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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Fight of a Century



My plan was ride to Gardner to take prom pics of my youngest daughter. It's about a 35 mile trip each way, so if you're in for 70 why not 100? I hadn't done a Century in almost three years, though I'd set out to a few times since my bypass surgery of two years ago.



I wasn't feeling it on the way down, I really didn't have my heart in riding and there was a stiff headwind to boot. Once Pushed through my moment of inertia, it felt pretty good to be out riding. And I'd just found out that I was in for RAGBRAI, something that's been on my bucket list for a few years now. I was going to do it either way, if I didn't come out of the lottery with a wristband, I was going to self-support and ride it anyway. Which would be a much, much bigger challenge.



Anyway, I was dead-ass slow going down to Gardner, only averaged 7.6 mph. That's slow even by my standards, I'm usually good for 9ish. And I'd overslept, and Corinna had been teasing me that I wouldn't get my century in if I didn't get up. She's asserted that you basically can't do a century in town, or a century when you start out at mid-day, and she says it like she hasn't observed me doing both these things, so it annoys me. But she hasn't seen me do it in three years, right?



So coming back, I decided fuck it, I'm not going home without three digits on my CatEye. I took the Indian Creek Trail coming back, got sick of the bugs, went up Lamar to Somerset, went over into Waldo, took 71st back over to Antioch, then around to Merriam Lane, Southwest Boulevard, through Downtown, the Power & White District, River Market, over along the Berkeley Riverfront, the East Bottoms.



I passed a lot of watch parties for Mayfield-Pacquiao, two guys trying their best to beat each other's brains out over a huge pile of cash, billed as the Fight of the Century. But we're just 15% of the way into the century so I tend to think this was just the fight of the last five or ten years. But what I was doing, I was fighting for a Century, for a three digit entry in the miles column on the spreadsheet I neurotically maintain. I did laps on Gardner Road, which is about two miles long, flat as all get out, and devoid of car traffic at 2:00 a.m., which is handy when your light batteries have all shot craps.

I made it in, too, with 102.03 miles. Not my furthest, I was tempted to try and do another loop to set a PR, but it was already 3:30 when I got home, super sore and tired.

Oh, do you want to see the fattest cat ever?



Saturday, May 02, 2015

First First Friday in a Long Damn Time





A lot of people turned out for First Friday this lovely May 1. The weather was perfect, upper 60s, and there were several festival type things coinciding with it, creating a synergy of people milling around in the streets. I don't know how people who do it by car can stand it, I've tried it that way and it's a huge drag trying to find a place to stow your vehicle and fight your way in and out of the Crossroads.



But by bike, First Fridays are a blast. I was actually down by the river when Corinna called asking me where I was. I had kinda skipped First Fridays in favor of some long exposures down at the river, and Corinna was, 'No, don't you ditch me, this is my first First Friday in a long damn time.' And I had to go meet up with her because she's right She used to be a fixture there before the crash.



The handful of shots I did get off the tripod were only so-so anyway, plus I was missing out on free food and beer.

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Inevitable Vermin Supreme





I endorsed Vermin Supreme for President a few weeks ago, and having voted third party nearly my whole voting life, I've heard people say I'm throwing my vote away. And maybe so, but if you vote for a mainstream candidate, you're still throwing your vote away.



All our votes don't count, because powerful interests never fail to look out for their interests.



So throw your vote away for someone who promises you health insurance he can't really deliver, or throw it away for someone who will accidentally get in protracted, pointless wars? Why not throw it away on someone who promises to fund time travel research and to give every American a free pony when he is elected?



I thought I was alone in my enthusiasm for Vermin Supreme, but I've been seeing his campaign stickers all over town. On the ceiling in the bathroom at Broadway Cafe, on the condom machine in the men's at Buzzard Beach, in bus stops, on light poles, on Scion xB's, in the Crossroads, the skate park, Vermin's supporters are freaking everywhere!





This is exactly the kind of grass roots support that brought Obama into the White House, so better start shopping around for a barn, you're less than two years away from your free pony.



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lawrence





It's been almost two years since I did this one. A bike overnight to Lawrence, that is. Right after I did it last, I had to have open heart surgery (a double bypass). My wife, who turned me on to touring in the first place crashed her bike right before my surgery, suffered a nasty brain injury and hasn't had the stamina for touring since.



If not for that, I'd probably have been out on tour by now, before she got hurt she did it every chance she got. A few months before she got hurt, she did a 170 mile leg with stops only to pee, eat and drink coffee, in a snowstorm. For that matter, a few years ago on Thanksgiving she and I rode to Lawrence to just eat a meal and rode back the same day.

Before I left, Corinna asked for my camera so she could document my departure. SLRs aren't really very well suited, generally, to the 'selfie' but she managed one.



Anyway, I loaded it all up with everything I'd need to camp at Clinton Lake on the far side of Lawrence. Brought my mushroom books and mesh bag, too, so I could scour the woods around the lake for morels. It rained pretty good the first couple hours I was out, a lot more and later than the forecast had led me to expect, and when it dried out, what came next was a strong north wind.

On the way out, I saw a Red Neck Tale Gate. I waved to the guy, he was filling up at a gas station in Bonner Springs. He explained to me that he had bought the truck without a tailgate, balked at the price even the junkyards wanted for a replacement, then decided to make one out of a discarded closet door. His wife told him, 'You are such a redneck!.' So he wrote what you see on it, and she said, 'Please tell me you misspelled 'tail' on purpose!'



By the time it quit raining, a viscous north wind had manifested itself, and while it dried me it also chilled me considerably. I could have done some wardrobe adjustments but dressing by the roadside seems such a hassle and it was right on the cusp of comfort either way. Bare arms cold, long sleeved t-shirt hot, that kinda weather. But as I got into Lawrence, I was kind of dreading the whole pitching a tent thing, and someone had said there was more rain on the way that night, and I know a few people in and around Lawrence, but nobody I know so well I can call them up and couch surf with 45 minutes notice. I passed the Airport Motel, a seedy looking joint on the fringe of Lawrence, and as I did, I said to myself, if that's under $50 a night, stay there.



Motel 6 used to be like thirty bucks, but lately I can't recall getting a motel room for less than $75ish. So I really didn't expect that it would be under $50, seedy as it looks. I have to have electricity for my CPAP, so even camping at Clinton costs something like $17 or $18. When the guy said it was fifty but I get five back the next day as a key deposit, I was sold.

It's a bit of a dump, honestly. I'm not faulting them saying so, if they spent anything on updates and upgrades, they couldn't possibly rent rooms so cheaply. There were cigarette burns on the carpet and vanity, the sink was crackled, a door was missing from the vanity and climate control was a window AC and a space heater. But it was clean-ish and as far as I can tell innocent of resurgent bed bugs. There was a lot of static on the TV (which was probably at least 30 years old), but I wasn't there for a TV.



I dropped off my bags and went riding around Lawrence that evening. There were lots of outdoor parties happening and I scored a free beer at one just for my helmet mohawk. Which was the opposite of a little incident that happened on the way in.

Not long after the redneck tailgaite, I got buzzed by a monster SUV in Edwardsville. This was in a stretch where K32 has no shoulder, and I got passed by hundreds of cars who thought to change lanes but then this one Ford Excursion passes me so close the mirror barely cleared my head. It happens, you get over it. But this time, the car slows and turns at the next corner, into a driveway. I was pretty rattled, so I stayed in the street to ensure a civil discourse. At this point, I'm thinking educate. I'm like, you passed me awful close back there I'm just trying to get there alive. And she said, 'Oh bullshit!' At which point I realized education wasn't in the cards.

"You stupid cunt!" I said and rode off. I couldn't think of something more offensive to say or I'd have said something else, but the response I got was bizarre. She called out, "I'll pray for Jesus to forgive you!"

Jesus to forgive me for calling her a stupid cunt? Or for riding a bicycle through Edwardsville.



I was a little shaken up but I was really, really hungry, and I thought there was a little pizza joint in Edwardsville though it has since become a Mexican restaurant. As I was locking my bike up to go in, one of Edwardsville's Finest came and asked me if I had been on Eastbound K-32 lately. I said yes, and he asked if I had called in a disturbance, and I was like, no, that would be the stupid cunt who almost hit me and didn't understand why I had a problem with that.

I'm like, dude, maybe I shouldn't have called her a stupid cunt, but if your response to being called that is to say you hope Jesus will forgive me and then call 911, you're pretty much proving to the world that you're a stupid cunt.

Maybe I wasn't quite that smug about it, but almost. Really, if charges were going to be pressed, it'd be me charging her with attempted vehicular assault and the notion was tempting. Normally you don't get to confront these goons because, let's face it, I couldn't catch a fat man on a scooter with a fully loaded touring bike. Unless the fat man on the scooter was 100 feet from home and turned into his driveway.

By the time the other cop (who went to the stupid cunt's house) cleared the call and I was asked what I wanted to do, press charges or what, I was like, all I want to do is eat some fajitas and ride my ass to Lawrence. It's not like the stupid cunt would learn if I pressed charges, she'd just gain a story about how put upon she was by the maniacs riding bikes on her highway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Success!



Kansas City doesn't have the best reputation for bicycle friendliness. But things can change. Portland, the one-time Utopia fell to fourth place in the latest 'official' ranking, where New York City jumped from seventh to first. And ten years ago or so when I visited NYC, riding a bike in Manhattan was reserved for insane bicycle messengers and credible suicide attempts.



So my 311 complaint rant the other day, I didn't give much chance that the problem would actually be addressed. I was wrong. I noticed it as I was riding up Beardsley (in a lane that is not prone to forestation so much as to piles of broken liquor bottles—and I can't blame the city for those), they'd done a righteous prune job and restored the northbound bike lane to usefulness.

I sent Deb Ridgway a thank you on Facebook because I'm sure her job is a thankless one most of the time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gone Shroomin'



I had my fortnightly torment session where an otherwise adorable Asian nurse grabs my arms with meathooks. It's unpleasant, so much so that my fetish for cute girls in scrubs has pretty much worn off from Pavlovian negative reinforcement. And it was super slow at work on Monday, so rather than head from my exhausting session with the needles (apheresis therapy looks roughly like donating plasma to yourself—but it's probably my best shot at finding out if Social Security will be there for Generation X), I decided to go shrooming.





I only had my first success hunting morels last Saturday. Since then, I'd read more on the subject, and the guy I ran into who was hunting the same property (and his bag was much fuller than mine got), I think he was shitting me.





I had just started to find a few along the creek's edge when he suggested we walk side by side. In hindsight, he steadily steered us away from the creek and while I found a few morels at first, it wasn't long until they dried up. The places he suggested we look weren't crazy, they were old, partially dead trees and such, but somehow the mushrooms just dried up. And more than once, he said we just hadn't had a few 80º+ days to really make them pop.





That book I was reading said when you get a few 80º+ days, the season is over. You might find a few leftovers, but nothing more is going to jump. This character I met in the woods, though, he made it sound like that's when I should start looking.



I read a Facebook post by a professional, a guy who travels the country starting in Alabama and eventually getting all the way up into Canada I think. He had a scout offer to show him where morels were to be found in an area, and after leading him to several dead spots, and telling him not to bother with these other areas, the pro went to double check. The areas he was told had nothing to offer, he and his girlfriend picked 15 pounds of primo morels in an hour.



I think the fellow I met hunting our mutual friends' place did the same thing. He knew I was hunting mushrooms, his bag was pretty well full, and when I got to the area he had filled it at, he tried to steer me out of it.

I remember feeling a little territorial when Greg told me someone else had been down a few days before and found a mess of them, and I thought, but those are my mushrooms!

But really they're Greg's mushrooms and if he wants to share the with a friend or three, that's his prerogative, right?

When I went back today, I made a bee line for that creek I was finding them on Saturday when the old-timer intercepted me. I found three times as many mushrooms in about two thirds the time. There was still a lot of time where I wondered if I was wasting my time, thought maybe I should just go home and take my bike out for a nice long ride. But then I found that colony, maybe a dozen shrooms in maybe a 10' diameter circle around a dead tree, instant recharge.



So today's batch was a bit over 1-1/4 lbs, 21.4 ounces according to our postal scale. I sauteéd a few, the rest got battered, fried, and devoured.





I think I like the breaded and fried version even better than the sauteéd version. I know it's off menu, but a diluted egg wash and a dusting of flour really seemed to bring out the meaty flavor of the mushrooms.



Monday, April 20, 2015

The Four Seasons





I'm not sure whether these Philip Haas sculptures on the lawn of the Nelson are part of their folk art exhibit, or if it's a separate deal.





What I do know is the Haas Four Seasons sculptures are totally badass.









Saturday, April 18, 2015

Morels!



I was starting to think maybe morel mushrooms weren't real. I was just the victim of an elaborate hoax. But I was at it again. I went last week, got nothing. When I emailed Greg about coming down to his place near Freeman, MO again, he said yeah, go ahead, a lady came by Tuesday and got a bunch.

I was jealous. I had scoured those woods for three hours Sunday for nothing, someone came two days later and got a bunch? Those are supposed to be my mushrooms! Though really, I guess, they're Greg's mushrooms, it's his 80 acres and if he was really into them he wouldn't let any of us go tramping through his woods harvesting them.

My xB doesn't have the traction or ground clearance for Greg's driveway so I park by the entrance to his spread and walk in. As I'm walking up the grass, I spot a morel. Four morels actually, right there in the freaking grass, not even in the woods. I let out a shriek.



My first morel. Ever. I'd never even eaten one to know if they were worth the bother, but here I'd finally found one. I think between last year and this, I spent eight or ten hours in the woods scouring for these before I found one. Could it possibly be worth it?





An SUV pulled up the drive and I thought it was Greg's roommate. Looked about right for what I remembered the last time I met him.



I passed Greg's old van and went down an area he indicated last week he's found them before and got nothing. But then, the lady from Tuesday might have beat me to them.



Walking along a little further, gunshots rang out. This is the country, so I didn't hit the dirt and cover my head the way I would if I'd heard this exact burst of shots in the city, but you have to respect gunfire. Way the world is, it's never entirely impossible some lunatic is trying to kill you, right? I doubted anyone was trying to kill me but I still wanted to know the source and direction of the fire. Some clown who didn't know I was there was a far likelier menace, when I thought about it. I called out, 'Did you hit it?' Nothing.



But I had shrooms to hunt. And I already had a few in the bag, so I knew it was possible. I walked on.



Didn't find any. Until I did. I made my way down to the creek that runs through Greg's property, reasoning rightly that it was the best place to find morels there. A voice called out and I jumped more than I did when the barrage of gunfire broke out. It was the guy from the SUV, not Greg's roommate but another friend he'd encouraged to come hunt mushrooms on his place.



I asked him if he was finding any, he said a few. He had a good sized mesh bag already full of mushrooms. Around this time I found a thumb-sized grey, the only solitary I found today. At first, Don was as stand-offish as any other mushroom hunter I've met. Nobody wants to share knowledge, locations, etc. Just as I felt the lady from Tuesday had trampled on my mushroom hunting hopes, Don and I were both interlopers on each other's harvest.



I think when he realized how green I was, and how excited I was to find even a few morels, he started trying to teach me. He'd say, there's one, and another about four feet away. And I'd look for a minute before I spotted them. I can tell it's a skill you develop, and Don allowed that he's 64, and I think he's been foraging for shrooms since he was nine. Meaning he's been getting morels longer than I've been alive.



I found a few more along the creek, then we started checking other places, areas where there were old trees, dead trees, half dead trees. Elms, sycamore, ash, promising trees. Areas where the sunlight is filtered just enough to allow warmth. Yeah, not so much.



Don saw my Garden of Eden bumper sticker and came back after he'd left to talk to me about that and folk art in general.





At some point I decided to quit looking. My hips and knees hurt, I'd spent another three hours tromping through the woods. But at least I had some morels.



I brought them home, washed them, sauteéd them in a little butter with garlic, salt and pepper. And wow.



Before I cooked them, I put them on our postal scale, it was 7.6 ounces of mushrooms total.



Work out the price for that, if you count my failed trips, probably 13 hours or so for just under a half a pound.



Yeah, I'm hooked. They're not just pretty good. Meaty texture, earthy, delicate flavor, I gotta go back out and find me more of these.