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.”

A leisurely 70 miles

The day started with a great breakfast at St Olaf College. Private schools tend to brag about their food service – if you’re going to charge $50K or more per year, you’d better have good food.

We were warned not to arrive in Pepin too early, as The Trail Boss had business to conduct at Cycle America Intergalactic Headquarters, which was our first stop of the day.

Only riders from this planet, though not this hemisphere

From there we rode the Cannon River Trail, a paved rail-to-trail conversion for about 20 miles through the woods along the Cannon River. See 2018 post for photos.

Picnic was in Redwing, MN, home of Redwing Shoes, makers of fine work boots.

We crossed the Mississippi River on US Highways 61/63, a trip much less harrowing than before due to the addition of a bike/pedestrian lane. The highway was still a bit daunting for a few miles until we turned onto WI Highway 35, The Great River Road, which parallels the Mississippi.

First view of Wisconsin, crossing the Mississippi

The river widens into Lake Pepin, a 22 mile section of river a couple of miles wide, and passes Maiden Rock, named for the native woman who jumped from that rock on her wedding night after a forced marriage.

Lake Pepin
Maiden Rock. I’m sure there is a photo of the sign with the story somewhere in the archives.

We rode into the village of Stockholm (population 78) for pie and espresso. This was the first time I’ve had blueberry/peach pie baked by anyone other than me. (I make a peach/blueberry – more peach than blueberry, the opposite of theirs.) It was a great pie and we doubled the town’s population for a few hours. There are gift shops in town and an Amish furniture store. I sat in a bentwood rocker there four years ago and almost called my wife to come and pick it up, it was so comfortable. There was a similar chair there today. I think I’ll be back for it after the tour. There was a beautiful elm dining room set and several quarter sawn white oak tables.

Stockholm, home of great pies

After a tour of the village and its park (camping allowed) we rode on into Pepin, where they had Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewing on tap in order to help us avoid being too early.

The Little House in the Big Woods

This is our second town to lay claim to Laura Ingalls Wilder. De Smet, SD is home of the Little House on the Prairie; Pepin is home to the Little House in the Big Woods.

Tomorrow it is on to Sparta, home to astronaut Deke Slayton and the museum of bicycles and space; also the northern terminus of the Sparta-to-Elroy trail, the first rails-to-trails conversion in the US, known for its long and dark tunnels.

Thanks for the memories

Two years ago today (Sunday) was our first rest day, in Missoula, Montana. I needed another patch kit and more inner tubes. We had ridden 612 miles in 7 days. Today the hardest thing I did was pit two pounds of cherries and bake a cherry pie. I didn’t even have to pick the cherries – my son and daughter in law did that, from the tree in their backyard. (Thanks!)

Day 7 had been a 103 mile slog through nonstop rain, the last 50 miles into a headwind. My new bike was now broken in. Sunday was the day to clean the gunk of 103 rainy miles off the bike, relube, and get ready for another week (and another, and another…). We had crossed the continental divide for the first time by then. I wrote my two essential lessons about mountain riding:
1. Don’t worry about the top, it will be there when you get there;
2. Keep your feet moving in circles and all will be well.

I don’t have to look back at that blog entry to remember the day. It is one of those days that is burned deeply into my memory. It was cold and wet but it ended with a hot shower, a warm sweatshirt, pizza and red wine. We slept in a dorm for the second night in a week – the only time we would do that all summer. It was a day marked by camaraderie, as four of us stuck together to gain strength from each other, so we could take whatever nature dished out. Five miles from the end, we picked up a fifth. He was at the roadside fixing a flat in the pouring rain and told us to go on. We didn’t. We rode in together. It was exactly as Greg had said on the phone sometime in the spring: The days you remember won’t be the 70 degree and sunny days. Those will all run together. The days you remember will be the ones in which you faced adversity and overcame it.

We had already had our first night sleeping indoors on the solstice, in dorms at Gonzaga University. We covered the quad with drying tents and sleeping bags. Gonzaga is in Spokane, home of U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest. While he is best known for his recordings of the IWW Songbook, I have a warm spot for “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”, about life on a cattle trail in Texas in the 1800s. My friend Cripps introduced me to the song.

Cripps worked at the Whole Earth Co-op at the same time that I worked at the Willy Street Co-op. Whole Earth was one of the last of its kind. In lieu of a cash register, they had a cigar box and a spiral notebook. When you finished shopping, you toted up your goods, wrote the total in the notebook, and put your money in the box, making change yourself. We, on the other hand, had gotten our first cash register at St Vincent de Paul, and replaced it with a fancy one that ran on electricity (instead of a hand crank) when that one died. We were the first in town to have an electronic scale. The city weights and measures inspector told us he wouldn’t decertify our old scales, but he advised us to replace them. While they were inaccurate, they consistently cheated the store and not the customer. That wasn’t illegal but wasn’t a good way to stay in business. The new one had a calculator in it, so you could type the price per pound into the keypad and it would calculate the total price. (I know, all scales do that now; but back then it was a big deal. Scales had a chart with a range of prices and you found the price per pound and read along a red line to get the total. Since the ones we had were pretty old, the prices were low enough that you often had to multiply to get the real price.)

Cripps (remember Cripps? This is a story about Cripps) and I sometimes spent the night in the same house. One night I heard bass laughter coming up through the floor below me. I looked at my partner and she noted my surprise – “That’s Cripps”, she said. Cripps had a tenor voice but a bass laugh. Cripps’ partner was a woman from West Virginia. She taught me a line that I use to this day. You know how there are people you’ve seen around, maybe even know by name or have talked to, but you’ve never been introduced? Someone might ask, “Do you know Cripps?” And your reply might be, “I know who he is, but we’ve never been formally introduced.” Her reply was, “We’s howdied, but we ain’t shook.”

Another night Cripps and I were the last two awake in the house. He was sitting at the kitchen table with his autoharp and U. Utah Phillips songbook. I made myself a cup of tea and joined him. We sang our way through the book, but the first song we sang together was “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”.

One afternoon, too soon after that, Cripps got off the bus downtown, stepped out from behind the bus, and into the path of a bus coming the other way. He died that night. The song, and this post, are dedicated to his memory.

Wednesday Night’s Greatest Hits

Since we don’t have group rides this year, every Wednesday night I pick a ride and go. This week held scattered showers. I checked the radar and there seemed to be a hole in the storms. It corresponded with a favorite ride that isn’t on this year’s calendar. I checked the archives and found a cue sheet and headed out. It looked dark in the distance but that didn’t seem like a reason not to ride. I remembered this week two years ago and hit the road. If I can go 100 miles in the rain, what’s 20 or 30? The darkness seemed to stay in the distance and the roads were dry. About ten miles in it started to sprinkle. The sun was shining so I kept riding. The sun disappeared and the rain came harder. It was cooling off. A dense cedar tree appeared at the roadside and I took cover until the rain let up. There was thunder in the distance (in the direction I was pointed) so I took a shortcut back to my starting point. In the car on the way home it rained hard enough that I considered pulling over to wait for it to let up. The wipers on high were barely keeping up.

The front is rolling through. Time to cut this ride short.