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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not Really a Smash Hit

I was raving about Five Guys when someone suggested I try Smashburger.

I did. And I understand the recommendation, I do, if it came from someone who hasn't had Five Guys.

Smashburger has, on the face of it, a more sophisticated menu. But all the options, like a fried egg as a topping, come at a price: I paid $9.75 for a BBQ burger with a fried egg and a side of sweet potato fries.

They have presentation all over Five Guys, but in terms of the gift of flavor, I found the burger wanting, the bacon lifeless and the egg cooked to a hard yolk (a 'fried' egg on a burger should burst hot liquid yolk on the other ingredients).

I give Smashburger marks for menu development but in terms of bang for the buck, Five Guys is the Bomb and Smashburger is a toothless U.N. treaty helpless to control the Bomb. And Five Guys is possibly a little cheaper to boot.

They do use Häagen-Dazs ice cream for their shakes, and that was tempting, but I'd already dropped a sawbuck on lunch and had other priorities to attend to.

Rehab (Putty)

It hurts, but I can move the finger a bit more. They got out the putty, and I didn't think I could squeeze. But I did, and the more I did the better I felt until the gimpy finger was bruised and swollen from the effort,

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Blustery Ride

Nothing like a 30+ mile per hour headwind to let you know what you're made of. I haven't seen headwinds this brutal since Day 2 of my first Bike MS. I had to crank to go downhill.

I did tackle on of goal hills, one of the last on the list. Early in the season, I made a list of hills I would take by year's end, and now that I've taken the south face of Lackman from Blackfish to 68th (by Maranatha), I think climbing Puckett is the only one left if you don't count a second run at Mill Street. I climbed it, but not at one go, I'd like to make it my bitch without stopping to catch my breath and weep for the choices I've made.

The headwinds going south were brutal. The tailwinds going north seemed to be magically blocked by topography most of the time. It was 24 miles that felt like 40, but without need for waterproof or cold weather gear, so no complaints.

And I got several compliments on my 'hat.'

Religious Art

They had some interesting art on display at church this morning, including this. It's unsigned as far as I could tell, but I can think of a title for it: Pollack Gets Religion.

Seriously, despite the crappy job my phone did of taking a picture of it, I really liked it. The organic, chaotic splatters with the intentionality of the cross and the corner squares (four square abstract expressionism?), another apt title would be Intelligent Design.

Another Thanksgiving Dinner That Couldn't Be Beat

Saturday was the pandemonium and engorgement festival for my Dad's side of the family. Ten cousins ranging in age from six months to sixteen years, football was on TV when the Wii wasn't getting heavy use.

And since it was Turkey Day in observance but two days after the fact, in addition to the usual suspects there was turkey with homemade noodles and turkey tetrazzini made with a leftover turkey.

Oh, and there was this coconut custard, loved that. I was, it turns out, the only real fan of this one and thus got a heap of fattening leftover custard to take home.

When I got there, there had already been two bloody noses, which sounds more colorful than it is. No booze was involved, these were just roughhousing accidents. I did manage to drink a Single Wide and a Billy! Porter, but no mayhem resulted unless you count a brief nap on the couch amidst the chaos.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Loaded for Bear

Corinna and Brian came by my work on the way out of town for Thanksgiving, their bikes loaded onto the car. On the way back, the plan is Memphis to Kansas City in six days, roughly a hundred miles a day.

I wanna go. Though something tells me a trip that ambitious is probably not the one to make your first attempt at touring.

However, I did finally make the leap to truly using the bike as transportation today. The farm I buy eggs from was back-ordered but I made a Wal-Mart run and took care of a couple of in-town errands on the bike today.

I still have some fine-tuning to do gear-wise to be comfortable riding in cold weather, but it was 50ºF when I set out, not really cold at all, and 43ºF when I finished. My fingers were the main issue today, especially the birdfinger with the pins, it's very sensitive to the cold.

I made good time going out, averaged almost 15 mph. Coming back, loaded up, I didn't maintain that clip, finished with an overall 12.3 mph average.

I had a short list as far as Wal-Mart goes, and the thing is, all that money they brag about saving people tends to get spent on shit people didn't need or set out to buy. I did purchase as many things that weren't on the list as I had things on the list, and while none of these qualify as stupid purchases, over-consumption is a slippery slope.

The broccoli, carrots, rigatoni, Alfredo sauce, tortillas, Spam, deodorant and lo mein noodles won't go to waste. But the things I would have bought if I'd come by car would have crossed the line. I know my track record. I bet there were twenty items, maybe more, that I looked at, maybe even picked up, and then put back for fear it wouldn't all fit in the panniers.

For that matter, I had soda on the list, that wasn't an impulse buy, its a concession to my very serious caffeine addiction. But one two liter instead of six or eight I typically buy. And instead of laying waste to it as soon as I got home I decided to see how long I could put off breaking the seal.

As it is, I overfilled the panniers and had to figure out a way to secure a plastic bag to the rack, but I got $50 worth of groceries home without starting my car. Pumping legs instead of unleaded as my favorite poet would say.

And I got fifteen miles of riding in on a day when I probably wouldn't have ridden. I didn't bring my offspring along, obviously, but they were ecstatic about getting to stay home.

Turkey Day

Sour cream apple pie. I'd never heard of such a thing, but it's the bomb.

My newest nephew is the seriousest baby I ever met. I picture the Look Who's Talking voiceover to be along the lines of What is up with this whacked out uncle and his camera?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


We rode in Cranksgiving on Sunday. There were a few glitches like when we learned that the gay panniers didn't clear my feet, then when we learned that the black ones were getting in the spokes because they didn't have a stiffener (a different rack design might have negated the need).

Which is to say we were late. Not so late we missed the start, but late enough I didn't get to say hi to everyone I knew. A lot of these are friends I wouldn't normally see in one place.

The urban cyclists, transportational and eccentrically practical mixed with the roadies who bring their delicate and expensive carbon fiber bikes in by car. It's the bike hauled in on a rack alongside bikes that have racks for hauling stuff.

Trial bikes of the mountain bike/stunt variety, tires fat enough for a motorcycle shouldered up to time trial bikes with aero bars. Fixed gear track bikes, bikes that were brought in a trailer, bikes that pull a trailer.

No course was fixed, we had a list of ten grocery stores and a list of items needed for St. Peter’s Food Pantry. Get a receipt, figure out how to stow the peanut butter, laundry soap, toilet paper, canned soup, etc. Be the first to get back with something from all ten stores and you win.

There are also prizes for heaviest load, Corinna's touring mate Brian won that. There was a couple on a tandem with a trailer that looked fuller, but they had a lot of toilet paper, where Brian favored family sized cans of tuna and whatnot.

Costumes were also awarded, I didn't get there in time to see who won, but Counselor Vance and Caroline were both obvious contenders.

I didn't realize how much conditioning I lost being off the bike the past few weeks since the surgery. Plus, Corinna is a very casual rider, normally riding as slow as I do when I'm solo. Her bike is kind of a tank with its Surley racks and panniers that sometimes include forgotten pieces of scrap metal in the payload.

But this was a competition, an alley cat race, her favorite kind. And the girl did not make the '96 Olympic team without a profound competitive instinct. See also those national championships. See also that silver medal in the Pan American games.

I was huffing and puffing to keep up, and I wasn't even, after awhile, keeping up. I asked a jogger if she'd seen a cyclist with a helmet poof and was told, 'Yeah, couldn't miss it, she went that way.'

She eased up a bit after a flat tire and seeing someone who was obviously much more in contention go by. But she didn't really slow down until I got cramps in my left quad on the way to grocery store #8.

It was interesting how the handling of my bike changed as we loaded up.

We stopped at Costco on the way back to her place so we could get a bag of food for her pup. While she was strapping the forty pound bag to her back rack, a friend called to say she'd seen me on the TV news riding in the event. She also told me she thought Corinna looked a lot stronger than me.

What can I say? It's true. Witness the lesson I learned when I tried to get her to pose for a cheesy shot in front of a shuttlecock at the Nelson.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rehab by Moonlight

If you've never broken a bone that required joints to be immobilized, my advice is give it up by not taking it up. As bad as it hurts to rehab my busted birdfinger, there is the temptation to go all Amy Winehouse. But then my only real option would be to get a Western outfit from Nigros, a flat-top guitar and try to eek out a living as a Johnny Cash impersonator.

Or I guess Johnny Rotten, but I'm not sure I could go there, hygienically speaking.

So I say yes to Rehab, I guess is the short answer.

Last session at the hand clinic they made this wrist brace with a glove, rubber band and Velcro, to facilitate passive torture. I'm supposed to stay hooked up for 20 to 40 minutes a couple times a day, though every fiber of my being wants to sing No no no! I ain't got the time...

On the plus side, they also gave me a cylinder to try and wrap around, and it's justh like a bicycle handlebar. And buddy-splinted (so a good finger drags the bad one along), trying to hold on and grab brakes, cycling is about as good a therapy as I've found. Painful, but instead of sitting in a clinic waiting for it to be over, there is the joy of riding, the adventure of chasing Corinna through the Bottoms and into Downtown. And the sensitivity to things that go bump in the night isn't as bad as it was. If I don't see the bump coming, it still lights me up.

And wad a lovely evening despite my not getting there in time for the 3:00 ride. Got to hang with them a bit on the Boulevard and then it was off to explore. It's hard to beat Kaw Point in darkness for a romantic destination. There are markers explaining the significance of this confluence to Lewis and Clark, but even with their silhouettes errected in steel it was hard to believe we weren't the first people there since the expedition headed further West.

After we rode all over hell's half acre, Corinna put a rack on my bike in preparation for Cranksgiving and to facilitate the commuting I've threatened to do since before I started riding.

She had two sets of panniers picked up as swag at cycling events, and she held them up to me to choose. Half curious and half amused.

I saw the black ones, then the basil twig (which are 'hip' in English and 'trendy' in French and German if you believe to the package), and I said, "That's the gayest thing I've ever seen, it's perfect! It's like a Hawaiian shirt for my bike."

When we set out for Cranksgiving, though, my feet hit the basil twigs and we had to switch to the boring black panniers.