Archives for the month of: July, 2014

Day 4 on the bike. 47 miles. 3.5 hours. Today was a very good day.I fought a southerly headwind most of the ride but today was the day that I dismounted pretty much pain free. Yes. And I rode hard.

And tomorrow I cross the Mighty Mac and put the UP and the wilderness rides behind me. Yes. The wilderness quite frankly kicked my ass. It wasn’t just the total lack of amenities. Like, you want a cup of coffee? Sorry. You want to get in out of the weather? Sorry. You want some food? Sorry. You want to stop for the day? Then ride 20 more miles, whether you really want to or not.

That all sucked but where the wilderness really wore my ass out was more on the emotional end.The landscape never changed. That’s what finally got to me. It was like all my pedalling was taking me no where. I felt almost claustrophobic.I tried to take a sauna a few years ago but the room was too small and I had to leave.

Biking the Upper Penninsula through all the nonchanging wilderness had a similar effect.What can I say? Sometimes I am too tightly wrapped for my own good. So now that I’ve reached the southeastern tip of the UP I can say a hearty amen to that and a big goodbye. Hegel was totally spot on when he said, ‘What is undifferentiated is lifeless.’

Okay, big deal. The wilderness problem has been solved. With 950 more miles to go I reckon that there will still be future wrinkles in this seat of the pants operation.

One day at a time…

Day 3 on the bike. 43 miles. 3 .5 hours. The bike is gradually becoming more comfortable so day after tomorrow I’ll be ready to step up the mileage. That’s incremental; as in baby steps. I don’t ever foresee cranking out centuries (100 milers) in the near future but it would be nice to be able to extend my supply line without collapsing into a exhausted shivering heap.

I would step up the mileage tomorrow but there is that big old Mackinaw Bridge to get across first and they don’t allow bicycles on that thing. Maybe this hasn’t come up before – and just so you know – this isn’t a planned tour.

Some of us at times like to feel our way across a landscape as planning can tend to kill the playfulness of travel. No? Scary? Okay, but you have to admit at the very least that there is something magically absurdly idiodic to parachuting into some unknown place (not literally love) and to then bushwack ones way across turgid terrain. That’s the mirrorverse of the Upper Penninsula BTW but cheers to Stanley Kubrick anyway.

My mind is wandering. The comforting presence of TV is annoying absent. The Tahquamenon Hotel is dead. The town has only it and a bar across the street. I look out my window and part of me expects sagebrush to come blowing down the street. I am drinking cheap Canadian whisky and again, wihout the social tethering effects of TV, I find my mind wandering.

Maybe it was rolling through the infamous Seney Stretch a few miles back in a subverse of infinity that did it. This relentless never ending wilderness has perhaps triggered this numbing disassociative paralysis. This eye-gouging landscape of gray skies and green – woods, trees, bushes, plants – never converges, only continues.

I awoke this morning knowing that I had to flee the UP. And I awoke knowing that Canada – via Sault Ste. Marie – was not the correct path. So in the morning my bike will be pointed south and I will cross the Mighty Mac and venture through the lands of my forefather’s folly.

If you want my advice? Stay home. Or better yet, stay indoors. And be sure to watch lots (and lots) of TV.

 

Second day on the bike: 35 miles. 3 hours. Yes, I am dogging it. I had higher expectations but I couldn’t seem to rise above the pain or get out in front of the weather. It is true that I got a late start due to the perpetual shit weather that seems to exist on this penninsula. As one of the locals said, ‘Who can predict the weather? We’re trapped between these two huge bodies of water.’

But another truth is I am undercondititioned. But still I ask, shouldn’t a man – at whatever age – be able to jump on a bike and do 60 miles? I certainly don’t know the answer. And in my mind, just because I haven’t been on a bike since June 2013 shouldn’t really matter. But it does.

Excuses. Excuses. Last night in Munising I had dinner at Sydney’s. I thought it was just some dude’s name until I saw the kangaroo logo on the menu. An Aussie themed restaurant? In Munising?  The fresh perch – a childhood favorite – was mis-battered. Yes, mis-battered. And someone deserves a serious beating for it.

You can’t put stiff strong batter on a delicate freshwater white fish. There is one and only one way to fry perch. You put the fillets through an egg bath then dredge them in flour. Any more or less and you might as well have just stayed home.

I sampled their tap beers. Sydney’s had the Keweenaw Brewing Company Amber Ale. The Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Porter. And Founder’s (out of Grand Rapids) IPA. I typically don’t favor amber ales but this one was the best of the three.

I am overniting it in Seney. One bar. One motel. I had a burger and a beer for lunch at Andy’s and I reckon it could be more of the same for dinner. I am proud to report that Andy’s Seney Bar hosts the trifecta of UP’er (as in Upper Penninsula, pronounced Yooper) approved bar snacks: pickled eggs, pickled sausage, and pickled pigs feet.

I’m home momma.

40 miles. 2 hours and 50 minutes. That’s 14 mph average. Not too shabby for my first day out. At least it wouldn’t be if I wasn’t so crippled up. Damn, but if that bike ride didn’t throw my body into a world of pain.

I am so freaking sore that I can’t imagine how bad the pain will be tomorrow. And that’s when I get to saddle back up and pedal it for another 60 miles. Too bad I couldn’t just fast forward 10 days to that place in time where I’ll be conditioned. No sorry. It doesn’t work that way.

But still, this is all pretty great. Like it didn’t rain today. And it was relatively warm (62 degrees F). And the sun even came out for a while. Unlike yesterday when it didn’t. I remember at some point snapping at my host. I was beginning to live up to that cliche,  that like fish, guests begin to stink after 3 days.

I said something to the effect that it was one thing to live in a place where the sky was perpetually dark most of the time. Or that it sucked to live in a place where it rained (or snowed) all the frickin’ time. Or just as bad, to live where it was cold most of the year. I grimaced when I asked, ‘But all three? Like what fools live in a place where it is dark? Cold? And wet? All the freaking time?’

And I knew these things. After all once upon a time I lived here. And Sarah and I fought the weather last June up on the N. Shore.

And just like a fool I am back for more.

 

The weather forecast says rain and the skies this morning don’t disagree.  I was originally planning on leaving today but I think tomorrow is going to be a better day for pedaling a bike. And there are still a couple of things that I need to do so this is probably not a bad thing.

I picked up my bike from the shop yesterday. They put new tires on it, new tubes, put new tape on the handlebars (the spongy kind), tightened the crank, tuned the shifting, adjusted the brakes, and trued both wheels. My $40 bike took on weight. It emerged from the shop in the more portly $210 weight class. Yup, $170 worth of work. Their very comprehensive itemization reminded me of my framing contractor who once told me his billing rate for planned work was one figure but for change orders he got out his big pencil.

The bike shop’s fastidious attention to their billing also calls to mind another anecdote where someone had just finished climbing in the Swiss Alps and was amazed when going over the bill that his Swiss guide had charged him for wear and tear on his rope. The client sarcastically remarked that he was surprised that the guide hadn’t charged him for shoe leather. The guide took another look at his bill before announcing that yes indeed,  there had been an oversight and promptly added the worn shoe leather to the bill.

We walked over to the very popular Black Rocks Brewery for a beer yesterday and I have to agree with locals that the porter was a pretty awesome beer. Creamy but with a brightness that most other porter makers never seem to get right. I’d give their $4 pint a rating of 9/10.

We went back to Thills to pick up some more fish and I made dinner for my friends last night. A very simple but tasty pasta dish consisting of cream, fresh lemon, capers, and shredded smoked whitefish. I am happy to report that there were no leftovers.

Today on this rainy Sunday I am going to put the panniers on the bike. And after they get back from church we’ll make a run out to one of the big box stores and make a stop at a hardware store where I will pick up couple of wrenches and a tube repair kit. I wasn’t about to give up another $60 at the bike shop for one of their fancy multi-tools when I can get the equivalent somewhere else for a fraction of the price.

Tomorrow the adventure begins…

My new $40 Miyata vintage ’80s road bike:

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Would you ride 1100 miles on this bike?

I left Mexico on the 23rd and overnited it with my old buddy Novak in Dallas. We went out and ate big old Texas style steaks, drank 18 yo scotch, and had a pretty good evening of playing catch up since our last visit.

He dropped me off at the airport the next morning in time to catch my 10 am flight to Chicago. My 6 hour layover was spent mostly in a fog due in no small part to being mildly hungover, then sleep deprived with the travel, airports, and security;  all magnified by  the malingering food poisoning from 3 days earlier. The combined effects of which were seriously beginning to harsh my mellow.

In spite of my infirmiries I still managed to get my cardboard construct self to the G terminal for the final leg to Marquette. Thankfully it was a short 55 minute flight. My old friend, Garwood and his wife picked me up and by 9:15 pm we were back at their new place on W. Harrison Street. I didn’t discover until the next morning that their house was directly behind where I used to live on W. Hewitt.

Yesterday afternoon we stopped at Thill’s Fish House to pick up dinner. Thill’s operates out of an old quanset hut on the bayfront where they have been fishmongers for as long as I can remember. In fact it was old man Thill who was our landlord when we lived at 434 W. Hewitt back in ’78-’79. The fish house is a Marquette institution that goes back [I was to find later] to the early ’50s . And the Thill family, at least back then, did a lot of their own fishing operating a boat out on Lake Superior. Anyway, after a thorough perusal of the well stocked fish case we bought 2 nice big lake trout fillets, a salmon fillet, and a container of – get this – whitefish livers.

Garwood’s cousin, Mary and her husband came by over for dinner. Garwood’s wife grilled the lake trout and I sauteed the livers as an appetizer which we served with an olive, lemon mayonaise sauce. None of us had ever eaten fish livers and we were all pleasantly surprised how mild and tasty they were.

I cut the salmon filet in two and did a rub of salt, sugar, and coarse ground black pepper. I added some chopped fresh dill between the two halved fillets before putting them in a dish covered with plastic wrap.

The last step was to weight them down them down with a big can of peaches before tucking them into the fridge to rest for the next 12 hours. They were rather thin so I figured after a turning and another 12 hours they would emerge as that tasty little dish called gravlax.

This is our first prototype for a single strap backpack. It is 22″ X 12″ X 6″. It is charcoal gray made from very nice natural tanned leather and lined with a very soft but strong cream colored pig skin. I really wanted an organic shape but didn’t want to exclude true functionality. This model features 4 zippered compartments and the large side entry will accommodate a medium sized laptop.

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Our goal at Sahara Sandals® is continue to introduce the most beautiful, durable and long lasting shoes, sandals, and bags handcrafted out of the finest leathers available. All at an affordable price.

Lately, one of my go-to meals for evening is the simple but delicious pasta with fresh tomatoes. When I cook pasta I typically make enough for 3-4 meals and refrigerate the leftover.

So like last night, dinner was extra simple as I had cold, cooked, leftover pasta. So here is a dish that is easy to make, healthy, and ever tasty  –

Pasta in Fresh Tomatoes:

  • using a little butter or olive oil, saute a small diced onion and 2 diced serrano chilies
  • when the onion turns a translucent, add 3-5 chopped Roma tomatoes
  • season with salt, ground cumin, and a fresh herb like rosemary or basil
  • use a potato masher (big wooden spoon or whatever) to mash the tomatoes as they cook down
  • add a little water or red wine as necessary to keep the tomatoes from sticking
  • when the tomatoes are done and there is more of a sauce like consistency than chunks, throw in a handful of the pre-cooked leftover pasta and some crumbled cheese of your choice, stir into the sauce to coat, cover until hot and the cheese has melted
  • serves one

We finally got these new prototypes made just in time for my month long trip to the US to work on the sales end of Sahara Sandals®.

The first new model, the Athenas is all hand cut and constructed out of handwoven leather and double-lock stitched onto our trademark recycled airplane tire for long wear. We use only the thinnest part of the tire for these moccasins to keep them light and supple for the most comfortable fit:

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We plan to offer them in different colors; like maybe a dark navy blue woven leather outer combined with a soft creamy gold colored leather liner. And how about a rich red leather woven outer with a forest green liner for the Christmas holidays?

This other new model, the Rhodes are also handmade and built on the same platform as the Athenas but offering a different style for the woman who likes laces but still wants that barely there feeling for those hot summer days.

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We are finishing up our first small backpack today and I hope to have a picture posted as early as tomorrow morning.

Today might be Sunday but many of us work everyday here in Mexico. And for me, working with dedicated craftsmen using mostly hand tools to make quality leather goods is a true pleasure.