Best Tomato Soup Recipe

I’m going to share with you the absolute BEST tomato soup recipe in the world and it’s really simple. First, buy a box of Trader Joe’s organic creamy tomato soup. Set the soup on the kitchen counter (unopened). Then take your dogs for a hike up Morton Peak.

MFN Tara and I hiked from the bottom of the Santa Ana River Trail to Morton Peak, as far as Cougar Rock.

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The lookout tower was in sight when we decided to retrace our path back to the car, knowing that the descent would be punishing to our knees and feet.

Morton Peak Lookout Tower
View of tower from Cougar Rock
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Super dog, Sadie and me…and MFN Tara’s finger (lower left)

Noting the snail-paced line of cars making their way up the highway below, we felt quite smug about our view from above.

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The entire hike was about ten miles with nearly 1,700 feet of elevation gain and loss. I realize that, for real hikers, that’s not much of a hike; but for this mountain biker it was significant.

Once you have completed the hike, dump the box of soup into a bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes. I guarantee you will think it’s the best tomato soup you have ever eaten.

Familiar Dangers

rainy day

This morning my chubby, little kitty gobbled down her breakfast, made the rounds of the other cats’ plates to check for leftovers, then sat at the back door, plaintively mewing to be let out. I couldn’t help but marvel at her seeming disregard for the dangers that lurk outside the safety of the house. When I opened the door, she blithely bounded into the domain of  neighborhood tom cats, stray dogs, hungry coyotes, and calmly sat in plain view to groom herself. Does she not realize what a tasty meal her rotund body represents, what great sport she poses to playful dogs and horny tom cats?

I remember reading somewhere that we are comfortable with the familiar, even familiar dangers.

Wondering at the courage of my little kitty, I waved to my next door neighbor who lit a cigarette as he slid behind the wheel of a car for his morning commute on Southern California freeways.

A Nod to Just Joan

My favorite blog du jour is https://justjoan42.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/spotlight-on-bodily-functions/comment-page-1/#comment-2590 . Her uncanny ability to make virtually anything funny, including poetry, makes me a fan. Today, she wrote about an inopportune call of nature which, of course, reminded me (and probably everyone who read it) of similar calls.

My story is more a lesson in Karma than a rib tickler. While on vacation in my hometown in Michigan, I’d gone for an evening walk. If you have never been to Holland, you are in for a Dutch treat when you get around to crossing a visit to this charming town off your bucket list. Holland consists of lovely old neighborhoods, with immaculately landscaped yards and a church within walking distance, almost anywhere you wander. So, I set off for a walk to enjoy the long summer evening and the aromas of home-cooked supper wafting from open windows. I was about two miles from home when I felt an unsettling twinge. I ignored it as it was totally the wrong time of day for anything solid to be coming down the pipe. But within a few blocks, it became increasingly obvious that simply releasing a bit of air pressure wasn’t going to be sufficient. I made a bee line for home with the cold realization that walking faster was going to be counter productive…or perhaps more productive in this case. By this time it was growing dark and there was no question of disturbing some pious family’s post-dinner Bible study with a request to use their powder room. Just when my situation looked hopeless, I spotted a church a block away and I nearly sprinted towards it. I was almost within calling distance when I saw a man come out, close the doors, and turn off the lights. All hope dashed, I looked wildly around for any private place to do the unspeakable. Behind the church, there was a hedge that afforded complete and utter darkness and there, to my shame, I left a nasty surprise for the gardener, who was probably a church member volunteer. My cheeks burn at the memory.

As you may recall, I happen to work at a church which is in a downtown area where occasionally homeless folks find sheltered space to bed down. So it came as no surprise when I found a tidy pile next to the wheelie bins when I put them back in place this morning. The custodian wondered aloud what kind of a degenerate would do such a disgusting thing. Without explanation, I told him I would clean it up. She who poops in the road will find flies on her return.

Oh, by the way, I passed that church on my last visit home and they had removed that bit of hedge. I can’t say that I blame them, you know it was an attractive nuisance.

More Age-related Agonizing Reappraisals

Looking back at previous posts, I realized that I might need to reconsider my “Mountain Bike Musings” title. I haven’t posted anything about mountain biking since September! That’s not to say that I’m not riding, Sally and I ride almost every weekend; but, as I tap ever so gently at the door to septuagenarianism (yes, I will turn 66 in a few days), I find that the thrilling, rutted, rock-strewn, precipitous descents that once lured me into tongue-numbing fits of euphoria, just don’t. I still like to remember how it felt to defy gravity and harness it to my own need for speed, how absolutely alive I felt, sliding to a reckless sideways stop at the bottom. But now, when I look over the edge, contemplating the coordinated focus of mind and muscle it takes to to navigate such a trail safely, my peripheral mental vision sees the inconvenience of self-induced, paraplegic retirement. My mantra, “Damn the rocks, full speed ahead” has been amended to, “Well, there’s always golf”.

The other factor in the taming of the desire for downhill fun, is the cost of gaining the requisite elevation. My mature legs complain when I try to push the higher gears of my new bike up the steeper grades. By the time I’ve climbed a couple of thousand feet, my legs are too spent to enjoy crouching over my back wheel as I slide down a roller-coaster steep trail.

Yesterday, we ran into a couple of old cycling acquaintances, one of whom had recently purchased an e-bike. An e-bike is a battery powered bicycle that basically turns any rider into Lance Armstrong. This chubby woman boasted that she was the only one in her group who could keep up with the fastest young guy in the pack. She extolled the benefits of this “bicycle” with such enthusiasm that Sally and I could not help but consider it as we pedaled home.

I had to confess that there were two factors preventing me from seriously considering purchasing what I think of as a lightweight motorcycle. The first is the cost: $5,500, which is $2,000 more than the beautiful, motor-less Intense Carbine I purchased just two years ago.

The second, and maybe the more compelling, is that I’m an elitist snob. There is something about self-propulsion that builds self-confidence. When I watch dystopian movies (seldom) and I see people desperately scavenging for gasoline, I think quite smugly, “I don’t need fuel; I have legs”. Also, all of the people I know who have e-bikes are overweight. Mountain biking is inherently a competitive sport, and when an out-of-shape, couch potato cruises next to me, chatting blithely while I gasp for breath like a decked fish, I am not thinking about how much I enjoy her company. I’m thinking how much I’m going to enjoy dropping her like a hot potato on the descent!

But then, I start thinking about the trails I could ride, ones I haven’t been able to climb in years. With a little assistance, I could get to the gonzo-abusive downhill that awaits at the top of those exhausting climbs! Maybe when I turn seventy…