The Hoppy Okapi

Occasional posts about hiking and other stuff

King of the Mountain! February 26, 2009

amtoc_kom

Fact: I lovelovelove cycling races. I think it’s because riding a bike is so easy, but the best riders in the world take it to a level so far beyond what seems human. Every July, Chuck and I spend our evenings watching the day’s coverage of the Tour de France – the crashes, sprints, and best of all, the mountain stages – the top riders accelerate on the way up the mountains, while the sprinters and “normal” riders just try to hold on and complete the stage within the time limit.

In 2008, I discovered the Amgen Tour of California, then in its third year. The final stage was in Pasadena, with five circuits around the Rose Bowl; we made our pilgrimage to Pasadena and stood in the rain for three hours waiting for the riders to reach the end of the stage. Five times, we saw the riders fly by, a blur at about 35 miles an hour. There was a small breakaway with a shrinking lead, so we saw one blur of five or ten riders followed by a blur of 80 riders, five times around, until finally George Hincapie (former domestique extraordinaire for Lance Armstrong and one of my absolute favorite riders) won the stage, making good on the promise of the breakaway.

It was a lot of fun going to the race last year, and we absolutely would have gone to Pasadena to watch the race again.

But.

This year? They decided to bring the race to San Diego county for the first time. We learned that the final stage would be running from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido, about half an hour north and east of downtown. Nice.

And then we found out it would be a mountain stage. On the last day of the race, the riders would face the biggest challenge, climbing to 5123ft on Palomar Mountain, the highest peak ever in the four years of the Tour of California’s existence. A mountain stage, practically in my back yard? We had to go, no question about it.

And then we found out that Lance Armstrong was making a comeback, and would be riding for Astana (team of two-time defending ToC champion Levi Leipheimer) in the Tour of California.

Seriously? It doesn’t get much better than that.

So we went.

And the experience absolutely lived up to my dreams of Alpine Tour de France stages – early morning on the mountain, fans in crazy costumes, messages to the riders painted (well, chalked) on the road, the chance to be oh-so-close to the riders as they labor up the slopes.

I hope the Tour comes to Palomar Mountain again next year.

If they do, Chuck and I want to join the people biking up the mountain before the tour – how cool would that be?

Without further ado, our Amgen Tour of California King of the Mountain experience:

Sunrise...Driving to the Mountain

Sunrise...Driving to the Mountain

Morning on the Mountain - traces of last year's fires

Morning on the Mountain - traces of wildfires

View of the switchbacks from the top

View of the switchbacks from the top - did I mention the snow?

Morning: cloudy with a hint of rain

Morning: cloudy with a hint of rain

Chalk Art on the road to encourage the riders up the mountain

Chalk Art on the road to encourage the riders up the mountain

"Landis Lives" - support for local rider (and winner of the inaugural ToC) Floyd Landis

"Landis Lives" - support for local rider (and winner of the inaugural ToC) Floyd Landis

Some of the fans camped along the road for the ultimate summit seats

Quite a few fans camped along the road for the ultimate summit seats

Chuck and I at the King of the Mountain line

Chuck and I at the King of the Mountain line

Snowman in a yellow leader's jersey

Snowman in a yellow leader's jersey

Free cowbell for cheering the riders, courtesy od Harrah's Rincon casino

Free cowbell for cheering the riders, courtesy of Harrah's Rincon casino

guy in a cow hat wanders by...

guy in a cow hat wanders by...

The Elk Man poses for us - I think he went to every stage of the race!

The Elk Man poses for us - I think he went to every stage of the race!

We know the riders are close when the spare bikes drive through...

We know the riders are close when the spare bikes drive through...

At last! Our first glimpse of the leaders coming around the bend!

At last! Our first glimpse of the leaders coming around the bend!

We were so excited to see the riders – we had been hearing that they were only “minutes away” for about 45 minutes by then, and we knew there was a breakaway out in front. The big surprise was seeing Levi Leipheimer in the front pack – he hadn’t been in the breakaway according to the (few) updates we had, so we thought he must have made a big move to catch up to the lead group and defend his lead in the overall standings.

Andy Schleck, Jens Voight, and Levi Leipheimer lead the pack

Andy Schleck, Jens Voight, and Levi Leipheimer lead the pack

Also – Andy Schleck was one of my favorite riders from last year’s Tour de France, and who would have guessed that we’d see the rider from Luxembourg competing in San Diego? And Jens Voight! This field was stacked!

Jason McCartney in the King of the Mountain jersey tries to keep up with the leaders

Jason McCartney in the King of the Mountain jersey tries to keep up with the leaders

As the second group of riders came by about a minute later, I was excited to recognize Lance Armstrong riding second in the group. That’s the great part of the mountain stage – the riders are going slow enough that you actually have a chance to recognize individual riders as they go by. We had moved to the other side of the road for a closer look, so we were probably about five feet away from Lance as he rode past.

I got a picture of Lance Armstrong's butt! (Note to self - learn to use multi-exposure function on camera better!)

Lance Armstrong (#2) and Chechu Rubiera thunder along

Chris Baldwin of Rock Racing - they have the best team jerseys!

Chris Baldwin of Rock Racing checks in with his team car - they have the coolest team jerseys!

Christian Vandevelde of Garmin-Slipstream rides past

Christian Vandevelde of Garmin-Slipstream rides past

Seeing Christian Vandevelde (5th place overall in last year’s Tour de France) riding up the mountain was another of the exciting moments – he’s one of the people we were able to recognize by sight as they flew by.

Popo! Yaroslav Popovich, another of our favorite riders (are we allowed to have so many favorites?) makes his way up the mountain.

Popo! Yaroslav Popovich, another of our favorite riders (are we allowed to have so many favorites?) makes his way up the mountain.

Dominique Rollin (87) and Will Routley(145) - check out the Team jelly Belly jersey!

Dominique Rollin (87) and Will Routley(145) - check out the Team Jelly Belly jersey!

The other great thing about the mountain stages is that we get to see so many different groups of riders go by. Even with the mountain slowing the riders down, they go by pretty quickly! The next two pictures, of the last big group to pass us, were taken only 11 seconds apart:

Another big group of riders climbing the mountain - probably all the sprinters!

Another big group of riders climbing toward us - probably all the sprinters!

Matt Crane(146), Aaron Olson (134), Mark Cavendish (22), winner of two stages earlier in the week, in the green sprinters jersey

Matt Crane(146), Aaron Olson (134), and Mark Cavendish (22), winner of two stages earlier in the week, in the green sprinters jersey

The last guy up the mountain - Fred Rodriguez of Rock Racing. He ultimately abandoned before the finish of the race.

The last guy up the mountain - Fred Rodriguez of Rock Racing. He ultimately abandoned before the finish of the race.

We finally headed off the mountain as the sun set...

We finally headed off the mountain as the sun set...

On Monday night, we watched the stage on TV to find out how, exactly Levi caught up to the lead group and to watch the rest of the stage unfold. We also had an ulterior motive – to see if we made it onto TV! By the time the riders passed us, Versus was only showing the leaders riding up the mountain, so we only made it on once, but Chuck took freeze-frame pictures of the TV to remember the moment:

In the frame on Versus as the leaders go by: I'm in a green T-shirt and brown jacket, just to the right of Andy Schleck. Chuck is to my right.

In the frame on Versus as the leaders go by: I'm in a green T-shirt and brown jacket, just to the right of Andy Schleck. Chuck is to my right.

I hope we get to do it again next year!

 

Adventures in Sourdough V: More English Muffins February 21, 2009

Filed under: baking,bread,sourdough — Amanda @ 15:50
Tags: , , ,
English Muffin with Raspeberry Jam

English Muffin with Raspeberry Jam

Before Mom visited last month, she mentioned that she had never made yeast bread from scratch, and also that she thought the idea of a sourdough starter was kind of gross. ‘This cannot be!’ I said, and promised to force teach her to make bread when she visited in January. I had frozen a few of my sourdough English Muffins for her and dad to try, and they were a big hit, so we decided to make another batch to keep us in breakfasts for the rest of the weekend.

Mom kneads the dough

Mom kneads the dough

This time I changed things up by using a different recipe, from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary cookbook, and a different sourdough starter, the second that I activated from the set of Italian starters that Chuck gave me for my birthday. This sourdough starter is more slow-acting than the other, taking about three feedings and a day and a half out of the refrigerator before it becomes fully active. Since the other one is much faster, this one tends to make me nervous that it won’t properly activate, but it’s come through every time so far.

Still kneading - see Mom, this is fun!

Still kneading - see Mom, this is fun!

This recipe also used some baking powder for a little extra leavening power, and I was hoping that helped develop some better nooks and crannies than the first recipe.

Cutting out the muffins

Cutting out the muffins

Since this recipe used the baking powder, it didn’t require an additional rise time after cutting out the muffins, we got to cook them immediately. The instructions were to cook the muffins in a skillet on ten minutes per side, and I decided to use two skillets instead of just one to move the process along more quickly.

My double-burner skillet solution

My double-burner skillet solution

There were two things about these English Muffins that I didn’t like as much as the previous version: we floured the counter a little too much while rolling them out and didn’t let them sit to rise for very long afterward, so the cornmeal didn’t stick to the bottom very well, and I really liked the cornmeal crunch on the first version. The other thing I didn’t like was that the baking powder caused the muffins to dome a little bit during the first part of cooking, and so some of the muffins were a bit pointy-headed, where the previous batch had been more evenly shaped.

the finished muffins

the finished muffins

Other than those minor quibbles, these muffins also turned out really well. They were more sour than the previous batch, which is a characteristic of the slower sourdough starter, and the baking powder method did seem to improve the nooks-and-crannies factor. The other key to getting good nooks and crannies seems to be fork-splitting the muffins (poke a fork into the side of the muffin, then rotate slightly and poke again, continuing around the muffin until the top and bottom halves have separated).

toasted muffin, fork-split for good nooks and crannies

toasted muffin, fork-split for good nooks and crannies

 

A Very San Diego Sangria: Strawberry and Blood Orange Black Muscat Sangria February 15, 2009

Strawberry Blood Orange Sangria

Strawberry Blood Orange Sangria

Along with my Sangria book drink through, one of the goals from my 101 Things list is to create a signature sangria of my own. A few weeks ago, San Diego enjoyed a mid-winter heat wave, and I went to the Little Italy Mercato in search of the perfect sangria ingredients. I came away with some of my favorite winter fruit – blood oranges – as well as some big, juicy strawberries grown in Oceanside.  Feeling very fortunate to have locally grown blood oranges and strawberries in January, I combined them with one of my new favorite wines – the Black Muscat from Filsinger Winery in Temecula – and added some Drambuie to round out the flavor.

Sangria Ingredients

Sangria Ingredients

This was a fun sangria to make, since I got to slice the strawberries with the egg slicer (we bought a heavy-duty one after I destroyed our original egg slicer with strawberries and mushrooms).

Slicing a Strawberry

Slicing a Strawberry

I also had fun zesting the orange with our microplane grater, but then I realized it was utterly silly to have done so, since I would have put the whole orange slices in the sangria anyway, and zesting it just created little gritty bits that made the sangria look cloudier. If you make this sangria, don’t zest the oranges!

zest!

zest!

slices of blood oranges - oh so pretty!

slices of blood oranges - oh so pretty!

combining the fruits

combining the fruits

fruit, drambuie, and wine

fruit, drambuie, and wine

This was a sangria I would definitely make again! The strawberries and rose wine make it good for warm weather drinking, or they can help you feel summery even in the middle of winter! Black muscat wine might be a bit tricky to find if you don’t have a convenient local source, but it’s well worth the challenge.

Sangria

Sangria

 

 
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