Monday, September 19, 2011

Barbecue, Texas Style

Last week I got to spend the week in the great state of Texas.  And it's a great place for biking, beer, and barbecue.

I didn't get a chance to do any biking, but I did have plenty of opportunity for beer and barbecue.  One of my favorite beers in Shiner Bock, made at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.  This is a lager, but it's a bit hard to describe.  Just go buy a six-pack and try it.  If you don't like it, I'll drink the rest for you.

As far as barbecue goes, I got a chance to go out to one of my favorite spots, The County Line (on the lake) in Austin.  Some people have criticized this restaurant as not being "authentic", since they have silverware and plates.  Authentic or not, it is mighty tasty.  I decided to go out on a limb and get the three meat plate with pork ribs, sausage, and brisket.  If you're not familiar with central Texas sausage, this is a smoked sausage that is smoked and cooked on site.  Some call it Elgin Hot Sausage after the Southside Market in Elgin, Texas.  Tasty, tasty, tasty.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Running, Bourbon, and Burgoo

This blog is usually covering biking, barbecue, and beer.  However, I will shift temporary focus to running, along with bourbon and burgoo.

My brother called me a couple of weeks ago and said he had a spot on his team for the Bourbon Chase Relay.  250 teams compete in a 200 mile relay starting at the Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky.  Teams are made up of 12 members.  The winning time is around 20 hours with many teams coming in around 27-30 hours.

Each team member runs three legs.  These legs range between 3-1/2 and 8-1/2 miles, with each runner totaling between 11-1/2 and 21 miles.  Most runners have a total of about 16-17 miles.  It's called the Bourbon Chase as the race passes through six different bourbon distilleries including Maker's Mark, Four Roses, and Woodford Reserve.

Drinking of bourbon is prohibited during the race, but evidently many samples are supplied for the post-race party.

I'm hoping the post-race party will include burgoo, a local Kentucky stew that is sometimes served with barbecue.  Burgoo is often made with mutton, but chicken, beef, pork, and other meats are often used.  Lots of different vegetables may be present, not limited to cabbage, corn, beans, tomatoes, or okra.  It sounds similar to the Brunswick Stew of Georgia or the hash that is served in some of the South Carolina barbecue joints.

If you're interested in the race, see more information at

I'll post some observations after the race in October.  Look for us in the results.  Our team name is Asphalt Assault.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I competed in my first triathlon last weekend in Wood River.  This was a 500 yard swim, 12 mile bike, and 4 mile run.  The swim was held in a pool.  Competitors completed 9 lengths of the pool in a serpentine fashion.  The bonus:  less than 5 foot deep at any time during the swim.  Also, competitors were started every 15 seconds so the swim was relatively uncrowded.

As of the 1st of the year, I could only swim 10 yards.  A week before the triathlon, I was able to swim 450 yards without stopping.  Granted, this was the backstroke, but it was still swimming.

I'm still learning to swim the crawl.  I bought a video and book from an author named Terry Laughlin.  He specializes in teaching people how to swim long distances with a minimum of effort.  The lessons have been good, but I am still having trouble getting the breathing right.

However, the basic premises of his methods work just fine for the backstroke as well.  So, this winter, I will be working a lot more on the crawl.

I did finish the triathlon.

Since I started 7 minutes after the clock started, I received a time of 1:19:16.  This put me in the top 100 out of 397 finishers.  I achieved my goal of finishing a triathlon before I turned 50.

Good things about the triathlon:
  • Good snacks
  • Early start
  • Lots of supporters
Not so good:
  • Biking in wet shorts
  • Running in wet shorts
  • Running after biking.  I much prefer biking after running in the triathlons.
So I guess it's time to really ramp up the swimming so I can do an open-water triathlon next year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Edwardsville Criterium

Last weekend I made my return to criterium racing.  My last race was in 1991. 
The Edwardsville Rotary Club has done an excellent job in turning this into a premier event.  The course is a flat, but technical course going through downtown Edwardsville.  The 0.7 mile course featured 7 turns, meaning that you were never going in a straight line for very long.
A fast course with a lot of tight corners.
These races are short and fast.  Races are run for a set time, plus 5 laps.  There were several races throughout the day starting at 10:00 am for the Junior’s and Women’s 4-5.  There were also races for Masters, Women Open, Men 3, Men 4, Men 5, and Men 5 40+.  Since it had been many years since I had raced, I opted for the Men’s 5 40+.
I borrowed a Team Godzilla/Metro Tri Club jersey from my friend Doug.  Our club was the sponsor of our race, so I wanted to make a reasonable showing.  I got off to a good start for the first few laps.
Here I am leading the pack around the first lap of the criterium.  Unfortunately, this was short-lived.
Unfortunately, my high speeds were only maintained for about 5 of the 14 laps.  I couldn’t hold the pace at the front (23-25 mph) and ended up dropping back.  I think I ended up in around 15th of 23 riders (although the scoring was messed up and I'm not really sure what place I was in).  However, I met my goal of a good showing and not crashing.  There was one crash almost directly in front of me where one rider did not have the best line coming through the tightest corner.  He slid his rear wheel and hit the pavement.  Fortunately, I was in a position not to run over him.
If you get a chance, come out and watch this next year or watch another where you live.  The criterium is a fast, fun race to watch.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bottom Bracket Upgrade

Some of you non-bike mechanics may be thinking “Do I even have a bottom bracket?”, “Do I want someone to see my bottom bracket?”, or “Internal may be a better idea.  This is just one of those things that should stay private.”
First of all, any of you that have a bike also have a bottom bracket.  If you have a tandem, you have two! 
What is the bottom bracket?  It’s the spindle and bearings that allow your crank and chainrings to go round and round.  The bottom bracket is housed at the “bottom” of the bike.  Typically, it is 68mm wide with 1.37x24 tpi threading.  Unlike the pedals where the left side is threaded left-handed, on the bottom bracket the right-side is left-hand thread.
Traditional bottom brackets are 4-sided where the crankset is pressed on to the spindle.  Bolts that thread into the spindle press the crankset on to the spindle.  This was fairly reliable, although larger riders sometimes “wallowed out” the crank arm, deforming the softer aluminum against the harder steel.  However, this bottom bracket was heavier and sometimes had too much flex.
An improvement came with the “splined” bottom bracket.  There are three common standards: ISIS, Octalink, and Powerdrive.   ISIS is supported by a few independent companies, where Octalink and Powerdrive are supported by Shimano and FSA respectively. 
The splined bottom bracket featured a larger diameter, hollow spindle, making it lighter and stiffer.  The splined attachment to the crankset was more secure.  This was a definite improvement to the square taper BB.
The latest innovation is the external bottom bracket.  It is called an “external” bottom bracket because the bearing cups are outside the frame.  This spaces the bearing further apart and allows for a larger diameter spindle.  This results in less flex and better power transmission.  As a bonus, it is also lighter.

Note the location of the bearings on this bottom bracket with the bearing location on the previous picture.
The external bottom bracket does not have a spindle.  It is used with a new type of crankset where the spindle is part of the drive-side crank.  The non-drive side crank arm is splined and attached after the spindle is passed through the bottom bracket.

Bolts are used to make a secure clamp to the spindle.
This is a worthwhile upgrade if you have an older bike with otherwise good parts.  Note that the bottom bracket threading is 1.37x24tpi (English) and the width is 68mm.  If you have any other threading or dimensions, you’re probably out of luck.  You may be able to find a new crankset/BB combo for around $150, but expect to pay more.  Or you can keep an eye out for people who have done upgrades and have these for spare parts.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Catching Up on the Blog, Part 2

In the midst of traveling and seeking out beer and barbecue, I have managed to do a few events this summer. 
Two days after getting back from Europe, I thought it was a good idea to throw in another biathlon.  And on top of that, I got my brother to participate. 
The Hillsboro 4th of July Biathlon consists of a 5-mile run and a 19 mile bike leg.  (We should really adopt the metric system and go with 5k runs on these things.)  The weather was better than expected, overcast and cool, at least for southwestern Illinois in July. 
I slogged along in the run at my usual 9:00 pace, until the fourth mile, when I shifted gears and went to my 10:00 pace.  I finally got on the bike and started catching and passing people.  None of these people were my brother, whom I had generously granted a seven and a half minute head start.  I was able to make up about four minutes, but sometime in the near future, I need to determine a training plan that will get me into the 8:00 to 8:15 range for a five mile run.
Five days later found me at the starting line of the famous Tour de Donut in Staunton, Illinois.  This is a 32 mile race that awards a five MINUTE time bonus for every donut you can eat during the ride.  There are donut stops near mile 10 and 20.
This year had a record number of participants, somewhere over 1500.  I managed to get to the front of the pack at the start. 
The gun went off and everyone took off like a bat out of hell.  There was a lead group of some very fast riders.  I tried to catch these guys but never managed to get closer than about 20 yards off the back of the group.  However, there was another group that formed behind and I stayed with this group for the first 20 miles.
This was my strategy, ride fast, skip the first donut stop, and eat all of the donuts at the second stop.  The last time I did this race in 2009, I had managed nine donuts.  This year I was going for an even dozen.
The problem was that I felt nauseous after four.  So I jumped back on the bike and headed for the finish. 
I ended up finishing 103rd out of ~1400 finishers.  With donut adjustments, I jumped up to 82nd.  Not a bad day for a bike ride and a snack.
Finally, last weekend I headed over to Lebanon and the Great McKendree Bike Chase.  This was a low-key 18 mile race consisting of 6 laps around a 3-mile loop.  The loop was interesting as each lap had a 180 degree hairpin turn in a cul de sac, half a lap around the college running track, and a 20 yard ride up a narrow pedestrian ramp in the stadium. 
Only about 40 riders showed up for the race (90 degrees at the 8:00 am start time).  I decided to go out and stay with the lead group which had dwindled to about 10 by the middle of the first lap and to 7 by the end of the first lap.  Me and six twenty-something Gen Xer’s, all on carbon fiber bikes.  (Note to wife:  An upgrade is definitely in the works.)  I managed to stay with the young guys for about half of the race before dropping off and soloing in.  Somewhere in there someone else passed me, but by then I was hot and tired and didn’t care.  Eighth place was good enough for me.
Leading the Youngsters around the Race Course
On a bright note, our friend Kate finished first in the Women’s group.  This was her first major effort out on clipless pedals and she did not fall over with her feet in the pedals.  Good job, Kate!
Next up for me are the Edwardsville Rotary Criterium and the Wood River Triathlon.  I haven’t raced a crit since 1991 and I have never done a triathlon.  Swimming is not my strong suit, but the swim is in a pool with a maximum depth of 5 feet.  I might ended up walking the entire swim.
A report on these later.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catching Up on the Blog, Part 1

Well, I have been neglecting the blog updates.  I’ve been doing a little traveling this summer and one of the places that I have enjoyed visiting is the Netherlands. 
Obligatory Windmill Picture
The Netherlands get a 4-star rating out of five.  There are bicycles everywhere.  There are bicycle roads and bicycle lanes everywhere.  My hotel had bicycles to rent or borrow. 

I stayed in a non-descript suburb of The Hague called Nootdorp, very near the famous Dutch town of Delft.  Delft is very famous for their blue and white pottery.

The country was very clean and also had excellent beer.  At dinner one night, I had a wheat beer called Wiehanstephan from Germany.  This is the world’s oldest active brewery, having started under the direction of Benedictine monks in the year 1040.
This was an excellent wheat beer, so I had a couple.
971 years of wheat beer goodness
The only down side to The Netherlands is their complete and utter lack of anything resembling barbecue.  Even the cheeseburgers are sort of an odd color.  No one had ever heard of pulled pork. 
So, a one star deduction for Holland.  I am looking forward to a return visit this fall.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Biking, Beer, and Fried Cheese Curds

I just finished a week on the POWWOW Fox Valley Tour.  This tour is one of those underpublicized gems.  This is the second year in a row I have done this tour, primarily for two reasons:  it's not hot in Wisconsin in June and you get to sleep in a bed.

I covered around 370 miles over six days.  We started in Watertown, followed by stops in Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, and Green Bay.  We came back through Oshkosh and Fond du Lac on our way back to Watertown following alternate routes.

I hesitate to say that this is an easy tour, considering the first four days were very windy.  We passed through several wind farms and that should have been a clue.  The third day from Oshkosh to Green Bay was probably the hardest at 69 miles with the first 45 being directly into the teeth of a constant 20-30 mph wind.

I said that you get to sleep in beds.  Each night we lodged at a college dormitory.  Not luxurious, but plenty of hot showers and air conditioning.  Breakfast and dinner were in the college cafeterias (included in the price) while lunch was found at various establishment on the routes and often accompanied by local Wisconsin brews.

There were about 45 riders on the tour and most had been back several consecutive years.  This was an older crowd, primarily in their 50's and 60's, but there were both older and your participants.

The course was generally on lightly travelled, but well-maintained farm roads.  My only criticism of the ride is the route markings.  Instead of road markings, there were arrows stapled to telephone poles and road signs, and not always obvious.  I hope the organizer will improve this for the next ride.

Plenty of SAG support was available, but traditional rest stops were not included, although the SAG drivers carried water.  Intermediate stops were on your own at Kwik-E-Marts or taverns.  Although I didn't find barbecue, I did find lots of local Wisconsin beer, bratwurst, and fried cheese curds.

Check this out for next year.

Andrew (one of the SAG drivers) and myself.  I shaved the side of my head for a Mohawk, but it just didn't turn out the same.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Biathons Are Great! (Except for the Running)

I finished my first real biathlon this morning in Highland, Illinois.  The race entailed a 5 mile run followed by a 15 mile bike segment.

Well, it was hot and windy.  I was nowhere close to my target time of 1:30.  I thought it should be pretty easy to knock out 9-minute miles and then a 20 mph average on the bike.

It wasn't that easy.

My run time ended up being about 3 minutes slower than target and the bike ended up about 3 minute slower.  And I had forgotten about the transition which added another two minutes.  The weather conditions were hot and windy.  Hot made it tougher on the run, windy made it tougher on the bike.  After about 3 miles, I was really wishing the run had been a 5k.  I was overheating and slowing way down.

Once I got on the bike I felt light and fast.  It's much more of my natural habitat.  The windy sections made it slower, but the stretches of road where we were going directly into the wind are where I had done most of my passing of other competitors.

The Lion's Club of Highland did a good job with the race.  And as a bonus, I managed to finish in the top half of the competitors - by one person.  Good day overall and now for a nap and some barbecue and beer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The National Barbecue of St. Louis

Let's be honest.  St. Louis is not known as a great barbecue town.  Now there are some decent places, but not nearly as many as Kansas City, Austin, Birmingham, or Memphis. 
But St. Louis does have one unique barbecue style that's not common elsewhere.  And that is the pork steak.
Pork steak?  What the heck is a pork steak?
Well, it's not really a steak as we know it.  Pork steaks are cut from the pork shoulder.  The butcher uses a band saw and slices the shoulder across the grain, about 1/2 inch thick.  There is bone in the steak and it's a fairly fatty cut of meat.
The locals cook the pork steaks by firing up a hot charcoal grill.  They liberally season the steaks with salt and pepper and toss them on to the hot fire.  It doesn't take long before the fat starts to melt and drip onto the hot coals and flame up.  Pretty soon the grill is awash in smoke and flames.  Since the steak is thin, it doesn't take long to cook.  When it's nearly done, the steak is slathered with barbecue sauce and the sauce is allowed to caramelize on the steak.  Only one sauce is acceptable, the national barbecue sauce of St. Louis:  Maull's.  This is a tangy, tomato-based sauce.  It does work well with the pork steaks, although it is not as sweet as some of the sauces that I like with pork.
Now these are tasty steaks, but they are a bit chewy.  Note that these are cooked fast off of a very tough cut of meat.  The only saving grace, as far as tenderness goes, is that the shoulder is sliced thin across the grain, resulting in a very short fiber that makes the meat seem less tough.
However, I have an improvement!
I take the pork steaks and one by one, layer them in a large pan suitable for placing in the oven.  As I layer the steaks, I liberally season them with a barbecue rub.  I then seal up the pan tightly with aluminum foil and place the pan into a 225 degree oven.  I'll leave them in the oven for 4-6 hours.  This time spent at low heat in a moist cooking environment allows some of the connective tissue to convert to gelatin, making the steak much more tender.  After the time in the oven, I toss these on the grill and finish off with a hearty dose of smoke and barbecue sauce.
Cook up a batch this weekend.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Create Better Gearing for Your Road Bike

Let's just start off by saying that the gearing that comes standard on road bikes is just way too high.  Seriously, how many of you can truthfully say that a 53/39 with a 12-23 cassette is perfectly geared.  If you say this you are either:

A.  A Cat 2 criterium racer who lives and races in the flatlands.
B.  A small Spaniard climber on a continental team.
C.  A delusional wanna-be with blown-out knees.
D.  A liar.

Most of us would be much better off with reasonable gearing.  The problem is that we either as compelled to use racing gearing or touring gearing.  Road bikes now tend to have 50/34 chainrings and a 12-25 cassette.  True touring bikes usually employ a mountain bike crank (44/32/22) with a wide range cassette (11-34).  We usually need something in between.

With the advent of the compact double crankset, we now have a chance if we want to be fast and have reasonable gearing.  How do we do it?

First, let's start with the 50/34 compact crankset.  A 50 tooth chainring is plenty big when paired with a 12t cog.  This is actually a higher gear than the 52/13 that was a common top gear thirty years ago.  If you're sprinting with a 120 rpm cadence in this gear, you'll be going 41 mph.  Not many of us can sprint that fast.  Including Cat 3 racers.

So the high gear is good, even more than we need.  Let's look at the low gear.  If we have a 34T small chainring paired with a 23t cog, this gives us 39 gear inches.  If you don't know what gear inches are, don't worry.  We'll only use these as comparison.  Let's move to a 26t rear.  SRAM sell a nice 12-26 cassette that's relatively inexpensive.  That gets us down to 34.5 gear inches, an improvement of 12%.  Okay, much better. 

But we've got this one really steep hill...

Okay, how can we get a lower gear.  We can change to a triple crankset.  That's expensive and adds weight.  We can change out the rear derailleur and cassette to accommodate an 11-34.  Good idea, but still expensive and maybe a bit of overkill.  We can use a larger rear cog.  No, the cogs all connected together and they don't make them any bigger that a 12-27.  Besides, it says my rear derailleur won't work with a cog bigger than 27t.

Hah!  Here's what we'll do.  First of all, a short cage derailleur will work okay with a 29 or 30 tooth cogs.  A little adjustment may be needed.  Second, we can take apart these cassettes.  On a SRAM PG950 cassette, these are three screws through the body that can be removed with a 1.5mm or 2.0mm Allen wrench.  So if we take apart a 12-26, we have 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 26 tooth cogs, assuming we have a 9-speed.  I think the 14 is of little use to us.  Let's pull that out (along with the spacer) and get a 29T Miche cog.  Yes, they do make one and it's only about $8.  Re-assemble the cassette to the wheel (don't worry about replacing those little screws) and you're ready to go.  Now you have an 11% lower gear than the 26t and a 21% lower gear than the 23t. 

I may be the only person in the State of Illinois riding with a 12-29 cassette, but it's certainly much more practical than the 12-23.  Now I know I'm not the only person in the country with one, since I set my brothers bike up the same way.
Now you know there are more options for gearing out there.  Don't be stuck in a gear too high.

P.S.  SRAM has just come out with their new Apex group.  With a standard setup, you can have 50/34 paired with a 10-speed 12-32.  And if you're willing to swap to the MTB rear derailleur, you can go with a 12-36 cassette.  A salute to all of you at SRAM! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Alternate Food and Drink Suggestions for Bicycling

We've all seen the advertisements and some of us have succumbed to them.  All of these companies trying to sell us the latest in cycling food and recovery food and drink.

Well I say "Fie!"

Here are a list of things that I like to eat during long rides.  These have many benefits, primarily that they taste good.

-- Chocolate milk - great substitute for Gatorade at the 50 mile mark of a century

-- YooHoo - same as chocolate milk

 -- Oatmeal cream pies - These babies lie flat in your jersey pocket and go down easy

-- Brownies wrapped in bacon - the adventure racers made these popular, claiming the right amount of fat, carbs, and protein

 -- Ham & cheese biscuit - I actually ate one of these in the middle of a Cat. 3 road race, still better than a Powerbar

-- Beer - see any references to RAGBRAI

 -- Bratwurst - see any references to Wisconsin

-- Barbecue - ate a massive plate 50 miles into a 110 mile ride in Georgia, felt okay again at about 60 miles

 -- Donuts - Tour de Donut, Staunton, Illinois, July 9, 2011

I have probably eaten a lot of other things while out bicycling, and I still say they're all better than Powerbars.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Biking Season Begins in Earnest

Man, I have been negligent on my posts for the past few weeks. 

Last weekend, I went over and ran the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon in Louisville.  This is a great run, that is, if you like running.  I decided at around the 8-mile mark that I did not like to run any more.  I had made the cardinal mistake of not drinking enough water prior to the race.  I was walking around the starting line already thirsty.  By the time I started to drink at the first water stop, I was already doomed.  I was fine through the first eight miles, but the last five were a booger.

Nonetheless, I managed to finish 25 minutes faster than last year, which only goes to show you how slow I was last year.  2:10 is not a bad half-marathon for a non-runner, but I would have liked to finish under two hours.

Tomorrow is the annual "Tour de Stooges" over in Highland, IL.  Roger Kramer ( does an excellent job with this ride each year.  My riding companions for this year only want to take on the 42-mile route.  They don't think that they have enough miles in for the 65-mile route.

Next on the race schedule is the Highland Memorial Day Biathlon.  This is a five mile run followed by a 15-mile bike ride.  See if you are interested in participating.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Barbecues

Last week, a friend and I stopped at Dickey’s Barbecue for lunch.  Now Dickey’s is a chain based out of Dallas, but it’s been around a while so I decided to give it a try. 
I ordered the pulled pork plate.  I will have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.  Now this wasn’t the best pulled pork that I have ever eaten, but it wasn’t bad considering that this chain tries to cover all of their bases and serves both beef and pork. 
The pork shoulder had been smoked and had a nice pink smoke ring.  My biggest complaint is that they took a chunk of shoulder that had been soaking in broth and pulled it right before they put it on the plate.  I prefer pulled pork that has a nice smoky, chewy crust outside and a tender moist inside all mixed together.
I topped it off with the sweet barbecue sauce.  It was tomato-based and well proportioned.  I do prefer a little more of a sour bite to balance the sweetness, but it was pretty good. 
Final verdict for Dickey’s:   Not bad for a chain, but not quite my favorite.
Earlier this week I was in Kansas City for some business meetings.  One night we went to dinner at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. 
Now this is not your typical barbecue place.  This was definitely upscale, both in d├ęcor and menu.  The  barbecue prices were a bit higher, but given the setting, this was to be expected.
I ordered the barbecue special for the evening: the three meat combo.  I ordered brisket, sausage, and ham.  It came with two sides, as usual with this sort of place.
I was disappointed.  The brisket was too fatty, the sausage did not have much flavor, and the ham was not up to par.  I had really looked forward to the brisket, but the fatty nature of the meat detracted greatly.  The sausage seemed to be a standard grocery store variety, and the ham didn’t seem to be much more than an accumulation of lunch meat.
Now I realize that this is a fairly scathing review.  I had eaten here before and it had been much better.  If you go to Kansas City, skip the upscale places and head to Oklahoma Joe’s or to the epicenter of Kansas City barbecue, Arthur Bryant’s.
Final verdict for Jack Stack:  Skip it and head to Arthur Bryant's.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I tagged along with my wife last Saturday night at a beer and wine tasting in Edwardsville.  My wife went to taste wine and I went to taste beer.

At the tasting, they had one of my old favorites, La Fin du Monde from Quebec.  In English, this translate to "the end of the world" and I suspect that if you drank a couple of these large bottles, it might be the end.  La Fin du Monde is a high gravity beer.  To make this beer, it goes through three fermentations.  The last fermentation is done using champagne yeast which is one of the few yeasts viable at a very high alcohol content.  Despite the high gravity, this is a light and fruity beverage.  It is crisp for a high gravity ale, and is a great after dinner dessert beer.

One of the most interesting beers I tasted was another high gravity beer made by a company called "He'Brew".  This beer was aged in rye whiskey barrels.  It was quite strong (~10% ABV), but tasted even stronger due to the rye whiskey taste.  Think of an IPA with a shot of rye.  If you're a rye whiskey drinker who might want to moderate the amount of alcohol you imbibe, this might be a good substitute.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Perfect Barbecue Dessert

There is one dessert that is perfect for barbecue:  banana pudding.  There are other good desserts for barbecue: pecan pie, blackberry or peach cobbler with ice cream, Coca-Cola cake, and the list goes on.  But banana pudding is the first choice.

No one knows the exact date of the origin of nanner puddin' as it is colloquially known.  Nabisco first started selling Nilla Wafers in 1901, and it is thought that banana pudding was developed shortly thereafter.  There is an early mention in a Kentucky cookbook from 1903.

Anyway, the pudding is now a standard in barbecue joints from Texas to South Carolina.  I regret that this pudding never made much of an impact in Illinois or Missouri, so I guess it's up to me to evangelize its creamy goodness.

Banana pudding is generally made by layering vanilla wafers, bananas, vanilla pudding, and a topping.  There are a couple of schools of thought on the topping.  Some prefer a classic meringue topping, while others worship in the house of whipped cream.  Cool Whip is not acceptable.  Again, repeat after me, "Cool Whip is not acceptable".  Personally, I am a devoted disciple of the whipped cream church of banana pudding.

We had some bananas left over from the biathlon yesterday that had already been cut in two, so they needed to be used quickly, so I decided to make the sacrifice and make banana pudding.  Here's the instructions.

Pick out 3-4 ripe bananas.  These should not be green, but neither should they be brown.  You also need vanilla wafers, vanilla pudding mix, milk, and whipping cream.

Take a 9-inch baking dish or pie pan and arrange vanilla wafers across the bottom and up the sides.  The dish should be nearly completely covered, although a few small gaps aren't a problem.  Slice the bananas thin and layer these over the cookies.  Again, try to cover thoroughly, but a few gaps are okay.

Now cook the pudding.  Note that I said cook.  Instant pudding simply does not work.  After you cook the pudding, pour it slowly over the bananas and vanilla wafers.  The hot pudding will soak into the cookies and extract flavor from the bananas in a way that can't be matched by cold, starchy instant pudding.  For a 9-inch dish, I use the big box of pudding, the one that uses three cups of milk. 

If you normally keep skim milk in your house, you may need to pick up some whole milk to make the pudding as skim milk does not contain enough fat to properly bond to the starch in the pudding.  In other words, if you use skim milk, you will get runny pudding.

If you have extra bananas, you might want to throw a few more slices on top of the pudding.  Take a piece of plastic wrap and lay on the surface of the pudding prior to placing it in the refrigerator to cool.  This prevents the formation of the dreaded "pudding skin".

After the pudding is completely chilled, remove the plastic wrap and cover the top with whipped cream. 

The perfect dessert for barbecue or anything else.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Frosty Race

Spring is here.  Yeah, right.  This year I joined the Metro Tri Club here in Edwardsville, Illinois.  One of the two events that they put on each year is the Tracks n Treads off-road biathlon.  This is a 5k run on the SIUE cross-country course (not an easy route) followed by 9 miles of tight, technical single-track.

Due to the weather this year, the single-track portion of the race had to be run on an alternate course.  It was still fairly tough. 

Who was the winner this year?  Old Man Winter.  It was 35 at race time and 34 at the finish.  At least we got the race in before it started to snow.  I am going out tomorrow to find the lying groundhog who said it would be spring soon, as I watch the inches of snow pile up outside.

I did fairly well in the race considering my size and age.  I ended up in 34th place out of 62 participants.  The run definitely kept me from placing higher.  The good news is that I would have finished in the top three in my age group had I been 8 months older.  I guess there's always next year.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Miscellaneous Ramblings

I ran my first race of the year yesterday at McKendree College over in Lebanon, Illinois.  I know, technically it's McKendree University, but I'm not convinced.  Anyway, they have a spring fling race every year with a 5k, 10k, and 10-mile runs.  This race is a bargain at $12 and a pretty well run race as well.  I finished the 10-miler in just a hair under 1:31, right at the 9:06 pace I need to finish a half marathon in under 2 hours.  I guess training does make a difference since last year I finished the same race in 1:46.

Earlier this week I was in Houston and had dinner at a place with many, many beers on tap.  I had a couple of my favorites, Boddingtons and Old Speckled Hen.  Both of these are nitrogen pressured light ales.  Nitrogen is what gives Guiness that creamy texture.  Boddington's is a very light ale and Old Specklen Hen is slightly darker and heavier.  Both are excellent when you can find them on tap.

Next week is the Metro Tri Club's Tracks n Treads off-road biathlon at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.  It's a 5k run on the SIUE cross-country course followed by 9 miles of mountain biking on the single track trails. 

I decided to pre-ride the course last weekend and see what it was like.  I dusted off the old Cannondale and headed out to the trail.  I discovered that you really need brakes to ride the single-track fast.  So this week I gave the mountain bike a full brake service job, which included replacement of the rear rotor which got bent sometime through the years.  The secret of good disc brakes is proper adjustment.  The rear was set fairly loose for clearance of the bent rotor and the front was just set too wide.  I also found that both brake cables had frayed at the clamp on the brake assembly.

So, after two new cables, one new rotor, and a good bit of adjusting, my brakes are working well.  We'll see if my running and biking ability is tuned as well for the race on Saturday. 

If you're interested in the race, see the website:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Edwardsvile, Illinois - Nirvana of Cycling

Outside magazine comes out with their best places to live edition.  In the best places to live for biking section, Edwardsville was not mentioned.  Not in the top ten, not even honorable mention.
I formally protest.
Outside magazine editors are biased against the Midwest.  They like places with "mountains" and "coffee shop scenes" and "eco-green, bike commuter transit-based rail systems".  Well, we don't have any mountains, but we have a lot of other good things.  Here's why we should make the top ten:
- Madison County Trails.  We have 85 miles of trails in the county system.  65 miles are paved.  We aren't even required to cross many roads.  Most of the busiest crossing have underpasses or overpasses. The Madison County system is also uniquely routed into several loops varying lengths, between 12 and 30 miles.  You can link up a few loops and have a long outing completely on the trails without re-tracing your path.  Bored with the Edwardsville trails?  Head to St. Charles and get on the Katy Trail.  240 miles across the state on the same trail.
- Southwest Illinois farm roads.  When you come to the end of the Madison County Trails, get on the farm roads and just keep going.  The roads are generally smooth and very lightly traveled.  Most people forget that once you leave Chicago, Illinois just doesn't have that many people.
- Races.  Edwardsville has the downtown criterium and the mountain bike biathlon, and nearby O'Fallon hosts a road race and criterium.  The original Tour de Donut race is just up the road in Staunton.  A well-attended triathlon is held in nearby Wood River every August.  Other popular triathlons are held in nearby Greenville, Carlyle, Belleville, and Springfield.  Biathlons are hosted in Highland, Hillsboro, New Baden, and Millstadt.  And that's just on the Illinois side of the river.  Over in St. Louis (20 minutes away), races are held throughout the season, including road races, biathlons, triathlons, mountain bike, cyclocross, and velodrome track racing.
- Recreational rides. So you don't want to race? Enjoy one of the many recreational rides throughout the Edwardsville area.  A dozen or more are held each year around Madison County with the ever popular Tour de Stooges leading the way.  The Gateway Council of Hostelling International sponsors several rides and Trailnet has even more.  Again, cross the river and you'll keep finding more rides.  During the season, there are five or more rides per month within 50 miles.
- Refreshments.  We have coffee shops just like those snobby Pacific Northwest people.  Edwardsville has a re-vitalized downtown area with many coffee shops, restaurants, and watering holes.  Coming back in from one of our epic rides last year, our group stopped at the winery just 30 feet from the bike trail.  And for the ultimate ride stop -- Fast Eddie's in Alton.
- Weather.  Granted, our winters can be a bit cool here.  However, last year I was able to ride outside every month of the year, and that was without deep arctic gear.  Mid-summer can be a bit toasty (or steamy), but our hot spells usually only last a few days.  Riding weather is generally very good starting in mid-March and lasting until mid-November.
- Scenic rides.  We don't have any mountains, but we have the mighty Mississippi river with bike-specific bridges.  The bike trails are through tree-lined corridors on former railroad beds.  Besides the bike trail routes, we have a lot of peaceful, bucolic countryside rides.  You’ll see lots of wildlife on any of these rides, including deer, turkey, bald eagles, bluebirds, cardinals, lots of other songbirds, squirrels, groundhogs, and an occasional snake.
Okay, I think I'm proving my point.  Outside Magazine, listen up.  This is the best bike riding spot in the country.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March Events - Southwestern Illinois

There are a couple of good events coming up in March.

March 19th - Ramble Into Spring, McKendree University, Lebanon, Illinois.  The university hosts a 5k, 10k, and a 10 mile run, all starting together.  This race is a bargain at $12, especially with many races charging $40 or more these days.  The 5k course runs through town, while the 10 miles takes you out throgh the cornfields.

March 26th - Tracks n' Treads, Off-road biathlon, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville.  This is an trail biathlon that starts with a 5k run over the university cross-country course and a 9-mile single-track mountain bike race over the challenging course on the SIUE campus.  This race is hosted by the Metro Tri Club, the same guys that put on the Pere Marquette Trail Run each December. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Essential Library

Okay, you've been given the ultimatum to reduce your personal library to four books.  Maybe you're moving into an RV and have limited space.  Maybe it's for a stretch in the federal pen after someone linked you and that new Trek Madone with SRAM Red to Bernie Madoff. 
So you only get four books. 
Let's assume that you'll have a chance to borrow novels from the prison library or do trade-ins on used books from the truck stops.  That means we want reference books, but reference books that are also great reads.  Where should we start?
We want our bikes to be in top working order.  A great place to start is Leonard Zinn's "Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance", an homage to Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".  This book has gone through several editions and has been kept up to date with the latest cycling gizmos.

We'll be thirsty after riding, so let's take a look at Michael Jackson's (the other MJ) "Great Beer Guide".  Jackson hosted a television series called "The Beer Hunter" and was noted as possibly the world's foremost expert on beer.  Jackson died in 2007, but has left a malty and hoppy legacy.

After a cold one, we'll be ready to eat.  Start with Steven Raichlen's "Barbecue Bible".  I will be the first to point out that many of these recipes involve grilling and not barbecuing.  However, roasted meat in its many forms is all good.  Raichlen references meats and cooking styles from around the world.

We may be fit, we might be full, and we might have satisfied our thirst, but let's not neglect our spiritual development.  For those of you so inclined, I would recommend the fourth book on the list to be the "Quest Study Bible" by Zondervan Press.  The text is a New International Version translation.  The notes in the margins provide reference to other parts of the Bible and notes about the cultural and historical context.  Each book has an overview page on who wrote it and why.  There are other study Bibles that contain more in-depth analysis, but this is a good place to start for the laymen without seminary training.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rudy's Can't Fail

My apologies to Joe Strummer and The Clash for an obvious misuse of their song title.  But, if you want some authentic Texas barbecue, you could do a lot worse than stopping at one of the Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q.

Rudy's has several locations in the southwest. I was down in Austin earlier this week and decided that I had to feed my need for some Q.  I went over to Rudy's to pick up some dinner.  Rudy's is a rustic sort of place, somewhat pre-fabricated to look like the country stores and gas stations of 1950's west Texas.  Now while this decor may sound a bit kitschy, rest assured the meat is authentic.

Rudy's does not have table service.  You don't even get a plate.  You stand in line and order meat at the counter and they give it to you on butcher paper.  Yes, meat, not a meal.  You can purchase sides of potato salad and slaw, but the meat is the real feature.  They also throw in several slices of white bread to go along with the meat.

I ordered a half pound of brisket and half of a sausage link.  They included the white bread as noted above.  To round out a complete meal, I got some sauce (contain tomato) and pickles (cucumber) on the side to serve as vegetables.  And a container of banana pudding for good measure.

The meat was delicious.  Smoky, but not overwhelming.  Tender, lean, and moist.  Rudy's has a nice sauce to go along with the brisket, tomato based and spicy.  I like a sweet and vinegar type sauce on pork, but this sauce is a perfect match for the brisket.

Some detractors will claim that Rudy's is a chain.  Well, it is.  But it's a good chain and a good franchise.  Any investor's out there?  I'm ready to open one up in St. Louis.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 Event Update

You may have noticed a new tab at the top of the page.  I am planning to compete in several races this year, mostly for fitness motivation purposes. My friend and occasional running/cycling buddy Kate had posted her race schedule on here blog and I thought it was a good idea.

Friday, February 11, 2011


If you're a Clydesdale, what would you eat for breakfast?  Oats, of course.

One of the new food trends is steel cut oats.  Most of the oats we ate growing up were rolled oats.  Old-fashioned rolled oats took a while to cook, while quick or instant oats were partially cooked and only needed brief exposure to boiling water to finish the cooking process.

Steel cut oats are not rolled flat.  They are cut by blades. They look like whole grains that have been cut by a blade, which is what they are.

I have not found any evidence that steel cut oats have any nutrional advantages over rolled oats.  However, there is certainly a difference in taste and texture.  They also take a bit longer to cook.  Being a food trend, I have also found wild disparities in price.  At Dierberg's (local St. Louis grocery chain), Quaker steel cut oats were $6.29 for a 24 oz. can.  In the bulk aisle, they were $1.29/lb.  I bought two pounds of the bulk and found that I had gotten an additional discount when I check out, lowering the price to $1.00/lb.

I have tried two different cooking methods for the steel cut oats, both of which have turned out well.

Stovetop:  Bring 1-1/2 cups water to a boil with 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Stir in 1/2 cup of oats, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve with brown sugar and half & half.

Crock pot:  Fill crock pot with 10 cups water and 2 cups oats.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and a half a stick of butter.  Turn the crock pot to low and cook for 8 hours.  Note that slow cookers differ greatly on heat output.  I have found that our big crock pot works well for oats, but only when cooking on "keep warm".  The oats burn on low or high.  You might need to experiment with cooking times and enlist the use of an automatic timer.

With either recipe, you can add dried fruit to the beginning of the cook.  I have found that dried cherries and blueberries work well.  You can also stir in frozen fruit at the end of the cook.  Just allow a little extra time for the fruit to come up to temperature.

Two cups of cooked oats with cream fuels me for a 10 mile training run or a 40 mile ride.  Note that your mileage may vary.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tires and Pedals

It's time to start getting the bike ready for spring.  Last weekend, I attended the St. Louis Bike Expo over in Collinsville, IL.  There were a lot of shops out selling new equipment, plus clubs and other selling used and "vintage" equipment.

I was looking for tires and pedals.  I needed new tires because one of the relatively expensive Bontrager Hardcase tires on my bike has developed a bad "bump".  The tire is starting to come apart from the inside out.  This is very disappointing, as the tires do not look to be terribly worn otherwise.  And even though the tire was a bit heavy, I had zero flats over 3500 miles.

Anyway, I did not find any tires I liked at the expo.  I did order some tires this week from Jenson USA.  I am fond of 700 x 28 tires, and Jenson has some Serfa Seca's on sale for $9.99.  But they are pink.  More specifically, they have a pink stripe and lettering.  I ordered them anyway.  They should contrast nicely with the sky blue frame on the Gary Fisher.

Back to the pedals.  I have been looking for pedals since I broke two different sets last year.  I had been using SPD-type mountain bike pedals.  My shoes had drillings for either SPD or Look-type pedals.  I remembered that I had a set of Look pedals from 1985 that had served me well until 2000.  I also had an old set of shoes with the cleats.  I replaced the cleats on my shoes and cleaned and re-packed the bearings on the pedals. 

I had forgotten how great of a pedal design these things were.  Look was the first to make a clipless pedal.  They orignally made ski bindings and adopted a design for cycling pedals.  I believe these were first used in the Tour de France by the La Vie Claire team in 1984, led by Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond.

Easy in, easy out, and secure grip.  I remember purchasing these after my feet came out of a toe clip during the final 200 yards of a race.  These were great pedals, even though they were a little heavy (518g).

So, as I was wandering around the expo, I found a guy with a bin of these, including two pair of the original white with the removable axle cap on the outboard bearing.  Here's a page from the 1985 Performance Bike catalog.

I bought two additional sets of these pedals at $5/pair.  Provided I can keep finding the replacement cleats, these "vintage" pedals should take me well into my my twilight years of cycling, even after my son tries to put me into the home and I keep escaping on my recumbent trike.

The Look pedal is one item that no one has been able to improve over the past twenty-five years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Little Surprise

Some of you have had the chance to eat my pulled pork along with my special secret barbecue sauce.  What's so secret?  Well, it's made specifically to go with pulled pork, a balance of sweet and sour and spicy, with the appropriate consistency to distribute itself through the pork and not sit on top or run through and soak the bottom bun.  Actually, the recipe is not so secret anymore.  My mom published it in her church cookbook with a brisket recipe.  It's good sauce, but it really doesn't go with brisket.

I made a big batch of barbecue (pork shoulders and picnics) for my son's Eagle Scout dinner last weekend.  I was low on sauce and needed a new batch.  I usually use ground red pepper flakes.  We were out and I substituted ground chipotle pepper.  I didn't think the smokiness would detract and I thought the Scoville units should match.

It turns out the Scoville was much higher on the chipotle.  The sauce was still good, just packed with an unexpected extra kick of heat.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale

I'm a bit disappointed.  It tastes like ale.  Like any other ale.  Not bad ale, by any means, but it just doesn't stand out.

I guess I was expecting somewhat of a unique taste.  Truthfully, this tastes like Blue Moon's Pumpkin Ale.  In an earlier review, I stated that the pumpkin ale tasted like .... any other ale. 

I'm starting to wonder if Blue Moon has one vat with seasonal ale and only changes the packaging.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ride Across the State, Part 1

We are approaching Blue Monday.  January 24th has been officially declared the most depressing day of the year.  Worst weather, no holidays coming up, too many bills from the holidays.

Let's look past Blue Monday and start looking forward to the happy days of summer and bike touring.  Here's a summary of past rides I have done.  I'll follow up soon with some other rides around the country.

Bike Ride Across Georgia, June 4-11 - This ride has been running continuously since 1980 and usually draws about 2000 riders.  The route varies each year.  This year's route will start in Atlanta and finish in Savannah.  Georgia's weather is usually still mild this time of the year.  Lodging is in gyms or in tents, although a few hotel rooms are available.  About 60 miles a day over moderate terrain, although some years include days in the north Georgia mountains.

RAGBRAI, July 24-30 - RAGBRAI is the granddaddy of the cross-state bike tours.   The ride started in 1973 and has now grown to an official 10,000 riders with an estimated additional 5000 riders just jumping in, despite being in Iowa.  The tour always starts on the west side of the state and finishes on the Mississippi River.  Patience is a virtue on this ride.  With 15,000 people, you will wait in line for nearly everything, including showers and kybo's (port-a-johns). Many of the towns you stay in have fewer residents than ride participants and tent space is at a premium.  But it's a big party and a lot of fun.  Everyone who likes to bike should ride this one at least once.  Around 70 miles a day over flat to moderate terrain.

Bicycle Illinois, July 9-16 - This ride is almost the exact opposite of RAGBRAI.  This is a six day ride from Cairo to downtown Chicago.  About 50 people are on this ride and lodging is in schools or rec centers.  There are no lines.  Average 85 miles a day, with century options each day.  Although Illinois is flat in some places, much of the first three days are fairly hilly.

POWWOW Fox Valley Tour, June 12-17 - This is not really across state, but it's a nice tour.  This ride starts in Watertown, Wisconson and travels to Green Bay and back over the course of the week.  About 100 riders participate and enjoy housing in college dorm rooms with beds.  Many of the riders have done this ride 10 or 15 times.  Average 61 miles a day over moderate to flat terrain.

Katy Trail Ride, June 20-24 - This ride is sponsored by the Missouri State Parks and takes place entirely on the Katy Trail, a crushed limestone rails-to-trails conversion.  The ride is limited to 300 riders.  This is a very scenic trail and a well-run tour.  Average 45 miles a day on flat terrain, although riding on the trail is not a fast as riding on a paved road.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oven Wings!!!

There's not much going on in the barbecue world this time of year.  I don't even know if you can light charcoal when it's 3 degrees outside.  And while barbecue is my favorite type of food, there's also some other wholesome foods that should be considered.  And one of the most wholesome of all is chicken wings.

Okay, they're not all that wholesome.  But they are tasty. And while BWW does a pretty good job with the wings, you can also make them at home, even without a deep fryer.  And the oven version of these will have significantly less fat than the deep-fried version.

First of all, buy the wings.  Whole wings are cheaper, but you have to cut them up.  Sometimes you can find good deals on frozen bags of pre-cut wings.  Either will work.  Go ahead and buy some wing sauce while you're at it. 

Now that you have your wings, you are ready to cook.  Pre-heat the oven to 225 degrees.  Yes, 225 is not a very hot oven, but that's the point.  Take a cookie sheet and place a wire rack on it.  Lay out the wings on the rack.  You don't really need to space them very far apart, but they shouldn't be stacked on top of each other.  If you're using frozen wings, there's no need to thaw prior to cooking.

Put the wings in the oven for 3 hours or so.  The wings will cook very slowly and render off much of the excess fat.  After the three hours are up, remove the wings from the oven and turn the oven up to 500 degrees.  Yes, 500 degrees. 

Pick up the wire rack with the chicken wings and transfer to a clean cookie sheet.  You don't want all of the rendered fat to go back in the oven or significant smoke will occur.  Very significant.  Put the wings back into the oven once it gets to 500.  Cook for 15 more minutes.  The chicken skin will crisp up nicely.  There will be a little smoke from the oven, but it won't be too bad.

Take the wings out, toss in your favorite sauce and enjoy.  Meanwhile, send one of the kids out to shovel a path to the grill.

Monday, January 10, 2011

St. Louis Area Bike Swap and Expo

Sunday, January 30, 2011
9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Every winter, St. Louis hosts the Midwest Bicycle Expo and Swap Meet at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, IL.  This year's event will take place on January 30th.  Admission is $5.

Last year, I bought a wheel and a jersey.  I also got a chance to talk with several local clubs and vendors.  For more information, see the website at

This year, I'll be looking for a 58cm steel frame to build into a single-speed for general riding around town.  I'll probably try to pick up a few other parts as well.

They also have the famous "bike corral", where people can place used bikes on consignment.  If you're looking to pick up a decent used bike at a reasonable price, this is not a bad place to start.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 Event Planning

Here's the list of events I plan on participating in during 2011.  These are mostly around the southwestern Illinois area, but there are a few exceptions. It's unlikely that I'll be able to make it to all of these, but I'm going to give it a shot.  I may add a couple of additional events as I find out about them.  Note that some dates are approximate.  Maybe I'll see a few of you out there.

March 19 - McKendree University Spring Fling 10 miler, Lebanon, IL
March 26 - Tracks n Treads Off Road Biathlon, Edwardsville, IL
April 30 - Kentucky Derby Half-Marathon, Louisville, KY
May 7 - Tour de Stooges, Highland, IL
May 21 - St. Louis Brevet, 200k, Edwardsville, IL
May 30 - Highland Biathlon, Highland, IL
June 11 - Route 66 10k, Edwardsville, IL
June 12-17 - Fox Valley Bicycle Tour, Watertown, Fond de Lac, Oshkosh, and Green Bay, WI
July 4 - Hillsboro (IL) Biathlon
July 9 - Tour de Donut, Staunton, IL
July 23 or 30 - Mud Mountain Trail Run, Edwardsville, IL
August - Wood River (IL) Triathlon
August - Edwardsville (IL) Criterium
August - Kiwanis Fun Day Bicycle Ride, Mt. Vernon, IL
September 24 - Tour de Coal, Benld, IL
October - Watershed 5k, Edwardsville, IL
October 22 - Berryman Epic Mt. Bike Race, somewhere between Potosi and Steelville, MO
October - New Baden (IL) Biathlon
November - Great River Road 10 miler, Alton, IL
December - Pere Marquette Trail Race, Grafton, IL (I would have to be insane to run this one again, but I've got until September to decide.)