Relative Something

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

Lingering Shock

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Honestly, I still don’t believe what just happened in the few days I endeavored to find a new road e-bike to replace my old reliable, familiar, and truly simple touring bike of twenty years. Rapidly changing from thinking my preferred choice wouldn’t be available for a year to being told the only one (the perfect one) available in the country was less than an hour’s drive away has rattled my sensibilities.

Cyndie has picked up on my excitement and happily agreed to let me bring it inside the house to devour the manual and familiarize myself with the complexities of all the features that are entirely new to me.

In addition to having never had battery-powered motor assistance in a bike, I have no experience with brake lever shifting, disc brakes, or a carbon frame. Plus, I’m feeling a surprisingly powerful compulsion to simply gaze at the spectacle of so much technical engineering packaged in such a functional work of cycling artistry.

In a phenomenal comment on yesterday’s post, John Hopkins perfectly captured the purity of my experience, before I even realized it’s what was happening:

Funny how intimately personal bikes are (to bikers), and when you hit on one, it’s a huge jolt of energy and pleasure that goes on pleasing every time one saddles up, or in many cases, each time one merely ‘looks’ at the fine machine!

It being the depth of winter, I am suffering the lack of opportunity to get out immediately to ride. Yesterday, I didn’t even have time to tinker with moving pedals from my old bike to the new one because there was snow to be plowed and hay bales to be stacked.

Hay delivery was confirmed for the morning so I was pressed to get the driveway cleared of Friday’s snowfall quickly so the trailer of hay could be trucked in without complication. Delilah had us up earlier than usual so we got a head start on feeding horses and eating our own breakfast. That put me back outside and plowing with plenty of time to make extra passes around the hay shed to create as wide a path as possible for the incoming delivery.

Hoping to give Delilah a walk around the property before I got tied up throwing bales, we made it to the far side of the pastures when I spotted the truck come over the hill. Cutting our usual route short, I directed Delilah under the bottom wire of the electric fence and I hopped over at the gate to trudge through the snowy field to meet our supplier, Chris.

In a blink, they were tossing bales down and I found myself struggling to keep pace while carrying on an engaging exploratory conversation typical of two people who just met.

Three quarters through the load, my exclamations clued Chris in that I could use a break. He gladly called for a pause and grabbed himself a drink to sit and maintain our pleasant chat. It occurred to me I hadn’t stopped moving since breakfast.

By the time we finished, I was soaked in sweat and exhausted. Later, Cyndie and I cleaned up around the paddocks and packed the two hay boxes with the loose scraps of broken bales that came apart during handling.

At the end of the day, the only energy I had for the new bike was to look at it longingly.

Going forward, I think I will also find myself looking longingly at the pavement of our roads, anxiously waiting for the day they become dry enough I feel comfortable for a maiden voyage on my new pride and joy.

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Written by johnwhays

January 16, 2022 at 11:30 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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Emotion

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it’s all been said already
but how often do we listen
as if for the first time
the thing about written verse, though
it lacks that interlude
where the writer (singer)
might lean their head back
and shout a scat of voice
emulating a musical instrument
accenting an emotion
buried deep in our souls
before returning to continue
aforementioned themes
evoked
oh-ooh yeeeeaah

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Written by johnwhays

January 13, 2022 at 7:00 am

Frank Discussion

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Delilah: Wrrello, wrreveryone. Today, Pequenita-the-teaser-cat and I have grabbed the blog controls from He-who-succumbs-to-our-every-wish to share our observations of his mysterious change in behavior in the last 20 or so light and dark cycles.

Pequenita: Rrrreow come you get to go first, you tiresome bark-annoyance creature? I’m the one who sleeps in the crook of his knees and knows exactly when he gets up in the night and, well… does you know what.

D: Because I am taller than you, you wee little meowing machine.

P: Momma said you are supposed to treat me like I’m your sister, so be nice.

D: You started the name-calling, just like you usually start the chaos that gets me yelled at every time I respond to your goading from just out of their sight. You know I can’t resist my canine instincts to act like I’m going to eat you alive.

P: Oh, so it’s all about you. Everything is always about you. Meow me a river. We are supposed to be talking about the craziness around here since blog-man stopped driving off in his gas machine for hours on end every day allowing me to get decent sleep while the sun is up. Now I have to keep hopping up on the recliner to knead his belly multiple times an hour to see if he’s still alive.

D: Oh, yeah. Reading that electronic version of the good old newspaper that I never get a chance to chew on. Luckily, I don’t waste time chewing papers now that I can find a discarded deer leg or mystery scat surprises on the trails every day. For some reason, they are so much more enticing when they are frozen. Probably the crunching sound that makes it so appealing. That, and my uncontrollable instinct, I suppose.

P: It’s not like you don’t get fed twice each day without fail.

D: No different from you, salmon-breath.

P: At least I don’t eat my puke. Not that I’d have a chance, with you, in a frenzy, streaking in to happily enact “Cleanup in aisle 3!” before anyone gets a chance to blink.

D: What can I say? My nose knows… So, back to what’shisname, I gotta say this trend of acting like he’s taking me for a walk and then snapping my leash to the nearest hook while he marches back and forth to the shop and the barn or hay shed has me a little confused. They pack me up and drive me to holiday gatherings. They squeeze me beside luggage and drive to some snowy Arctic forest where I get to frolic like a puppy and then turn around and bring me right back home like nothing happened. Then he goes nowhere. Just hangs around all day like he owns the place.

P: Not even close. I totally own the place.

D: I think he might be confused. I bark and bark and bark to try to bring him to his senses but he acts like a squirrel is just no big thing.

P: I believe it is because he is tired again.

D: What do you mean?

P: I heard him tell someone he is re-tired. [prrrrrrr]

D: BARK! BARK-BARK!

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2022 at 7:00 am

Reversing Perspective

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After our last meager accumulation of snow, we have had a few days of high winds creating small hard-packed drifts that serve as perfect surfaces for wildlife tracks. Using Delilah’s prints (that mostly break through the crust) for reference, I can tell the other recent traffic was smaller than her. And me.

The most likely first set aligns with our frequent sightings around the property: neighbor cats. My guess on the other prints is a fox.

I took a closeup of a couple of the smaller prints and got another perfect specimen for the optical illusion of “reversing perspective.”

You can either see the prints as raised bumps in the snow as if the light is shining from the upper left, or you can see them as they truly are, depressions with the light coming from the bottom left.

How flexible is your mind? Are you able to flip the perspective at will and alternatingly see it from both perspectives? Oftentimes, switching from one to the other can be hard for our vision to do.

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2022 at 7:00 am

Mukluk Retread

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With a nod to some excellent directions found online at lostcreekadventures.org posted by Greg Weiss in 2017, Cyndie took her kitchen skills out into the shop over the weekend to resole her favorite Steger Mukluks. The original petroleum-based material on the sole can become dysfunctionally sticky as it ages, while the rest of the boot holds up almost as good as new.

To avoid a long wait for having someone experienced to the job for her, Cyndie bravely chose to do it herself.

She just recently finished her first attempt at a classic Swedish princess cake that turned out spectacular and received rave reviews. How hard could it be to resole a mukluk? She procured all the ingredients on the “recipe” and printed out the directions. Instead of an apron in the kitchen, she was wearing overalls in the shop.

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In order to assure the 3M marine adhesive sealant fully cures before testing the durability of the added rubber bits, the plan is to leave the boots alone for at least a week. I’m inclined to suggest a thin overcoat of the remaining sealant if she is willing to wait an additional week of curing.

Even if the project takes a month, it is still a year quicker than the waiting list to have someone experienced to do it for her.

Watching her work, I had to resist an urge to see how it tasted when she was done.

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Written by johnwhays

January 10, 2022 at 7:00 am

Light Series

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As in, a series of images of our horse, Light, on a very cold morning. Our four horses moved from eating all the pellets in their feed pans to chomping hay before the pans were even empty, a significantly uncharacteristic behavior. Before Light started in on the hay, she hesitatingly drifted down toward the waterer which seemed logical, except she didn’t drink.

She stood and looked through the opening between the two paddocks and then continued her slow stroll forward toward her goal.

I was thinking about capturing a shot of Swings munching hay from a hanging net bag in front of the soft color of the pre-dawn sky and ended up watching Light in the distance. I could tell she wanted to lay down so I just kept pressing the photo button as it played out, staying with the task until she climbed the rise to rejoin the others in fueling their body furnaces with hay.

I assume she had an itch under her blanket but she sure was methodically slow about relieving that urge, if that’s what it was. The temperature was pretty cold (-4°F), but not as extreme as a few days ago. Maybe that is just the speed she moves when she is cold.

Both Cyndie and I commented on how cold it felt out there this morning. It struck me that the icy bite of the chill this morning felt almost more harsh than when it was -20 the other day. What that tells me is that the difference between the two extremes is less dramatic than people’s perception of the big numbers implies.

The horses are really going to enjoy, and fully absorb, the bright sunshine out there today.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2022 at 11:14 am

Counting Bales

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The way I view it, managing the inventory of hay bales to feed horses is an imprecise science. Whether guided toward serving sizes by weight or “flakes” from the bale, there is widely varying uniformity of both and an uncertain outcome of which horse will eat it and when they do, how much they will consume. Horses we’ve had all seem content to spill and waste as much as they actually eat.

I was once told that if horses get hungry enough, they will eat whatever is served. Given that ours are recovering from a variety of levels of neglect, we’d rather not put them in that level of desperation. Not sharing the same sense of smell as a horse leaves me wondering when they are ignoring a serving because they don’t like the smell.

Cyndie is much quicker than me to declare a bale as “bad” because it is musty, moldy or smells dusty. That hay gets tossed for some other purpose, usually, landfill somewhere on our property.

All that makes it hard for me to judge if we have enough or how urgently we need to bring more in. Today we are basing it on the space we have for storage. As the stock in our hay shed has dropped to a single layer, we have put in the call for another delivery.

Of course, in order to reduce it to one layer, I needed to move 42 bales into the barn. I also ended up rearranging the scrap lumber stored on the right side of the hay shed to create more space for stacking new bales.

The floor of the hay shed is dirt and we put down pallets under the bottom layer of bales, hoping some air beneath them will reduce mold development. It doesn’t really work. As we ended up doing in the past, we’ve decided to leave the bottom layer of old musty bales in place this time and stack the new incoming bales on top of them.

It’s a treat that we don’t need to do the work of lifting and hauling the hundreds of new bales that will be arriving but it is not lost on me that I will be lifting and stacking them all five-high in the shed.

Yesterday was just a warmup for a much bigger upper body workout to come. Hopefully, these bales will all smell perfect to Cyndie and the horses.

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Delicate Impressions

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There is a new covering of snow that has created a fresh surface for our forest creatures to make their marks upon. I’ve gotten no better over the years at differentiating the identity of the range of little footprints made by squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, moles, and mice, but I know all of them are out there running around.

It starts with one or two crossing our trails while snow is still falling and by 24 hours later, it looks like everyone is out and about. Yesterday, we found evidence of a feathered friend, or friends, dancing around on the white carpet.

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I love seeing the gentle wisps of wing feathers adding context to visible footwork scribbled in the snow.

While I had my camera out to capture all this art, I spotted a different sort of impression. I love the combination of the shadow of sunlight and the indented snow impression on either side of this dried plant that wind had pressed down.

No pictures were taken during our last walk of the night because it was too dark, but there were plenty of beautiful views we enjoyed as I pulled the trash bin down our driveway to the road.

I wore a headlamp but never turned it on. With the small crescent moon reflecting light onto the white snow-covered ground, there was just enough light that I could navigate my way.

The sky was crystal clear, which explains the space-like below-zero temperatures we are experiencing again. We put blankets back on the horses earlier in the night after giving them a break for a few days. The stars were so bright we almost didn’t need the reflections off the slice of the moon that was visible.

I noticed the horses were standing at the bottom of the slope from the barn, near the gate to the hayfield, as we passed by. As Delilah and I neared the top of the last rise in the driveway before it drops down to the road, my peripheral vision picked up motion to my right.

Turning my head to figure out what it was brought an unexpected startle of the four horses jogging along the fence beside us. We all stopped as I turned my whole body to acknowledge them and exchange greetings. Delilah seemed unimpressed with having company on our trek.

As I resumed pulling the trash bin along the driveway, the four blanketed horses decided to run off in a beautiful semi-moonlit arc off the rise and back down toward the outer perimeter of the paddock fence line.

The delicate impressions of walking the trash to the road always make the chore well worth the effort, even in hazardous wind-chill conditions.

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Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2022 at 7:00 am