Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘driving

Packing Up

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Even though today is Labor Day holiday in the U.S., our group all headed home from the lake a day early yesterday afternoon. There is plenty to deal with at home for families kicking off the fall season, and driving yesterday served to avoid many of the camping and boat trailers that will be returning today. Traffic was hardly an issue on our route.

This being the end of summer activities at the lake, before leaving, we took the bittersweet step of packing up most of the inflatable water toys.

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We set up a station for cleaning and deflating, and each large floating toy was detached from its anchor and brought into shore. Many hands made for small work and we washed, dried, deflated, and rolled up the big trampolines for winter storage in the garage with impressive efficiency.

While we occupied ourselves with that project, Cyndie took the initiative to scour her family’s small cabin to pull off and bag bedding and remove foods and cleaning supplies.

Before hopping in their car, Julian and Allison deflated their small floaties.

Just like that, in a blink, summer is over once again. It happens every year, but each time seems to come faster and faster.

It also always seems too soon to be seeing trees turning from green to red/yellow/orange, but on our drive yesterday, there were multiple sightings.

I think I spent more time in long sleeves over the weekend than I did in short. I may not pack up my summer attire yet, but I will start bringing out my warmer clothes.

It’s the season of doubly crowded closets and dressers. Too soon to put away all the warm weather clothes, but too chilly to avoid pulling out the fall and winter gear, too.

I’m not complaining, though. It’s a small complication in the otherwise glorious advantage of enjoying the full range of 4-seasons weather we experience.

It develops strength and character, both physically and mentally.

This time of year is actually my favorite, so I am in my glory right now. Happy September everyone! (Does it show that I don’t live in a hurricane zone?)

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2019 at 6:00 am

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

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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Partly Smoky

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Cyndie and I drove up to the lake last night. It was a long day in a car for her, because she started the day yesterday up at the lake. She had gone up on Wednesday with Melissa and daughters, in an original plan to have me drive up to join them Thursday night, but that changed when a memorial for Charlie Weller was announced for Friday.

Charlie was the husband of Cyndie’s close high school friend, LuAnn (Miller). The revised plan had Cyndie riding home with Melissa and the girls yesterday afternoon, taking a moment to freshen up from beachwear to something more appropriate, driving us through afternoon traffic to Eden Prairie from our house, and then heading back to the lake from there, after paying our respects.

LuAnn and Charlie were dating in high school, not long after Cyndie and I had begun our relationship, so my memories of Charlie are wrapped in fragments of events that I haven’t thought about in decades. Even driving on roads in Eden Prairie, now approaching only six years distant from when I drove them almost every day, was feeling a little fractured.

I had to ask if we turned right or left at the intersection by the House of Kai restaurant to get to the funeral home.

In our haste to pull off this plan, we left out one pertinent aspect of determining the optimal route back to northwestern Wisconsin. I was tempted to try the old way we always drove when our kids were little and we regularly made the trip on back roads, but construction and traffic made the city portion an unwanted annoyance.

We paused for dinner at Jake’s to give traffic more time to thin out.

In the end, we chose to skirt the metro area on 494 and head up toward Stillwater to cross into Wisconsin on the new bridge. The resulting country roads we picked provided a rich reward of light traffic, gorgeous rolling hills and spectacular scenery.

We chuckled over the MPR radio weather forecast of “partly smoky” from the many fires burning out west, but when changing stations to our old favorite WOJB as we got far enough north, we heard the same phrase used again. Maybe it is an actual authorized weather service term.

It sure made an impact on the setting sun. It was looking dusky a lot earlier than the actual time of sunset. I held up my phone through the open top of Cyndie’s convertible at 7:52 p.m. and experimented with capturing it at 60 miles an hour.

Then I tried zooming in. It looked like a cartoon drawing of the sun.

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The optics of my iPhone seem to have added special effects without my input. Yes, that’s the sun glowing through the smoky sky.

Between the funky looking sun, my grasping at recollections of interactions with LuAnn and Charlie back in the 1970s, and finally, unexpectedly stumbling upon a portion of our old back roads route, but from a different point, my mind was feeling partly smoky.

“We’ve been here before…”

Yes, we have.

And now we are up at the lake again this weekend.

Ahhhhh. I remember this.

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Written by johnwhays

August 11, 2018 at 8:44 am

Climate Forum

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Last night we attended a fascinating climate discussion at the MPR building in St. Paul, hosted by Chief Meteorologist, Paul Huttner.

I fully expected to be left in a downtrodden mood, but they actually did a fair job of offering some hope and encouragement about things that individuals can do, as well as sharing some accomplishments of young people who are getting involved to influence municipalities to take some timely action. It’s the kid’s future at stake, after all.

It has me wanting to put more effort into figuring out how we might make further progress toward utilizing renewable energy like wind and solar, in addition to the geothermal furnace we installed when we moved here. I’m also wondering about the possibility of getting a fully electric car. For the long commuting I am doing to get to work four days a week, that would feel like a most tangible change, to no longer burn gasoline and spew the exhaust.

We almost didn’t get a chance to burn fuel on the way home after the event. Upon arriving downtown, we had pulled into the first parking ramp we found near our destination. Signs indicated it was open until 10:00 on weekdays, so we felt satisfied. Unfortunately, when we returned to the building shortly before nine, it was all locked up!

After walking the full circumference in search of an unlocked door, we happened upon a back door with a security intercom. It seemed like the solution, but communication with the person was not entirely clear, and we found ourselves standing and waiting for someone who never came.

We were saved by the coincidental arrival of two police officers who were able to open the door and direct us to the elevator that led to the parking levels below ground. There were no humans around at that hour, but a machine at the exit swallowed our five dollar bill and gates automatically opened.

We gladly hustled the car onto the city streets and headed for the freeway back to Wisconsin, dumping our carbon emissions all the way home.

The data is pretty obvious folks. The climate is changing and the effects on our weather are underway.

It only makes sense to take this into account and make decisions accordingly. Not just for the immediate future, but for the lifetimes of those who will be dealing with it for the next 50-100 years and beyond.

From the “Eat local, think global” catch phrase, try this morph: Act today, with a plan for tomorrow.

And turn off the lights on your way out.

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Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

Short Week

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DSCN4793eMay comes to a close today on the first day of a shortened work week. We rolled into the driveway yesterday from the lake in decent time, successfully avoiding getting swept up by a speed trap in the middle of a passing zone.

Peeve: When drivers speed up as they reach a passing zone, and then slow down again at the end of it. Their slow speed is frustrating for me, but their fast speed in the passing zone forces me to really exceed the limit if I hope to get around them. The added factor of being policed for speed in the short sections with an extra passing lane further inhibits my ability to squeak past the slower-downers.

Before we left the lake, I dug up about 15 trillium plants to bring home with us. Upon arriving to Wintervale, our agenda was to get the transplants in the ground as quickly as possible. Our plan went off without a hitch. Now all we need to do is wait about a year to find out if they are survivors or not.DSCN4792e

One flowering plant that looks to be doing very well at home right now is the clematis vine that is on one of our trellis arches by the back deck. It is very photogenic when it is in bloom.

Our animals seemed very glad to see us again and gave us a good amount of affectionate attention. The lawn already needs mowing again and the pine trees are starting to show some significant new growth sprouts.

It feels very much like everything is ready for the arrival of the month of June. It’s the birthday month around here, as everyone but Julian turns another year older in the 6th month.

Makes it feel like more than a short week. It feels like it’s been a short year!

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2016 at 6:00 am

Yes, Snow

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DSCN4232eThe snow did finally arrive in the nick of time and with the necessary permanence to declare our Christmas a white one.

Now we are facing a threat of significantly more snow falling smack dab in the middle of an already short week at the day-job. That’s gonna complicate things.

I will be bringing an overnight bag with me to work today, to prepare for the possibility I decide to forego the long commute and stay in town at Cyndie’s parents house.

Complicating my planning is the fact that the check engine light came on in my Subaru on the way home during the last trip of 4 we traveled to the cities for Christmas events. I had just gotten it back from the shop last Thursday, and I am concerned about this occurring so soon after that.

I will be driving Cyndie’s car today, once again confusing my automobile operating habits. Her cruise control feature is on the opposite side of the steering wheel from my car. Also, her car has a volume control for the radio built into the steering wheel, which I love.

In just a couple days of driving her car last week while mine was in the shop, I found some of my habits altered enough that I fumbled a bit when getting my car back. I kept trying to change the volume of the radio on the steering wheel.

Switching back to Cyndie’s car again will likely mix me up even more, right at a time when I need to avoid distraction and focus on the hazards of driving during a snow storm.

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Written by johnwhays

December 28, 2015 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Truly Best

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DSCN4237eOur Christmas celebrations this year have provided a wonderful addition to years of fabulous Christmases with Cyndie’s family. Now that we live in Wisconsin, the routine for us has settled into a pattern of driving back and forth to Edina on Christmas eve, and then two more times on Christmas day. This allows us to participate in spectacular meals, and all that comes with them, as well as tend to the care of Delilah and our horses back home.

I’m used to driving that route, so it doesn’t bother me. The trouble comes in accounting for that extra hour that always separates us from our intended destination. It becomes a struggle to get out of the house on time to arrive at the celebration by the appointed hour.

Then we need to watch the clock while enjoying the time of our lives so that we don’t end up forcing our dog to wait too long without us at home. Sure wish we could just ask Scotty to beam us home. We always want to stay longer at the social gathering, but without it resulting in such a late return to our home an hour away.

I enjoyed two particular “bests” yesterday that deserve specific mention. Cyndie’s mother, Marie, is a master hostess who prepares world-class meals for large numbers of guests. The traditional family dinner of beef tenderloin on Christmas day is one of my favorites. It is magical, because no matter what variations may occur every year, it is always the best meal I have ever had.

This year, it was even better than that.

Honestly, I struggle to justify enjoying such gastronomical pleasure. The dessert which followed the best-dinner-ever included a cranberry cake with a caramel sauce topping that always tastes so amazing, it should be recognized as a dangerous weapon and require a license to prepare.

I received some very nice gifts from very generous people this Christmas, but there is one that immediately claimed my heart as the best possible thing I opened. We draw names for a gift exchange in Cyndie’s family, and this year, my fellow in-law, Sara, wife of Cyndie’s brother, Ben, picked my name out of the hat.

DSCN4243eShe nailed the precise art of matching a gift to the recipient, and steeped it in her own joy while creating it. Sara made a wood-burned image of our Wintervale logo on a beautiful pine board. I find it absolutely beautiful to look at. It smells good, too!

It is the best gift.

I just want to look at it again and again. It is one of a kind, made by Sara’s hands, and intended specifically for me. What a precious thing.

I had a very merry Christmas.

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Written by johnwhays

December 26, 2015 at 10:42 am

People Grouping

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Obviously, we are all individuals, but there is no denying that people are pretty easily grouped for any number of reasons, one of which being, it’s just plain fun to do!

The other day, I decided there are three kinds of people. Those who grab a knob to open a drawer or a closet door without ever noticing the knob is spinning loose —causing it to get worse with every use, …those who try to fix loose knobs by tightening it until the threads strip —making it impossible to ever fix, …and those who are aware of the situation before they ever grab a knob —leading to handling it in such a way it doesn’t spin loose every time or causing thread damage when snugging it up when needed.

It is a known fact that there are two kinds of drivers other than ourselves: Maniacs who drive faster than us and idiots who drive slower. I’m gaining plenty of experience with driving styles during my hour-long commutes to and from work.

Seems to me there are three groups of people in the left/fast/passing lane of the expressway: Those who pick their comfortable speed and stay put, oblivious to what other cars around them are seeking to do, …those who pick a speed below what other fast lane drivers prefer, staying in the left lane no matter what, as if to spite anyone behind them who wishes to drive faster, …and those who drive in the left lane while passing slower cars, but notice immediately if someone approaches from behind at a greater speed, in which case this third group of drivers will move over at the earliest opportunity to allow the faster driver to proceed past.

It’s not rocket science, people.

For grouping people in the world, I think 3 is the ideal number. Splitting us into 2 groups is too easy. Anything more than 3 becomes an exercise in “where do you stop?” If you break it down into 4, you may as well go to 5. Oh, heck, why stop there?

See? Three is perfect.

On people’s opinions about a roll of toilet paper: Those who believe it should be mounted to roll off the top, …those who believe it should roll off the bottom, …and those who don’t give a flying eff what direction it comes from. (Okay, sometimes 4 isn’t all bad… those who say, “Toilet paper? A place to mount it? I wish!”)

Mostly, there are three kinds of people in the world.

I tend to see myself as residing somewhere in the group between the maniacs and the idiots.

Don’t we all?

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Written by johnwhays

December 3, 2015 at 7:00 am

Driving Adventures

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DSCN3252eWhen we awoke on Wednesday, the beginning of our 7th full day in Guatemala with the Morales family, we started packing almost immediately. It was time to leave Bill & Karin’s beautiful lake house and embark on a road trip to the beach house, reported to probably be 2-hours and 45-minutes duration. After a short time, just as we had on the drive to Lake Atitlán days before, we arrived at a mysterious stretch of road where up and down directions are reversed.

Marco stopped our vehicle, turned on the 4-way hazard lights, and shifted to neutral. The Toyota began to roll uphill. It’s crazy-making!

When we approach a “T” intersection very near to our planned restaurant stop for breakfast, the traffic came to a complete standstill. We were just a couple of car lengths from where we wanted to make a left turn, but were pinned with nowhere to go. Several guys on foot seemed to be trying to augment the single traffic cop’s attempt to orchestrate some progress, but many drivers just chose their own solution and drove around any vehicle in front of them. It only served to complicate the mess.

DSCN3253ePatience turns out to be the best course of action, and eventually we made our turn and got to stretch our legs and sit down to eat. The restaurant had a roof, but no walls around the seating area. Cyndie ordered in Spanish; an omelet with vegetables for me, pancakes for her.

Breakfast automatically came with cups of coffee and a bowl of a sweet porridge. I noticed Cyndie and Marco set their cups aside after their first taste and he ordered better coffee for the two of them. I normally don’t like cooked oatmeal or porridge, but this was sweet and not heavy. I liked it a lot. It was a great breakfast on the road.

Shortly after departing from that restaurant, we came to a stretch of divided highway with a very long backup of stopped traffic in the lanes approaching from the other direction. Shockingly, we suddenly spotted vehicles driving toward us in our lanes! After multiple cars switched lanes in reaction, everyone going our direction adjusted to the right lane. After the initial alarm, it wasn’t as unnerving as you’d think, because there is a lot of driving in each other’s lanes to make passes on the two-lane roads everywhere else. Still, they were driving into traffic and it was very hazardous, so Dunia got on her phone and reported the situation to authorities.

Despite the traffic challenges, it seemed a relatively short time had passed when we reached sights that I began to recognize from my visit there with Marco a week earlier. The beach house was just ahead.

Upon arriving, we were able to meet Bill and Karin. The two families each have adjacent beach houses beside the large shared pool. It reminds me very much of the community of families at Cyndie’s family vacation home in Hayward, WI. We also are greeted by Karin’s sister and niece, and later, Bill and Karin’s son, Anthony.DSCN3254e

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It was significantly hotter this day than any other we’d experienced, in large part because we’ve come down to sea level and it was sunny all day. I get my first chance to play some football with the Morales boys and Anthony, followed by a jump in the pool. Dunia’s parents arrived and we met them as Marco began preparations for a dinner of grilled lobster tail.

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As the sun got low, mosquitoes and the heat contributed to drive us into our air-conditioned room at around 6:45. It feels much later than that and we give in to beckoning sleep early, after a day that felt like we mostly just lounged in the pool. Hardly the exerting activities that should have caused such tiredness. Maybe the week was finally catching up with us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2015 at 6:00 am