All this time on my hands

So I might as well ride. And for all the riding I've done, and running, I've never actually checked out the circle drive to Navy Pier. It's not my favorite spot in the city but with all the free time I've got I might as well have. It's not the most exciting, but there's good people and dog watching.
That's a 'new' saddle, new to me at least, from ebay earlier this week. The bike's getting its grit, even if I'm not. Slightly dingy but much more butt-appropriate than the gel-filled monster the mother-in-law had on.
I admit, the reason I wanted to ride was to test a possible commute, but I think that's getting way ahead of myself. Yet again there's a holiday coming up, so all thoughts of actually getting hired and working get put on the backburner to make room for booze and relaxation. Relaxation from what, I couldn't tell you. But it's there all the same.

Current beer-scale: 4.3



I should be riding everyday, if only b/c there's few feelings better than your phone ringing for an interview set-up just as you're carrying your bike up the stairs.

With the Pilot being a fancy enough bike, I was convinced by the mother-in-law to try clip-in shoes versus my usual toe clips. The in-laws have actually been working on me about this for a while, but I refused to clip into a single speed bike. Plus, I'm morally opposed to falling while I'm riding and never in the mood to go to a shop and deal with salespeople.Speaking of salespeople, the guy I talked to certainly perked up when the in-law mentioned she traded up to a Madone 4.7. That got the guy's attention in a hurry. After that, he seemed to listen a little more when I said I didn't want road-specific since eventually I'd be commuting and likely walking places after rides.

I ended up with some multi-purpose SPD compatible shoes with decent rubber soles. The cleats could actually be recessed a little more, since they clack on sidewalks more than I expected. But clipping in actually isn't all bad.
Today was the first real ride of any distance, and having nearly finished my conversion to the hermit lifestyle, decided to go north instead of south to avoid Taste of Chicago traffic. Up to the turn around at Hollywood and back down. The only time I nearly fell was after that picture, where I stopped and then couldn't start fast enough and had to yank out my left foot to stand. That experience, along with riding in traffic down Fullerton and back, convinced me I need to get my grit back. And by that I mean I'm completely uncomfortable riding in traffic now, something I used to do everyday without any thought to the consequences. I need to get that back.
But going north was nice and quiet, and it's hard to get tough when you're passing ice cream vendors.Still, I need to be riding more. The trainer helped keep my rhythm, but I miss the fearlessness that comes with riding with traffic. At least I had the leftovers to polish off when I came home. Gruesome, I know. Now to get some beer.
Current beer-scale: 6.7 (why the hell is Zambrano back in the rotation? Can someone help me out here?)

This is what I've been doing

So I've mentioned my penchant for using the kitchen to stay busy as I job search before, but I've never actually told an interviewer. Until today. Yeah for phone interviews on Friday where you stopped caring!

I've also mentioned (here, at least) that I am not a rib guy. But that didn't stop me from spending 5 hours making dinner last night, baking a rack of ribs low & slow before tossing them on a hot grill for a few minutes. Any vegetarians reading might want to skip this entry.

To start, a dry rub. I'm not sure what possessed me to do this, other than spending way too much time watching Food Network recently and thinking dinner preparation is a fine way to fill an afternoon. My simple choices? Sugar, salt, pepper, garlic.The thing I like most about trying something new is not always knowing exactly what comes next. This was a monster rib. Rinsing made sense, but after that I didn't know how to start.Lucky for me, two halves fit perfectly into the crappy pan I planned on using so on went my dry ingredients. A little water to line the bottom of the pan made sure that the ribs absorbed as much steam as possible to stay juicy.Next, 275 degrees for the rest of the afternoon. It might not have been the smartest day to have the oven on all afternoon considering how hot it was, but I'm more of an open window guy anyway. Around the 90 minute mark, you could smell the sugar caramelizing and baking in. The rest of the afternoon was filled with a lovely pork smell. Positively delicious.This was at the 4 hour mark. The charcoals went into the grill after 5 PM and while they were lighting I slathered on some bbq sauce. The meat was so tender a chunk came off while I was trying to pick one half up, exactly what I was looking for. I honestly don't think I've ever had ribs prepared this way, since my parents always just charred the shit out of them on a grill. Which explains why I was never a rib person, and why I didn't try this earlier.Making bbq sauce from scratch would definitely fall in line with my "take as much time in the kitchen as possible" approach, but sometimes you've gotta draw the line. Sauce out of the bottle is fine with me. With the grill set, the ribs went on for just long enough to burn some of the sauce and get a nice smoke on the meat. And, the finished product:Unfortunately, they looked better than they tasted at this point. A few more minutes on the grill would have remedied that, b/c they were closer to room temperature than I would have preferred. Other than that, these were pretty outstanding. Tender, juicy, and fall off the bone.
Leftovers this afternoon, that's all that was left. Before or after a bike ride, I haven't decided. It might be a while before I make these again, but I might have to reconsider my stance on ribs in general after eating these. Awesome.

Current beer-scale: 5.8 but running on empty


Get back in the kitchen

While it's true that job searching can be a full-time occupation in and of itself, the unemployed often have to find other ways to supplement their activities. I've sometimes found it enjoyable to find those supplemental activities in the kitchen, and today have two new recipes to try.

I've never been a huge fan of ribs, but I think that's partly b/c I've never had them when they've been prepared all day, baking low and slow and then topped off with a few minutes on the grill. More on that later.

I also have a recipe for "San Francisco" cookies, chocolate chip cookies with banana puree and granola. Sounded interesting. Didn't have any granola, but tried them anyway.

Evidently the granola was a key ingredient structurally, b/c I needed some extra flour and sugar to get the dough to the point I could even call it a "scoop" on the baking sheet. They went into the oven closer to "goop," but they smelled good.
I don't know at this point if I have cookies or round, miniature banana bread loaves. Neither of those are bad options, so I'll consider this a success if they taste halfway decent. And now, onto the ribs!

Current beer-scale: 3.9


I must be out of my mind.

That was my exact thought coming up to the 5700th south block of the lakefront path today.

You know how it is. It's perfect out, and you want to take a short ride. Maybe 12-15 miles. 20 tops. And you weave your way south on the path, slowing down and taking it easy around the big crowds. Suddenly things start to thin out a little. You're already by the aquarium, passing Soldier Field. Before you know it, you're past McCormic place and see the 2500 south marker.
Well, this just feels great.

"25 already? Let's go to 35 and turn around."

"That was fast too. I guess 45 would be alright."

"Shoot, MSI is only 12 blocks away. Might as well make the whole trip."
How did we get this far south?

Things feel so good you can't help but downshift and go a little faster. If there's someone on the hill in front of you, you see how much ground you can make up. The sound of the wheels on the smooth pavement hypnotizes you. And you're 15 miles away from home, wondering how it happened. That ride back was a bit of a bitch but that's not necessarily a bad thing. By the time I was back at Castaways I was way too tired to give a shit about some spandex douchebag flying by despite all the foot traffic.
Please ignore my finger. That's a long way home & I was too lazy to fully stop and take a real picture.

That ride was so great I might actually have to start advocating for a move to the south side. The path is smooth and practically empty; it's gorgeous with all the beaches and parks. A fantastic afternoon. I feel like I might die now, but that's no big deal.

Current beer-scale: 6.8 mmmmmmmmmmm, lager


Oh look, the sun.

I've found it difficult to support Bike to Work week this year. That's most likely due to not having work to bike to, but I'm trying not to let that get me down. I have the second of three interviews this week later today, and just schedule a fourth for next week. So there's less time than I would like to take the new ride out, but things are picking back up, and sooner or later one of these interviews will result in something. I hope.

Hope is the tricky thing here. A large part of me can't believe I'm still unemployed, b/c I've past all the markers I had in my head that I had hoped to be gainfully employed by. Christmas, New Years, birthdays, spring, baseball...Bike to Work week was honestly the last marker I had bothered to think up as far as "gosh I had better have a job by then." And I don't. It's not the end of the world, but it is disconcerting. The one-year marker is sneaking ever closer.

The best thing about this current batch of interviews is that one of them I didn't even apply to directly, but my resume got passed to someone from the job fair I went to last week. At the time I didn't have much faith anything could come of it, but I was still glad I went to even make the possibility of a connection. I got a call out of the blue yesterday about something I'm really interested in and excited about. That's exactly the kind of story it takes to break out of the unemployment slump. Fingers crossed.

Current beer-scale: 8.1


Here come the Hawks

Don't forget their crowds too. I should have known better than to try and go for a ride this afternoon but I just couldn't help myself.

I got a new hand-me-down earlier this month. The mother-in-law wanted to upgrade her ride, and the 2010 WSD Madones had caught her eye. She was already riding a Trek Pilot 5.2 but not the WSD, and not really fitted that well to her either. I actually started commuting on one of her old worldsports, but moving up to the Pilot is a whole 'nother deal.

I've gone over 800 miles on the trainer since the wife picked me up a computer, but none of that can prepare you for an actual bike ride. We took a quick one in the suburbs last week, an 8 mile jaunt around one of the trails out by Arrowhead in Wheaton. Today the itch to hop on the carbon and really take it for a ride was too much to resist, and off I went. Parade crowd or not.

The Pilot is kind of an odd design. It's almost like one of the Giant or Specialized compacts, where you're sitting pretty upright even with the seat way up. I didn't think I'd like it but for my first real road ride in months my butt, hands, and wrists barely complained at all. It's still got an old lady gel saddle on that I have to change, but that's about it. I'm definitely not going to whine about someone giving me a fully loaded carbon bike, used or whatever. The only thing I was worried about other than being patient with foot traffic was getting doored after getting a little urban-rusty. Traffic was tight at times but not bad.

The best part, I got a call for an interview just as I was walking up to my building at the end of the ride. Still looking, but it feels good to have some potential again.

Current beer-scale: 7.1; it's hot and I've got lagers.


Nothing like a ride in a pee-soaked el car to a waste-of-time interview at a non-profit staffing agency to make you appreciate having all day to yourself at home. It's time for a long ride tomorrow.

Current beer-scale: high with a pair of mojitos down already.