There is long-distance cycling and then there’s long-distance cycling over hills.
We’ve heard the cycling routes around Austin are hilly but not entirely sure how it compares to Ontario. Houston, is fairly flat, so I haven’t been doing many hills, unless it is an overpass over a highway. I stumbled upon Lori’s recap of last year’s Shiner GASP. She wrote:
This course was going to be challenging because of the sheer number of inclines and hills (Esmeralda said she stopped counting at 23 last year), and the wind that it was famous for. I had hoped that with the front it would be a tail wind, but at mile 30 the wind shifted and was either a head wind or cross wind. Oh well, it was nice to dream.
With a month away from our own hilly 100-mile adventure, it instilled a fear of hills. So, this weekend, we sought out something to climb.
Earlier this year, we were planning to do the “Bike Through the Forest and Hills” 80-km ride in Coldspring, Texas. We had already registered and picked up our packages (the first ones, at that, bib numbers 1 and 2). It was scheduled right after I sprained both knees, so understandably, we didn’t go. However, with such a descriptive name, we figured it would be a hilly ride. Rob saved the course maps, though. He ended up modifying the route so that we had a 50 km loop. The original ride had you return in the opposite direction, but we just repeated the same loop once we were familiar with the course.
The 100-km ride wasn’t the hard part. It was the hills! After 8 minutes, I wasn’t sure I was up for this many hills. Rob clocked an incline that lasted 3 km. The worst part, though, was the wind. Wind + hills = a definite challenge. A strong wind with a loopy course meant the wind was, sadly, only helping us 25% of the time. In any case, we were positively pooped after our “short” 100-km ride.
We ended up stopping off at our favourite Mexican grocer on the way home: Mi Tienda. It reminds us of our trip to Mexico City, with lots of fun food, loud music and random decor. We treated ourselves to fresh guanabana juice and a mix of celery-pineapple-cactus juices. If you have never tried guanabana, I highly recommend it. We fell in love with it in Colombia. We also had some fresh (and warm- this is KEY) churros. After our bellies were content, I scurried back in for our weekly grocery expedition.
I try am trying to balance emptying my pantry along with trying everything that I can while in Texas/America. This time, I bought some cactus (aka nopales). You can find it fresh as a giant paddle or pre-chopped with the spikes removed. I gather you can also find it brined in jars or cans. In any case, I first tried it while in Mexico City. Cooked simply, it was a vegetable side or topping. One of the dishes I had it with was as tlacoyo from a street vendor: a blue corn masa dough that she stuffed with refried beans and topped with a nopales salsa. was I really liked it: the texture of a bell pepper with the taste of a green bean.
In truth, Rob and I were too zonked to do any cooking when we returned post-ride and post-Mi Tienda. We went out for tacos. The following day, we did another cycling jaunt. Not too long, and all flat, we were still battling the wind and the possibility of rain. However, the shorter ride meant I had enough energy to tend to errands and do some cooking.
I simply ran with the idea of tlacoyo. It is more like a cheese-less quesadilla. We had fresh corn tortillas so I used that instead of the masa dough. I already have a favourite (unfried) refried bean recipe. The problem was the cactus. I wasn’t entirely sure how to cook it, but I eventually decided to boil it first, then saute it with some leftover roasted onions. It may not have been authentic at all, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Have you ever tried nopales/cactus? What are your favourite recipes?
Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus)
1. Prepare your refried beans.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Boil cactus for 5-10 minutes, until somewhat softened. Remove from heat and drain.
3. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, add oil. Once hot add drained cactus and onion. Saute for 10 minutes until the onions have softened. Drizzle with lime juice.
4. To serve, top each tortilla with refried beans and cactus-onion mixture.