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

Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

Departure Imminent

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My bag is close to packed and my bike is ready and waiting. Cyndie will drive me to meet Gary Larson and he and I will head for Brainerd after noon.

I will be sleeping on the earth in my tent tonight and every other night for a week. It will be a blast with 200 or so like-minded souls.

We’ll bike to Walker, Park Rapids, Bemidji, and Staples, not exactly in that order. Ultimately, we make our way back to Brainerd next Saturday.

I’m going to try posting a photo a day throughout the week. I’ll soon find out if I get functional cell service in the areas of Minnesota where we will be cavorting.

Bon voyage! Take care of the world while I am off enjoying riding with friends in whatever weather we meet. Something tells me it will be warm and buggy. Black flies, mosquitos, horse flies… Nature’s finest.

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Written by johnwhays

June 18, 2022 at 9:30 am

Nurturing Possibility

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Anything’s possible, so we may as well allow ourselves to be open to it. I do believe that it is possible to cultivate our own luck, but when good fortune and grace flow over me, I find it hard to process the unexpected blessing. I’m the most pessimistic optimist I’ve ever known.

One of the bike shops I visited on Thursday mentioned I could try calling the Trek home office directly to see if they would do a nationwide search for the specific Domane+ I wanted. To prove a point to Cyndie about how dismal things were looking in my bike hunt, I told her about that longshot advice.

She encouraged me to try it. As we were preparing to turn in for the night Thursday, I decided I would confirm there were none available anywhere by calling Trek in the morning, and then I would focus on finding one of the alternative choices in stock somewhere in the Twin Cities.

A little before 11:00 a.m., I pressed the numbers on my phone to reach Trek. It only took two or three easy steps of the decision tree to bring up a human voice eager to assist me. He quickly searched the 2022 bikes and found zero in my size. I could hear him keying away as he described changing the search to 2021 models.

“I found only one in the nation that size. Looks like it is at Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis.” he happily reported.

What!?

I was just at the Freewheel in Woodbury the day before and they couldn’t find any Domane+’s. With giddy thanks, I logged off that call and entered the number he provided to the Minneapolis shop.

“Let me look it up.” the voice on the other end said. As he clicked keys he cautioned that the shop computer systems don’t necessarily update instantaneously so discrepancies are possible.

“Ope, there it is. Yep, we have that bike. It arrived at the beginning of this month and was assembled on the 10th.”

That is likely the reason the other shop didn’t find it yet. It had just been built and had yet to be accounted for in the system.

Go ahead. Tell me the odds of the timing of my search and the very recent local availability of this single bike in the entire country.

“And there is no claim on this bike yet?” I don’t know if he could sense the state of shock I was entering.

“Nope. There is no name attached to this bike.”

“Put mine on it please and I will be in to pick it up today,” I said, not even thinking about the falling snow and blustery wind creating hazardous winter driving conditions all day long.

Choosing to go get the bike immediately was the easiest decision I’ve made in a long time.

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Bike Ruminations

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You all know how much I like making decisions. I have a touring bike that has served me just fine for the last couple of decades, my trusty Trek 520. One reason I’ve had it this long is that replacing it would require deciding what else to get. Another reason is that I don’t like to spend money if I don’t need to.

My trusty Trek 520 circa 2008.

My 520 still works just fine, seeing as how I’ve upgraded the drivetrain components and replaced wheels through the years. However, my body isn’t working as well as it did when I first purchased that ride oh so long ago and today’s cycles now offer motorized assistance to offset shortcomings in leg strength and stamina.

I am seriously tempted. So tempted, I’ve been doing some shopping this week. It’s been both inspiring and disheartening.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Prices! Oh. My. Gosh. I think they should offer loan programs like auto dealerships do.

That said, I have saved up for this luxury, so I could feasibly buy at almost any price right now if it wasn’t for my being so spending-averse. I refuse to spend five digits for a two-wheeler, even if it includes electronic pedal assist.

Given all that, I was able to narrow my choices to a really snazzy Trek Domane+ that I feel would suit me just fine. The thing is, that model, in my frame size, is non-existent until longer than I want to wait. Factory lead time right now is about 8 and a half months, and given the state of supply chain issues of late, I don’t have any confidence that the length of time won’t almost double.

I wonder how many Shimano components are stuck on ocean liners waiting in lines at ports right now.

There is an alternative to waiting for my preferred choice. I could consider a model that is more readily available. The Allant+ looks less like my road bike and more like my mountain bike. My initial reaction is that I wouldn’t be as comfortable on it riding for hours on end, but then the addition of a motor helping turn the crank makes it hard to judge how I will actually feel by the end of a long day.

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I would add bar ends to provide alternate hand positions. The Allant includes a headlight and taillight. The Allant model I would choose is $250 cheaper than my Domane selection and has more oomph from its battery/motor combination. The power assists are from different manufacturers: Bosch vs. Fazua. However, the Allant’s increased power components contribute to the bike being twenty pounds heavier than the Domane. In addition, I do have a psychological hangup about wanting to ride 700c wheels on the road. I’m guessing I wouldn’t notice the difference of the only slightly smaller wheels on the Allant.

Did you follow all that?

TL;DR is that it is not a straightforward choice of pros and cons between what I want and what is actually available near term.

Decisions, decisions.

I am thoroughly seated on the fence and ruminating, enjoying not spending a penny on a new bike until a decision is finally made.

Of course, I could still choose to ride my 520 for another year and accept the delayed gratification if I order my preferred Domane+…

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More Riding

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When Paul got back from the group’s morning round of golf yesterday, he changed into biking gear first thing. I had enjoyed an incredibly leisurely morning alone in the cabin and was feeling rather ambivalent about going out to exert myself pedaling up and down hills in the bug-infested woods under noticeably smoky skies.

The couch in front of the Olympic competition broadcasts was rather comfy.

I was in the midst of a battle to update the software of my phone, struggling to overcome a loop that seemed to require me to update in order to update, but wouldn’t let me update until I updated. Ahh, technology. I had surveyed multiple online solutions to a problem that appeared to be relatively common but all the solutions involving resets of the router, the phone, the cache, the clock, the shirt I was wearing, where I was sitting, or how things were plugged in, failed to change the dreaded alert message informing me I couldn’t proceed.

The best solution to my frustration turned out to be a bit of pedaling in the woods with Paul. We agreed on a similar start down the pavement at the end of the driveway leading to the gravel road that is the closest gateway toward the CAMBA trails nearby. Yesterday, we opted to follow our whim and explore some unimproved and little-traveled double-track paths to reach the Birkebeiner Trail and ride that roller coaster up to the OO (double-oh) trailhead.

From there, we could roll the pavement of one of our favorite wooded roads back to Highway 77 and ultimately the driveway of Wildwood. The sections of trail and pavement are relatively obvious in the depiction from my ride-tracking app. The cute little heart shape at the top was unplanned.

The up and down of both sections are better revealed in the following view.

Today my lungs feel like I was out exerting myself during an air quality alert, the very thing we are being advised to not do.

I will be doing much less exhausting exercise in the hours ahead, seated comfortably in my car on the drive home. My butt is looking forward to not being on the bike seat for that ride.

Addendum: As I was crashing in my bed after staying up too late last night, my phone software suddenly updated without a hitch. Go figure.

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Written by johnwhays

August 1, 2021 at 7:19 am