Month: June 2013

When one just isn’t enough

Nick got this awesome Ducati hat for his birthday this year. It has every Ducati logo in the history of the brand on it. As Cippolini would say – go big or go home!

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The Forgotten Corner Tour – Part 3

Note: At the end of May, six riders participated in the annual Nick B Brown Birthday Motorcycle Tour. This year we visited “the forgotten corner” of Washington. A big thanks to my dad for taking the time to write and allow me to publish the following story. Part 1 covered the pre-ride details. Part 2 took you on the ride with us. We finish the tale with “the data.”

So – I’m a Data Guy

And my GPS stores and delivers all kinds of data about the ride. For your enjoyment, here is a sampling of data I pulled from my GPS.

Our route through (1) Twisp; (2) Colville; (3) Republic; (4) Twisp (click to enlarge):

The route

The passes we crossed and their elevations (click to enlarge):

Passes

Our speeds, sampled about every 400-500 feet. Dark line is a moving average … and upon reflection we were really moving, not so average after all! (Click to enlarge.)

Speeds

Upon Reflection

Why do I ride? Does it have to mean anything? What do I think? How do I feel?

For my entire life, I have enjoyed activities that many people consider risky or dangerous. Flying an airplane. Scuba diving. Riding a motorcycle. Climbing (mostly in my youth – not so much after two knee surgeries). The theme that holds them together is that every one of these activities requires training and pays enormous dividends for paying close attention. I have spent most of my working life in activities that involve pretty high mental stress. I wake up in the morning thinking about them. I drift off to sleep thinking about them. I dream about them. Okay, TMI.

I like flying, diving, motorcycling – because they require so much attention, that the attention, itself, crowds out these other concerns. I like riding fast, powerful motorcycles because I am forced to ignore all else while I’m on a bike doing 65 mph through a mountain curve marked at 40. I don’t have, repeat, do not have, a death wish but it is exhilarating. I repeat to myself the mantra, “I – must – get – this – right, or …” And I seriously focus on getting this right.

My dive computer continuously computes depth, nitrogen absorption, remaining bottom time. I trust technology that my life depends on … or, if not, I don’t use the technology. That’s why I keep a printed dive table and manually calculate surface intervals, for example. I trust my bike, my tires, my skills … or I wouldn’t ride. Maybe some day I will become so old I can’t trust my skills, my experience, my bike and my technology. And I’ll give up the holy game of poker with the devil.

I hope it is many years from now.

I rode motorcycles in college, both for work as a Park Policeman in Montana, and recreationally in Italy during a study abroad experience. And my daughter and son-in-law reintroduced me to the sport almost 10 years ago. Partly I ride because I like the shared experience with them. I treasure the time we spend together on our moto tours. My daughter has come by her sense of adventure honestly and married an adventuresome spirit. I love that we can adventure together.

I love … that we can adventure together.

Let’s go exploring!

The Forgotten Corner Tour – Part 2

Note: At the end of May, six riders participated in the annual Nick B Brown Birthday Motorcycle Tour. This year we visited “the forgotten corner” of Washington. A big thanks to my dad for taking the time to write and allow me to publish the following story. Part 1 covered the pre-ride details. The story continues on Day 1 of the tour.

And We’re Off

French Bakery serves café au lait in cups large enough to swim laps in, and heavenly croissants. Everyone shows up on time and we’re off at 10:00. Six slightly scruffy bikers in this small coffee shop cause a small stir but nothing untoward.

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Over café au lait, we decide on a route over Snoqualmie Pass, over Blewett Pass, through Wenatchee and Chelan to Twisp. This will allow us to stop at the Anjou Bakery for lunch in Cashmere. (Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!)

We get a little rain over the passes but no snow. The weather is better than forecast. We are rebuilding our moto skills after a winter of disuse. So while we’re fast, we’re not that fast. This is fun. We ride into Twisp in late afternoon.

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We’re in plenty of time for a birthday dinner for my son-in-law at Tappi. (Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!)

Day Two: Twisp to Colville

Eastern Washington has several things to recommend it: beautifully designed and maintained roads; light traffic; and tremendous scenery.

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The roads are wonderfully twisty and there are some heroically gigantic sweeper curves that let us lay the bikes over as we thrust through them.We exercise the very edges of our tires and all distractions related to work, relationships, economics & politics are crowded out by close attention to the nanosecond physics of our ride. Motorcycling is an endeavor that rewards paying close attention and we do.

This road does have unusual hazards. This is rangeland. Cattle run free. Cow pies dot the highway and besides being slippery in the corners, they’re pretty fresh. Here’s a tip – don’t follow too close behind the bike in front of you or you’ll be stopping to clean you visor.

Twisp to Omak, north to the top of the state, east eventually to Colville, but we have to eat. We enter Chesaw and almost blow through it before we spot the Chesaw Tavern. We are not a ‘bikes and brew’ gang but the weather is threatening, there are a lot of cars in the lot, and there’s no other food for 50 miles in any direction.

As we pulled in, one of our gang dropped their bike in the slick, wet, gravelly parking lot … at one mile per hour. No harm done. No injury. They say there are two kinds of bikers … those that have dropped their bikes, and those that are about to. This is now behind us. And five of the six of us are grateful it wasn’t me.

As we walk in, the place is packed. There is a community table with every seat filled and a few empty seats each at a small table and the bar. We order Bison Burgers – never had one before but would order one again, maybe with bacon next time. People come and go from the community table continuously.

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As we finish eating, we walk around and chat with the patrons. All are curious about us – who’re you – where d’you come from – where’re you going – sorry about the rain. People are just people and we enjoy the encounter. It’s rained hard while we were eating but it seems to have stopped mostly. We get lots of well wishes as we depart in a cloud of decibels.

Great roads; great riding; and speeds coming up. We arrive at the Selkirk Motel in Colville. We chose this place because it’s ‘motorcycle friendly’ and even has a ‘motorcycle washing station.’ Well, the washing station is a hose and a bucket but the staff is friendly, the place is clean if modest, and the rates are good. No TV, no phones, no Wi-Fi (This is Colville, mister). The desk clerk recommends Stefanie’s as the best restaurant in town for dinner. Stephanie recommends Zips as the best breakfast in town.

We sit next to two State Troopers at breakfast. We asked them what direction they were headed and offered to buy them breakfast as a deposit on future tickets. That’s actually a lie, but we did consider it.

Day Three: Colville to Republic

We rode south from Colville to Newton along the eastern side of the Pend Orielle River. Back up the western side of the river and due west to a ferry crossing at Inchelium (I swear, I could not make up a name like this).

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Then we rode north, then over Sherman Pass to Republic.

For my money, the Sherman Pass road is the best motorcycle road in Washington. This road is heroic! Very fast, terrific pavement and engineering, sweepers that consume 720 degrees on the compass (I sometimes exaggerate to make a point, but I digress). Of our five days riding … this is it … this is why I came and would come again and again. Wow! And wow again!

After dinner in Republic we wander around town and down into a small nature park. As we return we spot an historic building with a plaque. It used to be John Stack’s Storage Building – Groceries, Mining Supplies, Post Office and Grubstaking. My daughter asks, “What’s grubstaking?” I pull out my iPhone, punch up Siri and ask, “What is grubstaking?” Siri gives me a result that looks barely relevant and I say something along the lines of, “Siri, you stupid witch, that makes no sense.” But if you scroll down Siri’s results you do eventually get to a definition. I punch up Siri again and say, “I’m sorry, Siri, you’re not a stupid witch.” And Siri instantly speaks her retort, “And after all I’ve done for you!” We all laugh and a memory is made. I encourage you to ask Siri my question if you’re curious.

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Every restaurant in Republic is closed in the morning. We follow signs to a Firemen’s Pancake Breakfast and run into a couple who talk about the history of the town. This building used to be a hardware store until it burned down, now it’s a bank. This building used to be a church until it burned down, now it’s the library. We quickly detect a theme. These are bonefide historians. He was born in Republic and lived here for 50 years. Then he moved to Spokane where they’ve lived for 48 years. They come back every Memorial Day. We lose track of them in the fire hall during breakfast. Later, he walks up to me from across the room and says, “You look familiar.” I say, “I get that a lot” and reintroduce myself. Life’s a funny funny riddle.

Day Four: Republic to Twisp

This is our shortest day. We get a late start and arrive early after crossing Disautel and Loup Loup passes. This road is so great! As we came down off one of the passes, my GPS urged me to make a U Turn and do it again! This is not a lie; it’s the honest truth!

One of our trepidations about radio headsets derives from the fact that my daughter sings when we ride. As we cross Sherman Pass she breaks out in a spirited rendition of John Denver’s ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy.’ We all chime in, our faulty memories filling in the gaps between the lines we know, with lyrics that seem plausible under the circumstances. I truly hope there are sentient, advanced beings living on other planets orbiting other stars. I truly hope our radio waves reach them. And I would truly love to be a fly on the wall watching them try to make sense of this mash up.

Back in Twisp, we wander down to Blue Star to get coffee and stop in a grocery store for electrolyte replacements and snacks. We pass a quiet afternoon on the deck of the Twisp River Suites with Ruination IPA, chips and salsa. At the desk, they recommend La Fonda Lopez for dinner. It’s a tiny Mexican place, and I risk ordering paella. It was wonderful and the closest to real Spanish paella I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant in America. (Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!)

The owner of the hotel has run a gas pipe down to a fire pit by the river. He fires up the fire pit and we sit around the fire in the gathering dusk, spit and tell lies as they say. He brings down a couple of big bottles of wine, compliments of the house, and we meet two other guests, Steve and Sheri, who are bicycling across the country. They are retired, sixty-something, fit and excited to be at the beginning of their ride. We are all interested in each other’s stories and soon it’s pitch dark as we wander back to our rooms to sleep.

Day Five: Back Home

This is a longish day over a terrific highway, the North Cascades Highway. If you’ve ever ridden or driven it, you know what I mean. If not, that’s the only way you’ll truly understand.

As we’re riding I fantasize about the reactions of people in approaching cars. I imagine a late twenties guy in an older model pickup reacting to our freedom and sense of adventure. An ‘emotion bubble’ blooms around him, bright shimmering green, equal parts envy and vicarious enjoyment of our riding pleasure. I imagine a late forties gal, probably a spinster, driving something sensible, maybe a Taurus with 111,000 miles on the odometer. She’s blooming with an angry orange ‘emotion bubble’ because by day five we’re a little scruffy, we’re faster than she thinks prudent, way to close together in our staggered trail formation – we’re that kind of rider. Maybe she’s jealous because she’s never had an adventure of any kind in her life. We chat about my fanciful ‘emotion bubbles,’ and for the rest of the trip call out green and orange for the cars we approach or pass.

Maybe I think too much. And when did we become that kind of rider?

Charles Porter liked this post

The Forgotten Corner Tour – Part 1

Note: At the end of May, six riders participated in the annual Nick B Brown Birthday Motorcycle Tour. This year we visited “the forgotten corner” of Washington. A big thanks to my dad for taking the time to write and allow me to publish the following story. Part 1 covers the pre-ride details. Stay tuned for the rest of the story… 

The Plan

I get an email from my daughter suggesting we reprise our Nine Pass Tour from last year:

Hi Dad,

Here’s a tentative plan for a NBB 40th birthday ride. We were thinking leave on Friday, return on Tuesday. What do you think?

CP

Day 1: Home to Twisp
195 miles, 4 hours

Day 2: Twisp to Colville
208 miles, 6 hours
Over Loup Loup Pass; n on 97 to Tonasket; DH 34 to Oroville; DH 11 to Curlew; DH 50 to Hwy 395; S on DH 65 to Kettle Falls; E on Hwy 20 to Colville

Day 3: Colville to Republic
236 miles, 7 hours
DH 14 to Tiger; N to Metaline Falls; S on Sullivan Lake Road to Le Clerc Creek Rd (east side of river); Newport; Chewelah via Flowery Trail Rd; N on f Hwy 395 to Colville; Kettle Falls; Republic via Sherman Pass

Day 4: Republic to Twisp
155 miles; 4 hours

Day 5: Twisp to home
195 miles; 4 hours

And I get an email to “The Usual Suspects” from my son-in-law:

Hi Gang,

We’re doing another NBB birthday motorcycle trip this year, but we’re adding two days in honor of my 40th birthday and to give us time to explore some pretty cool-looking roads in northeastern Washington. I’m even going to wash my bike for the occasion!

The dates are Friday, May 24th, through Tuesday, May 28th.

We’re roaming from town to town on this, so it’s probably easiest to make your own lodging arrangements, but I expect we can certainly meet up for post-ride refreshments and food. Of course, these towns are small so we’ll all end up in the same place anyway.

Please drop me a line if you’re interested in coming. I would love the company!

Nick

Sounds like fun – I’m in! It looks like Dave is in. And Mark and Laura! And the ride is sold out – waiting list only for those slow to respond.

The Riders & Their Rides

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My daughter is 37; my son-in-law will be 40; and I’m … well, old enough to be their father … old enough to know better, some would say. Together we are “Les Canards Sauvages,” a name for our tiny motorcycle gang coined on a previous ride to Banff by a Luxembourger innkeeper there.

Loosely translated it means The Savage Ducks. At the time we all rode Ducatis (Ducs). My daughter and son-in-law still ride Ducatis (a Monster 796, and a 900 Supersport) and I’m a lame Duc now, in their opinion, riding a BMW K1300S; a sport bike in a Tuxedo. It sounds like something between a Japanese sport bike (Angry Bees) and a muscled cruiser (Angry Potatoes) … maybe like a hunting cheetah … very fast … very focused … a low and forward center of sonic gravity. BMW marketing folks would love to hear me talk this way!

Les Canards Sauvages are at the core of a somewhat larger and looser group we self describe as “The Usual Suspects.” Dave rides a BMW K1600LT; a beautiful touring bike tricked out with some extra electronics and lights. If Porsche made an SUV, it would be as strong, powerful, and refined as Dave’s bike. Oh wait; Porsche makes the Cayenne. So I’d guess Dave’s bike is the Cayenne of motorcycles – comfortable, powerful, and refined. His wife Karen rides a smaller BMW but won’t be joining us on this ride as she’s starting a new job. Mark and Laura ride a pair of Suzuki V-Stroms. This is a terrific crossover bike … part road bike, but very capable off road. High clearance, stand on the pegs, fun!

Electronics

When we ride as a group, it is helpful to be able to talk to each other and a few years ago, we bought ScalaRider G4 headsets. Pairing them with each other lets us talk so we can coordinates stops for fuel, food or hijinks. It lets us consult when we make a wrong turn. Recommandé par Les Canards Sauvages!

Did I mention hijinks?

This is fun. Imagine three or more of us, riding in a close, staggered-trail formation. We’re fast approaching a car we want to pass. Over the intercom, “On my mark, left blinkers on … three, two, one, … mark!” The turn signals come on at exactly the same time. “Pass on my mark … three, two, one … mark!” Our revs come up and we shift to the passing lane at exactly the same moment. This is precision flying, better than the Blue Angels. I truly hope those around us appreciate the formation.

We can do a coordinated ballet of left and right leg stretches in the same way, but that’s just messing with people’s heads. At least we hope so.

In any event, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Last time out, I was unable to pair my headset and it was stuck on some stupid FM radio frequency playing static at 100 decibels. So today, ride-minus-five-days, I plug it into my PC to check for software upgrades. That goes smoothly. After it’s fully charged, I reset it to factory defaults and paired it to my GPS. It’s time to test. “Film at eleven,” as they say.

And More Electronics

There are things I’m good at, and things I’m not. One thing I’m good at is making wrong turns and getting lost. So awhile back, I added a GPS navigation system to my kit. Mostly when I ride alone, I take whatever road appeals to me and get lost. Then I tell it to take me “home,” an address it knows, and Bob’s your Uncle.

Our route for this trip is 1,000 miles of off-the-beaten-path asphalt. If I simply plug in our destination each morning, it will plot a route that will steal the joy from our ride. It will choose smooth, straight, multilane highways. It will avoid Americana. It maintains a severe allergic reaction to basic comfort food – biscuits and gravy, for example. It will choose the perfect route for a four-door sedan with two adults and 2.3 children on board.

It will not choose a biker’s route.

But there’s an alternative called Base Camp. This is software that lets me plot our route along the roads we want.

I’ve not used Basecamp yet but today is ride-minus-four-days and I give it a go. I load the software on my Mac. Hey, it comes native Mac and PC ready. I do software and map updates until it eventually quits nagging about them. It has videos that show me how to use the software to create a route and load it into the navigation system that sits on my bike. It takes a few hours to get the hang of this, but I think I like it. We’ll see in four days.

It’s All About the Gear

My wife has observed that with bikers, “It’s all about the gear.” And she would be correct, to a degree. Others have observed, “It’s all about the food.” Or the, “check-your-rank-at-the-door camaraderie.” Or the, “feeling of 9,000 RPMs between your legs.” All true, to a degree.

In any event, it’s good to look the part and it’s fun to have apparel that reminds us of the good times. So it has become traditional to make up Ride T-Shirts. Photoshop, mashed up Internet graphics, and Café Press make this possible. On one ride, we were asked if we all worked for Ducati. Guess which one.

My daughter calls me; “I have an idea for T-Shirts. Can you help me with Photoshop?” We mash up a T-Shirt design to add to the collection, the first of the three below.

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LCS logo

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For the record, the white shape is the transmission cover from a Ducati 900 Supersport.  These are available at Café Press for a modest price. Wonder who among us will order them?

Or Is It, All About The Weather

As ride day approaches, I begin to obsess about the weather. We will be high in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. It’s mid-May and that often means rain. I don’t despise riding in the rain, but I want to be warm and dry, and that means choosing rain gear to ride in. But we’ll also be low in Eastern Washington and in May that sometimes means it’ll be hot. I have summer gear, winter gear and shoulder season gear. Only my winter gear is waterproof.

So the dilemma is choosing just the right gear. I’d rather be: 1) warm and dry in the rain, and hot when it gets hot; than 2) cold and wet in the rain and comfortable in the hot. So winter gear or shoulder season gear?

A quick check of the weather over North Cascades Highway (Rainy Pass) shows it’ll be cold (upper 30’s or lower 40’s) and rainy with the possibility of SNOW. Crap! I do despise riding in the snow! Call me crazy. Maybe we’ll need to reroute over US2 but it’s looking like waterproof gear for this ride. The risk of hot in Eastern Washington this time of year isn’t all that significant. Maybe it’ll reach 70, tops, the ‘big maybe.’ Winter gear it is.

We’ll keep an eye on the possibility of snow and call an audible on Friday morning.

Ride Eve – Ride-Day-Minus-One

I drive a car that’s little on the outside but big on the inside. The side bags on my K1300S are just the opposite; big on the outside and little on the inside. So I’m off to pack channeling my inner Jack Reacher. Don’t need much beyond a toothbrush.

And I’m off to update our route map in Basecamp for the GPS.

We live in amazing times. With the click of a mouse I pull up weather along our route for the next 5 days. Twisp on Friday: 42-67 degrees, 20% rain chance; Colville on Saturday: 42-67, 10% rain chance; Republic on Sunday: 39-68, 10% rain chance; Twisp on Monday: 47-75, 20% rain chance; North Cascade Highway Tuesday: 50-60, 10% rain chance. No longer any ambiguity – rain gear.

But getting to Twisp won’t be half the fun. Forecast for Blewett Pass and Stevens Pass is the same: 33-40, rain/snow. But it’s amazing what weather data you can find. The surface temperature is 52 which means any snow we see will melt on contact.

Next stop, The French Bakery, where we’ll be kick-stands-up at 10:00 AM tomorrow. We all despise riding in rush hour.

Cookbook review: Quick Fix Vegan

My current schedule does not allow me the time to cook as many elaborate meals as I used to, but that doesn’t mean I will compromise my family’s diet with frozen dinners or processed convenience foods. I have enjoyed Lorna Sass’s cookbook, Short Cut Vegan, for many years and went looking for a companion that offers more ideas for easy-to-make plant-based meals. Robin Robertson has long been a favorite cookbook author, so I checked out Quick Fix Vegan from the library for a test drive.

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(The book was originally published in October 2011. Hopefully this belated review will be useful for somebody!)

At a glance, Quick-Fix Vegan provides 150 vegan recipes ranging from starters, snacks, salads, sauces, and sandwiches to stovetop suppers, pastas, soups, and desserts that can all be (allegedly) prepared in 30 minutes or less. It also features “Make-Ahead Bakes,” recipes that are assembled ahead of time (in less than 30 minutes) and then baked before serving. Rather than relying on packaged, highly processed faux meats and cheeses, I love that Robin’s recipes are made from inexpensive, healthful, and hearty whole foods with modest amounts of minimally processed ingredients like tofu and seitan.

Quick Fix Vegan is also laid out nicely, in an uncluttered, easy-to-read format with one recipe per page. At the front of the book there are basic tips on how to stock you pantry, how to save money on food, and how to clean and store veggies for quicker meal preparation. There are also some basics on tofu, seitan, non-dairy milk, etc., which can be helpful to new cooks and a quick refresher for those with more experience.

We’ve cooked out of it for three weeks now and almost all of the recipes were on the table in less than 30 minutes. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Coconut-Curry Cauliflower and Chickpeas: We made this with full-fat coconut milk and thought it was deliciously rich. The quality of the dish is dependent on the quality of your curry powder, so use a good one!
  • Moroccan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Spinach: I was not sure whether this was going to be as good as Sass’s Chickpea Curry in a Hurry. It was different and quite tasty – a keeper!
  • Spicy Red Bean Slaw: So good we’ve made this twice!
  • Lebanese Sleek: We loved the combination of kale and black-eyed peas. The spice mix she suggests if you can’t get your hands on commercial mixes is outstanding.
  • Green Chile Tofu Migas: I love tofu scrambles, but Nick…no so much. This one got his approval, though.
  • Black Bean and Sweet Potato Salad: Hearty and delicious.
  • Spicy Peanut Hoisin Noodles with Broccoli and Tofu: I omitted the noodles and simply poured the sauce over steamed broccoli and tofu for dinner one night. Yum!
  • Cannellini Pesto: Served this over noodles and roasted cauliflower and roasted cherry tomatoes. I found it a tad on the garlicky side, but Nick was doing a happy dance.
  • Quinoa and Chard with Sherry-Glazed Mushrooms: I had my doubts that I’d be able to finish this dish in 30 minutes, but 27 minutes later I was calling Nick out of the garden. It is killer one-dish meal.
  • Quinoa Salad with Apples and Walnuts: Oh-la-la! A perfect picnic salad!

And some not-so-favorites:

  • Smoky Chipotle-Chocolate Chili: I had high hopes for this dish. It was pretty good, but I have another recipe with similar flavors that I like better.
  • Tuscan Kale Lasagna: I made the mistake of making this with ready-bake rice noodles. The resulting dish was only okay. I partly blame the noodles, but I also think it was a little heavy on the tofu. If I make it again, I will definitely tweak the recipe to our liking.

Based on the recipes we’ve tried so far, I’m inclined to buy it and continue trying many more of the recipes in here, especially in the salads and make-ahead bakes chapters.

Karen Stenersen Derrig liked this post