This past weekend my husband–an avid cyclist–rode in the MS 150, an annual bike ride from Houston to Austin, the goal of which is to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It’s the largest event of its kind in the U.S., with approximately 13,000 riders this year, raising almost $14 million so far. It is quite a sight to see the rainbow of spandex-clad riders, in all shapes and sizes, heading out for the two-day ride.
Why don’t I ride too, you ask? My cycling career was short-lived, and ended when I fell on my bike, pedals still clipped in to my shoes that my husband, well-meaning and hopelessly optimistic, bought for me. As I lay there crumpled on the pavement, bike still attached to me, a police officer (whose fault the accident was), leaned over and said, “Are you OK?” In order to answer his stupid question I attempted to stand up, only to crumple back to the ground after realizing I couldn’t bear weight on my right ankle. 2 surgeries, 2 pins, a plate, and 7 screws later, I decided that cycling wasn’t for me. (That, and the fact that I refuse to wear spandex.)
Who says I can’t get a break?
Having a broken ankle wasn’t all bad. I got to work from home for over a month during lucid moments between painkillers, friends and neighbors drove my children to and from school, and prepared meals showed up at my house as if by magic. I learned a lot about what it’s like to be dependent on the kindness and generosity of others, and definitely try to pay it forward.
But back to last weekend. The kids and I are my husband’s MS 150 “support team,” which means we pick him up at Buescher State Park in Bastrop, check us in to the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort, enjoy a relaxing afternoon, a nice meal, and hopefully a good night’s sleep. In the morning, I drive him back to Buescher State Park so that he can complete the last leg of the ride. We pick him up in Austin a few hours later and head home.
It is always a treat to be able to spend a night or two at the Lost PInes, and it’s a popular getaway for Houstonians:
Hard to miss the entrance
Enormous pecan trees grace the property
An impressive arrangement greets guests
Lush landscaping adds to the beauty of the resort
There’s a butterfly meadow . . .
And a hummingbird garden to wander around in
A longhorn on the property reminds you that you are in Texas
A fire pit to gather around, and complimentary s’mores
The lobby glows in the evening light
As you can see, there are perks to being my husband’s support team. But the best part about this year’s ride, for me, was that the Texas wildflowers were still in full bloom. Once we got outside of LaGrange, the roadsides were a mosaic of glorious Texas spring color. There were big splotches of pink Texas Buttercups:
Colorful Mexican Blanket Flowers:
Beautiful deep pink Wine Cups (also known as Poppy Mallows and Cowboy Roses):
Delicate White Prickly Poppies:
Prickly pear cactus were just getting ready to bloom:
But as every Texan knows, the real star of the Texas wildflower show is the Texas Bluebonnet:
An article in yesterday’s New York Times perfectly describes the frenzied excitement Texans experience each year when the bluebonnets are in full bloom.
All in all, it was a wonderful Texas spring weekend, with perfect weather for the riders.
Back at home, I had those prickly pear cactus paddles on my mind. At Hugo’s, one of my favorite restaurants (Hugo Ortega is a James Beard finalist this year for the second year in a row), many of the dishes are accompanied by a tasty little tangle of grilled cactus, or nopalitos. My friend Gloria used to make a similar salad using jarred ones. I tried to find fresh cactus paddles at the grocery store, thinking it would at least be interesting to try to remove the spines and prepare them for cooking, but all they had was a bag of chopped, cleaned ones:
Since they were already chopped up, instead of grilling the nopalitos, I sauteed them, which worked well. The salad was easy to make, and something a little out of the ordinary to serve with grilled meats. The nopalitos have an unexpected tangy note. I highly recommend buying the nopalitos already prepared!
|SAUTEED NOPALITOS SALAD|| |
- 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 cup prepared nopalitos (spines removed, cut into strips)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 grape tomatoes, quartered
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons crumbled cotija or feta cheese
- 1 small radish, grated.
- Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add nopalitos and saute until soft and beginning to brown in spots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer nopalitos to a small bowl and toss with tomatoes and cilantro. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle cheese and radish over the top. Serve at room temperature.
Sauteeing the nopalitos