Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘commuting

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

We’re Dry

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During my commute home yesterday afternoon, I watched clouds thicken and grow dark to the south. When I exited from I94 east and turned toward the southeast heading to River Falls, the view looked a little threatening. Then the radio reported there was only one noteworthy storm worth mentioning. With possible heavy rain amounts, high wind, and hail, in Goodhue and Pierce counties, it included the communities of Red Wing and Hager City.

We live in Pierce county, a short distance north of Red Wing.

Good, I thought. We could use the rain. I just wasn’t fired up about driving in the pouring rain.

When I finally reached Beldenville, the road was soaking wet, but the rain was already done. It must have stopped just before I arrived.

We live a couple of miles north of Beldenville proper, and when I turned onto County J, the pavement was bone dry.

We didn’t get a drop at home.

I stepped out on the deck to take a picture of the drooping sunflower for a representation of how the plants are feeling about our long spell without rain.

As I stood there, I noticed there was a lot more than just the sunflower that would show up in the frame.

This sunflower made a surprise appearance, most likely growing from birdseed that fell from the feeder nearby. It shot up with robust energy at first. When the ground started to dry out, the growth stunted significantly. It hasn’t looked very happy ever since.

There used to be a big pine tree here. I’m guessing it might have been root bound, based on my recent discovery about the pines out in the field north of the driveway. We left it standing until it was good and dead, then I cut it down, leaving enough of the old trunk to have a nice support for a balanced rock. Using this chiseled stone for a base (probably a remnant from the construction of the field stone chimney on the house), I balanced a large rock that I was only barely able to lift up to the necessary height.

It eventually fell down.

I’ve yet to decide whether to put a different one up there, but I’ve definitely chosen to leave the too heavy one safely on the ground where it landed.

Even though the big tree died, the ground seems to be fertile for a new generation of pines sprouting in its place. There are at least three rising up around that stump, taking advantage of the sunlight available since I cut the big one down.

And where do baby trees come from? The number of pine cones remaining from the now-removed tree seem to offer plenty of clues.

Maybe if we come out of this dry spell, more of those seeds will sprout.

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Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

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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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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