Pumpkin Spice

I used pumpkin spice the way it is meant to be used. I went out to the farm and picked a pumpkin, cut it in half and removed the innards, washed and roasted the seeds.

I baked the pumpkin, cut-sides down, let it cool, then pureed it in the blender until smooth. I added cinnamon, freshly-grated nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt, sugar, evaporated milk, and eggs.

Meanwhile, I cut butter into flour with a bit of salt and sugar. I mixed in ice water until I could work the dough into a ball that would barely stay together, flattened it into a disc, and put it in the refrigerator to rest for a few hours before rolling it out and par-baking it. I poured in the pumpkin mixture, baked it, let it cool to room temperature on the kitchen table, then put it on the back porch to chill.

I whipped cream with some powdered sugar and vanilla. Slicing the pie, I added a dollop of cream and ate it for breakfast with a shot of espresso. That’s where the espresso belongs – alongside the breakfast pie, not mixed into a soft drink that lacks only carbonation to make it spicy pop. A 12 oz Starbucks pumpkin spice latte contains the same amount of sugar as a 12 oz Coca-Cola (per their respective websites).

But remember – pie, like beer, ain’t just for breakfast anymore. Now to read the paper and wait for the sunrise.

Pumpkin Spice – where it belongs


It is fashionable among right-wing candidates to call out “the elites”, usually meaning people who don’t agree with them. Jonah Goldberg, the thinking person’s conservative (no, that is not an oxymoron), posted an interesting analysis today (October 20).

He quotes J.D. Vance (Republican Senate candidate in Ohio), who said “The elites plunder this country and then blame us for it in the process” and Blake Masters (Republican Senate candidate in Arizona), who said a liberal cabal runs “newspapers, and television and schools and universities – and you better believe they control Big Tech, too”. He quotes Masters as saying that progressives hate America and “the very idea of a sovereign nation”. By the way, Vance has a net worth estimated at $7 million, and Masters $18 million. I don’t know about you, but in my world that seems pretty elite.

Goldberg goes on to point out that both have a major financial patron in Peter Thiel, a billionaire tech entrepreneur, co-founder of PayPal, venture capitalist, and holder of passports from three countries, in the process of buying a fourth (passport, not country). Goldberg also refers to him as a proponent of “seasteading”, the plan to build artificial islands in international waters so you are bound by no country’s laws. Thiel donated $1.25 million to djt’s 2016 presidential campaign, was a member of the transition team, and has spent over $28 million so far in this election cycle, including donations to candidates who supported the January 6 coup attempt.

Vance has called upon the US government to “‘seize the assets’ of ideological enemies that lawfully exploit tax laws to amass wealth”. Thiel has a Roth IRA into which he put $1700 – his investment of that IRA in the company that became PayPal increased its value to $5 billion, according to ProPublica. If he holds the IRA until 2027, that money will be his tax-free.

So these guys who rail against the elites and Big Tech are bankrolled by a Big Tech elitist (can you get much more elite than being a billionaire, holding multiple passports, and building your own island so you can be a sovereign nation unto yourself?). They proclaim their “patriotism” while in league with someone who is prepping to leave the country behind.

As Goldberg concludes, “If you clear away the bull of Vance and Masters’ rhetoric – bring a shovel – the basic argument is that ‘elites’ are a monolithic bloc of overlords. Never mind that both Masters (who has a law degree from Stanford) and Vance (a law degree from Yale) – are elites and that Thiel is a member of the Olympian elite. What these politicians really mean is that they want to be the elites running things.”

Blue skies!

Nothin’ but blue skies do I see. I had a scare last night. I couldn’t find the card case that contains pretty much everything important except my passport and vaccine card. I tried to convince myself that I could look tomorrow (today, or yesterday to you) and nothing bad would happen overnight. I could tell no one had used the credit card. Sleep was difficult and one of my dreams included finding it. As I packed up in the morning I found it under my sleeping pad. Glad it didn’t disturb my sleep;)

The wind whipped the tents all night, which also didn’t help sleeping. At dawn it was calm and dry so packing up was a breeze.

I took an unplanned detour at mile 3 for some bonus miles so ended up with 109 miles today. Another 100 plus on the agenda tomorrow.

Today had a 7.3 mile climb early, then we settled into a high and dry plateau at 2500 feet. The sky was blue, the traffic was light, the shoulder was wide, well-paved, and clean and my smile was as wide as that shoulder.

On the climb, I slowly worked my way through other riders and found myself alone. In the distance behind me I saw a man in black and he was getting closer. “Inconceivable!”, I cried. A bit later I looked again and he was getting closer still. “Inconceivable! I said again. As he came up on my shoulder and I said it again, I answered “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” He slowed to chat for a few minutes, then disappeared up the road.

At mile 25 we stopped at an espresso stand in the middle of nowhere – an international crew including a Bosnian, two Australians, and two Americans. There would be a picture if I had Wi-fi. At mile 40 I stopped to aid another rider whose rear derailleur wasn’t working. There was nothing I could do to help so I rode on – he had a friend with him and was calling the mechanic. Seconds later, I could no longer shift into my two smallest cogs, which continued for the next 70 miles. At mile 45 I was greeted by a brisk tailwind and flew effortlessly at 25 mph for 10 miles. The wind varied between tail and crosswind for the rest of the day.

At mile 82, the cue sheet said “Begin 10 mile climb”. I was going to post a photo of that, thinking that was all you needed to know about today. Without Wi-fi access, there will be no photos or links today. You’ll have to sing “Blue Skies” yourself and rely on your memory for the scene from “Princess Bride”.

The ride ended with a screaming downhill to the Grand Coulee Dam. I stopped for ice cream – 2 scoops because I needed the calories and to celebrate the solstice. (Death by Chocolate and Espresso Explosion.) Tomorrow we will have to climb that hill. The first 3 miles (at a 10% grade) will come before breakfast; then another 101 miles to Spokane. See the 2018 Spokane post.


Four years ago I wrote about training to ride across the country, but how do you train to retire?

I firmly believe that retirement takes training. I have said many times that retirement, like voting, should be done early and often. I also think beliefs are like freckles. If you look closely, most of us have a few and having a bunch doesn’t make you better. (And are liver spots [or age spots] just big freckles?) Or maybe I believe that beliefs are like diapers and should be changed often. I definitely believe that beliefs are like selves and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

I’ve been working (with a few breaks, or practice retirements) since 1965. On June 4, I will walk out of the hospital at around 1500 (that’s 3 pm to normal people) for the last time after 23 years. I won’t be going back to that job, or maybe any job.

How to train for what’s next? For 9 weeks, I will ride my bike 6 days a week. That oughta help me get used to not going to work. You train by doing what you plan to do. I don’t want to sit on my ass and watch TV while drinking beer, so that’s not what I’ll train.

Without a structure after that, I’ll have to create one. I want to ride at least 4 days a week year ’round so I will plan that. Exercise just happens now – it’s how I get to and from work. It won’t just happen after this trip.

Sunday morning was a hard freeze. We hit the road with the temperature near the freezing point and rode a leisurely 37 miles. By the time we got home it was a summery 45 degrees (7 C). If we didn’t have days like this, I couldn’t justify the tights, fleece jersey, and shoe covers I bought. The only thing green was the winter wheat.

I have tasks that have been on a to-do list for years (like replacing 106 year old putty that is falling out of windows, replacing sash cords – I was amazed that all sash cords were intact when we bought this house 26 years ago [that is no longer the case], and repairing/replacing the plaster wall that my daughter kicked a hole in years ago), and will need to make a schedule so I actually do some of those while I still can.

I bought a kayak in preparation for retirement. It needs to spend much more time in the water than it has. It needs to see water farther from home.

I bought an espresso machine because I figured that was cheaper, in the long run, than hanging out in coffee shops with the other retirees. It may not be cheaper than just brewing coffee at home, but it sure tastes better.

I bought a new lens for my camera, hoping to get out in the donzerly light when I don’t have to get to work. Maybe I can capture some of that early morning magic to have more than memories and mental images to share here. And I won’t be limited to the route from here to work.

I figured that whatever I thought I would need/want in retirement, I would buy while still working; so the training has been going on for a few years.

BK (Before Kids) I served on the boards of a few organizations and volunteered for others. Most of that was not part of any Grand Plan – it arose and I did it. Maybe I’ll do that again. [And it wasn’t all BK – I spent 8 years on the board of their daycare center.]

The university here allows old folks to audit courses without charge. It’s part of the Wisconsin Idea. (Also here.) Maybe I’ll go back to school when it is safe.

It’s a funny thing about work. Over time, you come to define yourself by what you do, not by who you are. I have the advantage of having done many things, so that definition has some flexibility. I am an Occupational Therapist, but I was a plumber before that and a co-op manager before that. Something has been constant through those career changes. Am I still in touch with what that is? Vamos a ver.

It is time to train to be a retiree. (7)

A Tale of Two Sundays

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. When I went to bed the last Saturday night in April, it was snowing. I awoke to fresh snow for my Sunday morning ride. We rode east (a rarity in these parts – folks generally ride any other direction – though there are some great places to ride to the east). The sun was bright, the air was crisp. I had just the right mix of clothing, though a few times I wished I hadn’t left the shoe covers behind.

Pre-ride snow removal April 28

Tulips and irises were peeking out through the snow. Trees were beginning to bloom; the greens stark against the new-fallen snow. By noon the snow had melted in all except the deepest shadows. We followed the ride with a concert by the Choral Arts Society Chorale. The concert was “Water: A Celebration in Song“, and included works from the 16th to the 21st century, from multiple continents, and featured a newly-commissioned work. The 2018-19 “Go Big Read” for the university this year is “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” and copies were provided to concert-goers. Keep an eye on this group if you’re in or around Madison WI. Concerts are built around social justice themes (the last one was immigration). They are thematically linked and musically diverse.

The first Sunday in May dawned bright and clear, with the temperature rising through the 60s already by 8 AM. Morning came early, as I had heard and seen Mahler’s 8th Symphony (“The Symphony of a Thousand“) the night before. The work got its nickname from the number of musicians involved. This presentation featured a mere 500 including an enlarged symphony orchestra and three choral groups. Five hundred musicians (including a magnificent organ) make for a spectacular sound. The day was especially long, as I had worked from 6 AM – 1:30 PM and gone to a retirement party after that. The party was for the retirement of the long-time director of one of the great day care centers in the world, Red Caboose, featured in the 1998 book “The Goodbye Window” by Harriet Brown. (Disclosure: Both of my kids went to Red Caboose and are in the book. I was once the treasurer.)

But as for the ride: I arrived at the meet-up point with the sky darkening and the wind rising. It looked like a squall that would blow through quickly. After standing around waiting for that to happen, we headed out. The sky was getting lighter but the wind stronger. About ten minutes into the ride it began to sprinkle lightly. It rained just enough to make the sun’s warmth welcome when it reappeared, and to make us look like Saturday’s Kentucky Derby riders, splattered with mud – but I didn’t have spare goggles to toss aside when it got hard to see. By noon it was warm enough to remove my jacket.

The week between rides meant the alfalfa and grasses were now a brilliant green. The delicate spring green of blooming trees (including maples and willows) made a stunning contrast with the deeper greens of the grasses and the browns of the dormant cornfields. By the end of the ride the sky was a brilliant blue and, when I got home, the laundry I’d hung out before the ride was dry.

So I was lying about the worst of times. While one ride included snow and the other rain, both were great rides. And today I set up my espresso machine and brewed my first espresso, after an hour-long meditation in an MRI machine.

First espresso