Sunday, July 19, 2015

LEJ's Bavarian-Style Pretzel Rolls

LEJ's Bazarian-Style Pretzel Rolls

I like LEJ’s pretzels a lot and I generally buy one every Saturday Morning at Haile's Farmers' Market. Now, there’s one more thing to like . . . a lot. Their new addition is Pretzel Rolls—both round and long—that are not simply the device you use to get the sandwich filling to your mouth. LEJ’s pretzels are long on flavor and add their own flavor to something like one of Nana Pat’s mustards. The rolls are no different; ham and cheese, Lebanon bologna, and pastrami each worked well.

One roll remaining frm the bag of four. I could make burger, but that was too obvious. Instead, I opted for a tuna melt, a messy proposition with most rolls. It turned out to be a damn good sandwich. The rolls are probably not a part of an everyday sandwich. Grilling burgers and sausage? Yep. Ham and cheese and serious mustard? Yep. Tuna melt? Looked and tasted good.

LEJ Bavarian-Style Pretzel Roll
LEJ Bavarian-Style Pretzel Roll

Halved and Hollowed
Sliced open and hollowed slightly

Preparing to wrap with parchment paper
Wrapping in parchment paper proved to be best way to warm rolls.

Wrap loosely,like a tent
Wrap roll loosely, but completely.

Warm in oven
Warm in oven set at 170 degrees or so for about 10 minutes. Rub, paint, dab or spread butter on warm surface then sprinkle with coarse salt (provided).

Add filling
Add tuna and cheese then broil until cheese melts to preferred consistency.

Preferred consistency
Preferred consistency.



Sunday, July 12, 2015

Đại úy Chuck and the NCOIC; What Worked?

It makes for a better trip if more things work than don’t. Because someone considering setting off on an unsupported bicycle tour might have happened upon the story of Đại úy Chuck and the NCOIC I figured it’d be a good idea to point out some our “goods and not so goods.”

Pretty much everything deserves a passing grade because any failings or shortcomings were resolved or overcome. Obviously, anyone thinking about bike touring is gonna need a bike, but discussion about what’s-the-best-bike can be found elsewhere because the Co-Motion Periscope Torpedo Tandem is not a typical touring choice.

Because some of the equipment was well-used touring gear, camping lack any drama. Big Agnes performed flawlessly as a tent. The Lynx Pass 3 tent, a three-person tent, was excellent as a two-person tent for two guys over six feet. Its single vestibule was inconvenient, but large enough to keep all four panniers under-cover at night. Đại úy carried a Big Agnes sleeping bag with integrated pocket for an inflatable pad and pillow, while I used a Kelty and a minimalist foam pad; neither of us had much trouble sleeping.

Day first and day last were blessed with heavy rain (and wind and lightning). Stopping to put on rain covers makes no sense when you’ve experienced the dry-bag nature of Ortlieb Rollers. Yes, they lack exterior pockets and are essentially rubberized duffels, but better to root among dry things than sort our wet stuff.

Among the most useful pieces of camping equipment was the JetBoil Java Kit. It is impossible to deny the value and efficiency of the JetBoil at behaving like a French Press and brewing good coffee quickly. Using high quality coffee contributed to the JetBoil’s success because Flagship Coffee Roasters' Cuppa Joe responded well to rustic locations, making mornings more pleasant.

One of the things we did not use but might have needed was a water filter the Đại úy has acquired for his intended walk of the Appalachian Trail. We were never unable to get water, but availability was limited on The GAP and the readily available water on C&O was purified with Iodine. This contrasts with the numerous resources when off of trails.  Similarly, having a good supply of on-the-trail edibles is important; Kind, Lara, Luna, Clif, et cetera. As with water, places to get food when touring on roads and highways are common . . . and you’ll eat anything!

Next time I’ll tell you about the bike and its accessories, then, eventually, about maps and directions and anything else that seems relevant.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Đại úy Chuck and the NCOIC - Intermission

Any trip is a collection of events, like most of life, I guess. The sum of the events is the story that you compile and modify over time sharing with anyone showing even modest interest.  One of the funniest stories of our trip was far from funny when it happened, but adding my part of the story to Đại úy’s changed the event from being as scary as possible to something bordering on slapstick. For me, The GAP did not begin until there was hard packed dirt or gravel under the tires. For Đại úy, it began soon after escaping the two mile section of W. Carson St where it parallels the Ohio water front before passing under the West End Bridge.

We’d received a police escort to the beginning of Montour Trail where it leaves Pittsburgh International Airport and most of the next hour or so was spent on a bike friendly trail of hard packed gravel. It had been a pleasant beginning. Wooded sections, babbling creeks and the scent of flowers had to, occasionally, compete with the din of heavy, high speed traffic, but after that first fourteen miles we rode twelve in city traffic of varying densities, sans trees and brooks and sweet aromas. While I indulged in the challenge of navigating through urban traffic (PA-51) and dodging potholes, Ða?i u?y was battered by the compressive force of the wind blast from each passing truck and clinging gamely when I zigged and stopped quickly.

As trying as the first too-many miles of PA-51 was, the final two miles were even worse. Traffic on the usually heavily traveled surface street was reduced to a single lane with no room for anyone to squeeze past a heavily-loaded, slow-moving tandem bicycle. At intersecting streets breaks in the endless line of concrete barriers allowed us to get out of the way and allow backed up traffic to pass. Two miles never passed more slowly!

Perhaps, after years of finding convenient routes through behind building and through parking lots, I should have anticipated that a trail through a true urban setting would not resemble the bike paths to which I’m accustomed. Eventually, we reached an industrialized area where a marked bike lane or path made navigation simple; time to make some time!

Đại úy observed, some days later, that it helped to have an uncomfortable, demanding day as Day Number One. Any idea that the ride was going to be easy was washed away, literally, when a severe storm joined our adventure. When there’s lightning in the area do not seek shelter under trees. Well, there were few trees and even less potential shelter, so we rode on with lightning striking close enough to make flash and sound pretty much simultaneous. Several times Đại úy asked how close a strike was. “Not close at all,” I’d lie. For Đại úy, the story turns cute, or funny, or even damn funny when he says, “I knew he was lying ‘cause I could feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck!”

I’d weathered the same weather in August of 2012 in North Carolina on NC-101 crossing the Intracoastal waterway and thought I’d drown if I inhaled too much. Choices? POR; press on regardless. Or greater concern to me were crossing and recrossing of the railway that required climbing steep, slippery inclines on one side then descending on the other. Oh, yeah, and negotiating too-tight turns! Slippery. Raining! Loaded!

Wonder how we looked? It’s a heavily used Trail, so bike traffic is common. Tandems? Tandems with trailers? As we rode past an eatery a young boy gasped, “Whoa!” as we rode by and I imagine that reaction was pretty common. So, seeing us teetering and easing our way around and up and down might have been amusing. From where I sit now it is very amusing!

By the time we’d covered half of our first day’s expected mileage we’d overcome or survived a buncha stuff. It wasn’t definitive, but there was a strong suggestion that we were up for the task.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Đại úy Chuck and the NCOIC Part 13

June 18 and 19 – Days 14 and 15

York to Harrisburg; 6/18

The all night rain finally ceased as Đại úy was firing-up the JetBoil to make the last campground Cuppa Joe. An energy bar would suffice for the ride into York where food could be found.

The Last Camping Morning!

As the end of a tour approaches feelings about ride can clash; wanna be done and don’t want it to end. The final 100 miles would be the first serious road riding since Pittsburgh and transition would be swift with the small city of York only a few miles away where the Rail to Trail portion of Pennsylvania Bicycle Route J-1 joined J-2 and became the J Route. Construction, too-sharp turns and learning that riding on sidewalk would earn a citation from an aggressive constabulary were the beginning of an uneasy introduction to the city. Even the McDonald’s furthered the sense of unease with its abundance of signs stating the lingering over a meal for more than 30 minutes would be considered to be loitering.

Returning to the J Route was hindered by a large, international style sign announcing “no bikes allowed” on the street providing direct access. One-way, two lane streets, traffic lights and rush hour complicated the ride, but York was eventually escaped. Joy was short-lived as the hills of PA became the sole topic of conversation for most of the next 40 miles.

The J Route follows low volume roads that are not loaded-tandem-friendly. What’s that mean? Hills! Hills that began leaving York and continued unrelenting for most of the day’s ride, is what. Yes, there were hills in the early days of the journey, the Allegheny Mountains, but the steady 1.5% grade of a Rail-to-Trail is not a big deal. The final hill before reaching New Cumberland, PAS, was 8% and three-quarters of a mile! Its only redeeming quality was that it was downhill. But you have to go up before you can go down and there was plenty of walking to get up too-steep hills.

Rolling Hills, my ass!
Note the name of the sub-division; Rolling Hills. Had just walked and pushed about 1/4 mile to get there.

Remember Three Mile Island?
Remember Three Mile Island?

Had the Dynamic Duo been traveling by car the J Route would have been picturesque as it followed the wide Susquehanna. On a loaded tandem it was an ongoing task with little visual relief. The folks at Red Land did buy the intrepid riders a drink.

Thanks Red Land!

The plan had been to cover about 50 miles and spend the night in the Doyle Hotel, a well-known stop on the App Trail. After crossing the river to Harrisburg food requirements beckoned; Pita Pit, Yay! It was clear by then that the hills had won and HBG was the day’s end, even before horns and revved engines were used by passing motorist to express their lack of appreciation for the bike. An America’s Best Value Inn on the north end of HBG marked the end-of-day; basic, clean, inadequate WiFi and Taco Bell food across the parking lot.

Harrisburg to central PA; 6/19

The final day would cover about 50 miles by following US Routes 22/220 and 11/15 with the first ten involving a series of  . . . yes . . . hills. After re-crossing the Susquehanna at Fisher’s Ferry the J Route used the ten foot wide shoulder of a heavily traveled multi-lane highway. It wasn’t Pittsburgh traffic, slow, pondering and angry. Instead it was loud, close and loud and also loud. Again, by this time, Kodak Moments were mostly history not reality.

The Susquehanna River at Liverpool

An odd moment occurred when the Duo stopped to help two motorists with a flat tire, not something you see every day. By 1400, the Subway in Selinsgrove was reached, the final on-the-road food was consumed and a phone call made to discuss venturing into the countryside to reach the final destination.

Not meaning to belabor the point, but . . . hills. And a thunderstorm. Fifty-five and a half miles got Đại úy Chuck and the NCOIC to the end of their ride, but not their adventure.

Did Đại úy get to visit The Doyle Hotel? Yep. On the way back south, in the rain. Got to meet Vickey, who greeted him at the door, Pat and a bunch of through hikers. Don't bet that he won't be staying there one day soon.

The Doyle Hotel

Stay tuned for gernal comments about the ride; what worked and what did not, observations and suggestions.