Urban ride

Urban ride

With the Urban Cow Half Marathon 2016 just around this corner this coming Sunday, I had to pick up my packet at the local Fleet Feet (located in downtown Sac).  Since I had the time and thought I’d be good to the environment (and to my health), I decided I’d try riding my (in actuality the wife’s) bike downtown.

She purchased a Momentum iNeed STREET bike a few weeks ago.  One complaint she had was with the saddle (slowly learning the bike lingo) so she ordered one she thought might be more comfortable.  I helped her install it this week.

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New saddle

I currently have a Giant Roam 2 but because it is sized a little bigger, I am not as comfortable taking it into downtown since it is hard to stop and start easily.  So my wife gave me permission to test out her new seat on my trek to the running store.

After she had purchased her bike, it spurred me to look into getting some much needed accessories that I had been putting off since I didn’t do a lot of riding in the last year.  One neat thing about her bike is that it came with a bunch of already attached accessories that are helpful for urban commuting.  There is a U-lock holder attached to the seat tube.  They also designed the top tube as two smaller parallel tubes allowing you to slip your U-lock through it (see pic below)

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Built in U-lock holder

Bike security is a pretty big thing and business.  I scoured various review and bike web sites looking at the different types of locks available.  In the end I settled on some U-locks for each of our bikes.  The ones that I found came with additional cables (that can be used to help secure your front wheel).  I ended up going with the Kryptonite Series 2 Standard that came with a 4′ cable.  For D, I bought her the Abus Facilo 32 with a Cobra Cable.  I found that for U-locks, Abus is very good as is Kryptonite.  Each of the companies have varying levels of protection, which I find a little funny.  “Get this lock and it’ll mostly keep your bike safe or get this super duper expensive lock and no one will steal it.”  I guess it makes sense because it depends on where you live and will be parking your bike.  Are you in a high theft/crime area? Are you out in the suburbs with not much crime around?  Those sorts of things.  From my understanding here in Sac, bike theft is a huge issue and people will take your bike or components if they’re available.  So I ended up going with medium protection for both our bikes (also because we don’t have super expensive bikes in the thousands of dollars).

I was fairly comfortable riding with cars passing me by and such.  Since I hadn’t had much chance to lock the bike(s) to things, I was a bit nervous and had to think about the proper way to position the bike and lock it up.  The place to lock bikes in front of Fleet Feet was not your typical U shaped bike racks (like here).  This rack was low to the ground which made it tough to get the frame and bake wheel within the U-lock, but I made it work.  I had also watched videos and read up on the proper way to lock your bike to try to prevent theft.  I looked at the other various bikes parked on the street in front of store next to Fleet Feet and realized so many people just willy nilly lock their bikes.  After picking up my race bib and free bag (will post pic later), I biked over to a local sandwich place that makes some awesome sandwiches.  They also have a bunch of various snack items and beer/drinks for sale as well.

In the end I rode a total of about 10 miles (this after a 4 mile run  this morning).  The new seat (saddle) overall I would say is fairly comfortable though I did get some soreness on the big part of my rump towards the end of the ride.  The built in “shocks” of the new seat also make sounds when I went over some bumps.  Overall I’d give the Cloud-9 Comfort Ladies’ Saddle a passing grade.  We’ll see how it works out for D as it gets worn in.

On an unrelated note, hopefully my pictures will start to be better as I am due for a phone upgrade soon.  I have had the HTC One (m7) for the last 2 years and while the phone is good, the camera sucks.  There is a known defect in the camera that turns any shot that is not in nice bright sun into this hazy purple mess (hence the pictures you see on the site).  So now I’m trying to decide between the following: Iphone 7, Iphone 6s, Galaxy S7, or the yet to be released Google Pixel phone.  I know all these phones have good specs and are probably really good so it makes the decision much harder.  We shall see.

-StewsCat

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Turkeys! Bikes! Celebrities!

On today’s 5.5 miler, I ran into a rafter (yes I had to look that up) of turkeys.  Apparently some people will refer to  a group of turkeys as a “gobble” or a “flock.”  I like rafter.  That’s a neat term.  Anyway, we have a ton of turkeys in the greater Sacramento area and there are usually multiple different rafters that I run into on my travels along the American River (and also sometimes in the residential neighborhoods surrounding it).  I was near the Guy West Bridge again by Sac State when I at first spotted 2 turkeys coming from the river to the berm.  As I approached them, more turkeys started showing up and they kind of surrounded me on the berm’s paved trail.  I know sometimes turkeys get a bit aggressive so I snapped off a few pics and kept going.

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Last year I invested in a bicycle, my first bike that I purchased on my own.  I have intermittently biked over the last 12 years or so since finishing college.  During grad school I biked to work/class/lab on a regular basis.  The bike I purchased was the 2014/2015 Giant Roam 2.  My intent was to use the bike for general biking as well potentially some longer distance rides (for me, longer distance is like 10-20 miles).  I went to my LBS (Local Bike Shop) and they helped me out.  I did feel like the guy helping me maybe wasn’t as helpful as I was expecting from an LBS.  People always talk about with bikes that it should be a dialogue between you and the bike pro about what you need and they also help fit the bike to you.  I realize now he maybe wasn’t as helpful because D recently bought a bike at the same shop and a different bike pro helped her and was much more informative.  Admittedly I didn’t ride much over the last year.  Now that D has a bike, I know we’ll be doing more rides together.

I’m always interested in how things work as well as DIY.  So now armed with two bikes, I am learning and reading up on how to do regular bike maintenance myself.  I went to the library yesterday and checked out Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.  The plan is to learn how to do basic bike maintenance to keep our bikes running well and maybe even do some more advanced stuff, we’ll see.

So that’s a new hobby of mine.   Plus it has the added benefit of providing some health perks.

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A few things about NYC that I forgot.  We saw one celebrity and one pseudo-celebrity.  While on our way to the Beautiful show, a double-decker tourist bus was rolling slowly down the street with music blaring from it.  When I looked up, I could see a film crew on the top deck and some guy standing and dancing, with a bunch of other people sitting and dancing.  Every few minutes, the guy on the bus would shout to all the pedestrians walking “What’s up New YOOOORK!?!?”  Someone walking near us pointed out that the person was Jason Derulo.  That was the celebrity.

The pseudo-celebrity that we saw is/was on the show  Million Dollar Listing: New York.  Ronita is the assistant to one of the realtors (Luis) on the show and she’s featured in a lot of the episodes because that is the only assistant he has working for him.  She basically organizes and runs his life from what the show depicts.  Anyway, we were just walking along near Grand Central when she walked by us (we were walking on opposite directions).  After she passed, I turned to D and said “she looks familiar!” and then I said “that was Ronita” from the show.

-StewsCat

NYC Day 4

With our NYC vacation coming to an end, we had a rough outline of what we wanted to do before heading to JFK and flying back to Sacramento.  We had to check out of our hotel by noon so by 11 or so we checked out of the room and the hotel was kind enough to store our bags until we left for the airport that afternoon.

Our first stop was for food since we hadn’t had breakfast.  I figured since we wanted to check out the High Line, we would look for a brunch spot near there.  Many of our friends had told us that we had to “brunch” while in NYC so figured this was our last chance.

I found a place called Cookshop.  I thought it was funny that the brief description on Google maps said “Farm-to-hipster American dining.”  At first that made me not want to go there but it had some good reviews on the food and that really was all I cared about.  D started with the Beignets and then had the Poached Eggs (with beefsteak tomatoes, basil, herbed breadcrumbs, and cheese fonduta).  I started with the House smoked Arctic Char (with horseradish creme fraiche and toast) and then had their Fried Egg Sandwich.  The Beignets were good, though not the traditional light airy ones that you think of.  They have ricotta cheese inside their batter and made the internal part of the beignets more cake-like than airy.  Overall the food was great.

Not too long after we ordered, there were two young women sat right next to us.  Now they were not quiet nor shy about their conversation.  From the conversation I gleaned that they were most likely towards the end of high school (suspect senior year) but they lived a fairly privileged life.  One girl talked about how she spent the summer traveling through Europe and the other through Africa.  What struck me as outrageous was one girl talking about how she was dating a boy but was very attracted to another guy on her trip and was proud of herself that she didn’t cheat on the boy she was dating.  And I quote, “I didn’t kiss him, though I did shower  with him.” um…WHAT?!? The conversation was filled with ridiculous things like that and distracted me from a nice brunch.  Kids these days…

After lunch, we trekked over to the High Line.  The High Line is essentially an old elevated railroad track that was converted into an elevated urban park walkway.  Honestly, coming from Sacramento and the City of Trees, it wasn’t all that impressive to me.  I can see how it is a nice getaway from the concrete and skyscrapers of NYC though.  So I can appreciate it as a nice thing for people who live in NYC.  However, the High Line is now a touristy thing that it was fairly congested and filled with tourists (like us).  It was also a bit warm being elevated and not having much shade.

One thing that D wanted to see was the old cobblestones of New York.  I told her that one place you can still see it is the Meat Packing District.  We got off the High Line and found ourselves in Meat Packing and D got to see the cobblestones.

I needed to use the facilities and so while D was browsing in a store, I walked over to Chelsea Market.  Now I thought the High Line was packed with people walking, but Chelsea Market was even more packed.  I felt like a sardine.  We grabbed some water here and then jumped on the subway back up to Columbus Circle (at the southwest corner of Central Park).  We also used the bathrooms at the Essex Hotel so got to see the nice architecture in the lobby and registration area.  We then just chilled on a big rock in Central Park until it was time to head back to the hotel and head for the airport.

It’s a good thing we decided to head to JFK early because there was a ton of traffic on the roads back tot he airport.  Luckily we were able to get there with plenty of time to grab some food.  Course it helped that our flight ended up being delayed because the co-pilot wasn’t at the airport in time.  You would think as your job you’d try to get to the airport on time or early (it was an evening flight).  The gate people came on once saying that the co-pilot was in a cab, that some people commute to work.  Um, unless you work at home, everyone commutes to work, and plans as such.  We ended up arriving home a half hour after our normal scheduled time.

That’s a wrap on our NYC trip, overall was a good time.  Definitely left more stuff to do so maybe one day we’ll head back.

-StewsCat

NYC Day 3

NYC Day 3

With our late night, we slept in and didn’t get out of bed until around 10 am.  Our only real set plan was that we wanted to have some lunch at Katz’s Delicatessen.  Since this is located in the LES, I suggested we go down to Battery Park so D could see the Statue of Liberty (at least from afar) and also I wanted to see the 9/11 memorial and the Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center).

On our way down to southern Manhattan, we walked through Grand Central.  That’s another one of those iconic “tourist” places and also is used in a lot of movies.  I can’t remember if I had walked through Grand Central on my previous visits so it was cool to see.

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Grand Central

We made it down to Battery Park, saw the Statue of Liberty from afar (it is actually quite small when you see it from Battery Park).  My phone’s camera isn’t all that great (as you’ve been with the purple hued pictures) so I didn’t get a good picture of Lady Liberty.  We then walked northward and found ourselves at site of the previous WTC (Towers 1 and 2) and the new 1WTC.

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Freedom Tower

The last time I was there (2008), there was a ton of construction still going on and only one of the waterfalls had been partially constructed.  It looked completely different this time.  It was definitely a bit eerie and haunting to see all the names surrounding the waterfalls.  The juxtaposition of thousands of tourists taking pictures and such was a little strange, though at least it seemed like most people were somber and understanding of the atmosphere.

We didn’t actually go into the museum or buildings around and headed towards lunch.  We hopped on the subway towards Katz’s.  About this time the weather turned from blue skies to overcast and rain.  We hoofed it to Katz’s just in time before the rain started to really come down.  Upon entering Katz’s, the guy at the door hands each person a ticket.  This ticket is what the counter guys write on and you have to hand the ticket to the checkout person before leaving (otherwise you have to pay $50).  The place was packed and there were 7 different counter lines.  I thought it was cool that when you order, they give you a cut of sample while they’re making the sandwich.  We ordered the pastrami sandwich and Matzo Ball Soup to share.

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Pastrami and Matzo Ball

The sandwich was really tasty.  The Matzo ball soup was also good.  The taste of the broth reminded me of a chinese soup I used to eat growing up.  The rain continued though seemed to be lightening up.  About a block away is Russ and Daughters.  We decided to check it out and get some dessert.  Russ and Daughters is a quintessential shop that I think of that New Yorkers can grab some easy grub.  We just had a black and white cookie.

We had discussed seeing a show (musical, tv taping, something) and so headed to the TKTS Discount booth in Times Square to see about getting some half off musical tickets for that same night.  There was a bit of a line but it moved swiftly.  Times Square was packed with tourists.  Next to the ticket booth there was also a rally/protest going on for Venezuela.  From the list of musicals we elected for Beautiful: A Carole King Musical.  We both really like her as a songwriter and artist.

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Times Square

As we had some time to kill, we decided to hit up some stores.  There were a few on D’s list that are only in NYC.  We checked out Uniqlo, they are sponsors for both Novak Djokovic and Kei Nishikori, both players are in the semi-finals of the US Open currently.  I bet Uniqlo would love if they faced off in the finals as that would give them great exposure.  We also checked out Aritzia and Cos on our way towards the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.  We grabbed a couple of slices at Little Italy, and this time it was more what I remembered as the classic NY slice.

The Carole King Musical was pretty fantastic.  There were multiple instances where I got goosebumps and chills from the great singing.

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After the show, we took the subway down to Union Square and walked over to Baohaus.  I wanted to support a fellow Taiwanese and have been a fan of Eddie Huang for awhile.  We each had a Bao, I had the traditional pork one and D had the fried chicken bao.  D saw they had Taro Fries and she’s a big fan of Taro so we had that as well.  I had a HeySong Sarsaparilla Drink, which brought me back to my childhood.  D had the Lang Lang, which was 1/2 lemonade and 1/2 green tea.  

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They had the tiniest bathroom ever but had an awesome funny sign.

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Our next food stop was the Momofuku Noodle Bar.  Surprisingly there was no wait and we were seated right away at the counter.  This was cool because they have an open kitchen and I was able to watch all the action.  As a foodie and amateur home cook/baker, it was fun to watch them do their thing.  We shared the Shiitake buns, which were quite umami and tasty.  I had the Chicken Pho and D had the Hozon Ramen.  Both were awesome.

With our tummies filled, I wanted to check out NoMad bar.  There was a very nondescript door that led into a nice dark busy bar.  I had no idea it was actually part of a hotel as the separate entrance and dark hallways belied its true nature.  The waiter was very knowledgeable and because of their extensive menu he gave me some good suggestions.  I had the Gentleman Exchange and D had the Sakura Maru.  She said it was the best cocktail she has had and we left after one drink otherwise she would have just kept on drinking more and more.  While waiting for the subway to take us back up to the hotel, we saw a real NYC rat on the tracks.  Our NYC trip was made by seeing the rat.

That’s it for Day 3

-StewsCat

NYC Day 2

NYC Day 2

Since we had gone to bed relatively early, we woke up mid-morning and got ready for the day.  The plan was to check out the upper east side area before eventually meeting up with our friends in Brooklyn for some steak at Peter Lugers.

We had created a google maps with specific points of interest (mostly food, bars, museums).  You can reference this map and see where all your “pins” on the map are located.  Our plan was to hit up the Met so we found a breakfast place nearby.  The pin by the Met said Zabar’s so we headed there.  However, once we walked by its address, we noted there was no Zabar’s but there was EAT by Eli Zabar.  Turns out the actual Zabar’s is on the west side of Central Park (whereas we were on the east side).  We decided to eat there and had an all right breakfast.  D had an omelette with tomatoes and mozzarella (the mozz was very fresh and delicious).  I had the smoked salmon on healthy bread.  It did taste healthy but was all right.  For the table it came with some of their freshly made breads and also my meal came with a side of sliced cucumber and dill.

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Smoked salmon on healthy bread

With breakfast/brunch/lunch out of the way, we walked over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art  (or The MET).  Last time I was in the City, I didn’t go.  Man, I did not realize how enormous the place is.  D really wanted to see the Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology exhibit that was going on so that was the first thing we hit up.  After being with D for so long, I’ve come to appreciate some fashion so it was impressive to see the various ways of creating and making dresses.

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Manus x Machina

Since we knew that we could spend all day (and then multiple days at the museum) to see everything, we agreed upon a few various exhibit/halls.  I wanted to see the armor and armorer exhibit, which was pretty cool since you were able to compare the way various cultures created similar type weapons (like swords).

We also briefly went through the Egyptian exhibit since that is not common art/artifacts that you find in many museums.  It was amazing to see that they had so many sarcophagi along with the contents of said sarcophagi (aka mummies).

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We hit up some 19th and 20th century European art and then made our way up to the roof of the MET.  My cousin suggested we go up there as you get a pretty spectacular view of the city (and you don’t have to pay!) and can have a cocktail while you’re at it.  There were a bunch of people up there.  They also have an art installation of a building on the roof as well.  It was smaller than I imagined.  As the sun was beating down, it was fairly warm so we didn’t stay to have a cocktail but did soak up the views of Central Park and the skyline.

After the MET, we were a little bit hungry and wanted to check out a NY classic institution and walked over to Papaya King.  We each had a hot dog and shared their papaya drink.  The papaya drink was good stuff.

From Papaya King we walked to the Carlyle and the famous Bemelmans Bar.  This bar was featured by Tony Bourdain as a place to go drink but also was in a Christmas Special movie with Bill Murray.  The walls of the bar are decorated with drawings by Ludwig Bemelman (the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books).  D had the Old Cuban and I had the Fleur de Paradis and then we shared The Carlyle Punch.  All were quite tasty.

Afterwards we decided to stroll through Central Park.  We walked by the little pond where people do the model bowl sailing.  From there it was a short walk over to the Loeb Boathouse.  I didn’t expect to see so many people out on the water on a rowboat.  Next to that is Bethesda Fountain and Terrace.

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We walked down the area of the park that has a bunch of benches lining both sides of the walkway.  From there we made our way to the southeast corner of the park and walked back towards our hotel.  Along the way we passed by all the fancy stores on 5th Avenue .

Across from our hotel is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is an impressive Neo-Gothic style Roman Catholic cathedral.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

For dinner, as mentioned above, we made our way down into Brooklyn to Peter Lugers Steakhouse.  Many places list Peter Lugers as the best steakhouse in America year after year.  I figured since we were in the area we might as well check out the supposed best steak in America.  Our friends Matt and his wife Lisa met us at the restaurant.  We ordered the steak for 4 (makes sense given there were 4 of us).  This ended up being two huge porterhouses (fillet and a strip steak).  This was cooked at a medium rare.  I gotta say the fillet portion of the steak was uber tender and tasty.  The strip steak was also good though not as tender as the fillet.  Was it the best steak ever?  Probably not, but it was a good steak.  I still am a fan of real Kobe (wagyu) beef though that is super duper expensive.  We also had the creamed spinach and german potatoes, which were okay.  They also do thick cut bacon and that was very tasty.  It was great to catch up with Matt and Lisa as we hadn’t seen each other in 4 years.

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Not wanting to end the night early (and show D that you really do stay out super late in NYC, we’re usually in bed by 10), we headed back to Manhattan to get some drinks.  Our first stop was at Essex and Beauty in the LES (lower east side).  The 4 of us hung out on a couch next to the bar area.  We were between the dining area and the restrooms/front doors so there was a constant stream of people going back and forth.  Interesting to see how people in NYC really do it up when they go out (guys in fancy dress shirts and slacks/fancy jeans and ladies dolled up in fancy dresses).

With multiple recommendations to go to Death and Co. (cocktail bar), we headed out of Essex and Beauty after a drink and wandered our way through the LES to find Death and Co.  You had to put your name down at the front and they’d text you when they had an availability.  By this time it was around midnight and luckily our wait was only about 15 minutes.  On the walk from Essex and Co., I started feeling a few drops of water fall on me.  At first I thought it was from the window A/Cs but realized it was probably some rain.

There was an extensive list of cocktails and had some interesting names.  We ordered as a group:  Beyond the Sea, Tramps Like Us, Birds of Prey, Minaseno, Lord Baltimore, Francois Dillinger.  Overall the cocktails were good.  I actually expected the cocktails to be more expensive than they were but they ranged from around $14-17 per drink.  I was expecting closer to $20 per drink.  After 2 cocktails at this place we were done.  Matt called and Uber and they dropped us off at our hotel (which was good because it had started lightly raining by the time we left Death and Co.).

D and I were getting a bit hungry since it was now like 1:30.  I looked up places that may still be open and a few blocks away was a 24 hour place called Uncle Paul’s Pizza.  The slices we got were only okay and nothing like I remembered as a true NY slice.  I told D we’d have to try again at another place.

We turned in for the night around 2 AM.

-StewsCat