Monday, April 15, 2013

The Joy of Cooking


Rebuild
There is a certain danger in rebuilding a rear wheel while listening to foodie cooking shows on National Public Radio. Our friend Nicholas Carman, of Gypsy by Trade, is headed for Europe and planning, apparently, to make his journey as much about eating (or at least cooking), as about cycling. A visit to his pages will reveal some sound considerations concerning equipment and planning but what got his reader's blood pumping was cookware, discussion about the best pot for camp cooking when traveling by bicycle.

I have had some odd problem, lately, with a knock or thump or, well, a pulsing somewhere in my rear wheel and a cursory examination revealed nothing of note, which of course led by natural processes to me doing one of my favorite things: drinking beer and rum and taking my bicycle apart on a rainy Sunday afternoon, cleaning and scrubbing and fondling the various parts and handling them and rubbing them to a warm glow and yes, also finding out what is wrong; why there is something happening there, something that I am willing to spend all day, if need be, figuring out and fixing.

A Hard Rain
While I do this work I can hear the rumble of thunder in the far distance. This is Florida and storms are a welcome part of summer, they drench and nourish and provide exquisite drama to a simple cyclist who is having fun taking a rear wheel apart, working out on the trailer porch under a darkening sky. I have one of those hotly brilliant halogen work lights clamped overhead and it gives off heat. It makes me sweat and I have my ritual rags nearby, I am wearing my marvelously ill-favored mechanic's shirt and listening to NPR, listening to some lady talk about a dish she learned in Belgium. The dish is called “savage rabbit with white beans” and I giggle like a loon and take a double shot of rum chased with beer. The bearings are removed, now, sitting in greasy glory on the bench and this halogen lamp is so intense that it is melting the tired grease from the little steel balls and I wipe my forehead with the clean, damp face towel.

Ritual
The other rags are the clean dry polishing towel and the oil-soaked lubing towel and the dirty greasy gritty cleaning towel. This is a ritual process, and this shirt, these rags and the happy, calm, joyous voices on the radio are all part of the ritual. There is safety in ritual; I respect ritual as a way of not making mistakes. I have removed the cassette and placed it in a shallow bowl that holds lighter fluid, the kind you use to fire up the grill. I use whatever solvent I have. I have pulled the axle and cones, setting them aside on the towel I have placed on the bench in a kind of axonometric view of how they go back together. I have written about this before, I realize, but I am doing it again and the ritual must be respected.

Barbecue Is Important
Now the radio people are discussing barbecue and rubs and sauces and this is something I am very interested in, ribs are important. I am cleaning the interior parts of my rear wheel and having a blast and the way they talk about food and the process, the ritual of cooking, is very sensuous, pornographic almost, and doing this work on my bicycle is very much the same thing; a kind of love-making. My bicycle is my only transportation these days. While I have had many cars and trucks that I was very fond of, an automobile is, ultimately, a pain in the ass. Automobiles come with a lot of baggage: insurance, registrations, expensive and increasingly esoteric repair processes; sometimes you have to explain yourself to police and I won't start about the price of gasoline.

Not so with a bicycle. Bicycles have all their parts exposed and are relatively easy to work on. Bicycles are personal, the owner is the engine and anyone who has spent any amount of time on a bicycle will have developed a very personal relationship with their machine. At least I have.

And So...
Yeah, there is going to be a storm, I can smell it now and the sky is dark and the thunder is getting closer and louder. I have moved inside and all the parts are cleaned and polished. Somehow I have lost two hub bearings. No big deal, I have a stash of bearings. The last time I packed the bearings I used too much grease and it made quite a mess. Not this time. Like a boozed-up brain surgeon, my hands are steady and there is sweat on my brow as I carefully replace the bearings in a light bed of lithium grease. This time I am a surgeon and doing it right. I am using extra-virgin olive oil as a pre-coat, all these parts are glistening in the powerful halogen light and the radio cooking shows are ending. I'm hungry now but the bicycle comes first. I could have been a chef, I think, or maybe even a brain surgeon. But my dad joined the Carpenter's Union in Ft. Lauderdale and so did I.

Rain
Here it is. You know it is going to be a kick-ass storm by the sound of the first rain drops. These first drops are big and fat and very wet and now the first crack of lightning blasts away close by and the thunder rattles the windows. Living in a trailer is pretty cool. I am almost outside most of the time; my little tin shack rattles and shakes with the wind and the rain, all the windows are open and the rain beats on the roof and the wheel is back together. Working on a bicycle is a lot like preparing a fine dish for the table. My bicycle is a savage rabbit and I am white beans. Working on a bicycle is not brain surgery, but it looks like it.

Nicholas and Lael will be in Europe soon and sending back reports of enviable cooking and eating and they will tell us about dream rides. Me, I'm slamming beers and polishing my bike. The chain has been cleaned with Simple Green and water and then soaked in olive oil in an old pan that I have heated on a low setting on the stove. This sauteed chain will be drained and further polished and will dry overnight.

There is magic in a storm; power and nourishment and manic joy. The bicycle is clean, now, ready and possessed itself of magic and power and potential. The odd problem turned out to be a spoke that had somehow worked itself loose from the nipple. I thought the thunk and pulsing was reminiscent of a broken spoke, but as I said, it didn't show in a cursory glance...it had to be loved, caressed; I had to cook up a cure.

Tomorrow we will ride.



Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Kitchen
#108











29 comments:

  1. TJ.

    Excited to read a new post here! Hope you are doing well and have been putting in many miles. Bicycle maintenance is a lot like cooking - if not done correctly and processes not followed, then the outcome is dubious!

    Glad it was only a loose spoke.

    Thanks for the post.

    Dan

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    1. Thanks Dan! Things have been worse. I'm riding way more than last year (hence the repair)and right now, the weather is perfect. I'll drop by your place later.

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  2. I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the layout of your site?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to
    say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    my web-site :: ryge væsker

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    1. Well, ryge, based on your comment I can see that you would certainly bring a fresh and deranged perspective to the Trailer Park. Then I checked your site and I gotta say: wow.

      Why not deposit 6000 euro in my Nigerian PayPal account and we'll talk. Thanks in advance.

      tj

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  3. Dr. Comstock,

    Your prescription arrived on my screen in a timely manner. When I found it this afternoon, I had just returned from hunting and gathering expeditions via bicycle for comestibles - the while once again being surprised and pleased at the volume of grocery store purchases that can be transported home more-or-less intact with a small handlebar basket, two canvas totes, and two bungee cords.

    This exercise was in large part an excuse to do something other than mess with one of those "pain in the ass" automobiles whereof you speak. The one on my mind has been sent to its room for misbehaving. Said pain will require for a cure at least a fuse or three, more likely a couple of sensors, and quit possibly also a complex and not inexpensive electromechanical component to even begin to start behaving as it is expected to. It will wait.

    Moreover, your homage to the published work of the late Irma S. Rombauer does touch my soul. I regularly consult a tattered 1946 edition when up to mischief in the kitchen. Is her version of sautéed bicycle chain in a later edition?

    Sunday at the Comstock Ranch sounds pleasant, especially given the sacred rituals and the requisite self-marination.

    I enjoy a good thunderstorm and I enjoy NPR, but getting them both tuned in at the same time here in the Hoosier Land doesn't always work out.

    Thanks for your good words,

    Bill Hopp, the anonymous Hoosier

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  4. Sir Bill, getting a visit from you is better than thunder and lightning and public radio all in one. The sauteed chain recipe is hidden in a secret compartment in the spine of the original '46 hardback edition of Joy...in Latin. I was really surprised to see you over at Chris Harne's place. I love that guy! He is an accidental Hero and those are the best kind. I mentioned him in one of my early posts.

    As always, thanks for the support and there will forever be a spot by the fire for the Anonymous Hoosier.

    tj

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    1. Tim Joy,

      Your reply is flattering, humbling, and informative all at once. For the record, we had a thunder storm here in the Wabash Valley this morning, but my timing was off - I caught NPR first. Wow, your explanation of the location of the sautéed chain recipe tells me quite a lot: No wonder the spine of my '46 edition has been torn asunder! The scoundrel could have at least copied the recipe and put it back. Alas, it is long gone. Without it, my by now spotty memories of 9th grade Latin seem a waste.

      In a very real way, Chris Harne introduced us. Many moons ago I was delighted by one of the new comments at 721pm and followed a trail of bread crumbs, BBQ Sauce stains, and empty Bud cans to the trailer park. In turn, I had found Chris some years before while searching the web for information on the 'oft maligned 333 (half the threat of 666?) Shimano hub and have been utterly impressed by him ever since. I share your high regard for that young man.

      Enjoy the ride,

      Bill Hopp, The Anonymous Hoosier


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  5. Great post TPC, it transported me to a place where I could taste the storm comin on the wind. Porch wrenching with libations and NPR sounds like a lot of fun, might have to see if that works on my balcony. Glad to hear it was a loose and not yet broken spoke, amazing how much impact just one of those little guys being loose can make. Hope that wascally wabbit will behave from now on.

    Tailwinds brother

    Ryan

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    1. Thanks, Roadie! The wheel is a 36 spoke Tiagra hub on a Mavic Open Sport rim. It is a dimension product and I have quite a few miles on it. I am absolutely satisfied with it even though it got spotty reviews on the forums. How a spoke wiggles loose is beyond me, but yeah, it is all back in shape and I did 30 miles this morning. The olive oil worked nicely but is already dirty. I'm going to try the wax method next.

      tj

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    2. If you go the wax route I would be curious to hear how it works since reading about it in an old Bridgestone catalog and then seeing it again on the now static EcoVelo site I have thought of trying it out.

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  6. Done some work in the Cape area now and then, and you described the storms perfectly! (first time I was at the cape I asked what were those bizarre gigantic towers connected by steel cables at the top outlined in a square around the launch towers...turns out they are to keep lightening from striking a stacked rocket). You do get some crazy storms out there...monsoon like.

    Never heard of using olive oil on the chain...how long between 'lubes' do you get? Does it get pretty goopy after some miles? I've recently switched to using paraffin wax (due to an article on Velonews by Lennard Zinn). It lasts hundreds of miles, stays TOTALLY clean (and so does your bike, wheels AND drivetrain). AND it gives you the least power sapping of any chain lube per the testing.

    Got me a el-cheapo small crock pot (from wally world...$10), plop-in a 4$ chunk of paraffin from the local craft store and melt it (takes about an hour on high), make SURE the chain is virgin clean (don't want goo in your wax), let it soak a bit, pull it and let it dry for a minute or 2, then while it's still somewhat hot I wipe it many times, removing most of the wax on the outside..then when totally dry (hard) I run it thru my hands breaking all the links free, install it and enjoy the quiet clean ride! And that $4 wax will last HUNDREDS (or maybe dozens?) of waxings. I'm sold on the technique.

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    1. Absolutely, Matt, as I just told Ryan I'm switching to the wax treatment next. The olive oil is a nice light touch but getting black fast. I had previously been using a spray lube designed for chains, a Liquid Wrench product, but it was heavy and sticky and I was seeing rust and so yeah, I'm switching to wax. Hearing your endorsement seals the deal for me.

      Next time you are headed for the Cape maybe we can ride. I live about twenty miles away.

      tj

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  7. Down Under the storm season is winding down. The heart stopping sound of a wall of tropical rain coming upon you is now a memory for another year. My fast bicycle is showing the wear of another wet season. I have some knockings and grindings, and the gear changes are sloppy at an easy pace, useless under stress. I am a great cook but no mechanic. Time for a trip to the bike shop, and the trauma of leaving my bike for a day.
    The humidity lingers, and we had a shower today, but I must be addicted to summer, because already I pine for the thick blanket of air that is summer, and the crack of the storms that follow.

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    1. Summer is best, Dee. We also just had a period of slop and the bicycle feels it and requires a little care. I really enjoy the process and so it is fun for me. Don't get me going about humidity. And mosquitoes.

      tj

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  8. Beautiful description of a well spent Sunday with your bike, tools and yourself. As Tom Waits puts it so well; your angels and demons.
    I have a good buddy who fits your description of the rituals and patience of the job at hand. He is a craftsman at wood carving, cabinet and furniture building. Certainly could have been a master at whatever he chose, be it brain surgeon, chef or woodworker.
    Good stuff tj.

    Your post has good timing for me. It has been a bit challenging around here these last couple of weeks with cold,wind, and now looking out the window at 26" of white stuff. With that going on I demand that this computer entertains me!!

    Are you the dude sending all those Nigerian faxes???
    Jim

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    1. Coach, I usually delete the spam but ryge's comment gave me a laugh so I left it in. I have always believed that whatever you do, you should be as good as you can at doing it. It makes work more fun and puts a little challenge in your day.

      tj

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  9. It's always a good day that starts with a new missive from the Trailer Park. This despite the fact that my hard drive on my work computer crashed and 2.5 years of work is not recoverable. (It's giving me a chance to start fresh, without all the buildup of 30 months of angst and such.)

    Excellent post TJ. I find myself hungry to take apart my rear wheel and arrange the towels just so.....but olive oil for the chain?? Never heard of it but it somehow makes sense. (Rum and beer for a personal lubricant is good though!)

    The weather has finally broken in VA and rides are plentiful again. I'm so glad to be on the bike. Enjoy yours too, my friend!

    Brian in VA

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    1. Thanks as always, Brian. That hard drive crash sounds like enough to drive a man to drink, although you seem to be enduring it with your usual stoicism.

      The olive oil results from my need to treat some old leather boots I have and when I browsed around online "olive oil" kept coming up as a miracle cure. So...heating the chain in my second best pan seemed like a holistic approach and I was pretty buzzed also. But wax is the ticket, I think, and will let everyone know after I try it.

      tj

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  10. TJ in his element is truly a treat to read. Nothing quite as eloquent as a boozed-up brain surgeon. The layout of your site is just fine and suits your style well. Pictures are for those who lack the ability to paint a scene in prose; and that my friend does not describe your writing.

    Kloshe kopa maika,

    Matt

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    1. Thanks Matt! Coming from you that is quite a compliment. I use pictures once in awhile but...well, my readers are a pretty literate crew and I know they can make their own illustrations in the infinite spaces we have between our ears.

      tj

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  11. YES! That was the first thought that came to my mind when I saw you had written a new chapter in your online story. I check back daily hoping for a new story each time, but the wait almost makes the posts that much better.
    I'm sitting here with a suprise spring storm outside that dumped a foot of snow yesterday in Denver. Reading about your sunday afternoon adventures makes me miss my bicycle. I'll have to do something about that as soon as this snow melts. Sounds like you are doing great, and I'm glad to hear it.

    Jason from Colorado

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    1. Jason, my friend, it is always a pleasure to hear from you. For awhile I tried to post on a regular basis but that turned the TPC into a chore. That ain't what I want it to be, writing this Blog is maybe the greatest pleasure of my life and so I said the hell with it, I'll write whenever I feel like it and when I have something to say. That keeps it fun and fresh and that is the way I want it to be.

      However, if you visit some of the other places on my Blog List you will see that sometimes I write comments that are as long as one of my posts. I call it Blogjacking and I am just terrible about it. No one has complained, though. Not yet, anyway.

      tj

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    2. TJ
      I agree. Write what you want when you want. Isn't that the point of a blog?

      Jason

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  12. TJ,

    Very nice. Good to see a post from you after a while off. I'm working on some filler for my site too, and should have something up soon.

    Olive oil on the chain, huh? Who knows - all the lubricants seem vaguely the same to me. Maybe the dry wax thing would be good. I use a recipe that I found online for chain lube (which I can't remember right now). My brother and I mix up a couple of gallons at a time. Mine is stored in an old gallon wine jug with a skull & crossbones drawn on it in Sharpie.

    Thank jeebus that the weather has finally broken up here in NE OH. I was just about to give up hope, and here it is nice out for a whole week now. Got in some bike riding and a couple of fine kayak runs. Looking forward to getting back in a five-ride-a-week schedule (I hope).

    Keep on riding.

    Steve Z

    Steve Z

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    1. Thanks, Steve. I used to use Trailer Park Special Chain lube which was 30W mixed half and half with kerosene. It had a similar viscosity to the Olive Oil. But all of them attract grit and some of my riding is on the sand. I have heard about the wax method quite a bit and while it seems to require more frequent servicing periods with hot baths and wiping and fondling it is fine with me. We'll see.

      tj

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  13. A new post here is a pleasure worth waiting for. Storm clouds and wheel building seem on the agenda in both Florida and Ecuador...

    I am sitting admiring a perfectly black sky that has swallowed a multitude of volcanic peaks while waiting for a box of bits and pieces to arrive build a wheel or two. My rear hub has been rebuilt three times now by somewhat less sensuously involved mechanics and seems on last inspection to have both extra parts and missing parts. I'm going to start all over again with a newbie that I will love and cherish and care for myself this time.

    Your writing is a true inspiration.


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    1. We live by our wheels, anna. It isn't very hard, and yet at the same time, it is the hardest thing of all. Understanding that and having a fully equipped bench and plenty of leisure time has made wheel fiddling my favorite thing.

      tj

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  14. I am mot impressed with your insight on making labels.
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    I locate the type is also near the edge of each tag, when I do
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    Look forward to hearing from you and I will definitely be visting you again.



    Have a look at my web site: xerox phaser 8560 maintenance kit

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    1. Dear Anon: Are you familiar with Jerry Seinfeld?

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