Call for Submissions: The Nature Zine, issue 3

Issue3sumbissions

It’s that time of year, well, a bit past due but I was lucky enough to be doing field research for an extra 5 weeks this year. I’m looking for your submissions for issue 3 of The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world.

Get creative! Send your poems, stories, thoughts, illustrations, paintings, photos to be submitted in the next issue. Topics can include but are not limited to: favorite hikes, backcountry recipes (vegan only please), foraging tips, trail reviews, adventure stories, bike touring, species descriptions/identification tips, collages, places in the city to appreciate the natural world, permaculture, primitive skills,  fears of the natural world, train hopping, attempts to balance city and wilderness, essays, book reviews. I think you get the idea.

There will be a limited edition tape release with issue 3!

Thanks to everyone who has submitted to and supported the Nature Zine in the past and continue to do so. Issues 1 & 2 are still available, but there may be a delay on shipping as I need to focus on getting Issue 3 together for now. If you are in Chicago or New York City, you can pick up a copy at Quimby’s Bookstore or Bluestockings Bookstore.

Send submissions to batsnbikes at gmail dot com by December 1, 2014. If you prefer to snail mail your copy, please email for an address.

Thanks!!!

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Vegan Backpacking Food

Being vegan makes sense on so many levels, but for now I’ll focus on the ease of being vegan and backpacking, bike touring and camping.  I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite items that are often in my pack.  If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll recognize some of these.  I’m not a super lightweight backpacker but I haven’t yet done anything too epic.  These are just some suggestions that I thought some may find useful.

  1. Powdered Soy Milk  changed my backpacking life, so much so that I found myself using this stuff even while at home.  It’s a lot less packaging, cheaper and it’s nice to have on hand for baking or when I don’t feel like going to the store.  I first discovered powdered soy milk while backpacking in Guatemala for a month and really wanting to have cereal for breakfast. Browsing the aisles, the only non-dairy milk I could find was a powdered version.  I loved it and since coming back to the states, realized it was perfect for backpacking in the forest and bike touring as well.  Better Than Milk Vegan Soy Powder (Original) is my favorite and I think it actually tastes great, although some of my friends may tell you otherwise.  You don’t have to use it in your cold cereal/granola, but it’s nice as an added protein source to oatmeal and excellent for mac and not-cheese.  It can be found on the shelves of many health food stores.
  2. Nutritional Yeast: If you are vegan, there is a good chance that you are addicted to this stuff already.  Nutritional yeast  is used to add flavor to various vegan dishes, and is really popular in mac and not-cheese dishes.  Some say it has a “cheesy” or nutty flavor.  It’s high in B-vitamins and  also adds deliciousness to any meal.  You can find nutritional yeast in the bulk section of health food stores and sometimes in with the spices / cooking products in a shaker.  It’s cheapest to buy in bulk.  I keep it on hand to add to pasta or anything I make really.
  3. Dehydrated Beans:  I stumbled upon the joy of dehydrated beans while collecting some  foods for camping in the bulk section of a health food store.    It’s kind of hit or miss to find them in bulk, and since I’ve actually special ordered bulk bags of them from local shops if they didn’t have it in stock.  I’ve always went with the black beans but for the most recent bike tour, neither Jason nor I could find them in stock, but they found dehydrated refried beans instead, also delicious.  Fantastic World Foods offer a lot of dehydrated food options, including beans and are easy to find in lots of grocery stores.  Simple and fast backcountry meal ideas:  Boil water, add couscous or quinoa then add dehydrated beans a few minutes later.  Add in spices/bouillon cube while cooking or any garlic/onions/peppers if you happen to have those.  As a bonus, if I feel like carrying it with me, I’ll pick up a pouch of enchilada sauce or a spice packet.
  4. Couscous / Quinoa:  Maybe you never heard of these items, but growing up with middle eastern grandma, couscous was common for me and a favorite veg dish as a kid.  You can find couscous at most grocery stores, it’s lightweight and cooks quickly.  It’s also a good way to get some carbs and protein for hiking.  Quinoa isn’t quite as common but it’s becoming more popular, it’s not actually a grain but is used in meals similar to how rice is used.  It’s delicious, lightweight, cooks quickly and full of protein and vitamins.  You can find it in the bulk section of any health food store, and it’s starting to appear in more grocery stores as well- packaged in a box on the shelf with grains usually.

    Matt making some black bean quinoa enchilada stew for our xmas dinner while bike touring.

    Matt making some black bean quinoa enchilada stew for our xmas dinner while bike touring.

  5. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein):  TVP is a quick way to add protein to any meal and helps to fill you up after hiking or biking all day.  Perfect to add to noodle soups, mix with couscous, make vegan sloppy joes, add to spagetti and so many more options.  While cooking, add spices or a bouillon cube to the pot so the TVP will absorb the flavor.  It’s fairly common and as like other items already listed, it can be bought in bulk or packaged.  I’ve found it in health food stores and your traditional market, even in small towns and it’s somewhat common in Central and South America as well.  Really light weight and cooks quickly.
  6. Dried Fruits and Nuts:  That should seem obvious enough.  But seriously, don’t ever forget these.  My favorites are almonds, dates, raisins and mango slices.  I once had a dream that the world had pretty much ended but a few of us survived and someone asked me what food I was able to bring with me.  I thought I had grabbed a bag of raisins but when I looked in my hand I realized I was clutching fresh grapes instead.  Needless to say, I was bummed.  Even in my sleep I worry about survival food.  Dates are a perfect way to sweeten up oatmeal and to give you a burst of energy.  If it’s not summer, as a treat, bring some vegan dark chocolate chips to add to your trail mix.  Try to get the fruits and nuts raw without added oils and salts and other weird crap.  Your best bet is buying them in bulk from health food stores.  But if you are in rural areas, you can still find peanuts and raisins and any grocery store / market in the middle of nowhere.
  7. Oatmeal / Granola:  Another obvious one, but sometimes people forget how many things out there are vegan.  I seem to find myself outside on adventures during cold weather and oatmeal is always perfect for warming up.  On summer adventures, I usually just mix some granola with soymilk (yay powdered soymilk!).
  8. Nutbutters:  I don’t usually take peanut butter with me when backpacking, but it’s been nice to have on bike tours when splitting the food weight with another person.  I don’t have to tell you how great this stuff is.
  9. Mac and “Cheese”:  I can’t even tell you how excited I have been to have a nice pot of hot vegan mac and “cheese” after hiking or biking all day.  I have no trouble devouring the box myself.  It cooks pretty quickly, since you just have to cook the pasta and you’ll be ecstatic that you have the powdered soy milk.  Road’s End Organics make some delicious boxed Mac & Chreese found at any health food store, and I’ve also had enjoyed Leahey Gardens brand Mac and “Cheese” but it’s harder to find.  Or you can be not fancy, just make some pasta, add a bunch of nutritional yeast, soy milk and spices to it and it’ll still taste good if you’ve been out hiking for days.  If you have any dehydrated veggies, throw those in, too.

    Vegan mac n chz- plus powdered soymilk is the best for backpacking.

    Vegan mac n chz- plus powdered soymilk is the best for backpacking.

  10. Rice Noodle Soups or Ramen:  There are a wide variety of rice noodle/ramen noodle soups out there that are vegan.  Many contain tofu and dehydrated veggies in them already.  But it’s great to add TVP to them while they cook.  We all know how great the ease of throwing a soup packet into boiling water is.  Lightweight, cooks quickly and easy to find in stores.  If you are bike touring through small towns you may not be able to find a spice packet that’s vegan but the noodles usually are, so in desperate times just use the vegan noodles and add your own spices with TVP.

    Add some TVP for extra protein.

    Add some TVP for extra protein.

  11. Vegetable Bouillon Cubes / Spices:   I always keep a couple of vegan bouillon (broth) cubes in with my gear.  I often just shave some of it off and add it to the hot water for the couscous.  It’s a simple way to add flavor to your food.  I love spicy food and I love to cook.  I have a hard time thriving without cayenne and other spices so I also carry some spices with me and love these silly spice containers.  I sometimes just take one that holds two spices, it’s not necessary, but kind of nice to have.

Also, if you aren’t on a tight budget or if you find them on sale, Mary Jane Farm Organics has a line of backcountry foods with lots of vegan options.  They are labeled as vegan and very lightweight but not cheap.  I got a couple a packs on clearance once and they were delicious.

Please add your vegan suggestions in the comments!  I’d love to hear them.  I’ll also make sure to add a link to any additional vegan food suggestions that I write about in the future to the comments section.  There are plenty of options out there, but these are some of my go-to items when getting things together for an adventure.  Hope this helps!

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Note:  This is less of a recipe and more of an idea of something easy to make while bike touring / backpacking.

I often have a fun time contemplating what would be a fast, easy and light-weight meal to make while backpacking, camping or in this case, while bike-camping.  Rarely will you find me following any sort of recipe- I tend to just throw things in a pot.  Take that as a warning in advance that my recipes may be vague, but that just makes it more fun and creative for the both of us.

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Advice:  Choose tortillas over buns or a loaf of bread.  They take up much less room, you can cram a bunch of food in them and you won’t smash them in your pack.

I use a Trangia (27-7 UL/HA) cooking set.  Plus I took the handle off of a miniature wok-like pot that is slightly larger than the Trangia pot I replaced it with.  It comes in handy for two people.  Plus, it’s a safe-for-you-and-the-environment-non-stick pan.  I’m sure I’ll get super nerdy about the stove after I’ve used it more and can give a better review.

On to the recipe!

Vegan Sloppy Joe’s – While Camping

  • Couple of cups of TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
  • Use the same amount of water (1:1 ratio of TVP:water)
  • Little can of tomato paste
  • Spice pack made for sloppy joe’s (or mix your own!)
  • an onion
  • couple of garlic cloves
  • bell pepper of your color choice
  • tortillas
  • olive oil

Use medium heat. I put on the simmer ring and adjust it open half way on the Trangia.  If you are using a campfire, set up some logs so it’s not right on the coals or directly in the flames.  Add a bit of olive oil to the pan, then add the onions, finely chopped.  Let those soften while you chop up the pepper and garlic.  Add the pepper to the pot, let it soften a bit and then add the garlic.  Once all that is sauteed to your liking put in a couple of scoops of TVP- eye it out to your liking, and an equal amount of water.  I also add in the spices and and tomato paste at this time.  Cover it if you can, but make sure to stir it occasionally.  It’s complete and ready to eat once all the water is absorbed.

Pile it onto a tortilla, add some fresh onions or any other toppings that you may have with you and devour it!

They will taste like the best food you’ve had in a long time if you bike half the day in hilly terrain with all of your gear, arriving to the campsite just before the sun is setting.  I think it was 40F and windy when we ate these.  They were warm, filling, and packed with protein.

Granted you can find sloppy joe/tvp mix at your local health food store that is light weight/ just add water, but it’s cheaper to just have a bag of TVP that you can use for other recipes as well.

State Parks & Libraries

It’s probably due time that I write some sort of summary or collection of thoughts about our much shortened bike “tour”? Do we even get to call it that? From Little Rock, Arkansas to Marshall, Texas… obviously we didn’t take the most direct route, so around 300 miles total before my knee told me that it was going to self destruct if I kept going.

December 15 – December 26.  We took days off in an attempt to let my knee a rest and I managed to catch a lame cold as well during that short time.  I kept trying to convince myself that if I didn’t ride one day that I’d feel better the day after.  It never really worked out that way.

We were lucky enough that it never rained when we rode (I’m also a huge nerd about checking the weather on our solar/crank radio that has the NOAA weather band).  We stayed with various people along the way that were very welcoming and let us use their kitchens as well.  We mostly slept at State Park campgrounds and a couple of times we stayed at cheap motels in small towns when we lacked other options.  Some nights camping it dropped down to the mid 20sF. We stayed warm while we slept but getting out of our sleeping bags was never kind.  We kept our riding clothes inside our bags which helped keep my feet warm and the clothes as well.  Our rides always started off with climbs…. always.  So we’d usually warm up right away.

Lake Catherine State Park just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

At first we attempted to use Google maps bike route option, but quickly scratched that idea.  We soon realized that there was a significant correlation between the number of cars present and the number of loose dogs.  As the number of cars increase on a given path, the number of dogs chasing us on our bikes decreases significantly.  Sorry, I don’t have any specific stats to prove this but I will say that having doggy pepper spray came in handy a couple of times.  Matt also proved to have an effective method of yelling “STAY!!!!”…. a few times we would actually have to jump off of our bikes and start yelling at dogs.  On the rare occasion that we were speeding downhill, we’d smile and laugh as the dogs would quickly give up their chase…. somehow, though, I think our ratio of uphill dog occurrences was greater than downhill dog chases – dogs are smart.

Although dogs, vultures, crows and cows were probably among the most abundant non-human animals that we came across, I’ve decided that the great blue heron best represents our bike trip in a positive way.  We came across them quite often and no matter how much my knee would be torturing me, that brief moment of seeing the heron poised so confidently in a creek or gliding above us always made me forget about my knee and really enjoy being outdoors all day, riding along for hours and hours and miles and miles.  Another joyful site, while camping at Caddo Lake State Park in Texas, we had a winter wren (my favorite) visit us a couple of times.  He’d just hop around on the forest floor tossing around leaf litter, calling out here and there. So tiny, so cute!

Caddo Lake State Park, Texas

Matt and I made it our goal to see an armadillo, aka “little man in armor”, while on this trip that wasn’t “sleeping” on the road.  Matt caught a glimpse of one foraging, perhaps a little too close to the road side.  We jumped off of our bikes and took a few pictures and I made those ridiculous gestures and sounds that I make when I see cute animals (unfortunately for everyone, animals included, I have yet to find a non-human animal that does not fall into this category).

Well my summary quickly turned into an animal sightings briefing…. So there we have it. Bikes, camping, hills, libraries, cold nights, cute animals!

I’m still extremely frustrated with my knee and it’s not getting any better, but I’m happy that we rode, even if a short distance and I look forward to our adventures to come!

For now we hang here in Austin, make some cash, and try to not eat vegan soft serve everyday.

More to come soon…. vegan recipes for camping!

If you’d like to see more photos from our December random travels… click this.

Kneezies: Plural for lame knees

What is adventure without leaving open all possibilities? Many of you have asked us if we mapped out our route for this trip.  What small attempts we made were never for more than a week, and we never followed them for more than two days. We left, and still continue to leave our route open.  However, I am sad to admit that our mode of transportation has changed.

Jump back a few years and you would find me with a busted knee, travel midway between then and now and you would find me recovering from knee surgery. Torn cartilage in my knee had flipped over and was steadily digging a groove in my femur with every movement I made.  Since then running has always been too high impact for my knee, but biking was only bad in the winter.  You add a decent amount of weight to that bike, ride in constant rolling hills and it’s almost instant and incessant pain. At first I tried to ignore the pain.  If you know me, you know that I rarely take any sort of medication. It got to the point that I was taking 2 Aleve every morning and was still in constant pain for the 35-55 miles we were riding a day.  280 miles in Matthew helped me admit that we needed to stop.  It’s difficult for me to think about not doing something that I have been planning for so long, but I am going to try to look past that. No need for the adventures to end!

So on an excellent note, Matt and I have decided to hold up here in the lovely Austin, Texas for a couple of months.  We will find jobs, a place to stay and then depart for Chile.  We still plan to travel South and Central America for a few months, unfortunately our bikes won’t be with us for our travels.  Why Chile first? Well my Papa will be there and I’ve always wanted to have him show me around his home country. A thrill this will be and I look forward to seeing my family and traveling around with Matt.

Oh and I must say that the bike and vegan friendliness of Austin is incredible. Ian has been super helpful and rad to let us crash with him for now and give us ideas of places to check out as well.  I really don’t mind avoiding the Michigan winter either. It feels great to leave our adventure path open.

More to come soon on some details of our really random Little Rock, Arkansas to Marshall, Texas bike tour.

Lots of climbs.

Detroit, MI to Springfield, IL

Ok, so we didn’t exactly bike to Springfield, Illinois.

The 1st of December brought at least a 10 degree drop in temperature, gusting winds, dropping that temp even more, and it never stopped snowing.  When we originally planned to leave, it was going to be by mid-November at the latest.  I should have known by now that you can never quite gauge Michigan’s weather- but always have to remember the lake effect winds.  Planning a ride that goes due West for 10 days straight was, to say the least, a bad idea.

A few things I have learned:

  1. Don’t ride West in Michigan for hours at a time in the winter.
  2. My circulation to my feet is worse than I thought, even with 2 pairs of socks and really warm winter boots.
  3. My knee and hip joints HATE the cold weather due to previous injuries/surgeries.
  4. Biking with extra weight makes them hurt more than they did when just commuting in the winter.
  5. Sometimes I set my goals a bit too high- I need to start being more realistic.

 

Matt's bike during our drive to Springfield, IL.

So in the end we took the ride to Springfield, Illinois that Matt’s parents had offered us in the first place.  The weather conditions were only getting worse.  Unfortunately they also aren’t much better here.  The winds keep at a steady 10-15 mph with 20+ mph gusts.  We looked into biking across Missouri on the Katy Trail, but weather forecasts are predicting high winds and temps in the teens to lower 20s. There are too many long stretches lacking places to stay, and with even colder nights (0-15 degrees) camping is quite a risk.

We’ve decided to trek a bit further south and start biking from there. After searching for the cheapest train tickets heading South of here, followed by checking the weather, we decided on Little Rock, Arkansas.  We depart Monday night, December 13.  Have I mentioned that bikes and trains are the only mode of transportation that I don’t get motion sickness on? I hope this still stands true.

In the meantime we are soaking up all of time we can with our true friend, Christopher.  He fills us with vegan dinners and treats and we zone out to movie marathons.  Matt and I have also gone on some cold and windy bike rides on the Interurban trail they have here in Springfield and we also ride to visit Christopher at work , where we load up on treats.

I’m trying to not feel to defeated, and more so trying to be more realistic.  Winter bike tours are obviously possible, but I just don’t think it’s a good one to start with.

The Bumble Updates

The last couple of days have been gloomy and rainy days. A whole lot of 90% chances of rain.  The other night I went on a quick 20 mile ride after work racing the sun as it was setting.  As I passed the falls I was shocked at their lack of water.  I’m sure with all of this rain the falls are looking mighty and intense again.

I’ve put in some short rides but more so I have spent my rainy days off working out indoors, reading, planning,  researching bike gear and adding things to The Bumble. The accessories have been piling up in the corner of the room because I’d rather just ride than mess with adding fenders and such.  But now look at ’em- all ready for an adventure!

Here’s what I’ve added:

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