Monday, July 22, 2013

Eating on the Quebec bike trip

One of the fun things about a bike trip, or even just traveling in general, is the food that one finds along the way.  The bike just makes it much easier to stop, when, for example, you find a duck farm on your route.

Le Canard Goulu (pictured above) is the supplier of fois gras for all the good restaurants in the region, and is well known for its fine duck products.  Of course I had to make sure our route went right past it :)  Nimue enjoyed visiting the white Muscovy ducks, and the woman inside the shop was nice enough to help me pick a tasty snack to add to our picnic stash.

A few miles down the road, we ran across a cheese shop attached to a rather large cheese-making facility.  Mmmm, more snacks.  Note the little orange "Arret Gourmand" sign -- the gourmet stops were often good places to pick up things for lunch.

Some days, we had to rely on trail mix we carried with us.  Or leftover pizza.

Other days, there was food at tourist stops.  (this one is the Huron village reconstruction at Wendake).  Even Faith occasionally eats an ice cream bar!

Sometimes, we cyclists were thirsty, rather than hungry.  In the apple-growing area of the province, it is a good idea to look for a ciderie.  The first one we tried to stop at was not yet open for the season, but the second one had a wide selection of comestibles to sample.

And, they had a nice patio where they would let you sit and drink your beverage of choice.  In this case, it was unfermented apple must -- a most delicious cider that Nimue picked out.  We had the added benefit here of enjoying our beverage for long enough that Bill and Faith caught up to us and joined in on the fun.

Speaking of things wet, the only rain we saw on the trip was first thing in the morning on the day we had planned to walk around Old Town Quebec.  Nimue responded by hiding everything except her eyes under coat, hat, and warm beverage.

For dinners, we relied on Bill's excellent, carefully-researched restaurant choices, which meant we ate rather well :)  The standout in my mind was a restaurant called Toast! in Quebec City, which served foie gras from the farm we had stopped at earlier in the trip, along with many and varied other interesting bits of yum.

We did run into one day where it was hard to find food.  Apparently June 24 is a national holiday and things were closed when we arrived in Saint-Michel-de-Bellechasse around lunchtime -- except for a tiny little internet cafe/photography studio that only served espresso drinks.  Nimue got lucky (I didn't think we'd get away with drinking lattes in front of her without getting her one too.)  The interesting photographer guy running the place, J. Lauzier,  only spoke a little English (about on par with our French), but we gathered that he had *never* made a coffee for someone so young, and was amused by it.  We also admired his work around the small shop.

Note that Chad focussed on the coffee and not on the kid when he took the photo...

Oh, look -- we are still carrying around an extra bottle of cider!  And this one was cider for grown-ups.  A fine way to kill some time while waiting for Bill and Faith to arrive at the hotel.  Enhanced by fresh strawberries from the farmers' market at the port across the street from the hotel. (devoured by Nim before a picture could be taken)

Also not pictured are the amazing giant ice cream cones hand-dipped in a thick layer of high-quality chocolate that Chad and I found at the Chocolaterie de l'Ile d'Orleans in Saint-Petronille.  Totally worth the half hour wait in line, and powered us through the last 25 miles of our long day on the tandem.

And last but not least, at lunch stops, sometimes you even find a playground!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Note on the mountain bike for Chad

Stupid thing kept sucking the chain into the gap between the chainstay and the front chainrings every time I put any real power into it.  For example, any time I wanted to go uphill.

Three forward pedal strokes, bad noise, one pedal stroke backwards to untangle, four strokes forward, clunk! stuck, one pedal stroke backwards, three strokes forward, argh stuck stop, five strokes forward, bad noise, one stroke backwards...

Throughout 2700 feet of climbing.  Bike seemed to know to misbehave right in corners, looser sections, and when I was tired.  Interesting challenge trying to time the backward strokes to untangle the chain before it got fully stuck without losing momentum while going uphill.

Resistant to all attempted derailleur adjustments.  Argh.  At least Chad will derive some amusement by the note I left on it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Watching a bike race on TV

Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Well, in this modern world we can make it as complicated as we want!

Step 1: give up cable, since we really don't watch hardly anything that we can't (hypothetically) get over the Internet.

Step 2: since we still want to watch that Internet content on the TV, get an Apple TV device.

Step 3: it's Tour de France time! NBC licensed the race for the US, and thankfully are making it available over the Internet, both live and afterwards, for a reasonable price ($30). Yay, let's order it up!

Step 4: Well, NBC's solution on the computer is implemented in Microsoft Silverlight, which isn't supported by the Apple TV. Apple provides a way to stream content from the computer to the Apple TV -- but only on recent (mid-2011 or newer) machines, running the latest OS -- Apple's solution uses the newer computers' hardware capabilities to do this efficiently. Ours is about a year too old, drat. What to do? Search the Internet for a solution.

Step 5: AirParrot ($10) takes care of it, sort of. It actually works better than I expected. AirParrot uses the computer's CPU to compress and stream anything on the screen, over to the Apple TV; the quality's pretty good, but the CPU is working hard to do the job, and the computer gets pretty hot (about 150 F). But: there's no way to *control* the playback remotely.

Step 6: Remote control hack achieved by using screen sharing from the computer (built in) to the iPad (VNC Lite, free). This is a crude way to do it, and doesn't work very well, mainly because it's not intended for video. If there was any way to script or control Silverlight remotely, that would be better, but I haven't come up with anything.

To sum it all up, here's a sketch of the process. All this, just to watch a stupid bike race, what the heck was I thinking?!

While I really, truly, appreciate NBC Sports' effort to make the race available to those without cable TV subscriptions, their coverage (well, commentary and production, really, as the video footage is provided to them directly by the race organization itself) is dreadful. The audio is often bad, and even when there's "live" reporting in English coming through from the race, Phil & Paul (the NBC commentators) talk right over it, or it is eventually muted out. There's zero local color, and no one on the ground talking to riders, teams, fans, or anything else. It could be so much better.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Happy cyclists in Quebec

Proof of the recent multigenerational cycling along parts of the Route Verte in Quebec:

Bill charging up a steep pitch to the bridge across the Chaudiere River.

Nim and Chad speeding up the Piste Cyclable Dansereau/La Liseuse.  

Faith working her way back through the park near Les Chutes de la Chaudiere.  (Nim and Chad behind her)

 Me on the road to the duck farm.  (Nim took this one from the back of the tandem!)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jet lag and apricots

We always seem to get back from vacation just as it is time to pick apricots, and this year was no exception.  Being out in the sun in the afternoon to pick fruit is a good way to counteract jet lag.
The only side effect is that we always end up picking more fruit than I mean to.  Bags of fruit must be larger than they appear to the tired brain.  Either that, or they multiply on the way home.

Nimue gorges herself from the top of the tree.

Last year's learning was that if you cook down a pot of apricots with a cup of water and 1/4 cup sugar for about 10 minutes, you end up with a delightful puree that can be frozen and used all year in sorbet, as cake filling, tart filling, scone/pancake/waffle topping.

Thus, I spent the hottest day of the year over the stove up to my elbows in apricot goo and now the freezer is full of jars of summery goodness.

And there were still apricots left.  We made and ate a batch of apricot sorbet (3 cups water, 1 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 pounds apricots, and a splash each of rum and spicy bitters that I made last year).  Yum.  We made apricot smoothies.  Yum.  We made a delicious apricot coffee cake for breakfast.  Yum.

Can't forget the kangaroo meatballs with roasted tomato and apricot ketchup.  Mmmmm.

Nimue now has apricot fatigue.  With a couple pounds left, I decided to make some apricot liqueur, and had to make a weird late-night grocery run -- a large bottle of vodka for infusing the apricots in and a box of dishwasher soap to cope with the fact that it seemed every item in the kitchen was covered in apricot goo.  No wonder the checkers always look at me weird.

One pound of fruit left...might be time for another smoothie!