Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘biking

Great Indoors

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You know the saying. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. I don’t know what phenomena might be pushing the local dew point temperatures to extremely tropical levels, but it is driving our heat index into the triple digits again. I’m not a fan.

At the same time, I really don’t have much to gripe about. The workplace indoor temperatures are air-conditioned down to a level that keeps my arms cold all day in a short-sleeved shirt. From there, I step out to my car and turn on the AC for the long drive home. Our house is perfectly comfortable with the geothermal system making great use of that constant underground temperature in the upper 50s(F).

Of course, this works because I’m done with the time sensitive chores outside, enabling me to pick and choose whether I’ll go out and deal with the immediate elements, or avoid them.

It makes it difficult to pay true attention to the present moment. I’m off in some other world, down a maze of insignificant Reddit posts like hatted cats pawing attention-getting bells to trigger repeated delivery of a treat, or highlight videos of soccer players tangling for a header where one uprights the other and then guides his flip to a full rotation that lands the opponent upright again before ever crashing to the ground.

Cute, but basically mindless, compared with what is available in and around the space where I’m breathing.

Yesterday evening, I was describing my June week of biking and camping to a visitor and reminded myself of how in-the-moment that activity can be. We are out in the elements all day, sleeping on the ground in tents all night. Breathing the air, inhaling the scents, hearing the birds and freight trains.

We notice everything about the wind.

When I’m not biking, I pay no attention to what direction the wind is blowing. Why do I neglect to notice?

My habit of not truly being fully present in a moment allows for obliviousness to that kind of detail. My mind can wander to expectations of watching the World Cup final on Sunday, or mulling over imagined reasons why our 4 acres of hay-field have yet to be cut by the neighbor who, back in the beginning of June, volunteered so to do.

In my comfortable car during the long commute, lately I’ve been listening to deep cuts from my library of music, allowing it to carry me off to distant rekindled memories or fantasies of mastering my own version of various enticing songs.

I’m thankful I don’t have to be out in the heat, but at the same time, I regret how my avoidance accommodates a distancing from the realities of the present moment.

I take some solace in having just sweated through every layer of several sets of grubby clothes over the recent three days of heaving hundreds of hay bales. We were reasonably enmeshed in the moment for those hours of each day.

There is some balance there… and, always an opportunity to strive for better attention to the immediate pleasures of the artificial environment of a comfortably conditioned “great indoors.”

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Next Act?

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Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothin’ up my sleeve… Presto! It’s definitely time to get a new hat.

I’m back at the day-job today, after a week of vacation. It’s both soothing in its normalcy, and dreadful for… well, returning to work after vacation. Despite the excitement of a couple more birthday celebrations this week and the coming Independence Day holiday, I’m feeling as though there is a certain lack of the next big thing planned on our horizon.

During last week’s cycling and camping adventures, I had an opportunity to meet and greet a lot of first-timers to the Tour of Minnesota. Never being one to make a long story short, I found myself frequently offering a wide range of the tales which have provided most of Relative Something’s content over the last nine years.

What is this blog about?

I started it when my big trek in the Himalayas was about to occur. Shortly after that, Cyndie and I set out to visit Ian in Portugal. That seeded everything that eventually led to where we are today, providing stories about Cyndie working in Boston for a year, my getting the Eden Prairie house ready to sell, moving to Beldenville, WI, getting a dog, connecting with our friends, the Morales family in Guatemala, bringing horses onto the property, starting up Wintervale operations, building a labyrinth garden, and most recently, our antics with raising free-range chickens.

The cast of characters in my stories evolves, but the basic storyline of what makes the “pages” here rarely strays very far from what is going on in my mind at any given moment. It energizes my mental health to share my experiences with discovering and treating my depression, as well as my tales of identifying my addiction to sugar and the challenges of working that ongoing recovery program.

Currently, my health is good, both mentally and physically (despite an ongoing angst over the fiasco that is the US Government), my car is back from the body shop and looks brand new again, the horses look noticeably thinner after my week away from them, all twelve chickens appear to be thriving, and both dog and cat welcomed me home with loads of sweet attention.

Actually, the horses were pretty affectionate, as well. Elysa captured this shot of me giving Hunter a good scratch around his ears. All three horses lingered for some uncharacteristic extended face-time with me as I offered to scratch whatever itches they presented.

So, what’s next? What do I have up my sleeve for the next act?

I don’t know.

But trust me, you’ll find out as soon as I do.

What else would I do but write about it here?

The next adventure is out there somewhere down the trail. Until then, I expect our animals will continue to provide their usual fodder for lessons in life on the ranch.

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Trip Photos

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The 2018 Tour of Minnesota is in the books. It is not unreasonable to say that everyone who participated had as many unique experiences as we did shared ones. We all come to this ride from different perspectives. There is a wide mix of experience. Some have never ridden a multi-day tip before, and some haven’t ever ridden with a large group.

Many riders on the Tour of Minnesota have done this ride together for decades. My perspective about this ride comes from having done it around twenty times, but is limited to having no other multi-day group ride to which I can compare.

I figured out this year that we could use negatives to describe it thusly: The Tour of MN is not TRAM, not BAM, not RAGBRAI, etc. It also occurred to me that we could flaunt the ride as an eco-friendly vacation, in that, we (most of us) park our cars for a week and human-power our way around the state.

At the end of the ride, participants are invited to submit up to three photos from the week for a contest. I picked three from my collection, but quickly realized there were many other shots deserving attention, so I am tossing them out for you to judge.

I hope they help you imagine what my week was like…

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I am always amazed by the visual of our onslaught of bicycles showing up in unexpected locations where riders seek out any-and-every vertical surface to support our machines while we pause to eat.

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This image of Steve is one of my submissions to the contest. I doubt it’s chances in the judging, since it reveals one of the sloppy, wet realities of needing to reach destinations, regardless the weather.

The reflection on the new wet pavement was too irresistible to pass up. I pulled out my camera, despite the odds it would get splattered by the rooster tail spray shooting up off his tires.

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The covered bridge on the Lake Wobegon trail at Holdingford, MN was a real treat.

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I love the expression spontaneously captured by my reach-around snap of the riders behind me on this stretch of road.

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The Penn Cycle “ambulance” was manned by staff new to our ride this year, and they said they had a good enough time to want to return again next year.

I’m pretty sure we appreciated them even more than they did us.

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2018 at 10:31 am

Recovery Mode

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The week of vacation is over and it feels like I have PVED: Post-Vacation Exhaustion Disorder. I need to take a vacation from my vacation. Recovery mode involves sleeping late in my own bed, not riding my bike today, trying to get back to reasonably portioned meals, not eating ice cream treats at every turn, and perching on my easy chair to watch some World Cup games.

The 2018 Tour of Minnesota was a mix of riding roads and trails in both good and bad weather.

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As my recovery progresses, I expect to get my camping gear dried out, do an assessment of the Wintervale chores looking for attention, and most of all today, enjoy a celebration of Elysa’s birthday. She and Cyndie are in the kitchen preparing a large variety of delicacies for a gathering of many expected guests.

I expect there will be tales of the bike week and more stories to come in the days ahead. Stay tuned…

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Written by johnwhays

June 23, 2018 at 9:29 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

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

Fluid Planning

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There is one aspect of a healthy balanced mind that I am enjoying in particular in the years since overcoming the dysfunctional thinking that was a huge part of my depression. I find it much easier to accept unexpected changes to plans.

I think my old pattern of rigidity was an attempt to protect myself from any possible discomfort I might experience over not being adequately prepared for some new scenario that might pop up. My new perspective resulted from an exercise of examining what the worst possible outcomes might be for situations that I was earnestly wanting to avoid.

In the end, there was never anything that deserved the level of angst I was nurturing.

Cyndie and I had big plans for this coming weekend. It has morphed a little to become “not as big” plans now. We are going on a little “stay-cation” to her parent’s house in Edina, leaving Jackie to take her first shift of managing the ranch for an extended few days.

I had intended to pack enough things last night to allow me to leave from work today and go straight to the Edina house for the entire time. Then on Monday morning, I’d only need to drive the short distance again to work. Now both ends of the plan have shifted.

Cyndie was assigned a responsibility to manage affairs for an aunt who is moving from her own home into a nursing care facility. This event is claiming her full attention this week and she just isn’t ready to be away as early as we originally envisioned.

That actually eased my burden of trying to pack the bike in the car before work today, because I am going to want it with me over the weekend to continue my conditioning efforts before the Tour of Minnesota begins in another week.

In fact, the night off allowed me a chance to get out and ride for an hour last night. That was a particularly pleasant outing due to perfect weather conditions.

Now we are thinking we’ll pack up and head for Edina tomorrow morning.

The back end of the plan for the upcoming weekend has also changed for me. As the date closed in, I realized I have an appointment to drop off my car at the body shop to repair my deer-dented doors and pick up a rental car.

I’ll head home Sunday night to fit in that detail.

Other than those two changes, the middle of the extended weekend plans are still standing firm. For now.

What’s the worst that could happen if those end up changing, too?

Nothing that we won’t be able to adjust to, …kind of like the way horses get back to grazing so quickly after something rattles their calm.

Here’s to mastering the art of being comfortable with the possibility that plans might change.

If you want to take it up a level, the next step is mastering the art of visualizing the best possible outcomes, and allowing it to become your ongoing default perspective.

Then you get to celebrate with reckless abandon when something changes, and the outcome ends up even better than the best possibility you imagined!

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Written by johnwhays

June 7, 2018 at 6:00 am