About thirty years ago, my family started doing a thirty mile bike ride on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Now that EF is big enough, we decided to take her out on the trip. I’m not nearly as in good of shape as my dad was when he was my age, and EF’s bike trailer is not fun to haul with a bike. Pair that with the heat and humidity we’ve been having, and it doesn’t make for a very enticing trip. I was researching ebikes for my Mom, and came across Riide. Riide is an ebike that does about twenty mph, charges in three hours, has a range of about twenty-five miles, and only weights about forty pounds. When I found out they do three day demos, I had an idea… I booked two Riide ebikes for Thursday afternoon-Sunday morning, picked them up in DC, and headed straight for Oxford, MD. During the demo, we covered over twenty miles in MD, and then when we got home, we rode about another twenty. The short story is that the bikes were awesome, but I have a more detailed review after the gallery.
Our traditional Eastern Shore ride is from Easton through Oxford, over the ferry, to St. Michaels for crabs, and then back to Easton. Its about a thirty mile loop, and a long day trip. Not knowing how EF would sleep in the trailer, we decided to spend the night in Oxford, go to get crabs in St. Michaels, and then retrace our steps, riding about fifteen miles. The riide ebikes did great. The say the have about about a twenty-five mile range, but thats obviously not while pulling a baby trailer loaded down with a baby and accoutrement. We did the fifteen miles no problem, and then tooled around Oxford about another five after the ride. The bikes still felt strong and zippy at the end of the ride. At this point, I was about sold.
When we got home from Maryland, all three of us really wanted to take the bikes back out. I charged them (it only takes about three hours for a full charge), and we went out on the W&OD trail, and hit up some parks. We biked to dinner and brunch. While we had the bikes, we enjoyed being outside constantly, and the bikes really made it easy and fun to get out there. In one day, we had brunch at Caboose Brewing right on the trail, and then rode back, hit up a park near our house, and then rode out to El Tio for dinner. On the way to dinner the bike pulling the trailer died. It had been fully charged and we had only traveled about ten miles, but all the hills and the trailer took their toll on the battery. Earlier I had marveled at how I was passing serious road bikers wearing all spandex while in casual clothes and pulling a baby trailer. Now I was stuck pumping a fixie with a heavy trailer behind it. Once we made it to the restaurant, I took the other riide (stilll charged because it was not pulling a trailer) and rode it home to get the truck. The bottom line is that these ebikes can pull a trailer twenty-five miles when its flat, but max out at about ten when its hilly. My wifes bike did about fifteen with hills not pulling a trailer, which is still pretty impressive. In Maryland I was sold on the riide, but now I was thinking I should test ride some electronically assisted bikes (you pedal and the bike adds supplementary power) before deciding on the riide (Which is more like a moped with pedals. You can twist the throttle, or you can pedal, but you really can’t do both except while going up steep hills.) I haven’t had the chance to test ride another ebike yet, but I still do really like riide and may end up with one. If I didn’t have to haul a baby trailer, I would own one by now. I definitely think its worth doing a free demo if you’re interested in an ebike.
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Lets start with a quick book review. I read The Boys in the Boat earlier this summer and thought it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m sure I particularly enjoyed it because I rowed crew, but my dad, who did not row, recommended it to me and it was on the best sellers list. I definitely can see how anyone could appreciate the story of some average Americans coming together to achieve something spectacular. Its a great book for anyone to read at anytime, but with the Olympics in Rio on the horizon, what better time than now? PBS is doing a special on the story of the Olympic crew from 1936, which aires Tuesday August 2nd at 9pm. If you’ve never followed US rowing, the book and PBS special might just peak your interest. I watched some of the Royal Henley this year, and the use of drones to film rowing has really changed the game for spectators. Now is a great time to read the book, watch the PBS special, and enjoy US Olympic rowing.
Preview for the PBS Special:
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Several years ago, I honestly don’t remember exactly when, I read an article in Cigar Aficionado about a guy in Great Falls, Virginia that grew his own tobacco, and had it rolled into cigars. Inspired, I bought some books, did a ton of internet research, and then decided to go for it. That first season I learned that growing tobacco is relatively easy. I learned about grow lights, propagating seeds, growing seedlings indoors, and then planting after the last freeze. While this took a lot of research, it wasn’t all together difficult. Once outdoors, my tobacco plants thrived. I had a few seasons where I had a small insect problem, but really it was just a matter of keeping the plants watered regularly. After the harvest is when things get difficult. One must build a kiln, live where its constantly warm with 75% humidity, or get creative and lucky. I opted for the latter. I bought a space heater and some air tight containers. I used cigar humidifiers, and tried to keep my tobacco warm and humid, while I tried to ferment and age it. The first year I let the tobacco dry out too much. I lost the oils that give tobacco its flavor. The second year, and every year but last year, I let the tobacco mold. The tobacco, fermented and aged my way, requires almost daily attention. It just has to breathe and be rotated, but weekends, vacations, and life tend to get in the way. Last year I managed to get my tobacco fermented without mold, and then let it age a bit drier than normal. I also used some alcohol (bourbon) to slow mold growth, which has not be scientifically proved to be effective, but is a fairly common practice. It seemed to work for me. I lost about 80% or more of my harvest to mold, being dried out, and other problems. That may sound bad, but this year was the first year I ended up with smokable fermented and aged tobacco. It smelled good, looked right, so I put some in a pipe. It was good, but a bit strong. I decided to buy a Virginia tobacco pipe blend, and mix my own tobacco into it, to make for a more enjoyable result. I pulled my can out when a friend came over. We each smoked a bowl, and found it to be very pleasant and enjoyable. So after what must have been at least five years, I’d finally enjoyed some success with my tobacco project.
This summer has been a great growing season. Its not going to be my biggest harvest. I had about 20 plants my first year. But it looks to be my highest quality harvest every. My leaves are big and full with no insect damage. I’ve used no pesticides or chemicals of any kind. If my plan was to grow leaves for wrapper, I’d probably be doing pretty well right now. However, I’m going to continue to work on fermenting and aging my tobacco. I also want to improve my blending. Once I get a good pipe tobacco made entirely of my own harvest, maybe I’ll think about cigars again. For now, I have my hands full, and plenty more to learn.by rsiv with no comments yet
We went to Nostos in Tysons for some upscale Greek. Everything was great. They had some incredible swordfish, and EF tried everything. Definitely check it out.
Tons of catch up. Got pretty far behind on the blog this year.
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I saw a recipe for Alabama white sauce on twitter, and though I’d heard of white bbq sauce, I’d never had the opportunity to try it. I wanted to smoke some chicken on my weber smokey mountain, and decided to whip up a batch. I’m a pretty big fan now. I pretty much followed the recipe, but it did up the spice level a bit.
Early in the summer we took EF to the zoo for the first time. We used parking panda, and reserved a spot right by the panda exhibit. We arrived later in the morning, but our parking spot was waiting for us, and we got to the panda exhibit right when the panda came out to eat some bamboo. EF loved it. We saw as many animals as we could, but we’ll definitely have to go back.
Here are a few videos from the trip:
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This post is very late. We haven’t been to The Woods since February, but hopefully this will inspire us to return soon, in better weather.
I recently enjoyed a really cool cologne class in St. Martin. I’ve never been very big into cologne but the class piqued my interest. Really, I’ll take any excuse to indulge my creative side. I won’t recap the previous blog post too much, but essentially, we got to try to mix a few base, middle, and top notes to create our own custom scent. Once you had your oils you like and in a good proportion, you add some perfumer’s alcohol and you’re in business. At home, one does not have the option of smelling each scent before committing to buy a bottle. However, if you know of a cologne you like, you can look up the notes of that scent on basenotes or fragrantica. I’m not suggesting or recommending that one try to copy a favorite cologne, but it does give you an idea of what smells you like, which provides a pretty good starting point. For example, I wanted to create a Virginia themed cologne (big surprise I know). I got on the basenotes forum, proposed my idea, and asked for suggestions. I got some ideas I liked conceptually, like cedar, but then found it difficult to blend said specific scent into my cologne. Then someone suggested a pineapple top note. Virginia is known for pineapples, not because they are grown here, but there were a symbol of welcome and status back in colonial times. I thought this was a great idea, especially since I didn’t really have any good ideas for the top notes at the time. I thought about citrus or mint, but citrus can only loosely fit a Virginia theme, and the mint was overpowered by my middle and base notes. I also thought about some clean scents like sea salt and driftwood to try to get a briny oyster thing going, but I couldn’t get that to work either. I googled cologne with a pineapple note, and found Creed’s Aventus, which has a smokey pineapple scent. I asked for some more help from basenotes to create something similar, and after some trial and error, found a pineapple scent that wasn’t too cloying or sweet, and also not too green and herbal. After playing around with several ideas, I came up with a few variations I liked. One of which is as follows:
TOP – pineapple – dihydro myrcenol, ambroxan, AAG, Ambergris, Allyl Heptanoate
MIDDLE – black pepper, all spice, nutmeg, tonka bean (popular spices of the colonial era, and tonka bean was a common pipe tobacco additive at the time)
BASE – Tobacco (and variations of…ie tobacarol, vanilla oak, etc.), Leather for Virginia’s esquestrian heritage (several variations including suederal)
I also did one with a middle of dogwood, magnolia, and jasmine (dropping the pineapple top note) but it seemed too floral for my taste. I still kept it though. I also messed around with vetiver using the justification that its similar to sorghum (and I couldn’t find sorghum essential oil). I think a few versions had oak moss and honeysuckle, but neither made the final cut.
I also made some beard oil. I bought some unscented beard oil online (jojoba and argan oil) and then added essential/fragrance oil to it. There are a bunch of sites online that describe how much oil to use, etc. Tobacco and vanilla oak turned out great, as did a variation of my Virginia cologne with the leather note punched way up. This is way easier than making a well-balanced cologne, but you can go so far as to develop a complex cologne and add it to the beard oil if you want to get fancy.
When we were at Tijon taking our class, it seemed to me that perfume was much more difficult than cologne. For a masculine cologne, there are only so many options when it comes to essential and fragrance oils. For perfume, the sky is the limit. As such, blending becomes much more difficult. I wanted to make a perfume for my wife for our anniversary, but it was an intimidating task. Bare in mind that each bottle of oil costs on average $6, so best case scenario, my fragrance would end up costing roughly the same as a store bought bottle. I decided on a concept for her perfume based on some cologne I like. 1 Million by Paco Rabanne has a really nice cinnamon – rose note (but an off-putting sparkling citrus top note). I thought the spicy rose note would work for a perfume, if I was able to create a more feminine base and top note that blended well. I started with a highly rated rose accord (not just straight rose scent/EO, but a complex blended rose accord) from creatingperfume.com. Then I decided on a few other middle notes: dark narcissus (picked mostly for name but I ending up really liking the smell), honey, and prismantol (a woody, spicy, ginger, cardamom note). I bought these blind (nose-blind/I hadn’t smelled them before). The honey didn’t thrill me, but I thought it would blend well. The prismantol was additively good. I smelled it frequently while mixing, and kept adding more and more of it. The rose accord was also very enjoyable, and strong enough to stand out the way I intended. For the base I ordered a sandalwood musk and light patchouli. I was concerned that the patchouli was a little too masculine, but blending it in to test anyway. For the top note I ordered peony, kumquat, and apricot. They all smelled good, but they did not smell great together. I decided to simplify and only include the peony. I started with a fairly even blend of 33% top, middle, and base notes. This wasn’t bad, but I needed to punch up the rose note. I kept adding rose until I found a sweet spot, and I also added a fair amount of the prismantol. At this point I had something very floral smelling, but it just seemed like something was missing. It was too sweet and too floral. I looked in my bag of cologne oil and found a sample of cinnamon. The bite of the cinnamon really balanced out the sweet florals, but it still seemed like it was bordering on cloying. Certainly too sweet for summer. I tried to add a fresh/sea component with ambroxin and hydro myrcenol. These kind of chemicals are what make aqua di gio and davidoff cool water remind you of the sea. I went easy on the fresh/sea component, and slowly added more until the sweetness seemed balanced. Now I was really starting to think I was on to something good. I added a little ambergris, and then I decided the perfume was really good, and it was time to stop before I messed it up. I’m really happy with the outcome. The peony top note comes off pretty good during application, and dominates for an hour or so. The inclusion of the sea smell makes it a fresh floral note and not overly sweet. Upon dry down, you really get warmth from the rose and cinnamon. This was really where the concept started, and I think it works quite well. As the perfume fades, the sandalwood musk, light patchouli, and ambergris leave a very subtle complex scent that I’m not able to identify/explain despite knowing the component parts. Its pleasant and not masculine so it works very well.
If you interested in creating cologne, perfume, candles, etc., I think a good place to start is foaming hand soap. I bought some unscented hand soap on amazon, and then just tried simple blends of two or three essential/fragrance oils. This is an inexpensive way to start out. I did a magnolia one for HB, and for myself I did one with a variation of the Virginia cologne described above. After those ran out I tried one with tobacco, vanilla oak, and leather, and another with tobacco and patchouli. It was very easy. I literally opened the top of the soaps, poured in some oil, shook, and pumped. As with most of my interests, this one can have a pretty hefty price tag. However, if you’re already buying a few bottles of luxury cologne a year, the price is negligible. Until you fall down the rabbit hole…
UPDATE: I just saw an article about upping your hand soap game (ridiculous I know), but it shows you how expensive good soap is, and also, how easy it is to pick a few scents that blend well. Lime, cumin, and patchouli sounds particularly interesting.by rsiv with no comments yet
Old People Friendly
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