Dat Moonshine Doe Lord Nerd Beta
June 16, 2016 | Pennsylvania
Vermont’s excellence isn’t limited to a surfeit of jams made from the crushed matter of hand-coddled berries and gamey ripe yogurt, still warm with the active bustle of a probiotic kingdom.
Blacksburg was the last stop on our tour. We’d ridden our way through the artisanally-choked gaps and valleys of Vermont and across the slate gray gravel and hidden roads that crisscross the hills surrounding State College, PA. We had done some great riding, superb riding, world-class riding, but we hadn’t done enough swimming or trail shredding, we hadn’t properly lounged at camp or taken time to perfect our hacky sack skills. Up to this point we had been GO GO GO. No, we weren’t head down drilling, but it is very easy to underestimate the time it takes to perform a day of bikepacking. There’s the act of cooking breakfast, of breaking camp, of riding 40-60 miles, of setting up camp, of eating again, and then of going to sleep, not to mention the countless other little starts, stops, asides and ad-libs that are bound to happen. If you’re us—seven wonderfully imaginative and excitable beings—then you know this process takes ALL DAY.
So while contemplating our next ride in the charged atmosphere of a roofers convention (our digs at the Blacksburg Comfort Inn were obviously a de facto barracks/nightclub for a regiment of these burnt red workers), we decided that on this trip we would go Hub & Spoke. It is unclear whether the term Hub & Spoke is an established idiom for describing base camp-style bikepacking, but really it doesn’t matter—the important thing is that the description definitely relates to bikes and that deploying this style meant we were only had to set up camp once. So we enacted Project Hub & Spoke. 17-ish miles outside of Blacksburg we stumbled upon an unoccupied group campsite with the follow amenities:
- A big fire ring
- Running water for filtering
- Clean toilets
- A large and very comfortable grass field
- Comfortable distance from the access road
- A horseshoe pit with horse shoes
After three days of rural Virginia hedonism we realized that the bicycle isn’t just about pushing limits. Its beauty is its function, and though it is capable of taking you to the ends of your endurance, it is equally at home riding ten miles to explore your own backyard. It was as if we were seeing adventure, bicycling, and the outdoor experience through new eyes. Had we been rushing to accrue miles simply for the purpose of accruing miles? Were we killing ourselves just to see another stretch of gravel no different than the one in front of us?
To be fair, there is a time and a place for exertion and we wouldn’t trade our hard days for the world because these hard days are often revelatory personally and socially. But by changing pace, by slowing down our rush to pedal, we discovered that when we give ourselves the time to wander and muse, allow ourselves the space to experience the world as it naturally presents itself, we find that it has always been there, cloaked in a veil of planning and drive. We realized that all it takes is a bit of time and a curious mind to find an unexpected and beautiful experience.The bicycle, at its most basic level, is a machine for experience and a catalyst for the unexpected. And if you want it to, it will open your eyes to possibility. As far as we’re concerned that’s as good as it can possibly get.”- YJ
An Illustrated Guide to Edible, Medicinal and/or otherwise Notable Flora: Virginia Edition Illustrations by Mara Menahan, with Commentary by Poppi
If your spirit guide, route planner and exercise midwife is a modern-day vagabond by the name of Poppi Wheeler, and you’re traveling—nay, “touring”— the Appalachian outback for weeks on end, you’re going to come in contact with A LOT of plants. Because:
- They are everywhere. The humid hills and muggy mountains of the East Coast are literally covered in vegetation. Some of it thick. Almost all of it green AF.
- Even though your Poppi is the recent recipient of an Amateur Professional Adventure Contract he still only eats from the three major food groups: 1) wild edible plants 2) Builder Bars 3) a small selection of handpicked, small batch foods purchased from locally owned Co-Ops 4) Artisanal Yogurt 5) Pizza.
So please, if you will, consider this a Public Service Announcement, or Guide, to some notable plants you’re likely to come in contact while traveling the East Coast and that you might want to eat, avoid, or use in the creation of a powerful and effective poultice.
About Mara Menahan: Mara was first recognized for her botanical art in the 4th grade when she won second place in an art contest for the Prickly Pear Land Trust in Helena, Montana where she grew up. She didn’t get first place though because she drew a saguaro cactus instead of a prickly pear cactus. Her scientific accuracy has greatly improved and today Mara draws plants all day every day as botanical illustrator at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. Instagram: @maramenahan
Burdock Root, According to Poppi
“If you look around at roadsides and the edges of fields instead of your power meter (yes, I use a power meter all the time), you’ll often see this very common and large plant. I’ve noticed it’s perhaps the largest of the common weeds you see on the field edges and roadsides of the east. The root of this plant is a really nice addition to your goulash. Mid to late spring is the best time to harvest, while the root is still tender and affectionate. Takes a bit of digging to get the whole hing out, but the result is a potato/carrot concept album, and quite a large one at that.”
Lamb’s Quarters, According to Poppi
“It tastes like spinach, but better, and even better for you. If Popeye ate lamb’s quarters instead of spinach his abs would be as big as his forearms. They grow on roadsides and have a distinct white talcum powdery underside. Cook it like you would its inferior brother, spinach.”
The Virginia Slice, According to Poppi
“Long days in the sun tubing with nothing to hydrate yourself but a leather bota bag of wine can be depleting in many ways. There is a pizza place in Virginia that serves novelty-sized pizzas to misinformed customers on the phone.”
Black Raspberry, According to Poppi
“Another easily identified wild food. Looks like a raspberry, cuz it is, only much better cuz it’s wild. Thorns are worth picking through.”
III Poppi's Public Restrooms & Pizzeria: Recipe #3
Poppi is a full service Bike-Packing Guide and East Coast Aficionado. Does he know where to find the covered’est of bridges?, you bet he does. What about the primo dirt roads?, the ones with a buffed-out surfaces, no cars and countless dead possums?, ummm, duh. Haunted Tunnels anyone??? The nearest artisanal co-op? Poppi knows it all! But his instruction and guidance doesn’t end there, he also knows how to (safely) subsist on weeds and wild edible plants and trash found on the side of the road and behind abandoned buildings. With this in mind, Yonder Journal is proud to present a series of recipes from Poppi’s forthcoming cookbook called Poppi’s Public Restrooms and Pizza.
Poppi’s “Black Raspberry Slop”
- Berries: really any berries will do, even raisins if you are a forage failure. I’ve been there.
- Quick Oats: half a pot or so, Bob’s are the best.
- Pinch of Salt: use Celtic if you have the choice.
- Coconut Oil: three sporks.
- Coconut Sugar or Honey: to taste.
What most people in modern times don’t know is that if you just cook raw oats or other grains and eat them, you are basically pummeling yer gut with a mound of difficult-to-digest spackle. This spackle is enhanced with enzyme inhibitors that bind to the good stuff you would ordinarily get from yer properly prepared breakfast. So yer like “Poppi, how do I properly prep my gourmet breakfast wallpaper paste?” Well it’s really simple, soak the oats over night. If you wanna take it another step, add a scoop of yogurt or a dash of vinegar to up the acidity. This breaks down the inhibitors and basically pre-digests the slop for you. This is especially important if yer about to get on the bike or into the gym right away or go swimming. No one wants to puke in the pool. Ok, so that’s out of he way.
- Soak yer oats over night.
- Pour off any excess water in the morning.
- Start cooking the oats at a low temp on yer stove.
- Be sure to stir, cuz they will burn to the bottom.
- Add in the oil, sugar, and salt.
- Lastly add in yer berries.
- For an extra boost and blast, add sum hemp seeds.
- You should now have a nice slop.
- The Virginia Slice is a obscenely gigantic slice of pizza. According to the staff from Benny’s in Blacksburg everyone already knows this. So clearly this isn’t news to you.
- The rapids at the New River Junction Tube Float are more fearsome in appearance than in practice.
- If you end up sleeping at the Boley Field Group Campground on a full moon, expect to see a long distance runner ghost and his long distance runner ghost dog.
- If you are better at bike riding than Kyle, then the jump line in the Jefferson National Forest is totally doable on a loaded bikepacking rig. If you are worse at riding bikes than him, we suggest you steer clear.
- Unless you enjoy altercations, steer clear of taking photographs of the puppy farm/hamster house/outlaw castle on the road between Boley Field and the New River Junction.
- SUNSCREEN. Just put it on in the morning and remember to reapply in the afternoon. Don’t take my word for it, take Mary’s.
- Uber can pick you up at the New River Junction NO PROBLEM.