082 Get Outdoors with Jeff Potter

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My guest this week is journalist and outdoor enthusiast Jeff Potter who runs outyourbackdoor.com. We talk about cross country skiing, riding bikes paddling boats and even eating road kill. You can find Jeff’s non-lycracentric cross country ski how-to videos in his Out Your Backdoor Youtube channel. During the podcast we also ponder the question, “If you could have only one bike what kind of bike would it be?” We get into canoe vs. kayak, how to roll a kayak and the joys of cyclocross.

Make sure to check out all the cool things Jeff has for sale on his website as well as his wife Martha Bishop’s website lazygal.biz.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Two apps for choosing bike routes: one good, one bad

img_0873-1.jpgOne of the single most important lessons I’ve learned about riding a bike in a big city in the U.S. is that you’ve got to choose your route carefully. Pick quiet streets and you can avoid speeding, angry motorists. Even in a car-centric city like Los Angeles, if you do your homework, you can find residential alternatives to major arterials that will make you think you’re in Amsterdam. Well, almost.

Before going somewhere unfamiliar, I used to pour over bike maps to figure out where the bike lanes and paths were. Now, there are apps for that.

The Good: Google Maps
In 2010, a bike option was added to Google Maps. While not perfect, it works surprisingly well. Combined with a little familiarity with what streets are good and bad to ride on, I now find that I rarely look at the city’s bike maps anymore.

Here’s an example: one weekend this month, Kelly needed the car and I had to across town, from the La Brea Expo line station to the new Westchester Community Oven.

The route Google Maps suggested was excellent:

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It routed me on to the La Ballona creek bike path and from there to a reasonably calm street and then to a bike and pedestrian path that I didn’t know existed. The path gets you up a steep hill quickly and avoids a not so fun to bike on major boulevard. Now, it just so happens that I know a drainage ditch that’s better than the path Google Maps suggested, but that’s splitting hairs:

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Google maps also talks to you, so you can keep your attention on the road. I’ve compared it to a number of routes that I routinely ride and Google Maps’ suggestions are just as good, sometimes better. One feature that I wish it had was a way to combine transit and bike routes together rather than separately.

The bad: Go LA
Xerox and the city of LA just came out with an app called Go LA that, in addition to driving and public transit options, also suggests bike routes.

Unfortunately, like so many other initiatives in Los Angeles, the bike portion of Go LA is just an afterthought. If you like your bike rides to be like a meat world version of Frogger, you’ll love what Go LA suggests. I compared a number of trips that I commonly take on my bike in both Go LA and Google Maps. Google suggested routes were much better. Go LA seems to just suggest the shortest routes, which are most often really unpleasant streets to bike on. Here’s the same route as above, but in Go LA:

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It’s obvious that Go LA doesn’t have any data for bike paths, lanes or routes. The route it suggested would be high-stress and, possibly, dangerous.

Perhaps they have plans to improve the bike portion of this app in the future, but they have a lot of catching up to do with Google. And I was excited, at first, to see that Go LA suggests combined bike/public transit options. But, again, until they improve the bike routing portion of this app, it’s basically useless. A press release from Xerox alluded to improvements that will let you track fitness, but why do that when there are so many other apps that already track calories and effort? Giving cyclists the tools they need to find peaceful routes for useful trips will be much more valuable in the long run.

In my search for apps I came across a number of cities around the world that have dedicated bike apps. If you’ve tried any of those, please leave a comment. If the city you live in doesn’t have a good app, give Google Maps a try.

Weekend Tweets: The Orchid Mantis, Self-sufficiency and Self Driving Cars

How to Mix and Shape Dough Explained Without Words in Two Minutes

Some things to note about this video:

  1. Bakers use scales and so should you.
  2. Mixing dough entails making an incredible mess.
  3. Learning to shape dough requires practice.

As regards point #3, my plan is to mix up some practice dough (I use the dead dough recipe in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook but any bread dough will do) and practice over and over. As a professional once told me when I complimented her on her pizza shaping prowess, “It’s because I’ve done it 10,000 times.” Practicing with dough you’re not going to bake takes out the fear of failure problem.

Thanks to Kathy Turk for alerting me to this video.

081 Foraging for Wild Foods With Leda Meredith

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Did you know that you can eat bark? Make a foam from the common mallow weed? Use dandelion as a hops substitute in beer? Our topic this week is foraging and our guest is Leda Meredith. Leda has a certificate in Ethnobotany from the New York Botanical Garden, where she is also an instructor. She is also the author of five books including Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. Her new book is The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles. During the podcast we discuss:

  • The ethics of foraging in city parks
  • Eating invasives
  • Is foraging sustainable?
  • Mallow foam
  • Vegan mallow mayonnaise
  • Dandelion beer
  • Foraging in Israel
  • Foraging in the winter
  • Eating bark
  • . . . and, of course, prickly pear

Leda’s website is ledameredith.com and her Youtube channel is here.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.