Embracing the Adventure

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Of Panic and Panniers April 25, 2013

It was 16 degrees when I woke up and I have to admit that, for a brief moment, I thought about cancelling the ride.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, but now sitting there, the warm mug of pumpkin coffee cradled between my hands, the near-tropical bliss of my pickup’s tiny cab seemed a paradise.  Like most years in Idaho, the weather had failed to keep pace with my ambition.  The skies were clear, the sun was shining, but as my mother was wont to point out: this was not sufficient reason to be donning my favorite pair of shorts.  If I was going to ride today, I’d have to do it bundled up like a snowman.

Using this logic, I had managed to postpone my first ride of the season for nearly a month.  Instead, I had curbed my desire for two wheels and fresh air with the purchase of a brand new set of Seattle Sports Rain Rider Panniers.  Bright orange with reflective tape, I had ogled them for most of the previous season.  It doesn’t rain much in Idaho, but a prospective move to a wetter locale had placed them on my radar and, for some reason I couldn’t quite explain, they’d never slipped off… even after the job opportunity had faded away.  So here they were, crisp and fresh, waiting for that inaugural ride and I wasn’t going to let them down.

An hour later, I was appropriately bundled in three layers which included thermal underwear, insulated coveralls, and my favorite Cannondale alpaca helmet liner.  I had taken great care to ensure that the pannier was well attached to my bike rack (something which had proven more challenging than anticipated, since I had no way to keep it away from my rear wheel and had been forced to resort to laying it flat atop the rack and holding it in place with a conspicuous web of mini bungee cords).  The air was brisk, but it wasn’t long before the blood was pumping and, thirty minutes later, I arrived at work with that delightful burn that comes with a few good uphill sprints.

In retrospect, I’m not sure what had led me to believe that the trip home would be shorter and less eventful than the trip to work.  Perhaps it was the success of my initial adventure or the knowledge that most of the big hills were behind me, but I felt compelled to ride just a bit faster… and it was at that high-speed coast down 14th street that it happened: my brand new pannier fell off!

I heard it fall.  The thunk.  The scratching as it slid across the pavement.  The squeak of my brakes as I pulled to an abrupt stop.  Looking back, I realized that my decision to take a different route home had been nothing short of an act of Divine intervention; My pannier now lay in the middle of the road… but not just any road, it was a road that was rarely ever used.

Dismounting, I picked up my new rainproof bag and the bungee cords which had held it in place.  (All the bungee cords, that is, except the one which had neatly wrapped itself around the spokes of my rear wheel.)  To my surprise, the bag, itself, bore little sign of its ordeal.  A minor scuff on the handle was all it had to show and I was reasonably confident that the bike lock and two unread issues of Bicycling magazine housed inside were equally undamaged.

It took several minutes, but I finally settled upon a different method of attaching the cords and set off again – grateful that the mishap hadn’t happened on one of the busier roads or on the bridge as I crossed the river.

For a while, everything went well.  The roads were smooth, the drivers courteous, and nearly every light was in my favor.  In fact, I was nearly home when it happened again.  Thunk.  Scratch.  Squeak.  This time, the pannier had landed in the gutter.  A good call on its part, since this road was a bit busier than the last and it ran a real chance of getting flattened by the line of traffic.  And, again, my pannier showed no sign of damage.  (If asked to review the product, I could honestly say that I recommend it: I have no idea how it holds up in the rain, but it does a dandy job with road rash!)

I thoughtfully examined the bike rack (which was also coming lose) and one of the bungee cords (which was now stretched far beyond its original length) and briefly considered just hand-carrying the pannier the rest of the way.  Such a defeatist attitude could not be stomached however and, once again, I rewove my web of bungee.  This time, I was more creative and the tighter fit did the job.  Both the panniers and I made it home – a testimony to the old adage that, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”

What about my next ride?  Well, hopefully by then I’ll have figured out a way to keep the panniers away from that rear tire.  In the meantime, I’ll settle for the knowledge that a little bit of ingenuity can go a long way… or at least part of a long way if you weave it right!


The Toothpaste Experiment April 18, 2013

Filed under: Homemade,Toiletries — acgheen @ 12:00 am

I squeezed the plastic tube tightly between my fingers.  I had seen this coming.  My toothpaste was gone.  As I tossed the empty container into the trashcan, I made a momentous decision: I wasn’t going to buy another tube.  After years of paying $3 for a couple ounces of paste made from ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce then filling the local landfill with the empty tubes, it was time for a change.

I spent some time online looking at different recipes for homemade toothpaste (something that my father fondly remembers) and decided that most of them looked revolting (baking soda, salt, and hydrogen peroxide).  What I wanted was something that didn’t taste like straight baking soda, but had the cleaning power of the paste that I bought at the grocery store.

Eventually, I did come across a recipe that looked like it might meet my requirements and I began what would turn out to be several weeks of intense experimentation which concluded with a highly refined (and inexpensive) product well suited to my needs.

The formula I had selected called for equal parts baking soda and coconut oil (which, for anyone interested, does not even vaguely taste like coconut).  My first attempt with this recipe was distinctly unsuccessful.  The baking soda was present in too large a quantity for sensitive teeth or a discerning pallet.  While this did suppress any chance of my accidentally swallowing my concoction, it also left me with sense that my teeth and gums would never be quite the same again.

I determined that my best bet was to reduce the intensity of the paste by increasing the amount of coconut oil.  This natural disinfectant is available in most grocery stores for a few cents an ounce (more if you prefer to use the organic variety).  The oil is sold in a solid form, though it melts at a fairly low temperature (around 76 degrees Fahrenheit) and a few seconds in the microwave is sufficient to render it soft enough to successfully blend with the baking soda.  I finally settled upon a gentler formula that involved mixing 3 tbsp. of coconut oil with 1 tbsp. of baking soda.  It didn’t foam in my mouth like the paste I was used to, but it did the job.

The next issue to be addressed was that of “scrubbing power.”  While my original formula did clean my teeth reasonably well, it lacked the abrasive quality of the gritty blue stuff found in the tubes: a feature which helps to eliminate plaque and tartar buildup.  In my father’s day, this issue was addressed with the addition of a small quantity of salt.  Not wanting to further foul the flavor of my concoction, I chose instead to add ¼ tsp. of ground cloves.  Not only did this supply the abrasive quality I was looking for, but it also helped to mute the flavor of the baking soda.  So far, I was finding success.

I then proceeded to work on adjusting the flavor further with some peppermint oil.  This comes in three varieties: essential oil (used primarily for massage and not recommended for internal use), candy flavoring (often containing additional preservative ingredients, but still suitable for toothpaste manufacture), and food grade (my personal favorite).  After several attempts, I settled upon the addition of ¼ tsp. – just enough to mask the baking soda flavor.  In combination with the cloves, it actually provides a rather pleasing taste.

The result was a successful formula for homemade toothpaste that met all of my requirements: it was effective, inexpensive, and palatable.  Perfect proof that with a little time and ingenuity, you can do just about anything!

If you’d like to try making your own toothpaste, try the formula below:

1 tbsp. baking soda

3 tbsp. coconut oil

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp. peppermint oil

Don’t be afraid to experiment… and when you do, share your results with the rest of us.  Adventures are at their best when shared with friends!


Embracing the Adventure April 4, 2013

To those who are familiar with my writing, this blog may seem a little weird.  Face it.  It is.

Along with my passion for Christ, I’ve developed a keen interest in the world He created… an interest which has led me to some unusual (and not so unusual) hobbies and past times.  From fishkeeping to the cultivation of native pollinators, bicycling to fencing, and cooking to kite flying, I approach nearly everything I do with unbridled passion.  (Something which my mother kindly tolerated as I filled her house with aquariums, boxes of fungi, tanks of pond creatures, and containers of cultured juice drinks!)  I want to understand how things work and why.  I want to immerse myself in the world around me.  I want to experiment, explore, and embrace the adventure!

And that’s what this blog is about.  Through these posts, I’ll be documenting my own experiments and discoveries and (hopefully) encouraging my readers to engage in some exploration of their own. From my early adventures in manufacturing my own dairy products, to training for my first Century (a hundred mile bicycle ride), to cultivating culinary mushrooms, I’ll share what worked and what didn’t… and what I wished I’d done differently.  It’ll be an odd mix, but life often is.

Because most adventures are better when shared with friends, I’ll look forward to your involvement as well.  Take the time to try some of the hobbies and experiments you find on this page, then come back and tell me (and the rest of the community) how they worked.  What did you discover?  Is there a better way to approach the task?  Or if you’ve already tried it, do you have some advice to share?  Your input will make a difference.

If you’d like to subscribe to the blog and receive regular updates, click the button at the top, right-hand corner of this page.  Each post will be delivered direct to your inbox.

So what are we waiting for?  It’s time to get up, get moving, and embrace the adventure!


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