Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘commuting

Deer Me

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Seriously? Just hours after posting about things that could go wrong, but might not?

Yeah.

I was barreling along at the posted speed limit on the state highway between Beldenville and River Falls in the pre-dawn darkness around 5:20 a.m. yesterday, when a deer ran right into the side of my car door. BAM!

Little did I know, a different deer running across the road in front of me just after I pulled out of our driveway ten minutes earlier, could have served as a warning. I hadn’t seen any deer on my morning commute for months before this.

After passing plenty of fields and wooded areas where deer sightings could be expected, I reached the outskirts of River Falls, where there was a steel business on the right and a cul-de-sac of houses on the left. I wasn’t expecting this activity as the road made a slight bend to the right, distracting advance visibility. A deer suddenly appeared in my headlights from the left and I reacted by pulling my foot off the accelerator pedal.

Before I could move for the brake, a second deer blasted into the door beside me with impressive force.

That was a fine ‘how do you do?’

The shock left me numb for a second and I coasted a little ways before deciding I should pull over and inspect the result of the impact. I don’t know if there were any others trailing along behind the one that hit me, but I didn’t see any more deer than the first two, and they were now out of sight.

I suspect the deer swung around after the initial contact and then smacked the back bumper for good measure. My door was covered with a fair amount of hair. Shedding season, you know.

Fortunately, no glass was shattered, and the function and seal of the door are still good. It’s going to be almost a month before my body shop can get to me. They are still backed up with appointments from ice and snowstorm damaged vehicles from the winter that didn’t want to end.

The estimator said mine was the first of the spring deer damage incidents they’ve seen this year.

Aren’t I the lucky one?

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Written by johnwhays

April 26, 2018 at 6:00 am

Snow Motion

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Here I go again. If I’m not writing about our animals, I must be fussing about the weather. It’s too warm, too soon; or raining way too much; or getting too dry; or… wait for it: snowing too much in April.

It’s always something.

Well, when it is too much snow, and a person needs to drive 65 miles across the heart of the population center of a large metropolitan area, it may also involve a day staying home from work in the middle of the week.

There isn’t much more than that to tell. I stayed home to avoid the traffic risks and spent my precious time shoveling and plowing too many inches of sticky spring snow.

Can I just say, snowman-making snow is not friendly for plowing. It’s already a known fact it is a pain in the back for shoveling, but my poor Grizzly and plow-blade setup does not like pushing snow that sticks together in giant blocks and to everything that presses against it.

Luckily, when the blade frame came loose beneath the ATV under the strain of the heavy snow I was trying to push, it wasn’t because something broke.

One of the holding pins had worked its way out and was laying somewhere along the quarter-mile length of our driveway.

Not to worry, I keep spare pins on hand. This isn’t my first winter here, you know?

Okay, okay, I have spares because this happened one other wicked winter when I had no clue the pins might come out under stressful plowing conditions and I was left stranded at the end of the driveway with a crippled rig.

Despite the challenges of this year’s spring season arriving in “snow-motion,” I’m not stressing over it.

It gave me an extra day off from driving to work!

(For the record, the pictures above were taken in the middle of the day yesterday, about half-way to our total accumulation. We received even more snow than shown by these images.)

Happy spring, everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Different Bad

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We thought Sunday morning was bad, what with its dose of a slippery ice-glaze over every surface turning navigation from the house to the barn into a risky balance-testing feat.

Yesterday’s winter storm was very different. School districts around the region started announcing closures before bedtime on Sunday night! Since we were watching the Academy Awards show, it was impossible to miss the added drama of concern about the weather, as it constantly rolled across the bottom of the screen.

The number of school districts grew with each pass of the alphabetically sorted scroll. When the names of the biggest districts in the state showed up, it lent significant credence toward the probability I should plan to avoid trying to travel to work.

I hemmed and hawed over my options, ultimately making the decision before going to sleep. I would stay home.

After sleeping past my normal alarm time for a work day, I woke to discover I could have made the drive in if I’d gotten up like usual. I knew that was a possible result when I decided the night before to stay home, so I wasn’t too frustrated with myself at that point. The real concern was going to be the drive home.

Since I didn’t drive in, the plan was that I wouldn’t need to worry about the drive home.

Except, the real onset of the accumulating snow ended up happening late enough in the day that I could have worked a full shift, after all. I would have been home before things really began to get hazardous.

It was odd having stayed home from work all day when the view out the window looked so harmless. Postings on the local Live Weather Updates site of our public radio network kept warning that the onset was still coming, just delayed a bit from original guesses.

Their warnings ultimately proved totally justified.

Before the precipitation, the wind was gusting to startling degrees. Cyndie reported hearing a tree falling, but wasn’t sure about the location. I was a little nervous about venturing through the woods to look for it while the gusts were still raging.

The snow finally showed up for us around 3:30, and by 4:00, it was already hard to see beyond our property borders. We were suddenly isolated from the world, and being battered by unrelenting swarms of stabbing snowflake blades.

I succeeded in making it to the mailbox and back with Delilah, but she looked like she thought the expedition was a ridiculous idea, gladly retreating indoors when we made it back to the house. Cyndie was tending to the horses and chickens, and I figured she would be in shortly behind us.

Ten minutes later, I looked up from what I was doing and realized the visibility outside had dropped down to almost zero. The snow was coming so thick and wind-blown, I became concerned about how Cyndie was coping. I decided to gear up and go check. This wasn’t just bad weather, this was wicked!

Careful not to blindly pass her, in case she came up a different route than I went down, I squinted for signs of her outline. She was at the chicken coop. The hens had jumped one of the half doors into the barn and didn’t want to return to the coop. Who could blame them? She was hand carrying them back.

I helped to get the last two and we closed up the coop and then the barn doors.

Had I driven to work, I was planning to stay overnight at her parent’s house. Given how crazy, and sometimes even a bit scary it got yesterday afternoon and evening, I’m glad I stayed home.

Regardless how bad it wasn’t earlier in the day, it was worth it so that Cyndie didn’t have to face all this bad weather drama alone.

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Commuting Roulette

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The latest weather adventure to appear in our region involves a mixture of freezing mist and blowing snow. I left for work early yesterday morning, reaching my destination in good time, before the precipitation started. I decided working a short day was an option if the predicted glazing played out and threatened to turn roads into skating rinks.

About three hours into my shift, speckles of moisture started coating the window to the parking lot. Balancing the radar views with an attempt to get as much done as possible, I held out until about ten o’clock. The extra minutes I needed to spend chipping the frozen glaze off my car windows helped to assure me that my decision to leave early was justified.

If I needed any more proof of that, the two separate incidents of cars having spun out ahead of me to end up on the left shoulder, facing my approaching car head on, served as adequate confirmation.

Those were the scariest, but not the last problems to be dealt with. The next challenge came with a warning, as one of the overhead signs flashed notice of an accident ahead, with an alert to prepare to stop. To my relief, the problem was in the Westbound lanes, and I was headed east.

That one was a mess that involved a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, a lot of shredded metal, and a fleet of flashing emergency vehicles.

Surprisingly, despite all these incidents, my forward progress was barely hindered most of the way home. I drove as fast as I felt comfortable and reached our driveway in an hour and a half, as compared to the usual 60 minute drive.

Just to keep me from getting too cocky, as I braked for the turn into our welcoming driveway, my car kept right on going, sliding straight past the entrance.

I backed up, made the turn, and proceeded carefully up to the house, giving heartfelt thanks to my lucky stars.

Home, safe home, where the snow fell beautifully for a while, then turned back to that freezing slurry of icy pellets alternating with an almost invisible mist.

Cyndie recorded the sound it made to walk on the crunchy surface, because it was so uncharacteristic of the normal winter snow squeaks. She described it as walking on cardboard on top of marshmallow.

I hope my car tires are up to handling that on this morning’s drive.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2018 at 7:00 am

Shared Pain

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It’s the time of year when the bucks traversing our woods are leaving plenty of calling cards. I always wonder if we are seeing marks from just one, or if there are competitors making their presence known.

Cyndie came upon this spot of cleared leaves beside the trail yesterday morning.

Just a short distance away, I found a tree with bark scraped off.

Delilah took particular interest in scents along the path, so I expect there is a lot of aroma communication going on out there.

It is much nicer experiencing the deer activity in our forest than it is dodging them on the road. There have been an unsettling number of deer hit by traffic and staining the road surface on my route to the day-job this year.

If one of the local hunters don’t take down the buck that is visiting our property, I’m hoping I might get a chance for a shed antler.

It will be an opportunity to scour our woods, off-trail with Delilah after the hunting season is over. I just need her health to improve enough that we can ease her activity restrictions.

She had a second treatment from a dog chiropractor last night, where Cyndie learned of a massage technique we are hoping will continue to relieve Delilah of her pain.

The dog and I are on parallel paths of recovery. I’m not using massage to calm my troublesome back, but have returned to my regimen of exercises and stretches to strengthen my core and improve flexibility.

It doesn’t seem like it should work as well has it has for me, but in a rather short amount of time I have regained a remarkable amount of mobility and am enjoying much less pain. The lingering symptom is a constant dull reminder of not-quite-pain in the lumbar region of my spine that occasionally warns me with brief increases of sensation a couple of notches down from the real thing.

Little hints that I’m not all good, even though I’m not feeling all that bad.

I understand exactly what Delilah is going through.

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2017 at 7:00 am

Getting Home

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Our rushed onset of a snow season made my commute home yesterday a little more adventurous than I expected. There had been flurries throughout the day, but all that did was make things wet by the time I was ready to drive home.

The closer I got to Wisconsin, the more intense the falling snow became. A weather update on the radio mentioned increased chances for accumulation of 3-4 inches in our area.

I noticed a drop in visibility as the flakes intensified, but the road surface wasn’t presenting any problem. I hoped the heavy precipitation was keeping the deer bedded down, so I could have one less thing to worry about.

When I made the turn onto our street, the surface was more than just wet. It was starting to look a lot like winter.

Cyndie was already moving the horses into the barn for the night when I pulled up the driveway. She said the chickens showed no concern over staying out in the snow while there was still daylight, even though she took a shot at tempting them back into the coop early.

After parking my car and making my way inside, I set about preparing a reward for Cyndie to find when she returned from chores in the barn. Then I leaned back in the recliner and soaked up being home, safe and sound.

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Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2017 at 6:00 am

How’s Everybody?

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Basically, we are all good, but there are some health concerns that continue to linger for some of the Wintervale crew. Time has not healed all wounds.

After the most recent hoof trimming, Cayenne’s showing a tiny bit of improvement. What we cling to there is that she is, at the very least, not worse. She still shows a fair amount of hesitation on her movements, but she doesn’t appear to be in extreme pain.

It’s possible she may have developed a habit of anticipating pain, and she still limps because that is what she has grown used to doing. It sometimes looks like she steps gingerly to protect herself, not because it hurts too much to walk normal.

Now, Delilah, on the other hand, is behaving quite the opposite. She keeps trying to act like she is fine, but continues to have moments of extreme pain. On Tuesday, we resorted to ordering x-rays of her spine and a more thorough blood analysis.

The results of her blood work are not in yet, but the x-ray showed a minor compression between discs 3 and 4. We were told there also appeared to be some abnormal marks or possible lesions on those vertebrae, which the vet is hoping the blood analysis will inform.

We have returned to restricting her movements to a bare minimum. Regardless, she continues to maintain a pretty happy attitude between moments of looking like she’d prefer to do nothing more than lay down and convalesce.

It’s been a long summer of rehabilitation for Cyndie’s shoulder, but it’s not over yet. She continues to have regular physical therapy appointments to improve range of motion. The good news after her most recent follow-up with the surgeon was that he deemed it unnecessary to put her under and break the scar tissue by force. The bad news was the alternative being extended PT with painful aggressive measures to do the same thing.

The therapist used the infamous “cupping therapy” to stretch the scarred tissue across the grain. Makes sense to us, despite a broad belief that cupping is pseudo-science and any benefits are from a placebo effect. Cyndie is growing tired of the pain from her exercises and the ongoing need to push her limits of stretching and rotation.

At the same time, she continues to find ways to function in her daily activities with only minor limitations.

The rest of us are enjoying a grace period of good health. The chickens will be seeing snow for the first time in their lives. Pequenita is happy to be an indoor cat. We brought the horses in out of the windy wet precipitation last night, but we’ll give them a short shift outside for some fresh air before letting them back into their stalls again tonight.

I avoided hitting any deer on my commutes this week. Yesterday morning, I was lucky to not be a part of a 10-car chain reaction crash,  –nor get caught in the significant backup of traffic behind it– when a vehicle hit a deer on I94, right at the bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota. I had already passed that spot and was well on my way to work by then.

Everyday I don’t hit a deer in October and November is a successful day.

That’s my update on how everybody is doing today. We are thankful for all our good fortune.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2017 at 6:00 am