Saturday, September 4, 2010

Green Chile Time (with a baseball bat)

It is green chile time again here in New Mexico. I haven't actually gotten a bag in a long time, so I thought I would replenish my supplies. The predominant chile growing region is near Hatch New Mexico. If you've never been to Hatch, it's where dreams go to die and tears season the soil to make the chile taste good. Zard always said that a bit of suffering makes food taste better, and he's right. There are a bunch of options for roasters for Hatch chile. 

I prefer the chile from Socorro. Partly this is due to nostalgia from my time there as a student, and partly it's because it has a different taste. The soil in New Mexico has the right alkalinity that makes chile good. Socorro has something especially different about it. As for the suffering, there is no suffering like that found in Socorro county. The tears of regret and lost innocence really impart a distinct flavor on the food. Luckily there is a roaster that specializes in Socorro chile, and when I do buy a roasted bag, it's from this place. They are in front of Hobby Lobby on Cerillos if you're local and actually want to find them.

In order to stock up on chile, the cheapest way is to peel it yourself. It's a bonding time with your family members where you can ask questions like: "This chile won't peel, did those jerks roast it enough?" and "Did we really need four sacks of chile?" and finally "Please give me the sweet release from chile peeling that only a .45 caliber slug of lead can provide!" That last one isn't really a question, but I thought I would ruin the punchline of peeling a bag of chile for you.

Here is the chile peeling setup I use:

In the picture are two baking pains to hold the peel, two sets of sharp knives, latex gloves, cutting boards, ziploc bags for storing the remains, and a half sack of fresh roasted green chile. I only get a half sack as that's about all I eat in a year. You then begin the process of removing the skins.

Some of your friends might suggest that you cover your hands in oil and that will somehow protect you from the chemical burns of the green chile. Slap these people, they hate you and they hate America. Latex gloves work for me, but I'm sure the nitrile ones will work too. Then you can make "two by two hands of blue" references with whoever you suckered into helping you with this.

It's good to have a cleanup crew to help with "accidents" too:

Amazingly enough Willy and Charlie both enthusiastically ate the dropped seeds, peels, and other discards that happened on the floor. It's a bit too soon after peeling to see if explosive doggy poop will result, but I'm hoping not.

After all the peeling is done, you get the following:

The two piles on the cutting board are the remains. Just bag them and send them on their way and you now have condensed suffering to season your food for the whole year. Unfortunately there is also the mess to clean up:

Tradition also dictates that you snack on some of the chile, then say either "ZOMG this is too hot!" or "Those jerks screwed me I should have gotten extra hot!"

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tall Motorcycle Riders: BMW vs. Triumph vs. Honda

Motorcycles are generally made with compromises in mind. The average sized American is a mythical beast, and I do not fall in that demographic. Specifically, I'm tall at six feet one inch and my inseam is a 32. There's a lot of information about modifying motorcycles for the shorter riders, but for people over six foot there's not a whole lot of information out there. I've ridden a fair number of motorcycles looking for one to suit my longer legs, and I have opinions on them. This post is specifically about the sport touring and dual sport motorcycles. I used to ride a Honda Shadow 1100 but I've found that a more modern, sportier bike is more to my liking.

There are three contenders I have ridden and I'll weigh in on them here. Those are the BMW R1200RT, the Honda ST1300, the Triumph Sprint. Generally when you're looking for the sport touring bikes, the choice comes down to wear in the sport vs. touring compromise the manufacturer has made. The feature differences largely center around creature comforts, riding stance, and convenience items. I'll start by covering the bikes in the order of sporty to touring, and make comments on height for each of them.

The first bike is the Triumph Sprint. This is a bike that is closest to a sport bike out of all of them. Unlike the BMW and the Honda, it does not have amenities like an adjustable windshield. In favor of a more sport like stance, the bike keeps your legs tucked and your body leaned more forward than the others. As far as the computer goes it has the standard options you would expect. The side bags are large, but not large enough that they can actually hold a full size helmet. The bike does wonderfully cornering, and even though it is the most anemic engine of the three, it does a reasonable job of handling. I have to admit I don't have a whole lot of experience riding this aside from exchanging bikes with a friend of mine. Since it is a sport bike seating position for tall riders is more of the tucked in variety you find with sport bikes. A tall person will not have a problem with it, but after any amount of time the ergonomics will start causing problems. According to the same friend, after about 80 miles it's time to get off the bike and stretch.

Second in order of sportiness is the Honda ST1300A. This is the bike I own and have the most experience with. The seat on the 13000 comes with and adjustable setting. I've only ever ridden this bike with the stock seat adjustment in the high position. It does a decent job this way, and helps to alleviate a lot of the problems from shorter seats. While seated on it, I can place my feat flat on the ground and never feel out of control with regard to the stability of the bike. In its stock configuration, I found that my main complaint was the seat, followed by knee pain on long trips. 

To fix the seat I made a couple of modifications. The first was to send the stock seat to Frank Turnier at Spencer's Moto Care. Frank does a fantastic job modifying seats. He replaces all of the foam of the stock seat, and tunes it to your ass. On the order form you specify your height, weight, inseam, and riding position and he performs his magic. At the time I got the standard modification as well as the long ride gel modifications. Where the stock seat caused excruciating pain after a few miles, Frank's modifications made the bike into an all day rider. It really is amazing what the modification does. The price is extremely reasonable at $75 for the full set of modifications. The turn around time is fast, I sent my seat out and had it back within a few days (minus shipping).

The next major modification I needed was a bit more leg room so I added a seat riser from Motorcycle Larry. This effectively eliminated any of the knee pain I was feeling. To further add to the comfort of the ride I added the highway blades, and pedal lowering kit. The blades allow you to shift your riding position and get more blood into various areas of your body by extending your legs. 

The Motorcycle Larry seat risers installed, and set to the highest setting.

The BMW R1200RT is the last in my list, and furthest away from the sport side of the spectrum. While modifying my ST1300 I considered just trading it in for a BMW which includes many of the features I was looking for. Out of the showroom the BMW has a couple of advantages. First, the handling is superb. It is a much lighter bike than the Honda, and handles at least as well as the ST1300. The Sprint is best overall in this area. Second, it can be fitted with many options that make the ride more comfortable. Heated grips, a seat warmer, cruise control, built in power for heated gear, and a decent stock seat make for many creature comforts. The bike I test rode had a stereo system with iPod and auxillary in for satellite radio. The stock seat is much more comfortable than the stock seat for the ST1300 and the Sprint. The height of the seat is likewise adjustable, and felt fine for what my 45 minute test ride. 

The only problem was the adjustable windshield. While the 1300 handily cleared the air around my head, alleviating the need for ear plugs, the RT did not. There's a small dip in the windshield that made it so the wind did not quite clear the top of my helmet. Some quick research shows replacement windshields that would alleviate the problem. 

The R1200RT and the ST1300 are both good bikes for taller people. Given the number (and more importantly price) of modifications needed for the ST1300, it comes out to nearly even with the BMW. Accounting for maintenance, the Honda definitely is the clear winner. While I chose the ST1300 the BMW is certainly a good bike to consider.