Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘commuting

Mist, Continued

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I don’t have anything particularly dramatic to add to yesterday’s narration, but a couple humorous tidbits that Cyndie shared last night continue the themes.

I carefully (slowly) made my way to the interstate in the morning and didn’t have any problems driving the rest of the way. I texted Cyndie when I got to work, letting her know travel was possible, as she needed to drive through the cities, as well.

In the afternoon, she was miles ahead of me on the way home, and she sounded the alert that road conditions of the last few miles were still bad. She couldn’t even make it up the driveway. Her car just slid sideways on the slope by the shop garage.

She parked by the barn and precariously made her way up to the house to get driveway salt to scatter.

My car rolled right up that slope without slipping. I’m just sayin’.

I’m ready for a change of weather. Unfortunately, the forecast is all about a polar vortex of Arctic cold headed our way next. Snow seems to be a slim probability.

Later in the evening, after Cyndie returned from closing the coop, she had this to report: As usual, there was a hen squeezed onto the 2×4 over the side window, but this time, it was one of the Australorps. That top perch is usually claimed by one of the Wyandottes.

Cyndie said there was a lone Wyandotte on the near roost gesticulating obvious dissatisfaction with the arrangement.

It’s not just the horses who are wrangling over who’s highest in the pecking order around here.

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Freezing Mist

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Now, this. What did we do to deserve this? My commute home from work yesterday afternoon was one of the least complicated in my memory, right up until the last ten miles. Then things got serious.

Thank goodness for my Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive Subaru vehicle with Traction Control and an Anti-Lock Braking System. Before the changing road conditions were even visible, my car alerted me to the increasingly slippery conditions.

Most of the day was a dreary, gloomy gray, with temperatures just above freezing, and a hint of wetness in the air and on the ground. When I left Plymouth, MN, it just seemed damp outside. I barely needed to use wipers throughout my drive, as the moisture wasn’t collecting on the glass.

Things changed after I had turned southeast and passed through River Falls, WI. Within five miles of home, I slowed to make a lazy left turn from the state highway to a county road. However, I hadn’t slowed enough for the invisible icing hazard, which triggered the Traction Control to suddenly kick in and instantly grab my attention.

I touched the brake to drop some of my momentum and the Anti-Lock vibrated for added emphasis. I would drive the rest of the way home with extreme care.

After turning off the county road onto the local streets, I came over a rise and spotted the telltale marks of tires sliding in an oscillating fish tale pattern, and the car perched up ahead in the first few rows of a harvested corn field. I couldn’t stop to offer any support, because there was nowhere safe to pull over, and I wasn’t sure I could get my car to stop.

Luckily, it was close to two farms where they would have equipment to help. I wouldn’t have been able to offer more than moral support.

Poor Delilah lost her feet right away on the front steps when we headed out for a walk. The conditions on our land have gone from bad to worse. Areas that were icy before are now glazed smoother than a freshly resurfaced hockey rink. Rocks, cement, and asphalt, all have a coating that is deceptively and heart-stoppingly slippery.

The absurd wickedness of navigating around here on foot has gotten morbidly comical.

As darkness set in, I very carefully made my way down to close the chicken door to the coop. As we always do, I opened the big door to peek in and count hens. Eight. I found eight. Dang it! There were just nine of them milling about around there fifteen minute before.

I counted four times, then made my way up the treacherous climb to the house to get a flashlight. Slipping my way back down again, it struck me that I had only looked at one side in the coop, toward the roosts. There were seven on the roost and one that is typically up on the 2×4 framing over the small side window.

Aiming my flashlight through the window to the opposite side, I found hen number nine, deftly perched above the other side window. Whew!

As I climbed back up toward the house one more time, I captured a shot of the shiny glaze forming on the driveway and the wisps of mist reflecting in the beam of my flashlight.

I expect driving this morning will be a real slippery trip on the local back roads.

It might take me more than the usual hour to get in to work today.

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Festivities Underway

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The week after the winter solstice has become a time of amplified car commuting in my mind, ever since we moved an hour away from family in the Twin Cities, to rural countryside in western Wisconsin, where we have animals that need tending.

For some occasions, we have been lucky to find sitters to live in our house and care for our horses, chickens, and dog, but holidays are a tough time to ask others to do the job, at the expense of their own family gatherings.

Generally, that means we do the hour drive to participate in a few hours of holiday festivities, and then duck out early to make the hour drive back home again. Although the commute has become second nature for me to get to the day-job, the short time between trips each day around Christmastime makes the driving seem much more significant.

And, on Christmas day, we do it twice in one day.

It is not ideal, but it is always worth it, on both ends. We never regret time spent with our animals, and the time with family is forever priceless.

This year, we have an added bonus of relatives visiting from Norway. That wouldn’t be my relatives. The Fisknes family are from the Ravndal clan on Cyndie’s family tree. Cyndie’s great-grandmother was a Ravndal. We drove out to Eden Prairie last night to greet the family of five who are initially staying at the home of Cyndie’s brother, Steve.

After Christmas, the plan is for them to spend a night or two with us at Wintervale.

We don’t have oodles of snow to show off, but that might just change right in the middle of their visit. Precipitation is coming, but there is a sad chance it could be rain and snow mixed. Yuck.

The horses are enjoying the lack of snow cover during their brief forays onto the frozen grass of the back pasture. Yesterday, when I opened the gate for them, Delilah and I lingered in the field with them to appreciate the moment.

All three horses emptied their bladders in quick succession, and then followed that up a short time later with a rambunctious roll on the ground. Seemed like a very business-like routine in preparation of an afternoon of free grazing.

I am getting prepared for some free grazing of my own. Our kids will visit us this morning for our little personal family Christmas brunch, and then we drive to Edina for Christmas eve gathering with Cyndie’s cousins on her mom’s side.

I will sneak out early to drive home. Christmas morning, I finish chores and drive back for the Friswold gift exchange extravaganza.

The festivities are definitely underway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2018 at 8:11 am

Frosty Landscape

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Not just frost, but rime ice from a day of freezing fog! When I left work yesterday afternoon, I needed sunglasses due to the bright sunshine.

As I approached the border where Minnesota ends and Wisconsin begins, the color palette changed significantly. I had to lose the shades.

It looked like the fog I had driven through on the way to work in the early morning darkness must have lingered for most of the day. The last twenty minutes of my commute home was a glorious spectacle of varying degrees of frosty views against a dark gray sky.

It was fabulous. It reminded me again of how clueless I was as a kid when I vehemently trash-talked white-flocked fake Christmas trees because they made absolutely no sense to me. Why would anyone paint a tree white!?

Apparently, I hadn’t yet seen the real thing in the wild for myself. I totally get it now.

I tried capturing a few shots at home before the daylight entirely vanished, even though our property wasn’t quite as spectacular as the landscape I saw along the ridges between River Falls and our place.

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There was just a hint of sunset color showing through a thin spot in the cloud cover as the big orange orb was reaching the tree line.

How pastel.

And all of it, beautiful.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Just Riffing

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‘Twas the night before Halloween, when all thro’ the house… I’m pretty sure creatures were stirring, because I could hear them in the walls. I’m hoping we don’t get any neighbors stopping by for treats tomorrow night, because I haven’t hunted down any of Cyndie’s hidden candy stashes and she is now out-of-town.

I drove her to the airport in the early darkness this morning to catch a plane for a visit with Dunia and family in Guatemala. Last night, instead of packing for her trip, she was cleaning the house, vacuuming, making me food for the week, …you know, mentally preparing for being away.

I interrupted her vacuuming and mentioned that I could do that after she was gone, in case she might better spend her time getting bags ready for departure. I’m a little surprised she didn’t start cleaning out the junk drawer in the kitchen, too.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

Those of you who are chuckling over this probably have a sense of recognition for this strange trait some people have, that they start organizing or cleaning drawers or closets that rarely get attention until the waning hours before leaving on a trip. What is that about?

The chickens and I benefitted from this pattern yesterday, when the normal evening chores unexpectedly blossomed into a grand chicken pasty-butt cleaning operation. I sure didn’t see that coming, but it will be nice for me that I shouldn’t have to deal with the possible negative consequences of plugged up chicken bottoms while Cyndie is away.

The things we do for our animals.

Cleaning up poopy butts was a nice distraction from the daily news, except that it wasn’t that different from what I suffered hearing about on the drive home from work yesterday. Most of what fills the headlines is pretty sh**ty lately.

It makes me dream of what it might be like if all the news organizations were to magically agree to completely ignore the person whose name I prefer not uttering for maybe five business days in a row. Imagine that. Just fill the time talking about whatever subject would bug him the most, without ever once making reference to him. And the louder he would try to shout for attention by his tweeting fits, the more distance the journalists could put between themselves and him.

Just ignore him until he goes away. But keep an eye on the cash register. Something tells me all the bluster and blather is a smoke screen to distract us from the siphoning of the public coffers that is going on. Check his pockets before he leaves.

Hey, speaking of my drive home yesterday, I had a lucky break by the weird coincidence of leaving for home earlier than usual after having needed to make an unexpected visit a customer site. As I got close to the border with Wisconsin, traffic came to a sudden halt.

I had spotted an alert on the electronic message board over the freeway warning of a crash ahead, so I was prepared to bale out at the exit to Hudson just after crossing the St. Croix River. If I had left at my normal time, the backup would have left me on the Minnesota side of the bridge.

Timing is everything.

Okay, that’s it. Now I’m on my own (with a little animal care help from some local hands in the a.m. hours of my work days) for a couple weeks. Let’s see how long I can keep my happy face on. 🙂

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It’s Friday

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One of the marvels of my Fridays is that I don’t have to commute the long drive to the day-job. You’d think that might give me an extra hour to sleep in, but my experience has been marred by a problematic habit of staying up too late on Thursday nights, and then suffering a double whammy by naturally waking very near the normal early alarm time of my work days.

By Sunday mornings, I have usually made progress with sleeping past the alarm time, but that just makes it that much more difficult to deal with the Monday alarm time the following day.

At this point, of all my attempts striving toward optimal health, getting enough sleep every night seems to be my Achilles’ heel.

Being over-tired doesn’t mix well with needing to drive in traffic for an hour to and from work.

Some days there are changes that mix things up a bit for me, which helps maintain alertness. On Wednesday morning, I had a chance to explore some of St. Paul’s streets in the early dark hours when I dropped off the Tiffany light fixtures with a buyer who found my ad on Craigslist.

Yahoo! They are gone!

There is a perk for driving through the cities four days a week: it’s easier to accommodate buyers who aren’t exactly local when I’m pawning off clutter online. The woman this week was so appreciative that I would drive all that way to deliver what I was selling. (It was a few short blocks off my normal route on the interstate.)

I didn’t bother to tell her I would gladly pay her to take them, after having them sit in a box under foot for the last six years.

My drive home yesterday was interrupted by another traffic stopping accident, but this time I was close enough to the incident that my delay was mere minutes. The sad part was this meant the vehicles were still positioned where they landed and the people and emergency responders were still present.

It’s a very unsettling sight. The collision occurred at an at-grade crossing of a divided 4-lane highway that has a 65 mph speed limit. Damage was significant to at least three vehicles.

I drove a little slower the rest of the way home, and I didn’t feel drowsy at all.

But for the grace of God, go I.

When I pulled up the driveway, the horses were in the far corner of the paddock and whether it was that they saw me, or heard Cyndie and Delilah walking down to feed them, they bolted from where they had been standing, racing and kicking their way up past the barn overhang all the way over to the near paddock fence.

What a nice welcome-home greeting.

Cyndie reported she and Delilah came upon two young deer that dashed away across the trail in the woods. Our paths are becoming paved in golden hues. The freezing temps seem to flip a switch on a lot of our maples such that 80% of the leaves will drop in a matter of a few hours and create a gorgeous circle of color that carpets the ground around the trunk.

It’s beautiful to be home this Friday.

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Wondering When

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When will that day come? A day when the human induced changes alter the planet to such a degree (pun not intended, but left anyway) that life as we know it today can no longer carry on the same?

For almost a week, I have been checking the NOAA national radar to see how Hurricane Florence looked as it spun toward the coast and then paused to pummel the Carolinas. Yesterday when I checked, what was left of the disturbance had moved on to the north. Now they are inundated with flood water and the rivers continue to rise as the water follows the pull of gravity, flowing toward lower altitudes.

Many are without power and their lives are dramatically disrupted, and likely will be for quite some time.

Meanwhile, though the warming global atmosphere is altering the weather to dramatic affect for different locations around the planet (see Typhoon Mangkhut), the influence has yet to significantly alter activities near our home. We are able to carry on as if nothing is different.

Cyndie collected 8 eggs from the nest boxes in the coop yesterday. She decided to try a panoramic photo of the first seven, with some wiggling hesitation visible in the result. Somehow the nest boxes stayed mostly clear and crisp.

I was in Plymouth, MN when an afternoon storm front swooped in and turned day into night. Checking the radar revealed that I would be driving under the heart of the intensity for the whole way home if I left at the usual time.

I left early.

Instead of a non-stop downpour, I flirted with the leading edge at highway speed, where one-inch diameter drops fell hesitatingly at a rate that needed constantly varying intermittent speed windshield wipers, and the frontal gust stirred up dust and debris that created a persistent swirling world of distractions.

I arrived unscathed and parked safely in the garage before the thunder and rain caught up with me.

Changing my departure by one hour on one day for one storm does not constitute a significant alteration of my activities.

Whatever else is changing around the world and altering lives thus far, circumstances for us have yet to cause any noteworthy disruption.

Sometimes I wonder when that day will come.

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Written by johnwhays

September 18, 2018 at 6:00 am