Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘biking

Exploring Gravel

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Morning chores were done, breakfast was eaten and the paper read. It was time to commit to whatever work deserved to be accomplished for the day. Thinking that I needed to use the power trimmer, I asked Cyndie if it mattered to her what I started on.

She said, “Why don’t you go for a bike ride before the air quality gets any worse?” Man, I love her.

I got ready as quickly as I could and stopped to look at a map on my laptop for a new route to explore. 410th Street going north out of El Paso looked like a good option. (Did you know there was an “El Paso” in Wisconsin? I didn’t until we moved here.) A marker on the map for Driftless Farm Sanctuary caught my eye. I could check it out.

Being well familiar with the roads to El Paso, my exploration didn’t really begin until I reached 410th. Oops. It was gravel.

That wasn’t in my plan, but at the moment, I was feeling brave enough to ride the rough stuff. I turned onto the gravel and employed a little battery assist. What a smart idea it was to get an e-bike. The gravel continued for more miles than I expected, and every road that intersected 410th was also gravel. I learned that there are a lot more gravel roads nearby than I was aware of.

I came upon a very busy harvesting operation with two huge machines cutting and six trucks arranged for filling of what appeared to me would be processed to become silage. They probably didn’t expect to see a bicyclist passing by on that road.

I wasn’t aware there was growth already available for harvesting. This is the kind of discovery that comes from exploration.

There was another noteworthy find further on up the gravel roads. I came upon one of those places where you can’t roller skate.

When I left the gravel and rolled onto pavement again the pedaling became noticeably easier but the direction I was going took me to the big hills of 690th Avenue. I touched the control to increase my battery assist by two levels and sailed home with ease.

After lunch, I decided to test the idea of using the new zero-turn mower to cut along the fence lines from inside the hay field and back pasture to simplify trimming beneath the wires. I usually mow in there with the big tractor pulling the brush cutter but if the small mower can do the job, it would be easier.

Well, the little battery-powered beast was more than up to the challenge. That cutting, which knocked down grass much taller than I should have been trying to mow with the Greenworks CRZ426, will make the final cleanup with a power trimmer a breeze. I’ll be done in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken.

What a smart idea it was to buy that e-mower.



Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2023 at 6:00 am

Favorite Antidepressant

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First of all, the weather yesterday was idyllic. That alone goes a long way to soothe a person’s angst. Beyond that, my favorite antidepressant is getting outdoors for exercise with a group of people who I know and love. I have known most of the people who showed up to ride for almost thirty years from the annual June bike trip called the Tour of Minnesota.

Our route along the Dakota Rail Regional Trail took us right past the home of my good friends, Mike and Barb Wilkus, so I brought a bunch of the riders off the trail to say hi to Mike.

He opened his garage to show us the camping trailer he was packing for a little getaway they have planned.

My biking group did this same warm-up ride last year but I failed to realize we were going right past the Wilkus’ place. Upon figuring it out, Rich Gordon and I stopped to surprise them. This year, I warned Mike that I’d be coming by, not mentioning the part about bringing 8 other cyclists with me.

The other thing we did yesterday on the ride was revisit a stop at the Big Stone Sculpture Garden in Minnetrista. A number of us reenacted last year’s pose in front of the word Love carved into stone.

We pedaled and visited for 30 miles which served to rekindle my deep appreciation for these precious friends.

Thank goodness Rich is adept at capturing pictures of us as we ride. Thanks for all the photos, Rich!

The joy of biking with these folks is the primary reason I have returned to the annual June biking and camping event year after year. Yesterday served as an excellent primer to inspire my preparations for the trip that will start in Albany, MN this year. Riding the country roads around my home all by myself isn’t as rewarding but getting in some preliminary hours on the saddle always goes a long way toward minimizing discomfort for a week of riding in the middle of June.

NOT having sore butt bones when you will be riding day after day is also an antidepressant, if you know what I mean.

I would be even happier if the week in June isn’t rainy or stormy, but I won’t frame that as a requirement. I’ll throw that inspiration out there as a potential bonus.



Written by johnwhays

May 21, 2023 at 9:00 am

Underground Conversations

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After listening to a Radiolab podcast Cyndie turned on while we were eating breakfast (From Tree to Shining Tree) about the complex web of fungi and tree roots underground, I decided to head out for a bike ride yesterday. I chose a route that retraced the last leg of the great 60-mile ride from Minneapolis to Beldenville that my friend, Paul Keiski and I planned in recognition of our 60th birthdays.

That last section always haunts me for the wrong turn I made that moved our 60-mile ride closer to a 70-mile one. I have a history of confusing my orientation and choosing turns that are 180° in the wrong direction. The right turn I made on that fateful day almost four years ago makes absolutely no sense. It was really hot and I was very fatigued but that turn should have been entirely obvious.

Every time I have ridden those roads since that day, I take great pleasure in making the correct turn without a moment of hesitation. Yesterday, I rode 32 miles of country roads past farms with freshly mowed grass, an occasional horse, and a lot of lounging cows. I spotted multiple patches of flowering trillium and a lot of trees with newly sprouted leaves.

There is so much happening in the plant world right now, I began to wonder about how many underground conversations must be occurring throughout the incredible network of roots and fungi in the dirt. How much energy must be traveling up all the countless number of tree branches during this phase when buds open and leaves emerge?

Our forests are starting to look like forests again.

Seeing all the leaves pop out tells me the network of underground communication must be functioning well in our woods. I’m particularly thrilled that the maple tree we transplanted to the center of the labyrinth (after our first three attempts failed) appears to have made the necessary underground connections to thrive.

I can’t imagine what those conversations must have been like. We plopped that tree into the ground in a location that isolated it from any other existing trees. At least, that’s the way it looked from above ground. Down in the dirt, I’m guessing there were more tentacles of growing roots and fungi than one might expect. Thank goodness for that if that’s what it took for this one to survive the trauma of being moved.

Thinking about this makes me want to take as much care to nurture our forest floor as I direct toward the trees above.



Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2023 at 6:00 am

Aha Moment

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After resting my aching legs for a day –of which the left leg was proving to be the more uncomfortable one– I tried a brief, easy solo ride on the road bike yesterday afternoon. All the weekend guests had departed but I hung around for the rest of the day, mostly because of the simple fact that I could. I will be driving home this morning.

Yesterday, I experienced an “aha moment” during the first mile of spinning the cranks of the road bike. My left side still felt “funny.” Weak is one way I can describe it. I began to perceive a sensation that suddenly occurred to me to NOT be specifically coming from my left quadricep. I had a sense that what I was feeling in the leg muscle was more of a referred pain.

All at once, it hit me that I might actually be noticing the first signs of a hip problem.

Where do I pick up my membership card for that club of unpleasantness?

I rode a mere 11 miles and used battery-powered assistance the whole way. My goal was to allow my legs to do a little spinning without working them very hard against resistance. Mission accomplished.

Floating in the lake after I got back, the discomfort throughout my body seemed to be growing more and more aligned with what my mind was now telling me. Now I am in the place of wondering whether my mind is responding to the vague pains of my body or if it’s the other way around. Is my body starting to react to thoughts that my hip might be growing arthritic?

That’s pretty easy to test. I’ll start imagining my hip is perfectly healthy and see if the vague pains and noticeable weakness go away.

Anecdotally –if you believe this– I did recently decide I should be putting a pillow between my knees at night in bed when I’m sleeping. I can’t explain why I renewed this practice, but maybe it’s related to the possibility of a hip issue and my intuitive self detecting it would be a prudent thing to do.

I’m no Orthopedist, but it’s all making sense to me at this moment.

Or, maybe it’s not the joint, itself. The Mayo Clinic offers this:

Problems within the hip joint itself tend to result in pain on the inside of your hip or your groin. Hip pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh or outer buttock is usually caused by problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround your hip joint.

The location of my pain is more on the outside of the hip and, as I originally suspected, my upper thigh.

I’m going to prescribe some extra rest and see what that does for me. See if it gives me any additional “ahas.”



Written by johnwhays

August 8, 2022 at 6:00 am

Three Biketeers

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Day two of Paul’s, Randy’s, and my biking-instead-of-golfing adventures up at the lake place was a grinding success. Did I say grinding? I meant grand success. Honestly, the conditions were better than average, practically superb for the combination of riding we had in mind. My only issue was that my legs felt odd at the beginning of the day and as the afternoon progressed the muscles kept threatening to cramp up.

I’m guessing I taxed myself a bit too much on our opening day gauntlet of rocks and roots navigating the Makwa trail. Instead of allowing for a day of recovery, we three biketeers set out midmorning for some smooth riding on the road bikes. Once again, I demonstrated my penchant for having my sense of direction reversed.

My intended route would have basically formed a rectangle on the map but I missed one turn while rolling along and chatting with the guys. Remaining oblivious at the time, I was surprised to reach a “T” with McClaine Road again, which we had turned from miles before. Our route had circled back.

Knowing I’d missed a turn we reversed direction and backtracked. I was mistakingly looking for the Chief River Road I wanted on our right. When we came upon it –and of course, it was farther away than I thought it should be– I discovered my sense of our position on the planet was backward again and it was a left turn, not a right.

The rest of the road ride was without confusion and we enjoyed a triumphant return to Wildwood where we found the sign was showing a new skew of its own.

We switched to our off-road bikes again for the afternoon and I finally got my first exposure to the CAMBA trail loops by the hospital, appropriately named, “Hospital Trail.”

It lived up to the reputation I had heard for a couple of years that Hospital Trail would be much more to my liking. Sharing a variety of the fun features of the more aggressive Makwa trail near us, the Hospital trail in Hayward offers a few loops that meander through a nice section of pine forest. There are a fair number of hairpin turns but it has far fewer sharp changes in elevation or complicated rock obstacles and almost no tree root hazards.

It probably shouldn’t have been as taxing on my aging leg muscles as it was but for the rest of the day I found myself tetering perilously close to having my quads and calves seize up at one wrong move.

Pickle juice, I was told. No, I erred by asking for a scoop of two different flavors of ice cream from West’s Dairy. The serving size in the cup could have fed a family of five. I ate it anyway. Raspberry Delight with Mint Chip.

It’s what a biketeer would do!



Written by johnwhays

August 6, 2022 at 9:19 am

Not Kidding

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I wasn’t kidding around when I described the drama of my getting stung on Tuesday. Whatever it was, there is a chunk of flesh missing from the middle of the large inflamed area on my back.

This is how it looked last night, over 24 hours after the bugger got me:

I should probably have been researching anti-venom or something. On the other hand, maybe it will give me a super power. I mean, a new super power, different than the other ones I already had.

Cyndie suspects it could have been a horsefly bite. I’ve already been bitten on the back by a horse and that didn’t give me any new senses. I’ve never experienced this reaction from a horsefly before and now I’m thinking I don’t ever want to experience it again.

As luck would have it, I can soak my back in the lake for a few days again, starting this afternoon. Due to Cyndie’s good sense to plan well in advance, she locked in multiple weekends with our house/farm sitter throughout the summer that have us up north two weekends in a row this month.

Actually, I will be enjoying three weekends in a row because I plan to join two of Cyndie’s brothers and a bunch of their golfing pals in Hayward the following weekend. I will be biking with anyone who chooses to skip one of the rounds of golf, most likely in the woods on my mountain bike. No battery to save me on that machine.

That would be a good time for the insect bite to give me a super dose of extra stamina and climbing ability. On one hand, I hope the residual effects of the wound are long gone by that time, but on the other hand, I could use all the help I can get when pedaling the off-road bike on the hilly trails in the Chequamegon National Forest.

This weekend we are driving up with Cyndie’s mom and will meet our friends, Mike and Barb Wilkus for a few days of water worship and good eats.

Further progress on the driveway shoulders will have to wait.



Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2022 at 6:00 am

Scenic Cycling

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Being up at the lake isn’t all about the water. I did get in a swim yesterday afternoon shortly after we arrived but soon after, I hit the road on my bike to ride through the wooded countryside of Sawyer County.

I made my way through the Chief River State Wildlife Management area enjoying the cool air of the forest wafting out onto the hot pavement as I rolled in and out of shade. I didn’t see a deer on the side of the road ahead of me but I suddenly heard the sound of branches and spotted the animal standing broadside and looking at me calmly through the foliage it had just stepped behind.

As I try to write this now I am constantly distracted by coverage of the time trial stage 20 of the Tour de France.

Such fun!



Written by johnwhays

July 23, 2022 at 9:59 am

Posted in bicycling, Chronicle

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Park Rapids

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The week feels like it is going too fast. Today is our off day when riding is optional and we are on our own to do whatever we please in and around Park Rapids.

Yesterday we crossed the mighty Mississippi a couple of times where it is so small it appears totally insignificant. We had lunch in Itasca State Park near the headwaters of the big river.

Say, I forgot to mention yesterday that we also dodged five snapping turtles on the trail the day before. On the ride into Park Rapids we had to dodge a very smelly dead skunk in the middle of the road as well as a porcupine on the road shoulder.

Two shots from the beginning and the end of our day yesterday:

Ride co-director Doobie addressing the group after breakfast with details of the route for the day.
Sunset view from the tents in an athletic field at Park Rapids high scooter

I rode 64 more miles, this time on roads, without needing electric assist. On Friday, when we ride to Staples, I hope to finally give the battery a reasonable workout.


Written by johnwhays

June 23, 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

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