Sunday, January 31, 2010

N+1 Teaser

I picked up another bike this weekend. It's a 1987 Schwinn Prelude I got for a great price at a pawn shop. It is a better quality bike than my '83 Raleigh Marathon, more along the lines of the Nishiki Olympic 12 I used to have. I will end up selling either the Prelude or the Marathon, keeping the one I like best (I try to limit myself to one bike per decade). More pics after I've cleaned it up, but here's a teaser for now:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thank Goodness I Had A Spare

Shortly after getting my Nishiki hybrid which is my normal commuter bike, I stupidly rode it up the edge of a sidewalk and bent the rim. Three different bike shops proclaimed the rim toast so I replaced it.... with the cheapest thing I could find at the time. My philosophy is to try the cheapest solution first. If it works, great; if not, then at least I know why I need to spend more money.

Well the new wheel did well.... for a while. Starting last fall I occasionally broke a spoke. Then Tuesday morning I was riding to work and while hammering up a hill, SNAP- whoosh, whoosh, whoosh- the familiar sound of a broken spoke. NUTS. I arranged for a ride home that afternoon. I decided that I had lived with the cheapie wheel long enough and ordered a new, better one from the bike shop.

In the meantime, I went back to the bike I commuted with for a while last year- the 1983 Raleigh Marathon I pulled out of a dumpster in December '08.

When my commute was only 7 miles and I didn't carry as much, the Dumpster Queen was fine. But my new commute is longer, involves more climbing, and perhaps most importantly, I carry more stuff. The bike is okay- it carried me and my stuff to the office and back home- but the ride just wasn't as fun. I think this bike is just not in its element when it's loaded down. It'll do until I can get my replacement wheel though. Here are a few pics from this week.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Paco and John's Mexican Diner

I'll take all the suspense out: I love this place. Paco & John's stands at 1116 8th Avenue just south of Rosedale.

The prices are reasonable and there are some items I've never seen before

The staff is friendly and made me feel at home... even though my waitress's English was not the best. They kept my coffee full and quickly made my breakfast.

On a lark I decided to order the Heuvos Divorciados ("divorced eggs"). I think the name comes from the fact that you get two eggs, one with red sauce and one with green sauce, each in its own bed (tortilla). But you get a lot more than that.

The different sauces had distinctly different flavors. I was a little iffy about this and wasn't sure I would like eggs like that, but they were delicious. Paco & John's does something magic: Their sauces are flavorful and spicy without being too hot or causing {ahem} bloating.

I've heard that they recently started serving duck enchiladas for lunch, and that they will soon be (or maybe already are) open for dinner. I can't speak to their lunch & dinner entrees (yet), but their breakfast is fabulous.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Views of Downtown Fort Worth

I've been out of town on business and not riding my bike. So this weekend I tried to make a point of riding. I was planning on going up to the Denton Denim Ride on Saturday but the high potential for rain in the afternoon made me consider other options, so I went on my club's breakfast ride (which was also abbreviated due to weather).

Today was a nicer day, although there was a stiff wind out of the north which made it feel colder than it was. I decided to ride into the teeth of it so I could have it at my back on the way home. I rode my Schwinn Cutter single speed. It's interesting to ride a bike with only one gear; the ride itself always seems for fun. On the way out I stopped in Trinity Park and took some pictures.

On a bridge over a stream on the Loop Trail

Every day is a winding road... or path... or whatever

A boy and his bike

Views of Downtown from the north end of the park and the Trinity Trail

I wanted to see if I could get up the Taylor Street hill on the single speed which I've heard is a 12% grade (I tried to verify this on Google and that said it is a 15% grade!) At the bottom looking up... not nearly as good as being at the top looking down.

Taking some pictures while riding Downtown:

Bass Hall

Close up of a Bass Hall angel

From Downtown I set out northward, up Samuels Avenue. There is new development along Samuels. I rode through just kind of gawking before I realized I was past it.... and I forgot to take pictures. I finally decided to take some near the north end of Samuels where it crosses the Trinity River.

The road and rail bridges look to be pretty old.

From the north end of Samuels I got back on the Trinity Trail which provides some nice views of Downtown. This one is further out:

And these near the Main Street bridge show the Courthouse a little better

Peeking under main Street to see the Radio Shack headquarters:

A picture of the bike... looks like it's swimming upstream.

It was clouding up and I feared it might rain, so I started riding a little more quickly and didn't take anymore pictures... until I ran into a group of cyclists that looked familiar at the south end of Trinity Park. It turns out they were the crowd from my favorite bike shop, The City Cyclist. They said they were going to pop into Chili's for a drink and wondered if I wanted to join them... so I did.

Me and Debbie and Larry

Larry and Mike the Mechanic

A group shot of the whole crowd- Debbie and Larry standing, then Mike, Eric, T-Ann & Mica

And another shot to show that yes, I was really there.

The staff at The City Cyclist usually don't get a chance to ride much, except on Sundays. I rode with them afterward along the Trinity Trail until I had to split off to head for home.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Momma Mia's on Magnolia

Mrs. Doohickie and I both arrived home from (different) business trips this evening at dinner time and decided to try the new Momma Mia's Italian Grill & Pizza at 1000 W. Magnolia in Fort Worth. Several months ago, one of our favorite Italian restaurants, Palermo's was at this site but they closed and Momma Mia's remodeled the place. Gone are model train tracks near the ceiling. Gone also is the bar, and the liquor license (replaced with a service bar) and the stage in the middle of the dining room. Also, the entrance was switched from the west dining room to the east dining room. Palermo's was a bit odd in some ways, but we liked it. The Lobster Ravioli was my wife's favorite.

Moving on, the place is now Momma Mia's. They've been open about 2 weeks now. They've had a location on Belknap Street for much longer than that, so they should know what they're doing. We were looking forward to trying them out. The newly remodeled restaurant is laid out a little better now, and has been redecorated as unambiguously Italian. My son pointed out the irony that one wall which had replaced an older wall had been painted to make it look old.... why not just keep the old wall?

Anyway, on to the meal: One thing I liked about Palermo's was having a nice glass of wine with dinner. That now requires advanced planning at Momma Mia's since they are now BYOB. I ordered the Veal Marsala; my wife ordered Salmon Piccata with Penne Pasta, and my son had the Shrimp Scampi. While we were waiting for our food, my son mentioned that he ordered the shrimp because that is his benchmark dish to rate an Italian restaurant. I feel the same about the veal.

With our drinks we received yeasty, garlicky rolls that didn't need butter to make them taste fantastic. The salads were standard appetizer salads. I ordered the house vinaigrette which was okay but not great. When the meals were delivered, I found the Veal Marsala to be perfect. A nicely seasoned sauce over tender veal cutlets.

My wife, however, found the salmon lacking. It was a generously sized serving, but it was dry and overcooked. The penne pasta was also on the "dry" side. Her whole meal could have used more moisture. My son was similarly unimpressed by the scampi. He said the seasoning didn't taste right for shrimp; it would have been more appropriate for steak, and it was also overcooked. He said it started out bad and got worse with each shrimp and he left two. Thinking that shrimp is too expensive to leave behind, I tried one and he was right, it was dried out and terrible.

To make things worse, an older lady who was apparently the manager or owner asked how things were and we replied, "Not good." She wasn't listening because she just smiled and continued on through the dining room. It was hard not to feel a little insulted by this. And since she kind of blew us off the first time, I didn't try to talk to her about the poor food. We just paid and got out of there.

To summarize: Momma Mia's is a typical mom & pop restaurant with cheesy Italian decorations and great Veal Marsala, but don't order anything that will be broiled unless you like your food dry. Oh, and expect to pay about 20 or 25% more than you did when it was Palermo's.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Growing Into It

My new 17-mile commute has been a challenge to say the least. Part of the challenge is keeping up with my wingman, Mike, who sets a strong pace. As usual, I was whooped when I got to work this morning. However, I got access to showers at work and it was wonderful to take a nice shower upon arrival instead of making do with a bird bath. I was also privileged to see this sunrise just before getting to the office.

Coming home turned out to be 14 mph headwinds with gusts to 21, but I did really well with them. It only took an extra 5 or 10 minutes, and I didn't feel particularly tired when I got home. I think it helped that I set my own pace since I didn't run into Mike on the way home. I enjoy the companionship but he really runs me ragged! The longer commute is taking some getting used to, but after this evening's ride, I think I'll be up to it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The New Commute

I'm getting to know my new commute. This morning I rode with a friend (Mike); we can ride part way together, then he goes north and I go west. Just before we split up, Mike is usually joined by another guy, Chris. One thing I noticed is that when you're riding hour and a half in the morning and again in the afternoon, the weather conditions change significantly. I was freezing at first, but eventually the ambient temperature increased and I warmed up. On the way home, I was overdressed, but about halfway home the sun went down, the temperature dropped, and I was dressed about right.

This was Mike's first commute with his new Surly Long Haul Trucker; he said it was like riding a Cadillac compared to his old Trek hybrid. I said something about trying to meet up on the way home, but Mike said he's tried that and the timing never works out, so I resigned myself to a solo ride home.

I finished the commute and found that the last 3 miles consist of a series of short but sharp climbs and descents. I was pretty proud of how well I did on them. I found out on the return trip in the afternoon that they are much sharper climbs in the homeward direction, and not being fully warmed up, they pretty much kicked my butt.

A little later, I was just coming out to a main road and two commuters in hi-visibility jackets go by- It was Mike and Chris! They passed the side street I was on and kept right on rolling. I got out to the main road and was maybe a block or two behind them, but going downhill. They were coasting some, so I was able to catch up with them and we rode the rest of the way home together. Pretty cool.

Mike is a strong rider and has been doing a longer commute for some time. Still, I hung with him pretty good- until the long rise of Wedgmont Circle where he left me in the dust.

Being in the habit of commuting regularly, I thought I was a pro at it. But when you increase the distance from 7 to 17 miles each way, it's a whole new ballgame.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cousin's Barbecue

I did 14 miles of bicycle errands today, starting out at 16º F (my coldest temp on a bike) and a 15-20 mph headwind on the outbound leg (note the flags standing straight out from the poles):

I rode my Schwinn Cutter single speed. The balaclava worked fine. I had to expose my nose when it got too foggy and cover it up when I got cold again.

What did I wear? From the bottom up, two pairs of socks, leather shoes, bike tights under jeans, a t-shirt, turtleneck, sweatshirt and nylon windbreaker, wool gloves with mitten caps (pretty cool actually- they are gloves that have exposed fingertips, but also have mitten caps you can fold over the fingers to keep the wind off), balaclava and helmet. I could have used a hat on top of the balaclava for the upwind portion of the run. Errands included going to the doctor's office to get new prescription scripts (we have to do mail-order under our new insurance), a trip to the eye doctor, and lunch.

I had barbecue. Talking about eating barbecue in Texas is like talking about breathing. You just do it without thinking about it. In Fort Worth there are several options that people argue about as to which is best, including Railhead, Angelo's, Riscky's & the best from my side of town, Cousin's.

Today I had beef brisket lunch at Cousin's Barbeque. I went to the original location on McCart at Westcreek.

Like most barbecue joints in the area, you order off a big menu at the front of the line and the service is cafeteria style.

Sushi chefs have nothing on barbecue carvers. Stay outta the way of that knife!

I ordered the sliced beef brisket barbecue plate. At Cousin's it comes with two sides and Texas toast. The pickles are from the condiments bar.

What can you say about barbecue? From what this yankee has learned since moving to Texas, traditional barbecue came from a desire to feed a bunch of ranch hands with the cheapest cut of meat available. The brisket is generally a stringy muscle that can be tough if not cooked right. But if it's slowly smoked, it comes out mouth-wateringly good, and so tender it practically melts in your mouth. I like Cousin's because the meat is so tender. Also, the barbecue sauce is tasty without being too strong. They definitely do it right.

Every barbecue place in Fort Worth has its niche. Railhead is a "see & be seen" place; Angelo's is old school. Riscky's is where the tourists go (they are downtown). Spring Creek is the "McDonald's" of DFW barbecue with lots of locations around. To me, Cousin's is barbecue that's cooked for the locals, without pretense. It is excellent and I highly recommend it. If you need a second opinion, ask Mrs. Doohickie's dad. Last time he visited we took him to Cousin's; he couldn't get enough of the stuff and we had several meals there. Cousin's truly is one of the barbecue icons of Fort Worth.

After lunch I went over for a visit at City Cyclist, by favorite LBS (local bike shop) which is in the same shopping center as Cousin's. I got to see a happy customer buy a Biria Classic Dutch bike. Her exact words after she finished her test ride were, "I'm in love!"

Finally it was time to head for home. I was freezing when I started. The homeward portion of the ride included a tailwind and getting home was a breeze.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Commuter Bike Check Ride

or, All Quiet on the Riverfront

I had some problems with my commuter bike (aka The Daily Grind) before the holidays, including a flat tire and a couple broken spokes. (The rear wheel on this bike is a cheap replacement wheel I put on after I had problems with the original.) I think I'll end up replacing the wheel fairly soon, but I'd like to get some more miles out of it before I give up on it. Also, this is the bike I was riding when my knee first started acting up, so it was kind of a check ride for me, too. Anyway, before riding it to work again I wanted to take it out for a shakedown ride. Here's my 18-mile route:

It did fine. In fact, after riding my single speed with similar geometry around for several days, I think my technique with this bike was improved a bit. I didn't lay back as much, attacking a little more.

I took my camera with me and took the picture above by the massive rail yard that runs beside the Trinity River Trail. It was pitch black out, but the camera was on auto mode and squeezed all it could out of the halogen lights in the yard. I had a little tripod with me so I figured I'd a take a picture of Yours Truly as well:


As you can see by my clothing, it was a little nippy out. Temps in the 30s and the first part of the ride featured a stiff 15 mph north wind to head into. I wore jeans, plus a tee shirt, long sleeve tee, a hoodie and a windbreaker. I had a hat under my helmet and nice wool gloves on my hands. My face was a bit cold while I was heading into the wind but I was otherwise toasty.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

At Last, Benito's

Back in September I set out to Benito's for breakfast, so I ended up diverting to Esperanza's. It was only after I got there that I realized they open at 11 am during the week (and 10 am on weekends). Today, Mrs. Doohickie and I went to grab some lunch at The Spiral Diner, but they were packed so we diverted to Benito's a couple blocks down at 1450 West Magnolia Avenue, Fort Worth.

The one thing that always puzzled me was all the Mexican blankets in the windows. Why didn't they want us to see inside? It turns out it has more to do with blocking the sunlight. From the inside my camera still sees the south wall as solid white,

...although in reality the lighting was fairly even and pleasant. Mrs. Doohickie is a vegetarian so she ordered spinach and cheese enchiladas. They come with a hot sauce but she asked that they leave it off. I ordered Combinación #3 which was one enchilada, one tamale, and one soft taco. The ordering was a little iffy in that we couldn't quite tell how well our waitress spoke English. She answered our questions... we think, and did our best to order. In other words, this is an authentic Mexican restaurant. Luckily the menu was bilingual. The meal came with tortilla soup,

...which was delicious. Mrs. Doohickie's only complaint was that without the sauce her enchiladas were a little on the bland side (but then again, she didn't want spicy hot). My meal,

...was tasty. The taco was your basic taco (I ate half of it before I took the pic... duh!), the tamale was HUGE, and the enchilada was great- it was a cheese enchilada topped with chile meat, with cheese over the whole thing. I think that was my favorite part. The total bill was about $20 including tip.

I would highly recommend Benito's, especially if you have out-of-town guests you'd like to take for good Mexican food. Even though there was a bit of a language barrier, we felt very much at home.