Is One Really Enough?
by Bill Hufnagle
Long ago, presidential candidate Herbert Hoover had a campaign slogan: “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Back in 1928, just as the Great Depression was about to descend upon America, that sounded pretty damn good. Good enough to get him elected. But it was not good enough to turn the tide of the faltering economy. Perhaps he simply had his allocation of wheels misaligned. Maybe two motorcycles in every garage and forget the chicken would have worked. We’ll never know.
This is not a column about politics or elections or the economy, but it is about wheels. This past Saturday was one of the rare weekends that found me at home. Most weekends I am off at some even-t or another, wielding my knives and hot peppers and basically raising hell while I Cook With Fire. I enjoy my weekends off, and so does my sweetheart Mary. These are the days when we are both free from the constraints of work and commitments. We always like to get out and go riding and find some fun places to browse around, have lunch, and just enjoy being a couple of vintage teenagers.
Our weapon of choice for these romps through the mountains is Josephine, my 1996 black-and-white Road King police bike. We pack a couple bottles of water, toss the cell phone in the tour pack, and unplug. Free to ride over hill and dale in search of a nice breeze and the freedom to just unwind. Some days we just roll out with no place special in mind; other days we have a mission, a special shop or lunch, or just a road we like the views along.
On this particular Saturday we had a mission: lunch. There is a little restaurant in Hot Springs, NC, that makes a killer salad with Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and goat cheese served with a yummy Vidalia onion dressing. They also have awesome vegetarian spring rolls – deliciously light and crispy and served with an equally yummy Thai-style dipping sauce. We always share the salad and spring rolls; they are too good to pass on, and one order of each makes a nice light riders lunch for two.
We also had a favorite route to take. Up along the French Broad River, a windy road with some nice river views and towering cliffs that echo the thunder of the Road King. Then onto a rural four-lane that narrows to two lanes that, after a short distance of what passes for Madison County density, turns into a nice roller coaster through the mountains, great scenery almost all the way.
Not a long ride to get there, just enough to fill your lungs with sweet mountain air and build a great appetite. It is not on the beaten track (notice I am not giving you the route numbers, just to keep it that way), and while the Blue Ridge Parkway is packed with tourists and Winnebagos, these roads are lightly traveled&emdash;mostly locals, a few campers or rafters, and me and Mary. But when you arrive in Hot Springs, the bikes are there, since it is a favorite destination of a lot of riders in the region. With good cause; great food, cold drinks, and every road in or out of town is a nice ride. Heck, they just paved almost the whole route from the four lanes to the restaurant.
There was just one problem we had to deal with this day. Mary has been suffering from something called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. This is much like the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that affects one’s wrists, except it affects the nerves in the ankle, causing excruciating pain in the bottom of the foot. After shots, weeks in an air cast, a month in a hard cast with crutches, another round with the air cast, and a second opinion, she is probably going to have surgery. With the pain and frustration of the medical problem, my sweetie has been unable to ride with me; the pain is just too much.
But we had a solution, not exactly as much fun but enjoyable nonetheless. As a lifelong motor head, I like to have more than one toy in the garage. Along with the bikes, antique Lincolns, and my dog’s truck, there is a 2002 Mustang GT Convertible with a 1000-watt stereo to rock you to the bone, certainly not the car Herbert Hoover was offering. While it ain’t a bike -nothing replaces a bike- you can get the wind in your hair, burn up some asphalt, and turn in some serious G’s while the tires and stereo scream. So were popped in the heavy metal (Creed & Metallica) and roared off to lunch. We knew that with the combo of my touring schedule and her surgery, it would be weeks before we could do this again. So we did lunch North Carolina Style.
While we were enjoying our luncheon bliss, a couple arrived on a Road King and took the table next to ours at an outdoor café where you can both eat and watch the parade of wheels. I asked him about their bike, a Twin Cam, and they asked about Mary’s foot. Lots of folks, I believe, assume that her cast-enshrouded foot is from a motorcycle mishap, when actually it is from the concrete floor at the post office where she works. (Herbert Hoover would no doubt be pleased.) Well, the four of us chatted away through our lunches; we are almost neighbors and we discovered we share the same joy of slipping away to this sleepy town for weekend lunches. Imagine a town with no cell phone service, great food, and awesome mountain riding roads surrounding it. In the end, our conversation focused on the fact that one bike is not enough. As we swapped stories about wearing out tires and routine service costs, we concluded that you should always have a spare bike to ride. Yes, a goat cheese salad with spring rolls and two bikes in every garage – that is my campaign slogan. And if there has to be a car, make sure it is the kind that would scare Herbert Hoover or Ralph Nader or any safetycrat. Ahh, to be free at any speed!
Vroom Vroom Mushroom Fajitas
These mushroom fajitas are so tasty, they are gone as fast as a top fuel Harley drag bike leaves the line at the green light. Serve some Green Fire Tomatillo Salsa on the side to give this recipe its own green light.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 medium-size onion, cut into matchsticks 2 canned chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, minced 1 cup carrot matchsticks 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into matchsticks 1 medium-size zucchini, cut into matchsticks Two 14-ounce packages mushrooms, sliced 1/4 cup chopped garlic 1 teaspoon ground savory 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon dried cilantro 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon white pepper Flour tortillas warmed or lightly fried Shredded cheddar cheese (optional) Killer Queso Sauce (optional) Sour cream (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, chipotles, and carrots and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, savory, cumin, cilantro, salt, and white pepper and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have darkened and are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Ladle a spoonful of the filling on a tortilla and top with any of the optional sides. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Biker Billy hosts a syndicated television cooking show, “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, and has authored three cookbooks. Just released in 2003 is his latest book, “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”. The book includes 200 recipes from HOG members and Harley riders across America and an ample supply of Biker Billy’s own fiery recipes.
The book is endowed with Biker Billy’s unique biker banter. It is sure to bring the adventure and flavor of the open road to your table and family.
The illustrated book is published by Harvard Common Press and is available in bookstores everywhere for $19/95, or on Biker Billy’s web site where you can have it autographed. Check out www.bikerbilly.com where you can also find information on Biker Billy’s touring schedule.
Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003. Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.