Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Giro d'Italia Dinner

For several years I have enjoyed making a Tour de France dinner for Robert and me during July.  We savor an array of French dishes, like Poulet à la Basquaise (chicken in the Basque style).  It's gotten to be an annual tradition that I really look forward to!  Last summer it finally dawned on me that I should do the same thing for the other two European Grand Tours.  Thus, I cooked us a delicious Spanish feast late last August during the Vuelta a España.  Tonight it was finally time for our Giro d'Italia dinner!

I have a confession to make: I've been so busy training that I haven't actually been following the Giro d'Italia.  I'll use any excuse, however, to celebrate - especially when it involves Italian food, Robert's and my favorite.  I cook Italian food for us at least once a week.  That certainly often includes pasta of course, but not always.  As I considered what to prepare for our Giro d'Italia meal, I decided on antipasto.

Ten years ago we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a bicycle tour of Tuscany.  It was fantastic!  Our main souvenir was a custom made platter, perfect for serving antipasto.  It consists of several sections that fit together.  We chose an animal pattern and even got to select the specific animal for each section:

For the center we chose a rooster, the quintessential symbol of Tuscany.

According to legend, a black rooster determined the boundary between Florence and Siena, who for centuries fought for control over the Chianti Classico area.  One horseman from each city was to set out early in the morning when the rooster crowed.  Wherever they met along the road between the two cities would determine the boundary.  The people of Siena chose a well-fed, white rooster, while the people of Florence chose a very hungry, black rooster.  On the day of the event, the Florentine black rooster began crowing long before sunrise, but the Sienese white rooster didn't crow until sunrise.  The horseman from Florence started much earlier than the one from Siena, covering more distance and thereby claiming much more of the Chianti Classico territory for Florence.

Two other animals we selected for our platter also have special Tuscan significance.  One is the cinghiale (pronounced chin-GAH-lee), which is Italian for wild boar.

Cinghiale is used in the delicious cured meats of Tuscany.  Robert and I even got to see a live one (from a safe distance) from our bicycles one day.

The other particularly Tuscan animal we chose is the upupa (pronounce oop-OOP-ah), a beautiful bird with a distinctive crown of feathers.

The other animals on our platter are common both here and in Italy: donkey, fox, rabbit, and snail.  I was going to post closeups of them, too, but Blogger kept rotating those pictures sideways or upside down, and I couldn't figure out how to make them right-side-up.  Anyway, I would hate to cover up the artwork if the food weren't so delicious!

Ack!  Still sideways
One thing that's wonderful about antipasto is that you can customize it for your particular taste.  I found a recipe in the newspaper some years ago that I really like.  In the center I place tuna, Genoa salami, and Provolone cheese.  Then, I place a different item in each of the six outer sections of my platter.  Tonight's selection was typical: hard boiled eggs, Greek olives, pepperoncini, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  Over everything I drizzle a marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, red pepper flakes, and Dijon mustard.

I also made a salad with the fresh greens from our CSA (community supported agriculture) and dried figs:

Figs remind me of the early days of professional cycling.  Racers back then didn't have things like Clif Bars, and so they often ate figs for an energy boost.  This salad has dried figs simmered in balsamic vinegar with some lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground pepper stirred in.  A few shavings of Romano cheese round it out.  The recipe calls for paramecium (Parmesan) cheese, but I usually use Romano in place of paramecium because I like Romano's sharper flavor.

We also had some five-grain Italian bread from my local Ingle's.

I've been obsessed with this bread for the last few months - it's so good!  Some olive oil topped with freshly ground black pepper was perfect for dipping.

Of course the meal wouldn't be complete without some Chianti:

I served it in the Periodic Tableware glasses I got for Robert for our anniversary a few weeks ago.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Riding in Tandem

Today is a national holiday at our house.  It’s Robert’s and my anniversary!  Yea!  And not just any anniversary – it’s our 20th!

What a fun ride it’s been!  We even left our wedding reception on a tandem bicycle:

(Yes, we changed clothes before riding away.)  My sister did a great job decorating the tandem, didn’t she?  We borrowed the tandem from one of my coworkers, who happened to live only a couple of miles from our reception venue.  Robert and I simply rode from the reception to my coworker’s house, where we had parked our car.  I had to talk Robert into the tandem idea (like I do with many of my ideas!), but he was glad we did it.

For years we thought about getting our own tandem, and we finally did about nine years ago.  We got a Burley Rivazza:

Burley quit making tandems about the time we got ours.  In fact, ours was on the production line when all of the tandem constructors were laid off.  Management had to come in and finish our order.  Robert and I have the distinction of having the last Burley Rivazza ever made.

Although we mostly ride our single bikes, we enjoy the tandem a lot, too.  One of our favorite tandem events is the Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR).  Held in mid to late May, GTR draws over 100 tandem teams from several dozen states.  It’s a long weekend of great riding and fun social events.  The host city varies each year.  Robert and I are really looking forward to GTR 2015 in a few weeks, which will be in Macon this year.

This past Sunday I had 75 miles on my RAAM training schedule.  With all the miles I’m putting in, I’m trying to visit some new and interesting places on my rides.  I decided to ride to Rock Hawk, the perfect distance fit for my plans.  Then, I realized that it was also time for us to take the tandem out for a spin in preparation for the upcoming GTR.  Robert gamely agreed to join me on a tandem ride to Rock Hawk.

Rock Hawk is an effigy created by Native Americans thousands of years ago.  It’s actually one of two effigies in neighboring Putnam County.  The other, better-known effigy is Rock Eagle.  Both are piles of rocks placed in roughly bird shapes.  I had been to Rock Eagle a number of times, but this was my first visit to Rock Hawk.

An interpretive trail leads to Rock Hawk.  Signs along the trail give some natural history of the area.  An observation tower provides an overall view of Rock Hawk.  Even from the top of the tower, however, it’s difficult to photograph the entire effigy:

What a beautiful afternoon!  This is my favorite time of year.  Everything is so green and lush, and many of the seasonal flowers are white.  This yucca, the first one we’ve noticed blooming this year, particularly caught our eye:

I love white flowers.  We used all white flowers in our wedding, which were lovely amidst our other wedding color, emerald green.  One way we celebrate our anniversary each year is by providing the flowers at church on the first Sunday in May.  This year I wanted to do something extra special, and so I had the local florist make an arrangement of 20 white tulips, commemorating one of the signature flowers in my bridal bouquet:

All these white flowers and our tandem ride gave us an early start to this year’s anniversary celebration!

When we ride the tandem, Robert is the captain (the front rider), and I’m the stoker (the back rider).  Although it’s not an exact parallel – we certainly view ourselves as equals! – riding the tandem is kind of like being married.  When we got our tandem, the first thing we had to learn was simply how to coordinate our balance.  You have to adjust your focus from being completely independent on a single bicycle to working together on the tandem.  Robert said that it felt like he was driving a cattle trailer (ha ha!).  He didn’t mean that unkindly; he grew up on a farm and knows what it feels like to drive a shifting, live load.  As for me, I had to get used to not having any steering, gears, or brakes because Robert does all of that from the front.  I soon learned, however, that that freed me up to do a lot more sightseeing than I get to do on my single bike.

Pooling our resources on the tandem has other advantages, too.  Because one tandem weighs less than two single bicycles, we can go faster with the same power output.  In geek terms, the tandem gives us a better power-to-weight ratio.

It helps to have similar preferences.  Both of us start with our left foot clipped in, and we have similar cadences.  If such things were wildly different between us, it would make for a much more difficult ride.

One thing we practiced over time was standing together on the tandem.  Standing makes climbing hills easier.  At first, Robert would stand while I remained seated.  This worked OK, but we couldn’t generate the power and rhythm we wanted.  It seemed like we weren’t making much progress, but then one day it kind of clicked.  We finally were able to stand together.  These days, I can usually anticipate when Robert will signal he’s ready to climb.  He counts down, “Three, two, one,” and – smooth as silk – we stand in unison.  He sits when he’s ready, and I simply follow suit.  It’s a good system.  Furthermore, we’ve learned how to hold onto the tandem while we’re standing.  We can’t be too tense, but we also can’t hold on so loosely that we throw the bike around too much.

I love my tandem/life partner.  Ride on!