Memorial Day and don't cry over those Jalapeño Poppers!

Today is Memorial Day. I continue to wonder why so many people - including the company Facebook - mistake Memorial Day for Veteran's Day. One is not the other, and vice versa. I'm not sure what is so difficult for people to understand. If you really want to piss off a Veteran, say "Happy Memorial Day" to them.

Out of respect for what Memorial Day actually is, suffice it to say that today is the day we honor and pay our respects to those who died serving our country in the armed forces. Especially on the field of battle. Veteran's Day is November 11th which is when we honor our Veterans. 'Nuff said. Read and learn here.

I spent Sunday out at Summerset State Park beginning the process of getting it race ready for Saturday's upcoming Summerset Shootout which is IMBCS #3 on June 4th. The 3 inches of rain we have had in the past week or so on top of prior rains has the jungle growing relatively fast. So taming it back - and doing it in the style Mr. Bob Matthews taught me so well over the years - is to trim it and clip it on both sides about 3 feet back so there is a nice 6 foot wide opening for sight lines and getting all that ivy and poisonous stuff out of the way of riders and trail users.

Too many do trail work with the goal of trimming the trail so it looks good that particular day (sort of how we do our lawns with mowing and weed eating - it looks good for the weekend, but needs it done all again one week later), but with the kind of growth we have in Iowa from the weeds and trees - one really has to trim in a manner that includes the thought of what will it look like weeks from now. That's a hard thing to teach or learn unless one is doing a lot of trail work themselves on the same trail over and over. I do a lot of trimming at Banner and Ahquabi, and have learned just how fast the stuff grows. Two good solid trims per year (going 3 feet on either side of the trail) will last the entire year. If you just do the initial work a foot to the side of the trail, it will need it all done over again in 2-3 weeks time. You can trim it deep now, or you can trim it again later and later and later and later should be our motto to help promote trimming things back far enough to last.

Sounds like I'm full of rants, vim and vigor today - I know. I didn't even mention the number of cyclists that rolled up to me in the woods that I asked not to ride yesterday because the trails were still too muddy at Banner. Unfortunately, quite a few were out doing it. One guy on a Fat Bike really tore up Riverside and when Bob asked him if he noticed the mud on his tires (we are talking major mud) the guy responded "Yeah, I suppose I shouldn't be riding....".  Hmmmm......nice supposition buddy. Oh well, the posted signs at all the trailheads that state in Rule #1 of the Rules of the Trail "Leave no trace......blah, blah, blah, don't ride when it is muddy.....blah, blah, blah...." just don't seem to work for the kind of traffic Banner gets. At least one father and son listened to me and loaded their mountain bikes back up on the car and drove away. Thanks to those two. Not sure about the rest, but the trail will dry at some point and be ready to ride. I did remain nice and took a page out of the Ron Cooney school of educating each rider I encountered in a nice way in hopes that they would think about it in the future.

The push behind string trimmer that I use, the Viper, had at it to open up the entrance to the Coal Miner's Daughter. Then I used my Black and Decker battery powered hedge clippers to take on the canopy. After completing that section, I moved over to the East entrance of Riverside and took on the canopy. It was too muddy to go with the trimmer, so I'll be back today in hopes it firmed up in the past 12 - 18 hours. I ran into Bob who was riding his Fat Bike on the blacktop and we talked about trail maintenance. We agreed to meet up Thursday night for some final trimming after work. Feeling bushed from 3+ hours of sweating and taking on the jungle, I headed back home to get some food ready for a party.

Tradition has it that we do gather as families and friends this weekend for other ways to commune and celebrate what has become the kick off to summer for many. Yesterday was the chosen day a circle of friends Tara and I hang with on this tradition for this Memorial Day Weekend. Perfect weather for a pool party which began at 3:30, and we each bring a dish. On top was smoked ribs from the Big Green Egg of Joel Hade for the main course. I was assigned to bring the appetizer and thought about what would work best to get the palate primed and ready for fall off the rib to die for unbelievably delicious Joel Hade smoked low and slow ribs.

I settled on two options: Jalapeño Poppers and Bruschetta with Fontina and Greens.

As I was slicing the 12 fresh Jalapeños and cutting out the seeds, I had neglected to wear a mask and the coughing ensued from the vapors of the capsicum. In other words, I gave myself a self-enduced pepper spray. Zack came in the kitchen and asked if I was okay. And of course with the tears from the coughing I reached up to wipe my face and got some of the nice oil on my face and next to my eye. Well, I cried over those 12 peppers, but kept on cutting and cleaning to prepare them for my bacon wrapped poppers. Timing the two appetizers and preparing them at once meant I had a lot going on at the same time. Between pre-heating the oven, the grill fire to get going, bread to cut and roast for 10 minutes, garlic to mince, spinach to wilt in the pan, cream cheese to fill in the peppers, bacon to wrap around the peppers and hold with a toothpick, Fontina cheese to freeze just long enough to make shredding it easier (it's a very soft cheese to shred), the poppers to freeze for 30 minutes before cooking them to prevent all the cream cheese from dripping out, swimming suit and towel to pack in the car, wine and beverages to pack in the car, and of course - I had to shower from all of the trail work - I raised my stress and productivity level to hyper mode. I tend to make cooking a high pressure thing as if I am on Chopped and under the gun of the 30 minute clock. I wanted to time it so I could put both appetizers on their serving platters, cover them and immediately drive over to Deb and Joel's house so everyone could enjoy them hot off the grill and out of the oven.

Suffice it to say - it all turned out great. Mission accomplished.

These were absolutely worth crying over...


I did add Worcestershire sauce and some garlic powder to each popper before wrapping with bacon for a little extra something - something flavor. Yum!

The Bruschetta was really, really good as well, but most were raving at the party about the poppers.

I will wrap a dish towel or bandana around my face, open all the windows, and have a fan blowing the next time I cut into a dozen peppers like that.

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