Friday, June 10, 2016

Cook little pot, cook!

I managed to harvest apricots before the squirrels ravaged them too badly this year.  They're pretty fragile, so once you pick them, you need to do something with them fast.  I figured I'd cook them slightly to soften the skin, puree them, and freeze for later use.  There was quite a bit of fruit, so I got out the big stockpot.

The pot spilleth over.  31lb of fruit is TOO MUCH for the pot that is ridiculously large for everything else.

I wisely chose to do multiple smaller batches.  Pictured is about 1/6 of the puree.  Sticky goo everywhere.

My brilliant plan to just freeze and defer any decisions was thwarted by the fact that I ran out of containers in which to freeze it, so I had to start drying the goo that wouldn't fit.  Now the whole house is perfumed with the scent of apricots, but I still have many, many more sheets to dry...

She survived middle school

And more to the point, also survived sitting in the sun for hours rehearsing for graduation in hot polyester tent gowns!

We in the audience only had to sit in the sun for the actual ceremony.

Cactus flower

It's always surprising when the cactus in the corner of the back yard does its extravagant one-day bloom:

The whole plant, for context:

Friday, June 3, 2016

Cat Hut

It's amazing how much joy the cat gets from a simple cardboard box.

Holiday Weekend Bikepacking

We took advantage of the three-day weekend last weekend to do a little bike trip.  Putting this together, I had three criteria:

1) Ride mostly together, so all parties can set their expectations for riding behavior when we do our upcoming trip along the Danube.
2) Pretty/interesting, yet cheap.
3) Doesn't require much advance planning, given that this scheme was only concocted a few days in advance.

I thought that last element was going to be a problem, given that all the campgrounds around here book up months in advance -- but as I found, that is only true for places that one can drive to.  We weren't driving, so I got a last minute reservation at the Black Mountain Backpack camp for Friday night, and decided to take our chances with the first-com-first-served sites at the Castle Rock Trail Camp for Saturday.  (The worse-case scenario if there were no sites left was that we would roll back down route 9 and go home.)

It turns out that trail camp didn't get full until about 6pm on Saturday.  Holiday weekend.  Bay Area.  I guess people are daunted by having to walk or bike in.  There are benefits to being in halfway decent shape :)

At any rate, Friday afternoon, I checked Nim out of school an hour early so she didn't have to suffer through a noisy end-of-the-year pep assembly, we loaded up our bikes, and headed towards Montebello Road.  Chad got a slightly later start, given that he needed to finish out the work day; we spent the entire climb wondering if he would catch us.

Then hoping he would catch us, after I realized he had most of the real food, and all of our clothing.

My bike, all loaded up and ready to go.  I carried the tarp, two sleeping bags, one sleeping pad, two kindles, a wallet, sunscreen, bug spray, and some snacks.

Kiddo at the first rest stop, enjoying beef jerky.  Mmmmm.  While we were stopped here at Pichetti Ranch, we saw one of the peacocks there actually *fly* across the parking lot.   I didn't know they could do that.  (The big tail was as unwieldy-looking as you might imagine.)

Montebello is a real climb -- it goes up about 2000 feet in a little over 5 miles, with sections up to 12% grade.  If it were part of a bike race, it would definitely be a Cat. 1 climb.

Nim was sometimes tired,

sometimes goofy,

and generally cheery as she motored along.

Eventually, we made it to the end of the pavement at the top, ate a snack, and surveyed the view to see how far we had come up.

We headed past the gate

 and onto the dirt in Montebello Open Space Preserve.

There were still a few wildflowers amidst the tall grass,

as well as plenty of deer (Look closely to spot them).

Silly us, near the top.  We hoped that Chad had left the office at this point, as we were starting to think about dinner....which he had in his bags.

Nice views in the late afternoon light.

At the summit of Black Mountain.

Slightly downhill, in our shady campsite.  It was about 90 degrees out at this point, which meant we were happy to have the shade.

It being 90 out didn't stop the kiddo from curling up in her sleeping bag to read while we waited for our dinner to arrive.

Aha -- The dinner sherpa arriveth!  He made considerably better time up the hill than we did, despite his bigger load of gear and food (sleeping bag, all the clothes, all the food, stove and dishes, two sleeping pads, and one kindle).  Note the lightweight alcohol stove he is filling in this picture; it was actually made from a beer can and worked remarkably well.

After a good night's sleep under the stars, we headed out down a nice singletrack through the preserve.

Admire my prowess at taking pictures *while* riding a loaded bike on dirt:

Ok, some of the pictures taken while riding are crooked...

One of course has to take advantage of the hot dog stand at the intersection of 9 and Skyline.

After the hot dog stop, we continued down Skyline until we hit an obscure service road into Castle Rock.  I had never been down this dirt road before; it was about a mile of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride that plummeted down 500 feet to the campground.  Upon arriving, we found a spot and Nim promptly took a nap.

Chad napped too.  (It only looks like he is reading.)  He actually was suffering though the cold that Nim had earlier in the week, though from all outward appearances was just fine.  Stoic, I say.

Fortification.  If one has a flask with a bike bottle mounting cage, this is the sort of trip to use it on.

Small dinosaur glyph carved into the picnic table by some previous occupant.  Better than your average graffiti.

The next morning, we packed up and headed back out the service road, which, while steep, was thankfully still rideable.  We had enough energy when we hit the top to detour south a bit along Skyline to hit the John Nicholas Trail, a relatively new stretch of bikeable singletrack down through Sanborn County Park.  This meant we could avoid most of the weekend traffic going down 9.

Can you spot the Chad?

There he is!

Chocolate is apparently mandatory at the bottom of the hill as well as the top.  After this, it was an easy ride down Sanborn and 9 back home.

All told, we guided our loaded bikes 45 miles with 5000 feet of climbing on a mixed road/dirt route from the house and spent $21 in camping fees.  Oh, and $12 for hot dogs and sodas.  Not a bad spur-of-the-moment trip!