Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Mostly Cloudy

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Some days are so low-key that the excitement of solving the Wordle puzzle is one of the noteworthy highlights. Actually, amazing life events sometimes play out unexpectedly in the midst of an otherwise bucolic ambiance of a quiet cloudy day at the lake. There are only three of us occupying the big log house this weekend. With the cool temperature and cloudy sky doing a lot to set the tone, we didn’t have any lofty ambitions about pursuing laudable accomplishments.

Midmorning we received a precious invitation to join with other Wildwood families for a gathering of the Whitlock family next door. They were doing a memorial spreading of ashes for their patriarch, Bill, a founding member of the Wildwood Lodge Club. Afterward, families represented gathered on the Whitlock deck to catch up and share memories.

It was the kind of visit that could have gone on forever except they had a dinner plan. We three returned to our place for dinner and a mix of tv dramas in front of a fire.

Some sunshine would have definitely painted the day with a greater urge to be out but the surprise opportunity to commune with people we dearly love was a bonus that truly blessed an otherwise understated day.

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2022 at 10:20 am

And Then

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Suddenly, it was Saturday, August 13 in the year 2022. I woke up in the loft bedroom at the lake place, emerging from typically bizarre dream scenarios to gaze upon damp forest scenery under a hazy gray sky. Knocking off this morning’s Wordle in four, and burrowing deep into comments on Reddit about how fast time flies when looking at decades past, I luxuriate in loitering in bed until Cyndie wakes up.

Yes, I grew up before personal computers or cell phones, but waking up in the morning is pretty much the same as it has always been for me. As best possible, I try to trust my perceived reality is accurate and true. I always sensed that the ads at the back of a comic book or magazine hawking some sensational product like x-ray glasses were more hype than reality. Get rich quick schemes and miracle cure-all formulas, beach wimp to muscle-bound stud plans, or pounds melting away with ease all seemed dubious at best.

What is it about today’s technological advances that have led masses of people to swallow the loads of crap that grifters are dishing out in this day and age? I have no idea. How did typical dream-type bizarreness become everyday headlines? It’s weird.

At the same time, creative minds are still creating fascinating storylines for television series that stream on more platforms than I can keep track of. The ability to discern the fictional drama from what shows up in the news is getting tougher to maintain, but at least I can parse the fiction in measured doses. Binging does happen, but it’s optional.

The daily news keeps coming at us 24/7. I usually preach turning off the news but as time passes I find myself checking it out more than I used to. I think it is in large part a result of the unbelievableness of it all. Am I really living in a time like this? I guess so.

I failed to hit the water when I got up here yesterday. The wind was strong and the rain had just let up making it much more of a “sweatshirt by the fireplace” type of day than a “soak in the water” one.

Does the middle of August mean autumn is any closer than it’s always been at this point of the year? Maybe it just seems that way to me because time flies faster the older you get. It was never like this back when there were no cell phones or internet.

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Written by johnwhays

August 13, 2022 at 9:27 am

Going Again

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Guess where we are going today. It will be my fourth weekend in a row at the lake and I couldn’t be happier about that good fortune. I feel a little sorry for Pequenita though because she seems really starved for contact with me and I keep disappearing on her for days at a time.

The horses don’t seem to mind. Yesterday while I was on the lawn tractor and Cyndie was using the trimmer in the labyrinth, we spotted all four horses out “horsing around” in the hay field. What first caught my eye was Mix making aggressive moves toward the chestnuts but instead of running away, all four just rearranged positions while staying in close proximity with each other.

Then one of them laid down, rolling back and forth a couple of times before hopping right back up. Suddenly they all took off in a run back toward the paddocks. It looked like they were having fun on an otherwise uneventful day.

I came inside for lunch and scanned a few news headlines. That had me thinking how nice it is that horses don’t pay attention to headlines about search warrants or the reaction commentaries from extremists on both sides. Maybe the new national pastime has become unnecessarily overreacting to news releases with inflammatory trigger words and accusations about the nefarious motives of the “other side.”

There is a wonderful distraction awaiting our arrival up north in a few hours. It is called Round Lake. I plan to immerse myself in the rejuvenating water of the lake to do some back-floating and cloud watching. No headlines will be viewed during this news-free time. It’ll be my version of horsing around.

It will also be a nice break from raking gravel and rocks into a supportive shoulder for our new asphalt driveway. We made some good progress the last few days and I’ve set a goal of trying to finish 50 yards per day whenever we work on it. I’m guessing we’ve completed about half of the 600 combined yards of asphalt edges for both sides of the driveway.

That would be just six days if we achieve 50 yards each time we work on it.

If we keep going away for long weekends at the lake, it might be October by the time we get all the asphalt shoulder covered. Somewhere in the next 6 weeks we will have a fiber optic cable buried along the length of the driveway, as well.

Sure hope they don’t decide to show up on a Friday when we are planning to depart for the lake place.

I don’t like the struggle of choosing between two highly desired options.

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Written by johnwhays

August 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

Within Weeks

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Indications hint at our fiber broadband connection coming within 4-6 weeks. We’ve been waiting for about a year since our rural Pierce Pepin electric cooperative announced the launch of a new subsidiary, Swiftcurrent Connect, to provide high-speed internet service to members.

Tuesday evening I received an email announcing it was time to sign up for the connection to our house. I logged in and signed up immediately. Just 12 hours later, Cyndie reported seeing a utility truck on our road.

They were hanging fiber optic cable on our electric poles. By the end of the day, I noticed a drop from the pole on the other side of our driveway, coiled up and ready for connection to a line to be buried alongside our electric supply up to the house.

I don’t mean to be greedy, but I’m really hoping we don’t have to wait the full number of weeks for that line to the house to be installed. Maybe the fact that the cable showed up on our electric pole about the same time they contacted me for sign-up is a good sign of their efficiency.

Either way, our wanting something like this for the ten years we’ve been here makes waiting a few more weeks seem like something we should be able to handle. Soon, we will be able to discontinue delivery of Blu-ray discs from Netflix through U.S. snail mail for our movie entertainment desires.

I look forward to being able to update software without fretting over consuming the majority of our allotted monthly data. We have been living under the arbitrary limitations of GB of data per dollar I was willing to pay. Our service provider gladly offered to sell us more full-speed data whenever we used up our initial 15 GB in a month but it was at what I felt was an excessive price.

Feels a little like we are catching up with the current century. Or, it will in a few weeks or so.

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Written by johnwhays

August 11, 2022 at 6:00 am

Swings Escapes

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In a moment of brutal reality that revealed the hazards of a lapse in attention, I failed on two counts while tending to the horses after their evening feeding last night. I stepped through the gates to pick up empty feed pans without closing multiple doors behind me. Then, I allowed my panicky reaction to overcome my attempts to calmly coax Swings back inside.

Sure, they look calm now, but just a few minutes before taking that picture, there was a lot of running, snorting, and neighing going on.

I noticed Swings start moving just as I was about to step back through the gates with an empty pan in my hands. I reached for the gate to keep her on the correct side of it but she moved uncharacteristically faster than I could react. Things then quickly went from bad to worse.

My response of, “No, no, no, no…” didn’t help much as I meant to implore her to stop but just as much was voicing my thoughts of really not wanting this to be happening. I was alone with them, as Cyndie had taken Delilah and a wheelbarrow to clean up after having pruned some raspberry bushes. The two big sliding doors of the barn were wide open.

I knew that if Swings stepped through the little half door I had not closed she would be able to choose whatever destination she wanted. Without hesitation, as I fumbled unsuccessfully from behind her to try altering her progress, she knocked over a fan to walk into the barn. As I feared, she then continued right outside through the big doors.

Instead of remaining calm and encouraging her to stay put, I simultaneously scrambled around to reach a lead rope, yell for Cyndie, try to type a text to Cyndie, whistle for Cyndie’s attention, and plead with Swings to stay put. I didn’t want my whistle to startle the horses, so it was barely effective at drawing Cyndie’s attention.

The other three horses in the paddock were getting riled up over Swings being on the outside and Swings kept changing her mind about where she wanted to go. It was beginning to feel rather like an episode of Keystone Cops. Horses running to and fro and me flailing around with a phone and a lead rope trying to position myself where I could steer Swings back toward the barn.

Luckily, Cyndie did pick up on my yells and attempts to [sort of] whistle for her attention and came to help. Swings decided to trot around the back of the barn. At least this took her farther into our property instead of the front side where she had an easy path over the hill and off our property.

Swings headed out of sight around the bend beyond the chicken coop but returned before we had a chance to head after her. She started up the trail past the compost piles but came back from that, too. I steered her away from going around the barn again and Cyndie prepared the closest gate back into the paddock, getting shocked by the electric fence in her haste.

Meanwhile, the horses in the paddock continued to freak out over the whole scene. By this point, Swings seemed ready to rejoin them and it just took the right circling around for her to arrive at the gate Cyndie was holding open.

Just like that, the whole adventure was over, and everyone returned to grazing. Shortly after, Mix came up to me at the gates under the overhang and I noticed her breathing still hadn’t settled all the way down to normal. I felt like she was commiserating with me over the drama we had just experienced.

I latched all the gates and securely closed the barn doors, freshly retrained about prudent management of access points at ALL times.

Lesson re-learned. Thanks for that, Swings.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

Past

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driving past the crow
that was standing on the side of the road
it is hard to know
if there is someone in particular
who knows where it lives
or will care when it dies
looking back at the stack of cars in the mirror
having successfully passed
the pokey driver at the front
watching the distance between us
grow
my hubris needs control
in the early foggy hours of a Monday
on the way home
from the lake
listening to a random shuffle of songs
auto-magically algorithm-ly selected
to fit the mood of the moment
sending miles and minutes flying
into the past

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Written by johnwhays

August 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Aha Moment

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After resting my aching legs for a day –of which the left leg was proving to be the more uncomfortable one– I tried a brief, easy solo ride on the road bike yesterday afternoon. All the weekend guests had departed but I hung around for the rest of the day, mostly because of the simple fact that I could. I will be driving home this morning.

Yesterday, I experienced an “aha moment” during the first mile of spinning the cranks of the road bike. My left side still felt “funny.” Weak is one way I can describe it. I began to perceive a sensation that suddenly occurred to me to NOT be specifically coming from my left quadricep. I had a sense that what I was feeling in the leg muscle was more of a referred pain.

All at once, it hit me that I might actually be noticing the first signs of a hip problem.

Where do I pick up my membership card for that club of unpleasantness?

I rode a mere 11 miles and used battery-powered assistance the whole way. My goal was to allow my legs to do a little spinning without working them very hard against resistance. Mission accomplished.

Floating in the lake after I got back, the discomfort throughout my body seemed to be growing more and more aligned with what my mind was now telling me. Now I am in the place of wondering whether my mind is responding to the vague pains of my body or if it’s the other way around. Is my body starting to react to thoughts that my hip might be growing arthritic?

That’s pretty easy to test. I’ll start imagining my hip is perfectly healthy and see if the vague pains and noticeable weakness go away.

Anecdotally –if you believe this– I did recently decide I should be putting a pillow between my knees at night in bed when I’m sleeping. I can’t explain why I renewed this practice, but maybe it’s related to the possibility of a hip issue and my intuitive self detecting it would be a prudent thing to do.

I’m no Orthopedist, but it’s all making sense to me at this moment.

Or, maybe it’s not the joint, itself. The Mayo Clinic offers this:

Problems within the hip joint itself tend to result in pain on the inside of your hip or your groin. Hip pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh or outer buttock is usually caused by problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround your hip joint.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hip-pain/basics/definition/sym-20050684

The location of my pain is more on the outside of the hip and, as I originally suspected, my upper thigh.

I’m going to prescribe some extra rest and see what that does for me. See if it gives me any additional “ahas.”

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Written by johnwhays

August 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

Other Pursuits

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With my left quadricep still complaining about being overworked, I took the day off from cycling yesterday and power lounged much of the morning away on my own. I enjoyed the opportunity to catch some Premier League football on television which also provided a chance to nod off and rest more than just my leg muscles.

Paul and Randy did a short bit of biking before Randy headed back to the Cities. After some of the golfers finished one round, other pursuits beckoned. Ultimately, everyone who wasn’t still on the golf course migrated toward the lake. An attempt at water skiing was interrupted when the speed boat under-performed, behaving like the engine couldn’t get enough air, fuel, or both to keep up with demand.

Attention shifted to the pontoon boat and a three-hour cruise around the lake materialized.

The phone-camera selfies all became “us-ies” and David K and Steve kindly shared a couple of group photos capturing the fun. The vague possibility of stopping to check out Powell’s restaurant on the far side of the lake, “maybe for a drink,” became an excuse to have dinner out.

While the threat of rain lingered throughout the day, the few sprinkles that occasionally fell hardly got anything wet, including the drips that fell as we waited for our meals to arrive.

Back on shore as day turned to night, the benches around the fire pit were put to good use and old Derek & the Dominos songs played through a bluetooth speaker as a perfect evening for hanging around a fire transpired.

It was a day that served as an excellent example of how to spend leisure time on the lake. Sure beats workin’.

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Written by johnwhays

August 7, 2022 at 8:04 am

Three Biketeers

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Day two of Paul’s, Randy’s, and my biking-instead-of-golfing adventures up at the lake place was a grinding success. Did I say grinding? I meant grand success. Honestly, the conditions were better than average, practically superb for the combination of riding we had in mind. My only issue was that my legs felt odd at the beginning of the day and as the afternoon progressed the muscles kept threatening to cramp up.

I’m guessing I taxed myself a bit too much on our opening day gauntlet of rocks and roots navigating the Makwa trail. Instead of allowing for a day of recovery, we three biketeers set out midmorning for some smooth riding on the road bikes. Once again, I demonstrated my penchant for having my sense of direction reversed.

My intended route would have basically formed a rectangle on the map but I missed one turn while rolling along and chatting with the guys. Remaining oblivious at the time, I was surprised to reach a “T” with McClaine Road again, which we had turned from miles before. Our route had circled back.

Knowing I’d missed a turn we reversed direction and backtracked. I was mistakingly looking for the Chief River Road I wanted on our right. When we came upon it –and of course, it was farther away than I thought it should be– I discovered my sense of our position on the planet was backward again and it was a left turn, not a right.

The rest of the road ride was without confusion and we enjoyed a triumphant return to Wildwood where we found the sign was showing a new skew of its own.

We switched to our off-road bikes again for the afternoon and I finally got my first exposure to the CAMBA trail loops by the hospital, appropriately named, “Hospital Trail.”

It lived up to the reputation I had heard for a couple of years that Hospital Trail would be much more to my liking. Sharing a variety of the fun features of the more aggressive Makwa trail near us, the Hospital trail in Hayward offers a few loops that meander through a nice section of pine forest. There are a fair number of hairpin turns but it has far fewer sharp changes in elevation or complicated rock obstacles and almost no tree root hazards.

It probably shouldn’t have been as taxing on my aging leg muscles as it was but for the rest of the day I found myself tetering perilously close to having my quads and calves seize up at one wrong move.

Pickle juice, I was told. No, I erred by asking for a scoop of two different flavors of ice cream from West’s Dairy. The serving size in the cup could have fed a family of five. I ate it anyway. Raspberry Delight with Mint Chip.

It’s what a biketeer would do!

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Written by johnwhays

August 6, 2022 at 9:19 am

Riding Makwa

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That was a heck of a ride to start my long weekend of biking in the woods of the Chequamegon area, especially since I haven’t been on my mountain bike for what feels like forever. It reminded me why I am more of a road rider at this point in my life.

I’m up at the lake again, this time as a member of an annual golf weekend that two of Cyndie’s brothers co-host. Since I don’t golf, I serve as companion to any former or part-time golfers who are also cyclists. Arriving early enough yesterday to sneak in a first ride with Randy and Paul, we picked the Makwa Trail as the nearby familiar option.

One of the main advantages of Makwa is its lack of any long or severe climbs. Other than that, it provides a brutal dose of unending roots and rocks on a meandering single track that taxes strength and forces constant quick navigating decisions. There are countless hairpin turns and tricky obstacles that show up right when the elevation makes a distinct change. Talking to self, “Do I go over this rock or around it? Should I downshift before I hit these roots? Do I have enough strength to recover from careening off-trail, holding tight as I muscle the bike back on course?”

It is, in a word, exhausting.

In a sentence, it is exhausting with several moments of fun rolling that don’t actually last long enough to catch my breath before rapidly finding myself holding on for dear life again to muscle through the next challenge.

We drove to a spot near the middle of the full Makwa length to start our riding toward the north trailhead. My computer logged it as being over 8 miles of trail. We opted to ride a parallel gravel fire lane road to return to the car. That distance was somewhere around 5 miles. That reveals approximately 3 miles of extra twisting and turning on the singletrack.

What it doesn’t expose is how much more effort it took to conquer the rocks and roots of the singletrack compared to the much smoother graded gravel.

Back at the lake, a soothing swim did well to help me forget how exhausted I was during the ride. We then dined at a nearby restaurant before driving to town to meet up with a majority of the golfing crew at Angler’s Bar. Festivities continued back at the “cabin” vacation home which kept many up much later than common sense would dictate.

I will be lobbying strongly today for a jaunt on our road bikes this morning before we return to the woods in the afternoon for more off-road punishment, I mean, fun.

I forgot, …why is it I don’t golf?

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2022 at 6:00 am