An Extended Sprinter for Canada Day, Eh

Happy Canada Day, all our fellow Canucks! We’ll be doing a bit of light climbing (surprise?), perhaps indulging in a sweet or malty treat, and perhaps taking in a few of the Canada Day festivities.

But the more exciting news? We’ve put in the order for our Sprinter Van!! We spent a lot of time on our 3-month trip talking about traveling more often, possibly full-time, which turned into even longer discussions about what our van (which we had already named!) would look like and how we would design it to fit our needs better.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Sprinter van order

So, one week before my sabbatical comes to an end and I head back to work full-time, we decided to go ahead with our van-dreams and placed an order for “Moby”. He needs to be built in Germany and shipped over here, so should be making his way to Vancouver late November / early December.

After many hours of researching, googling, emailing different outfitters, googling some more, looking at cost factors, googling some more… we have decided to convert the van into an RV ourselves. To call this a huge undertaking will still underestimate the amount of work, but we are very excited about turning this shell into our perfect RV! We’re already planning here, and here, and here, and here! 🙂 Luckily, the Sprinter is the de-facto choice of van for those that can, and there are great online resources, articles and books on how to proceed.

Here’s to Canada, and looking forward to the second half of 2015 and 2016!

31 Facts, Figures, Follies and Feats of RV Living

As a round-up post of our adventure, here are some of the most fun / interesting / random / useful / useless pieces of information we could think of!

EDDIE’S FACTS AND FIGURES:

  1. Total trip length: 87 days
  2. Total distance traveled: 11,398 km
  3. Average mileage: 11.75 L/100km
  4. How much stuff did we bring: 352.8 lbs
  5. How many nights did we pay for camping: 9
  6. Best thing about Eddie: The ability to finish climbing and get food / shower / respite from the elements within 10 minutes of leaving the crag… priceless! Also, Eddie was a chick / dude magnet. We loved the attention he got 🙂
  7. Most annoying thing about Eddie: The table. Getting into / out of the chairs to eat was a pain, especially for Jonty, who could never sit square to the table because of the box holding the crash pads (i.e. where the love seat should have been). The other annoying thing was the rocking of the van whenever you’d hit the slightest bump on an angle. Like, turning into a parking lot over a 2-inch curb would send Eddie rocking. We got better with navigating over the bumps, but it was still annoying.
  8. Easiest place to boondock in an RV: Bishop, CA or Leavenworth, WA
  9. Trickiest place to boondock in an RV: Las Vegas, NV

ACTIVITY FACTS AND FIGURES:

  1. Total distance cycled: 630 km each (total 1260 km)
  2. Number of days spent climbing: 45 days (just over 50% of our time away!)
  3. Number of boulder problems completed: 367 (combined)
  4. Favourite bouldering place: Bishop, CA (followed by Leavenworth, WA).
  5. Favourite non-bouldering place: Portland, Fresno, Sacramento, Albuquerque are all places we would like to spend more time in, instead of just passing through.
  6. Favourite cycling place: Portland, Bend, Albuquerque, Las Vegas
  7. Biggest disappointment: Hueco Tanks. We were both really excited for this place, but obviously did not do our research before we got there, hence were unprepared for the amount of planning (and reservation-making!) it would take, just to get into the park. We will go back again to finish up some unfinished problems, but we’ll just be better prepared 🙂

FOOD FAVOURITES:

  1. Post-climbing RV food: Fried egg sandwich with melty cheese and spicy salami
  2. Meal we cooked in the RV: Treacle SpongeDruid ReubenSliders… oh man, too many!
  3. Snack while watching Justified and Homeland: Popcorn and peanut M&Ms
  4. Gastropub: The Salted Pig (Riverside, CA), Deschutes Brewery & Public House (Bend, OR)
  5. Tasting House: Mother Road Brewing Company (Flagstaff, AZ)
  6. Bakery: Bouchon Bakery, The Gingerbread Factory, Pink Box Doughnuts
  7. Coffee Shop: Joshua Tree Coffee Company (Joshua Tree, CA) and Black Sheep Coffee Roasters (Bishop, CA)

RANDOMS:

  1. Total GB of data used: ~60 GB (we milked the Unlimited Data plan for all it was worth!!)
  2. Best view: Red Rocks Canyon, NV or Leavenworth, WA. Pictures just don’t do either justice.
  3. Best sunset: Red Rocks Canyon, NV
  4. Best scenery: Joshua Tree, Red Rocks, the Druid Stones (Bishop)
  5. Biggest surprise: How good mustard and sauerkraut are on a pizza!
  6. The only kitchen item we brought along but never used: The colander
  7. Windiest night: Las Vegas, NV (55 km/hr, gusting up to 81 km/hr)
  8. Quietest night: Mountain Home Road, Leavenworth (the sound of silence was deafening)

Now just because this trip has finished, doesn’t mean our blogging days are over! We’ve got some pretty tasty goodies coming for you next week!

Happy Long Weekend, Canada! 🙂

Icicles, Bicycles, Mustard and Brew

As Jonty mentioned earlier, the last bouldering stop on our trip was to the Bavarian metropolis of Leavenworth, WA (pop. 1992). As usual, we’re highlighting our time in the town and giving a breakdown of useful RV info.

Time frame:
April 25th – May 7th, 2015

Where to stay:

  • Icicle Creek Road: There are many state-run campgrounds along Icicle Creek Road (where a large part of the bouldering/climbing is). Most cost around $20/night and have drinking water available, but no site hook-ups. Since we couldn’t get water/dumping hook-up for anything less than $40/night, we opted to park (for free!) in a big parking-lot-style pull-out (specially designated for RV usage) near the upper end of Icicle Creek Road. This was a major score, as it was close to the climbing area, it was quiet, and the views were fantastic!
  • RV Parking lot in town: As you pull into the town, there’s a big parking lot for buses, trucks and RV’s. Signs in the lot indicate overnight parking is allowed once per seven days. It’s a 5-minute walk into the downtown area, so we parked here on an evening when we wanted to try the local craft brewery. It’s a good free spot once a week, well worth saving for when having a night out!
  • KOA Kampground: We only used this KOA for their RV dumping; it seemed pricey ($40 – $70/night!!).
  • Icicle River RV: This resort was closer to the Icicle Creek bouldering, but was still quite pricey in our opinion ($40 – $45/night). They did not offer RV dumping-only rates.

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Where to shop:

  • Safeway: Standard stuff.
  • Dan’s Market: This is the local store, we tried it once, but it seemed no cheaper than Safeway, with equivalent quality but less selection.
ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty walking down the road, Leavenworth, WA

Exploring.

Where to eat:

  • Munchen Haus Bavarian Grill: We had to try the sausages! We tried the Big Bob Bratwurst and Helga’s Giant Kelbassi, with a variety of house-made mustards and apple-cider kraut (we both preferred the BBB). It’s a nice venue to sit outside, have a beer and a brat, and people-watch in the sunshine!
  • Rudloof’s Pizza: We celebrated Jonty sending two V7s in one day with the Bavarian pizza (stone-ground mustard, sauerkraut, brats and peppers), a combination that was surprisingly delicious! Now we want to try making our own mustard and give this combo a whirl at home!
  • The Gingerbread Factory: The best bakery! We sampled their treats… many times 🙂 Anything with ginger was superb (the men, the loaf etc.), and the raspberry scones were the best we’ve had in a long time!

Where to drink:

  • Icicle Brewing Company: This local craft brewery produced some really great-tasting craft beer. If you sit upstairs, you can look out the window to people-watch, or overlook the brewing operation below. They offer a small selection of food; the meat and cheese platter was a staff-favourite.

Where to shower:

  • Your RV. Places were limited, apparently you can get a shower at the KOA for a fee, but we didn’t bother asking about it. We made more use of our small RV shower in the last two weeks of our trip, than we did during the previous 2.5 months!
ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Jonty with a statue, Leavenworth WA

Jonty continues his mission to pose with every over-sized statue he can find 🙂

Where to recycle:

  • Man, it’s a hard knock life! Again, there was road-side pick-up for residents, but nothing else. We found a big recycling bin behind a store (presumably just for the store), and dumped all our recycling in there. Jonty kept a look-out while his wife did the stealth-recycling.
ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Sunday morning coffee, Leavenworth WA

Sunday morning, sunlight streaming in, coffee in hand… Life is good.

Where to fill-up and dump:

  • KOA Kampground: There was an RV Dumping station at the campground, for $10+tax. We thought this was not unreasonable, considering they’re the only place you can pay for dumping without having to stay the night.
ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Wildflowers, Leavenworth WA

The wild flowers were in full bloom while we were there.

Where to cycle:

  • Anywhere! There seemed to be a strong cycling community here. The roads in town had designated cycling lanes, and there were always cyclists traveling the Icicle Creak Road. With scenery like this, you really can’t go wrong! If you’re looking for hills to climb, you won’t be disappointed.

Where to get Beta:

  • Leavenworth Mountain Sports: This store is right next to the big RV parking lot, as you head into town. They have a good range of gear to buy and to rent (including the guidebook, if you need it).
ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Looking down the Wenatchee River, Leavenworth WA

I dipped a finger into the water to confirm my suspicion. Icy cold!

We enjoyed our time in Leavenworth a lot, everything felt easy. Even though the downtown is definitely catering to tourists, there is still a nice laid-back feel to the place. It’s a very active community (climbing, kayaking, skiing, cycling) and we felt quite comfortable there – we could have stayed for another two weeks with little difficulty!

Treacle Sponge in the RV: Method 2

Yup, we’re back in Vancouver, but we did manage to squeeze out one more RV Dessert before we left Leavenworth. As I mentioned on Friday, we made a microwaved version of Treacle Sponge, using Mark Ruhlman’s “Sponge Cake” method. Obviously, we needed to try the “Pound Cake” version too: the same four ingredients, combined in a different order. So here goes…

Sponge Cake

1 part egg: 1 part sugar: 1 part flour: 1 part butter

Pound Cake

1 part butter: 1 part sugar: 1 part egg: 1 part flour

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Instead of beating the eggs first, as for the sponge cake method, the pound cake method starts by creaming the butter and sugar together. The goal is to whip this mixture long enough such that the butter has increased in volume slightly, and is pale yellow in colour. You want the sugar fully incorporated into the butter; if you need to get your bicep work-out for the day, do this the old-fashioned way – with a wooden spoon!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Mix in the eggs, one by one, then fold in the flour.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

The pound cake batter is definitely thicker than the sponge cake batter (due to the butter not being melted, only softened). We had to spoon the batter into the two prepared bowls, rather than pour in (as with the sponge cake).

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Like before, grease two 1-cup bowls, add a healthy dollop of golden syrup to the bottom, then evenly divide the batter to cover the golden syrup.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Microwave the two bowls together for about 4 minutes. The cooking time will be microwave-dependent, so keep an eye on them as they cook. When done, a cake-tester inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV Run a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen the cake, then invert onto a place.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RVThe result?

The pound cake version was not as fluffy as the sponge cake version (which was expected), but we thought this pudding was more moist, and the texture felt richer and closer to that of the original steamed pudding.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RVThe verdict?

While both variations are very tasty, if you want a microwaved-version of Treacle Sponge that more closely matches the steamed version, definitely use the Pound Cake method (i.e. cream the butter and sugar first). However, if you’re without a cookbook or recipe card, just remember the four ingredients (in equal measures) and mix them together, it’ll still turn out more than palatable!

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Treacle Sponge in the Microwave
 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This method uses the Pound Cake ratio (1:1:1:1 for Butter, Sugar, Egg, Flour) from Ruhlman's Ratios book.
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs (~110 g in weight)
  • 110 g flour
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 4 tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup
Instructions
  1. Crack two eggs into a bowl and weigh them. This will determine the weight of the flour and sugar to use in the recipe. One stick of butter is close enough to the weight of two large eggs.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow in colour, and has increased slightly in volume. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and baking powder until just combined. The batter will be quite thick.
  3. Grease two glass bowls* and spoon a generous dollop of golden syrup into the bottom. Divide the batter into the bowls, covering the golden syrup.
  4. Microwave both bowls together for about 4 minutes. This time will depend on your microwave, so keep an eye on the cakes. When done, a cake-tester inserted into the middle should come out clean. Run a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen the pudding and invert over a plate to release the pudding.
  5. Serve with custard or more golden syrup.
Notes
Our bowls hold one cup of liquid, resulting in a fairly generous dessert. This recipe could easily be divided into four, for a smaller dessert.

Enjoy!

Treacle Sponge in the RV: Method 1

By the time this post is up, our three-month road trip will be almost done and we will most-likely be back in Vancouver. During this trip, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing food, wondering how many of our favourite foods could be made with just a two-burner stove and a microwave.

Thus came the discussion of the Treacle Sponge. I first had this steamed pudding at Jonty’s parents’ place, when I was living in the UK. It’s a British classic; a steamed sponge that has a glorious amount of golden syrup infused on top, often served with a healthy dose of crème anglaise. It’s divine, really. It does take time, however – more than 2 hours in a steamer – so we usually make it once or twice only during the winter season.

In the RV, we don’t want to be steaming a pudding for 2 hours on a propane stove, which begs the question: would a microwave work just as well? Jonty was on a mission to find out.

The answer?

Yes, yes, it can be done. And all in less than 5 minutes of mic time, this could be a very dangerous discovery… 🙂

We didn’t have access to our original treacle sponge recipe (no internet access where we were staying in Leavenworth), but we did have a superb reference, Micheal Ruhlman’s e-book, Ratios, which discusses the ingredient ratios for a simple sponge cake.

You need four basic ingredients in equal weights: eggs, sugar, flour and butter. Working on the weight of two eggs (~120 g), we simply matched the weight of the remaining ingredients. We also added a bit of baking powder, for leavening, just in case.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

For the basic sponge, start by whipping the eggs until they have tripled in size, then add in the sugar and whisk to combine. When that mixture is pale yellow in colour, gently fold in the flour and baking powder, and finish with melted butter.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Then, take two well-greased glass bowls (ours hold one-cup of liquid) and add a generous dollop of golden syrup to the bottom (if you’re British, only Lyle’s Golden Syrup will do).

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Divide the batter equally into the bowls, covering the golden syrup base.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Microwave the puddings, keeping an eye on them as they cook. In our RV microwave, the cook time was around 4 minutes, with both bowls in the microwave together. When done, a cake-tester inserted into the centre of the pudding should come out clean.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Run a knife around the edge of the bowl, to loosen the cake, and invert onto a plate.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Neither of us had any idea what the outcome would be, but we knew what the dessert should look like. We held our breath as Jonty lifted off the bowl.

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

Success!!

And how did it taste?

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RV

 

ClimbEatCycleRepeat.com | Treacle sponge pudding in an RVReally, really good!

So, is there a difference between the steamed version and the microwaved version? The steamed version is more dense and perhaps slightly more moist, but the 5-minute microwaved version is a solid contender! Also, how can you argue with having a warm dessert in front of you in under 5 minutes?

Mark Ruhlman’s book talks about the differences of a sponge cake and a pound cake. Both use the same 4 ingredients in the same quantity, with the only difference being the order in which you combine them. Now that we know the “Sponge Cake” version works in the microwave, we’re going to try the “Pound Cake” version over the weekend and decide which method yields a Treacle Sponge closer in texture to the steamed variety.

I know you’re on the edge of your computer seat in anticipation, so stay tuned early next week for the answer!

Treacle Sponge in the Mirowave
 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This method uses the Sponge Cake ratio (1:1:1:1 for Egg, Sugar, Flour, Butter) from Ruhlman's Ratios book.
Ingredients
  • 2 large eggs (~120 g in weight)
  • 120 g flour
  • 120 g caster sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 - 4 tbsp Lyle's Golden Syrup
Instructions
  1. Whisk the eggs until tripled in volume. Add the sugar and whisk until the mixture turns a pale yellow in colour. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder. Add the melted butter and stir until just combined.
  2. Grease two glass bowls* and spoon a generous dollop of golden syrup into the bottom. Divide the batter into the bowls, covering the golden syrup. Microwave both bowls together for about 4 minutes. This time will depend on your microwave, so keep an eye on the cakes. When done, a cake-tester inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  3. Run a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen the pudding and invert over a plate to release the pudding. Serve with custard or more golden syrup.
Notes
Our bowls hold one cup of liquid, resulting in a fairly generous dessert. This recipe could easily be divided into four, for a smaller dessert.

Enjoy!