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

Archive for June 2016

Close Calls

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For the most part, my week of biking and camping was perfect. Weather was good, trails and roads were great, and my body delivered everything I asked of it. I was in the company of really great companions who fed my soul and entertained my brain.

However, my performance wasn’t entirely without incident.

IMG_iP1425eJKThe first occasion happened when I was cruising the trail with Rich and Steve on the day we coincidentally chose to wear our blue sleeveless jerseys. While some cat-callers threw out a moniker with the word “smurf” in it, Rich anointed us the “Blue Man Crew.”

There are many driveways and a few roads that the trail crosses, and at each one there is a stop sign. We are supposed to stop at each one, but in the rural setting there is very little traffic present. Instead of stopping, we would most often yield, pausing to look for cars.

After miles of no traffic, we arrived at one where a large truck had just crossed our trail and was waiting to turn onto the adjacent highway. We were talking and Rich had pulled out his water bottle as we approached. Suddenly I spotted a pickup truck pulling up behind the larger truck.

In a split second decision, I raised my hand in a wave and rolled through between the two vehicles, but Rich and Steve abruptly hit their brakes. I figured the pickup couldn’t go anywhere with the larger truck stopped in front of it. The other two made the proper decision, but paid a price when their rapid deceleration led to their bikes tangling and a spoke on Rich’s front wheel getting bent.

Our behavior seemed to rile the driver of the pickup truck, as he then raced around the large truck and cut across it in a right turn, racing his engine as he sped off.

Thinking that the spoke was broken, we gingerly made our way to the day’s destination, worried about a risk the wheel might collapse. Luckily, it wasn’t a broken spoke after all. Mike, our trusty Penn Cycle mechanic supporting the trip, was able to straighten it out and true the wheel, good as new.

The second close call happened at the end of the week as we pulled back into the town of Brainerd. I was in a small group of riders who were all seeking the best route to the fair grounds. We crossed a street at an intersection with cars waiting their turn.

Folks announced their intentions with calls of “Slowing!” and “Stopping!” I twisted my right foot out of the clipless pedal in preparation of stopping, and then got caught with my weight on the other foot. I followed their calls with one of my own.

“Falling.”

I came out of it with nothing more than a bruised hip, forearm and ego.

Just another close call.

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Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2016 at 6:00 am

Wheels Rollin’

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DSCN4872eMy favorite photos from cycling are usually ones taken on the road from the bike. When I remember, I carry my pocket camera in my jersey so I can slip my hand through the strap and pull it out for shots on the fly. Unlike my sure-handed friend, Rich, who deftly wields his iPhone for photos from his bike, I want the comfort of knowing the wrist strap will back me up when I fumble the grip.

Even when I remember to have the camera at the ready, usage requires I have ample space to allow my bike to wander off course a bit in the act of capturing shots. I have a tendency to float across lanes when I twist my torso around to compose a view behind me.

DSCN4875eGood shots can be had when a lot of bikers are bunched up, but those are not times I feel safe to be veering off course in the act of shooting.

Although the majority of this year’s Tour of Minnesota was on bike trails, there were still a few occasions when we were out on the open road. With only minimal traffic and an ongoing intermittent rumble strip to deal with, we had opportunity to spread out and stretch our legs.

It was good to have a little variation from the monotonous, albeit beautiful,  miles of railroad-grade paved trails.

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At one point we came upon a crew repaving the road. We simply joined the autos in waiting a turn to pass through the construction zone.

It felt a little too exposed to be on a bicycle, just a few feet away from fresh steaming hot asphalt, large dump trucks, and huge steam rollers crawling along as we rode through.

Some riders cannot resist the urge to stop and shop whenever we come upon garage sales. It pays to have a way to carry new treasures when shopping by bike.

Doobie is one to find a way when his muse hits. Light saber on the backpack, stuffed python snake wrapped around the bike frame. He doesn’t let anything bog down his free wheelin’.

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2016 at 6:00 am

Tight Tenting

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On Wednesday, our bike trip destination was Lake Bemidji State Park. We arrived in time to eat lunch there, before the baggage truck had even delivered our gear. Since this park did not have a group camping site large enough to house all our tents in one location, ride director Bob divided us into two groups.

Even at half the number of campers, it looked like we would barely fit. The tents were going to need to be set very close together. Luckily, this group knows how to do close.

Since we didn’t yet have our bags with the tents in them, people began to claim their plot by laying down their bicycles in the spot where they hoped to erect their tent.

DSCN4867eBy the time the truck with our luggage arrived, impending rain was beginning to threaten its arrival. The area behind the truck took on the appearance of an airport baggage claim station as folks took turns stepping in to grab their gear the second it appeared.

In a flurry of expert efficiency, our tent city popped up very quickly.

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In this situation, it was going to be very difficult to achieve much in the way of the isolation we value for reducing auditory sleep interruptions that happen at close quarters. Tent fabric is a very poor sound dampening wall material. We share every cough, sniffle, burp, fart, hiccup, and snore that human bodies are prone to do.

Actually, the more onerous irritant often doesn’t come from our bodies, but from our equipment. Tent zippers, noisy sleeping pads, and plastic storage bags can make an incredible amount of ruckus after it gets dark and voices have grown hushed.

My friends, Rich and Doobie, got creative and tucked their tents with mine between some bushes on a teeny strip of green between driveways.

DSCN4869eAny port in a storm.

We were so close that our rain flies were tied to each other to keep them from sagging onto the tent walls. It is a good thing we didn’t get much more rain than what fell, because there wasn’t a very good route for water to drain away from the middle spot where three rain flies all sloped together.

I’m happy to boast that I don’t have much trouble with these tight conditions, because I am always so exhausted by sunset that I fall unconscious asleep very quickly and miss all but the most egregious clamoring that sometimes can occur in the middle of the night.

When I do happen to notice a particularly loud snorer, I tend to return to sleep easily while pondering how in the world individuals who make loud snoring sounds don’t wake themselves up when they are so close to all that noise.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2016 at 6:00 am

Trip Withdrawal

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I’ve been home one day and I am noticing a distinct void from the abrupt absence of the large group of companions I enjoyed last week. Though personal space and familiar comforts of home are precious, the camaraderie we shared can be addicting, putting up a good fight for my desire.

I want both.

DSCN4819eNow I’ve got my bathroom and bed back, but a lingering longing for the instantly available connection with inspiring souls leaves me wanting. I think that is what draws so many of us back to this annual ride each succeeding year.

Looking at a picture of the very first morning, taken just moments before we pedaled off en mass on the first leg of the week, I am instantly reminded of the excitement and anticipation of what lie ahead for us.

It started out with a damp fog just above the ground, but our 2016 ride in the heart of the state was blessed with some great weather and easy riding. A high percentage of our miles were accomplished on the 115-mile-long Paul Bunyan State Trail between Brainerd and Bemidji.

I had a really nice time meeting riders that were new to our group this year, discovering kindred spirits from as far away as Maryland, Texas, and Colorado, as well as a few from within the state of Minnesota.

DSCN4830eThey all won a piece of my heart, but challenging that for the highlight of the year for me was the opportunity to ride with first-timer, Sarah Gordon, the 10-year-old daughter of my treasured friend, Rich. They rode together on a borrowed tandem in a brave “test of concept” exercise for both.

I could see how difficult it was for each of them to manage at times, and they did a spectacular job of facing the challenges and achieving their goals, all while maintaining a superb attitude. They inspired and energized me greatly.

Sometimes we can become narrowly focused on doing this ride for our own personal reasons, but there is an equally significant value for those around us when we make the decision to participate.

I am forever grateful that Sarah decided to ride with us this year, and equally thankful for the rest of the crew, new and old, who showed up this year to make the 2016 Tour of Minnesota a particularly special biking and camping week.

How ’bout we do it again next year, eh?

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Birthday Day

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DSCN4889eToday is my 57th birthday, just 4 days after Elysa turned 30. Yesterday we celebrated Elysa with food and fun. Today… I don’t know what will happen. I have no plan. The kids and their significant others slept over, so we have a house-full that lends a festive feeling. I hear Cyndie in the kitchen making sounds that indicate waffles are under construction.

There are all the trappings of the brilliant bash that happened yesterday still to be cleaned up, so that may occupy a bit of our time. Thankfully, the weather has returned to a much more comfortable dew point, so outdoor efforts won’t involve as much sweating.

Right now, I feel like doing as little as possible. After that, I’ll dive into another year and see what comes next.

Happy June 26th!

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2016 at 9:30 am

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Let’s Party!

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IMG_iP1424eRGI’m Home! Before I even get a chance to write about the bike trip from which I just returned, it is time to jump into the next adventure. Today is the day our daughter, Elysa, is celebrating her 30th birthday with a gala at Wintervale.

I have some work to do to spruce the place up before guests arrive, especially getting my wet tent dried out and stowed. It is spread out with other gear all over the living room floor. I finished laundry last night but didn’t get the tent hung on the line until the sun was low because I was busy mowing the lawn.

I wanted to make sure that chore was done first.

The grass was a little long, but not all that unsightly. I have a fair amount of clippings to clean up this morning. There were a few spots that were pretty bumpy where some horse hooves left their marks.

While I was gone, the herd decided to go on a little adventure of their own. I got a voicemail from our neighbor across the street that reported our horses were wandering across his property toward his son’s house up the road and then had crossed into another neighbor’s corn field.

Cyndie said she was not home at the time and must have left a gate to the barn unclipped. That allowed the chain to be manipulated and the horses were able to navigate their way through an open barn door to freedom. Our neighbor left messages on both of our phones, but neither of us responded, so he just kept an eye on them.

I asked Cyndie if the sheriff got involved. She said no, because the herd took themselves home and our neighbor just followed to close the barn door behind them.

In a curious instance of timing, the reason I asked about the sheriff is because the very same day our horses were off gallivanting around the countryside, bikers in my vicinity were suddenly spooked by a siren that was the result of an officer responding to a horse in the road near the trail we were riding.

I didn’t see the horse, but one of the bikers from our group said that cars had stopped to protect it from traffic and the horse just stood in the road enjoying the view.

YoungEWas there something about June 23rd that linked these two equine escape incidents?

Now it’s time to party and celebrate our lovely daughter!

Elysa, you go girl!

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2016 at 7:49 am

Current Jersey

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I’m coming home today! The newest jersey I own comes from Minnesota Public Radio station 89.3 The Current. It is hanging in our bathroom, a place that I will have a renewed appreciation for after a week of communal showering in steamed up locker rooms.

Even though I don’t plug my ears with headphones while cycling, I hear songs in my mind, and plenty of what becomes ear worm music for me is something I first heard on The Current.

JerseyTheCurrentI wonder if I wore this on the first day or saved it for later this year…

If all goes as planned, I’ll be back to posting live again starting tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed my jersey show this week!

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2016 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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