How about that heat?

Something felt like it clicked yesterday, and not my ever aging knees. I was able to ride along at 18mph on the flat (28kph) without blowing a gasket, I climbed really well for me, and by the 30 mile mark of the 60 mile ride I felt really good.  I’d been eating my Cliff Shot Blocks earlier than usual and really keeping hydrated. We were, in theory (oh foreshadowing again), riding out to a hill called Calaveras. What a strange bunch cyclists are, riding 30 miles  so they can ride up a hill.  It makes sense when you’re doing it though. I took my camera but kept forgetting to take pictures.  Here’s one from about 15 miles in:

View

We’re heading off into the distance.

Not long after we go to a piece of road called the Dublin Grade.  It was hot, very hot, and it continued to get hotter as we rode.  Eventually we got to the oasis called Sunol:

Sunol

Oasis

We refueled and re-hydrated. Luckily this caused a few people to come to their senses and suggested that seeing as it had reached something over 100F (38C) it was maybe a good idea to back track. I was a little disappointed,  but certainly wasn’t going to go alone. 45 minutes later, as I tried not to faint riding back over Dublin Grade, I decided that the Yellowjackets are geniuses and I should always listen to the group consensus.  It also made me a little relieved that I hadn’t gone with the advanced group which I’d considered doing at the start of the day as they’d probably gone the whole way. While this wasn’t as long as some of the rides I’ve done recently I got home more exhausted than after the 80 mile Petaluma ride of a few weeks ago.  I may have even had a short power nap after a cold shower.

Here’s the route:

Road 8-29-2009

Next week, more reviews, and I finally reveal why I went Lycra.

Product Reviews: The new Vegemite ‘experience’

Firstly, because I’d hate to get to a point straight away, let me explain why I rarely make bread.  Shortly before I moved to the US Celia helped me “harness the mania” of making bread.  Specifically sour dough.  I thoroughly enjoyed the technical aspects of how it all worked (who’d have thunk it?) and, naturally, buying the required gadgets.  Not that there’s many, some scales, bowls, a scrapper a bakers hat with your website printed on the side…  Come to think  of it Celia really did harness the mania and supplied me with nearly all of the aforementioned, not to mention more flour than I could ever use. I proceeded to bake a lot and bore people at work during lunch with stories of crumb structure and it’s relation to hydration (76% is about optimal for the flour I had, just in case). Anyhow, I moved and expected the bread to be terrible and my new skills would make me the envy of ex pats across the Bay Area. I underestimated the US, something I did quite a few times before moving here.  The standard bread is indeed not to my taste, note I don’t say its bad as I’m about to talk about Vegemite and well it doesn’t seem right to judge (that’s foreshadowing). However this is California and not 5 miles (8.04672kms) from here there are two amazing bakers Semifreddis and the slightly smaller ACME (so authentic they don’t have a proper website).  At my local “grocer” (read expensive supermarket) you can get yourself the most amazing Sourdough Batard you’ve ever seen for about US$4 (about AUD$120, but hey when you’re earning locally). If I happen to go to REI or the nearby bike shop I also happen to end up across the street from ACME. It’s not surprising then that yesterday  I happened apoun this:

acme loaf

Ciabatta

Which contains crumb that looks like this:

P1000047

Crumb

I love Ciabatta, stuff squeezes so nicely into the holes. They also had some Not Cross Buns:

NotX

Bun

As I bought direct the grand total was $4.75, or something below US$5 (about AUD$12, that exchange rate fluctuates wildly, and who doesn’t love unit conversion humor?).  I tell you I’d pay $10 per bun, bundles of rasin and dried fruit joy I tell you. Anyway as I had recently received a shipment from my dealer of smuggled Australia food (I don’t want to give away her identity so let’s call her “DanC” nee “DanY”) containing Cherry Ripes, Crunchies and a jar of the brand new as yet un-named Vegemite ‘experience’ I figured that the Ciabatta’s stuff carrying properties would be perfect for a review. First the jar:

jar

The nameless jar

Now Vegemite is readily available here, requiring only a bank loan and a dangerous goods wavier to purchase a small jar from most grocery store.  At our local it’s in the “English” section, but oh well. My theory with Vegemite is that you need to be exposed at a young enough age that eating food that looks and smells like tar and tastes like discarded brewers yeast is something that you don’t question. I’ve heard the “Americans only like sweet stuff” theory, and I don’t buy it.  People here, on average, seem to have about the same sweet tooth as Australia and it’s not like every single thing that’s eaten in the USA is sweet. Try some buffalo wings or BBQ sometime if you don’t believe me. Hmmm Buffalo wings…. My other theory (I have a lot, if you ever need one I have spares) is that Kraft made the ‘experience’ to take Vegemite to the world.  The idea is that they’ve mixed Vegemite and cream cheese into one container, thus negating the need to add butter to the base layer (the substrate if you will) that carries the Vegemite into your belly. The slacker in me finds this appealing, mainly because it stops me getting Vegemite in the butter container which just make honey on toast taste odd.

In order to taste test I applied a generous amount (had had pretested before this review as suspected that a “more is more approach was required) of the ‘experience’ to an approximately 1cm thick slice of ACME Ciabatta.  I was feeling lazy and therefore did not toast the bread.  Many of you will find this sacrilegious but if that’s the case you’d be better of finding a proper religion and not worship toast spreading rituals. The result looked something like this:

spreadonbread

Spread on bread

Now here’s my first issue, it looks even more like Nutella than the original Vegemite which was one of the reason those not brought up on it didn’t like it.  It looked like it should taste different to what it does.  Of course it also looks a little scatological or greasealogical, depending on which side of the anal retentive line you fall,  not adding to it newbie appeal.  However this was a mute point to me and so I chomped on down.  And here’s where I got disappointed. See I’m a heavy ‘miter, I lay that stuff on thick and go relatively easy on the butter (yeah right).  The ‘experience’  takes away the fine tuning option, and I guess that’s the point, it’s Vegemite for people who don’t really like Vegemite. And the problem with that is that people generally know, in the US at least, what Vegemite is and that they probably already don’t like the idea of it which means they’re probably not going to go out and buy this. The caveat to this is that if you can convince someone to try Vegemite as an adult, then you should probably break them in with the ‘experience’, then wean them off it and get them onto the real thing. After all it’s best to harness the mania, no matter what it is!

Rating on the Chris Scale: Would not buy again. Nobuy

Boo Kraft the first review and I had to make the thumbs down photo first!

Tomorrow, a review of the Performance Cycling $20 jersey.  There’s no way I could write 1000 words about that right?

UPDATE: Maybe I’ll do something I love, like my GPS.

8.04672

Riding around the Oakland Hills

Or, why the bay area is awesome.

Firstly let me setup why I’m attempting to start blogging again.  A few years ago I read some biking articles by a guy called the Fat Cyclist. He was/is hilarious, especially a post on why cyclists shave their legs (it’s okay I haven’t gone there).  Through Lance Armstrong’s twitter I found him again.  Things had changed a lot, his wife Susan was fighting cancer and there was Eldon sharing his life with everyone in a way that impressed be beyond words.  Susan passed away a few weeks ago and I was deeply moved by her and Eldon’s story. Really go away now and read some of his blog, if you don’t laugh, cry  (sometime both at once) and feel like should should do something to help fight… well I don’t know what, but you should.  I was so moved that my self pity at reaching 100kgs (220 pounds) again seemed so insignificant and easy to fix that I got my bike out, my aim is to join Team Fatty for next years Livestrong Challenge, so be prepared to be pestered for donations.

If you’ve know me for a while (i.e. any time greater than about 20 minutes), you’ll know I tend to get reasonably “into” things from time to time.  For a while in NZ I mountain biked, a lot.  Mainly shuttling up the hill and riding down.

dhbiking

What a cool dude, dude.

Since I moved back to Australia and then to the US I’ve been riding sporadically (I bought a road bike not long after I got here), mainly because I’ve been hanging around on the weekends hoping there would be enough wind to kiteboard.   Then I realised I’ve done a lot of kiting in the last 10 years, and riding a bike would be a good way to make a few new friends and lose the weight I’ve managed to gain waiting for the aforementioned wind.  I turned up at the Oakland Yellow Jackets weekly ride about 3 weeks ago, after having done a few after work rides, and rode 54 miles (86 kilometers, sorry I’ve had to finally convert to miles so people have some clue as to what I’m talking about when riding).  I guess I had a reasonable amount of fitness left over from the occasional lunch time runs PC and I do.  Needless to say I was hooked.  The amount of stuff you can see in 50ish miles is pretty impressive so I was pretty exited to ride 77 miles (120 kms) the next weekend.  We ended up riding a bit further thanks to a helpful local who sent us up a windy, bumpy hot road on an extra 4 mile loop.  More ride reports on those rides later.  For now lets try and reach something like “a point”.

Today I had a something to do in the afternoon so I had to do a ,now short feeling, 30 mile (48km) ride so I was home by lunch time.  I rode up a hill I’ve been riding after work and down the other side.  As Celia had convinced me to finally get a decent camera I figured I’d take a few snaps along the way.  Problem being, I’m an idiot and don’t like stopping so you get about 4 photo’s and a map.  Impressive huh? So let’s begin.

startHere’s the start, I’m heading up into the hill in the background.  It’ll take about 1/2 an hour and a small gear to get there.

tunneltopI get to the top and need to remind myself I’m in northern California.  There are so many Eucalyptus trees.  If I had smello-web it would have that wonderful scent of vics vapour rub.

oaklandvistaThis house has an amazing view.  In typical San Francisco summer weather it’s foggy first thing in the morning.

downWeeee I get to ride down the hill into the canyon on the other side of Oakland, although I was thinking most of the way down that I would have to climb back up again to get home.

moragaHere’s where it gets amazing. 5 miles (8km), as the crow files from my house is this sort of countryside. 5miles in the other direction is the city of San Francisco.  It’s so amazing to be able to pop over the hill and be truly out of the city, on quiet tree lined roads surrounded by redwoods. I love it, a lot.

redwoodsAnd now I pay for all that downhill fun.  This is the famous Redwoods Rd climb.  It’s not steep, but it lasts a while.

cockpitHere’s what it looks like crawling up the hill in my granny gear (the small easy one for the non cyclists who suck with me this far).  The speed is embarrassingly slow and the cadence isn’t great either, but hey I’m not built for climbing okay?

liveineastbayHere’s another reason I love the east bay.  Under that cloudy fog is San Francisco, it’ll burn off by 2 or 3, just in time for it to roll in again around 7.  The east bay is either clear by 10 or doesn’t get it at all.

So there we are back at the top and felling pretty weary.  After the last photo is a final nice down hill then home for coffee and lunch. There’s a little bit of what my morning was like. Nice huh? In weeks to come be prepared for more ride reports and some revolutionary honest reviews of cycling products.  Of course, plans of blogging and actually carrying through on it are two very different things.