Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I Did Last Summer (Hwy 12 Reprise Part Two: Bryce Canyon)

In June 2009, I rode through Bryce Canyon, but didn’t plan time to hike.  (It was just as well, I got rained on most of the time, anyway.)  But it hurt to look down into that fairyland of pink and orange hoodoos and then ride away without exploring further.  I decided then and there that in 2010, hiking in Bryce Canyon would be a touring priority.

I had some serious business to accomplish on the way, however – sport riding on Fish Lake Road.  Fish Lake Road! – the very place I fell in love with sport riding, in my pillion days. Back and forth, back and forth, all afternoon, each time faster…    Now it was time to enjoy Fish Lake road from the cockpit end of my own motorcycle.  That was the plan, anyway.   Ever ride a motorcycle in a 40mph crosswind? It takes a bit of adjustment to stay on your path. All well and good until – whoosh!  Gust!  The wind puts you, momentarily, over THERE!.  And then, for a split second, the wind lets up. Whoa!  Now you’re over HERE!  It took a lot of effort just to keep the bike between the lines even at a conservative speed.*   So much for tearing up the asphalt.  Next year, next year…

I arrived at Bryce Canyon exhausted from a day of battling the wind, but happy. I got the very last spot at the campground near the trailhead. I could park the bike for the rest of the day without worry, and go on a short hike before sunset.  My Canon G11, the replacement for the Lumix that kicked the bucket a month earlier in Colorado, endured its first sandstorm on the trail.  (No, the wind hadn’t let up.)

Rock formations on the Queens Garden Trail

I had planned to squat on my campsite for two nights, allowing me a chance to hike down to the bottom of the canyon the next morning.  Here are a few views from the Navajo Peekaboo loop.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Peekaboo Trail 033
I’m going down THERE.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Peekaboo Trail 032
Some steep switchbacks start me on my way down, down, down...

Bryce Canyon Navajo Peekaboo Trail 016
I was the first to spot this rockslide, blocking the trail.  The trail was closed later to clear path.   I’m glad I got up early!

Bryce Canyon Navajo Peekaboo Trail 020
A closer view of the “hoodoos” that make this canyon famous.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Peekaboo Trail 019
One of the many windows in the “Wall of Windows”

I’m a fast hiker. That meant I had plenty of time left for a nice 250 mile day ride across the Markagunt High Plateau Scenic Byway (next year I really must detour to the Cedar Breaks National Monument via UT 143...) through Zion National Park and back to my campsite before dark.  I knew there would be construction on the road through the park, but never having been there, I figured it would be worth the trouble.  What I didn’t plan on is not being allowed to stop to even take a photo!   Just as I had vowed to make Bryce Canyon hiking a priority for 2010, Zion had become my June 2011 priority.  Except, that tour was cancelled. The mantra continues… “Next year, next year...”

Good night, Bryce Canyon!  Sunset from the Rim Trail.

* This phenomenon is exaggerated if you're riding a small, light bike (like my Kawasaki, and even more - or less - so, the Ducati) and you, too, are small.  (Easy enough for a speedo to read more than the bathroom scale.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I did last summer (Hwy 12 Reprise Part One: Starvation Lake via the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway)

New Camera Canon G11 Hwy 12 Map Photo
I had to forgo my annual June tour this year.  It a damn shame, really, since this is my first summer in Utah with the Ducati, but I had good reasons.  In any case, I guess that gives me the opportunity to write about what I did last summer.   And to think I was feeling bad that I didn’t tell you about summer 2009 until May 2010.

Do you remember my June 2009 tour?  The Kawasaki and I finally struck out to ride southern Utah on our own, to visit beloved Hwy 12.  Hurrah!  I rode in the rain.  And in more rain. And the restaurant was closed.  And then thunder.  And lightening.  And hail.  So, in 2010 I thought I’d give southern Utah another chance.

I had thought there was a lot of snow in the Uinta Range the year before.  In 2010 all the side roads off the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (which I recently learned is Utah's highest paved road) were unplowed, with several feet of snow on them.  You would have needed a snow blower to camp.  (2011 would prove to be even snowier, as you saw here.)

Mirror Lake Byway Uintas (13)

I love Utah - blue water, red mesas and snow, all in one frame!

Starvation State Park 020 crop

I camped my first night at Starvation Lake State Park, about the only established camping anywhere in the area.  Not much to do there in the way of hiking, but it was a fine enough place to put up my feet after a day of riding.  There’s an OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) area in the park, for you dirtin’ folk.

Starvation State Park 026

Starvation Lake?  I don't think so!  I was hoping for a dinner invite at the barbecue area, but these fish were heading to proper kitchens in proper houses.  I crunched my dry granola dinner while visions of freshly grilled tender white fleshed perch swam laps in my head.

Starvation State Park 024

I didn't feel too sorry for myself.  Dinner plans awaited me further south...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Daily Special – Garlic Scape Pesto

Because I  get my produce via a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture group), I eat what is grown locally.  This means I have no choice but to dine “in season.”  If it doesn’t grow where I live at the moment, I generally don’t end up eating it.  Well, almost.  My preserving projects are an exception, and, wouldn’t you know it, today happens to be strawberry jam making day.*  It’s jam day only if I stop eating these berries, that is.  Hull one, eat one, hull one – Crikey, this one is way too big - down the gullet it goes…  And so on.

In any case, it stands to reason that a year might pass since the last time I made baby artichokes - sliced thinly, tossed in lemon juice and slowly cooked in an amount of butter only the holder of a French passport would dare use (thankfully I have dual citizenship), until they just start to turn golden on the edges.  I think sometimes I would toss them with pasta, other times sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan Reggiano, run them under the broiler, serve them with little toasts and call them bruschetta.   I’m not exactly sure.  A lot happens in a year, you know?   Soooo, when the baby artichokes came around this spring, and my friend asked me, “How did we make those artichokes last year?  They were soooo amazing,” I said something along the lines of “uhhhhh….” 

I gotta start writing this stuff down.**

My annual arrival in Utah almost always coincides with that of garlic scapes. This is the only place I’ve seen garlic scapes, come to think of it.  Scapes are simply the green shoots that mark the place where a garlic bulb is forming under the ground.  The farmer wacks off the shoot to encourage the bulb, and, somewhere along the line, decided we should eat them.  It was a good idea.

Garlic Scapes 001
I think I used about half this many to make a mini-food processor sized batch.

You’ve got to slice the garlic scapes up before putting them in the food processor. (So much for saving me the task of washing a knife and cutting board, my frustrating little friend, baby Cuisinart).  Whirl them with some olive oil and grated parmesan (another task I do separately, although I guess you could grate it in the food processor first.  I, personally, will do no such thing with stuff as expensive as Parm Regg).  If you find yourself needing more liquid to make it all go round and round, but the pesto is verging on too oily, add a bit of water.  (This is one of the few recipes where I’m willing to do that.)  A judicious splash of lemon juice would work, too. This spring I didn’t use any sort of nut in the pesto, pine or otherwise, and I don’t think I did last year either.  You certainly could.  But I like it with all its fiery garlicky simplicity.  When you’re done, you’ll end up with something approximating guacamole colored mashed potatoes. 

Although its original destination was pasta (for this purpose, you’ll want to thin it ever so slightly with some of the starchy pasta cooking water), I find myself as often as not, eating it on crackers. Topped with a sundried tomato if I’m feeling fancy.  Or an olive.  It’s a great sandwich spread too.  Uses and variations are limitless.

* That, my friends, is a bald faced lie.  I should say "preserves," since I am using whole fruit.  But I like the word "jam" better.
** You do see the irony here, right?

Monday, July 11, 2011

All Work and One Tank Rides Make Jill… Heed the Call of the Open Road and Go for a Proper Ride

Since making my annual summer migration to northern Utah this year, I’ve limited myself to a few “one-tank” rides, primarily Logan Canyon and Blacksmith Fork Canyon (which I’ve always incorrectly referred to as Hyrum Canyon.)  I’ve got a substantial work load this summer, plus a project brewing on the side, so the flute-less days are going to have to be rare exceptions.  I decided today (which means Monday in Blog Daylight Savings Time) must be one of those exceptional days.  Really, it was time for a proper ride, and the camera was not invited.  Like I said in earlier posts:  100 miles is: Not. E.  Nuff.

Plus, I replaced fuse No. 3, (“consumers”), after it blew on my last ride.  I needed a good long ride to establish whether or not this was a fluke.  Right?  Wrong.  The fuse blew again after 12 miles, depriving me of my horn (“What’s a motorcycle horn good for," asked my motorcycle safety instructor?  “Absolutely nothing,” he answered for the class.), my right turn signal (I can bend my left arm, so no problem there), my high beam flasher (don’t use it), my menu button, (really, should you be messing with your on-board computer while riding, anyway?), and a reliable clock (That one could get me in trouble.  Try explaining that to the maestro whilst clambering over your colleagues into your chair in the orchestra pit to the sound of the oboe’s tuning A.  It’s just not done.)  Whether or not I am deprived of anything else from this malfunction I do not (yet) know.  Why is the fuse blowing, is the obvious question.  I guess I’m going to have to look into that wiring harness recall I’ve heard about, which will require a trip to the dealer.  The dealer is almost 100 miles away, and my few days off over the next 5 weeks are on Mondays, which is exactly when  motorcycle dealerships are closed.  But I’m thinking outside the box on that one.

Whatever.  This ride is not being called off after 12 miles. This show is going on.

So, three states, three National Forests, three scenic byways, (lots of threes, huh?), two sandwiches (one of cheddar and Swiss chard, the other of vanilla ice cream), one “No Gas Next 70 Miles” sign, one very buggy visor, and one blown fuse … are they “E. Nuff?”  Perhaps.*  Electrical phenomenon notwithstanding, it is, at least, a step in the right direction.  Next exceptional (aka flute-less) riding days coming the first week of August.

The offending fuse

*350 miles

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ducati's First Camping Trip! (Index)

Here's an index to the "Ducati's First Camping Trip!" series, since it was interspersed amongst a lot of unrelated nonsense, and because I already know I want to link back to this page later.

Homolovi Ruins:  Who knew?

Petrified Forest:  All these years in AZ, and I finally check it out.

Canyon de Chelly:  Photographer's highlight of the trip, plus an actual photo of the motorcycle.

Breakfast on AZ 191: Finally, a decent meal.

Twists, turns and scenic byways:  Last hurrah before I head home.

Postscript:  Yes, I'm an idiot/Wow, the Kawi never burned through rear tires like this!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ducati’s First Camping Trip! - Postscript

And finally, from the “wow, this bike really burns through tires” (aka “you’re a stupid idiot”) department…

Post Tour Tire 001
The condition of my tires upon my return. Wrists duly slapped.  Do you suppose I can run out to Gates Pass and burn off the edges before replacing it?*


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ducati’s First Camping Trip! (Roper Lake State Park and the Swift Trail Parkway)

Okay, back to our story…

After breakfast, I passed through the beautiful sauterne colored grasslands near St. Johns, my  heart’s magnetic north this spring.  One more gas stop and it was time to have another go at that 100 mile stretch of twisty turny goodness I love so much, the Coronado Scenic Byway.  You know, the road that was a study in road hazards when I rode it a month earlier?  I’ll be damned, that sand trap, not unlike the pile of sand that I woke up to in my tent, thanks to the ever present wind, was still there.  Placed for maximum excitement factor, if you goof, you’ll wish you were wearing a parachute for that unexpected trip off the side of a mountain.  I didn’t goof.  Obviously.  There were some other obstructions along the way but…

Lean left…

Lean right…

Left… right


For 100 miles.  Wheee!  Good times.

By the time I get to Clifton, I always need gas.  Next time it won't be the usual Circle K gas-up and ice cream sandwich break, but a visit to Maud’s Drive-In (“Get Sauced!”), and a turn around the art gallery I noticed for the first time as I was riding by, looking nervously at my gas gauge.

I landed at Roper State Park, near Safford, AZ in time to find this.

Looks like a good place to pitch a tent to me!  A good soak was just the thing after a few days of riding.  After my bath, I watched the birds chase down mosquitoes as the sunset painted pretty pastel colors on the marsh.

Roper Lake State Park (19)

And for the first evening of the tour, I set up my tent in peace.  The wind machine was taking the night off, I guess.

The next morning it was time for this good thing to come to an end.  But I wasn't heading home without a turn (two turns, actually) up Mount Graham via the Swift Mountain Parkway. This is  a road as tight and twisty as you could hope for.  Here’s my blog stock photo of the Parkway (you’ve seen it before).

Mount Graham Swift Trail Parkway 002

But first one has to fuel up. Petrol and a breakfast burrito at the Mt. Graham Grocery and Deli.  I’ve been here so often, the owner recognized me.  This would be one of my favorite gas stops of all time, but for two absent yet critical features.  Real cream for the coffee (it has that awful “creamer” which has nothing to do with cream), and no premium fuel. The latter wasn’t an issue back in the Kawi days, but that Ducati, she gets what she wants!

Mount Graham

One last photo before I point the bike homeward.   Already I was plotting a “training weekend*” back in the area, to spend a day just running up and down this mountain.

'Twas a good little tour**!

*Plan foiled.  Road closed soon thereafter due to fire danger.  Could very well still be closed.
** 1400 miles, I do believe.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Adventures in a Foreign Kitchen

When I say foreign kitchen, I do not refer to the ethic designation of the Middle Eastern banquet my summer roommates (who are not my roommates this summer, long story) and I prepare each year, but to the fact that we’re working in, um, a less than ideal, certainly not our own kitchen.  Our company-provided (thank you!) student apartment typically comes equipped with a bent fork and foil pan.  Some years, we luck out and get a cutting board, too.  Sure, I bring a few things, but there’s not much room in my two door hatch back after I pack all my motorcycle and canning related accoutrements.

It’s amazing how clumsy I feel cooking my first few meals here.  The work flow is way off, and each year I have to re-learn how to function using an electric stove top.  But soon it becomes a batterie de cuisine iron chef challenge.  Just what can we put out using only a garlic press and wine bottle-cum-rolling pin?

Falafel, for one thing.  But not without a few (or more) cursewords.   As much as I hate food processors (they don’t do things well, and they don’t save me time, I don’t care what Mark Bittman says), I do bring along a mini Cuisinart.   You know that handy feature when you’re processing something thick, and you spend more time taking off the cover and scraping the contents back towards the blade than you do actually processing?  Gawd, I hate that.*  Now multiply that  entire procedure by six when you’re making a large batch of falafel in a tiny food processor.  Saying “I’ll just knock out this falafel before I go to bed,” when it’s already almost tomorrow is akin to saying “I’ll weld my motorcycle side stand before I ride out to Colorado in the morning.”  I don’t care how many times you’ve made falafel, you can count on being stuck in Oklahoma for three extra days.  I wasn’t exactly cooking with love at that moment.  I finally bailed, and finished it in my even smaller mortar and pestle.  It was quicker.  And better.  But I still had to wash the damn food processor.  Will I ever learn?

Falafel patties await immersion in a hot oil bath.

Middle Eastern Party Falafel Prep 001

Making pita reminded me that the short leg disadvantage is not limited to motorcycle riding.  The counter tops in my 1916 house are blessedly below regulation height, but here they are not. I stood on a chair to knead the dough.

Middle Eastern Party 008

Still and all, we did pretty well.  Here are a few samples from our feast, hastily snapped as my low battery light blinked like an angry red eye.

I never really liked hummus all that much until I tasted Gil’s. There's tahini there in the center, hummus around the outside.  Do note the stylish serving plate.

Middle Eastern Party 011

We all know Gil's started preparing his mushrooms when the fumes of the smoking chiles drive us, coughing and choking, out of the apartment.  It's worth it!

Middle Eastern Party 012

We can not stop eating Nadine’s Sucre a la Creme (aka penuche, for you New Englanders out there).  Even after we've made ourselves sick, we have to have just one more piece...

Middle Eastern Party 029

The banquet is not complete without Turkish coffee prepared in the ebay ibrik.  (Say that 10 times fast.)

Not shown:  roasted potatoes, marinated peppers, kabobs with warm spices, garlicky yogurt sauce, watermelon...

* Please do not tell me to add (more, or any, depending) water, oil whatever.  I don’t want to.  And no, I refuse to grate expensive Parmesan Reggiano in a food processor.  There’s only one way to do it.  And it does not involve a rasp grater, people.  Sorry, but I have a strong opinion on the subject.  Harrumph.