Thursday, December 6, 2012

What do you do?

“So how’re you doing now that you are retired?”
“Uh . . . I’m not retired. I don’t have a job.”

Innocent question with a curious reaction. Instead of being a respectable older man I became someone on the dole. Funny how point of view changes depending upon point of view.

What do you do when you have more free time than you have had for forty or fifty years? Figuring that out is critical to avoiding the depths of depression that can accompany after losing one of life’s anchors. Well, I ride a lot and explore the north central Florida countryside. Aside from riding, I look for work. But riding and work looking takes up only a small portion of the hours I used to give over to helping employers make money. You have to find other things to fill the void. One thing you can do, well, that I do, is to bake things. Here are a couple of recipes relevant to the season.

The first recipe is one I have carried around for five or six years. I wanted something that I could make into a mildly festive shape like Gingerbread Men, but I had never had a homemade gingerbread cookie I liked. Instead, I went with Molasses Cookies which can be cut out in any shape you want. After making many batches using a gingerbread man shape I concluded that the bother and time involved did not improve the flavor, so why bother. Now, I roll the dough into numerous same-size balls, press them between my palms until they are about a 1/4 inch thick and place ‘em on a cookie sheet. The result is a soft, substantial cookie that matches any I ever had from a farmers’ market when I was growing up.

Molasses Cookies
1 cup butter softened                                    1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup molasses                                                             (I use unbleached)
1/2 cup sour cream                                       1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup brown sugar                                        1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar                              1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (165 degrees Celsius)
  2. Prepare cookie sheets. I don’t grease mine and have no problem removing the cookies.
  3. In a large bowl stir butter, molasses, sour cream, brown sugar and vinegar until smooth and well blended. Works best to combine butter and sugar until well blended then add other ingredients one at a time.
  4. Sift flour and baking soda then add salt, ginger and cinnamon. Combine well.
  5. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until fully blended. Dough will be quite stiff when complete.
  6. On lightly floured board roll dough to approximately 1/4 inch thickness and cut in desired shapes with cookie cutter. Place on cookies sheets spaced about 1 to 1 1/2 inches apart.

  1. Roll pieces of dough into equal sized balls approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Press balls between palms until approximately 1/4 inch in thickness. Place on cookie sheets spaced about 1 inch apart.
  2. Bake in preheated over for 8 to 10 minutes. I commonly rotate the pan about half way through and bake them about 11 to 12 minutes.
  3. Allow cookies to cool briefly on cookies sheet then remove to wire rack to finish cooling. Makes lots.

The other thing that is seasonal is Fruit Cake. “I don’t care for Fruit Cake,” people always say. Fact is, most people know it as a dark, heavy thing sent to them by some distant relative in  lieu of an actual gift. Johnny Carson put forth the idea that there was only one fruitcake and it was sent by one distant relative in perpetuity. Following is a recipe for a White Fruit Cake that lacks the ingredient which I think makes most of them unappealing; citron. It is labor intensive to get started making, but the outcome will please most people . . . really!

White Fruit Cake
1 cup butter or margarine                                 1 cup sugar
            (I use a stick of each)                           5 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour                      1/2 pound candied pineapple and cherries
1 cup (more or less) chopped pecans                          (Original recipe called for 1 pound
1/2 teaspoon baking powder                                     of each, but I prefer a higher cake to
1 tablespoon vanilla                                                   fruit ratio.)
            (real vanilla extract, please!)                   1 tablespoon lemon extract
Parchment paper or paper grocery bags                       (Added this once and once only as the result did not please me.)

  2. Cut paper to fit two 9” x 5” x 3 “ loaf pans. I have four half size pans that I use Good size, but more labor.
  3. Grease paper with butter or margarine.
  4. Cream butter well then add sugar (amount can be reduced slightly because of sweetness of candied fruit) and beat until light and fluffy. This is a necessary step and works best of the butter/margarine is at room temperature.
  5. Beat eggs then blend into butter and sugar mixture.
  6. Mix fruit and nuts in a separate bowl with a small amount of flour, probably less than 1/4 cup, until well coated. This helps to keep the fruit and nuts from settling to the bottom.
  7. Sift the rest of the flour and baking soda together.
  8. Fold flour into butter and egg mixture. Add vanilla. Mix well.
  9. Fold in fruit and nut mixture. The only lumps in resulting mixture should be the fruit.
  10. Spoon equal amounts of mixture into prepared pans.
  11. Place pans in cold oven and bake at 250 degrees (120 degrees Celsius) for approximately 2 ½ hours. Longer baking will not do much ore than darken the bottom of the loaves.
  12. Cool in pans on wire rack then wrap (leaving paper on) in foil. Will handle 4 to 8 weeks storage f kept relatively cool and dry.
  13. If you wish to “adjust” the flavor carefully pierce the top of the loaf in numerous places using a thin skewer or very sharp knife then carefully pour 2 to 4 ounces of spiced rum over the top. Paper and foil should keep  it fro leaking. Rewrap with foil and store, eat or give away.
  14. You can also make this in a single springform tube pan. Baking time would be increased by 30 minutes or so.

So . . . that’s what I do to fill up time while looking for work

Monday, November 19, 2012

This morning I was thinking

Some days are more difficult. There doesn’t seem to be a specific cause. They just happen. I figure it’s part of my mind’s effort to fill in the void left by not having a job. Working becomes a habit after fifty years of doing something gainful. At least the process, the ritual becomes a habit, since the actual work changes. Getting ready for work is one of those defining activities. When it goes away the void needs a replacement or alternative.

I did not anticipate being jobless when I chose to be absent from work for two months. My return was expected, the continuing need for me expressed emphatically. Circumstances and needs change and it simply reaffirms what Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say to Jane Curtain on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Updates, "Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it's always something--if it ain't one thing, it's another."

There are things with which I can fill the hours formerly devoted to paid employment —laundry, baking cookies, vacuuming, dusting, making the bed, and other life stuff — but that only eliminates them from the usual weekend or evening list of “to dos.” So, what do I do?

A lot of time is spent wrestling with depression created by the thought that I’ve passed the point where I am able to contribute anything to anyone. It grows to include feelings that there is no hope . . . ever. Pragmatically, both of these ideas have more than a grain of truth. Age becomes a handicap whether we legislate against it or not.

It’s ironic that at a tine when you need it less you want it more, food that is. With a limited income I choose more carefully what I can and will purchase, then I lament that I can’t have things around just to satisfy my sweet-, sour-, salty-, or bitter-tooth. Well, I guess I could, but then I’d not be able to afford the things that actually keep me alive. I reflect on one of the relevant and sage lines from Firesign Theater:
“How does an old man like you stay alive?”
“I don't eat anything. But, it doesn't affect my appetite!”
Ultimately, my present and future are fully my responsibility. We are after all, the sum of the decisions we make. I could lament my current circumstances, but doing this would only diminish the immense value of my work hiatus. The truth of the assertions that we get what we give, that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do and that negative begets negative were proven to me everyday of that adventure.

As convenient and inviting as it is to take the mock-Latin aphorism “Illegitimi non carborundum” as the way to confront life’s injustice and unfairness, I hold true to the belief that if it’s going to be a good day it’s up to me to make it so.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life at 12 mph

Life sometimes imitates life.

There are people who approve of my obsession for bicycling; “Good for your health.” You know, someone my age and all. It is good for my health and even people who are not my age. Their approval of bicycling follows a different route when it comes to bike paths.

Locally, the conflict appears regarding two separate paths. City planners have put forth the idea of maintaining a current in-town street as configured or eliminating the curbside lane and making it a bicycle lane. Opposition to creating a dedicated bike lane has taken many forms and arguments. One assertion is that drivers pay large sums of money to build and maintain roads and should therefore be given the most suitable design. Another argument says that people are too attached to their cars and having more bike paths isn’t going to get people on bikes.

The tax on gasoline in Florida ranges from $0.274 to $0.0355 per gallon. My contribution, there fore is zero. I paid nothing for the same trip. Of course, I do manage to save a gallon of gasoline at the current cost of $3 something each.

My oft faulty logic tells me that I have a net positive in the equation. Perhaps non-recreational riders could offer the fuel we save to specific drivers. <shrug> Might be a few details needing to be worked out first.

Just a silly rambling . . .

The other place where a conflict has arisen is in the planning and construction of a bike path using the existing right of way through a tony neighborhood. Resistance has come from the residents who seem to believe that a bike path will open their community to an influx of bands of bad people on Huffy and Roadmaster, fully suspended, mountain bikes and dedicated to defacing and vandalizing their tranquil Village.

It is their position that a bike path already exists and an additional or replacement path is unneeded or redundant. There is an inconsistency in this assertion. The existing bike path is clearly designated as being for the use of the community’s residents and their guests.  

I’m just sayin’ . . .

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What worked, part 2

Before adding too the list of accessories that worked I should say something about my bike. When I allowed the idea of touring to become closer to reality the Novara Safari was one which fit my  sub-$1000 price limit. Research exposed the limitations and weaknesses as well as the much longer list of advantages. When REI made the all steel 2011 version available to members at a 20% discount and free shipping it was impossible for me to resist taking the giant step.

A saddle, raised handlebars, fenders and different tires accounted for the most significant additions and modifications. Its frame size (XL), long wheel base and 29er wheels make it a very large vehicle that suits me well. Concerns I had about sufficient low gearing were unfounded. Fully loaded it was very obedient and quite forgiving. Its natural flex when loaded smooth any but the worst road surfaces. Fitted with Shimano Deore throughout (except for the SRAM Attack twist shifters) it should be a durable bike.

Two significant parts on the Safari did fail. After having two broken spokes on the OEM Novara Long Haul Touring rear wheel in a matter of a month or so it was evident that a replacement was necessary. The replacement was built by my Friendly Neighborhood Bike Shop (Bikes and More) using the Deore hub and a Salsa cyclocross rim. There’s more to say about that wheel later. Five days into my tour one of the bolts holding the rear rack in place sheered off. I was able to use two zip-ties to take the bolt’s place and had no further problems with it. Upon my return Brian and Paul at Bikes and More removed the offending bolt and replace both with stronger stainless steel.

Obviously, the bike you ride should feel right and work well and, except for the above issues there have been no significant problems. Of course, part of this arises from having competent people add things like the fenders, raise the handlebars, install the front rack and do general maintenance. As part of their competent work is the professional manner in which they attend to minor issues or adjustments.

The original equipment Continental TownRIDE tires (700c x 42) were satisfactory, but many tourists touted Schwalbe Marathon Plus as the tire of choice (700c x 38). I departed on my ride with more than 2000 miles on the Marathons and had no fear that they would fail before completing my ride. A misplaced, knife-edged shard of shell was about the only thing that was going to compromise these sturdy tires. My sense of security has not been damaged by this unlikely failure.

My rear wheel replacement was a Salsa Delgado Cross. It was this rim that failed and ended my tour. As disappointing as this was I have to credit both wheel builder and rim manufacturer. “Never saw a rim fail like that,” was the paraphrased but identical observation of both. Salsa replaced the rim and Bikes and More built a new wheel.

I have only one negative thing to say about the Topeak Morph G pump. It’s damn hard for old eyes to see the little pressure gauge numbers. OK . . . put the glasses on! Other than that minor thing, it was a perfect companion. Both my Messenger Mirror and Click-Stand did their jobs perfectly. They have been discussed previously. A last minute, impulse purchase of a Walmart branded Genesis helmet also proved its value. With more vents the Bell Genesis I had been wearing it was cooler and was as comfortable as any helmet has been.

Water bottles have always been something I have but seldom think about beyond their obvious use, until I purchased a Camelbak Insulated bottle. How much insulating can be done with a plastic bottle? Much more than I anticipated. Several hours under an August sun turned cold water to cool. Remarkable!

I am fully confident that without a broken rim I would have been successful In making my round trip. Being on the road that long was uplifting, but did take me out of touch of those who mattered and with whom I would have preferred having more than text message contact. As with most of life, adjustments will have to be made if I tour in the future.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What worked, part 1

I was asked, “Are you really planning another trip?” and the answer is a definitive, “Yes!” How can you put aside something that offers so much? But what about the problems like broken equipment, rain and money? Few things cannot be resolved if you’re willing to make adjustments and, especially, if you learn from your mistakes. So, what did I learn?

One of the best decisions I made was to purchase “Cargo Short - Padded for Bicycling” from Aero Tech Designs ( By incorporating typical padded, skin-tight cycling shorts as an inner liner to ordinary-looking outer shorts, you have both the supportive feeling and practical advantages. Being able to enter a convenience store without attractive unnecessary stares and carry essential items in useable pockets was a really good thing. I am aware that Aero Tech is not the only manufacturer of such cycling garments, but they are made in the USA, their customer service is very good and their price is extremely competitive. After wearing one set frequently for several months I purchased two additional shorts. I have no reason to believe they will not give me a long service life.

Of equal value to Aero Tech’s shorts is Chamois Glide (, which I originally purchased as Body Glide. No matter what name, the stuff works, eliminating any concern about chaffing. It even worked on hot spots on my feet. You really don’t want to leave home without it.

Ortlieb ( As far as I am concerned the name says it all. Back Roller Plus, Front Roller Plus, Ultimate 5 Plus and Dry Bag all performed as advertised and as expected. Nothing got wet despite several encounters with heavy weather. The panniers and handlebar bag installed and removed efficiently and with their locking capability provided a measure of security (false or real) that I appreciated. Some tourists complain about the lack of pockets in Ortlieb’s bags, but I found this to be a non-issue. Not having to manage pannier covers before, during or in anticipation of rain was its own reward.

Adventure Cycling’s ( route maps are durable and accurate. They are not always the easiest to decipher in metropolitan areas and where signage is lacking, inadequate or different, but 95% of the time you where you are and where you need to go. Sometimes it is useful to have a broader view of an area for basic orientation, but most modern cell phones can deliver those as necessary.

Big Agnes ( also performed as advertised. Their Lynx Pass 3, three-person backbacking tent was large enough to easily accommodate me and all my bags. During the several heavy rains, I remained dry. Any issues with tenting were related to the quality of the campgrounds and my own limitations. Lynx Pass 3 went up quickly and stowed easily.

No, this is not the end of this list nor of the one that will identify what did not work or serve me well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Some pictures I like

I took far fewer pictures than I expected. Rain compromised many opportunities. Other times I didn't want to bother, but have no regrets for having missed anything.

Here are a few, including repeats.

Love Sea Oats. Along the Amelia River, Fort Clinch State Park, Florida

First Coast Railroad Swing Bridge which connects Amelia Island with mainland Nassau County.

Before Interstate Rest Areas there were Roadside Rest Areas.  

Ten point five miles!
One of the things you notice at 12.5 mph.
Yep, Worms and Coffee. I settled for Gatorade and water.
Fascinated me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

There you go thinking again.

The most difficult part of this adventure has turned out to be the ending. I do not want it to end. I do not want to return to what I have accepted as the real world.

I was reminded innumerable times as I traveled, that the natural state is not one of anger and confrontation, frustration and disappointment and the idea that warmth and compassion hinder production. Repeatedly, as I crossed coastal South Carolina, I put my faith in man’s common sense of goodness as log trucks and other vehicle shared my route. Perhaps it was good timing that kept me from Harm’s way. Next trip, maybe I get clipped by a right-side mirror or the rear fender of a dually. Or not.

Too often I have allowed the personal dream of everyday-life to consume me. For two weeks any such thoughts simply did not exist. “No phone no pool no pets ain't got no cigarettes” come to life as a confirmation that our burdens are mostly home-made. If we allow them, or give them too much value, they color all our existence. There are people around all the time who have REAL problems (and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats care enough for that to matter). Complaining about one’s own “plight” or devaluing the plight of others is self-indulgent and sucks. I offer this quote.

"It's fucking great to be alive, ladies and gentlemen,
and if you do not believe it is fucking great to be alive,
you better go now, because this show will bring you
down so much."
Frank Zappa, from "Just Another Band From L.A."

So, I think I have finally found my place and will be able to wrap up some of my observations and ideas about the actual trip then see about being a productive American once more. One or two entries should do it and I still need resolution to the plight of my bike. I’m already planning the next trip!

Friday, August 31, 2012

And 920 miles by Greyhound . . .

Before talking about my Greyhound adventure I need to 'splain what's happening.

My bike was supposed to be disassembled and shipped to Bikes and More. It arrived at my home. Argh! Now I was faced with having to get it to where it needed to be. Additionally, there were no wheels! <sigh> Island Bikes, to whom I initially expressed great frustration allowed as how it was their error, but that agreeing to disassemble and package the bike was the first error. Getting the bike to my FNBS will be accomplished soon. They received my wheels and agreed with all previous observations that the rear one was broken more severely than was typical. It no rests with Salsa, manufacturer of the rim, to decide how to handle the matter.

The Schwinn is serving well, though lack of fenders is close to being a severe problem. I'd forgotten how nasty road grit gets when it rains. I hope to find some closure for the transportation matters soon.

And the roof leaks. Have to deal with the roofers, too . . . soon, I hope. 
Was it a life changing event? No, but there have been many things to consider how they may or may not apply to everyday life. But first, a word from our sponsor . . . Greyhound

The last time I rode a Greyhound bus may have been nearly a half century ago in the 60s. There were few options for my return to FL and Greyhound seemed to be the best. In the years since my last ride many things have changed. Remarkably, much has not.

The nearest “terminal” was Washington, NC, known as Little Washington to the locals. A three hour drive (give or take). The nearer pick-up location was just that, a pick-up. Stand outside a store and wait, ticket in hand, for a bus to arrive. I opted for the stop at B & L Properties where tickets could be purchased. Seemed more like a terminal. It was, but barely.

B & L may have been the couple behind the counter when I arrived at 10am for my 1050 bus. A partially converted service station (with two bays) provided indoor seating. Assorted vehicles and other equipment in stages of repair filled the service bays. My bags were labeled and the second bag paid for ($10 please) after being told to clip one front roller to one back roller so I would not have to pay for three extra bags. Seemed like good advice. The bus arrived 55 minutes late. It had been three hours late the previous day. A connection was scheduled for Raleigh at 3 pm and we were to arrive there at 2 pm, so maybe the connection would be made.

I was surprised to find that there were both 100 volt sockets and that the bus provided a WiFi signal and took advantage to charge my cell phone. Because of the WiFi connection I was also able to maintain cellular coverage where it would not have existed otherwise.

The bus passed through the home of the East Carolina University Pirates and it was no surprise that it resembled Stateboro, GA, home ot the Georgia Southern Eagles and El Sombrero, home of my favorite Mexican food. We arrived in Raleigh minute before 3 pm, but it mattered not. A bus already at the terminal (a real terminal) was being searched for a possible bomb. This must have been a common occurrence as there was police presence but little overt evidence of concern. The new bus departed at 345pm, but not until the baggage handler took exception to my bags. “I know what you did,” he hissed. “But I’ll load ‘em.” And he did with an intention aggressive disregard.

Soon after leaving the Raleigh terminal the drive announced that the bus was a local, meaning we would visit, briefly, every moderate sized city in north and central NC. He also made several allusions to the presidential race, noting that whites were attempting to keep blacks from voting. Maybe I had been alone too long. His rambling monologue made little sense.

Charlotte, too, was a real terminal. Like Raleigh and it was run down but clean. Sandwiches priced no more than twice their reasonable value. Captive audience means captive money. A strip of sockets, identified as a charging station, soon looked like a Smart Phone grazing area. Few people showed any concern about their equipment’s safety. Obviously, this was not a new experience for the majority of bus travelers.

From Charlotte the ride to ATL was swift, arriving around 230am. I expected the old Greyhound station, but found that it now existed as part of the Garnett Street MARTA facility. My stay here would be about 4 hours. Knowing I was closer to being home did not make the wait any easier. Compared to the old Atlanta bus terminal . . . no comparison. Clean. Bright. Reasonably safe with one or more MARTA and ATL police officers in evidence. At intervals over the hours, travelers would queue at numbered doors. The overly large police officer would run a metal detection wand near their pockets. I could hear no difference in sound, but he often paused and asked for pockets to be emptied. Don’t want anyone commandeering a Greyhound with a fingernail file. Wait, maybe I need to be more serious! Hard to be. After 430 am he checked no one else. Had the perceived threat left for Alabama earlier on the morning?

The trip to G’ville was uneventful and done on schedule. The bus had sockets and WiFi, but I was too weary to do more than charge my phone. I could do the ATL-Gville trip again. Most of the rest? Not in this lifetime.

Here are some of the things I took away from the numerous hours in the custody of Greyhound:

  1. Passengers are too accustomed to being treated with little regard. Some of this is because of the quality of the passengers. Most is not. Who cares about bus travelers. Real people use airplanes. Common people learn to accept mediocre treatment because there is no recourse? Like the baggage guy. I did what I was told to do and he assumed I was trying to get away with something. Should I respect that he was protecting his company’s assets? Only if he referred me to the baggage people for more money. Otherwise he was just being difficult.
  2. Lacking any actual luggage one can still travel by bus. A tall kitchen trash can and a mostly intact cardboard box can be nearly closed with sufficient tape to hold just about anything.
  3.  Having too many pieces of “luggage” is commonplace. See the comment above.
  4.  There is almost enough room on the aisle seat on modern buses to make it nearly possible to sleep for as much as an hour, though not necessarily in concurrent minutes.
  5.  If it is present Greyhound WiFi works.

Just more of the adventure.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What day is it anyhow?

Quitting wasn’t all that hard. There were too many obstacles I did not want to confront. My planning was not adequate. I may have carried too much and distributed improperly. Once I admitted that it was easier to see that I was likely to encounter more of the same and breaking down where there was not a bike shop wasn’t something I wanted to face yet. The only thing I can be sure of in the future is I am more than physically capable of the ride. I wasn't the weak link.

Riding a loaded touring bike isn’t just about how it rides and whether you can make it up hills. Eating each evening did not require having a stove and fuel and dried food. Using a tent was easy enough, but there were many things I did not consider, like the nastiness of some commercial sites. Had I  not been the only tenter at one location I might have had even greater difficulties when I determined that the “restroom” door could not be closed if I used it. Standing or sitting! Certainly not a game breaker under the circumstances of that evening, but worth knowing and considering next time.

The next time (yes, there will be a next time) I will carry at least 950 miles of knowledge. Not a lifetime, but a good foundation. Local trips will add to the database. Knowing what should go where to avoid overloading is something that I guess comes with experience, too.

The next months will be filled with contemplation and new planning. That’s the only certainty.

OK, there is one more certainty. No more Greyhound rides. My bus ride day began at 6 am and ended at 430 pm the following day. Three buses and untotaled miles. That story deserves a whole page to itself. For now, thanks for caring and following and encouraging. Now it is time to decide how next to handle someone my age.