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

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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!



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?



Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2022 at 6:00 am

Scenic Cycling

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Being up at the lake isn’t all about the water. I did get in a swim yesterday afternoon shortly after we arrived but soon after, I hit the road on my bike to ride through the wooded countryside of Sawyer County.

I made my way through the Chief River State Wildlife Management area enjoying the cool air of the forest wafting out onto the hot pavement as I rolled in and out of shade. I didn’t see a deer on the side of the road ahead of me but I suddenly heard the sound of branches and spotted the animal standing broadside and looking at me calmly through the foliage it had just stepped behind.

As I try to write this now I am constantly distracted by coverage of the time trial stage 20 of the Tour de France.

Such fun!



Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2022 at 9:59 am

Posted in bicycling, Chronicle

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The Race

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As unlikely as it seems, one current feature for me of being up at our beautiful lake place is the access to television channels we don’t receive through our antenna at home. The Tour de France bicycle race is of most significant interest to me this time of year. Yesterday, we lucked out with an incredibly dramatic series of race moves in the mountains during stage 11 of the race.

There was a classic series of attacks on the leader in the yellow jersey, Tadej Pogacar, by riders on the Jumbo-Visma team that forced him to expend extra energy to respond to each sprint. By the time the riders reached the last monumental climb, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visa rider who was 39 seconds behind the leader at the start of the day) seized his opportunity for the ultimate attack on the yellow jersey at about 5km from the summit finish on col du Granon.

Not only did he make up the 39 seconds to claim the yellow jersey, Jonas put 2’22” of time between himself and Tadej. That’s HUGE!

This morning, my broadcast access to stage 12 is going to be time delayed, so I will avoid the news and watch the taped version in the afternoon to preserve the excitement of what happens today. After the monumental effort yesterday in the mountains, it is hard to imagine how these riders get any decent sleep and then get up and compete at the same level for another grueling mountain stage, let alone for all 21 stages of the race.

I plan to take a leisurely stroll on my bike this morning and then watch the racers do battle from the comfort of the couch this afternoon.

Last night we were treated to a gorgeous moonrise over the lake. Cyndie stepped out to capture a picture of our view.

We are having a wonderful time. Wish you were here!



Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2022 at 6:00 am

Flywheel Effect

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When over 200 like-minded adventurous bicyclists converge upon a small community and travel together for an entire week, mystically powerful energy is produced. Collectively overcoming weather extremes, dealing with physical limitations, and coping with equipment failures with nothing but the heroic support of the Tour staff and each other to carry us through to the finish, we grow more connected with each passing minute.

On the very last day of the Tour of Minnesota yesterday, after splashing some water on my face and changing out of my wet cycling attire to put on clean shorts and a shirt I had stashed in the car for just this purpose, I found myself walking beside a fellow cyclist who I had yet to officially greet. We exchanged names and heartfelt pleasantries, wishing each other well on returning to “life after adventure vacations.” There was an instant unmistakable yet unspoken bond evident.

I am blessed with over 200 similar bonds woven together into one inspiring, life-enhancing aspect of my life. It is a very powerful force for good health.

One thing about energy like this is that it doesn’t simply dissipate when we all part ways for our homes at the end of the week. Comparable to the momentum of a flywheel, the emotional thrills of the week continue to spin and energize the more mundane demands of our daily home activities.

No matter what I need to put my effort toward now that my vacation week of biking and camping is over, the people and events of this year’s Tour of Minnesota will continue to spin in my mind and inspire my happy emotions for longer than seems logical. I long ago opened my mind to accepting unexplained phenomena as worthy of our attention and fully embrace the value of my emotional memories of all the personal connections shared with people I meet during these adventure weeks, some of these connections not materializing for me until the trip is over and everyone has gone home.

The flywheel has yet to wind down.

The bag of gear that needed to weigh less than 50 pounds for the sake of the luggage crew hefting so many bags multiple times per day had gained an awful lot of water weight by the time I struggled it out of the car when I got home yesterday. Before I was able to wrestle my soaked tent out of its carrying bag, the skies at home opened up with an attention-getting downpour of rain that interfered with my plan of hanging everything in the sun to dry.

It served to help sustain me in the mental place of the ride, having awoken in a similar downpour in Staples, MN earlier that very same day.

This morning, I am faced with the realities of news that a minority of people in my country are accomplishing steps to force their narrow moral views on all, moving our society backwards fifty years. I like the meme spotted recently that suggests life begins at ejaculation and maybe the burden of unplanned pregnancies and fears about unmarried promiscuity should be placed primarily on MEN in these situations, not so much women.

I’m going to ride the residual spin of wonderful energy from my Tour of Minnesota experience this year for longer than ever.

Somehow, loving all others as much or more than we love ourselves will bring us to better places soon. That’s a flywheel that I strive to get turning to a maximum velocity the whole world will feel.



Day Off

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Yesterday morning in Park Rapids started out as beautiful as ever on our day off from riding.

The rest of the day lived up to that beauty by being as fun as could be. We enjoyed a classic breakfast from an inconspicuous cafe where the parking area was filled with local pickup trucks. We received multiple genuine “you betcha” responses.

After casual visiting back at the campground, we found a spectacular lunch place. Very delicious blackened salmon burger.

Next stop was the park for an afternoon social and some dragon boating.

I stayed on land and cheered them on.

From there, we were given an opportunity to escape the heat and see the new Top Gun: Maverick movie. It wasn’t scheduled but the theater opened just for us! We almost filled the place and cheered and clapped and laughed together like rarely happens with strangers in a movie theater.

We succeeded in staying dry all day, though there was a good view of storms popping threateningly to our south.

Today we ride again, headed for Staples. I’m thinking I might want to put my e-bike on full power and pretend I’m a fighter jet pilot the whole way there.



Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2022 at 6:00 am

Park Rapids

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The week feels like it is going too fast. Today is our off day when riding is optional and we are on our own to do whatever we please in and around Park Rapids.

Yesterday we crossed the mighty Mississippi a couple of times where it is so small it appears totally insignificant. We had lunch in Itasca State Park near the headwaters of the big river.

Say, I forgot to mention yesterday that we also dodged five snapping turtles on the trail the day before. On the ride into Park Rapids we had to dodge a very smelly dead skunk in the middle of the road as well as a porcupine on the road shoulder.

Two shots from the beginning and the end of our day yesterday:

Ride co-director Doobie addressing the group after breakfast with details of the route for the day.
Sunset view from the tents in an athletic field at Park Rapids high scooter

I rode 64 more miles, this time on roads, without needing electric assist. On Friday, when we ride to Staples, I hope to finally give the battery a reasonable workout.


Written by johnwhays

June 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

Dodging Dragonflies

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Monday night’s middle of the night storm drama culminated with the alert siren blaring overhead at deafening volume to warn us about the weather blasting our tents at the moment.

I checked the radar and chose to stay put until morning, along with maybe ten other brave (or stupid) folks. We lucked out and survived unscathed.

Regarding the bugs I was fretting about earlier, it turns out dragonflies have been the most hazardous as we roll along the trails. Impacts to the arms, face, and bike wheels and frame are occurring at a particularly high rate.

My sunglasses have saved my eyes several times.

Yesterday morning we had to do additional dodging of trees that the storms had knocked over.

We made it to Bemidji and camped in the county fairgrounds where temperatures were far cooler than the previous two days.

Today, we ride to Park Rapids, leaving Bemidji much sooner than the town really deserves.

Photo: John Ferguson

Shoutout of “Happy Birthday!” to my daughter, Elysa today!! I love you, E!



Written by johnwhays

June 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

Seeking Shade

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Yes, it was a hot day for riding 68 miles. The morning wasn’t bad and the wind was pretty much at our backs on the flat trail from Brainerd to Walker.

There were a few big hill climbs at the end as we made our way to Water Tower Park and I’m feeling good that I conquered them all without electronic assist.

Unfortunately, at the highest heat of the day as we labored to set up tents in total exhaustion, there was no shade to be found for relief.

When it finally arrived as the earth rotated, it was the water towers that cast glorious shadows to give us a break from the relentless solar pressure.



Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

Arrival Sky

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This is the sky that greeted us upon arrival in Brainerd.

It was threatening looking but never moved over us. First hazard avoided.

Ultimately, we were graced with a beautiful evening. Gentle breeze suppressed insects.

Here’s hoping we didn’t use up all our good fortunes in the first hours of the tour.

Written by johnwhays

June 19, 2022 at 6:00 am