Category Archives: Life in Madison

From my personal side of life – living in Madison, WI with my wife Ena Urbach and our dog Lola.

25 MPH on a Cargo Bike

I had an 8:30 AM meeting this morning, it was raining and I was running around looking for my rain gear (helmet cover, shoe covers, leg warmers, etc). It was 92 degrees F yesterday – the warmest day of the year. This morning, the remnants of Gustav rolled into town. They will go North with me up to Door County for my century ride on Sunday but that’s another story.

I finally race out of the house running about 10 minutes behind when I should have left. I get on my bike and I start cranking it out to get into work. I see a guy (Mike it turns out), riding past the house on a cargo bike.

He is going North on Gilbert (which runs on the West side of our house). I head out East on Dorsett. We are traveling perpendicular paths to each other. I turn left on Luan and I see Mike on Hammersly. I turn right on Hammersly and Mike is ahead of me also heading for the South-West bike path.
We climb the fly-over and head out on the trail proper. I pass him on the flats and say, “Good morning”. He says, “Good morning”. I ‘m still cranking away because I’m running late. I get to the first stop sign and I realize that he is in my draft. He says, “You’ve got fenders so I can draft properly” and we both laugh. We get a break in traffic, both cross Midvale Blvd and take off. Mike pulls out in the lead like he is going to pull for a while.
First off: this is strange. I get a lot of people who suck my back wheel into or out of work. Rarely to they swap leads with me.
Well, I’m glad for the help because it is raining and I’m late. He pulls for a while, I swap and take lead and cruise to the next stop. We cross Odana and Mike pulls out. I start to chase him down to get in his draft but he is flying. I look at my computer – 25.3 MPH. “Man, this guy is cranking on a cargo bike. He must be a monster.” I pull out the stop and get in his draft for while then it is my turn to take lead. I pull out around him.
(I will say that he looked surprised when I took the lead again.)
I’m thinking to myself, “well, if he is going pull us at 25 MPH, I’ll pull at 25 MPH.” I’m on my commuter bike with full fenders, a rack and a 12 pound pannier with lunch, change of clothes and all my miscellany in it. I’m working hard but if we’re going to do a 25 MPH pace, then dammit, I’m going to take my pull.
Suddenly Mike (as I later learn his name is) pulls along side and says, ” You do know I’m cheating don’t you? I mean, I hate to let people think that this is all human power. Have a look down there.” He nods his head, pointing back behind his legs. I look down. He has an electric assist motor. It provides 100-300 Watts of assist to his pedaling!
Ha! I’m killing myself to pull a guy with a motor. He does do a long commute as I learn (about 15 miles each way).
We had a good laugh and a good chat on the rest of the way in.
That’s what love about bike commuting – the laughs and camaraderie.

Plum and Raspberry Galette with Lemon Ricotta Filling

Plum Raspberry Galette

Plum Raspberry Galette

I love making galettes – a french free-form tart.  This is a peak of Summer galette made from local plums and raspberries.  Once you get galette making down, you can create galettes with lots of different fillings:  Apples and toasted pecans, peaches with almonds, blueberries with lemon.  This takes few hours to make but much of that time is waiting for the galette dough to chill or for the galette to bake. 

Preheat oven to 385 F


1 pound Plums (firm ripe)
1 C fresh raspberries
8 oz. Ricotta
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Egg at room temperature
1 Tbl cornstarch
2 Tbls (plus more for dusting) Powdered (Confectioners) Sugar
1 Tbl melted butter
3 Tbl Turbinado Sugar

1 disk Galette dough (see the recipe below).

Put the ricotta into a fine strainer or inside of a piece of cheese cloth and let it drain for 30 minutes or more.  Mix the lemon zest and 1 Tbl of confectioners sugar into the ricotta.  Taste the ricotta mixture.  It should be balanced between sweet and salt and taste lemony.  If it needs more sugar, add a bit more to bring the sweetness up.  Once it tastes like you want it to, mix the egg in well.

Lemon zestRocotta draining

Slice the plums into 1/4 inch wide slices.  To pit a plum, slice all the way around the outside of the plum from the top to the bottom.  Slide your knife into the plum at the top then turn the plum over cutting the plum in half all the way to the pit.  Follow the seam along the outside of the plum where the two halves of the plum grow together.  Then twist the two halves apart, back and forth, gently until one side breaks free from the pit.  Slice this half into 1/4 wide slices.  Cut the other half the plum in half again.  Do the twist trick once more until one quarter of the plum breaks free of the pit.  Cut the pit out of the remaining quarter off of the pit or pull the pit out with your fingers. 

Add the slices to large bowl.  Add 1 Tbl cornstarch and the remaining 1 Tbl of confectioners sugar.  Add a pinch of salt and mix.  Taste your plums, if they are tart, you might want to add more confectioners sugar.


Roll out the galette dough into 16“ wide disk and trim to a circle.  Slide the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and then slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet.

Drop small pieces of the ricotta mixture into the center of the dough leaving a 2 inch margin around the outside edge of the dough.  Lay the plum slices on the ricotta.  If you making this for a fancy party, you can arrange the slices in concentric circles.  If you want quick and simple, just pile it all inside.  Make sure to leave a 2 inch margin of dough so that you can fold it over to make the pleated edge.

Assembling Galette

Fold the edges of the galette dough over the sides of the fruit.  There are several ways to pleat a galette dough.  See this Fine Cooking article for details.

Brush the dough with the melted butter.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the buttered dough and across the top of the galette.

Bake the galette for 30 minutes turning once after about 20 minutes.  Sprinkle the raspberries across the top of the galette and bake for 15 more minutes.  Pull the galette from the oven when the dough is nicely browned.  Slide the parchment paper and galette off onto a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes or more.  Dust the top of the galette with confectioners sugar and serve.  You can serve this with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche (whisk lemon juice and confectioners sugar into the creme fraiche) .

Finished Galette

Galette Dough Recipe

5 3/4 oz. (1 1/4 cups) All-purpose Flour
1 Tbs. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) well chilled unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/3 cup Ice water

Add the dry ingredients to a food processor and pulse several times to mix.  Add the butter and pulse a few times.  Do not over mix the butter.  There should still be pea sized chunks of butter in the dough.  Do not mix until it looks like corn meal.  Add the water all at once and pulse a few times until the dough starts to come together.  It will not come together into a ball.  It will still be crumbly and will seem under mixed but don’t worry it will come together in the fridge.  Pour the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Gather it up and form it into a disk.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for two hours. 

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Tired, Grumpy, Fuzzy and Twitchy

Lake Mendota, bikes and boats

Lake Mendota, bikes and boats

I’m sure that sport psychologists / physiologists have a name and maybe a reason for these feelings…
I’m getting ready to ride the Door County Century this weekend. This means that I have spent the last couple of months riding longer rides and building up time in the saddle. I was up to about 190 to 200 miles a week two weeks ago. I was also working out with a personal trainer twice a week. In short, I was getting a lot of exercise – 15 plus hours a week.
As this weekend approached and the up-coming century ride, I started to taper off my workouts. I dropped my twice-a-week personal trainer moving down to once a week last week and none-a-week this week. I’ve backed off the miles that I bike each week.
I’ve noticed that, as I taper back on my workouts, I get twitchy and anxious feeling but it is mixed with fuzziness and sleepiness. I’m also kinda grumpy which (I think) is unusual for me. It is an unwholesome combination of lack of mental focus mixed with an over-caffeinated kind of buzz and a lethargic desire to nap for hours on end. I’m a bit concerned about the end of the biking season which coming up soon due to lack of light, too much cold and then snow. I’ll need to ski a lot this Winter and find another indoor endurance exercise (swimming?) for those long Winter months.
On the other hand, the rest has felt good. My shoulders, neck and hamstrings were starting to complain about all the work they were doing. But then again, all this exercise has meant that I could eat well and still drop weight.

Garmin EDGE 705 – Bugs, Bells and Whistles

I got a new Garmin EDGE 705 bike computer about 6 weeks ago. I’ve been riding 3 or 4 times a week with Garmin and have synced to several applications and a web site. The Garmin EDGE 705 has great bells and whistles but the basic function, turn-by-turn directions, is buggy and unreliable.

What I bought: I bought the Garmin Edge 705, with the Heart Rate sensor, Speed/Cadence sensor & Data Card with Street Maps (SKU 010-00555-40). It came with version 2.2.0 of the firmware. I have also tried version 2.3.0 and 2.4.0.

What I like:

Installation: I love the fact that there is a single sensor that picks up both speed and cadence. The sensor is also sensitive so you don’t have to set it extremely close to the pedal or wheel for the device to work. The Garmin EDGE 705 discovers the peripherals automatically and flawlessly (at least for me. Others on the forum have talked about cadence problems).

Set Up: There are a lot of menus to cycle through to set up the device. This is a mixed vote from me. I like the ability to set up how each screen looks (how many data fields are show, what information is displayed in each data field, etc.). I have had to dig to find settings and I know that someplace I set the minimum speed for autopause. I have yet to figure out where I set that so I can change it.

Post Ride Data Analysis: This is where the bells and whistles ring out. The device syncs brilliantly and easily (for me, YMMV, see the Motion Based Forums) to the Garmin software on my Mac. It also syncs to the MotionBased web site (see the list of my rides in the sidebar on this site). I also bought Ascent from Montebello Software. The default Garmin software provides basic analysis of your ride data. MotionBased and Ascent provide detailed analysis some of which is pretty cool.

What I don’t like:

Turn-By-Turn Navigation: Supposedly, you can load a GPS Track File (in GPX format) into the Garmin. You then tell the Garmin that you want to follow that track. The Garmin will navigate you around the route. Supposedly. I have tried to get this to work a half dozen times. I have created GPX Track files in GMap-Pedometer, Google Maps and I have tried making sure that the start and end points aren’t near each other.

This has never worked correctly. I’ve had the device start to tell me to make u-turns in the middle of my ride. I’ve had the unit tell me to make a turn 5 miles early, then shut off. I’ve had the unit say that I should cut through a barn and corn field though I preferred to stay on the road.

I do have hopes that Garmin will patch the software so turn-by-turn works. Garmin does seem to be responsive to their users and they do seem to issue patches regularly.

Managing the Buttons: You need to push and hold the power button to on the Garmin. You need to push the timer start at the beginning of the ride. You must push timer stop at the end of the ride or the Garmin will keep recording even though your wheel isn’t turning. The Garmin added the drive back from one ride to my total ride. I could hear it chirping away as I drove home. Compare that to my simple CatEye computer that just starts and stops on its own or my Polar that I needed to push start but it could figure out the ride was over all by itself. It feels like I need to pay more attention to managing my cycle computer than I really want to.

Software Updates, Syncing et al: All of this works flawlessly (so far) but it is another device that gets software updates and that you need to sync to your computer. It is fine but just another digital device to fuss with.


The set-up is easy. The unit will automatically calibrate for wheel size and speed. The post ride data analysis is great. It makes it dead simple to keep a work-out log. The turn-by-turn doesn’t work so I still ride with a paper map to navigate by. I would love to be able to rely on this device for navigation when I’m riding. It is fussier than other computers that I have used but the post-ride data analysis is a beautiful thing.

Jim’s Fire and Wine Scallops Recipe

Scallops with Green and White Bean salad

Scallops with Green and White Bean salad

The sauce and spice mix add a little heat and sweetness to the already sweet scallops. This recipe takes about 15 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook. I served these with a cold Green and White bean salad and crostini and an Italian white wine. This serves two as a main course or four as an appetizer.


  • 1/4 C minced sweet onion (Walla Walla or similar)
  • 1 Tsp. Fresh Thyme leaves or chopped Thyme tips
  • 1 clove of garlic peeled
  • 1/2 C. White Wine – medium dry
  • 12 Oz of large dry scallops or the closest even number (8 in this dish)
  • 1 Tbl each Olive Oil and Butter
  • Penzey’s Northwoods Fire spice mix or the mix below
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Mince the onion and either pick the thyme leaves or chop the thyme tips. Lightly dust the scallops with the Penzey’s Northwoods Fire mix or lightly dust with chili powder, smoked paprika, dried thyme, salt and pepper. Heat a 12″ non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil and butter and heat until butter stops foaming and turns lightly brown.

Onion and Thyme
Dusted ScallopsOlive Oil and Buttr

Add the scallops and the whole garlic clove to the pan but do not crowd the pan. Let the scallops sear on one side for 3 minutes. Turn the scallops and add the thyme and onion. Stir the thyme and onion into the oil. Let the scallops sear for 2 to 3 more minutes then remove to a warm plate.
Add Scallops and GarlicTurn add onions

Add the white wine and turn the heat up to high. Scrape all the brown bits off the pan and stir while you reduce the wine by half

Add wine.

Plate the scallops. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Pour the sauce over the scallops.

Frazz Hair

I get Frazz Hair when I bike. I view Frazz Hair as a measure of the quality of the ride. Good Frazz Hair means I had a good ride. This is an example of good Frazz Hair:
Frazz Hair

This hair came from a beautiful ride to Paoli, WI after a Summer rain storm. The roads were dry but it smelled like a Summer rain and wheat fields and the herbaceous scent of prairie flowers in bloom.

We were riding fast – that helps pull hair up into the vents on my helmet and make it all spiky. We were working hard so there was plenty of heat and moisture to steam-set those spikes. It was a long enough ride to give the Frazz Hair plenty of time form and build to the beautiful example you see above.

It’s a good day that ends with really good Frazz Hair.

Spring in Wisconsin – weather runs amok

UPDATE: June 25th. We now have 28 counties declared as disaster areas by FEMA.

Wisconsin Disaster Area Map

When we get serious Spring weather, we get weather sites that look like this:

  • 7 Warnings, Watches and Statements on the forecast
  • A weather map that is covered, jigsaw like, with areas of watches and warnings across the surrounding 25 counties. Nary a gap between the warnings and
  • A Wisconsin DOT incident alert map with 38 road closures due to flooding the next day.

We had 7 tornado warnings in town Thursday. I spent a lot of time checking the weather on WKOW. Two tornados went past south of our house about 20 miles.