Biking in the heat and humidity of St. Louis summers

In response to my post about my evening bike adventures last week, reader Rebecca posed some questions about strategies for biking in the heat and humidity:

I am struggling with the incentive to get out on the bike after work now that the heat and humidity have found us. I did bike to church on Sunday (2.2mi each direction), but I’m having trouble imagining that 6+ miles to work is possible in this weather. Do you shower more often when you bike in the summer?

I have been reading [other blog posts] about how to bike in the summer, but Chicago and Boston and Canada just don’t have the same smothering humidity + unbelievable temps that I’ve experienced in St. Louis. Do you have any tips other than patterned and dark clothing [for concealing sweat]? Do you have a threshold temp? When is it “too hot” to bike?

I feel a bit sheepish answering these questions as I sit here, hibernating in my air conditioned apartment, having done nothing more taxing outdoors in the past day-and-a-half than walk my son the half block to and from the sitter’s house.

Sheepish, but qualified.  I’ve put in my time as a regular bike commuter in St. Louis for five summers, one-and-a-half of which involved a six-mile each way commute.  Perhaps my summer hibernation tendencies, my shunning the heat and intense sun, make me more qualified — if I can get out and bike in this, so can you, dear readers!

While not usually my thing, the “cycle chic” mentality is all well and good most of the time.  However, St. Louis summers, with humidity regularly well above 70% and temperatures in the 90s (which mean heat indices of 100°F and up) is NOT the time to worry about bike fashion.Continue reading “Biking in the heat and humidity of St. Louis summers”

Cucumber soup

Until we have a garden in our backyard, growing our food is mostly Matthew’s domain, and these days, I rarely venture out to our commuter garden.  However, before we left for our trip a couple of weeks ago, I headed out for one final picking.

I harvested a boatload of cucumbers and hatched a half-baked plan to take the cukes to Iowa with us and make refrigerator dills for my family.  We nixed that plan, and the cukes sat in our dying fridge for a week.

We returned to a fridge full of still okay cukes.  After staring them down for a few days, I decided the best way to use a large number of cucumbers was some kind of chilled soup.

Some searching yielded a variety of recipes, many that only used one cucumber (that would never do!).  The most promising involved cucumbers and avocado, but, while I want to give that a try someday, I was determined to work with ingredients I had on hand, so avocado was out.

I needed something in place of the avocado to make the soup thick and rich, since cucumbers are mostly water.  The secret ingredients?  Rice and tahini.

Chilled cucumber soup

Recipe by Melissa
Serves 4-6

3-4 pounds cucumbers
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1-2 T. tahini
2 t. Greek spice mix (or blend of other fresh and/or dried herbs)
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 c. chopped onion
1 c. corn (optional)

Trim and discard the ends of the cucumbers.  If using larger cukes with a lot of seeds, cut in half longways and scoop out and discard the seeds.  Dice the cucumbers.  Set aside 2 cups of diced cucumbers.

In batches, puree all ingredients, except for the reserved diced cukes and the corn, in a blender or food processor.

Try a sample, and add more salt, pepper, or herbs to taste.  Mix in the diced cucumbers and garnish with corn.  Serve chilled.

Summer eats and treats — Part 2

Tom and Jo invited us to dinner on Sunday night.  Grilled pizza was on the menu — a summertime classic! 

My pizza contribution involved a combo of homemade pizza sauce and pesto as the base, topped with red bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and walnuts.  Tom suggested the walnuts, and they added a lovely crunch.  I added some small pieces of fresh mozzarella, keeping it low cheese.
And for dessert, homemade ice cream sandwiches, featuring triple chocolate cookies and strawberry ice cream!  As we feasted, a summer storm rolled in, and we’re finally getting some relief from the heat.  Ah, summer.

And so it begins

Free outdoor summer fun in St. Louis arrived last night with the first Wednesday night concert at the Botanical Garden.  One of the big perks of bike riding is attending events without having to worry too much about parking, traffic, etc.

Instead of rushing to get there early, we cooked a nice dinner (featuring local black beans and salsa so delicious that I could just eat it by the spoonful).  After a bit of digesting, we biked over to The Garden.

We arrived to find the bicycle racks full.  No worries, on to the Forbidden Light Posts.

Background: Until about a year ago, when The Garden finally installed decent bike parking, the bicycle rack was a classic fail: wheel bender style, not bolted to the ground, sitting in the middle of the parking lot with obvious signs that it had been hit by cars in the past.  Look my bike up there like a sitting duck?  No thanks.  Many other bikers obviously felt the same way; we preferred the safer and more secure alternative of locking our bikes to the light posts.  The Garden disapproved and sent their minions in golf carts to inform us about the “proper bike parking.”  Uh huh.  After several failed attempts to communicate like reasonable people and explain to security why their idea of bicycle parking was unacceptable (and several attempts to contact higher-ups at The Garden to discuss ideas for remedying the issue, which received no reply), we resorted to simply ignoring the security guards and going about the business of locking our bikes to the Forbidden Light Posts.

Whether it was through our civil disobedience, or the contact attempts, The Garden finally got the memo.  Since the installation, I have enjoyed the new bicycle accommodations on many occasions, but last night, with the “lot” full, we resorted to old patterns.  (This is not a complaint in any way — I love indications that lots of people are bicycling.  A full bike rack sends a powerful message!)  No one gave us trouble, which was good, because what would they have suggested?

We suggest doubling the amount of bicycle parking.  While  the current amount is more than enough (at least right now), for business as usual at The Garden, the bicycle parking will continue to fill to overflowing during special events.  For a relatively small investment of money and space (especially compared to car parking), they could accommodate all of the bicycles we saw last night, no light posts needed!