Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘biking

Mentally Preparing

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Today is my last workday before I leave for my bike trip and it is obvious to me that I will not have all my work done before I go. When you can’t change something, acceptance becomes an attractive option. There will be plenty to do when I return.

Yesterday after work, I did some of the dustiest mowing in my life. The dryness resulted in clouds of soil dust covering me and the tractor. Much sneezing ensued, but I am very happy to have that task checked off my list.

I’m mentally preparing myself for being away from our animals in the coming days by thoroughly appreciating every moment with them before I go. As I mowed along the perimeter of the back pasture, the horses came over very intentionally to graze near the fence as I passed.

We are definitely developing a bond with them.

The area around the chicken coop has been receiving increasing pressure from the raccoons during the nights. We’ve reached the point where we might have to give up on this idea of coexisting with the masked bandits.

Both groups of chicks continue to grow so much every day it seems like the Rockettes will never catch up to the older Buffalo gals.

It’ll be Cyndie’s decision if she decides to try merging them while I am away, but I’m guessing that will be unlikely.

She may be too busy trying to keep up with the produce coming from the garden. Salads have been locally sourced lately.

Those peas are so prolific we almost have more than we know what to do with already.

The lettuce is superb. What a treat!

Meanwhile, my mind is trying to run through all the things I need to gather for successfully tent camping and biking for days in a row. It’s not like I haven’t done this trip before, but it has been an extra year since the last one.

The clock is ticking on my days of planning. Tomorrow, Cyndie will drive me to Hastings and drop me, my bike, and camping gear off and I’ll consider myself on vacation.

It’s a green vacation, too. All these people riding bikes for days instead of driving their cars.

We haven’t had any measurable rain for weeks. What are the odds that will change while we are on the road?

I need to mentally prepare for the possibility.

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Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Insects Aplenty

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I’ve seen reports that our insect population is plummeting around the world. It makes me sad to contribute to the decline by way of my summertime driving.

There was a particularly large visual of carnage on the front of my car before we even started our drive north yesterday.

On the bright side, it shows that there are still enough flying insects in our area to make a mess of our vehicles.

I can report no shortage of mosquitos showing up at dusk at the lake place. We went for a walk with Paul and Beth after dinner and paused at the tennis court to gaze up at one of the pair of eagles who nest in the large pine tree there.

After standing still to take that long-distance picture with my phone, I looked down at my legs to find them dotted with many feeding insects. Ended up doing the awkward dance the rest of the way on our walk, goose-stepping and swiping arms and legs like a madman.

Despite the bugs, we enjoyed eating on the deck under the open sky, I snuck in a short bike ride before guests arrived, and Cyndie and I swam in the lake. The days of high heat are softened greatly by proximity to large bodies of water.

On tap for today will be more miles on the saddle. Hopefully, with no bugs in my teeth as a result.

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Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

Self Taught

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The Buffalo gals taught themselves to climb their ramp into the coop at dusk! I had just arrived upon the scene as Cyndie was working to find a hole in the netting that would explain how one of the Rockettes ended up hanging out against the outside of the courtyard fencing. I did a quick head-count of both sets of chicks and walked around to where Cyndie was working.

The next time I looked in on the Buffalo gals, they were gone. All 12 had headed inside by their own volition.

That left the Rockettes to be tested with our new idea of herding them to their ramp to see if they would take the hint to climb up on their own. Very quickly half of them did take that hint, but the rest were a harder sell.

They seemed much more interested in cowering underneath their ramp and unleashing a cacophony of chirping. A modicum of hands-on support helped convey the intent and soon all birds were cooped for the night.

I think they will catch on to the ultimate routine soon, but further lessons will be delayed until after the weekend. Our trusty animal sitter is on duty starting today as we are off to the lake for a few days again. My birthday buddy, Paul, and his wife, Beth, are joining us up at Wildwood. There’ll be some biking happening, as I need to put on some miles in preparation for day-long riding beginning in a week on the 2021 Tour of Minnesota.

I wonder where I stashed my tent two years ago after the last Tour.

That ability I have to forget stuff… self-taught, I’m pretty sure.

I can’t really remember.

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Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Jim Klobuchar

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Among the most influential people in my life, Jim Klobuchar holds one of the top spots. When I learned last night of the news of his passing, my memories instantly jumped to the two treasured connections I enjoyed with Jim: annually participating in his June “Jaunt with Jim” biking and camping adventures around Minnesota for years, and participating in one of his guided treks in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

However, the more profound impact Jim had on me was probably his influence as a writer. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I read his columns and sports reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for most of my life. My style of wordsmithing is a reflection of how his writing made me feel as a reader. I wanted to write about people and places in the way Jim did. At the same time, it is very intimidating to compare my compositional aspirations with his professional accomplishments.

Reading Jim’s columns describing the bike and camping adventures he led inspired me to sign up the next year to try my first-ever long-distance cycling expedition. It was in 1994, the 20th year of his leading the June event, and I’ve been doing it ever since, minus a few scattered years when I was unable.

After one spectacular week, I wrote out some lyrics to memorialize the annual adventure. I expected it to be a song, but I couldn’t get all the words to fit a consistent rhythm, so I decided it was a poem, instead. I brought it along the next year to share with the group. On the first night, I told Jim about the poem and my desire to read it for everyone. He asked to see it and when I handed the paper over to him, he tucked it in a pocket, then moved on with first-night greetings and leadership duties.

I don’t remember if it was the next day, but some amount of time passed before he finally acknowledged the poem again. He said he liked it and wanted to read it to the group himself.

Here come those mixed feelings again. “Why you controlling SOB...” I thought. “Wait, Jim Klobuchar wants to read my words to a large group of people?” I was more honored than miffed. Of course, I wanted it read as soon as possible, but Jim had his own agenda. One day passed, then two, three, four… I eventually gave up thinking about it. Whatever.

Jim picked post-lunch on the second-to-last day and his timing was impeccable. He called me up to stand next to him while he more than admirably recited the lyrical lines. A couple years on and I was able to forge the poem into a song that tends to get new air-time each successive month of June. Ultimately, I recorded a version and combined it with images from a couple of year’s rides.

At the time, Jim was living close to where I worked, in Plymouth, MN. I burned a copy of the video onto an optical disk (remember those?) and dropped it off in a surprise morning visit. He met me at the door wearing a robe and somewhat dumbfoundedly accepted the mysterious media.

I received the best response in an email a short time later that morning. He implied he wouldn’t have let me leave without joining him in the viewing if he had known what was on that disc.

The year I flew to Nepal for the trek, Jim and I were lone travel companions with a day-long layover in LA. It was a rare treat to have so much uninterrupted attention from this man whom I considered a mentor. I remember thinking how much he and my dad would have enjoyed each other, especially when Jim regaled me with detailed memories of his days covering the Minnesota Vikings football team.

He was a consummate listener and allowed me to tell him more about myself than anyone needed to hear.

Jim turned 81 while we were in Nepal and he was one of only two trekkers who reached the highest elevation planned. Already showing signs of his fading mental acuity, but not a speck of giving in to it, there were some poignant moments on that trip. Our relationship was cemented forever after.

Here’s hoping Jim has already regained his full mental capacities for the remainder of eternity. Those of us he has left behind will cherish our memories of him at his very best.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Lots Happening

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A lot of things are happening all at once for Cyndie and me this week. Yesterday, Cyndie got her first COVID vaccine shot. I have an appointment for tomorrow. Cyndie said she was so happy to be receiving the shot, her greetings were overly loud and friendly to the staff, despite her conscious attempts to calm down. As she tells it, one of her replies to a query came out sounding like Tony the Tiger.

“Grrrreat!”

It may have simply been her unbridled glee, but she said it was the most painless shot she has ever received.

I was a little distracted yesterday with thoughts of my annual week of biking and camping with the Tour of Minnesota bike tour. After a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic, this year’s ride is going to happen and registration opened yesterday. It will be a compelling reason to get me back on the bike again this spring.

I let the entire riding season pass last year without bringing either of my bikes down off their hooks in the shop. I don’t want to go another year without riding. I might forget how.

Of course, I’m writing all that to try to imply I’m not totally thinking about new horses we are hoping will come to spend the summer on our fields. Yesterday, Cyndie spoke with our renter and settled the issue of our fields no longer being available for cutting hay this year. That removed one last concern we had about potential conflicts to this actually happening.

When I received a text yesterday from Cyndie with an image of what she bought from the feed store during an errand to pick up some chicken food, I knew the horses were even more of a sure thing. Somehow, horse treats and mineral blocks made their way into the back of Cyndie’s car along with the sack of chicken kibble.

Founded in 2012, This Old Horse is a private, volunteer-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and serve horses while they continue to serve as ambassadors to the positive effect of “horse power” in the lives of people.​

We received a wonderful introduction to the planned horses from our new partner, This Old Horse.

Photos provided by This Old Horse

Four retired Thoroughbred mares who did some racing early in life and then went on to be broodmares. My intuition tells me they will be a perfect fit for our place. That has me thoroughly (pun intended) energized to bring this plan to fruition.

Somehow, I’ll get around to thinking about biking, too, but I bet while I’m biking I will be thinking about these horses.

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Written by johnwhays

March 25, 2021 at 6:00 am

Fat Tires

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The weather was nice when we set out on a bike ride yesterday around 12:30. That niceness didn’t last. On the plus side, Cyndie’s brother, Ben, offered me a chance to ride his fat bike, so mine didn’t get all muddy.

It was my first time riding on the gigantic tires. The first thing I noticed was that my legs made contact with the frame around the wide back tire while we were cruising down the asphalt on the way to the gravel road that cuts into the woods.

Before I expand on my experience riding the big beast on the “intermediate” level off-road trails, there is a story about the pedals. I ride clipless pedals (the complicated descriptor for pedals that click onto a cleat in my shoe and keep my feet fixed in place while riding). Ben’s bike had standard flat pedals.

Knowing this in advance, I decided I would take the pedals off my road bike before coming up, so I could swap out the ones on Ben’s bike. The problem with that last-minute plan came about when I couldn’t get the pedal on the right side of the bike to budge. It was frozen solidly in place.

Several times, I took a break from futile attempts to loosen the pedal and let some penetrating oil soak in while I made other preparations for departure. Finally, I went inside, showered, and then drove the packed car out of the garage, ready to head out after making one last try on that stubborn pedal. The wrench slipped and my left hand slammed into the teeth of the big chainring. It cut deepest in two specific places on my thumb, filling the nasty gashes with dirty chain grease.

I rushed back to the house to wash out the cuts as best I could tolerate and then had to go find Cyndie for assistance in bandaging it up. Frustrated and angry with myself, I packed up the pedal wrench and drove off, leaving the road bike behind with one pedal on and one pedal off.

I held my wounded left hand up in the air for most of the two-and-a-half-hour drive north.

Yesterday morning, Paul and I decided to simply try swapping the pedals from my off-road bike for the ones on Ben’s bike. Both sets came off with ease. Problem solved. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t wasted one second struggling to take the pedals off my road bike.

My thumb wishes that even more.

So, now I had my clipless pedals on Ben’s fat bike and I was ready to try it out. The frame is taller than I want, but I can straddle the cross tube because it slants down just enough. It took me two tries to get the seat lowered to the right height, and then I was ready to go.

After the opportunity of riding my bike on similar trails the day before, I had a good reference for comparison between the two. The fat bike felt like a truck compared to the nimbleness of my old-style bike.

The shifters are different enough that I needed to think much more consciously about gear changes, rarely with the precise timing preferred. That wasn’t as much a problem as the basic difference of frame geometry and tire size. It felt like the bike took longer to make it around corners. Sure, the big front tire rolled over hazards easier, but it never felt like the back tire did.

Final verdict: I’m not sold. I think it would make a nice bike for riding on packed snow, but for the rough trails through the woods in summer, I prefer the much skinnier tires on my mountain bike.

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Written by johnwhays

August 4, 2019 at 7:28 am

Recovery Day

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After an incredibly full day on Saturday, yesterday was a blink of doing next to nothing and seeing the minutes on the clock disappear just as fast. I don’t understand how that works.

The morning dawned with a gusting wind just ahead of a very dark thunderstorm, which forced Cyndie and me out of bed to race around picking up things that had been left outside at the end of the celebration evening. Once things were in order, Cyndie offered me the choice of going down to open the coop and feeding the chickens or going inside to feed the dog and cat.

I felt like feeding Delilah and ‘Nita required less thought, so chose that option. Seconds later, the rain began to pour down. Cyndie got soaked.

Two storms moved over us yesterday, but neither seemed particularly threatening. However, after the second one, Cyndie discovered that the top of one of our big oak trees had snapped off and was tipped down across the shortcut trail to the barn. I refused to take a picture because there was no way I could capture the actual detail of what happened. It’s too big. There’s no angle to show the actual size. It’s in the middle of so many other trees you can’t discern which leaves are which.

That never stops Cyndie.

Dealing with that new calamity will have to wait. Yesterday I squeezed in a nap and slowly chipped away at rediscovering order and routine from the aftermath of Saturday’s big event.

Let’s relive a couple of fine moments again…

I knew that we would continue straight on that road, but was all too happy to pause while the details were confirmed. At least I didn’t call for a wrong turn at this junction.

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It was a very happy birthday celebration and it was a great honor to be able to share it with my treasured friend, Paul Keiski.

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Written by johnwhays

July 1, 2019 at 6:00 am

Epic Ride

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It started out nice enough at six in the morning yesterday. Five riders rolling through Paul’s Linden Hills neighborhood, fresh and ready for the symbolic 60-mile bike ride from Paul’s house to mine. None of us had asked for a day with a heat index at or above 100°F.

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But that’s what we got. I’ll just say this: it was the kind of heat that saps your energy while you are just sitting there, let alone intensely exercising. I’m not going to mention the error in judgment I made in the last miles near home when I said to go right when we were supposed to turn left.

I blame it on oxygen deprivation. I plead insanity.

On the good side, it was brand new pavement that rolled smooth as silk.

We paused in Prescott, WI for refreshments and the ice cooler turned out to be a treasured perch.

At one point, Paul stepped out of the Holiday Station store and gushed, “Have you been in the beer cave?”

Three of us hustled in to check it out. Oh. My. Gosh. There was a temperature drop of about sixty degrees. I thought, “This can’t be good for me,” but it sure was refreshing. We walked around the stacks of bottles and cans for a while and dropped our body temperature a shocking amount.

As I stepped out of the cooler, I asked the attendant, “What do we owe you for ten minutes in the cooler?” She just gave us an odd look and shrugged us off.

We finally arrived at Wintervale in the waning moments before almost 100 guests were expected to start arriving. I’d share pictures with you here, but I didn’t take any. In fact, even though I don’t drink any alcohol, most of the afternoon and evening is pretty much a blur. Hours passed like minutes, I barely had a chance to complete a thought in conversation, and I had a wonderful time basking in the glow of love bestowed upon me as one of the birthday boys.

Thank you to all who showered us with love yesterday. I’m feeling particularly blessed and looking forward to laying low today in recovery from riding for hours in humid heat and finishing the day with a massive dose of social interaction.

I’m almost feeling my age this morning.

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Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2019 at 9:37 am

Party Day

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It’s the big day! I’m gone biking by the time you read this, with Paul and three friends, Dan, Bill, and Brad, on our way from Minneapolis to Wintervale for the gala celebration of Paul’s and my 60th birthdays.

We’ll have 60 miles under our belts and be ready to party before guests start to arrive, if all goes as planned. The only thing I forgot to bring with me to Paul’s house yesterday was my water bottles. Luckily, they had a couple I could borrow.

We are hoping to ride early to beat the expected heat. Happy 60th to us!

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

My Turn

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Today it is my turn to join the club of 60-year-olds. Sixty years ago today I showed up as the latest addition to the Hays clan. Luckily, we tend toward not remembering our moment of arrival, but I bet I was kicking and screaming until that warm blanket swaddled me tightly. By my calculations, I have just completed a third stint of becoming a twenty-year-old.

I’m pretty confident that I am twenty years smarter than I was when I reached forty.

I will always remember the spectacular celebration of my fortieth birthday, because my life-long chum, Paul Keiski, and I combined our adjacent birthdays with a plan to thwart our wives trying to hold a surprise party for us. We announced a plot to do a nighttime 40-mile bike ride figuring nobody would be crazy enough to participate.

Turned out there were a lot more crazy people than we accounted for, so a fabulous group night-ride became an annual necessity for years after. That night when Paul’s birthday ended and mine started, we decided we had each ridden 20 moonlit miles by that point, so together, forty had been achieved.

Now, twenty years later, we gave in and let our wives plan a celebration event. I fear it may dwarf either of our weddings in terms of their efforts to prepare food, beverages, and entertainment for a wedding-sized guest list.

Once again, Paul came up with the perfect antidote for too much party. This time we are going to do all the miles.

Turns out, the distance between Paul’s house and Wintervale Ranch, location of the joint-birthday gala, is sixty miles. He suggested we ride our bikes to the party.

Count me in!

Pedaling from the biggest city in Minnesota to our country sanctuary is symbolic in more ways than just the mileage for me. Joining Paul for the journey is icing on the cake.

It is a precious treat to be sharing the process of aging with a pal to whom you’ve been connected since grade school.

Happy Birthday to Paul (yesterday) and me (today)!

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2019 at 6:00 am