Friday, October 10, 2014

Begur - Oct 10

The weather today was much like the other days, although there was a bit of fog this morning that quickly burned off.  There was a bunch of us that pedaled the one mile to the coffee shop at Fornells De La Selva.  After that, Kay, Jeff and I did a 26 mile loop that was the same as the other two days.  The one change was a pedal up to the top of Llagostera.  They have a mushroom festival this Sunday, and one bar owner there said it will be very busy. Here is Jeff at the top of the hill in Llagostera.    

After the ride, Kay and I took a drive to Begur.  Begur is an old medieval town with a tower at the top. The tower offers great views of the coast and the area.  We arrived during the siesta once again, so the shops were closed.  Unlike Cadaques, Begur did not have a lot of tourists.  It was a cool place.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Figures & Cadaques - Oct 9

We took another ride this morning, same route as yesterday.  We see a lot of cyclists here.  There is a network of gravel trails that run through the area, and the road riding seems to be good.  The trails are in decent shape, although it rained a lot here last week and a few areas are just a little rough.  The trails get a lot of use by locals and tourists alike.  We have the Brompton bikes and they are adequate.  A hard tail mountain bike would be a good way t roll, even a 32x16 single speed would work.

I should add that the weather has been fabulous.  Sunny, lows around 60 and highs around 80.

Figures is where the Salvador Dali Museum is located.  I did just a little studying about Dali before the trip.  His art is odd and to my liking. The museum tour took about an hour.  The place wasn't very crowded today.

After the museum we took a drive to Cadaques.  The road goes up and down the mountain, and to the coast.  The mountain road is pretty tame, it has a guard rail the whole distance (maybe 15km).  Cadaques is a stunning costal town with white buildings... and a lot of cats.  I will post pictures later.  There was a certain tourist vibe to the place, but it wasn't overt tacky.  I am glad that we made it to Cadaques.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Barcelona - Oct 7

Our entire group of 13 people took the train to Barcelona today.  The people who own the villa advised us to drive to Caldes do Mallavella because (1) the parking is free and (2) all of the RENFE trains stop at that station.  After a bit of road construction we arrived on time, purchased 13 round-trip tickets and were on our way.

Barcelona is a place that feels alive.  There are people walking around, bicycle infrastructure and a good feel about the place.  I had heard about pick-pockets, but we didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Our tour guide Luanna Riccardo from Unicabcn Tours met us at Casa Mila.  UNICABCN Tours is run by Luanna and her husband.  They conduct tours in Spain, Italy and Germany.  She did a great job and is a good contact.  Other stops included Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.  Luanna kept referring t the group as "family", it was pretty cool.

We decided on Tapas at a place called Cervecería Catalana.  Jessica and Andrew were given this place as a recommendation, and they went there earlier during the trip.  It is at Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona. It is near Passeig de Gràcia train station.  It was really great, would recommend as well.

Bike Ride and Girona, Oct 8.

We got up, found coffee and rolled out for a 25 mile rural bike ride.  From the villa went south to Sant Andreu Salou, continued on to Caldes De Mallavella, east to Llangostera, north toward quart and then west to the villa. The route is something that I found on, and I saved it here.  I would be ok with repeating this ride another time.

I have this Garmin Edge Touring GPS unit that I purchased for this trip.  I have a love-hate relationship with the damn thing.  After tying to use it to get through Girona I was committed to selling it.  Today - I am good with the device.  It is probably my impatience, incompetence or the fact that I am accustomed to iPhones/SmartPhones and how easy their maps are to use.  Net-net - I am keeping it until the pendulum swings the other way.

After the ride we drove to Girona. The mission was to park without getting towed (someone in our party did get towed in Girona, it cost 98 Euros to get the car back) and eat Tapas that were nearly as good as last night in Barcelona.  I googled for Best Tapas Girona and found Bubbles Gastrobar i Restaurant.  There was free parking available nearby, very near the bus station.  The food did not disappoint. We were the only tourists in the place. The Nachos with Guacamole was especially good. I will post a picture; it was unique.  

After tapas it was a walk around the wall.  I read a few travel blogs and other sources about Girona.  It was nearly unanimous that Girona was great.  Not terribly crowded, good weather and interesting things to do.  I like the place too  It is like a small scale Barcelona. The wall offers great views of the city and the area.  We did a little shopping after coming down front he wall.  One of the interesting shops was a place called Polakos, a clothing shop run by Alicja i Michal Jankiewicz, a Polish woman.  They sell clothing from Poland made from natural fibers. I even got to work on my Polish language skills with Alicja.  

The rest of the tour included a walk through The Call neighborhood, back the car and then a drive back to the villa.  

Monday, October 06, 2014

Amsterdam - 2014

We are our way to Girona, Spain to celebrate our friend Rich's 60th Birthday.  On the way we decided to take a few days in Amsterdam to take in the bike culture and other things that Amsterdam has to offer.

Our stay was at the Time Hotel in the Jordaan area.  We stayed near here before.  The Jordaan is quiter than many other places in the city.  The first stop was at Pott Change to exchange our USD to Euros. I read where the exchange rate here is far better than probably anywhere else.

We spent much of our time bicycling around the city.  We went mainly south and west and we almost always had particular agenda or course in mind.  We did take in Vondel Park, the Albert Cuyp Market, and Waterloopien Market while on the bikes.  There were two museums that we visited, Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, both worthwhile.  ProTip - buy your tickets at your hotel.  It was the same price, but we saved about 30 minutes getting in.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pedaling from Minneapolis to Duluth for a One Hour Radio Show

A couple of months ago we drove go Duluth and took in the live radio show called Take It With You. The show is the work of friends of ours Mary and Blake who are Actors and Musicians.  When we were at the show in late May, I thought it would be fun to pedal to Duluth for a show sometime this summer.  The ride came together for the July 22 show.

Right - let's pedal 2 days for a one hour radio show.  Then let's pedal 2 days to get home.  Sounds about right.

We put the word out to a few people and Mike, Joyce and their daughter Hannah joined us.  The route consisted primarily of trails and Forest Boulevard/County 61 that paralleled I-35.  The difficult part of this was figuring where to stay and space the route out so that we had food and lodging.

Kay and I rode our Surly CrossCheck bikes, and I pulled the Bob Trailer.  Mike, Joyce and Hannah had their Banjo Brother's panniers for the trip.

Here is how it all went down....

Monday, July 21, 2014 - Minneapolis to Hinckley (~91 miles)
The weather was hot and humid, 92 degrees and dew-points into the high 60s.  There was a south wind of about 10-15mph throughout the day.  We made use of several stops on the way, the most pleasant one was the Cenex gas station in Rush City.  The attendant there was a 17-19 year old woman, and was happy to let us hang out and chat.

There is also an old hotel/restaurant called the Grant House Hotel and Eatery that looks interesting.  Maybe we can make a stop here some time.

We stayed at Americas Best Value Inn in Hinckley.  It is a tired place that was reasonably clean.  There were warnings on the door that drug use and underage drinking would be dealt with by calling in the police.  I have no doubt that this has happened at this place.  On the upside there is a liquor store immediately across the street and Cassidy's restaurant (more than adequate, really good breakfast) right next door.  Net-net:  It was more than adequate, and next time we may look into the casino hotel.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Hinckley to Duluth (~79 miles)
A thunderstorm came through at about midnight and that made for much better weather on Tuesday.  The high was about 75 degrees and the dew-point was much more tolerable.  The entire length of the  Munger Trail and some well-signed streets through Duluth is our route today.

We encountered some down tree branches and completely down trees within the first 10 miles today.  Apparently there was some substantial wind.  We needed up stopping to move branches or portage over down trees, all while being pursued by deer flies.

Duluth - outside of our hotel
We stayed at The Suites Hotel on Canal Park, and we will stay here again.  The rooms are real big, clean and the location is great.  Dinner was at The Lake Avenue Cafe and Breakfast on Wednesday was at Amazing Grace Cafe, both recommendations of Mike's and both very good.  Both are located in the same building.

We made the show at 7:25... just in time.  Take It With You was great... we were so glad that we were able to go... and we plan on making the next one.  Mary gave our group a shout out from making the pedal from Minneapolis to Duluth for the show.   As it turns out, Mike and Joyce are friends of the radio show's special guest, Scott Laderman.  Scott is from California and lived in SoCal and NorCal, where he became an avid surfer.  Now living in Duluth, he surfs Lake Superior and offers a course in Surfing an UM-D.  He authored the book Empire in Waves - A Political History of Surfing.  The five of us joined Scott and his wife Jill for a beverage and conversation at the Harborview Restaurant, a revolving rooftop restaurant on the top floor of the Radisson.  It was a great night.  We really enjoy Take It With You.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - Duluth to Pine City (~93 miles)
The weather was absoutely perfect on Wednesday. There was a bit of a headwind or cross wind, and it even became a tailwind at times. Once again the route was the entire Munger trail, followed by County 61 (which has a wide shoulder).  

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Lazy Moose Restaurant in Moose Lake, MN.  We stopped there on the way up and the way back.  They have a good menu, the veggie burger was really good and they have pie.  

We rolled into Pine City and ordered a couple of pizza's from the Pizza Pub to be delivered.  We also ate at the North Branch location.  They do a great job.   

The Motel tonight was the Gail Motel.  It is an independent place, the kind of place that has been around a while.  It was a clean place and was fine for what we needed.  There is only one other motel in Pine City (The Old Oak Inn), and all they had left was one non-smoking room, and some smoking room.  That wasn't going to work, so we are at the Gail.  

We were having pizza at the Fire pit when a raccoon came out and just hung out about 50 feet from us.  The raccoon was soon joined by a fox, then another fox, and a second raccoon.  We encouraged them to leave, but they were comfortable around people.  We finished our dinner and went in.  A few minutes later, someone came out with a pail and fed these animals.  That explained why they were there and why they were comfortable hanging out.  It was strange. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014 - Pine City to Minneapolis (~76 miles)
Pine City seems like a real pleasant place.  We went to Cabin Coffee's, the local coffee and breakfast place.   It's a full-on coffee shop, they even know what a Depth Charge is and brew it very well.  It was the best coffee we have all week.  The place filled with a group of gentlemen in their 60's-70's who really seemed to run the town.  We talked about cycling and one of the gents said that "we are working on extending the Munger Trail through here..." and that sort of thing.  I quickly got a sense that these people cared about their community, and the town is clearly better for it.  We got quite a reaction when we told them where we stayed, and we assured them that the Gail was a clean place.

We rolled into Minneapolis at about 4:30 with smiles, had a few refreshments and called it a tour.  We pledged that we would to it again.  Maybe a quick weekend dealio to Red Wing, or up to Rush City.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

San Francisco - 2014

Imagine that - a whole year has passed since I blogged.  That is because (a) blogging is so 2006 or (b) I have nothing of interest to share.  Anyway - here goes another SF trip.  We are trying to make this an annual thing.

March 1, 2014 - 
Today we have tickets to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the de Young Museum at Golden Gate Park with my cousin Steph and her husband Steve.  We had brunch at Velo Rogue in the inner-Richmond, then took a nice walk around the park.  I learned a lot about Georgia O'Keeffe at the exhibit.  She was born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin for starters, then moved to New York and intimately New Mexico.  It was great to be in the park and catch up with Steph and Steve.

We spent the late afternoon and evening walking the Upper Market area.  Dinner was at Chow on Church Street near Market.  Chow was great, and reminded us of the Citizen Cafe near our house in Minneapolis.  Everything is made from scratch using local food.  The service was great too.

We enjoyed a walk around the residential streets of the upper market area in the evening.  There was a bit of rain, but nothing an umbrella and decent shoes could not handle.  The mansion at 250 Douglass was a site to see at night.  As were the steps that are scattered throughout the area.

We leave for Minneapolis tomorrow, the 2nd.  The cold weather continues there.  It will be about -10F when we get home.  The trip was good and we did almost everything we set out to do.  Can't wait to come back again next year.

February 28, 2014 -
Rain was predicted throughout the day, and that it what happened today.  It was the typical San Francisco rain store that I remember, not a complete washout, but off and on showers of varying intensity.

We took the 24 Divisadero bus to Cafe Mojo, a Coffee/Bike shop that I was aware of.  The bike shop doesn't open until 11AM, almost no retail opens before 11, but the coffee shop was open.  Cool place, we recommend it.

We caught the 24 bus back to the Castro, transferred to the 33 and got off at Valencia.  We shopped Valencia, made a stop at Ritual Roasters for a coffee and a tea.  Ritual is a roasting company in San Francisco.  Their beans are found in a number of coffee shops and restaurants.  We like their product.

The rain had stopped so we walked 24th Street to the Noe Valley and shopped there.  After that we walked  over Diamond Street back to the apartment.   All told it was about 3 miles in walking so far.

Dinner was with Jane and her partner Obo.  Jane is the last of the neighborhood Moms who remained in her place from when we lived here.  Everyone else in our circle from that time has left The City.  Dinner was at Pakwan, a Pakistani restaurant that has a few locations in the Bay Area.  The food was excellent, and its inexpensive.  It is an order at the counter and pick up your food kind of place.  We had never at Pakistani food, and we found it to be indistinguishable from Indian food.  We walked over to Bi-Rite Creamery for an ice cream for dessert.   It was great to catch up with Jane and meet Obo for the first time.

February 27, 2014 - 
The weather cooperated today, so we headed out not he bikes to the east bay.  We pedaled to Embarcadero BART and got out at West Oakland.  We pedaled the new east end of the Bay Bridge.  It doesn't quite go to Yerba Buena and Treasure Island, but it was a worthwhile ride.

After the Bay Bridge we made our way to Emeryville and Berkeley, and decided to have lunch at Tacubaya.  I managed to get a flat (front) and repaired it with a little help from one of the mechanics at Mike's Bike in Berkeley.  (Brompton Tires are tough to roll on to the rim).

We made our way back to the City.  Dinner was at Frances near 17th/Noe, and it exceeded our high expectations.

February 26, 2014 - 
I discovered that the Front Axel Nylon Hook on Kay's Brompton had cracked.  Its the little plastic piece that is mounted to the front fork that keeps the front wheel all tucked in when the bike is folded down and is being carried.  It is non-essential for riding, but Huckleberry Bicycles is a Brompton dealer and a shop I want to visit, so we stopped in, met Nate and he sold us the part.

It is raining off and on, mostly on, so no ride today.  Breakfast was at the Dolores Park Cafe.  We were witness to a Google Bus that pulled up in front of the cafe.  It was marked GBus to MTV (Mountain View, CA).  When the bus pulled up about 4 people immediately left the Cafe and boarded the bus.  I had heard about how Google and some other firms provide transportation for their employees.  That was the first time that we saw it.

I also saw a person wearing Google Glass today at a Muni station.  That was a first for us.

After breakfast we took the historic F line down market to Kearny Street.  We walked to Chinatown, opting for the more touristy Grant Street.  From there, it was North Beach, including a stop at the venerable City Lights Books (no signs of Bukowski's ghost) and Al's Attire (did not drop any money this time).  On the way back we shopped the Farmer's Market at City Hall/UN Plaza.

Tonight's dinner plan was to meet my cousin Steph and her husband Steve at a Sushi restaurant in Oakland.  When we arrived at Civic Center BART station there was a crowd of people waiting to get in.  We learned that the BART system was closed due to police activity in the tunnel between 16th Street and 24th Street station.  Apparently someone stole a atop near 22nd/Mission and fled from the police in the BART tunnels.  We didn't make it to Oakland, so plan B was to go to the Sushi Boat at 389 Geary.  Steve was still in the City where he works.  He was also unable to get home, so he met us (sorry Steph).

February 25, 2014 - 
We fly to SF, the Brompton Bikes are going with too.  California is in a real serious drought, but rain is predicted for most of the time that we are in SF.  With the cost of rental bikes, and the hassle, we decide to bring the Bromptons.

Upon arrival we immediately set up the bikes (which means attach the seats, attach one of Jim's pedals and put air in the tires).  We decide to roll past the painted ladies (hilly) and then on to Golden Gate Park (flat) to the ocean.  The Richmond and Sunset Districts are behaving predictably, meaning fog and wind.  We just left -6 degrees Fahrenheit, so we are more than good.

On the way back we find our way to the Mosiac Steps.  These are steps that have been finished with Tiles that reflect underwater life at the bottom and the solar system at the top.  The steps are located at Moraga and 16th Avenue.  Kay discovered them on line before our trip, and we are glad that we found them.

We rolled back inbound, and headed to Market Street.  We eventually made our way to a bar called 21st Amendment for a beverage.  From there we made our way to SOMA Streatfood Park, a space that features about 7 food trucks, indoor seating, beverages and events.  There was trivia going on while we were there.  Kay had a Crab sandwich, I had a po-boy, plus we split some excellent pierogi.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

San Francisco - 2013

We were long overdue to return to The City, the place where we grew up, so we booked travel and are here.   We packed the Brompton Bikes are boarded Delta.  This is what happened:

February 27, 2013 - MSP to SFO
We took the 23 bus to Light Rail and to the airport.  Had a drama-free flight to SFO.  From there it was BART to Civic Center, where we jumped on MUNI to the Castro.  From there a short walk to our Garden Apartment that we found on VRBO.  The weather is great, sunny and about 70.  Perfect.

We grab a quick bite to eat at the nearby Queen Malika Cafe.  They offer dumplings, crepes and Espresso.  Awesome lunch.

We jump on the Bromptons and pedal out to Golden Gate Park, out on 8th Ave through the Richmond District and into the Presidio by way of the Arguello Gate near Senator Feinstein's house.  We pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge and down to Sausalito.  From there its a Ferry Ride back to City.  We pedal back through China Basin, which I don't recognize anymore.  There has been a tremendous amount of growth and gentrification of the area.  For starters, there is now  "T" MUNI line that didn't exist when we lived here.

After getting to the Castro we had a beer at The Last Call bar.  Dinner was at Cafe La Taza on 18th Street.  Great meal, sort of a Spanish-American (I will call it that).

February 28, 2013 - Carrie Rodriguez in Berkeley
We still recognize upper Market and the Castro.   Tower Records is long gone, but there are still may familiar places like Rossi's Deli, the Castro Theatre and the Cheese/Coffee shop near the theatre.  One of the familiar places is Cafe Flore at Market and Noe.  We ate there - split the Crab Benedict, espresso and a croissant.  It was exemplary, a fantastic breakfast.

We pedaled through the Mission District, around the Embarcadero and into the Presidio.  Its a climb out of the Presidio back to the Richmond District, and we decided that Kay's Brompton would be upgraded to 6-speed before our next trip here.

Tonight we have tickets to see Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley.  We met my cousin Stephanie and her husband Steve before the show for Dinner at Gather Restaurant.  Gather offers a California cuisine, including Charcuterie and pizza.  The food and wine were very good.  Prior to dinner we walked the area near the Downtown Berkeley and popped into a store that sells clothing and met the owners.  It turns out that the family that runs the store are from Milwaukee, second-generation Poles like me.  We have a great conversation about Milwaukee and the state of affairs under the Walker regime in Wisconsin, and about their present and temporary location.

March 1, 2013 - Filoli Visit
Today's breakfast was at the Dolores Park Cafe at 18th/Dolores.  We split a scramble that included  pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese.  We also had espresso and a croissant.  It was all very good and recommended.

We left the Dolores Park Cafe and pedaled to the San Francisco Caltrain Station, loaded the Bromptons in the Bike Car and got out at Redwood City.  From there it was a 8 mile bike ride to Filoli (Fight, Love, Live) Gardens and Mansion.  Kay had been to Filoli before, this was my first visit.  The tour includes the first floor of the house and the gardens.  The tour is impressive and worthwhile. The weather was perfect, probably 70 degrees and sunny.

After returning on Caltrain to the City we decided to grab a bite to eat at Sushi Boat and then head out to the First Friday North Beach Art Crawl, having discovered that at  We met an Artist from Milwaukee who was a painter, an Artist who made Crystal Art, a Tie-Dye Artist who was friendly and others along the way.  We also went to Al's Attire on Grant Street in North Beach, where I found a sweet set of local and hand-made boots that I had to have.  So - they are mine.  We decided on a cab back, met the owners of the Apartment Jan and Wandralee and called it a night.

March 2, 2013 - Brunch with Jane
Before leaving we tried to reach our last-known friend from the neighborhood... Jane.  The number that we had rang to a fax machine.  It ended up being wrong by one number.  We had also put a card in the mail.  The second day we were here we dropped by her Mission District apartment and left a note.  Jane received both the note and the card, and we met for lunch today at Thorough Bread in the Mission.  We enjoyed a 2 hour lunch and great conversation, followed by a walk through the Mission Dolores Park.

Dolores Park seems to epitomize the gentrification that has occurred in San Francisco since we left in the early 90's.  Today is a Saturday, and the park is full of people of all ages, including many families enjoying the park.  The children's playground area is completely new.  The large Boat structure that was there is gone, and it was replaced by a slide, bridge and other structures that appear to be state-of-the-art.

Dinner was at Woodhouse Fish Company at Market and Church.  I had the stuffed artichoke diner and Kay had a crab sandwich.   It was very good, I recommend.

Tomorrow we have brunch with my cousin Stephanie and Steve at Cafe Flore, then its off to the airport and back to Minneapolis for us.