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.)