Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘travel

Feeling Crummy

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Imagine you have been out of town, traveling on a commercial airline, attending graduation events with throngs of others who have traveled from far and wide and you arrive home feeling less than your best in the third year of a pandemic.

Out of an excess of caution, Cyndie chose to wear a mask when she got home until she verifies by test whether she was feeling crummy because of the dreaded virus or simply some other easily possible reason. Allergies? Travel fatigue?

A nap was enough to get her out walking the dog and pulling some dreaded invasive garlic mustard plants while I was trimming and hauling away more branches from the lower portion of evergreen trees along the driveway.

I can never tell when she is truly ill because she tends to maintain her activities regardless.

After catching up with some news headlines, I was feeling kind of crummy until I happened upon the tidbit about the small trial for cancer treatment that resulted in an unheard-of complete remission in all patients.

Imagine hoping your treatment protocol might help some patients and then learning it made tumors vanish in all 18 participants.

I believe that would be the opposite of feeling crummy.



Written by johnwhays

June 7, 2022 at 6:00 am

Isolated Festively

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Over a holiday weekend that historically would have us venturing sixty-some miles to the west three times in two days to mingle and nosh with Cyndie’s relations, the Christmas of 2020 in all its pandemic isolation reduced our travels to one time to exchange gifts at her mom’s house. Distanced, masked, and without risking a shared meal, our children met us at Marie’s house in Edina on Christmas eve day for the briefest of gift exchanges.

Little did we realize before setting out in the moments after our township road had finally been plowed around 11:00 a.m., we were in for some of the riskiest driving we’d experienced in recent memory. From local roads to the interstate highways, the surface was frozen and slippery. Almost every mile, sometimes more frequently, we spotted vehicles buried in the ditch.

Approaching a speed that would require the use of brakes in order to slow down was taking chances that threatened an unwelcome hell of post-storm autobody appointments, not to mention bumps and bruises, or worse.

Every overhead message board flashed warnings of crash delays ahead. As we waited in one backup, a full-size fire engine forced its way ahead and crossed all lanes to block the two left-most. We crawled ahead to where the sight of a big rig was perched on the cement barrier dividing east and westbound traffic, front tires high off the ground.

Later, another backup wrapped around a helpless pickup in a center lane, lacking enough traction to make any progress up the slight incline.

Cyndie’s expertly cautious driving got us there and back without incident.

Back home with presents in hand, we settled in for three days of isolation that Cyndie masterfully enhanced with wonderfully festive meals and activities, while simultaneously continuing to practice post-surgery regiments for her knee.

We ate like royalty and dined on some of her family holiday classics. Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, marinated carrots, out-of-this-world skin-on mashed red potatoes, and dessert of unparalleled greatness, cranberry cake with butter-caramel sauce.

We sat around the fireplace and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle from Marie that depicted chickens that looked just like ours. Cyndie poured herself into new books and I spent renewed time in my world-wide online community, catching up on reading and writing there.

A text-chain of family members helped us to stay connected, but there was no getting around the fact we were home alone together at one of the most family-gathering times of the year.

Somehow, maybe due to an urge to make it feel anything but just another day at home, Cyndie took interest in assembling the jigsaw puzzle with me, something in which she usually finds no pleasure. I chose to match her change in routine by deciding to skip building the outer border first, a step that moved me entirely out of my otherwise rigid norm.

We had a blast with the task, each finding great pleasure in the shared experience.

Quite simply, it helped to make the entire weekend feel downright festive, isolation be damned.



Other Places

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Some days I find solace in escaping within a visualization of a pleasant memory. It’s a version of filling this moment with a moment that I’ve borrowed from another moment.

Today, I am breathing deep and remembering when I stood high in the Himalayan mountains over ten years ago.

That place is a very long distance away from where I live, but it is as close as a thought that I am able to recall at will.

Focusing on such single visualizations tends to discount all the sundry details that came before and after that moment, in something of a selective memory. The effort involved in arriving to that place was significant and tends to repress the likelihood of my ever returning, despite a lingering urge to be able to stand there once again.

It makes the mental return visits all the more precious.

Here’s to enlightenment.

Om Mani Padme Hum…





Written by johnwhays

December 19, 2019 at 7:00 am

Much Needed

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We made it to the lake for a much-needed respite from the nibbling chaos of late. I admit to a certain penchant for bringing order to my world. When there is always more to do in a day than time allows, I find satisfaction in tending to something on the list to a degree it at least gives the appearance of having been addressed.

The previous few days of the day-job have offered up increasingly more demands than my tiny progress has been able to offset. With Cyndie away all week, attention to the home front has been below expectations. Thank goodness we don’t need to be putting up hay this summer.

Cyndie’s flight home was canceled yesterday, on the excuse that a flight attendant called in sick and they didn’t have enough personnel to staff the flight. Really? They found her an alternative by driving her an hour to San Francisco to barely make an 8:00 a.m. departure toward home. Good thing Cyndie was willing to do a little running to make the boarding gate in time.

That solution involved leaving her checked bag to make its way home without her. The airline said they would deliver her suitcase to our doorstep by the end of the day. Too bad she left her jewelry and medicines in that bag and at the last minute decided to allow it to be checked instead of carrying it on as originally planned, because we made a dash for the lake last night before it arrived, bringing Delilah along for the two-and-a-half-hour drive.

Yeah, it all feels a little chaotic to me in retrospect, given the reference of sights and sounds we are enjoying this morning.

This is what I call respite…









It is the perfect tonic for what is ailing me. I intend to immerse myself in the experience to the fullest. 

Aahhhhh. Wake me on Sunday when it is time to head back to the real world.





Written by johnwhays

August 9, 2019 at 7:40 am

Still Ely

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Having a day off in the middle of our week of riding is a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, it wreaks havoc on the organization system I had established for keeping track of things in my duffel bag.

Yesterday was a chance to sleep in, pick our own restaurants for meals, and shop Ely.

After an early hike to get coffee with Laura, which scored me a chai, a larger gang formed for breakfast at Insula restaurant.

Breakfast salad was my choice and I was not disappointed. Poached eggs and smoked salmon! Mmm. It was delicious and just what I wanted.

Look at that morsel of blue sky!

We shopped the main drag and I got to visit my two favorite outdoor gear retailers: Wintergreen and Steger Mukluks.

One of our riders from California, Bob Murin, paints watercolors and I came upon him mid-picture.

In the afternoon, we visited the International Wolf Center and were lucky to spot the four males that made an appearance right before we left, three of whom are visible sprawled out in the image I captured.

It was all good, but paled in comparison to the social-hour surprise we got in the park where we tented.

An Ely cake baker, Susan Laine, showed up with a treat she baked to welcome us!

That is love, I tell ya.



Written by johnwhays

June 19, 2019 at 6:00 am

Saturday Thinking

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It’s a gorgeous winter day today. Seriously cold outside, but wonderful to look at. I don’t know why we find ourselves wondering this morning about where else we might choose to live, if we didn’t live here.

We are pondering the details that would allow us a return trip to visit Ian and family in Portugal.

If we didn’t have animals, we would have a lot more freedom to travel. If we lived closer to family and my workplace, navigating every single event in our lives would be dramatically more convenient.

Maybe grieving opens us up to such thinking. Cyndie is processing family photos and documents in preparation for a funeral service tomorrow for an aunt whom Cyndie had been assigned the responsibility of power of attorney. Caring for her aunt has consumed a majority of her attention for the last nine months.

Back in 2012, when we found this place, one of my early impressions was that we had discovered the place where I would live the rest of my life. It is very conflicting to contemplate the possibility of alternatives.

At the same time, I have gained a keen sense of how everything is always in a constant state of change.

I’m feeling a little lost lately about a question of why we were so lucky to have ended up here with our precious animals and the glorious land and healthy forest, if it wasn’t to share it with others through the cost-offsetting venture of Wintervale Ranch & Retreat Center.

We’ve fallen short of managing to build a revenue generating operation that would allow us to afford running the place without being employed somewhere else for too many critical hours per week.

If we haven’t accomplished the dream we envisioned years ago, what do we do with what remains?

I’m uneasy about the weather effects our warming planet is dishing out and wonder about how to deal with the results. I don’t like the thought of how jumping on airplanes at every whim feeds an industry that, though relatively small, has a disproportionally large impact on the climate system.

One Saturday morning won’t provide the answer to such a complex situation, but it is a chance to put our thoughts together in a kettle to begin simmering. Not that these thoughts haven’t already been simmering for a while now. Maybe we are just turning up the temperature on this kind of thinking today.

And, feeling fresh grief, for the end of another life.

It is really cold here.

We have a fire in the fireplace and our music playing from a random mix of my entire iTunes library.

It’s a Saturday morning, and Cyndie and I are thinking, occasionally out loud, together.



Written by johnwhays

February 9, 2019 at 11:29 am

Finally, Snow

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So, if you are going to return north from a week in Florida, in January, you might as well dive head first into the coldest and snowiest days all winter, to make sure you will absolutely and thoroughly miss where you’ve just been.

Luckily for us, our animals so completely missed us that the love and attention they have showered over us has gone a long way to offset the angst of the painfully adult dose of winter that has greeted our return. (We still have all 9 chickens! Although, they weren’t all that fired up to show us any love. They may be hardy winter birds, but they don’t seem hardy enough to want to venture out of the coop when it is really cold, or the ground is covered with new snow.)

Instead of driving to the day-job, I stayed home and plowed snow drifts yesterday. It is hard to tell how much snow fell around here, because the depth ranges from about an inch in some places, to two feet in others.

I took a picture with Delilah in it, but I was focused on showing the fine pathway I cleared around the back pasture fence line.

Then I noticed that interesting cloud bank in the sky.

That was some pretty distinct delineation of cloud and clear sky right there. Nature sure makes cool stuff.

As Delilah and I walked the path around the pasture, I noticed the horses had made cute little circle tracks in the fresh snow, leaving little visible spots of where they foraged grass to graze.

It almost looks like they were on cross-country skis, as they moseyed along.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, as Delilah and I started our walk from the house, breaking trail in the new snow, we came to the spot where our trail cam captured a view of the fox last year. Something had just entered our property there within the hours since this overnight snowfall.

I decided to let Delilah follow the trail into the neighbor’s woods, in case we might find where the fox has a den. She was thrilled to have been granted access to this forbidden land and leaped through the snow to explore where the tracks led.

Well, even though it had been less than twelve hours since the majority of the snow fell, there were already a dizzying web of trails crisscrossing the wooded slopes. The snow was fresh and just deep enough that identification was difficult, but there were so many different pathways that I soon realized the chance we were following one fox had become very unlikely.

We reached a spot where tracks were everywhere, and the leaves beneath the snow were turned up in a wide variety of places. For a second, I wondered if it was a pack of coyotes, but then I deduced it was much more likely to be a flock of turkeys.

No wonder Delilah was so excited over that particular location.

I convinced her to reroute our exploration back toward our property and gave up on hunting for a fox den.

At least we finally have a snow cover that offers better footing than the icy glazing we had battled the previous month.



Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2019 at 7:00 am

Weather Delays

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What a day of travel we endured yesterday. Florida was experiencing a cycle of non-stop rain and Minnesota was getting smacked with heavy snowfall. It impacted our plans on both ends.

I took one last photo of the pool before we left, in the dreary rain, all covered up for the cool week ahead.

By noon, we were at the Fort Myers airport for our early afternoon flight. Unfortunately, it didn’t depart in the early afternoon, as planned. In fact, it didn’t depart at all.

The initial delay was rumored to be because of a wind shear situation that was preventing our plane from being allowed to land. It circled the Fort Myers airport until it was so low on fuel that it needed to divert to a different airport to refuel.

Eventually, after several delays that pushed it to a 4:30 departure time, our flight was ultimately canceled. The next flight that airline offered was going to be in a couple of days.

That didn’t work for us.

Cyndie contacted her parents and they were able to find us seats on a Delta flight that was to leave at 6:30. We had to get to baggage claim to find our luggage and then make a second trip through security.

We got a little nervous when that flight announced a departure delay, but it only happened once. This time they said air traffic control in Minneapolis was dealing with bad weather and pushing arrivals out. Once our plane was in the air, we figured we were done worrying, but there was a moment of discomfort when we got stuck circling a couple times before final descent was able to happen.

Initially, we only found one of our bags at MSP baggage claim, a process complicated by their announcing the wrong carousel for pick up. The clock was ticking for us because every minute of delay allowed the snowy roads to get worse than they already were.

By 11:00 p.m. we were finally in our car and ready to forge our way on unplowed roads for the hour-long drive home.

It was wicked. Visibility was poor, and the snow-covered roads were treacherous. As we got close to home, the wind was creating bumpy waves of drifted snow across the pavement.

Surprisingly, the harsh conditions only added 15-minutes to our drive home from the airport. Unsurprisingly, the horrible driving convinced me that I would not be making the trip to the day-job this morning, like I had originally planned.

Looks like I’ll be plowing and shoveling, instead.

That’s one way to welcome us home again.



Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2019 at 7:00 am

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Flying North

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Today, we fly back to winter, just in time for a blast of snow and Arctic cold air to put an exclamation point on the end of our 9-day visit to Florida. We ate like royalty, played cards, laughed, shopped, explored, watched movies and never wore mittens once.

Yesterday, maybe as a primer for our return, the temperature hovered on the cool side of comfortable, compressing our outdoor activity to a couple matches of bocce ball and a walk back to the house before the next rain shower.









Barb was the difference maker in both close competitions, despite the missing sunshine that would have allowed for much more relaxed muscles during tosses.

We expect to arrive to the Minneapolis airport in the late afternoon today, and hope to drive the hour toward home without suffering any delays that may result from snow-covered roads.

Whether I will be able to execute my usual commute across the Twin Cities in my return to the day-job tomorrow morning remains a mystery, at this point.

The forecast (as of late last night) is rather ominous:

The predicted high temperature on Wednesday could remain in the double-digits (F) below zero. That will be the warmest part of the day.

One tiny shred of consolation about coming home to this brutal weather, is the fact that the polar vortex pushing down into the middle of the country will have an impact all the way to Florida. Cyndie’s parents had us put the insulating cover on their pool last night, in preparation for the cool week ahead.

Good thing we are going home, so we don’t have to suffer in any of the cold Florida weather they will be dealing with down here.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?



Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Several Adventures

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The Gulf of Mexico

We walked the beach

and trails of Lovers Key State Park, where we also paused for a picnic lunch

While walking, we came upon an osprey dining on a fresh catch

Barb & Mike got a crash course on piloting a Segway (no crashing involved)

We toured the multi-million dollar neighborhoods of Naples

and I barely eked out a vague capture of the sunset for Steve R.