Land Cruisers of Baharia, Egypt

Land Cruisers of Baharia, Egypt, a set on Flickr.

The oasis of Baharia, about five hours south of Cairo, is the gateway to the Western Deserts and a major hub for expedition services and vehicles.

While there during the Sykes-MacDougal Centennial Expedition in February 2012, we had heard there was a booming trade in all things Land Cruisers, but we were not prepared for the sheer numbers of every type of Land Cruiser imaginable—and then some!

There were plenty of new, expensive models, sure, but there were many custom amalgamations that sometimes boggled the mind. Apparently, to avoid the high import duties on any vehicle (new or used), canny Egyptian mechanics in Baharia started bringing in halves and quarters of Land Cruisers from Japan and elsewhere, and then reassembling them after arrival—duty-free.

These photos were taken in just one day plus part of a morning, not even a full 8 hours in the town during daylight. There were hundreds—literally six or seven out of 10 vehicles was a Land Cruiser. Almost all the images are snapshots, taken out the window as we drove or shot quickly while walking; there are a couple of non-Land Cruisers in there, just too interesting not to include.

Happy 100th birthday, Julia Child

Julia Child once said the perfect meal was a thick juicy steak and a martini.

I offer up the perfect martini (the Vesper), in honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth today.

Via the excellent blog, Why Evolution is True, here are some great links honoring her today as well:

New York Times has several article, including a summary of her contributionsby Julia Moskin and a nice remembrance by friend and co-chef Jacques Pepin. She was without question ad icon, and had an enormous influence on American cooking and dining. And of course she was hilarious in an unintentional way: gangly, awkward, and with that voice. She inspired several imitations, including Meryl Streep's wonderful portrayal in Julie and Julia (I loved the Julia parts, didn't like the Julie ones), and of course Dan Ackroyd's sanginary satire on Saturday Night Live.

I consider Julia Child to be one of the people who inspired me not only in the kitchen, but in life. She lived everything 110%, and had a wonderful and inspiring relationship with her husband, Paul. (One of the best gifts my wonderful husband gave me was a signed copy of From Julia Child's Kitchen.)

I worked my way through much of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and it made me a much more competent cook, very comfortable in the kitchen and working with ingredients. I can whip up from memory now any of the basic sauces (all the variations of brown and white, from a good meat gravy to a lovely béchamel)—and I think of her every time I do.

I love her practical approach to everything, but above all the fact she was so true to food and its basic goodness. She eschewed fads and was quick to slay them in public. I also love that she had a very basic kitchen, no $20,000 super-charged 10-burner-equipped gleaming kitchen for her. You can see the kitchen she used her whole career, it's lovingly resurrected (the actual kitchen) in the Smithsonian in D.C.

This is just wrong

And yes, I checked, and it's true. Current official Boy Scout knives are made in China.

If I perceived the slightest sign of quality in this thing, I wouldn't be quite as upset. But I don't. The "stainless" steel doesn't appear to be remotely so. The blade isn't just corroding (which most stainless steels will do to a greater or lesser extent); it's rusting.

A Boy Scout knife used to be a prized possession, something for which one saved or wished for at Christmas, and then probably used well into adulthood or passed on to a son (or daughter). They were made by legendary companies such as Case, Camillus, and Kershaw.

Think this will be an heirloom someday?

The Raleigh gets a new seat and old pannier

I decided to go with a black Brooks B67S saddle (earlier discussion, here). The B66 and B67 were the standard seats that came on the Superbes; after surveying many photos of original Superbes, it looked like both black and brown were common colors. I went with the black because it matches the grips, which are the original grips (which have the Raleigh crest on them), despite a few cracks, and I just have this thing about the grips matching the seat color.

I looked for weeks for the right panniers. My initial favorite was the Brooks Brick Lane roll-up pannier set, until I found out it was made in China. I just can't justify the dear price for an off-shore make; I have no problem with the made-in-England Brooks products being expensive (such as the saddle).

I wanted the right look for the age and condition of the bike—nothing too shiny, no plastic buckles, no reflector tape, but also not too home-made looking. Duluth Pack in Minnesota makes a nice set, but they were just a little too plain (I know, picky).

Then I hit on an idea: I had my old, well-loved Filson Field Bag (large), which attaches easily to the Raleigh rack via the brass D-rings and leather straps. A simple modification to add an attachment at the bottom, and I'll be set with an easy, appropriate bag-pannier for about-town.

Visit to BICAS in Tucson

Entrance to the below-ground warehouse cavern that is BICAS in Tucson, a bicyclist's communityBICAS art in the concrete entrance rampWheels sectionA study in front forksFront forks section1973 Schwinn Speedster all original
1973 Schwinn Speedster yellow, detail1973 Schwinn Speedster yellow, detail, shifter1961 Columbia girls' bike, a rare "skip-tooth chain" bikeHeadbadge, 1961 Columbia girls' bike, a rare "skip-tooth chain" bikeThe odd chain and crank of the 1961 Columbia "skip-tooth chain" bikeAn $80 mixte that needs some TLC but will be a nice bike
Red "Western Flyer"Beautiful "Free Spirit"Royce Union bike in bronzeLion on the fork of the Royce Union

Visit to BICAS in Tucson, a set on Flickr.

Yesterday we visited the community bike shop—more of a combination bike shop, bike salvage yard, community hub, education center, and art studio—called BICAS (Bicycle Inter-Community Art & Salvage).

At 12:30 on a hot (105 degrees F) June day the place was hopping already, even though it had only been open for half an hour. You descend a concrete ramp into the cavernous space, which was surprisingly cool. At least 25 people (not counting volunteers and staff) were working on bikes, looking for parts, shopping for a bike, or just browsing, like us.

BICAS is best described a bicycle education and recycling center. For extremely cheap (or by trading labor for credits) you can use their tools and very nice work stations and bike stands to fix your bike; you can take classes in basic bike maintenance or complete bike-building; make bicycle art and jewelry; buy or rent a bike; or take part in their community-based events and rides. Here's their history:

BICAS started in late 1989 as an organization called Bootstraps to Share. A group of like-minded community members came together to assist and empower the homeless population in Tucson, helping folks attain work, shelter, food, and transportation. Over the next few years, the organization focused on sustainable transportation as a requisite for sustainable work, determining their greatest impact was to provide recycled bicycles and the skills needed to maintain them. In that same period, youth became interested in the bicycle mechanics programs. Thus, BICAS in the way we know it today came into existence around 1994, although the name “BICAS” wasn't used until 1996. We have since extended our bicycle recycling, advocacy and education programs out to the entire community. Since our founding, we have trained thousands of youth and adults in the trade of bicycle repair, maintenance and safety, and restored thousands of bicycles, saving them from the waste stream.

This is the place to go if you are looking for a great deal on a classic or DIY bike. There are literally
 hundreds of bikes, frames, and parts, very well-organized around the big space. We were surprised by the number of nice classic bikes, from a $350 all-original yellow Schwinn Speedster, to a needs-TLC bronze-colored Royce Union that will fix up into a really lovely bike (I think it was about $150 or less). There was also a very interesting 1961 Columbia girls' bike that is a rare "skip-chain." The crank has widely spaced teeth and the chain has wide spaces every other link. We're looking into why this was developed. Certainly interesting!

Raleigh gets some new (old) parts

1972 Raleigh Superbe by ConserVentures
1972 Raleigh Superbe, a photo by ConserVentures on Flickr.

Our 1972 Raleigh Superbe got some TLC today. New tires (Panaracer 26 x 1 3/8 Col de la Vie, from Harris Cyclery), plus a rack, electric tail light (not yet wired), rear reflector and kickstand, all from vintage Superbes, all eBay finds.

Also gave the old paint some polishing and wax. Still more to do . . . but it's really starting to shape up the way we envisioned—refurbished, rather than restored, a city bike for exploring favorite towns, shopping, grabbing coffee, or joining Tweed Rides.

Next upgrade will be a Brooks 66 or 67 sprung saddle (which came standard on Superbes), though can't decide on the color (black or dark brown?). Although the grips are old and slightly cracked, they are originals and we're loath to replace them. And then some panniers . . . hard to decide. Carridice makes some nice ones. And still looking for an original headlight and pump.

Porsche 911 SC gauges

Porsche 911 SC gauges by ConserVentures
Porsche 911 SC gauges, a photo by ConserVentures on Flickr. [iPhone photo processed with TiltShiftGen]

This dramatic image was originally snapped with an iPhone 4S. Processed with the app TiltShiftGen, it becomes an above-average image. See the original below. iPhone is leading the way in simple, powerful imagery tools. Think of it as the equivalent of the Kodak Ektralite of the 1980s, only better. . . do you remember?

Silver tea set

Silver tea set by ConserVentures
Silver tea set, a photo by ConserVentures on Flickr. [iPhone with Snapseed processing]
Nothing marks the weekend better than getting out the vintage silver tea set for tea. From an estate back East, the set includes classically shaped tea pot, creamer, sugar bowl, and tray. The tea pot is perfectly designed, with a generous bowl for excellent brewing action, and a spout that does not drip and includes an integrated strainer. A much-loved Christmas present.

Brooks tool pouch

Brooks tool pouch by ConserVentures
Brooks tool pouch, a photo by ConserVentures on Flickr. [iPhone with Instagram processing]

I splurged on a new accessory for the Superbe. An outrageously expensive gorgeous Brooks leather tool pouch. It does not quite fit the non-stock seat (Superbes came with sprung Brooks B66 saddles). Currently looking for a vintage B66.


Bisbee, Memorial Day Weekend 2012


Bisbee, Memorial Day Weekend 2012, a set on Flickr. [iPhone with Camera+]
We took our 1982 Porsche 911SC out for some exercise Memorial Weekend. The Bisbee Bicycle Brothel is one of the West's best classic bicycle shops, full of beautiful European and American racing, randonneur, and 3-speed bikes and related accessories and ephemera. Ken Wallace, the proprietor, is always willing to share his passion. Call ahead, hours are limited.