Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘biking

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

Went Biking

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The weather was so fine yesterday, the only thing to tarnish the great outdoors was harassment by flying insects. I put in over 40-miles of pedaling through the gorgeous countryside of northern Wisconsin on my new e-bike and put the new technology to use precisely how I imagined it would benefit me.

I started my ride with the battery-powered assist kept off and rode comfortably for twenty miles, exploring a route of spontaneous decisions to choose my turns. Having a motor provides confidence that if I end up riding farther from home than my legs are strong enough to support, assistance awaits.

The lure of the road to Moose Lake and a gorgeous view of the Chippewa River had me riding a stretch of pavement to the east that was much farther than my vague memory recalled. At least it was mostly flat terrain, so that eased the effort, but that also makes it easier to overextend my total distance.

If I had just cut out the long section to the east, I could easily have finished the loop around our lake without electric assist.

As it was, after 25 miles I was ready for a little help. My average speed changed from 13 to 17 mph for the assisted portion of my ride, which is so interesting because my legs were tired but I was rolling along with the ease of having a strong wind at my back.

The first half of my ride through the great forests of this region was an exercise in whitetail deer dodging. I encountered at least 15 single deer spread out along the roads I’d picked. One was obscured by brush beyond the ditch and didn’t react until I was right beside it. Luckily, it darted away from the road and not right into me, but it still startled me when it reacted.

Another stood in the road from so far away that I wasn’t sure that it was even a deer. I hoped it wasn’t a dog, and then as I got closer and it got bigger, I hoped it wasn’t a bear. Then the definitive outline of the head and ears became clear and I wondered if I was going to ride smack into its side because it held that stance for so long. I was coasting in preparation to brake when it finally started walking away as I got within ten yards of it.

I wished I’d thought to pull my camera out of the pocket of my jersey because that would have been a great picture, but if I’d done that the deer probably wouldn’t have moved until I’d rolled right into it.

The only pictures I took were at a rest stop with this empty field and the newly budding trees on the far border. I quickly put the camera away because the tiny black flies made rolling along with a breeze the better option.

Much of the latter portion of my chosen route was on narrow-shoulder, high-speed traffic county roads that kept both of my hands safely on the controls.

Final opinion: I am very, VERY happy with my new e-bike.



Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2022 at 9:35 am

Full Advantage

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Taking full advantage of the summer-like weather on a Sunday in October, nine cycling comrades and I rode bike trails to Stillwater and dined for lunch outside on the patio of the Freight House Restaurant. It was absolutely beautiful under the blue sky of the great outdoors.

I took very few pictures while on the bike due to very heavy traffic in both directions on the trail.

Rich captured a good shot of me sporting my pumpkin-orange, perfectly Octoberish cycling jersey.

My choice for lunch was a crispy shrimp po-boy sandwich.

A passerby kindly took a picture of us all posing with the St. Croix River behind us and the edge of Wisconsin beyond.

It was good to see so many people out and about on this gorgeous afternoon. There were oodles of people walking their dogs. I saw a skateboarder who looked a lot older than you’d expect, a young woman on roller skis racing toward us on the trail, hordes of people lined up waiting to board the paddleboat. Walkers, runners, and a significant number of e-bikes.

We rolled along at a comfortable pace for all and chatted the miles away.

Can you say, “Pleasant?”

Yeah, it was.



Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2021 at 6:00 am

More Riding

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When Paul got back from the group’s morning round of golf yesterday, he changed into biking gear first thing. I had enjoyed an incredibly leisurely morning alone in the cabin and was feeling rather ambivalent about going out to exert myself pedaling up and down hills in the bug-infested woods under noticeably smoky skies.

The couch in front of the Olympic competition broadcasts was rather comfy.

I was in the midst of a battle to update the software of my phone, struggling to overcome a loop that seemed to require me to update in order to update, but wouldn’t let me update until I updated. Ahh, technology. I had surveyed multiple online solutions to a problem that appeared to be relatively common but all the solutions involving resets of the router, the phone, the cache, the clock, the shirt I was wearing, where I was sitting, or how things were plugged in, failed to change the dreaded alert message informing me I couldn’t proceed.

The best solution to my frustration turned out to be a bit of pedaling in the woods with Paul. We agreed on a similar start down the pavement at the end of the driveway leading to the gravel road that is the closest gateway toward the CAMBA trails nearby. Yesterday, we opted to follow our whim and explore some unimproved and little-traveled double-track paths to reach the Birkebeiner Trail and ride that roller coaster up to the OO (double-oh) trailhead.

From there, we could roll the pavement of one of our favorite wooded roads back to Highway 77 and ultimately the driveway of Wildwood. The sections of trail and pavement are relatively obvious in the depiction from my ride-tracking app. The cute little heart shape at the top was unplanned.

The up and down of both sections are better revealed in the following view.

Today my lungs feel like I was out exerting myself during an air quality alert, the very thing we are being advised to not do.

I will be doing much less exhausting exercise in the hours ahead, seated comfortably in my car on the drive home. My butt is looking forward to not being on the bike seat for that ride.

Addendum: As I was crashing in my bed after staying up too late last night, my phone software suddenly updated without a hitch. Go figure.



Written by johnwhays

August 1, 2021 at 7:19 am

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.



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.



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.



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.



Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am