November 30, 2012

I was (and still am) very grateful

It's the final day of November, the near last breath of 2012 (one more month to go!)  This means that I either blog today about my Thanksgiving holiday weekend (and subsequent rides) or forget about it.  Given that my blog's underlying and ongoing theme is all about being grateful, I have decided to get off my lazy bum and write. 

To start, I did not go to my usual spot for dinner this year.  My friend and her bro, who normally throw an insanely decadent all-the-fixin's-type-dinner, flew out of town. This left me a Thanksgiving orphan. Luckily, I still have enough charm (and ability to look pathetic) to weasel my way into being invited to another home, Tina and Bob's.  Only, they took me up on my offer to actually bring something this year other than a purchased pie from Marie Callendar's and a bottle of booze.  This year, I had to cook.

I'm not a cook, by the way. I do throw crap together from time to time to feed myself, but it usually involves Kale, feta cheese & currants.  I offered this (salad) up to my sweet friends as an option to bring or scalloped potatoes (how hard can that be? - potatoes, butter and cheese) or Brussels Sprouts...with bacon.  Guess what Bob chose?  Well, if you're a guy, you will guess correctly.  No man turns down bacon. In fact, I don't think he even heard "Brussels Sprouts" at all and just thought I was bringing a bowl of fried bacon. enough to feed 25 people plus extra...for him.  In a man's world, bacon is a perfectly suitable side dish.

As for the Brussels Sprouts?  Those little bastards are an arduous undertaking.  First, I had to buy 5 lbs of them.  They aren't expensive (so please don't think me complaining about price) but to cut the ends off of, take the outer leaves off of and halve 5 lbs of them is an hour and a half process...an hour and a half.  I then had to "blanch" them in boiling water, "shock" them in ice water and "dry" them (gently) on paper towels.  It was like a frickin' "spa day" for Brussels Sprouts.  The bacon was far easier (perhaps I should have just prepared a bowl of that?).  I put 6 slices of it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and popped it in a 375% oven for 25 minutes.  This is the best way to make bacon, by the way, and it makes your house smell glorious!

After all this Brussels Sprouts pampering, I had to pick them up (again, gently), put them in an enormous bowl and transport them to my friends' house.  There, I spread them on a cookie sheet and threw them in their oven (set to 400%) for six minutes.  Prior to this, I set up shop out on Bob's backyard barbeque counter (that he built; it's very snazzy) so as to whip up the "dressing" for the Brussels Sprouts.  It was comprised of olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, Balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper.  I had to whisk it all together in my mixing bowl, which was the most enjoyable part since I had an audience of guests watching me - kind of like my own reality cooking show.  

After all that whisking and the sprouts were heated thoroughly, I tossed everything together and added dried cranberries.  I kept a small batch in a separate bowl for the vegetarians and added the crumbled bacon to the rest.  Phew!  I'm no cook, but they turned out amazing.  I was told they were "a hit" and now I have to bring them for Christmas Dinner.  The bright side?  I got invited back over to Bob & Tina's for Christmas.  The downer?  Go back up and re-read the last two paragraphs (sigh). 

nom nom nom...so good, everything! (those Brussels Sprouts in the front are the vegetarian ones)...

with bacon added...


I'm reporting this tongue-and-cheek, of course, as I was very, very grateful to have such a wonderful invitation to begin with, let alone such a nice time at my friends' dinner.  I was grateful to be served some of the best tri-tip I've ever had (not that I've had a lot, but I'm pretty certain this was stellar).  Bob smoked the tri and he made the turkey (delicious).  Other folks brought all the other fixin's - it was a feast!  Thank goodness I rode beforehand.

See how I segued into the cycling?  Yup, I rode.  On turkey day, I rode solo close to 25 miles, sprinting in intervals down Ventura Boulevard (pretty empty), across the valley and back.  It was so beautiful out and fairly quiet, typical for a holiday morning.  

Ventura Blvd. Thanksgiving morning...empty!

We do get a taste of the Fall/Winter season here, but just a taste...

the Orange Line bike path just lovely with the wash of color on it...


Then, on Friday, I decided to just hike as I knew I had a Simi Valley ride with Bob and Tim on Saturday.  I went trekking back up Fryman Canyon again, only in reverse, so it was pretty tough.  Just as the day before, it was stunning out.

yes, we still have these in November...

the view out over the valley toward Burbank...


Simi...sigh.  I hadn't been over Santa Susana in awhile.  I love that hill, it used to be a piece of cake for me, but not anymore. I won't even sugarcoat it, it's my weight.  I keep saying "I've got to lose weight," but then I fight myself.  You see, I'm the jovial type.  I love nothing more than some vino and good food with friends.  Scratch that!  I love nothing more than riding my bike on epic rides with friends.  Oh, look, a conundrum - fat or fit; sit or ride - I can't do both.  Really, I can't do both. I'm the kind of build that it's feast or famine but my metabolism (what's left of it) doesn't quite work the way it should. I'm not whining, just stating the facts.  I keep trying, but as of today, I'm like a "rolling tomato" on a bike - a very suitable metaphor.  

Anyway, I did make it over Santa Susana, both ways.  Going out to Simi was easier (fresh legs and Tim and Bob stopped to fix a flat).  I even pushed a bit (for me).  I then waited for the boys at the top, a total change of circumstance! I was smug too...but that did not last.  After chasing their wheels down Los Angeles Ave and into Simi, my legs began to wane.  The men had decided before the ride to take me up First Street (which becomes Long Canyon Road).  I loved the new route, it's pretty and a nice gradual climb.  Sad thing was, I just couldn't move the pedals past slow-mo.  Every rider passed me...every rider, no matter age, size or ability (a lady on clip-strap pedals blew by me like I was standing still). This just frustrated me and took away from the enjoyment of it all.  I also worried about slowing the men down.

first time ever that I beat these guys up Santa Susana Pass; if I'd known it would only take a flat tire, I'd have carried nails with me on previous rides (snicker)...

And down to Simi Valley we go...

He's too fast for me...

I can barely catch that wheel, let alone stay on it...


After Long Canyon, we rode back on Madera Road.  It was here that I got pissy.  The men need to ride without me.  The disparity between their level and mine is shocking and I can no longer deny it. I told them as much, even though Bob kept disagreeing.  He's a sweetie (and still MFRPOAT) but I think he was being dishonest in an effort not to hurt my feelings.  I'm a grown-up (most of the time) and I know I need to pedal solo until I can keep up.

"Honest, Bob, I need to go out on my own and push myself until I can keep up with you and Tim," I told him at the golf course (our one and only break during the ride).

"But will you actually challenge, push yourself if you don't ride with us...stronger riders?"

He's lucky he still has his teeth, but I get the point. And, yes, I'll challenge myself (only not this upcoming weekend due to rain; my riding will be literally washed out!)

And don't get me started on this one...

I think he's cheering me on here...

Bob would really like for me to just focus on pedaling forward...

First Street, a gradual climb...

getting dropped by the boys (and then getting dropped by every single other rider out that day...sigh)...

Oh, but the climb was worth it for the descent on Long Canyon Road...

Heading to the golf course, just about out of gas...

Santa Susana Pass was cruel to me last Saturday, but I'll get even with her, 
mark my words...


As for the rest of the ride, Santa Susana Pass on the way back was torture.  Legs were as MIA as my motivation.  I crawled up it.  I insisted (yelled and shrieked) that the men go on without me and I'd meet them back at Bob's house.  For once, they obliged.  This gave me a chance to ride and ponder, lost in my own thoughts.  I came up with nothing new or inspiring, but the anxiety of holding up other riders did fade.  Once back at the tip of Bob's driveway, I learned we rode 45 miles with a little over 2,500 feet of climbing.  I'm not concerned about bragging rights these days, so I'll take it.  

Oh, and in case I sound like I don't appreciate the strong men (friends) I rode with, not true.  I love these guys.  They could have left my sorry ass a long time before I screeched at them like a rabid baboon, and I don't take that lightly. I just know the work I have cut out for me if I really want them to both ride with me and to enjoy themselves at the same time!

So, did I rest on Sunday?  No. I rode with Herb up above Reseda, on dirt.  I'm a glutton for punishment, I suppose.  Surprisingly, my legs were stronger than the day before.  So, riding out and down Mandeville Canyon wasn't as difficult as I worried it would be.  In fact, I had a great ride. 

Herb and me taking off on very compacted dirt; someone must have leveled it up there...

the geek in me never gets tired of this one photo op spot...

the Nike Missile site, or as I like to think of it, our potty stop...

have to have at least one of these...

 every time I see these up there, I wonder it they are edible (?)...

Herb is definitely digging his 29'er...


I also got to watch Herb, in full boy-joy mode, take on some single tracks. Herb has really improved on a bike. I can't say I'm not jealous.  However, you won't catch me on any of those single tracks.  I'm too chicken-shit, but I was highly entertained watching Herb climb up and then bomb down them.  

see that speck at the top of that single track hill? - that would be Herb...

what goes up...

must come...

down...


It was simply gorgeous up in the mountains, an exceptional day.  I am so lucky to live where I do.  I miss my family for sure, but I do not miss the soggy, freezing, drab Novembers in Tennessee. So for all the high rent, traffic and city drama I deal with, I'm still grateful to be able to ride, hike and play in such a strange but beautiful wilderness just above the city's din.    

I offered to give that couple my bike so that I could ride their dog back to the car; 
they declined my offer...

Herb brought turkey treats, the compassionate kind made out of malt balls, Oreo Cookies, Reeses PB cups and M&Ms... 



and another furry face, who wanted a treat but did not get one...
  

So, that was my Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  I was (and still am) very grateful for every minute of it - the time with friends, phone calls with family, having the health and ability to ride and the glorious weather to ride in! Can't say the same for this coming weekend (it's been a full week of rain out here in "sunny" southern California). We need the moisture, so I won't complain. I just hope December doesn't turn into another freak month like back in 2010 when it rained for three straight weeks!

Oh, last but not least - I (almost) forgot to mention my gratitude for the tiniest, most scaly, most zen individual in my life...

...here she is getting ready for a Thanksgiving photo shoot; 
I wanted to dress her up as a turkey, but at the last minute, she refused -
she didn't want anyone to get any smart ideas...



1 comment:

Michael said...

I noticed four question marks - three you answered yourself. The answer to the fourth would be no, unless you are a bird. Happy riding.

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