Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chemistry Fun

Here's the result of my second annual attempt to make smoke bombs.

I say second annual because the score is currently chemicals one and Heath one. Last year's attempt did not work, and proved toxic. The formula for smoke bombs is quite simple. 3 parts potassium nitrate to 2 parts sugar. This mixture is heated in a pan until the sugar caramelizes. When it looks like peanut butter, drop 50 cent size dollops on to aluminum foil to cool. Better directions here.

Potassium nitrate( salt-peter) is the ingredient in stump remover. It's oxidizing properties help break down the wood. But, as I learned the hard way, not all stump removers use nontoxic potassium nitrate. I do not know what is in Bonide Stump Out but when I cooked it up I made a noxious cloud that I thought would lead to an embarrassing call to Poison Control.


I found that the smoke bombs worked better when I crushed the the stump remover. Notice how there are spherical pellets of potassium nitrate in the caramelized sugar. These still lit and worked, but not as well as the the next photo where the sugar and potassium nitrate form smooth discs of fun.
Since potassium nitrate is nontoxic, used as a food and toothpaste additive, I use my coffee grinder easily to turn the pellets into powder. (potassium nitrate is gives hot dogs and corned beef its pink color. If you listen you hear my neighbor John make a joke about heartburn and hot dogs.)
Finally here is what one of the smoke bombs looks like at night.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flowers and Food and Biking and Food with a Final Storm

The family and I woke up and headed to the St. Paul farmers market. We picked up some flowers and assorted locally grown veggies. The bouquet above was $6.

Next we finally found the Hmong Market. It's at the intersection of Marion and Como in St. Paul. The smells and thrown together buildings brought me back to markets in Asia. We had beef laab with tripe, cellophane noodle stuff cabbage rolls and round greasy meatball goodness.

More good food was to come. Our friends Mai and Mark invited us over for dinner. Mark is a Dane and Mai is Vietnamese. They always cook something wonderful.
I took the opportunity, as I often do, of biking the 26 miles to their home. Ling-Hui and the kids drive with the bike rack on. This way I can have a nice one way ride. The weather was hot and humid, but I enjoyed my route. (Click on it to view it.)

Mark and Mai created an incredible spread of Mexican cuisine. We had homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves, salsas, guacamole, skirt steak, chicken, mole, beans and more. I'm glad I rode.
Here's a picture of a tamale from our care-package.

The storms hit on our way home. Frequent lightning flashes helped illuminate the highway hidden by torrential rain. A couple of plastic bags and a few wraps of duct-tape protected the Brooks saddle on the way home.

This was a Saturday well spent.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Traditional Archery Shoot 2010

I keep an eye out for this event every year. It was different without Q and Steve.
Only foam animals were hurt making this blog post.
Jared and I went for head shots on the Mandrill.
Hakuna Matata.

The green arrows in the first picture and this throwing hatchet are my Father's Day presents.
It was a great day.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dirt Burger Fun

Thanks to Sov and all of the Decorah people for hosting fun under their bridge. I felt a bit weird heading to a venue where I didn't know anyone and am appreciative of the hospitality. Special thanks to Chuey, not sure of the spelling, for playing trail guide. Enjoyed chatting with Scally, Captain and everyone else whose names I don't remember. Friday night we rode into T-Bocks for a tasty burger, sans dirt. Lightning bugs flashes lit up the trail on the way back to camp. Next, we chilled around a fire until the the police came and shut us down. Like an army of ants with messenger bags and a Big Dummy we moved the party wood, beer and all up the bluff into the woods. Shortly after 2am we headed down the long hill hills back to our tents. Best night sleep in a tent in a longtime.

Here's the view I woke-up to Saturday morning. I made coffee and oatmeal and read my book. Then it was time to ride. We headed out on these trails, which kicked my ass. I crashed 3 times to the amusement of a local. The rain had made the trail greasy. Logs and roots slid tires out making the ride more technical than I am good. Not complaining though; I was riding in the woods, tired, happy and dirty.

A little of Grandpa's Pine Tar soap and a swim in the river felt great after riding.

Below is a random photo of some campers. Surly bikes showed up in force. 1x1s, Karate Monkeys, LHTs, Pugsleys, and Big Dummys all were present. One guy had a Karate Monkey with couplers renamed a "Flying Money." Several people who worked for Surly were present as well.

I'm up for Dirt Burger 2011.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Call Me

Picked up a cell phone today. I'd be nice if some of you English would call.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

LHT Fully Unloaded

Dirt Burger is is next weekend in Decorah, Iowa, and I need to get out of town and do something different. My dilemma is that I don't know what bike to ride. The full suspended Diamondback XR4 is riding well, after having Shockspital rebuild the front end. It is undoubtedly the most practical and fastest bike I own for riding real single-track, but the bike seems somehow wrong for the spirit of the event.
Thus, I stripped down the Long Haul(Dirt-Road)Trucker and put on my most off worthy tires, Ricthey Trailmix 700x35mm. A wider tire would be nice. The bike is specs say it will take a 45mm tire without fenders. I plan on taking both bikes; it'll be fun to compare them.

The Long Haul Trucker loaded for comparison.

Dirt Burger's flier:

I'm expecting a cool outing with great people.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cattails taste like .......

While enjoying ourselves at the lake near Nevis, MN last weekend, we had a chance to sample cattails.

The kids had pulled some young stalks from the edge of the dock in order to do some weaving and to make a boat. Remembering that these stalks were edible, I pulled the Swiss Army knife out slicing a dime sized disc of the end. It tasted strangely familiar, but I didn't know what it reminded me of. I let the kids try some too. Harris said, "dad, it tastes like cucumbers."

He nailed it cucumbers with the slightest hint of leek. They were really good. I'd like to try them with onions in a creamy vinegar sauce, or as an addition to a salad.

This is not the sort of edible, but taste like crap, for survival only food; it is one I will seek out for its own culinary merit. The photo below shows what the tender shoot looks like. Next, I want to try stinging nettles.