is cold and there are heaps of snow and hail on the ground from the storms earlier that day. It's so cold I can't really even sleep well. But I enjoyed the yipping songs of a band of coyotes while doing "stay warm calisthenics" in my sleeping bag for much of the night. The next morning I was off again, and traded the tarp gifted to me by the same riders that gave me their campsite to my camp "neighbors" in exchange for some hot coffee and enjoyable conversation.

Once again I was rewarded for my trials. The trip from Alpine back to Mt. Graham is AZ 191, (yup, it's another spectacular byway, the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway, and could very well be the best of them all.) One HUNDRED miles of scenic, twisty, turny fun, and, what luck!, not another car on the road nearly the entire way. And I was granted picture perfect weather to boot!

You can't help but arrive home a better rider after a trip like that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part Three (Wyoming)

I have a strange (or maybe it's not so strange) fascination with Wyoming. I just love those endless fields of scrubby sagebrush. I had the opportunity to see and explore the Snowy Mountain Range in Wyoming last summer from a cabin in Mountain Home, WY on the Colorado border, not far from Laramie. (Notable meal in Laramie: Sweet Melissa's Cafe, found via iPhone app "Urban Spoon." I'm not one to rule out food groups, but this vegetarian restaurant serves up some tasty roasted portabella sandwiches, and pasta with fresh greens.)

After a hearty country breakfast, "the boys" decided they'd go riding on the dirt (borrrrring!), so I opted for my own ride on WY 130, a scenic and fun road near Medicine Bow Peak, aptly named the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. Have you picked up on this yet? If it's a "scenic byway," you know it's going to be good. It was! "I'm going to do this again tomorrow, and THIS time I'm going to take pictures! Yay!"


When I got back the boys were nowhere to be found, one motorcycle had returned, and one car and trailer was missing. Uh oh. They've had a bit too much fun, and someone's moto didn't quite survive the day. I didn't think too much of it. I left this note and enjoyed a short run on a forest road.

I started thinking a little more of it when I saw not one but two police vehicles emerging from the general direction the boys were riding that day. Turns out one of our crew smashed his leg into a zillion pieces (insert sad-funny trombone sound) and we spent the rest of our week hanging out here:

It's all good, folks!

Friday, May 7, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part Two (Grand Teton and Yellowstone)

The Tetons are one of my favorite places on the planet. Teton Trip 2009 included a ride in eastern Idaho, west of both parks, which was until then unknown to me. The Teton Scenic Byway is shockingly beautiful, and has the added bonus of the Seed Potato Capitol of the World, Ashton, ID. Probably every french fry you've ever eaten began its life in this part of the world. This ride was unspeakably beautiful, and I sorely regret not having even one photo. The wind was so fierce that day that I was in danger of toppling over any time I stopped. So fumbling around in my tank bag whilst balancing on tippy toe was just not an option. I'm hoping for another go at it this summer, to include Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, which was under construction at the time. It's supposed to feature "two of the last undisturbed waterfalls of consequence in the US." Whatever that means. All I know is that I want to ride it.

Loaded up at the Tetons!

2009 was the summer of the Buffalo. 2008 it was Moose. What will 2010 bring?

Sunrise at the Jackson Lake Lodge

Peaceful little scenes like this can be overlooked when there are such majestic mountains all around.

I have a love-hate relationship with Yellowstone National Park. Construction delays are inevitable and interminable, crowds can be worse than the mall the Saturday before Christmas, and trying to escape the parking area of "Old Faithful" leaves me kicking myself for entering the park at all. But after one up close and personal big game sighting, or one peek at a steaming, vividly colored, prehistoric hot pool and all is forgiven. At the end of the day, I find myself regretfully passing through the park exit with a lump in my throat.

On this particular trip, I was reminded of both these extremes. I'm willing to bet that, if one is fit enough, an ideal way to see the park would be on bicycle. The stopping and starting to view the attractions (as fascinating as they are) can leave me glazed over in a car, and a bit frustrated on moto (gearing up and gearing "down" are time consuming and tedious). But these stops would be welcome respite over the course of, say, a 40 mile bicycle ride. Perhaps I'll put that on my "bucket list." One week of bicycling through Yellowstone. Until then I'll happily make do with my moto! A few pictures, admittedly from an earlier trip:

Lily pads on the Continental Divide! Who knew? Isa Lake at Craig's Pass.

Canary Springs at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Sapphire Pool at Biscuit Basin

I got to meet my greatest fear on my way home. US 89 was being chip sealed, and was, at the moment I was riding back to UT, a nice bed of deep, loose, and terrifying gravel. I'm downright phobic about setting foot (or tire, I should say) on anything other than terra firma asphalt. Fly along at double the speed limit and I'm hardly breaking a sweat. Set me in front of 20 yards of unpaved road and my heart pounds in terror. If I had to choose between riding a motorcycle across a few yards of gravel road, and jumping out of an airplane using a parachute packed by a three year old, I really would have a tough time picking the lesser evil. Even though riding "off-road" can be tricky, and deep gravel is one of the most difficult surfaces to deal with, the stakes are not very high. Dropping one's bike in such a situation has all the drama of a toddler tipping over a tricycle from a dead stop. Pretty benign and hardly exciting. The only difference is that every inch of the motorcyclist (me) is covered in safety gear designed, tested and certified to high standards to protect the rider in the event of a serious crash. Fear is not always rational, I guess. I'm happy to report I successfully navigated many miles of my personal nemesis, although I think I was emotionally scarred by it.

I was rewarded for my trials by having Logan Canyon completely to myself on the final part of my journey. Forty miles of thrilling sporty goodness! Just as I rounded the corner towards my apartment complex, what did I find? A torn up street covered in gravel! This time I was able to go around most of it. Hah!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What I Did Last Summer - Part One (Utah Scenic Highway 12)

I bought a computer last summer. Which means, for most of the summer, I did not HAVE a computer. Which is why I never told you what I did. Sooo... before THIS summer begins, I'll quickly recap Summer 2009. It began with my realization upon my arrival to Logan, UT, that I had dropped my moto keys over 200 miles back, and was not able to unload it from my trailer without driving an extra 450 miles. Applaud my excellence!

Then I went to Bryce Canyon. Via Bear Lake and the Uintas. (Excellent for real!)

First gas stop near Bear Lake. Cool clouds!

Lots of people think driving across Wyoming is boring. Maybe it's because I'm from CT, but this landscape never fails to amaze me.

Approaching the Unitas! Super-cool, since they have evaded me for a few years in a row, thanks to scheduling snafus and a leaky fuel valve. (Thank you, Steve, for putting together my trailer and driving my car waaaay out to Evanston, WY, to rescue me and my fuel-spewing motorcycle that time... you earned your paella "thank you" dinner many times over!)

Hello Mirror Lake Scenic Byway! Here I am at the top - Bald Mountain Pass. I thought I'd spend the night in the Unitas, but it's not even lunchtime, so I enjoy this fun road and continue on my way. (Plus there's still way too much snow for camping, although this picture doesn't really demonstrate that fact.)

I go. And I go. And I look at the threatening sky and skirt this storm. And that one. Almost 450 miles later, I find myself at Red Canyon campground, right next to Bryce Canyon National Park. Yay! For those not in the know, 435 miles on moto in one day is nothing to sneeze at. It was a record for me, actually. There's no way you can compare it to 435 miles in a car.
No. Way. At. All.

Here's a little walk on the Birdseye Trail at Red Canyon Campground.

The next morning - Bryce Canyon (Natural Bridge and Bryce Point shown here). I've never seen anything like it! Extraordinary! I can't believe I didn't make the time to hike it, but I had more important plans for this trip...

...specifically speaking, the wondrous Highway 12, mecca for motorcyclists the world over. I've been a passenger there before, but this time it was MY turn at the helm. At the other end? Cafe Diablo, fancy, fancy, yummy, yummy food. I have fond memories of their Rattlesnake Cakes, and I was eager for a repeat performance from them.

It rained. A lot. The whole way. Accompanied by the boom and flash of exciting (terrifying?) storms.

Cafe Diabolo was closed.

Sigh. So much for testing my "sport" skills. But my uber-cool rain suit passed with flying colors! So did my until now un-tested riding-in-scary-weather skills! (There'd be more of that in my future, oh yes.) Not so for my makeshift tank bag cover, a.k.a. hotel shower cap. That blew off in, oh, 45 seconds. The fine folks at the Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe supplied me with some satisfying fish and chips and peach pie, along with some replacement hefty bags, which was my keep-the-luggage-dry method at that point. You'll find out why I don't do that any more during "What I Did Last Summer Part Five."

I reach Utah Lake State Park and the skies cleared up to at least let me set up camp in dry weather. The campground host says "Do you have insect repellent? You're going to need it." He wasn't kidding. I did, except the bottle was empty. Again, you may applaud my excellence!

Next stop, Mt. Timpanogos!


It looked like this:

What's that? You can't see it? My point exactly. The road up Mt. Timpanogos looks like it was made by and for a pack of Shriners. You know, the guys that ride those teeeny tricycles wearing fezes? The road is reeeallly narrow. And reeeallly twisty. Which is, of course, exactly why I wanted to ride it. But not in that weather, no thank you, I'll pass. I'm only so stupid. Or so I thought. I did, basically, just that, on another trip which I'll tell you about later.

Time to head home... the hail.

Hail hurts!

(Part Two coming soon.)

Update: Timpanogos wasn't completely lost to me. I made it there, on a lovely day, about a month later. Here I am!