Relative Something

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

On Tour

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I am on vacation! Per my habit, this includes taking a break from writing every day while I am away. There’s always a chance I might post a fresh tidbit here or there during the trip, using my thumbs on the teeny-tiny mobile device I’ll have with me, but the year I tried doing that every day of the tour, I found it made my vacation less of a vacation.

For the week, I have programmed Relative Something to offer you a note about the towns we are visiting, along with two thoughts about being away from home. The yin yang duality in the whole of my annual biking and camping week, the Tour of Minnesota.

Today, the group of more than a hundred of my closest friends wake up in Willmar, MN, after our first night of camping together.

I love… The first night of seeing this large number of incredibly close friends and casual acquaintances reunite with shared anticipation for the adventures that lie ahead.

I miss… Waking up in my own bed every morning after a night on a comfy mattress snuggled on a familiar pillow beside my precious wife.

“And they’re off!”

Let the pedaling begin.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

No Mow

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I leave for vacation today whether I am ready, or not. I’ve got it covered well enough… I’m sort of ready.

Yesterday was my final day of work before departure, and I tried in vain to get everything completed to my satisfaction. I had hoped to leave early enough to fit in one last cutting of the lawn when I got home. I didn’t hit either target. I didn’t get all the work done before I had to go, and I left work later than I wanted.

As a consolation prize, I was going to get the mowing completed so I wouldn’t have anything that demanded my attention this morning except for finding and packing everything I want to have for the Tour of Minnesota bike trip.

It should come as no surprise that I couldn’t get the mowing done, either.

After a mere 2 or 3 minutes into the job, the power to the mower stopped abruptly. I thought it was possibly the seat interlock, but nothing I did re-enabled the PTO to engage. Then I spotted the belt was completely loose from the engine pulley.

Closer inspection revealed the idler spring had broken.

Really? After 12 hours of operation? This is how new products get a bad review.

I couldn’t find a replacement spring in stock anywhere near us. Everyone was happy to order one for me, but that wouldn’t solve my problem. The grass is long, now. I’m leaving home today for a week of vacation.

I thought maybe I could steal a spring from the old mower, but it didn’t have one matching the size I needed. The mowing did not happen. Unless I get lucky and find one in stock this morning at the one place I couldn’t check last night (because they had already closed for the day), this will be another thing I am leaving behind for others to deal with while I’m gone.

So, I’m sort of ready to leave my responsibilities behind for a week, and I’m sort of packed.

I would venture to say this is the least prepared I’ve been of all of these bike trips I have done over the years. I wish I could say that previous experience allows me to prepare less, but I don’t believe that is the case.

Right now, it feels like previous experience is informing me that I will soon be missing the comforts of home.

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Why don’t I ever take a vacation where I just stay home and relax for a week?

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2018 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ There

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Well, in case you haven’t noticed, today is June 14th. It just so happens, the Tour of Minnesota biking and camping week starts on June 15th. Holy COW, that’s tomorrow! I suppose I better start getting ready to go.

Today is my last day at the day-job before starting this annual biking adventure. After that, it’s a quick stop for some supplies, a rush home to get some grass cut, and then it will be time to start packing.

Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Bike, check. Helmet, check. Bike shoes, check. As long as I pack those essentials, I will be functional. The rest is just superfluous accoutrements.

Okay, maybe I’ll bring a camera, and some clothes, a sleeping pad, sunscreen lotion, and ibuprofen. But that’s it. That’s all I need.

Oh, and a toothbrush. Spare shoes. A raincoat. A hat.

I found our old original Foxtail toy. I’m bringing the Foxtail

After dinner yesterday, in order to check off a couple of chores from my pre-departure list, I pulled out the diesel tractor and attached the loader. Cyndie and I transferred three large piles of composted manure to a remote location, to provide plenty of open space in the compost area before I go.

Whenever I was off dumping a full bucket, the chickens would show up to check out what Cyndie was doing. I could see them scamper away each time I returned. Eventually, I paid them a visit on foot to offer my regards.

They are just starting to show hints of what they will look like when they mature and start producing eggs.

As of last night, we still have all twelve birds. This kind of success is what breeds our willingness to keep trying the unencumbered free-range life for them.

After they start getting hunted again, our thoughts will change, I’m sure.

Speaking of them getting hunted… while the world was all caught up in the escapades of the downtown St. Paul raccoon that scaled a 23-story building in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we had our very own varmint contemplating a climb up the side of our 1-story coop.

I admit, it wasn’t nearly as exciting, but it made for a cool capture on the trail cam.

You can almost read his mind, as he computes the potential reward of maybe gettin’ up there.

I wonder if I should be electrifying the hardware cloth that covers the windows. I’m hoping there is no reward whatsoever should he or she actually decide to make that climb.

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Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2018 at 6:00 am

Rare Occasion

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Like an orbiting comet that passes through our outer atmosphere several times in a person’s life, every five to seven years, I have been known to cut my hair short. I haven’t done so since January of 2011, when I convinced Cyndie to cut off my dreadlocks.

Last night was one of those rare occasions.

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I have no idea if I will wait another five or seven years for a follow-up haircut, but I have an inkling I’ll never again produce the color that was on the end of the length that Cyndie cut off for me last night.

Even though I am not even 59-years-old yet. (I refer to my age as, “way down in my 50s still” to Cyndie, despite the lack of appreciation she shows for my youthful vigor.)

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sixty Years

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Sunday evening was definitely the grand finale of the weekend family celebration of Cyndie’s milestone birthday. It would have been easy to confuse the occasion with a Friswold Christmas dinner for a number of reasons, most noticeably, the inclusion of the artificial tree (left up all year in the rarely used basement these days).

Cyndie’s parents and brothers planned, prepared, put together, and pulled off one heck of a spectacular customized evening to give the birthday girl exactly what she wanted, and more.

With tie-dye patterned flags and a “peace” banner adorning the tree, they presented a basket filled with a wide variety of crazy photos of Cyndie in every stage of life. Family members took turns selecting photos to hang on the tree, presenting each with a personal message for the girl.

Love overflowed. The tree and Cyndie glowed.

Fred offered readings from some ancestors’ letters providing fabulous historic perspective, followed by a powerful statement written recently by brother Ben, addressing present-day issues. The profound meaning of this sharing was perfect for an occasion to honor and celebrate Cyndie, especially with honorary “adopted” sister, Rabi, from Kenya present (who surprised Cyndie by flying in from out-of-town for the event).

There was also a light-hearted reading from Marie, ala the custom-composed candy prose she masterfully wrote and designed. I didn’t see if Cyndie, or nieces and nephews, ended up with the haul when it was deconstructed.

Marie set out well-loved appetizer choices and Carlos enlisted assistants to put finishing touches on place settings for dinner. Truly works of art that lifted the evening to out-of-this-world (and incomparable) levels.

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The meal was some of Marie’s best beef tenderloin ever, garnished with just the right compliment of potato, vegetables, salad, and bread. Of course that was finished with Norwegian Cream and some obligatory birthday cake.

It was truly a wonderful evening. The best of everything family. There is no questioning the Friswold’s ability to put on a special birthday party.

The entire weekend was an absolutely perfect way to celebrate sixty years of Cyndie’s amazing life.

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Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

Adding Minutes

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Amid all the various birthday events over the weekend, I was able to sneak in three consecutive days of increasing duration bike rides, which will hopefully reduce the discomfort of suddenly riding all day long for a week starting this coming Saturday on the Tour of Minnesota.

Although I rode for more minutes each day, all were woefully short of what would truly help my preparation. I have been exercising my body for multiple short rides, leaving my endurance muscles shortchanged. It was rather noticeable in yesterday’s longest ride for me this spring.

I’m currently a better sprinter than I am a long distance rider.

Last week, I forgot to give a shout out to my sister, Mary, with an anecdote she will appreciate. One year when we were both on the bike trip, we were sailing along at a pretty good clip, side by side on a trail in a relatively small group. After grabbing my water bottle for a swig, I reached down without looking to slide it back into its cage.

However, it wasn’t actually in the cage when I simply let go of it. The bottle hit the pavement immediately in front of Mary’s front wheel and with a thump-thump she rode right over it without missing a beat. There wasn’t time to do anything else, which is probably how she heroically avoided crashing horrendously.

Of course, to all around me, it looked as though I was trying to kill my sister. I understand how my reaching down with the bottle and then just letting go of it must have seemed curiously suspicious.

Well, Mary, I thought of you when I was riding along at good speed on a country road last week and lowered my water bottle to replace it, and then just let go when it wasn’t inside the cage. I blame mental fatigue. Luckily, this time there was no one with me to put at similar risk.

Yesterday I headed out from Edina toward roads in Eden Prairie that I had ridden frequently for years and years. We’ve only been away for five and a half years, but apparently, my memories are not so sharp. I made decisions on the fly as I reached intersections that required a choice, changing my idea of where I was heading multiple times.

At one point, I got turned around and thought I was riding west, when I was actually closing a loop that brought me back toward a point from which I had just come twenty minutes earlier. Oh, well. That gave me a chance to ride directly to our old neighborhood.

I rolled down the street a ways and found someone working in their yard. I paused to chat and learned he had just moved in recently. I asked about some of the neighbors, but he only knew a few, and only by their first names. I was able to genuinely assure him it was a great place to live, based on our twenty-five year experience raising children there.

From there I rode past the EP high school and eventually completed an intentional loop to bring me back to a confident return route to Cyndie’s parents’ house, admittedly far short of enough miles to serve me as well as I’d have liked.

Regardless, my recent riding has me prepared enough that I expect to do just fine next week, no matter what.

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Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2018 at 6:00 am

All About

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Cyndie. This Weekend, it’s all about Cyndie as we celebrate the milestone of her 60th birthday. With Jackie tending to animal chores at Wintervale, Cyndie and I are submersed in the loving energy –and I do mean energy– of the Friswold family. We are staying at her parent’s house in Edina, MN, but have twice in a row found our way to downtown Minneapolis.

Last night, it was dinner and music at the Dakota, where we ate like royalty and swooned over Shawn Colvin‘s very personal solo guitar song performance.

This morning, Cyndie is sleeping in. My brain is busy trying to process the onslaught of activity, memories, and emotions –not to mention distractions of mental and physical preparations for my biking and camping trip that starts on Friday– conspiring to confuse me over whether it’s all about Cyndie, or all about me right now.

I had the great pleasure of starting the day yesterday riding bikes with Cyndie’s brother, Ben. He rode over from about a mile away just as a rumble of thunder rolled over us.

We took pause inside to watch the radar long enough to see we would have a perfect window of opportunity after a very short wait. The tiny disturbance sliding south of us was just a precursor to the precipitation that would arrive in the middle of the day and hang around for the afternoon.

While the sky was watering the earth, more of the Friswold clan gathered for lunch at Jimmy’s restaurant near our old Eden Prairie stomping grounds.

After a little nap before heading out for the night, attention turned to a gift brother Barry presented to Cyndie. Her jaw dropped when she saw her younger face on the cover of a memory book of pictures he had spent many loving hours to produce.

Just as she finished a first pass through the overwhelming collection of memories the images trigger, we stood to witness Justify run for the triple crown. Then eleven of us headed out for dinner and the concert.

With noted local musician and song-a-day YouTuber, Zachary Scot Johnson opening the show for Shawn Colvin, we were treated to a range of guitar-accompanied stories, providing me with a second recent prompt to wonder whether I am still a guitar player, or not.

A variety of reasons have combined to allow months to pass without my spending time with fingers on frets. I am inclined to blame my yet-to-be surgically treated arthritic left thumb as the primary culprit for the hiatus, but deep down, I have a sense I may be giving that more credit than is due.

Somehow, while distracted with too many of my own concerns rarely focused on accomplishments, I have been granted the chance to flutter around the bright light that is Cyndie for 44-some years.

It makes for a tangled web that isn’t so much all about her or me in the end. It really has become all about us.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2018 at 8:35 am