Monday, July 04, 2005

Another Whirlwind Weekend

Friday:

Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's monthly Happy Hour at the Hbar. Good stuff. I didn't drink at all because I still felt sort of hung over. I gave David my old 18-tooth cog for the fixie he is building up. Some of the Ambassador Girls and I are planning to watch super-racing-Susan race sometime this summer. Fun Stuff ahead.

I also learned that Amy from the CTA, Amy the bass player in my roommates' band and Matt's girlfriend Amy are all the same person! I only knew her from the band, but she is multi-functional! Most importantly, I spoke with Steve, Paul's friend, who inquired about my 'date' with Paul. I filed this away excitedly, because I wasn't sure if Paul considered our time spent together on Thursday night a date or just hanging out. Learning that he told Steve that we were on a date was cool to hear.

I gave Chris the tour of the Hbar kitchen, and left to go home.

Mia and I had planned to go out to a neighborhood lounge when she finished work. We hadn't seen each other in a few days and had lots of boy babbling to catch up on. She was leaving on Saturday morning for a three week trip, followed by a house-sitting gig until the end of August, so this would be the last time we really hung out for a while. Out of the blue, she exclaimed, "Did I tell you that I was coming back in September?" Happy, Happy Day!

Mia was supposed to live with us in May until she found her own place. I didn't know her before then, but she is awesome and we have become fast friends. John has known her for over ten years and has expressed some jealousy over how well we get along together. Anyway, May became June and she looked at some places to live after her house-sitting gig ended. I hoped that she would decide to stay with us, because the house is really fun with her in it. Both John and I offered it to her, but she wanted to live alone. But now she has decided to stay and I am ridiculously excited about it.

Saturday:

Mia left for New York in a flurry of activity Saturday morning. I started making a cake for a vegan BBQ party. The grocery store didn't have all of the ingredients that I needed so I changed the flavors and modified the recipe in my head. The cake I planned on making rises with vinegar/baking soda action and needs to get into the oven really quickly. I had the pan papered and greased and deftly got it in the oven quickly. whew. Satisfied that it would rise well I licked the batter covered spoon and recoiled in horror: No Sugar.

Fuck. The recently purchased, but yet unopened sugar bag, explained the problem as it sat mocking me on the table. My first thought was to just scrap the batter and start from scratch, but realized that I didn't have enough almond oil for another cake. So instead, I yanked the batter from the oven, and scraped it back into the bowl and stirred in the sugar. Then I washed the pan and re-papered and greased it. I saw tons of little bubbles rise and pop in the batter--my leavening being wasted. Back into the oven it went.

My kitchen is a frantic mess from this mistake and I was embarassed. I used to be a pastry chef--and I don't add sugar to a cake. This is unacceptable. I made up a recipe that I expected/hoped would turn into a rich frosting and slapped it on the cake when it was done. The plastic wrap fell down onto the frosting and I expected would turn into a sticky mess. The vegans were looking forward to me baking them a treat for their birthday party--and I was bringing them a pan full of possible nastiness. Anyway, I strapped the pan onto my rack and biked to Chris's place, hoping for the best.

As we loaded grills and coolers onto trailers people looked forward to eating the chocolaty treat--even as I told them its history. The cake got a further baking in the sunny 15 miles to the forest preserve and the frosting was almost liquid. Once there I put it in the shade and helped set-up the party. Then I dorked around futilely trying to adjust my seat for a long time before cutting the cake. In the shade the frosting re-hardened and the plastic wrap pulled cleanly away from it--leaving a nice, smooth surface. I cut it and asked for guinea pigs. Several hands appeared and the verdict was: Amazing.

Throughout the day, many vegans approached me asking for the recipe. This was Chris and Casey's birthday party and I didn't know many of Casey's friends. They were anxious to meet the baker of this dessert and eagerly introduced themselves to me. Several thought I owned a vegan bakery or taught vegan cooking. Quite funny. Apparently I have created the best vegan brownie recipe ever. At least according to the owners of Soy Dairy ice 'cream' company, an actual vegan bakery owner and the other party-goers. It was really quite cute to hear these vegans admit that normally vegan baked desserts suck. So I was Hero to all Vegans on Saturday.

I almost want to write up this recipe step-by-step. [ pour batter into pan; bake for two minutes; remove from oven and scrape into pan; add sugar; let cool; frost; cover with plastic wrap and bike for 15 miles in the sun with cake; cool in shade; Enjoy! ] Too Funny.

The party was a blast, but on the ride home I got a flat. While pumping up the new tube, air started hissing from the pump, near the stem of the tube. The little screwy presta valve had broken off. The tire was hard enough to ride, but certainly not as much pressure as recommended. Not. Cool. Especially since Sunday was going to be a long ride 'date' with Paul.

Sunday:

After I spent over an hour trying to properly adjust my seat (no dice), Paul and I met at 10:00 in the morning for the ride he plotted. He called earlier than I expected and I didn't have time for breakfast. Oops. Paul guestimated that the ride would be around 70 miles, so we rode our Bianchi Bravas instead of our fixies. Instead of fixing my Bianchi's broken-stem inner tube problem, I just snagged the front wheel from my fixie and slapped it on.

We headed Southwest out of the city along the same route that we took on the way to Starved Rock. I noticed that he, like me now, often rode with his hands positioned in ways where he couldn't reach his brakes easily--I do this often now, but never did before the fixie. I think it is a dangerous habit that we developed after being spoiled by hands-free braking capabilities. We headed almost directly into the wind, so whenever he took the lead I snugged my bike up tight and shamelessly drafted off of him. For this leg of the trip we generally rode 15-16mph. Shortly before heading into the forest preserve we stopped at a gas station for juice, bathroom breaks and a map check. When I busted out the sunscreen he offered to help me apply it to my back so I don't add even more random sunscreen fingerprints to my collection.

Into the hilly forest preserve we went and rode around until we found a lake to sit alongside. Illinois is in the middle of a drought, and it appeared from the plant growth that the shoreline was approximately six feet in from where it normally was. There was nobody there but us even though it was a holiday weekend and gorgeous outside; 85-90 degrees and sunny. We sat in the shade and chatted for just under two hours before continuing on to the small town of Lemont.

Leaving the Forest Preserve we found an old hand-pump and filled our bottles with cold, rusty water, and ate a cookie. Along the way, there was an 'overlook' spot on the highway that was crammed with people fishing near their parked cars. I thought this was weird--why spend time on crowded concrete in the sun, when the grass and shadetree areas were vacant?

Anyway, we rode along some crappily-paved highway while cars whizzed by us. I took the lead for several miles before he jumped ahead--explaining that he had been surprised how easy it was to ride 17-18mph, until he realized that he was drafting me and that was why it was easy. I told him not to worry because I had no qualms drafting off of him. There was some pro golf tournament going on at one point and traffic picked up considerably.

In Lemont we had lunch at some crappy generic American restaurant. The decor looked like something my mom would do: a horrible juxtaposition of ornate, old furniture/pictures along with tacky, kitchy pieces (i.e. 'palm trees' with stems made out of lighted, bubbling water columns with ferns placed on the top) alongside art deco sculptures. We tried to order food that wouldn't feel like a brick in our bellies, but were not successful. My salad was iceberg lettuce smothered in meat and cheese--along with a cereal bowl filled with dressing. Food options are definitely and important reason why living in Chicago rocks compared with suburbia and small cities.

We talked some more and looked over the map to find out how to hit the trail. The options weren't good. According to the map we basically had to ride on a big highway over a river. But Paul looked at satelite photos and found a railroad bridge that would connect to a service access road to lead us to the trail without getting on a highway. He seemed hesitant to suggest it, but I was game for it.

We reached the railroad bridge and hefted our bikes up the steep weedy/rocky embankment. My gauzy skirt kept getting snagged by dead branches. grrrrr. At the top we looked for trains and briskly trotted over the railroad ties until we were across the river. No rumbling or near-death train experience. I found an old railroad spike/nail to keep as a souvenier. Then we scampered back down a similar embankment on the other side and hit the road. Fun stuff.

There was a yucky stretch of gravel that allowed us to only go about 11mph, and one point where we entered some sort of restricted facility by dragging our bikes through the woods to get across a long chainlink/barbed wire fence. Finally we hit the crushed limestone trail and were able to cruise along again at about a 16mph clip. This trail was hilly and curvy--at one point while taking a curve my bike just started sliding in a sideways direction. Yikes! I was too surprised and concerned with keeping upright that I didn't have time to process how scary it was. I apologized to Paul for almost sliding into him, but he laughed it off: The next several downhill turns I slowed down for more.

We got into a visitor center/parking lot type of thing along the trail and found another handpump. The rusty water in our bottles was replaced with less rusty water, and this time I pumped. Shortly afterwards the trail ended and we were riding through an icky suburban/subdivision that just creeped me out. Then Paul led us to an even weirder industrial area that was basically abandoned over the weekend. We had the smooth roads to ourselves for several miles and rode about 17-18mph. Soon we were back in the city, but still had at least 15 miles to go before we were back in our neighborhood.

One more stop for juice and we were back in our 'hood ridiculously quickly. Paul has done pretty well in the Tour de Chicago races and speaks about often going on long rides, plus before the ride he mentioned that it would be fun to ride fast together. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't ride as fast as he preferred. When he dropped me off I apologized for possibly slowing him down and he seemed surprised. He said that he wouldn't have gone any faster if he had been alone, and that there were several times that he could tell I had a lot more energy than he did. He sheepishly announced that he thought I was actually a stronger rider than him. Cool. I guess it doesn't matter who is actually faster/stronger--because it seems like it is damn close. What a perfect riding companion.

Because our riding time was so much quicker, and we stopped fewer times than on last weekend's century ride, we were able to stop and enjoy ourselves in new places for long periods of time. If a ride is going to last all day, I certainly prefer riding at a quicker clip and taking leisurely exploration breaks instead of being in the saddle constantly at a slower speed. Plus, this ride actually made me feel like I was working. I never felt exhausted, but I certainly felt like I was exerting energy and giving my muscles a workout. Even better though, was that my hands, wrists and shoulders didn't feel discomfort, because my time in the saddle was so much less because we rode so much faster. WooHoo!

We each ran through our showers quickly before regrouping and heading to the fireworks. We stopped off for ice and chocolate as directed by Todd and then slowly made our way through the throngs of people headed to the Lakeshore, too. There the plan was for someone from the sailboat to row out to the retaining wall and ferry us out to the sailboat. There were only four problems: poor cellphone reception; millions of other people; the lifeguards keeping people away from the edge and the Coast Guard keeping boats from the people. We basically gave up hope that this would work, but then saw a dingy head towards the edge--towards it we ran through the thick crowd, only to see it turn back quickly. It hung around a big sailboat--hiding from the Coast Guard.

After the Coast Guard vessel made a pass it came towards us again--and we were in the right place and ready this time. We jumped down through the people with our paniers and ice and headed towards the boat. Several other people ran to it too--with offers of money for a ride to their friends' boats. Jonathon of course was looking for us, though and didn't betray us for a profit. Understand that besides the lifeguards and the Coast Guard, we were very nervous about this: I am a coward about falling, especially over water, and Paul can't swim. However, our fears didn't have time and down into the boat we went. The Coast Guard boat had done a u-turn and the strangers from the nearest sailboat were drunkenly yelling encouragement to us as Jonathon rowed as fast as he could with the full dingy.

Despite Jonathon's efforts, the Coast Guard apprehended us and yelled at us. Apparently Todd had made a similar trip earlier for Josh and also got yelled at. Jonathon denied knowledge of that incident and said it must have been a different dingy. We were allowed to proceed to the American Excess though and scampered aboard. Todd, Josh, Karen and Kevin were there and poured us wine in exchange for our tidings of ice and chocolate. Fun. Fun. Fun. We explored the sailboat for a while, and then the fireworks started. I sort of leaned against Paul during the show and he reached to hold my hand. Awwww. As cliched as it was, it was also very sweet. The first concrete sign to confirm my hope that our recent outings were 'dates' instead of just hanging out as friends.

After the show Todd wanted to go for a sail. We sailed around in the dark for several hours. The sailors in the group kept exclaiming how perfect it was--good wind, few waves, mostly empty water. It was fun--I've never been on a sailboat before. Several people were went below to sleep at times, and I totally wanted to join them. I was damn tired and also feeling a little drunk. As nice as it was, I was anxious to get home and sleep--so I was happy when we were finally rowed ashore around 3:00am. Paul and I biked back to our neighborhood pretty fast and he gave me a goodnight kiss. He's a sweetheart. I foresee some more fun bike rides with him in the future. I guess at this point we are also probably considered 'dating'. Weird.

Monday:

I worked at the Hbar on remodeling projects with Josh and Todd. When I got there Todd was sleeping on his back across three bar stools--quite tired and hung over. He slept on the boat last night and somehow missed the conversation when Josh and I decided to meet after 10:00 instead of at 7:00. So Todd had been there for a while. He made us interesting, yummy burritos made out of components of many menu dishes (spicy baked tofu, stuffed mushroom caps, mashed potatoes, corn, pico de gallo, cheese, salad dressing...). I was ravenous and felt like crap. Hmmmm--could it be that even though I rode about 80 miles on Sunday I only ate/drank: two bottles of juice, a cookie, a salad, three tiny squares of chocolate and two large glasses of wine. Then add only four hours of sleep. Bad girl--I know better than this.

At first the food perked me up, but then I felt crappy again. After helping Josh and Todd with their respective projects, I started to paint the men's bathroom. This sucked. Standing on the ground I can't even reach the lowest point to be painted. We used this multi-position ladder which didn't have a top platform--so I had to keep trotting down the ladder to reach my paint. While annoying, this normally wouldn't have been a problem. The problem was that the bathroom was too small for the ladder in many parts, so I had to wriggle around the sink/toilet/urinal and hoist myself up. Up and down, wriggle and hoist, trying not to drip paint (while also trying to get as much paint on the paddle as possible to reduce the number of trips).

For a large segment I balanced one segment of the ladder on top of the toilet. Plus there was a lot of over extending and teetering precariously as I tried to reach far-away corners. I don't like the idea of falling and am not particularly fond of heights either, so this wasn't fun for me. The nasty ammonia smell eminating from the urinal (urine, urinal cakes--what the hell is this smell? it didn't smell like a girls' bathroom) didn't make me feel any better. For the future, when I am tired/hungover/feeling crappy--I will try to avoid ladders, heights and both the smell of paint and urine/ammonia. Blech. I also think when I buy a place I will pass on the super-tall trendy ceilings if possible.

I have a decent amount of red paint on me now and the neighbors freaked out because they thought I was assaulted or crashed my bike when I came home. I guess it does look like I am all bloody. Anyway, on my Fourth of July I was in the Hbar from about 10:30am--8:30pm working on projects. The bathroom still needs at least another coat--and I haven't really started with the ceiling. I hope the pricks who have been graffiting our walls (they must stand on the fixtures, too) stop it now that the walls are a single color instead of the semi-graffiti-looking paint combination that I painted over.

_______________

So that was my relaxing holiday weekend. I have a buttload of work to do this week, and should go to bed. However the crazy-loud fireworks that people have been mercilessly shooting off since I got home don't sound like they are slowing down. I probably won't be able to sleep for several more hours. Boom--car-alarm--crackle--dogs barking--snapboom--screaming--sirens--boomBoomBOOM--drunken whooping--popping--whizzying--exploding--whistly--dogs--people--cars. Knock it off and shut up already!

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