Relative Something

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

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.



Written by johnwhays

June 18, 2022 at 9:30 am

Looking Good

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I’m in the final countdown of days before leaving tomorrow for my annual vacation week of biking and camping with the Tour of Minnesota. I feel reasonably prepared, both mentally and physically. Yesterday, we worked on a few projects with immediate visual rewards on the landscape around our house and on our north loop trail to get everything looking good before I go.

We received notification from our county that it was time to have our septic system inspected and yesterday the tank was pumped and deemed to be in good working order. That’s always a relief to know. Cyndie and I mustered the initiative to use the occasion to clean up the overgrowth in our drain field.

I was reminded of our visit to Ian’s place in Portugal in 2010 when he and I cleared the bramble that had covered a spring he hadn’t seen in years. I uncovered an old tree stump that I had forgotten was there when we cleaned up the crazy tangle of things growing among the wild raspberry bushes since the last time we cut back the growth there.

After that was done I got out the diesel tractor and mowed down the thistle and poison ivy as well as the edges of our north loop trail. If I somehow avoid getting a rash after the wild thrashing of so much of the troublesome ivy it will be a big surprise to me.

Next, we spent time trimming branches near our backyard fire pit. I started with a pole saw that proved entirely inadequate and ultimately brought out the pole chainsaw and the big chainsaw to clear all that looked deserving. It is always interesting to discover there are more things to cut than we originally expected. Once you get in there and take out the first layer, the next obvious candidates suddenly pop into view.

While I had the main chainsaw out, I finally dispatched the last dying pine tree that was in the middle of the back yard.

Cyndie captured the shot just as the tree was falling. There is only one dying pine tree left back there now. It is on the side of the yard and doesn’t stand out as obviously so it can linger a while longer. We have already got enough branches to clean up after all the cutting that was accomplished yesterday.

Today, I will mow the grass with the lawn tractor to get this place looking its best before I leave Cyndie to deal with everything for a week.

That should be completed with plenty of time to spare for packing my things before Saturday’s departure. Despite having done this June week of biking and camping more than twenty times before, I still struggle with the decision making about what I really need to bring.

At this point, it sounds like the week is going to start out hot. That should make it easier to pack light.



Big Swing

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The temperature took a big swing of over 30°(F) in one day and we went from a high heat advisory on Monday to cool and wet yesterday.

I decided to take advantage of the rainy weather and started pulling weeds. I soon found myself pulling thistle that was mixed with poison ivy. That was enough to get me to change my focus to a different area where vines are taking over. Both projects turned out to be more overwhelming than handwork can solve.

I’m going to need to bring out the brush cutter on the back of the diesel tractor to interrupt the unwelcome trends growing in these two areas. We seem to have arrived at the peak vine growing time of the year as they are showing up everywhere we turn and in greater density than either Cyndie or I recall noticing in the previous ten years.

It’s hard to know if we are making any headway in controlling the vines because previous years’ efforts seem meaningless under the current onslaught of multiple climbing species showing up far and wide.

Speaking of big swings, I snapped a photo of Cyndie trying to interrupt a budding dreadlock in Mix’s tail while the mare was gobbling her morning feed.


It speaks volumes that Mix was agreeable to the annoying activity going on behind her while she ate. The horses really are allowing themselves to receive more attention from us every day. It’s wonderfully rewarding.

It’s a big swing from how they were behaving when they first arrived, a little over a year ago now.



Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

Unexpected Sprouts

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After cutting up one of the trees recently felled by the pros we hired, I put two chunks in the shop garage to dry out. They looked like potential pieces for a future sculpting project.

Yesterday, we were surprised to find there was still life energy stored in those cut sections of the tree.

Despite a lack of sun or moisture, sprouts of new green growth have burst forth from the bark. Meanwhile, the leaves on the trees we tried transplanting a couple of weeks ago have all shriveled up and look like absolute goners.

I completely understand why the leaves on the transplanted saplings turned brown and wrinkled (even though we have continued to water them) but it seems unfair that the two cut-up sections of the trunk sitting on the concrete floor of the dark garage should sprout new growth that looks so full of life and green optimism.

Nature is fascinating.



Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2022 at 6:00 am

An Idea

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I’m thinking of trying something different for posts next week while on my annual biking and camping trip.

I will post a picture a day using my phone. The last time I tried posting by way of the small touch screen it frustrated me to no end, but hope springs eternal and I will give it another try.

So, today -while my internet connection is still throttled to almost useless speed- I am constructing a test post to see if this idea seems workable for me.

Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two about effectively navigating my nemesis the touch screen.

Old attempt at a selfie with Delilah

That is a photo that I mined from the archives made available to me after following prompts.

If this works for me now, it’ll give me confidence to try it again on the road next week, subject to signal availability and battery life.

Just an idea for continued daily chronicling of my ongoing adventures.

Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2022 at 6:00 am

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Beautiful Adventures

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It was another beautiful day in Wintervale-be-gone yesterday where the dog and cat are strong, the horses are good-looking, and the scenery is above average. I was able to get out for a short bike ride into the wind in a test of my bike with no battery installed. I finally purchased the cover that replaces the battery on the down tube. It required a call to Trek to learn it was only available from the distributor QBP (Quality Bicycle Products) and only able to be ordered by bike shops.

I kept telling myself the bike was so much lighter, that it would be noticeably less effort to pedal it up the hills without electric assist. I think it almost was.

Cyndie has done an absolutely heroic job of working to stop the spread of leaf rust fungus on our wild black raspberry plants lately. Inspired by success from the daunting project last summer, she set out to continue this year, fighting the spread of this highly infectious threat, diligently bagging infected plants she digs up and then cleaning and disinfecting her tools, boots, and clothes afterward.

While she was busy finding a nest of eggs nestled in the middle of the bushes, I set out to cut one last trail that had been passed by the last time I was out with the power trimmer. Just a small distance that wouldn’t take very much time. Was that why I may have been less attentive to every step I was taking?

My foot landed on a protruding root and my ankle rolled severely enough to drop me in a heap of anguish and pain. I have strained my ankles so many times in my life that this was an all-too-familiar predicament.

I stayed flat on my back for a long time, holding my foot in the air above me while waiting for the initial sharp pain to calm and trying to think through my options. It felt like a medium level of severity but I wanted to be overcautious in hope of recovering from this little misstep as soon as physically possible.

I phoned Cyndie but she didn’t answer. I tried texting. I propped my boot on the trunk of a tree and stayed on my back to ponder my next move. I could wait for her to find me. I tried my loud shrill whistle to see if it would trigger her to look at her phone. I thought she could bring down an ankle brace or crutches or, worst case, help me get back up to the house if it seemed so bad when I finally stood up that I didn’t want to put weight on it.

I laid long enough for the pain to calm and the mosquitos to find me so I decided it was time to stand up and make an assessment. I could put weight on it but walking was quite a hobbling limp. All part of the adventure in this beautiful place that is our home.



Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2022 at 6:00 am

Struggling Here

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Our connection to viable speed internet has been hit and miss for much of the last ten years since we moved to our central location in Pierce County, WI. We are not very far away from more populated communities but we are decades behind in digital connectivity.

There are options we could have paid for that would improve our situation but over a year ago we resigned ourselves to waiting for a promised fiber-optic connection currently being installed in the community by our local power cooperative. It seems now that as the fiber gets closer to our driveway, our usage has become increasingly taxing on our current limited bandwidth service.

This month has been particularly frustrating because I messed up and wasted gigabytes transferring documents and updating an application in the first days of our 30-day period. Coincidentally, our house sitter unknowingly used up data just days before. In the days since, I have been relegated to trying to navigate at the equivalence of 1980 dialup speeds to load 2022 page complexities.

It’s all based on overall traffic. Sometimes it works for me, and other times I can’t even get a page to load to read it.

It is also constricting my ability to create posts, so that gives me an incentive to see if I can pick a temporary option to get us through the next week and a half. All the while watching the end of our driveway for utility trucks to show up with our future.

A good connection is a luxury. Enjoy it if you got it.



Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2022 at 9:20 am


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does activism activate?
guts wrenched again
and again
and again
against the grain
of actual activation
same result
breeds similar results
insanity reflected
in hoards responding
by pouring their dollars
into the deadly profit machines
selling automatic weapons
with a wink and a nod
no questions asked
while activists wail
in anguish and pain
attempting to breathe life
into the void of humanity
holding positions
of congressional control
tilting at injustice
against gales of greed
and an infinite devaluation
of real human lives



Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2022 at 9:09 am

Very Summery

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No complaints from us with the weather pattern we have been enjoying this week. Warm and sunny during the day and cool and comfortable overnight.

Here are some scenes reflecting the bliss:

A butterfly on our lilac bush and the four horses out grazing in the hay field as the sunlight was about to disappear below the horizon.

One summer trait the horses are not enjoying is the harassment by flies. We put out a fan to provide a minor assist in blowing the pests away.

Swings tends to claim that spot as her own and the others need to ingratiate themselves with her to earn an adjacent position that she will tolerate. I saw Light squeezed in there for a little while earlier in the day.

I claimed a few hours of the warm sunshine for a bike ride through our “Driftless” terrain, which means I sped down some fast descents and struggled to climb up the other side.

I made it out to Elmwood and back, but I wasn’t successful in my quest to ride the entire distance unsupported by battery assist. Honestly, I would have needed to call Cyndie to come pick me up if I didn’t have the motor to help me deal with the last ten miles. I’d lost track of how many river valleys remained and faced an unexpected steep climb that almost broke my spirit.

However, I survived and did so under some of the best weather at the best time of year our latitude has to offer. We live in a very beautiful topography that provides wonderful vistas of rolling farm fields peppered with wooded valleys and gorgeous trout streams where whitetail deer romp and fly fishermen cast their lines.

Very summery, indeed.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2022 at 6:00 am