Monday, July 20, 2009

Letterboxing, a Bike Ride, and Tomato Salsa

We've had the most unusual July so far this year. Temps in the 70's, low humidity, sunny days one right after the other. We took advantage of one of these days and rode out in our new digs (goodbye minivan!) to Franklin, PA where there are several nice rails-to-trails bike paths. Here we are before the ride, grabbing a snack and donning helmets.

We'd taken this trail several times before, but we never knew that letterboxes existed along the trail. What is letterboxing you ask? Joybeadworks introduced us to this fun hobby. I'll try to explain it. Letterboxing is a treasure hunt of sorts. You go to or and search for letterboxes in your town or in a town you might be visiting. The person who has hidden the letterbox gives directions and clues for finding the box. Some are easy, and some require some sleuth. Most are located in public places such as parks, or lookouts, or historical places. Inside the box, there is a rubber stamp (many are handmade by the owner) and a notebook.

The Finders bring with them a rubber stamp, a stamp pad and a notebook. When the letterbox is found, you stamp your notebook with the owner's stamp and then stamp the owner's notebook with your stamp. Bring a pen to write where you're from and your code name and the date you found the letterbox. The kids have had so much fun finding these hidden treasures. It's also fun to see where other finders are from and when the box was last found by paging through the notebook. I like that it makes you go off the beaten path and see things you might not otherwise see. We would never have seen this old stone foundation which lies less than 50 feet off the main bike trail. We found one in our local library and we found a few while we were on vacation in Florida. These things are everywhere and we never knew! I especially like the ones that give a little history about the place you are visiting. Fun and education!

So we continue on our ride. This is the first year that Annie has been able to ride on her own. She learned to ride her bike without training wheels this Spring and she can really move!

She didn't care much for the tunnel, but she made it through. It gets pitch black at the tunnel's center but I remembered the flashlight this time. Ellen and Ben rode back and forth through the tunnel a few times. We looked for another letterbox outside the tunnel, but never found it.

We rode over several wooden bridges and enjoyed the scenery.

We got back to the car and munched on tortilla chips and homemade salsa. It was a perfect day!

Fresh Tomato Salsa
from The Best International Recipe by Cook's Illustrated
Makes about 3 cups.
This salsa is best served on the day it's made.
1 1/2 pounds firm, ripe tomatoes , cut into 3/8-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 large jalapeño chile seeded (seeds reserved and minced; see note), flesh minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 small clove garlic , minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
pinch ground black pepper
2 - 6 teaspoons lime juice from 1 to 2 limes
Granulated sugar to taste (up to 1 teaspoon)
1. Set large colander in large bowl. Place tomatoes in colander and let drain 30 minutes. As tomatoes drain, layer jalapeño, onion, garlic, and cilantro on top. Shake colander to drain off excess tomato juice. Discard juice; wipe out bowl.
2. Transfer contents of colander to now-empty bowl. Add salt, pepper, and 2 teaspoons lime juice; toss to combine. Taste and add minced jalapeño seeds, sugar, and additional lime juice to taste.


  1. I love the rails to trails bike trails! We'll have to check this one out :)

  2. What a great family day!! And that salsa made my mouth water!!

  3. Alrighty then.......we're ready to get letterboxing too!!! Borrowed Ms. Joy's dremmel to make our stamps....all we have to do is think of our "handle" :) Thanks for the inspiration!!! We can't wait to join in on the fun!!



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