I came up with a fun route to highlight several culinary destinations. Because it was all about good food and good times, I dubbed this the Bon Vivant Ride. A bon vivant is a person who enjoys the good things in life, especially good food and drink. The literal translation from French is, "good liver." That's liver as in one who lives, not the internal organ.
Robert went to the Masters National road race championship in Augusta yesterday. So, he was out of town, and I had a rare Saturday with no particular plans. Of course, I filled it up with my ride, but it was more like playing all day. I wouldn't let myself worry about all the chores or other "productive" things I could be doing.
First on my itinerary was going to the Market on the Square, Monticello's farmer's market that occurs every Saturday from May through September. I had to miss every week in May (cycling events) and, therefore, was really glad to get to go to the farmer's market yesterday.
At least half a dozen vendors were selling fresh produce. Additionally, a few others were selling plants, homemade soaps, baked goods, or crafts. I was especially glad to see Mike this year. Not only does he make the world's best pickled beets (seriously, I have to restrain myself from eating the whole jar when I open it), but it was good to see that he was feeling well enough to be there after battling cancer in recent months.
I also made sure to visit my friend Laverne. In previous blog entries I have raved about her fried peach pies, and I will do so again now. They are sublime. Although I was powerless to resist buying one yesterday, I delayed gratification because I had to save room for the various goodies I wanted to sample along my Bon Vivant route. It was more fun to share the peach pie with Robert today anyway. By the way, Laverne's cute granddaughter was helping her yesterday. As her granddaughter rang up my purchase, she commented that I smelled like the swimming pool. I laughed and told her that I had put on Coppertone because I would be out in the sun all day. Coppertone has a distinct fragrance that I actually like. It reminds me of the beach. One time when I was about five, my family was visiting the beach. I woke up just after the sun came up but before the rest of the family. I remember entertaining myself by opening a bottle of Coppertone and smelling the contents.
Having made the rounds at the farmer's market, I made a beeline for The Vanilla Bean for second breakfast. This has become my tradition on my local Saturday morning rides in the warmer months. I readily selected Green Dragon for my tea, but the day's dessert choice was not so simple. There happened to be no pies yesterday, which probably would have been my druthers, but there were several delectable looking cakes, including lemon, spice, and hummingbird. With bananas, pineapple, nuts, and spices, hummingbird seemed to be the best of all worlds. Maybe it was kind of a subconscious choice, too. I'm currently listening to an audio book entitled The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.
|Second breakfast and farmer's market loot|
My next destination was Larry's 4-Way, a convenience store in the northwest part of the county, near Jackson Lake. I was compelled to go there after reading the Monticello-Jasper County Chamber of Commerce newsletter a few days earlier. It noted that the biscuits at Larry's 4-Way were mentioned in the May issue of Bon Appetit magazine!
I love a good biscuit, but somehow I've never clued into gas stations being such a ready resource. And if the biscuits at Larry's 4-Way - right in my backyard - were worth a mention in Bon Appetit, I definitely had to check them out.
A few days earlier during the planning part of my journey, this part of my route was temporarily jeopardized. When I mentioned to Robert that I was going to Larry's 4-Way, he urged me not to ride on Jackson Lake Road. That was exactly how I was going to get there. Robert is not one to try to tell me what to do (as if I'd listen to him anyway), but I conceded that he did have a valid concern. I decided that Highway 212 would actually be a safer way to go there, even with it being a state highway.
The out-and-back portion from downtown Monticello to Larry's 4-Way on Highway 212 was fine. As one of the busier highways in our county, it might not be my first choice for local riding, but it has a fairly wide shoulder. I'm grateful it provided me adequate bicycle access for my biscuit investigation.
Larry's 4-Way is a bustling hub of commerce. It took me a minute to scope out the interior, but then toward the back I spotted the object of my quest:
What variety! I had never seen a bologna biscuit before. I wondered how it would compare to the convenience store I saw on the Mountain Music 200K a few weeks ago, which claimed to have the best fried bologna in town. (It was the only store within about 25 miles.) I'll have to keep wondering. Not only did I not try the fried bologna a few weeks ago, at Larry's 4-Way I opted for an egg biscuit instead of the bologna biscuit. It may have been the Bon Vivant Ride, but I didn't want to be too hard on my liver.
I had thought that the biscuit at Larry's 4-Way would serve as elevenses, but because of my extended chat with Greg back at The Vanilla Bean, it was really more like eleven-thirties.
I don't know what the Bon Appetit article was talking about. This biscuit wasn't flat. It was a big, fluffy cathead biscuit, similar to what I make. Maybe the Larry's 4-Way biscuit baker changed the recipe since the article was published. Larry's are drier than mine, though. I searched The Google to try to discern what makes the difference. I suspect that I use a little more shortening than they do. Regardless, I doubt many other people have used the Internet to research the ratio of fat to flour in biscuits.
I headed back toward Monticello for the next leg of my ride. It was a picturesque day with beautiful, blue skies and clouds as fluffy as cathead biscuits. Several people had asked me that morning, "Isn't it too hot to ride?" No, it felt good to me. It was actually kind of relaxing; we're finally at the time of year where my body doesn't have to work to stay warm.
I stayed on Highway 212 E almost to the Putnam County line and then turned onto Old Hillsboro Road. This is prime riding in my area - very little traffic and excellent pavement. I wended my way to downtown Eatonton and my final culinary stop of the day: Tienda Tarimoro, a fantastic, authentic Mexican market.
On several previous bicycle rides I've visited Tienda Tarimoro. It's an old gas station with a beautiful rock exterior. Although it's rather small, it contains a vast array of items to delight the senses.
|The fresh produce includes items particular to Mexican cuisine, e.g. prickly pears and tomatillos.|
|I looked for a Pope Francis candle but didn't see one. Maybe you have to be dead to get on a candle.|
I tried not to overindulge so that I would have room for my entree: sopes with carnitas. Sopes are a traditional dish in central and southern Mexico. They look like very thick tortillas and are made with masa (ground corn soaked in lime, the same ingredient used to make tamales and tortillas). Chewy with a few crunchy edges, they have a delightful texture. I was served three sopes topped with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, queso fresco, and my selected meat (carnitas, or roasted pork) and a side of green salsa. This is real Mexican food:
While I ate, I watched the television across the small restaurant area. It was tuned to Univision. I could only see it because the sound was turned down (not that I would have understood the Spanish anyway). Some kind of Mexican game show was on. There were four contestants. One was dressed like a clown. The four had to complete various tasks. First, they were unspooling rolls of paper towels and stuffing them into a big box. Then they were using their teeth to remove multicolored loofah-looking things from a big, acrylic box. The whole time, the smarmy looking game show host was standing to the side and laughing. I can't imagine this could be much more entertaining even with the sound. Actually, it was like a scene from one of my dreams. It's as if someone were a fly on the wall in my dream and then converted it to a real, live game show.
Delicious though they were, I couldn't eat the third sope. It's just as well because the three sopes with carnitas were bigger than my head. The rule is never to eat anything bigger than your head. (There is one exception to the rule: cotton candy.) At the same time, I couldn't bear the thought of just leaving the last one to be tossed out. I came up with the perfect solution: I would carry it home in my jersey pocket. I have experience in these things. Two years ago during my longest RAAM training ride, I rode 180 miles from Monticello to Dublin and back. I stopped for lunch in Dublin at a great Italian place but couldn't finish my Stromboli. Therefore, I carried it home in my jersey pocket. As for the sope with carnitas, I just needed a container.
I asked the waitress for a bag. Either she didn't have one or didn't understand because she came back with a Styrofoam clam shell container. Obviously, that wasn't going to fit into my jersey pocket. So, I improvised. I wrapped and then double wrapped the sope in the pieces of aluminum foil and food service paper that had come with my plate. Soft but protected, it fit snugly in my jersey pocket. Yummage for later!
This reminded me of a passage from the classic cycling book The Rider by Tim Krabbé:
"Jacques Anquetil, five-time winner of the Tour de France, used to take his water bottle out of its holder before every climb and stick it in the back pocket of his jersey. Ab Geldermans, his Dutch lieutenant, watched him do that for years, until finally he couldn't stand it any more and asked him why. And Anquetil explained.
A rider, said Anquetil, is made up of two parts, a person and a bike. The bike, of course, is the instrument the person uses to go faster, but its weight also slows him down. That really counts when the going gets tough, and in climbing the thing is to make sure the bike is as light as possible. A good way to do that is: take the bidon out of its holder.
So, at the start of every climb, Anquetil moved his water bottle from its holder to his back pocket. Clear enough."
Life can dish up some real crap sometimes. Other days I might feel rather meh for no particular reason. Overall, though, I believe that life is what we make of it. I'm grateful for days when I'm a good liver.