rhiannonstone: (Default)
I swore off traveling during the holidays quite a few years ago because it's expensive and stressful and tends to upset whichever family members I'm not visiting, but somehow I keep letting Aunt [profile] jensmitkil talk me into flying across the country for Thanksgiving--probably because it's always so danged fun. This year we all converged on the Outer Banks for the week, in two cozy little condos a stone's throw from the ocean and a few short miles from [profile] xandyssin's place for our teeny tiny Smith family reunion.

Paul and I flew in Monday and left Friday, so we really only had three days there. We couldn't do much of the stuff we wanted to do because Highway 12 was closed to non-4WD traffic south of Oregon Inlet, leaving the entirety of Hatteras Island inaccessible, but we still managed to pack our days there quite full with running around, shopping for food and gifts, lazing about, hanging around, sharing stories, and consuming a not-insignificant amount of seafood and wine. And coffee. And bourbon.

And there was cooking! Oh so much cooking.

I wanted oysters and Dad wanted me to make my famous French onion soup and Caesar salad, so we did both as a little moveable feast on Wednesday night: six of us demolished nearly a bushel of raw and steamed oysters over at Aunt J & Uncle R's condo, then everyone came over to ours for soup and salad. Then we spent Thursday going back and forth between condos for nibbles (Sausage cheese balls! Devilled eggs! Pimento-stuffed celery!) while working on Thanksgiving dinner in our respective kitchens.

Cooking without access to my usual equipment and ingredients was a challenge, but it was kind of a fun one to tackle. I felt a little like MacGyver, or Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, and it was like all my years of cooking experience and food geekery was training for the task of cooking Thanksgiving and dinner for 6 in a tiny rental kitchen with a random assortment of cheap, abused utensils, an unfamiliar electric stove, and very limited seasonings. No potato ricer or masher? No bowls big enough to mix anything in? Knives too dull to chop broccoli? No problem! I was also pretty proud of my hastily thrown-together travel cold-brew coffee setup, though I've since purchased a more efficient piece of equipment to take with me next time. My obsession with vintage household handbooks was finally justified, too, when I used half a lemon and salt to scrub old scorched pots that were otherwise refusing to get clean.

Thanksgiving dinner itself was wonderful and abundant. From J & R: turkey, stuffing, chicken-cornbread dressing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, asparagus, beer bread, crescent rolls, two pies. From us: unstuffed stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cheesy broccoli, and one pie that had an accident and didn't make it to the table (not an oops-we-ate-it accident, but a lost-the-battle-with-gravity accident). Entirely too much food, of course, but it was all delicious. And we left Dad with enough leftovers to feed him for weeks. :)

I'd planned to do some bike riding while I was there, and rented a nice hybrid from what turned out to be a really great shop, but I had so much fun chatting with the bike shop guy about vintage bikes and east coast vs. west coast cycling that I left without picking up my helmet. And didn't discover it until Wednesday afternoon, when he (and everyone else who might have helmets for rent) was closed. D'oh. At least I know where to go for a rental next time I'm on the Outer Banks.

We all agreed that we should definitely make the Smith family reunion a regular thing, but at my request, NOT during the holidays. I think we're thinking of going down to J & R's place on the Gulf coast next time, during a warmer time of year, maybe when there's an art or shrimp festival.
rhiannonstone: (bike)
When I was little I dreamed of bike touring. I didn't know that's what it was called, or even that it was an actual thing that people actually did. I just knew that I saw these mysterious little signs on the road during trips to see [profile] xandyssin, and the idea of hopping on my bike and following those signs all day sounded marvelous. I used to sit on my bedroom floor with my NC road map spread out in front of me and try to trace the routes I wanted to take, mapping out how I'd get there from home or Dad's and how I'd get back.

I never thought much about the logistics of it--how I'd carry my stuff, where I'd sleep, how long it might take--because it was just an idle fantasy, not something I thought I'd ever be able to actually do. Once I outgrew my childhood bike and left home I pretty much forgot about it.

Then a couple years ago I started cycling and absolutely fell in love with it, and suddenly I started dreaming of touring again. Sometime near the end of last year I started reading touring forums obsessively, and thinking that once I became a stronger rider, I'd start planning one- and two-night bike trips. A few months ago I realized that doing the sort of rides I am motivated to do is exactly what will make me a stronger rider, and started planning for real. And early Saturday afternoon I took off for my first overnight bike adventure.



The plan: Leave from Embarcadero BART around midday, ride to and over the Golden Gate Bridge, then head ~30 miles north to Samuel P. Taylor State Park to enjoy the scenery, camp overnight, then return the next day the same way. It was a solo trip, partly because I wanted to work out any awkward navigation or loaded bike handling issues on my own, and partly because I've been needing a bit of a retreat and this sounded like the perfect way to get it.

I got a much later start than planned since breakfast with Paul and a visiting friend took longer than usual, and then getting to the bridge took a ridiculous amount of time because tourists on rental bikes. After that, though, the ride up was mostly very pleasant. I was surprised by how much of it was on bike paths and well-marked bike routes. I was using a route I'd created on Open Street Maps and loaded onto my Garmin for navigation and that worked really well, but it doesn't recalculate for the many detours there were. I had my phone, of course, but the bike route signs kept me from having to consult it much. I wasn't sure how much my gear would slow me down, but I was able to keep up a decent pace, at least on the flats. Climbing the hills was of course much slower and harder, but even they weren't that bad until the end.

The worst part of the ride--of the whole weekend--was White's Hill on Sir Francis Drake Blvd, about 8 miles from the park. It's a short, steep climb that would have been challenging for me under normal circumstances, but with 20 pounds of gear strapped to my bike, at the end of a long day and right after another long, steady, draining climb, felt nearly impossible. I had to stop a lot, and I walked the steepest parts. Knowing how long it was taking me to travel a single mile, and how little daylight I had left, was really disheartening. There was a bit of a fun descent after I reached the top, though, and then I shifted into the big ring and booked it toward Lagunitas, where I planned to stop at the last little store before the park for water and dinner supplies.

It was, of course, closed. D'oh. Thankfully there was an Indian restaurant nearby that was still open, so I bought water, soda, and dinner there. The food was meh but it was fuel, and I foraged some blackberries from the roadside for dessert.

I finally made it to the campground just before sunset. The ride through the redwoods in the twilight was stunning, and mostly melted away the frustration of the hill ordeal. I stopped at the ranger station and asked if there was any space left at the hiker-biker site and the ranger said, "Technically no, but I'll let you in anyway. That'll be $5, please." I love state parks.



I had just enough time to claim a rough, uneven little spot and set up my tent before it got fully dark. A couple of the other bike campers stopped by to ask if I needed any help and remind me to lock up my food to keep the raccoons away, but after that I had the evening to myself. Well, once I shooed the two GIANT FREAKING RACCOONS away from my bike, where they were trying their best to get to the empty food bar wrapper I'd accidentally left in my top tube bag.

I was really happy with all my gear. My tent sets up in minutes and is exactly the perfect size for me and my stuff, and my sleeping bag and sleeping pad were quite comfortable and warm--even with a minor zipper malfunction. Having both my lantern and headlamp as well as my bike headlight for light was useful, and I love how my white tent amplifies the light. The backup battery I brought was perfect for keeping my phone charged through two full days of heavy use, though I wish I'd brought the cable that would have let me charge my Garmin, too. And little stuff like the headband I wore around my wrist to wipe the sweat and dirt from my eyes, the insulated Klean Kanteen that kept my iced coffee cold and my chicken biryani warm, and the comfortable technical shirt I wore instead of a bike jersey were really nice to have. I packed pretty well, too: I was aiming for 15 lbs. of gear, allowing for 30, and ended up with 20. Other than my camera and first aid/emergency kit I didn't pack a single thing I didn't use--and I wish I'd used my camera. I really should have brought an extra pair of bike shorts, though, and more food, and maybe my camp stove. Sunglasses would have been great, too--riding into the setting sun on Saturday and then into the rising sun on Sunday was kinda rough. I've been putting off ordering the nice prescription sport sunglasses I want because they're so expensive, but I think protecting my eyes is definitely worth it.

In the morning I packed up and headed out early enough that I'd have time to enjoy the scenery I wasn't able to on the way there, and make any stops I wanted to. The Lagunitas Grocery & Deli was open so I had a leisurely breakfast in the sunshine there, and 10 miles later I stopped for coffee at a little Java Hut in Fairfax that's such a popular stop for cyclists that they have nice pumps leashed to the benches and the gaggle of young, giggly baristas seemed to know many of the cyclists by name, even the ones who weren't local. I chatted with a bunch of other riders, including couple of French roadies who invited me to join their ride up to Point Reyes and reminded me that "There is no bike ride without coffee."

I was having an issue with my bike shorts that was starting to make riding unpleasant, so instead of riding all the way back to the bridge I stopped in Larkspur and took the ferry back to SF. I love ferries, so it was a nice way to end my adventure.

Next time--there is definitely going to be a next time!--I will leave earlier, bring more food and extra bike shorts, and either take a different route to get to the bridge or just skip it and take the ferry from SF to Sausalito and start there if I'm heading north again. And I might consider reserving an actual campsite rather than taking a spot in the hiker-biker camp, since that way I'll get a flat piece of ground and my very own table, firepit, and raccoon locker. :)
rhiannonstone: (bike)
When I was little I dreamed of bike touring. I didn't know that's what it was called, or even that it was an actual thing that people actually did. I just knew that I saw these mysterious little signs on the road during trips to see [livejournal.com profile] xandyssin, and the idea of hopping on my bike and following those signs all day sounded marvelous. I used to sit on my bedroom floor with my NC road map spread out in front of me and try to trace the routes I wanted to take, mapping out how I'd get there from home or Dad's and how I'd get back.

I never thought much about the logistics of it--how I'd carry my stuff, where I'd sleep, how long it might take--because it was just an idle fantasy, not something I thought I'd ever be able to actually do. Once I outgrew my childhood bike and left home I pretty much forgot about it.

Then a couple years ago I started cycling and absolutely fell in love with it, and suddenly I started dreaming of touring again. Sometime near the end of last year I started reading touring forums obsessively, and thinking that once I became a stronger rider, I'd start planning one- and two-night bike trips. A few months ago I realized that doing the sort of rides I am motivated to do is exactly what will make me a stronger rider, and started planning for real. And early Saturday afternoon I took off for my first overnight bike adventure.



The plan: Leave from Embarcadero BART around midday, ride to and over the Golden Gate Bridge, then head ~30 miles north to Samuel P. Taylor State Park to enjoy the scenery, camp overnight, then return the next day the same way. It was a solo trip, partly because I wanted to work out any awkward navigation or loaded bike handling issues on my own, and partly because I've been needing a bit of a retreat and this sounded like the perfect way to get it.

I got a much later start than planned since breakfast with Paul and a visiting friend took longer than usual, and then getting to the bridge took a ridiculous amount of time because tourists on rental bikes. After that, though, the ride up was mostly very pleasant. I was surprised by how much of it was on bike paths and well-marked bike routes. I was using a route I'd created on Open Street Maps and loaded onto my Garmin for navigation and that worked really well, but it doesn't recalculate for the many detours there were. I had my phone, of course, but the bike route signs kept me from having to consult it much. I wasn't sure how much my gear would slow me down, but I was able to keep up a decent pace, at least on the flats. Climbing the hills was of course much slower and harder, but even they weren't that bad until the end.

The worst part of the ride--of the whole weekend--was White's Hill on Sir Francis Drake Blvd, about 8 miles from the park. It's a short, steep climb that would have been challenging for me under normal circumstances, but with 20 pounds of gear strapped to my bike, at the end of a long day and right after another long, steady, draining climb, felt nearly impossible. I had to stop a lot, and I walked the steepest parts. Knowing how long it was taking me to travel a single mile, and how little daylight I had left, was really disheartening. There was a bit of a fun descent after I reached the top, though, and then I shifted into the big ring and booked it toward Lagunitas, where I planned to stop at the last little store before the park for water and dinner supplies.

It was, of course, closed. D'oh. Thankfully there was an Indian restaurant nearby that was still open, so I bought water, soda, and dinner there. The food was meh but it was fuel, and I foraged some blackberries from the roadside for dessert.

I finally made it to the campground just before sunset. The ride through the redwoods in the twilight was stunning, and mostly melted away the frustration of the hill ordeal. I stopped at the ranger station and asked if there was any space left at the hiker-biker site and the ranger said, "Technically no, but I'll let you in anyway. That'll be $5, please." I love state parks.



I had just enough time to claim a rough, uneven little spot and set up my tent before it got fully dark. A couple of the other bike campers stopped by to ask if I needed any help and remind me to lock up my food to keep the raccoons away, but after that I had the evening to myself. Well, once I shooed the two GIANT FREAKING RACCOONS away from my bike, where they were trying their best to get to the empty food bar wrapper I'd accidentally left in my top tube bag.

I was really happy with all my gear. My tent sets up in minutes and is exactly the perfect size for me and my stuff, and my sleeping bag and sleeping pad were quite comfortable and warm--even with a minor zipper malfunction. Having both my lantern and headlamp as well as my bike headlight for light was useful, and I love how my white tent amplifies the light. The backup battery I brought was perfect for keeping my phone charged through two full days of heavy use, though I wish I'd brought the cable that would have let me charge my Garmin, too. And little stuff like the headband I wore around my wrist to wipe the sweat and dirt from my eyes, the insulated Klean Kanteen that kept my iced coffee cold and my chicken biryani warm, and the comfortable technical shirt I wore instead of a bike jersey were really nice to have. I packed pretty well, too: I was aiming for 15 lbs. of gear, allowing for 30, and ended up with 20. Other than my camera and first aid/emergency kit I didn't pack a single thing I didn't use--and I wish I'd used my camera. I really should have brought an extra pair of bike shorts, though, and more food, and maybe my camp stove. Sunglasses would have been great, too--riding into the setting sun on Saturday and then into the rising sun on Sunday was kinda rough. I've been putting off ordering the nice prescription sport sunglasses I want because they're so expensive, but I think protecting my eyes is definitely worth it.

In the morning I packed up and headed out early enough that I'd have time to enjoy the scenery I wasn't able to on the way there, and make any stops I wanted to. The Lagunitas Grocery & Deli was open so I had a leisurely breakfast in the sunshine there, and 10 miles later I stopped for coffee at a little Java Hut in Fairfax that's such a popular stop for cyclists that they have nice pumps leashed to the benches and the gaggle of young, giggly baristas seemed to know many of the cyclists by name, even the ones who weren't local. I chatted with a bunch of other riders, including couple of French roadies who invited me to join their ride up to Point Reyes and reminded me that "There is no bike ride without coffee."

I was having an issue with my bike shorts that was starting to make riding unpleasant, so instead of riding all the way back to the bridge I stopped in Larkspur and took the ferry back to SF. I love ferries, so it was a nice way to end my adventure.

Next time--there is definitely going to be a next time!--I will leave earlier, bring more food and extra bike shorts, and either take a different route to get to the bridge or just skip it and take the ferry from SF to Sausalito and start there if I'm heading north again. And I might consider reserving an actual campsite rather than taking a spot in the hiker-biker camp, since that way I'll get a flat piece of ground and my very own table, firepit, and raccoon locker. :)
rhiannonstone: (Default)
We got back from the annual Crazy Boston Trip Tuesday night. It was astonishingly smooth and stressless. Despite the long flights, the tight scheduling, and the thoroughly discombobulated sleep schedule, at no point did I feel that bone-tired, stretched-thin, soul-sucked feeling I have come to associate with long-distance travel and that trip, especially.

The worst thing that happened was having to opt out of the backscatter machines at BOS, and subsequently getting interro-groped. The new talk-screening would be hilarious if it (and the rest of the process) weren't so infuriating. Our screeners (and the others I observed while avoiding eye contact with the woman patting me down) totally failed at the friendly chat they've been framing this as. The questions were rapid-fire and accusatory, but about the most trivial of things, and the juxtaposition is startling enough that it seems almost impossible to respond in a non-suspicious manner.

******************************

While we were planning the trip last month, I had been feeling a little cranky about the fact that we never do anything new or different when we go, just the usual routine of traveling, the marathon, recovering in the hotel room, and the same couple restaurants before and after. After talking about it some with Paul I resigned myself to the fact that it just wasn't going to happen unless we scheduled some extra time, and that doesn't really work out for us--not least because I don't actually want to spend any more time in the cold than necessary. But just a couple days before we left I was chatting with a dear friend about the upcoming trip, and she insisted we had to check out Journeyman. I trust her taste in food implicitly, so I called and made reservations for a very late dinner the evening we arrived. They impressed me right from the start, because I was concerned about having to cancel if our flight was late, and they were very sweet and kind about it, assuring me that they'd understand, and wishing us a safe flight.

We made it on time, though, and had an absolutely amazing experience. One of the top 5 meals of my life so far, hands down. The 7-course tasting menu showcased strong flavors, local foods, and an interesting variety of techniques: a little bit of modern American, a little bit of classic French, and a little bit of modernist/molecular. The beverage pairings, which included beer, wine, and vermouth, were all perfect. And it was exactly the right amount of food--we left thoroughly satisfied but not feeling like the chefs had been preparing to harvest our livers.

Between the day of travel and the generous beer and wine pours and being delirious with the sheer pleasure of the meal, some of the details are fuzzy, but there are a few standout dishes that I am still daydreaming about:
  • Our first amuse-bouche: egg foam with salmon roe, lentil salad with mustard, and a ridiculously delicious pastrami-spiced veal consomme.
  • Celeriac custard with celeriac foam and chive oil
  • Spheres of some deliciously stinky Italian cheese atop potato puree, with crumbled potato cookies and shaved black truffles
  • Cold foie gras torchon with (freeze-dried?) chocolate, rye bread, and some sort of dark beer reduction
  • The pre-dessert palate cleanser: a disc of lemony Greek yogurt, bruleed.
It was all fantastic, though. The only thing that wasn't absolutely perfect for me was the bergamot ice cream in the final course, which, after working with bergamot oil in other contexts my whole life, my brain just could not process as foodstuff. Paul liked it a lot, though.

I am not going to mind the routine so much if this becomes a part of it. ;)

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rhiannonstone

March 2016

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