Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
Cofrin Nature Park

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

RAGBRAI: The Tandem Bike Team Adventure: Ouch! I'm in Training!

Here's the second installment for the RAGBRAI bike ride adventure. I am the editor and publisher. Chuck tells the story. If you have any questions or comments for Chuck, Cheryl or me, please leave them in the comments section below! Thank you!

Enter Chuck:
A Bicycle-Built-For-Two: A Tandem Riding Adventure
Ouch! I'm in Training!
One of the most challenging aspects of riding a tandem bicycle for long distances is the training. Let’s face it, most older people are not conditioned for this type of endurance riding—467 miles! But, with proper commitment, focus and training, anyone can condition themselves to accomplish such a goal.
I had started re-conditioning my body in January 2012 with the X-Force Workout Program. As a first time RAGBRAI participant, however, I now needed to redirect my focus toward bike riding. I decided to check out the Spin Classes at my local gym.
After my first Spin Class, I quickly learned that there is an essential piece of equipment that every serious rider must invest in: Padded bike shorts! (This is what we use: Canari Cyclewear Women's Pro Gel Short Padded Cycling Short and Canari Cyclewear Men's Velo Gel Padded Cycling Short (Black, Small))
It doesn't take long for a rider to painfully learn this lesson. I am convinced that the amount of money you invest in these shorts is well worth it—besides my first pair of bike shorts were a birthday gift! My friends Gene and Ann have saved my Ass!
Bike shoes were my next investment. I chose to have the clips installed on the shoes, allowing me to “clip into the pedals.” The shoes stabilize me on the spin bike.
The past 3 months of spin classes have taught me:1) Bike shorts are essential; 2) shoes are extremely important; 3) a bottle of cool water is a life saver while riding—staying hydrated on the bike makes a tremendous difference in your success; 4) a good hand towel will help you keep the sweat off your face and hands; 5) each and every ride is yours to command—give your best effort and you will notice results; 6) keep your knees together and straight; 7) maintain proper body form.
The routine I have developed: X-Force workout once a week, focusing on upper body and abs, combined with three to four times per week of spin class for one hour.
This intense workout schedule has allowed me to get in better shape and I continue to lose weight, although I do not weigh myself. My friends tell me they are seeing the difference and that is what matters to me.
I have 6 months before the ride across Iowa.
The training goals that RAGBRAI has recommended for week -long -riders (about 1500 riders will only ride for one day) is a minimum of 1000 miles “in the saddle.” I average 90 miles per week in spin class. I expect to log over 2000 miles of training time before the ride.
The Veterans Administration is purchasing a special tandem bike for me to ride from Bike Friday, a company in Eugene Oregon. My blind friends tell me it is one of the better bikes for riding and traveling. The bike breaks down and can be transported in two large suitcases. All individual settings can easily be adjusted to fit a variety of riders—an important feature, as I plan to ride with many different riders.
Next up: the emotional and psychological journey, as seen through blind eyes.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Cold and Flu Remedy: Soup Recipe

"Bless You!"
"Thank You!"
 My city suffers from the cold and flu, and yours may too, as they say this is the "cold and flu season."
My buddy, Chuck, the RAGBRAI guy, called me today and he sounded terrible--scratchy voice, no sleep, feverish. So, I whipped up my world famous homemade chicken soup to help him feel better. He had it for lunch and loved it. He feels better already.
Please, leave a comment below, if you try it, because I'm taking a survey on the results. Thanks and enjoy!

Cold and Flu Remedy: Soup Recipe
(Yields about 12 cups of soup)


8 cups homemade chicken stock
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
3 T minced fresh garlic
2 T minced fresh peeled ginger root
4 carrots, chopped
5 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
Extra Virgin olive oil for sautéing veggies
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
1/8 t fennel
1/4 t ground cumin
1 t ground black pepper
salt to taste
1/4 c white wine or whiskey for deglazing veggies
1-2 cups cooked chicken, diced


In large Dutch oven or pot, sauté the veggies in olive oil on medium high heat for several minutes until sweated and slightly softened.
Add the dry spices.
Deglaze the pot with wine or whiskey.
Add the chicken stock and parsley.
Bring to low boil, then reduce to low simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the tomatoes.
Optional:  Puree about 1/2 of the soup in blender and add back to pot.
Add chicken and heat through.

NOTE: For a heartier soup, add chopped cabbage or rice or potatoes.

Enjoy and feel better!

Video of Ingredients:

The preparations video:

Friday, January 18, 2013

RAGBRAI: The Tandem Bike Team Adventure: Bio's of the Teammates

Pedego Tandem Cruiser Black Tire/Seat Package: Standard

I like inspiring stories about people overcoming obstacles and bursting through their comfort zone in order to grow and motivate others. My two posts about weight loss featured such people, Richard and Chuck:  Weight Loss in Men Over Age 50 Part 1 and Weight Loss in Men Over Age 50 Part 2.

The inspirational vibes continue...
My friend, Chuck Miller, has taken on another challenge: he has been chosen to ride in RAGBRAI this July, as part of a team of disabled riders. Chuck is blind. He will ride tandem with his Captain, Cheryl Ann Smith.

At Chuck’s request, I’ll be documenting Chuck and Cheryl’s journey as they prepare for the bike ride adventure. Let their adventure inspire you to find yours! 
(And please, leave your inspiring story or comments below, in the Comments section! Thank you!)

This post begins the documenting by introducing the participants with a bio that they have written about themselves.

But first, a brief explanation about RAGBRAI:
RAGBRAI is the acronym for "The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.” RAGBRAI is an annual 7 day bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. It is a touring ride, not a race. The route is about 468 miles and goes from The Missouri River to the Mississippi River. The route changes each year. The new route is announced in January. 
Riders are selected through a lottery system and compete for 8,500 spots! 
Riders camp along the way.
Profits from RAGBRAI go to local charities supporting families and the communities of central Iowa.
(See their website for more info: RAGBRAI.)

Enter Chuck:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tasty Chicken Liver Mousse-Pate Recipe

Eat any organ meats lately? Uck, no thanks. However, after reading a Mark's Daily Apple post about the nutritional benefits of organ meats, I  got hungry for chicken livers, even though I didn't think I liked them. Although, I remember I used to like liverwurst, so I figured chicken livers gotta be similar to pork livers, right? Why not make a blend of livers and other stuff to elevate the taste and texture of the livers? Foie gras is a delicacy, after all.

I concocted a chicken liver mousse-pate recipe that will make you crave chicken livers, and have you leaping like Superman or Superwoman from the protein and vitamin punch it provides.

1 lb. Organic Chicken livers
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 large garlic cloves
12-14 Kalamata olives (pitted)

2-3 Tablespoons dry red wine
3 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1Tablespoon Ghee (Clarified Butter) (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Dark Sesame Oil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1and a half Tablespoons Wheat-free organic Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons canned organic coconut milk

Marinade for Chicken Livers (optional)
(Marinade about 2 hours, refrigerated):
1/2 cup red wine
2 teaspoons Dark Sesame oil
Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 Tablespoon soy sauce

Drain the marinaded chicken livers and discard the marinade. Pat chicken livers dry.
Sauté chicken livers in olive oil and clarified butter on medium high heat, stirring for a few minutes, until lightly browned and pink in the center. You may wish to deglaze the pan at this point, reduce the heat and cover the pan for a few minutes. Do not overcook.

Set chicken livers aside to cool.

In a clean pan, sweat the onions and garlic in oil and clarified butter (if desired) on medium high heat.
Deglaze the pan with whiskey (optional) and balsamic vinegar.
Add the red wine and reduce for a minute or two, on medium-low heat.
Add the spices.

Puree the chicken livers and onion mixture in a food processor with the olives, dark sesame oil, lemon juice, grated ginger root, coconut milk and soy sauce.

Transfer the mousse-pate to a container with cover.  
Refrigerate for about an hour or two.
Serve with celery sticks and other vegetables as an appetizer.

OR make the chicken liver mousse-pate into a meal by combining the mousse-pate and  some leftover cooked and finally chopped chicken with some avocado and scallions. The man of the house gobbled it up.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review: Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

Write down your life. Take notes. Say it in a letter. Share your uniqueness in an interesting way. Why do this? Well, because, it’s important, it’s relevant, it’s what people do—we need to connect to ourselves and our humanity, and that ultimately connects us to our spirituality. Besides that, you may end up with a story so formidable, that it can also be used for medicinal purposes to aid and abet human suffering and isolation. Your story may give us the power to transcend the obviousness and the absurdities we all face.

That’s the gist of what I got out of reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. The lines of her book are beautifully written in the key of A-Minor; as Lamott discusses the numbing self-doubts, jealousies and self-loathing: “Who the hell am I to think I can write? (Lamott refers to these little nuggets as Radio Station KFKD, or K-Fucked. I know I’ve been tuned in to that station most of my life.)

And yet, Lamott’s writing transposes into A-Major; as her inspiration sings through: writers document the human condition with a courageous and creative narrative that has the power to transform and heal. Writing with passion and purpose, and not to become a “successfully published” writer, is good enough. Your voice matters.

Lamott’s words also teach us how to approach our writing, which is a personal and sometimes painful endeavor.

The personal nature of fiction writing in particular, exposes the fact that stories are character- driven. Yes, we have heard that before, but Lamott drives that fact home and insists that you, the writer, have a responsibility to the characters to let them develop and become themselves. You may begin by channeling a character. He or she starts out as aspects of you, but then develops into something completely different.

Lamott points out that the plot, dialogue and surroundings (set design) exist in order for the character to do his or her thing. “Plot grows out of character.” (p. 54)

Let that character become who it needs to be. Let your passion shine forth through the character and watch where it leads. Do not manipulate your character into something it should not be, otherwise the character will bore the reader and the story will lose its focus and its truth. And truth is the reason we write in the first place. We are seekers of truth and the readers find truth in an authentic character.

Much of Bird by Bird comes from Lamott’s gig as a writing teacher. She shares stories about her students’ expectations and pitfalls, and those of all writers in general, and she gives us her “solutions.” For example, she has a bit of a mantra that goes: short assignments, shitty first drafts. The blank page beckons, but we are too perfectionist to get a sentence down, let alone a complete work of art. It’s the old trick of putting one foot in front of the other: you know the drill, but are too stubborn, or tired or hungry or thirsty and the house needs cleaning, so maybe I’ll start writing a little later….NO! Just get one short assignment done, now.  Plan for it to suck, because it’s supposed to, and you will correct it during the rewrite. The old adage still applies:  Good writing is rewriting. Good writing is artistry. Writers are both technicians and artists; I think when I read Bird by Bird.

Lamott laments that “The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish a word, you have something important to pour yourself into.” (p. 236)

It doesn't get any better than to be so engaged in the present moment, consciously and tirelessly doing the work you were born to do. That is why it is so compelling and fun to watch someone so engaged, and to finally suckle on what they produce, with great relish.

One of my favorite things about Lamott’s book is that it makes one want to write, and to write as well as one can. That kind of inspiration is like prayer. We need daily prayer and meditation; and we feel out of sorts if we do not make time for it. We need inspiration in our work in order for it to get done properly and well.

 Thank you, Anne Lamott, for your prayerful inspiration and guidance in writing and in life.

P.S. This post is both today's "short assignment" and "shitty first draft" (the edited version would dump the odd musical metaphors, and would not suckle, either.)