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

Posts Tagged ‘Tour of Minnesota

Flywheel Effect

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When over 200 like-minded adventurous bicyclists converge upon a small community and travel together for an entire week, mystically powerful energy is produced. Collectively overcoming weather extremes, dealing with physical limitations, and coping with equipment failures with nothing but the heroic support of the Tour staff and each other to carry us through to the finish, we grow more connected with each passing minute.

On the very last day of the Tour of Minnesota yesterday, after splashing some water on my face and changing out of my wet cycling attire to put on clean shorts and a shirt I had stashed in the car for just this purpose, I found myself walking beside a fellow cyclist who I had yet to officially greet. We exchanged names and heartfelt pleasantries, wishing each other well on returning to “life after adventure vacations.” There was an instant unmistakable yet unspoken bond evident.

I am blessed with over 200 similar bonds woven together into one inspiring, life-enhancing aspect of my life. It is a very powerful force for good health.

One thing about energy like this is that it doesn’t simply dissipate when we all part ways for our homes at the end of the week. Comparable to the momentum of a flywheel, the emotional thrills of the week continue to spin and energize the more mundane demands of our daily home activities.

No matter what I need to put my effort toward now that my vacation week of biking and camping is over, the people and events of this year’s Tour of Minnesota will continue to spin in my mind and inspire my happy emotions for longer than seems logical. I long ago opened my mind to accepting unexplained phenomena as worthy of our attention and fully embrace the value of my emotional memories of all the personal connections shared with people I meet during these adventure weeks, some of these connections not materializing for me until the trip is over and everyone has gone home.

The flywheel has yet to wind down.

The bag of gear that needed to weigh less than 50 pounds for the sake of the luggage crew hefting so many bags multiple times per day had gained an awful lot of water weight by the time I struggled it out of the car when I got home yesterday. Before I was able to wrestle my soaked tent out of its carrying bag, the skies at home opened up with an attention-getting downpour of rain that interfered with my plan of hanging everything in the sun to dry.

It served to help sustain me in the mental place of the ride, having awoken in a similar downpour in Staples, MN earlier that very same day.

This morning, I am faced with the realities of news that a minority of people in my country are accomplishing steps to force their narrow moral views on all, moving our society backwards fifty years. I like the meme spotted recently that suggests life begins at ejaculation and maybe the burden of unplanned pregnancies and fears about unmarried promiscuity should be placed primarily on MEN in these situations, not so much women.

I’m going to ride the residual spin of wonderful energy from my Tour of Minnesota experience this year for longer than ever.

Somehow, loving all others as much or more than we love ourselves will bring us to better places soon. That’s a flywheel that I strive to get turning to a maximum velocity the whole world will feel.



Hail Surprise

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It was a first for me. We rode our bikes into falling hailstones. I wonder if my insurance covers hail damage to my bicycle.

We awoke to a perfect morning thunderstorm that pinned us down in our tents for nearly an hour beyond our typical time. That was okay because the breakfast caterer showed up at about the same interval beyond what was expected.

Ride Director, Doobie, gives instructions during breakfast.

Even though we started riding from Park Rapids toward Staples later than our usual departure time, we were able to pedal off into reasonably sane weather conditions.

That didn’t last.

Soon, the sky ahead of us took on the appearance of impending rainfall. Little did we know, it would rather quickly produce pea-sized balls of ice in addition to good old pouring rain.

As stoically as possible, we forged ahead as the small hail stones bounced off the road and pinged against our helmets. It was when they began to increase in size that my friend, Steve Reynolds and I both agreed it was time to look for cover.

The first turn-off was a short driveway with a clear “No Trespassing” sign. We went no further than the first sizable tree and stood beneath its branches.

The wait was probably only five or ten minutes until the precipitation calmed down to nothing more than a fading rain shower.

We made our way back to the road and resumed pedaling toward the next rest stop. Eventually, the sky cleared up and we enjoyed a really nice ride to Staples.

Gathered for dinner in the high school in Staples.

I failed to pay adequate attention to just how nice it really got and didn’t put sunscreen on my face. By the end of the day, I had a little sunburn on the same day I bicycled in a hailstorm.



Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Day Off

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Yesterday morning in Park Rapids started out as beautiful as ever on our day off from riding.

The rest of the day lived up to that beauty by being as fun as could be. We enjoyed a classic breakfast from an inconspicuous cafe where the parking area was filled with local pickup trucks. We received multiple genuine “you betcha” responses.

After casual visiting back at the campground, we found a spectacular lunch place. Very delicious blackened salmon burger.

Next stop was the park for an afternoon social and some dragon boating.

I stayed on land and cheered them on.

From there, we were given an opportunity to escape the heat and see the new Top Gun: Maverick movie. It wasn’t scheduled but the theater opened just for us! We almost filled the place and cheered and clapped and laughed together like rarely happens with strangers in a movie theater.

We succeeded in staying dry all day, though there was a good view of storms popping threateningly to our south.

Today we ride again, headed for Staples. I’m thinking I might want to put my e-bike on full power and pretend I’m a fighter jet pilot the whole way there.



Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2022 at 6:00 am

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.


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June 23, 2022 at 6:00 am

Dodging Dragonflies

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Monday night’s middle of the night storm drama culminated with the alert siren blaring overhead at deafening volume to warn us about the weather blasting our tents at the moment.

I checked the radar and chose to stay put until morning, along with maybe ten other brave (or stupid) folks. We lucked out and survived unscathed.

Regarding the bugs I was fretting about earlier, it turns out dragonflies have been the most hazardous as we roll along the trails. Impacts to the arms, face, and bike wheels and frame are occurring at a particularly high rate.

My sunglasses have saved my eyes several times.

Yesterday morning we had to do additional dodging of trees that the storms had knocked over.

We made it to Bemidji and camped in the county fairgrounds where temperatures were far cooler than the previous two days.

Today, we ride to Park Rapids, leaving Bemidji much sooner than the town really deserves.

Photo: John Ferguson

Shoutout of “Happy Birthday!” to my daughter, Elysa today!! I love you, E!



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June 22, 2022 at 6:00 am

Storm Warned

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We were warned about a storm threat and riders were given an option to pack up tents and belongings to move into the school in Walker for the night.

A couple dozen of us chose to stay where we were. The first wave of rain, wind, and thunder arrived a little after 8:00 p.m. My aging rainfly showed its flaws, allowing some drips through during the initial period of heavy rain.

Two stormy sky picks in three days.

I was actually trying to get a shot that would show how few tent’s remained so the bulk of storm clouds were behind me in that photo.

No shortage of adventure so far this year. Having a wonderful time!



Written by johnwhays

June 21, 2022 at 6:00 am

Seeking Shade

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Yes, it was a hot day for riding 68 miles. The morning wasn’t bad and the wind was pretty much at our backs on the flat trail from Brainerd to Walker.

There were a few big hill climbs at the end as we made our way to Water Tower Park and I’m feeling good that I conquered them all without electronic assist.

Unfortunately, at the highest heat of the day as we labored to set up tents in total exhaustion, there was no shade to be found for relief.

When it finally arrived as the earth rotated, it was the water towers that cast glorious shadows to give us a break from the relentless solar pressure.



Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

Arrival Sky

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This is the sky that greeted us upon arrival in Brainerd.

It was threatening looking but never moved over us. First hazard avoided.

Ultimately, we were graced with a beautiful evening. Gentle breeze suppressed insects.

Here’s hoping we didn’t use up all our good fortunes in the first hours of the tour.

Written by johnwhays

June 19, 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.



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June 18, 2022 at 9:30 am

Road Miles

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My objective was to balance distance and time on the bike seat this weekend to condition my body for the week-long bicycle tour that begins in less than a week. I am happy to report progress was made in both regards, despite suffering a minor chafing wound after my first hour of riding on Friday night.

A topical treatment and altered riding wear seemed to protect my skin from added abuse during my time on the saddle yesterday morning.

I’m just a shadow of my former riding self, but a couple of shots from a rescue inhaler, the comfort adjustments where it matters most, and the addition of priceless companionship from lifelong friends provided a memorable glimpse of the true joys of biking I remember from my glory days of cycling.

One particular highlight for me was the moment when I took a big swig of water in my mouth just as Paul said something hilarious and Beth questioned what he’d said. The exchange caused me to choke on the water and I blew the whole mouthful out to protect inhaling it, covering me and my bike.

A few miles on and I noticed a big drop of water riding on the face of my cycle computer display. Oops.

Our first loop brought us back to the driveway a bit before we were ready to quit, so we continued off in the other direction for additional miles that brought my mileage to a respectable total of 24 for the ride.

The big plus for me was to finish without feeling totally exhausted by the effort, which has been the usual case the other times I’ve ridden this season.

I won’t be in my best riding shape by the time the tour starts, but I won’t be in my worst shape, either.

Unfortunately, I won’t have any preparation time for the camping in a tent and sleeping on the ground part of the tour. I’ll have zero preparatory sleeping-bag hours under my belt this year. It’s not a concern though, as my ability to close my eyes and be asleep almost instantly has become more enhanced over the years.

Doing so after a full day of biking makes it all the easier to achieve.

Tour of Minnesota 2021, here I come.



Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2021 at 7:00 am