rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Presented without much further ado, because "further ado" would mean more work to the point where I probably wouldn't get around to actually posting.

Monday, April 14

Coffeeshop Bike Ride Preparations
My father keeps a voice recorder handy on bicycle rides - easier than stopping and pulling out a pencil and paper when thoughts occur. At the beginning of each coffeeshop bike ride, he pauses to note the starting time and temperature (according to a thermometer on the side of the house, which may have questionable accuracy).

After our stop at a coffeeshop in Georgetown for breakfast, my father headed back home for a class at the U, and I headed onward towards Enumclaw, to visit my grandfather.

It was a glorious, glorious day for a bike ride. The pavement was flat and smooth (no speed-sucker!), the bike felt light and swift and fast, the air was clear, the sun was shining.

Presently, I found myself south of Tukwila, on the Interurban Trail, headed towards Auburn, when I came upon this:
Ghost Trains

A train blocking the track. The signs read:
Ghost Trains

I know better than to climb between train cars, but while I stood there, pondering my options, a bicyclist appeared on the stairways of one of the locomotives, carrying his bicycle up and over the train. At least he wasn't in between the cars, where the jolting force of movement can have severe and deadly consequences for anyone foolish enough to attempt crossing. He advised me of a detour around the train.

I stopped for a second breakfast in Auburn (decaf latte and a chocolate-chip cookie), and then headed towards the Green River Valley.
Green River Valley

At the end of this seven-mile stretch, there's a two-mile climb up an 11% grade to the Enumclaw Plateau, which made me grateful that the Centurion had a triple chainring.

I made it.

And was rewarded with splendid views of a certain large, dormant volcano:
Enumclaw Plateau
(Mt. Rainier).

And lots of glorious Washington wildflowers:
Washington low-country wildflowers
(This tongue-in-cheek photo is for [ profile] trifold_flame). At least all of the dandelions can be put to good uses, like dandelion pesto and dandelion wine?


Tuesday, April 15

The following morning, [ profile] annikusrex texted me to ask how I thought Bakery Nouveau compared to Le Fournil. Well! I'd never been to Bakery Nouveau, so 'twas time for another expedition. When I parked out front, I spotted a lovely bike frame that [ profile] scrottie has been lusting after:

Nice bike

So I gave it a Bike Ticket (of awesomeness). Hopefully the owner was amused.

Then I went in and admired BN's pastry case:

Bakery Nouveau

It's a French bakery, all right. After enjoying an almond croissant and latte, I texted AKW back to say that it's a real shame that Seattlites have to choose between two such wonderful French bakeries.

They had lots of beautiful chocolates on display for Easter, including this lamb:

From the bakery, I rode along 15th, right past the overlook at Louisa Boren Park, and again, the weather was so fine I had to pause and admire the view for a few minutes.
Hilltop view

Everything is so green!


A few more sights:

Tulips are in bloom everywhere. I only photographed some dark-purple ones because I like to imagine they are cultivated especially for Goth gardeners.

Goth tulips

More goth tulips

This guy is on a major bike route not far from my house. I love the chicken full of eggs on the back.


Lastly, a brief nod to my religious upbringing.
This is the entrance to the church where I grew up. I have strongly mixed feelings about the Catholic Church, but I would hope that most thinking and feeling people would say the same thing, whether they consider themselves a part of the church or not. One of the most positive elements of this church community is its commitment to social justice, as evidenced by this banner. On this Sunday, in the church basement, two tables contained letter-writing materials to encourage parishioners to write to politicians on social-justice issues. This church gave me the chance to see, firsthand, the consequences of war, on an eye-opening trip to war-torn parts of El Salvador. That's all the tip of the iceberg. I'm grateful to have grown up in this kind of community, although as with any community it experiences its fair share of struggles, particularly in the arena of how it copes with human sexuality. Ugh. I blame the Holy Roman Empire, but it has been a couple hundred years since then, so grow up already, church, and stop firing gay ministers.

Here's another positive element, though: during Lent, in addition to fasting, people are encouraged to give alms to the poor.
Lenten reminders


Apr. 14th, 2014 12:01 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
This morning, I walked to church with my parents, through Interlaken Park yet again. I haven't walked through Roanoke Park in a long while, though. It was comforting to see that the park has retained much of its basic structure, even though the playground space has changed frequently over the years (new child safety standards, or something). Starting in middle school, [ profile] annikusrex and I used to request to sit in the back pew during church, and would then make our escape somewhere during the middle of Mass to go and swing on the swings in Roanoke, so I have many fond memories of the park. Today I was reminded of forget-me-not flowers, which I haven't seen in years. Another forgotten part of my vocabulary reawakened.

From the church, I walked down the hill to Le Fournil for a latte and croissant (still good; not sure what happened at Cafe Allegro). It was an utterly gorgeous day, and I might have taken a number of photos of small things observed, if it wasn't for the fact that my camera batteries died. Instead, I had to just enjoy things in person.

I walked past Hamlin Hill, the hill we used to run up and down during crew practices, straining mightily to maintain the charge all the way up. I walked over the University Bridge, and watched, coming the other way, a cargo bicycle hauling another cargo bicycle. Only in Seattle. Or maybe Portland. Suddenly, I feel normal.

I walked over to Bulldog News and bought a replacement carabiner mug - I'm pretty sure that on Friday I lost the one I've had for the past 4-5 years, along with its fuzzy mug cozy. I later learned that Nathan, the guy who used to own Cafe Allegro, was the guy behind the counter at Bulldog. No wonder his countenance and demeanor felt so familiar. My dad says that he sold Allegro and retired, but found himself bored and unsatisfied in retirement. Something tells me that working at Bulldog suits him nicely. Great gentleman.

I walked back home through the U and over the Montlake Bridge. The fountain was going, the sky was clear and the mountain was visible, and ornamental cherry blossoms were everywhere. At the bus stop near the Hop-In, I found a lucky quarter and crochet hook.

The walk was the inner circle of the area where I grew up. Freshman year of high school, when I started rowing, our coaches used to have us run basically that loop (without the Interlaken extension), which is three miles long and encircles Portage Bay. The section along Boyer Ave is the most direct route to and from church, and to and from the Pocock Center. I have walked that section so many times.

The memories run deep, but it's hard to get too lost in them, with the fresh air and flowers, the sparkling water, the Olympic Mountains on one side, the Cascades on the other. The walk is luxurious, and it makes me sad that in other places it is so hard to go on a walk to match the quality of this one. Walking time is thinking time.


This evening, I rode back up the hill to Pine Box, a beer hall that has opened in the spot where the bar Chapel used to be, which is in a building that used to be a mortuary. I met M and M there, for food and drinks. We had soft pretzels and mustard so rich with horseradish that our noses tingled.

I coasted home through Interlaken, the park dark and quiet at night, cool but still clear, nearly-full moon overhead.

Oh Seattle

Apr. 11th, 2014 07:49 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Yesterday, I went to the herp-a-derp part of Seattle: the Espresso Vivace across the street from the REI, and then to the Pike Place Market (note lack of possessive; if you put in the possessive I will gnash my teeth at you, for have you learned NOTHING from associating with a card-carrying Native Seattlite?).

Could it be spring in Seattle?

I suppose it's spring.

A Thursday morning is a nice time to visit Pike Place; the throngs weren't terrible, so I could get in and pick up some Holmquist Hazelnuts to make more homemade nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread. These hazelnuts are particularly nice for homemade nutella because they have thin skins that aren't bitter, so they don't really need to be peeled (but in case yours do, see the info at the link above). I eventually sat down for some fish and chips at Jack's Fish Spot, and then headed northward for some dress-shopping.

I will just pause here for a moment to note that I am a fan of the Nordstrom Rack. I found two dresses I liked relatively quickly (one for [ profile] annikusrex's wedding tomorrow!), AND a pair of shoes that goes with both of them. I refrained from buying the incredibly tall, sparkly silver high heels (I would die if I tried walking in them anyway), and the tall, fuzzy, hot-orange heels, too (too small). I was mightily tempted by some of the other bright-orange options, including an incredible technicolor orange stripey Kate Spade skirt. But one must draw the line somewhere, and I was already buying two dresses (when you are me and you hate shopping but you find two things that you like and that fit, you buy.).

Something spotted just before the Rack, on the plaza outside Westlake Center:
Secure tree

Some artist painted the trunks of all the trees a bright blue last fall. I believe the chain and lock are a practical item, used to chain up a tourism kiosk to the tree at night. I suppose the tree doesn't care if its trunk is blue, but I have to wonder about other lingering aftereffects.

Next, up to Capitol Hill, to visit Stitches. Escape from the herp-a-derp, although the derp is trying mighty hard to swallow that part of the Hill.

Fun faux fur

Stitches had all of the good parts of a yarn and fabric store - the parts that make me want to create things. Sew-on googly eyes, interesting fabrics, all the little hard-to-find quality notions. I live about a mile away from a Joann's Fabrics in Texas, and always try to get in and out of there as quickly as possible before I get too overwhelmed by the chintzy stuff and decide I don't want to buy anything at all, after all.

From there, I biked up and over Capitol Hill, and home through Interlaken Park.


Today, I went to a more civilized part of town, the U-District. I did a bit of work while sipping a latte in Cafe Allegro*, and then walked over to Artist and Craftsman Supply to buy a screenprinting kit. What a great store - I highly recommend it if you're in Seattle and looking for art supplies. Sometimes it's a good thing I don't live closer to places like that.

Between Cafe Allegro and A&C Supply, I got complimented on my Zombie of Oz t-shirt at least six times. You know, I actually *like* the Seattle Freeze, because it means I don't have to feign interest beyond simple acts like those. But then, I'm a native. I can just say, "Thanks!" and get on with my business.

I was ravenous, so I went to Thai Tom for some peanut curry. I want to eat everything I can, while I'm in town, because even the unpretentious food is light-years beyond the things I can get in B/CS, where people are generally afraid to add spices to food.

Then, home again. It's spring in Seattle, and everything is blooming. Magnolia trees are dropping their petals all over the place, the dogwoods are just starting to gear up, and everything is growing and stretching up towards the sun.

Espalier apple blossoms

*I also had an almond croissant - I believe one from Le Fournil. If it was one, indeed, LF is slipping in quality, which is a real shame. Also, Cafe Allegro is putting in its own roaster! Help them do it!
rebeccmeister: (Default)
So for the little jaunt from Seattle to Portland (200 miles in 2 days), I brought along my father's voice recorder to dictate notes about things along the ride. We're still working on digitizing the recordings (which include some real gems about putting the "man" in manicure, and about a bicyclist who decided to give up riding in favor of testing out a push mower at a garage sale). However, I've finally gotten caught up with the picture backlog in between the moments when I've been working on research, so here's the first of several photo posts. You'll have to visit the gallery to see the whole set, with captions. I've got the sweetest FrankenBike setup ever.

rebeccmeister: (Default)
In the few brief minutes today when I wasn't on my way to here or there or enjoying some time spent with friends, I spent some time thinking about what I want to cook this week. Last Wednesday or Thursday I had suddenly realized that I have a lot of red lentils sitting around, so I set out to find a recipe for a delicious dish involving red lentils. My initial thoughts were to go with the status quo, with some kind of red lentil curry soup, which would call for poring through Madhur Jafferey's World Vegetarian (a favorite among vegetarians and Scrabble Society members alike) or Bharti Kirchner's The Healthy Cuisine of India (known for its excellently titled dishes with names like "Vegetables in a Mingling Mood" or "Cabbage-Potato Extravaganza"). [Alas, it would not call for poring through Fran Bigelow's cookbook, Pure Chocolate, though my friends would all be quite pleased if I were to do so].

Instead of going through these two books, however, I decided to pick up the Cafe Flora Cookbook, by Caterine Geier and Carol Brown. This cookbook is packed full of the recipes developed over years by many chefs at Cafe Flora, a popular vegetarian restaurant in Seattle (Incidentally, I have never been there before. Hopefully this will be remedied during my next visit home). After some looking, I found what I was after, though until that point I didn't realize that what I was after was not at all what I had originally set out to find ("Curried Lentil and Quinoa Burger with Tomato Chutney"). [Interestingly, it actually solved two dilemmas simultaneously: what to do with red lentils AND what to eat instead of so many fake chicken-burgers (which are somewhat delicious and yet pricey and not all that exciting).]

And that sort of discovery is the first pleasure of this good cookbook, stumbling upon something that's innovative and unexpected and yet enticing. The recipes that I have prepared so far from the book ("Seitan and Vegetables, Mu Shu Style" and "Oxaca Tacos with Black Bean Stew and Tangy Swiss Chard") have used mostly familiar and simple ingredients in novel ways, combining flavors that I wouldn't have thought to combine, or using a different preparatory technique that I wouldn't have thought to use. Though they can be finicky at moments, that effort always pays off.

My enjoyment goes further, because along with the presentation of the recipes, the book also includes sections about different ingredients and tricks that most at-home vegetarian cooks wouldn't necessarily know about. There's a brief segment about Quinoa, for instance, which mentions where it's from and its benefits (a high-protein grain). And it has also just taught me how to make my own breadcrumbs from leftover heels of bread.

The Cafe Flora Cookbook is composed of recipes that are truly and healthfully vegetarian, and are delicious on top of that, showing just how far vegetarian cuisine has come from the days of Diet for a Small Planet and Laurel's Kitchen. Instead of simplistic, boring casserole combinations of complementary proteins, or dishes that are too heavy or taste like cardboard, the complementary proteins are thoughtfully chosen and carefully woven in, and consist of tofu only where tofu should be found. Where appropriate, the book also makes suggestions for variations on recipe themes, especially with respect to soups and pizzas, turning recipes into springboards for creativity. I think it may have just now solved at least two of my vegetarian dilemmas as well: what to do about fish sauce and clam chowder. We shall see if it lives up to these promises.

Every time I re-open this cookbook, I am grateful once again to my good friend C, who gave it to me.

And now I ask you, o readers. Do you have a book, cookbook or otherwise, about which you feel similarly? Do tell!
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
This morning I took the bus up to the old location of Espresso Vivace for breakfast. I sat at one of the granite counters that wrap around the edge of the coffeeshop, ate an almond croissant and drank a latte, and looked out of the windows between reading passages of Life is a Miracle. It is a good book and perhaps I'll re-read it at some other point. I kind of want to add in some ifs, ands, and buts, but at the same time it is refreshingly articulate and humble--proper, to use Berry's own term. He writes about coming to know a place and the long time it takes to learn the stories of a place, which is a fitting subject for me while I ponder how I relate to Seattle and to Arizona.

From there, I walked north, down along Broadway, passing by new Condominium Complexes (Brix is such a displeasing name) and old apartment buildings and trying to put my finger on what I like and what I dislike. For a while I thought about how much I appreciate the moss that gradually creeps up everything over time. That's a substance that is not cultivated but lends appearance. Eventually I reached Le Fournil and remembered the time when that section of road was abandoned and the Flower Lady sold flowers out of the back of a truck instead of the concrete shop. At Eastlake and Boyer I turned right and walked the familiar path between my house and the boathouse (the Pocock Center), and observed in that neighborhood several new houses that seemed fitting in their landscape. Perhaps it was the eaves, or the carefully chosen surfacing material, or the placement of windows, or the size of the projects, or the green between houses--I don't know for sure.

This afternoon, I'll travel out to the airport, and then travel back to Tempe, where I'll pretend I'm ready to resume some other aspect of my life.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Tonight the air has that still, damp quality to it that makes me want to just breathe in and breathe in and breathe in because my lungs cannot get enough of it.

The day got progressively more exciting, perhaps too much so; [ profile] annikusrex and I met up at her house and then rode over to Madison Market to pick out ingredients for dinner. The Market was uneventful, but as we rode back towards her house we heard a loud BANG! and AK saw a flash of light, and then we saw 3 or 4 people running away (it was dark, details unclear). We decided to ride back along a different street instead.

After we reached her house, she showed me pictures of her trip to Europe earlier in the fall, where she and her boyfriend went bike touring and visited the place in France where his family is originally from. It was good to have the time to see how she saw the place, through photographs of old churches and cemeteries and boats. I appreciate such old things so much more than I appreciate the shiny and new (i.e. the condominium factories that are popping up in every city). I love Seattle for its broken-down sidewalks and for architecture that indicates a love of detail and artistry, and by extension older places fascinate me as well. Things that are worn around the edges reveal so much more character than the shiny and new.

We cooked, we ate, we played Scrabble (AK won), and then the evening drew to a close and so CD and I caught the bus towards our homes. CD and I talked about what comes next and it was good to have my friend's permission and encouragement to do whatever the hell I want to do with my life.

And the air as I reached home--oh, the air! To breathe freely, and deeply, to drink of the air! And so evening comes, and the next day follows.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I accumulated a new phone recently because my old one kept shrieking about death and despair (and oh, it wouldn't hold a charge for long enough to have a civilized phone conversation). The new one was free, so long as I agreed to sell my soul to Verizon for two more years, and though it came with a small camera phone, it did not come with a convenient method for transferring numbers from the old phone to the new one. That gave me the opportunity to do something I'd been putting off for quite a while: I now have an analogue phone list in my planner. So if you call me, I might not know who you are before you call, but I can also call you back, even if I drop my planner in the toilet and it gets wet.

Aside from that, it has been a fairly leisurely day, as days have been wont to be around here (will this counterbalance the chaos upon my return to Arizona? I doubt it). [ profile] sytharin and I walked over to the University Farmer's Market, where we purchased certain things for certain people, and then we stopped by Cafe Allegro because I couldn't help myself. My favorite thing about their lattes is they pay careful attention to extracting and steaming the milk and such, but they almost emphatically do not do latte art. It's the sort of comfortable place where I could spend all day, full of small, glass-topped tables that contain signs that read, "Share Your Table" (I imagine that when school is in session nearly every seat in the place fills up with a diligent or not-so-diligent student).

Once we had finished our treats, we headed home again, where I've been working on odds and ends--drawing pictures of crows (I think I'm going to start in on a crow series in ceramics), messing with my phone, &c.

Nothing too exciting, but sometimes that's a relief.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Today was a day of pure hedonism--I walked over to The Ugly Mug Coffeehouse to feed my espresso addiction and enjoyed a delicious (whole wheat!) raspberry scone as well. Then I traipsed through Hardwick's, where I admired some not-too-fancy-but-not-too-cheap upright dressers that don't use those annoying drawer roller glides (if that's what they're called) and aren't made of cardboard*.

Subsequently, I wandered over to the Henry Art Gallery, which is largely in the midst of a show changeover, and I am sorry to report that I cannot recommend the current show, which consisted of sticks held together with duct tape and daubed with mud. One piece had a redeeming feature: it smelled kind of good. But that was it.

After that, I absent-mindedly got on a 49 instead of a 43 and found myself on my way downtown instead of heading in the direction of [ profile] gfrancie's house. Nonplussed, I disembarked and vaguely wandered about in search of buses that would head towards Madison, though I couldn't recall if I wanted the 11 or the 12 until it was too late and I was on the 12. Turns out, picking the 12 was wrong, though it got me to another stop where I could catch the 11 and I eventually wended my way in the proper direction, only a wee bit late.

Then [ profile] gfrancie and I had various adventures in drinking chocolate-drinking (and pain au chocolat eating--oh my I have missed you, good croissants) and ribbon-shopping (I should have bought more--I came home with only two lovelies and they were such a bargain!) and other various forms of shopping (gfrancie oh so patiently waited while I tried on pants--someone should give her a medal). And then - luxury of luxuries - I got to try some of the rich, delicious Christmas cake and met Senor Onion live and in person for the firstest time ever! He wooed me with his big brown eyes and flirtatious bashfulness plus a hint of drool so you know he's the real thing. It's true what they say--he has a way with the ladies.

And now I'm itching to get my craft on--I might not be able to resist the urge to pick up some knitting needles and go to town on the yarns I have gotten. One can only play so many games of Scrabble, after all. I really want to make a set of leg-warmers that will make people involuntarily exclaim, "Good gravy, learn to shave!"

*Though they are made of some particle board, which may cause chagrin among some of my gentle readers (all three of you), but I've had a hard time finding anything that even remotely resembles satisfying furniture in AZ, so I'm grateful whenever I see anything that seems at all real.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I am composing blog entries in my head, which is never a good way to blog because then what actually comes out when I have a chance to sit in front of a keyboard never even remotely resembles the long, rambling train of thought that passed through my mind and I set myself up for disappointment.

Oh well. On the other hand, that means there's plenty to write about, which may or may not be read by anyone (on NPR they have been talking about how many blogs now exist, and how the vast majority are read only by the writer's mother--though at least in my case we think it's my father more than my mother and I have a vague idea that the rest of you are out there as well). But I jest and thus digress.

I'll ruin punchlining opportunities by starting at the end of yesterday, coming home on the bus at midnight after a wonderful evening with two of my lifelong best friends, CD and AKW. As [ profile] annikusrex knows, when I'm away, I often get to fretting about the meaning of our friendship because it cannot be about day-to-day contact (or sometimes even month-to-month contact). [hell's bells--I overanalyze most things anyway] It's just a part of my nature, but at least I know of it. The beauty of the thing is that this worry becomes inconsequential in the light of a moment standing in the cold at a bus stop, slightly tipsy, saying what comes to mind without fear of judgment or self-censoring and yet managing to have a meaningful conversation as well, about those things that seem to matter in the long run, about our easy and difficult relationships with others.
Ah, my soul says, this is the thing I crave.

But you might also know my yesterday through action; the day prior I pulled out my mother's baby-blue bicycle (I refer to it as the Blue Devil), filled the tires with air, and rode down Boyer and Eastlake to South Lake Union (where I witnessed a SLUT-car--South Lake Union Transit--we have no idea how the acronym became public for it was briskly changed to Seattle Streetcar). Then yesterday I rode over to Fremont (ah, the freedom of a bicycle!), at the north end of Lake Union (ah, geography in orientation to lakes!), to visit a few shops.

The first shop, a rowing clothing store (such a place exists!), was closed for the New Year, so I pressed onwards to Theo Chocolates, where some chocolate sampling occurred (as mentioned yesterday). Now I know perhaps too much about the subtle differences of different chocolates. From there, I rode the Devil up Fremont Avenue and discovered at the top that I was on the wrong side of Aurora for the purposes of heading east, so I circled around and decided to head back down to find a different route.

As I waited at the light at the top of the hill, a car behind me honked and the driver gestured frantically. I couldn't understand his gestures, so I waved flippantly and headed down the hill. Halfway down or so, I discovered why: I had taken off my super-nice biking gloves as I went up because I got overheated so I put them in the basket on the rear rack. Apparently this was disagreeable to the gloves and they were in the midst of hopping out and committing glove suicide when the driver tried and failed to alert me to the situation. So then I had to head all the way back up the hill and retrace my most roundabout route in search of the glove that got away. Fortunately I found it again, and so then I was able to make my way over to check out Trophy Cupcakes in Wallingford (CD says she prefers it to Cupcake Royale and so of course I had to make my own comparison).

What I realized was this: after a certain point, there's no point in deciding who makes the better cupcake--the one at Trophy was perfectly acceptable and delicious, as are the ones at Cupcake Royale (though both shops had run out of cupcakes by the end of the day yesterday). I have other words for the differences in interior decorating (Trophy=too much baby blue, whereas CR=pleasantly brown with pink accents), but it's nice to know that it isn't necessary to distinguish the one and only best of the best.

And as one of my favorite storytellers would say (Johnny Moses), and that is all.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Theo Chocolates comes quite close to being heaven on Earth. I had a very hard time not buying everything in sight, and especially enjoyed tasting their different sorts of chocolate to figure out how they vary and what I like best. Alas, I couldn't afford any drinking chocolate this time. Perhaps next time, heh heh heh.

I have also finally made note of the statue of Lenin (he has a lovely glowing red star on his head, presumably for the holidays), and have been reminded that in addition to a weird place in Arizona, Fremont is also the center of the universe. In case you hadn't noticed.

Though it is probably more commercialized than it used to be, Fremont is still pretty freaking awesome and fun.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I have uploaded a few photos from my recent travels for those hungry for some eye-candy. There's quite a few, so they are below the cut... )
rebeccmeister: (Default)
I went on a walk through the Arboretum with my Aunt L today. I love walking through the park in the winter, though it's not quite the same with my Aunt's constant chatter (I don't know the polite way to say this, but she's mentally retarded and operates roughly at the level of an exuberant second-grader). My mission was to photograph crows.

As we walked home back through the neighborhood, I enjoyed seeing all of the snug, carefully crafted homes--the attention to detail is pleasing.

And now it is snowing!

And also, [ profile] sytharin created a most fantastic drawing for me, earning the title of Most Awesomest Sister Ever.

Delicious Cupcakes
Delicious Cupcakes
Crow on the line
A Particular Crow on the line

rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
I just bought me some pretty cheap plane tickets to Seattle (bargain!), arriving at 9 in the am on Dec. 24, and departing at 7 in the pm on January 8. I think there are some family obligations between [the Solstice celebration replacement known as] Christmas and the start of the New Year, but after the first I should have time for some visits, Scrabble games, and general mischief.

Seriously, I can hardly wait. I know, I know, it's dark and gloomy and wet and cold, but the mere sight of a few clouds in the sky here cheered me up immeasurably this morning. The radio announcer called it "mostly cloudy." He needs to learn his cloud-talk because it was "partly cloudy" at best. Still--signs of precipitation, even if actual precipitation is unlikely. Beautiful. Hopefully we won't have another 120-day stretch with no rain this winter. That was so miserable.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
[See below for Day 1's report.]

Just before dawn arrived, the camp began to stir. After packing up our tents and things, we got off to a bit of a late start (6:51 am) because of long food lines. Let me tell you, we felt like Communists by the end. It sprinkled a bit through the night, and the sky was still cloudy as we set out in the cool morning. We established our pace line early (causing my father to miss the Newaukum River crossing), and settled in to a comfortable speed along an incredibly pleasant bike trail. This is the ideal bike ride: lots of tall trees, comfortable weather, and no worries about cars. At some point early in the ride, we took a quick break and I managed to find a latte (thank goodness). I also managed to properly document the World's Largest Egg:

By 9:22 am, we had crossed the Cowlitz River (50.2 km), and by 10:45 am we reached the first food stop at Lexington. Again, food was a bit tight (they ran out of fruit by the time we reached the front of the line, and also ran out of non-vegetarian sandwich options--poor meat eaters), but my dad found a cookie on the ground, which he shared with me:

[I happen to have a long history of eating food off of the ground in all sorts of places. Dirt is delicious. One of these days, I'm going to find a banana slug on the ground and I'll lick that as well.]

By 12:10 pm (86.7 km), we reached the bridge spanning the Mighty Columbia River. The bridge over the Columbia River is a narrow, two-lane affair that spans the river in an elegant arch, so the ride guides stop all of the riders and send us across in massive car-free waves. I was a bit nervous about the expansion joints in the bridge, but we managed to cross carefully and then spiraled down and around the clover-leaf on the opposite side of the river. Pictures of the crossing cannot do it justice; it was magnificent to watch the bikers surge up to the apex of the bridge, and then glide down and around on the other side.

My father noted that at about this point, as he rode uphill, he passed an older gentleman and called out, "On your left." In return, the man replied, "Thank you for saying that without condescension." There's something to be said for that little bit of extra courtesy on such large rides.

This is where my father's notes and I diverge on happenings. You see, he has failed to note the appearance of my arch-nemesis on the scenes. We first observed this character at the Lexington food stop, and were initially amused by his all-purple ensemble. We're talking shiny purple, folks, not any of those deep, royal purples. I will henceforth refer to this dude as Purple Guy. Shortly thereafter, we began to realize that perhaps people with certain figures should not attempt to wear all-purple.

The road after the Columbia River isn't quite as pretty as the preceding stretch of highway--we rode along one of those shoulders with bumpy pavement and with cars whizzing by at top speed to our left. At around this point, we also observed a couple of our fellow biker bands: there were two bands of pirates (one even had a skull mounted on the rear rack), and a pair of Vikings. Now that would be an epic battle. As we pedaled along, we encountered PurPle Guy on his recumbent bicycle. Most fellow bikers, when you inform them that you are about to pass them on their left, will maintain a steady pace or will acknowledge your presence. Purple Guy, on the other hand, decided that our attempts to pass meant that he should try to keep up. There was no passing Purple Guy--as soon as we approached, he sped up and tried to dart out ahead of us. He kept ahead for a little while, but started to fall back again. When I tried to pass him, he careened towards my bike and got up ahead, and we were forced to pick up our pace to put him in our rear-view bike mirrors.

Most of the rest of the ride was uneventful; when my dad, R and I reached the final bridge across the Willamette River (5:10 pm, 167.3 km), we paused for a while to let the rest of the Cinnamon Rollers catch up, and then we rode across the finish line as a group (5:20 pm, 169 km).

After the finish line, our party split up: R headed off to his car to go back to Eugene; M, K, and E gathered their things to head back to Seattle on the bus; and my father and I hopped on the light rail for a trip to Stumptown Coffee, aka Hipsterville. We had some delightful lattes, and then headed back to the finish line to grab our luggage and check in to our hotel. Finally, we had a tasty dinner at Burgerville and then were off to sleep. Another successful day of biking complete!
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Well, it's time to write the STP Ride Report, while the memories are still fresh and my butt is still tender. I'm sure I'll forget many important details, but I'm sure you won't mind in the interest of brevity.

We woke up "early" on Saturday morning (early=4:30, a reasonable time in my estimation), and breakfasted on delicious baked goods from Great Harvest Bread, accompanied by coffee and tea. Preparing for any bike ride takes a bit of time: one must find one's shoes, check the pressure in one's tires, don copious quantities of spandex, and ensure that food and water and other necessities are at the ready. When you multiply these things by six people and two days, the preparations become even more extensive. The six of us packed up our supplies into bags and backpacks, and finally by 5:48 am we were ready to depart.

Oh, I should note for the record that my father carried a small voice recorder on this trip, so I am relying on his notes for things like exact times and mentions of funny events.

My parents live approximately one mile from the starting line of the ride, so we set out on our bikes with all of our belongings precariously perched on our backs, and in a few moments we had arrived at the start. We flung our bags onto a truck destined for the midway point, and then queued up behind the starting line rope. The ride announcers start the riders in ten-minute waves, so we didn't have long to wait before we were off (at 6:07 am, for the record). At the starting line, we made note of the highest and lowest bib numbers (9033 and 30)--this is an ongoing contest that my family holds at events such as this one. I'm happy to smugly report that I spotted both the highest and the lowest numbers.

The very early parts of the ride took us through familiar parts of Seattle: across the University Bridge, along Boyer, and down along Lake Washington Boulevard. During this stage, the crowds were thick and so the travel was slow, and we spent the time socializing and adjusting to riding with each other. Although M, K and I have ridden together extensively, my father and K's mom haven't spent much time riding with groups and we weren't quite sure how things would work out.

By 8:10 in the AM, we reached the first of the Day 1 food stops, in Kent. Once again, I was amazed by the thickness of the crowds; it hadn't struck me until then just what 9,000 cyclists would look like. That's a massive number of bicycles and riders to manage, but the support volunteers did a good job of wrangling the riders through the stop.

One of my father's agendas on our ride was to work on getting a better sense of place, and he determined that a good way of learning more about the area was to note the rivers as we crossed them. The first one he noted occurred at 8:39 am (45.5 km in): the Green River. As he noted the crossing, we whizzed past a dead house cat and so he noted that as well, and also noted (at my request) that no bikers had died yet.

Our next landmark was the Puyallup River (9:37 am, 69.4 km); shortly after we crossed it, we learned that Puyallup is the largest city in the world whose name starts with a P and ends with a P. Something to be proud of, for sure.

Shortly after Puyallup, the frustration and then the fun began; we finally reached some long, straight stretches of two-lane highway, and the bikes thinned out enough to form a long, single-file pace line. One of the challenges of the STP is the diversity of the riders. Many of the riders have never ridden in large groups before, and have never gone on such long bike rides before. Thus, the early stages of this long pace-line were pretty ugly: we would speed up for a little while, and then we would be forced to slam on the brakes with no warning and for no good reason at all. This got irksome pretty quickly and was clearly a dangerous undertaking, so eventually I got impatient and decided it was time to break out of the line. As I started passing the long accordion line, my fellow Cinnamon Rollers (the name of our gang) fell in behind, and we started our first pace line.

I have inherited a Slow'n'Steady nature from my family, but I have been practicing faster sprints with my friends in Arizona, so the quickness of the pace line was a good opportunity to stretch out my legs. In contrast, my father struggled a bit to keep up because he also enjoys a slower, more constant speed. But he managed to hang with the line for quite a while. K's mom E was not nearly as comfortable in the pace line, so she dropped back and spent much of the ride by herself. It took us a little while to establish a system of staying together that worked, but eventually we reached the point where we would bike ahead to the next rest stop and wait a brief moment or two for E to catch up.

Our next stopping point was a fun one. The parents of another ASU grad student who is friends with M live just outside of Puyallup, so they put out a small sign in their yard for M and K. We pulled over for a brief refresher (10:20 am, 80.5 km), and while chatting my dad realized that GB had also worked at Boeing in a nearby lab--it was a lucky coincidence. After filling our water bottles and eating granola bars, we hit the road again.

The remaining events of note on Day 1 were mostly river crossings. We stopped at Spanaway for more food, and then carried on. We crossed the Nisqually River (1:13 pm, 116.3 km), the Skookumchuck River (3:23 pm, 157.5 km), the Skookumchuck again (3:29 pm, 160.1 km), and the Skookumchuck River one more time (3:36 pm, 163.5 km).

The Skookumchuck crossings merited an explanation of what a Skookumchuck is: literally, it translates as "rapid water," and generally refers to a narrow tidal inlet where the currents move rapidly at a river-like pace. Regardless, it's fun to yell "Skookumchuck!" at opportune moments.

At some point, I got rather impatient with the pace, and so R (M and K's friend) and I darted off ahead to sprint up and down some roller-coaster hills. It felt good to ride through the cool weather. In the late afternoon (3:42 pm, to be precise), we arrived at our almost-halfway rest point at Centralia College (165.7 km, to be accurate). M noted that he finished with a heart rate of 110, whereas K's heart rate monitor informed us that she was dead. Our ride time was approximately 6 hours and 40 minutes, and we averaged a speed of 14.9 miles per hour. We collected our baggage, set up camp, and showered. Oh, and rested a bit.

At this point, it was becoming apparent that the ride food suppliers had underestimated the hunger of the STP riders (don't ask me how this happened). This was cause for a little bit of grumbling, although we were lucky enough to plop down next to a group with extra leftovers that they shared. We finally decided to head over to a McMenamin's brewery for a real meal. While we were there, I noticed a fellow biker wearing a t-shirt that said, in upside-down writing, "If you can read this, pull my bike off me."

After dinner, we went to bed. The next day would be busy.
rebeccmeister: (Default)
There are pictures at the bottom for those who would rather look than read; you can click on them to see larger versions.

At last I have a brief moment of quiet when I should be working on a presentation for an upcoming conference, so it's time to write about my recent adventures. I don't have a whole lot to add to my descriptions of the drive up, except to say that it was much more eventful than anticipated. The rain and tall trees and green things are a welcome relief after the blast furnace of Arizona (although I'm hearing monsoon rumors, which suggests that the Arizona weather is getting more exciting).

When we arrived at my parents' house, M, K, and I all marveled at their bountiful garden: grapes, kiwis, multiple zucchini varieties, patty-pan squashes, kale, peas, beans, blueberries, garlic, onions... I really miss being able to run outside and pick fresh raspberries off of the bushes, so I'm making up for lost time these days.

On Friday, we went on several important expeditions: first to REI to pick up our riding packets for the Seattle to Portland, then out to Ballard for some crucial Seattle cultural experiences (K and her mom have never been to Seattle before). I was hoping to drive out to Ballard along Westlake, but my knowledge of Seattle geography has grown fuzzy [my street navigation was never good because it didn't need to be], so we ended up going along Eastlake instead. Thus I mentioned that we would be passing by Le Fournil, and everyone insisted that we stop (I was helpless, I tell you), so we had some delicious French pastries. Yum.

In Ballard, we went to Archie McPhee, so the usual hilarity ensued. They actually have some neato plastic ant models these days, so I picked one of those up, as well as a small Jolly Roger to fly from my bike. Then we went to Great Harvest Bread for some lunch, followed by a stroll along the Ballard Locks. I haven't been to the Locks since I was a very young child--I have vague memories of that event. This visit has convinced me that I'll have to incorporate pilgrimages to the Locks in all of my future Seattle visits. We watched one of my arch-nemeses, an Argosy cruise boat, float up to the level of the lake, and then went over to watch salmon jump up the fish ladder. I could have watched the salmon for hours--what amazing animals.

If you thought the adventures ended there, well, you're almost right. By then we had digested sufficiently to merit a trip over to Cupcake Royale, where we enjoyed the requisite cupcakes (K was insistent that we go, and she was duly impressed). And then we came home and enjoyed a delicious dinner with [ profile] annikusrex and her parents. Altogether a splendid day in Seattle.

photos below... )


Jul. 13th, 2007 10:10 am
rebeccmeister: (Default)
Well, we're here, and both of my parents have already asked me if I have updated my blog since my arrival, so here's their much-anticipated update.

We had lots of adventures on the way up, driving first through heat, then through forest fires, then through a huge rainstorm of the sort we rarely see in the Pacific Northwest. We stopped at Mono Lake (enchanting) and then in Eugene (also enchanting in a different way), and then finally made it to my parents' house. This place is beautiful and I fall in love with it all over again every time I return. The flowers are in full bloom, and the garden is producing bountiful fruits and vegetables. Oh, and it's cloudy and rainy, and the trees are huge. It has been incredibly fun to hang out with M and K, to get to meet their friends and to get to introduce them to my parents.

Today will be a bit hectic, as we prepare for the big ride tomorrow and Sunday, but by mid-day on Monday things will settle down again and I might reach a state where I'm back on the internets for a little while...

Until then, wish us luck! If I'm lucky, I might voice-post from the road...
rebeccmeister: (Default) to the Northwest!

this is one of those trips where I suspect I'll leave and never return.
rebeccmeister: (1x)
Highlights of yesterday and today:

-Feelings of stability and constancy, and fun visiting with family and old friends. My best friend's mother mentioned that she has known my father for close to 40 years by now--she and my father attended Gonzaga U together. My parents and [ profile] annikusrex's parents have been like family for each other. As time goes on, I'm ever more aware of how unique my life is in terms of the glue of family and friends that holds it together. This is why, no matter how far away I move or how long I am gone, I always feel like my life goes on pause the moment I am away from Seattle. I'd like to believe I can find the same sort of consistency and stability somewhere else, but it's taking a lot of looking and I haven't come close to finding it yet.

-Rowing on Lake Union/Portage Bay this morning. It has been YEARS. Ahh, I missed it so much. This is a huge part of why I'm drawn to return. Rowing on Seattle waterways is so different--the air is softer and easier to breathe, the scenery is so varied and interesting (houseboats, oh my!), and it's both familiar and different. One of my fellow Arizona Outlaws said that coming to Seattle felt like putting on an old, favorite pair of pants (he's from San Francisco, but the feel of the two cities is similar). The water, the air, the trees, they are in my blood. One of the poems that used to be on the Metro Buses had a line about Northwesterners that I have never forgotten--moss grows on the north side of our bones. My friends from elsewhere get tired of hearing me talk about Seattle, but I cannot stop. I can't expect them to really understand. I only hope that rowing this morning and again on Tuesday will be restorative enough to continue to inspire me in the months to come.

And I actually got some coaching! A whole five minutes of it. I think the coach was surprised by how rapidly my rowing stroke changed. But it was one of those moments where I knew I wasn't rowing as well as I could and only needed a few small remarks to adjust and expand my technique. It seems like coaches are often surprised by how adaptable my stroke can be--I think years of playing the piano taught me to be flexible where many rowers end up stuck with their bad habits. It also helped me when I realized, some years ago, that coaches are trying to help me row more comfortably and efficiently, so even if something feels awkward at first, it will feel so much better in the long run.

-Good times with [ profile] gfrancie and the gang. People are so interesting and fun. It's neat to get to drop in and see in person some of the people whose thoughts and ideas I read so regularly.

And on a random note:
In the past two months, I think I've encountered more opportunities to ponder the phrase "sowing wild oats" than ever before in my life. (most of these opportunities stem from hanging out with the boyz too much) Seeing as I have only limited patience for getting involved in all of this oats-sowing business, I'm finding it quite amusing.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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