Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Tour of Minnesota

To Aurora

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It started out rather chilly yesterday, but at least it wasn’t raining.

We left Chisholm as a group and claimed a lane of the road until we got back on the Mesabi trail.

It was 16 miles to a rest stop for some snacking, a mere hour and a half after we left breakfast. No wonder we all tend to gain weight despite all the biking we do.

There is just one thing I asked for during this ride: it can be cold, or it can rain, I just don’t want cold temps AND rain.

Well, I didn’t get what I wanted. Between that snack break and lunch, the clouds started to spit a little bit. Then, it began to sprinkle, until it unmistakably turned to rain.

The optimist might say, “At least it wasn’t snowing.

Luckily, there was hot soup on the menu for lunch. Any food is good for recovering from being wet and cold, but hot soup was a welcome bonus.

The ride from lunch in Biwabik to Aurora took us through a picturesque stand of old growth pines.

Hanging out at our tents after hot showers (yay!), Rich sent up his drone for a bird’s eye view of our circle of post-riding silliness.

Then I took a picture from ground level.


All in all, another great day on the Tour of Minnesota, discounting
the fact it is so dang cold in the middle of June.



Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

To Chisholm

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We were blessed with great weather yesterday for riding the Mesabi Trail from Grand Rapids to Chisholm.

The trail is a fabulous adventure of twists and turns with a variety of dramatic ups and downs.

There were a number of vistas that provided views of mining activity, as well as of the huge ridges of dumped leftovers. Eventually, vegetation starts to grow and reclaim the surface, but it is a little unsettling to see the way humans can alter the planet so significantly.

Has me struggling with the multitude of ways my activities and possessions contribute to demand for mining.

The trail just rolled past our tires…

That’s Rich and Steve vrooming around a corner.

In Chisholm, we camped at the mining museum and got a chance to see some big and historic equipment up close.

I asked Steve and James to provide a reference to actual size. Did I mention, big?





Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

To Grand Rapids

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Commence camping!

Things did not go well in the waning moments prior to that critical point of finally heading out the door for a week of vacation.

In my last sweep of the counter after a quick lunch, I discovered ants marching to and fro.

I decided to search for ant killer that we might have stashed away from last year. Second place I looked was under the kitchen sink.

When I opened the doors, water came rolling out. Lots of it!

I have no idea where it was coming from and didn’t have time to thoroughly investigate.

I pulled everything out and mopped up, then slid a bucket into position under the drips.

What a lovely mess to leave behind.

I met Gary Larson in Edina, leaving my car at Cyndie’s parents’ house and rode with him to Grand Rapids.

It was as wonderful as ever to see the many friends and familiar faces of fellow riders and to be greeted so warmly.

Mere words can’t describe it

When you ride with us, then you know

After years of having done this

It gets more important for me to go



Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2019 at 6:00 am

Driving North

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It has arrived! Today is the day of departure for this year’s Tour of Minnesota biking and camping adventure. I might almost be ready to go by the time I plan to leave the house. Really, the only thing left to do is overlook something I had intended to bring and leave without it.

Just to add a little drama to my packing and planning, the temperatures up north dropped into the 30s Wednesday night. Do I pack another layer of warm clothes? I added one extra overshirt. In addition to my wool hat, chopper mittens, Sorel boots, and North Face parka.

I’m ready.

I mowed the lawn last night, cutting a notch lower than usual in hope of buying me the full week until it needs to be cut it again. I programmed my work email with an away message. Can’t think of anything else.

I tried to tell Pequenita that I would be gone for a while, but would return. I doubt she comprehends my warning. Poor Cyndie will be a victim of that cat’s angst over my absence. On the other hand, I will relish the absence of wet-nosed cat head-bumps bashing into my face at too-early-o’clock in the morning.

As the sun was getting low enough that the back pasture of chest-high grass was cast in shadow, I came around the bend on the mower and spotted a deer leaping in reaction to my sudden appearance. Behind those big leaps was an almost invisible fawn whose head didn’t clear the tall grass as it struggled to keep up with mamma.

I sure hope they don’t decide to bed down in that field when our neighbors show up to cut hay.




Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2019 at 6:00 am

Getting Close

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Departure is just two days away for the Tour of Minnesota biking and camping week. I spent much of my time last night pretending to pack. It’s kind of a dry run, where I pull out clothes and biking gear I think might be smart to have. Then I labor over deciding whether I’m taking too much or leaving out something vital. I am not inclined toward finding a laundromat on our day off from riding.

Will it be a rainy, wet week? Cold? We are going north. Hot? That happens up there, too. Hard to know for sure, so I’d like to be prepared to be comfortable between the hours on the saddle. At the same time, I really don’t want to be hauling around extra clothing that I don’t end up using.

I’ve taken enough flak over the years for having a heavy duffle bag that I’ve become determined to travel lighter. The best way I can think of to accomplish that is by not bringing clothing I don’t need. The rest of the gear in my bag is a given. The tent. Sleeping bag and pad. It should be a cinch to stay well under 50 lbs, especially with the new lighter sleeping bag my kids bought me for an early Father’s Day/Birthday gift.

My bag weighed in the upper 40s the years I was being chastised most by the gear haulers. I would like to find the magic weight that will feel noticeably different, but I have no idea what that is.

I suppose I could leave out the large bag of dark chocolate peanut M&Ms that I claimed out of the treat drawer in the kitchen, but this week of extra exercise is one time when I allow myself to splurge a little on my strict daily limit of sugar intake. Jettisoning treats might be taking this weight concern one step too far.

I’m really looking forward to sleeping in the great outdoors again. In honor of the early morning experience of waking up in the tent, I’ve retrieved a Words on Images from three years ago called, Daybreak:




Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

Rough Approximation

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Having my bike up at the lake allowed me to put some time on the two-wheeler in an environment that can loosely be compared to the regions of northern Minnesota where we will be riding this year on the Tour of Minnesota. We are heading from Grand Rapids, MN up to Ely and back again.

The rural countryside of northwest Wisconsin isn’t that far away from northern Minnesota. We are just on the other side of the tip of Lake Superior.

I would not have been one bit surprised to have a black bear dart out of the woods and lope across the road in front of me.

It was two great weather days for biking and the scenery was superb, but there was one essential element missing that would make for perfect preparation for the middle of June Tour of MN.

I was all by myself. Solo riding in the woods can be beautiful, but a tired rider could sure use the distraction of a good conversation to while away the miles. As it was, my increasingly uncomfortable seat on the saddle grew hard to ignore and made it easier to give in to a message from my legs that they wanted to stop pedaling.

It becomes a game of stand up, sit down, pedal for a while, stand up, sit down, readjust position, pedal, stand up… you get the drill.

The ride was wonderful, despite being taxing. It’s the odd thing for me these last few years. I don’t bike regularly anymore, but I love participating in the Tour of Minnesota. So, I end up needing to put on some forced miles to prepare for the one week of constant biking.

At the end of last year’s Tour, I experienced the feeling that I didn’t really need to do any more rides. Been there, done that.

When registration time arrived in February, I found that I couldn’t resist the urge to be with my riding friends one more time, even if it meant some forced riding to prepare.

That is the one thing that makes the trials of trying to get into riding shape in a short time span so absolutely worth it.

So, ignore my whining.

I can’t wait for the trip and spending a week with some really fantastic people whom I miss dearly for fifty-one weeks out of the year!



Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2019 at 6:00 am

Weather Fatigue

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I succeeded in getting all our grass and innumerable dandelions mowed Sunday. I have one peeve about mowing this time of year, when the lovely yellow flowering weed is at its peak and starting to go to seed.

Do you see it? All that grass so freshly cut and one 10-inch dandelion stem sticking out like a sore thumb. There were others, but that one just stood out so defiantly, I couldn’t help but stop and take a picture. Then I snapped it off by hand.

Mowing dandelions can be a frustrating endeavor for a perfectionist.

Like the meteorologists predicted, Memorial Day was a total washout. It reminds me of two years ago this month when I had tried to host a day of cycling with friends in preparation for the Tour of Minnesota.

I captured this memory from that day:

I have gotten smarter about trying to make outdoor plans that prefer sunny, warm weather. I simply don’t make them. Yesterday, we responded precisely as a cold, rainy day deserves, snuggling back in bed for some extra reading and napping.

Pequenita was all in with that plan.

She doesn’t have a problem with this weather. Personally, I am getting worn down by this chilly rain pattern we have endured so far this spring. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if I could curl up and nap all day, but the landscape doesn’t stop growing just because it’s not sunny and warm outside.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and this trend will peter out by the time the bike trip kicks off in the middle of June.

It would help my frame of mind greatly if that were to happen because we are headed far enough north for this year’s route that cold and rainy could translate into a little sleety/snowy, if you know what I mean.

That would definitely exacerbate my current case of weather fatigue.




Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2019 at 6:00 am