Monday, September 29, 2008

Making beer...

I decided to pick up yet another hobby this summer, as I'm someone who doesn't sit idle well.  This time it follows my love of food and drink, the latter being the current subject.  There is extremely well stocked and knowledgeable home brewing supply store here on Grand Ave in St Paul, and I decided after reading up on the hobby to try it out.  Glad I did.  I had a great deal of fun learning how the beer making process goes, and brewing my first batch.  I chose an EPA ingredient kit modeled after St Paul's flagship Summit EPA.  I like a great tasting brew just like a great tasting meal, and I think I'm hooked on brewing my own for a while.  It ended up costing me around 64 cents per home-brewed beer (after the equipment), which is a fantastic price for great beer.  Stop by sometime if you know me well and I'd be happy to treat you too a glass- it turned out great and has gotten rave reviews from everyone I've shared it with so far.  For now, enjoy the pix of the process:

Steeped grains:

Prepping the primary fermentor- Mullet did not trust all the hoses and containers for a second, but he sure was interested in the whole process:

Right after pitching the yeast into the cooled wort and sealing the fermentor:

Bottling with Ty after a few weeks of waiting:

Headwaters 100 Year 2008

I rode my strongest century this past Saturday.  It was at the yearly Headwaters 100 in Park Rapids, MN.  This one's become a yearly tradition for me and some of my road buddies.  Role call this year ran pretty thin; only myself and friend Nate Goltz showed from the old crew which numbered around 6 or 7 depending on years.  Nate is running the Twin Cities Marathon this coming weekend, so he elected to ride the 45 mile short option of the event, so I rode the full miles mostly solo.  Some guys Nate went to law school with showed for that one though, so I shared a few miles with them.  
I can tell all the commuting (18 miles roundtrip) from my St Paul apartment to my Eagan workplace is paying off.  I've also been adjusting the amount I eat on longish rides, and it's working.  I felt strong at the finish this year and sprinted the last couple miles at 22 mpg.  Those who know me realize that I usually don't end that strong, so it felt great.  I'm getting the sick urge to go bigger next year and move beyond the realm of century rides into a 150-200
 mile one-day ride.  We'll see.    

Sunday, September 14, 2008

MN mini tour..

Well, this happened back in June, but I've been meaning to blog it since then.  I finally used my Surly for something other than riding to work.  Every time I loaded it up with office clothes, the same old lunch, and commuter garb, I could hear my touring bike growl a little.  A nine mile jaunt through suburbia only to sit in the corner of my windowless office for who knows how many hours is not a way to treat touring bike nor rider.  So I finally got it loaded up with camping gear and ventured out of town.  Actually, I drove the first couple miles cuz I was short on time and it was the only way to get as far away from the city as I'd intended.  I took the Gateway Trail from just outside St. Paul to the highways of Washington County, MN, then on to Interstate State Park on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.  It was hot and sticky, as are many MN summer days, but it was nice to get out and ride, have a fire, sleep in a tent, not work, etc.  I intend on more touring; I don't know with the falls schedule already filling if I'll get the Surly out of town overnight again in '08 but more trips will follow.  Touring a great distance (ocean to ocean, or UT to AK are possibilities) is still on my "bucket list".  Most people have some of those type of lifelong intentions, and few make it happen.  The sad statistics make me realize it may be the type of thing to force into happening if you can find the right way.  Still thinking.  Still time.  If I get to 50 and haven't done it it'll be time to drop everything and go.  But for now, a night out in MN was fun:

My two workhorses.  I prefer the two-wheeled option, but the other tends to get me to UT quicker under tighter timeframes.  :)

In Washington  County, MN...

Gentle descent down to Marine on St. Croix...

Campsite along the St. Croix River...

The combination of campfires and bikes will always make me smile.  It was a good day...

AK day 3

We continued on further into the park on the third day in Denali.  This is done by purchasing a ticket to ride the park bus system (the only way to get past mile 15 of the 90 mile park road).  It takes several hours to travel into the park as the road is gravel, rugged, and slow.  Sweet.  Anyhow, we chose to head in all the way to the Eilson Visitor Center, which is near the bottom of Denali itself (Mt McKinley to those who disregard it's proper native name- we European types are good at barging in and claiming/renaming things which are already established).  Our route took us past a lot of fantastic alpine tundra scenery full of small to very large wildlife.  Caribou, Dall Sheep, Grizzlies, Marmots, Moose, Ptarmigan, Fox, and lots of flying things I couldn't define.  It was so great to see a part of the earth that is mainly undeveloped (save for the one gravel road we traveled to the visitor center- which has little services of any kind other than educational displays and restrooms.)  The rest of the park is pretty much as it always has been for this era.  We didn't get to see Denali, which was shrouded in cloud.  We were told that it had only been visible 4 days in the past two months.  It's typical to have to make several trips to the Park to see the mountain, since it's cloudy/raining much of the summer.  It's hard to imagine we were standing under a 20,000 ft mountain and couldn't tell, but that's about it.  I really want to go back and see it hulking over me; sunset is the dream.  

A hike down a gulch by the Eilson Visitor Center revealed that we were in moose territory:

Other hikers passing up through the brush back to the visitor center:

Never seems to be a "quick" way to hike in AK; good thing Alison has a purple backpack:

Don't let the expression fool you, I like some kinds of hardship, liking bushwhacking AK!

Overlooking braided rivers flowing off the Polychrome Glaciers:

Alison taking in Polychrome Pass.  The world is bigger than us my friends....

Polychrome Pass area:

Difficult to spot, but here you have it- a mother Grizzly and two cubs...look for the blond dots...

View where you could normally look up and see 20,000 ft of mountain.  Not this time...

More AK...

So I do still mean to continue with this blog.  It seems that I'm always making the excuse of working too much and not finding the time to keep up with writing.  Well, it's true.  There's a lot of things I could get done if I didn't have to earn money, but I haven't figured out how that could work yet.  Anyhow, I do intend to finish blogging about our summer trip to AK.  I can take care of day 2 of the trip now.  We took one of the park shuttle buses into the Savage River area, which is only 15 tiny miles into the enormous expanse that make up Denali National Park.  I decided to mainly day hike on this trip to AK because we didn't really know how backpacking worked up there.  There is a permit system that is first come first serve by zones of the park, so you can't really do any sort of detailed planning until you're there.  I'm pretty sure we'll take that option next time we go, but for this trip we stayed within a couple hours of the park road.  It's amazing how wild the place can feel even in that area.  We hiked out along one of the many streams branching from the Savage River, and it was reported that a female grizzly had been sited in the same area within the last day.  So considering we were hiking through classic AK scrub or "bush", we had to make a lot of noise so as to not blunder into the big animal.  Made me nervous at first, but after a while you come to realize that that's just the way AK hiking is.  You're there, and so are the bears.  Neither party really wants to mess with the other, and the best bet is to do what you can to alert each other your there and stay out of each other's way.  Works out.  It was a great experience.  I've read a lot on Alaskan bush hiking, and it was wonderful to see it first hand.  I'm going back.  

Alison in the Alaskan bush:

A couple from Washington D.C. had been on their Surly LHT's for quite a while; nice:

If you want to feel small, go to Denali National Park and hike the backcountry...

No trails in Denali...Checking in on our location, yup, I was right... :)

Alaskan Fireweed growing alongside a braided river...

Large Caribou crossing a dry river bed: