Moab, UT: Day 2

We woke up bright and early to the smell of coffee. I felt semi-refreshed, having forgotten that that first night of sleeping on a rock is never truly the best night of sleep you will ever have, no matter how tired you are. Ah well, a little coffee with cocoa mix stirred in did the trick. Maggie made us pancakes topped with yogurt and fruit, along with bacon for breakfast. Lil’ Blue got a good greasing as you can see from the photo above (don’t I have a beautiful bike?!). Mike debriefed us and let us know that today had some hard climbs, most notably “Hogback” which made me nervous after eating all that bacon… Hit the trail!

It was a long hot day of riding, challenging and super fun. Samara and I were generally behind the rest of the group, oscillating between laughing uncontrollably and cussing horribly. The trail was beautiful and rolling, which let me really get some speed going and get to know Little Bluebird even better. And of course we let our ponies rest a bit and pushed them up some real zingers like the aforementioned Hogback. They were thankful.

Roger finds many things joyful in life, one of them being persuading us to wiggle over the edge of 400 ft cliffs with him to watch a rock fall down to the bottom, floating like a feather. It was pretty mind blowing. Big kids!

You know it’s hot when in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world we are sitting in the shade of the latrine. After 8 hours in the sun it was the best spot out there!

This photo Roger took is pretty magical. The evening light really showed off the white rim layer of the canyon that we spent most of our time riding on. This is a 225 million year old layer of White Rim Sandstone that is firmer than the shale and sandstone deposited atop it, so as those eroded over time it revealed this wide flat bench of desert known as the White Rim Plateau that lies between the river gorges below and the mesa tops above. Aside from beauty and fascinating geology, it makes for a damn fine place to ride a bike.

Sleep tight, don’t let the mice nibble on your camelback!

Advertisements

Moab, UT: Day I

Ah, the return from the desert has been like waking up from a heavenly dream that you do not want to end. Take me back to that land of sun and dirt! Our motley crew of eight set out with Magpie Cycling guides Maggie and Mike last Saturday.  Three days, 100 miles and lots of rock ahead. I was the youngest (29), and Boyd the oldest (73). Guess who was the fastest! Yup, not me. The whole thing started with a major descent from the top of the canyon down to the white rim layer which we would be riding on.

Once we dropped down we took a great little detour on foot to the Green River overlook. The entire trip took place in Canyonlands National Park, in the Island in the Sky district. This region is comprised of  the area between the Green and the Colorado river and has some heart stopping scenery. Great shot of Roger and Debbie enjoying the view…

The first day my heart was pounding, trying to adjust to the heat and altitude. I hadn’t quite settled in yet, it had been go go go for 24 hours and it took a moment for the vacation to catch up with me. But it did! The shock factor of Musselman Arch did it:

This single strip of rock juts across a canyon with about a three hundred foot drop underneath. I had my first case of vertigo and had to be dragged out for the photo (thanks for this shot Dave)!

We stopped for a great sandwich bar lunch – sure beats a day full of cashews and Lara bars. The way Maggie runs the ride is that one of the guides is riding with us all day, taking us on various detours along the way, while the other guide drives their big ass Dodge with all of our gear and the chuck wagon. This marvelous trailer carries 100 gallons of water and flips open on all sides to allow for prep and serving space. Quite ingenious.

This could well be one of my favorite things about biking: eating! When you are burning 2,000+ calories a day, you are forced to really pack it on to keep going. And everything tastes ten times better than it normally does. That night they delighted us with carnitas tacos under the stars. My only question is, does it get any better than this?

Goodnight White Rim, see you tomorrow!

All about the chedda

or the benjamins or whatever. What I’m trying to say it there may be no bite of cheese as satisfying as a rich chunk of clothbound cheddar, bits falling to the floor and butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Pictured above is the royal Monty’s, reigning king of bandage wrapped goodness. Until recently that is, but now the light has begun to fade on this superpower, inconsistencies abound and fissures fleck the interior. Monty’s at its best is still a beautiful piece of cheese, but how about this looker below?

I guess I’ve always preferred Lincolnshire Poacher. It is the high note to Monty’s beef brothiness; the Poacher I dream of is like a cool slice of pineapple drizzled with brown butter. We tasted through a few batches of each recently and the cheeses were all over the place. That’s one thing about these farmstead cheddars, I have never found them to be very consistent. I only got a whisper of tropical fruit from the Poacher, and a meatiness more like french onion soup from the Monty’s. The best advice I have is, if you see one being cracked at a cheese shop, get a piece then! A freshly cut wheel releases every ounce of what it’s got, like the perfume from a charentais melon, and it never gets better than at that very moment.

Devilish Little Things

When old friends come to town, all the stops are pulled. Sarah made a spectacular chicken fry for her best bud and crew, with all the fixings including stewed Rancho Gordo beans, collards the size of a small baby cooked down to nothing with a ham hock, and of course, beet pickled deviled eggs. They were even more delightful to eat than to look at. My favorite was the whiskey sour made with her own brandied cherries that I just kept popping all night long. They’re like candy!

Better than being a great cook yourself is having friends who are.  Thank you Hodgie!!

Out the Door

The weather is miraculously turning warm again and I get the itch to once again wax poetic about the final glory days of summer. Living in a small house(boat), I find that as long as it is nice outside I am finding things to do there.  So this is that.

The scene from a sunset sail for lovely Carolyn’s birthday. Looking at this building made me feel like I was in on the secret world of sailors, privy to the scene that awaits them every time they pull in to port. Never knowing if they will spend the night carousing or wind up getting Shanghaied.

Krysta, a long time employee of our Pt Reyes shop, got married on her parent’s property in Occidental. She did all of the decorating herself, stringing together bits of colored paper and stacking bales of hay for a perfect country scene.

Eating outdoors with Mayu in front of her mom’s newly constructed ceramic studio.

The two acre property in San Anselmo recently purchased by my folks!

Jesse the magical little step sister, chicken whisperer and fashion icon.

By the end of four days visiting my family in Boulder I can safely say that I did wrangle a chicken or two. Once you grab them they are pretty easy going. I will, however, never come close to the gall this little three year old has, snatching up the fastest and wildest of them all without flinching.  Farmer girl I am not…

Gathering Mustard Flowers while walking the dog

Hodge and I had a spectacular meal cooked by Ed Vigil at Vin Antico the other night. Of course I have a soft spot for his cooking, since he’s the one who trusted me with knife and flame 6 years ago by giving me my first kitchen job. But we did not make dishes like the above at The Olema Inn. Amazing as that food was, it’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of a chef, and Ed has changed a lot in the past year. The photo shows Agnolotti filled with ground pork belly, chicken, morel mushrooms and ricotta, surrounded by an uni broth and topped with wild mustard flowers gathered by Ed on his morning walk with the dogs. It pretty much far and away knocked my socks off.

Le Weekend

Folks in Sausalito most likely thought Samara and I were either crazy or hookers the other day when we left for Calistoga. Seeing as there were billows of fog and gales of drizzly wind, I can understand that our outfits probably looked a little out of place. But we were driving north! To Calistoga! That magical tippy top of the valley that managed to be both funky and fancy all in one. I rarely head up there anymore so I seized the opportunity to call on some of my customers to show us a good time. It was the best! We started with a never ending three hour brunch on the deck at Auberge du Soleil. Paul Lemiuex, the pastry chef there who I have worked with now for two years, sent us course after course, champagne after bellini, and even sent us away with goody bags. It was such a pleasure.

Above is the fifth and final course, a little chocolate purse alongside arbequina olive oil and tarragon ice cream. Somehow we managed to fit it all in.

Following brunch we retired to Indian Springs for a siesta by the olympic sized mineral pool. I can safely say that Indian Springs is my most favorite place I have ever stayed. It is lovely without feeling too fancy, retro without feeling old, and clean without feeling sterile. The arid hillsides around us were a perfect backdrop to the turquoise waters pumped in from the geyser next to the pool. If left uncapped, those geysers would push forty feet into the air 24 hours a day!

Somehow we managed to drag ourselves away from the pool for a private tasting at Quintessa. I have worked with Marcelo for years and I finally made it out for a visit. He took us around the property in their Range Rover, through the 150 unplanted acres left to maintain the balance of the land, which include a huge lake and massive white and live oak forests. We learned almost everything there is to know about Quintessa, and did a 2006, 2007 and 2008 tasting of their wine.  I had no idea they only made one wine a year, always a different blend from the five Bordeaux varietals they plant. Only about 10% goes into their bottles, the rest of the juice is sold off! The place is clearly a labor of love.

They had a few of these gratitude trees around the property at Indian Springs, where you write what you are grateful for on a little card and tie it to a branch to flap in the wind. I feel so grateful to be alive and active and be able to spend weekends like these. And grateful for a best friend to spend such a special time with!