Peaking for pancakes

All spring I trained for an event that takes place every year on the Fourth of July. My winter bout with bronchitis and my grad school chub left me weak and sluggish, unfit for the task ahead, but I trained hard anyway. I rode my bike to the point of collapse, practiced yoga to improve my core strength, cut back on sweets. Nothing was going to stop me from riding 2,000 feet up the hill this year for the annual pancake breakfast in Jamestown, Colo.

We wanted to get an early start to beat the heat on the way back down the hill, so we were out the door at 7a.m. I had a light breakfast; it’s no good to ride on a full stomach, and besides, I wanted to save room for pancakes.

No one was out at first, but when we hit the start of the climb we knew it would be crowded. Cars with bike racks lined the entrance to Left Hand Canyon, and we dodged fellow cyclists spilling onto the road as they unloaded their bikes and donned their helmets.

Even though I’d drafted off of Jeremy up to that point to conserve energy, my knee was aching from the repeated pedal strokes, and I had to slow up to do my awkward-looking, contorted on-bike AT-band stretch. But I could practically smell the pancakes, so I ignored the pain, rode through it, sacrificed my knee for the promise of indulging in fluffy mapley goodness ahead.

People passed me — fit people on sleek road bikes, like mine. I passed others: a couple on a tandem pedaling furiously around a steep corner, two thin girls on carbon copies of my Specialized Ruby (“Nice bikes, ladies!”), people on mountain bikes, people on squeakers, creakers, people who perhaps only ride to Jamestown once a year and only for this occasion.

Now I was hungry. Need drove me, sped my cadence. I sat on Jeremy’s wheel and chased up the hill until we saw the line of hungry cyclists and heard the live bluegrass music pouring over huge griddles and crowded tables in Jamestown’s tiny park.

We had arrived.

Never in my wildest dreams of the Jamestown Pancake Breakfast did I imagine blueberry cakes. It was too hopeful, too outrageous. But there stood a woman with a spatula asking:

“Blueberry or buttermilk?”


“How many?”

I had done it. I had met my goal, my training hadn’t been in vain. I gleefully tore off my cycling gloves and gave my blueberry pancakes an even but light dousing of maple syrup. After all, my next goal is to haul my cookies up to Ward on two wheels by the end of the summer. But Ward’s myriad eccentricities make it another story for another day.

Today’s Outrageous News Values

In the Today Show’s intro today, Ann and Matt discussed al Qaeda’s resurgence and Miss New Jersey’s revelation of her (attempted) bribery pictures in the same breath.

Are you kidding me?

Now I’m watching Miss NJ hold back tears and show her stupid photos, and I must repeat:

Are you kidding me?

For once, I’m left speechless.

All about me

The parking lot of the Whole Foods Market in Boulder is a crowded, cart-swerving, bumper-crunching paved path to insanity. But somehow, a spirit of congeniality prevails, or at least it does when I’m there during off-peak hours. I never go there during the post-work rush hour or weekends, so I can’t vouch for a lack of road rage within this parking lot’s tiny borders when it’s truly busting at the seams with organics-seeking Boulderites.

I like to park in a garage off to the side of the building. It’s nice to park in the shade, and I can always find a spot there. That’s where I parked today, later in the afternoon than usual, but still within a reasonable hour to avoid the insanity. I came out of the store, wove my way through people and cars and jogged after my cart down the little hill into the parking garage, nearly home free, when a car zoomed around the corner in front of me, into the garage. The driver yelled out his open windows:

“Get out of my fucking way!”

I was stunned. First, I hadn’t been in anyone’s fucking way. I was definitely out of the fucking way. Second, this violated the unspoken rule of having good manners in Boulder’s most crowded grocery store, the pact of civility shared by every denizen of Whole Foods. Whether we wait inside at the seafood counter for our non-dyed salmon or wait outside for a Subaru to pull out of a spot so we can pull our own Subarus in, the patrons of Boulder’s Whole Foods Market maintain an outward semblance of Boulder mindfulness. Any frustration we might feel, we keep to ourselves.

Angry Guy tore around to the far corner of the garage where I couldn’t see him, but I knew he would have to walk past my car to get back out. I loaded my groceries into our Subaru (yes, we have one, too), and just as I turned around to return my cart, Angry Guy rounded the corner on foot. Jeremy wasn’t with me — he doesn’t like it when I create a situation — so I felt free to express myself without causing my significant other any embarrassment or distress.

Watching him, I started pushing my cart to the return, right behind him.

“Hey, are you the one who told me to get out of your fucking way?” I said, even though I knew he was.

I’m sure other people in the garage heard this and wondered what sort of a road rage incident they had missed. Angry Guy, though, gave me a furtive sideways glance — I knew he heard me — and then darted his eyes back to his cell phone to send either pretend or real text messages.

“That’s what I thought,” I said as I reached the cart return. He continued up the ramp, and I put my cart away and walked back to my car. I was proud that I’d publicly humiliated him. He deserved it; his words were uncalled for and incredibly rude, especially considering the pact and all. He should be embarrassed for his bad behavior.

As I drove home, I remembered something Anyen Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist lama I met over the spring, had said during teachings I attended. This is the condensed version, but it’s all about me. Everywhere you go, everything you do, it’s always all about me me me. I’m stuck in traffic but I’m in a hurry. I’m waiting way too long for the waitress to bring my water. I want to be in the shortest line at the grocery store. We only think about ourselves in these situations, he said. Me me me.

Angry Guy was all about him, I decided, but I knew immediately that I was wrong. It wasn’t just Angry Guy who was thinking only of himself; so was I. I took that one little sentence we exchanged personally, so I decided he should pay for his transgression on me. I made his moment about him all about me when I confronted him. I could have easily let it go, but I made a choice to make it all about me instead and even congratulated myself for it.

I don’t want to get all after-school-special on you here, so I’ll conclude with more of a Zen koan instead: if it’s not all about me, and it’s not all about you, then whom or what is it all about?

Iceland Saga, part 2: Party til you puke

Jeremy and I stayed in one of the interior rooms of Hotel Fron. Mom and my brothers had large, apartment-style space with windows looking onto an alley just off Laugavegur, the main street through the city center.

Apparently their room was also right above a night club. All Mom heard all night was the BOOM BOOM BOOM of the bass.

We went downstairs for breakfast — Mom needed coffee just to drown out the leftover BOOM — and to wait for Dad. If he made it.

Mom was finishing her first cup when she thought she spotted him on the street. We ran around to the front of the hotel and there he was, luggage trailing, looking desperate for sleep and a light for his cigarette. Mom and I threw our arms around him, and he smiled and asked where he could get coffee.

We’d been extra worried that Dad wouldn’t make it to Reykjavik because Dad isn’t the jet-setting type. He’s a nervous flyer. He doesn’t plan the trips. He doesn’t travel a lot. Mom, however, travels nearly every week for business. She’s been to all 50 states, she knows every airport, has status with every airline. Okay, so maybe not every airline, but the woman knows how to get around, and if the passport debacle had happened to her, none of us had any doubts that the dragon lady would have gotten a passport and gotten herself to Iceland. But with Dad, we weren’t convinced until we saw the whites of his eyes on the street in Reykjavik.

Turns out we needn’t have worried. Remember chipper blonde behind the Iceland Air desk? She didn’t just get him a seat. Dad flew first class. He sat next to a Norwegian woman who explained the difference between the lox they enjoyed on the plane and the lox she’d eaten in Alaska. He had a glass of Jack Daniels and ate caviar and stretched out and relaxed.

We crowded into coach quickly during boarding because the air conditioning on the plane was out, and then ate meatballs of uncertain origin.

Nevertheless, he had arrived, and we were all happy about that.

Matt came down for breakfast and found himself in another food nightmare. Breakfast was the same as yesterday. The had what we’d call lunch meat; that was out. They had tomatoes and cucumbers; out. They had cereal, but only plain corn flakes and Cheerios, not his usual sugary fare. Dejected, he settled into orange juice and toast with jam. There was sugar out for coffee, so I told him to pour sugar over some Cheerios, but my suggestion was filtered through teen angst and Mom already making his toast and jam as he complained about the cereal. Now that we’re back, I’m planning a book: “The Picky Traveler: How to Eat Chicken, Pasta and Sugary Cereal Anywhere in the World.” The book will include a forward by my brother, of course, and a chapter by my mom on tormenting international waiters and waitresses with special requests for plain chicken and pasta with white sauce, regardless of the menu choices.

After much toast and coffee, we moved on to whale watching that afternoon, which was cold yet invigorating. We only saw one far-off Humpback whale, but we saw plenty of puffins, and Atlantic dolphins played in our boat’s surf for a long time. After shooting at least 50 frames of dolphins, my mom came over and asked whether I’d gotten any dolphin pictures. She’s always eager to document every moment with the camera and isn’t afraid to try to recreate moments she misses, tell everyone where to stand, how to pose, or tell me what to shoot to ensure complete coverage. So I usually shoot these from the hip while looking at her and remind her in a snotty fashion that I took a few photo classes at a rather famous journalism school.

She doesn’t care, she just wants pictures of the dolphins.

We went on a super-jeep tour of the Golden Circle the next day. Jeremy got up early that morning to walk around the city. It was Saturday, and evidence of Reykjavik’s night life was everywhere. The drunks were still heading home, and broken bottles littered the streets. Jeremy even spotted blood spilled on the street. I slept in, so the street cleaners were out by the time I made it down to the street level for breakfast; I missed the carnage.

Next: the Golden Circle, including how to float on a glacier in a super jeep. Hint: three p.s.i.