Sunday, November 24, 2013

3rd Annual Cider Fest !

As the fall season settled in, it was once again time to celebrate the interim season between summer and winter. It had been unusually rainy in the weeks prior to our 3rd annual cider pressing event and I hoped that it would be dry the day we got together.

As luck would have it, the day of the get together was dry and clear, but unseasonably cold! Good thing Jim has a huge fire pit!!! This year brought a few new people to the event as Jim and Brandon now worked on a different Squad. In this business, with Shift work and people moving around to different positions and squads, there is always someone leaving the squad or joining the squad. When that happens, you just expand the group and welcome some new friends to the recurring events!

This years event also brought with it a desire of some to bring out the gas operated toys that many of us seem to enjoy. Jim lives on a large property that has a large field perfect for ripping around on quads or motorcycles etc. When I heard a few guys were going to bring out their toys to goof around on, I decided I would ride my Super Sherpa to the event! It had been a while since I had fired it up (Our summer Adventure Ride…soon to be posted) and it didn’t seem thattttttttt cold?! Besides, I had replaced the stalk mounted turn signals with flush mount lights, re-jetted the carburetor and installed new handle bars, so I wanted to check it out/show it off!

So once everyone was ready…the empty one gallon jugs and the Crockpot full of Sandi’s Puerto Rican Beans/Ham was loaded, I headed out wearing jeans and a light jacket, following my daughter Veronica, who volunteered to drive/chauffer her boyfriend Steven and Sandi to the event. Steven had only heard “stories” of the past two Annual Cider Fests, but had never experienced it.

We got out of the City and onto State Route 16 heading west. Jim lives some 30+ minutes away on the Olympic Peninsula, in the town of Port Orchard. Close to the water, and significantly more rural than Tacoma, it is a nice area that still has a “traditional” feel to it. At about 55-60 mph it wasn’t long before I thought, hey…its pretty cold!!! Well, I was committed at this point, so I just summoned up the stubborn side of myself and motored along at 60 mph quickly losing sight of my daughter, who was doing 65 or so. I thought, “Ehhh I will catch up to them later”.

30 minutes later, after getting off the freeway and forgetting which turn to take to get to Jim’s, I called my daughter Veronica so I could meet up and follow them. Several minutes later I caught up to them and it wasn’t long before we were on the winding road that Jim lives on.

I was trailing my daughters clean and shiny BMW as it wound its way along this curvaceous road. Unlike many parts of western Washington, where evergreen trees are the rule, leafy trees lined this winding road and they were literally dropping their red and yellow leaves as we made or way west. As I watched the leaves falling thru the blue sky, with the BMW whisking thru the dry leaves on the roadway…clearing them out and then almost pulling them along behind the car as I followed behind, I would have swore I was watching a BMW commercial. Heck, I almost forgot I was freezing! That last 2 miles was a very pretty drive. Wish I had thrown the Go Pro Cam on my helmet!

We arrived and unloaded our chairs, beans and empty gallon jugs and we saw that there were a couple of Quads and a tiny, little motorcycle ready to be ridden or crashed…depending on how you looked at it.

We all enjoyed some delicious potluck, made some introductions and then slowly…first the kids…then some of the adults…began to try out the cool motorized toys. A few people took a spin on the smaller Quad…then gave their friend or significant other a ride….then the bigger Quad got ridden and finally a few people started trying out the tiny motorcycle that had been brought along by Steve.
 Well, the bike was small…50cc’s but had 3 speeds and a pretty potent motor that Steve had mechanically limited so that his son wouldn’t kill himself as he learned to ride it. This is NOT the 50cc “mini bikes” that some of us rode in the 60’s etc.!!

Well a few people took that little bike for a spin, and were immediately surprised at how powerful this diminutive little motorcycle was! Everyone agreed it was a bad ass little motorcycle! When I later took it for a quick spin, it amazed me when I took off in 1st gear and effortlessly popped the front tire off the ground. (Steve had warned me to start in 2nd gear)

Well, it wasn’t long before our friend Chelsea wanted to take the little bike for a spin. Now I don’t remember if it was before she got comfortable with it, or after, ….I think before, but I do recall her putting it in first gear and giving it a bit of gas only to watch in horror as the bike wheeleeeiiiiied away …her hands still on the grips as it took off from underneath her.   I remember thinking, hmmmm she should let go of that bike!  She didn’t……well not until the little bike had dragged her to the ground, escaping her grasp and scaring the hell out of her before finding the only nearby Quad to crash into! It was a spectacular, yet somehow minor crash as Chelsea was fine...and so was the bike. Nothing like the possibility of serious injury to spice up an event!

About this time a few of us noticed we were losing daylight and it would be dark in a couple hours, so we got setup for the annual “Pressing of The Apples”!!   Every time I see the perfectly restored apple press, I admit, I get a little jealous. It really is a cool piece of machinery.

The temperature had dipped quite a bit as the sun made its way west and by this time there were a number of people seated around the very large fire pit, which had a large and welcoming fire going. So, while some sat around enjoying the hot, crackling fire, others were cranking the cider press and/or tossing apples in….or holding the press steady as we ground up… and then pressed the apples…ultimately allowing us to fill our empty gallon containers with cold, crisp cider!
I think the group ended up with about 20 gallons of cider this year. The apples ranged from Honey Crisp to Braeburn to Fuji and Granny Smith….with some of them being mixed to get “just the right” sweet to tart ratio. We enjoyed passing around cups of the different apple ciders and giving each other a hard time about getting tired so quickly while cranking that big iron gear on the side of the press. I admit, it doesn’t take long to get a bit winded cranking that thing!

After we had pressed the last 40 lb box of apples, we made a “toast”. “To good times, good friends, and good Apple Cider”! We “clinked” our little paper cups of cider together and enjoyed the last batch of sweet cider.

After a little cleanup, it was time to pack up and head out. It had been an enjoyable, albeit chilly day and I think most were ready to get the car heaters going and warm up on their way home!

Oh yeah….I had a couple of offers to “keep my motorcycle” or “put it in the back of a truck” so I wouldn’t have to ride home, as it was pretty damn cold at this point. I had almost forgotten I had ridden the motorcycle...dammit!  I decided (again) it wouldn’t be that bad. After crossing the Narrows Bridge and feeling the chill off the water below as I entered Tacoma, I concluded I had been wrong…..AGAIN!
Nothing a HOT cup of Spiced Cider won't remedy!!

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