Bikes and Pudding

This weekend Fuzzy, Andrea, Jen, Dave, Shaun, Jin and I participated in the Late Ride, a 25 mile bike ride that starts at 1:30am and goes to sunrise all over downtown and the west and north side of Chicago. In the last couple of years, I've become someone who has to go to bed by about 10:30 or 11pm or I am practically useless, so I took a nap at 10pm on Saturday to get ready. Waking up was like waking the dead, but once Andrea came over and we left the house, I was pretty excited.

The Late Ride has about 10,000 cyclists all decked out in lights and decorated helmets, all meeting near Buckingham Fountain. Amazingly, among all those people, all wearing the same tshirt and helmets that make everyone look like Tron, we managed to meet up with all the folks we were riding with. AMAZING! Let me say that again--out of 10,000 people, we all found each other with relative ease. Pretty cool.

At 1:30am, the first wave was allowed to start. Some of the streets were closed off (much to the irritation of motorists on their way home and much to the delight of lots of drunkies who came out to cheer for us.) All the bikers were in solidarity--yeah--take that! We are on BIKES! We can take over the world!!

I hated it.

Well, ok, so I didn't really hate it. I was just scared shitless the whole time. I am not a very good bicycler. I don't have a lot of experience, I rarely bike commute to work, and I am not used to having thousands of other bikes wizz past me literally left and right. Having crashed my bike before, I was terrified of crashing here and being run over by thousands of other bikers or starting a chain reaction. That is how Jeremy broke his jaw, afterall. I was scared to take a hand off the handlebars to scratch my face, and I basically 'white-knuckled' it the whole way, and stared at the concrete below me instead of enjoying the lights of our beautiful city at night. For the first part, we kept up with our friends and were able to check in and see how everyone was doing, then I got scared and tired of biking so fast, so we hung back a bit and more took our time. Fuzzy was a champ, he kept checking in with me and telling me that I was doing a great job. It was sweet. After a while, my crappy knees started giving me trouble and the fact that I was hungry and it was 3am started getting to me, too. When we got to the rest area, we all met up again, and those of our group that live in Edgewater decided to peel off and just go home. After we separated from the pack and were on our dark and quiet streets, I really enjoyed the serenity and calm of biking in the middle of the night. Fuzzy says that we probably biked about 17 or 18 miles, and that is the most I've ever biked! Woo!

Looking back, it was a lot of fun. After a while, I won't remember the pain, though I currently am still feeling it. I won't feel the crippling fear that I felt then, or the grumpiness that I had that I was there. I compare it to the time we did the Chiditarod a few years ago--it was a great experience and I have amazing memories from it, but it is something I never want to do again.

Also, I am amazed at the amount of people that sit on their front porches in the middle of the night and smoke weed.

To recover on Sunday, I did a whole lot of nothing. Poor Fuzzy had rehearsals all day, but all I did was have a drink with a friend at the bar next to my house, take a bath, pet the cats. I washed a ton of dishes since our dishwasher is broken, and then did some cooking. Shannon is out of town for a week and a half, so I took her box of organic veggies that she gets every few weeks so that it doesn't all go to waste. I made a sort of chicken and dumplings stew that I love, with chicken, fennel, green onions, carrots, and garlic scapes. It was heavenly. If you've never made chicken (or veggies) and dumplings, it is super easy. Mix together a cup of sifted self rising flour with a 1/2 tsp of salt, and add to that a mix of a 1/2 cup milk and 2 tbsp vegetable oil. Stir until moistened, and then drop by the tablespoon into the boiling broth of your choice and cover, not lifting the lid for about 15 or more minutes (that is important). Delish!

At the rest area in the late ride, they gave out packs of rice pudding. I have a problem with Midwestern rice pudding. It is basically vanilla pudding with a few pieces of rice in it. Barftastic. So I set out on a mission to make rice pudding like my dad used to make--basically a thick, sweet cinnamonny rice. He used to call it Jethro Tull rice pudding, because it was "Thick as a Brick." After I got over being sad and angry that I can't just call him to ask him how he makes it, I scanned the web a bit and then went to my tried and true favorite cookbook--the old Highland Baptist Church cookbook. I went with a recipe by a family friend and the wife of our former pastor. It turned out ok, but not perfect--definitely not Dad's, but with a little tweaking, I can get there. After a weekend like we had and an amazing meal and mojitos, I, as my Mom says, "slept the sleep of angels."

Life is good.