Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘adventure

Swings Escapes

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In a moment of brutal reality that revealed the hazards of a lapse in attention, I failed on two counts while tending to the horses after their evening feeding last night. I stepped through the gates to pick up empty feed pans without closing multiple doors behind me. Then, I allowed my panicky reaction to overcome my attempts to calmly coax Swings back inside.

Sure, they look calm now, but just a few minutes before taking that picture, there was a lot of running, snorting, and neighing going on.

I noticed Swings start moving just as I was about to step back through the gates with an empty pan in my hands. I reached for the gate to keep her on the correct side of it but she moved uncharacteristically faster than I could react. Things then quickly went from bad to worse.

My response of, “No, no, no, no…” didn’t help much as I meant to implore her to stop but just as much was voicing my thoughts of really not wanting this to be happening. I was alone with them, as Cyndie had taken Delilah and a wheelbarrow to clean up after having pruned some raspberry bushes. The two big sliding doors of the barn were wide open.

I knew that if Swings stepped through the little half door I had not closed she would be able to choose whatever destination she wanted. Without hesitation, as I fumbled unsuccessfully from behind her to try altering her progress, she knocked over a fan to walk into the barn. As I feared, she then continued right outside through the big doors.

Instead of remaining calm and encouraging her to stay put, I simultaneously scrambled around to reach a lead rope, yell for Cyndie, try to type a text to Cyndie, whistle for Cyndie’s attention, and plead with Swings to stay put. I didn’t want my whistle to startle the horses, so it was barely effective at drawing Cyndie’s attention.

The other three horses in the paddock were getting riled up over Swings being on the outside and Swings kept changing her mind about where she wanted to go. It was beginning to feel rather like an episode of Keystone Cops. Horses running to and fro and me flailing around with a phone and a lead rope trying to position myself where I could steer Swings back toward the barn.

Luckily, Cyndie did pick up on my yells and attempts to [sort of] whistle for her attention and came to help. Swings decided to trot around the back of the barn. At least this took her farther into our property instead of the front side where she had an easy path over the hill and off our property.

Swings headed out of sight around the bend beyond the chicken coop but returned before we had a chance to head after her. She started up the trail past the compost piles but came back from that, too. I steered her away from going around the barn again and Cyndie prepared the closest gate back into the paddock, getting shocked by the electric fence in her haste.

Meanwhile, the horses in the paddock continued to freak out over the whole scene. By this point, Swings seemed ready to rejoin them and it just took the right circling around for her to arrive at the gate Cyndie was holding open.

Just like that, the whole adventure was over, and everyone returned to grazing. Shortly after, Mix came up to me at the gates under the overhang and I noticed her breathing still hadn’t settled all the way down to normal. I felt like she was commiserating with me over the drama we had just experienced.

I latched all the gates and securely closed the barn doors, freshly retrained about prudent management of access points at ALL times.

Lesson re-learned. Thanks for that, Swings.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2022 at 6:00 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?

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Written by johnwhays

August 5, 2022 at 6:00 am

Gone Again

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Guess where we are now. Here’s a hint:

There is no lake in that photo but the lake place is where we are.

Yesterday morning, while the excavators were picking up where they left off the day before on ripping up the old driveway asphalt, I was rigging up the bike carrier on the back of Cyndie’s car. We drove over the freshly dumped gravel until we reached the backhoe at work and then took to the grass to get around it.

Two and a half hours later, we were up in the north woods.

Wasting no time, we walked our mini labyrinth in the woods, had lunch, went to the beach, swam in the lake, I took a cursory spin on a standup paddleboard, played a card game on the deck (CrossCrib!), and binge-watched the end of season 1 of Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime while eating dinner and later, ice cream for dessert.

We are definitely up at the lake.

I gotta say, Clarkson’s Farm has totally swallowed my brain. I think it was really well produced. I only knew Jeremy Clarkson in passing, by way of having spotted him when channel surfing past episodes of the Top Gear or Grand Tour programs he co-hosted. After getting to know him as a bumbling novice farmer with money to burn, I can say my impression is very mixed. Part of me definitely likes him. All of me doesn’t like parts of him that come across in this humorous documentary series.

However, the supporting characters in the adventure are wonderful and the challenges represented are completely relatable. It definitely throws me back to all the firsts we’ve encountered when taking on the care of animals and management of rural property. Our situations are muted in comparison to his dealing with 1000 acres and growing crops using all manner of agricultural machinery, but plenty of the sentiments are familiar.

I think back to my not understanding the terminology of components of a trailer hitch, trying to figure out how to rake hay into windrows using my diesel tractor, or raising chickens with zero previous experience and I feel like Clarkson’s Farm could just have easily been Cyndie and John’s Big Wintervale Adventure.

All we needed was a top-notch camera and sound crew on hand 24/7 to record it all.

Actually, I’m really glad that never happened.

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Written by johnwhays

July 13, 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.

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Circumstantial Evidence

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We think we know what happened, but we have no proof. Today’s tale (no pun intended) needs to begin with a preamble that will put readers in a similar state of mind to the one I was in when I arrived at the shocking scene.

It was yesterday morning and I was walking Delilah like any other day. She sniffed at the typical spots and paused to take care of nature’s call twice, per usual. Our intermediate destination was the barn, to feed and clean up after horses, so I encouraged Delilah to turn onto the trail that most quickly brought us to the path around the back pasture.

Before we reached the last turn towards the barn, Delilah startled me with an immediate lunge off the path and made three strong leaps into a thick bramble of raspberry stalks and small trees before I could lock her leash and halt her progress. Every indication from her body told me there was a critter in the vicinity as she held her “High Alert!” stance and strained against the leash.

I froze with her and did my darndest to see any hint of movement from an animal intent on escape. Nothing. It wasn’t the first time she had what I consider to be a false alarm, so I pulled her back out of there and we continued toward the barn with both of us keeping a keen eye on the trees to our left for any movement.

It was while relocating equine fecal matter that I came upon the unsettling find.

There was a large chunk of hair matching the color of Swing’s tail laying in the snow. I immediately got Cyndie’s attention and she reacted with a level of shock that aligned with my concern. Upon finding footprints in the snow by the manure pile, I told Cyndie about Delilah’s behavior just around the corner by the back pasture.

It was adding up to an image of coyote activity to us. We immediately checked Swings over for any evidence of confrontation beyond the chunk of missing tail. Nothing.

However, based on the evidence thus far, I decided to take Delilah back out and let her pursue through the trees whatever it was she sensed from before. That quickly led to another finding, uncomfortably in plain view of our house.

If you can discern what that image above is showing, you will notice an impression in the snow where an animal curled up and laid long enough to melt a little bowl, just like deer leave behind, except there were no hoof prints around. Only paw prints. And there wasn’t just the one melted circle. There were clearly two on top of the knoll and possibly two others, less defined, to the side in the trees.

That is definitely what Delilah had smelled, but the culprits had long since moved on before we passed by the first time in the early light of dawn.

Just to add an exclamation point to the drama, last night after dinner, I called Cyndie over to ask if she could hear something outside. Was it a siren in the distance or yipping coyotes? She opened the door and confirmed, “Coyotes!”

“And they are close!”

What do you think? Did a coyote take a chomp of Swings’ tail Wednesday night?

I hope at least one of them has a black eye from the impact of a hoof.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2022 at 7:00 am

Returned Home

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Traffic from the holiday weekend added about 40-minutes to our drive home from the lake. The usual intersections that tend to cause backups were significantly more backed up due to the increased volume. Other than those choke points, we rolled along reasonably well.

The highlight sight when we reached our driveway was the view of our fields freshly cut and dotted with multiple round bales of hay. We’d gone from telling our renter that the fields wouldn’t be available because we planned to let the horses graze them, to asking him to do us the favor of cutting them because the horses didn’t eat as much grass as anticipated.

The chickens have grown enough over the weekend that an unknowing eye wouldn’t be able to see a difference in age. At the same time, I am not ready to claim it obvious which of the Rockettes are going to be roosters.

Upon our return, I finally was able to unpack my travel gear from the bike trip, the weekend memorial for Cyndie’s dad, and the following weekend of 4th of July events. I am ready to be home for more than just a brief visit.

I still feel as though I have yet to process the joys of bicycling and camping with fellow adventurers back in the middle of June, let alone the whirlwind of happenings since.

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I met some wonderful new people who richly enhanced cherished moments when I was able to reconnect with precious riding friends from previous years. It was a little disorienting to depart the ride a couple of days early, but I am clinging to my memories of the notable times I shared conversation with several special people and the many laughs with groups of others achieved before I had to make my early exit.

One particular extended climb stands out for me among the many we faced because it forced me to stop partway to take a break and shortly thereafter had me walking my bike at the steepest incline. I’m afraid I no longer have the lung capacity to feed the needs of my leg muscles to endure hill-climbing like I used to.

Luckily, cleaning up horse manure in our paddocks doesn’t involve hill-climbing of any significance. I can do that all day, and after being away for another weekend, there is about a day’s worth available for the scooping. I am at another transition point where it is very possible the bike will be hung up for the rest of the summer while my time pursuits will be focused on projects on our property and up at the lake that don’t require pedaling.

One thing I’d like to accomplish is to convert some of the old deck boards into a small covered firewood storage rack for the lake place. I’m looking forward to being home again for a few weeks and resuming the rhythms of my usual routine. Hopefully, it can lead to time for a little extra-curricular carpentry.

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Written by johnwhays

July 6, 2021 at 6:00 am

Had Enough

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Have you had enough of the wayback machine by now? Since I am on vacation, all these wayback posts were formatted and scheduled before I left. At that time, I didn’t have a sense of whether they would be met with an appreciation or come across as a repeating annoyance.

It’s a random results generator. I’m guessing your response will have everything to do with which posts from the archive showed up for you.

I had thought about curating my own pick of ten old posts for the duration of my vacation but didn’t have the time it would take to scour the thousands of possibilities to come up with ones that seemed worthy. And worthy to whom? It’s a big world out there on the interweb where these blog posts can be found. Posts about chickens? Optimal health? Trekking the Himalayas? Words on images? Destigmatizing depression? All things love-related?

Okay, I suppose I could have found ten topics like those and horses and Portugal, and posted a gem for each, but remember that thing about not having time?

When the idea came to me for a random generator, I liked the thought that each reader would end up with a unique old re-post. Everyone would end up seeing something different.

When Julian successfully pulled off his manipulations of the coding in the span of one short phone conversation, I was giddy with delight. It was so much fun for me to use, I decided it didn’t matter if anyone else liked it.

I liked it.

Go ahead. Take another spin. You might find a gem.

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2021 at 6:00 am

Wayback Anew

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Everything old is new again. Click the image to enjoy a new look at something old.

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Today I will be departing the bike tour early after riding to Wabasha. Cyndie will pick me up so we can drive north to Hayward, joining her family for a weekend of remembrance for her father who died a year ago on the 24th of June..

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Written by johnwhays

June 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

More Waybacking

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It’s like birthdays and holidays all wrapped up in one big surprise click! What will you uncover today? It’s utter random madness!

(Cyndie thought the picture should be bigger to better see my cute little boy face.)

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Written by johnwhays

June 22, 2021 at 6:00 am

Wayback Again

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What will you find this time? You’ll only discover it by clicking the image…

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Written by johnwhays

June 21, 2021 at 6:00 am