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

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Meeting Judy

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Shortly after the first time I signed up to do this epic adventure of biking and camping for a week, I learned that a cherished coworker’s sister always did the Klobuchar ride. I’d never met any of my coworker’s family, but if they were anything like Bob, I couldn’t wait to meet them.

He was more excited than me about the potential connection, and spent a fair amount of energy drilling me on details of her name so that I would remember who I needed to seek out.

Of course, her name. Then, her husband’s name. Their last name, because it was her married name and different than his. He told me I could remember the last name because it was like a Minnesota Twins ball player’s name, only with an ‘S.’

He was seriously excited over the prospect of my meeting his sister on this trip. It was infectious enough that I became just as excited over the possibility.

However, there were a lot of other details I needed to think about. I had never done this kind of thing before. I was traveling with a teen neighbor whom I didn’t really know more than passing from his role as a part-time sitter for our kids. I was also perseverating over having the right gear and packing the right clothes, not to mention where to put everything.

Honestly, Judy’s name was not on my mind as Brian and I made our final visit to the car that first Saturday morning, prior to departing with our bikes. It’s a critical moment of the trip, because it’s the last time you will be anywhere near your vehicle for the rest of the week.

Take what you need, leave the rest. Ideally, stepping away fully prepared for what lies ahead.

As we walked our bikes between parked cars toward the swelling collection of other camping cyclists –all strangers, who would soon become friends– we came upon a couple going through their similar critical last moments with their vehicle.

In a flash of inspiration, upon noticing the man was using a 12V compressor to top off the air in his bike tires, I overcame my normal reticence to bother a stranger. I figured, we didn’t know anyone on this trip, so what better time to break the ice and get over the hump than to ask if we could use his electric pump for our tires, too.

Before I got to the end of my request, I saw that he was actually winding up the power cord to put it away. He was done using it. My brain quickly chastised me with evidence that my bad timing was the very reason not to bother someone you don’t know, blah, blah, blah.

I quickly apologized for inconveniencing him, but he just as quickly talked over my hesitancy and insisted it was no trouble. The awkward start had stumbled all over the more traditional polite practice of introducing oneself, so as we crouched over bike wheels and the buzzing pump, I thought to identify myself.

He responded, “I’m Ed Beckers.”

My eyes got big. I think he wondered what he’d said. My eyes got really big.

Knowing I had the upper hand, I played it for all it was worth. What were the odds?

“THE Ed Beckers!?” with increasing animated excitement.

Confused stare.

“Ed and Judy Beckers!!?”

A woman’s face peers around the car door at this maniacal stranger exclaiming her name.

My coworker’s sister and husband were the very first people we met.

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Written by johnwhays

June 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

Touring Today

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Image of the author captured during the annual June ride in 2009.

This morning, specifically, at the hour this is published today, I will be packing up my tent and preparing my bag for the luggage trailer. Our gear gets transported to tonight’s campsite by truck, allowing us to enjoy the luxury of riding with minimal added weight for the entire day.

It is the start of the 2017 Tour of Minnesota bike ride.

Since this is a vacation for me, I will be extending the break from my routine to include a pause in my daily blogging habit, but don’t for a minute think I would neglect to prepare in advance for posts to show up while I am away.

Similar to years past, when I have reposted a week of revisited “Words on Images” creations, or last year’s portraits of biking jerseys, I have created pre-scheduled posts to entertain you while I’m gone.

This year, as much for my sake as yours, I am going to revisit some of my history with this annual June ride.

Since today is the start of this year’s ride, I will go back to my start as a participant in what was then commonly referred to as the “Jaunt with Jim.”

The “Jim” was Jim Klobuchar, who at the time was a columnist with the StarTribune newspaper. I had been a fan of his writing for years, as well as a long-time cyclist with a curiosity about days-long riding and camping. 1994 happened to be the 20th year he was conducting these rides, which he convinced the StarTribune to sponsor.

Their promotion of the event caught my eye at a time I was ready to give it a try. With little needed effort, I talked a neighboring 16-year-0ld to accompany me for this maiden voyage.

We made a good travel pair, despite our age difference, which freed most of my attention for discovery of the new people and experiences on the ride. One of the main things I remember about that first ride was what glorious weather we enjoyed.

It being the 20th year of this event, the majority of participants seemed to be long-time veterans, which led to a wealth of stories from their archives about the trials and tribulations of carrying all their camping gear on the bikes in most of the earlier years, as well as the varieties of difficult weather they endured on multiple occasions.

In 1994 we had it easy. It was dry, with pleasant temperatures, and on the few days with wind, it was at our backs.

That helped to plant the seed of inspiration that led to our eventual return. However, the real kicker that sealed my fate of riding again with Jim’s group was the fabulous people we’d met that first year and the amount of fun they had together as a riding and camping community.

This amazing collection of people have become extended family for me. In the middle of June, I do everything I can to be among them again, no matter what the weather dishes out.

Tomorrow… Who is the very first couple we meet?

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Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2017 at 6:00 am

Perfect Weather

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I am visualizing perfect weather for a week of bicycling and tent camping. It could happen.

This morning I will hope to get the property mowed at the last minute so the grass shouldn’t be too long when I return to cut it again next Friday. This afternoon I will load up my bike and gear in the car and depart for a week of vacation.

This trip may not offer much chance to catch up on sleep, but I will have ample opportunity to take a mental break from the daily grind, and I will eat and laugh heartily with some very special like-minded cycling friends. This trip is a wonderful mental vacation because I don’t need to make any major decisions. The daily meals, the route, and the camping locations are all predetermined.

I just show up and ride. Oh, maybe I will waffle over what jersey to put on each day, but that’s about as complicated as it will get. Last night, I laid out gear and clothes while trying to imagine the usual routines of the week, in attempt to prepare for everything.

I would do myself a favor to now review the choices I made and divide it in half. I don’t think there has been a year where I ever needed everything I usually pack. Last year, I tried traveling lighter than my usual. This year, I would like to improve on that.

Just hoping the days near Lake Superior won’t complicate things. That massive body of water is a very effective air conditioner and can drop the temperature dramatically if the breeze flows from the direction of the lake. Warm clothes and packing light conflict a little when it comes to my wardrobe.

Over the years, I’ve heard tales of a wide range of essential items being forgotten by participants. I would like to avoid making an unplanned purchase of a critical item, so I will be working off a cheat sheet. Oddly, it seems I have filed away my master list from the many prior years I’ve done this trip.

Making a new list. I can remember to bring everything on my list, but did I remember to put everything I want on the list? Yeah, that’s the trick.

As long as I have my bike, both wheels, my cycling shoes and helmet, tent, sleeping bag, and pad, I’m good. Other than some clothes, the rest is all non-essential. I will bring my guitar this year, though, since the weather is going to be perfect.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2017 at 6:00 am

Fiery Sky

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The horses were heavily harassed by biting flies yesterday, which made my session of scooping manure a lively affair. The biggest hazard, beyond unpredictable flailing hooves as they fling a leg out in response to a bite, is the nasty snap of their tails. They could take an eye out with that whipping action. At the very least, it stings when they get you.

I’ve noticed they will frequently align themselves to purposely have their heads in the wash of someone else’s tail for added fly management. There is no doubt they are thicker skinned than we are. I wouldn’t be able to endure the beating.

I worked well past the dinner hour last night, after a full shift at the day-job, to create added open space in the compost area for my approaching week-long absence from home. The effort now should pay off when I return, so I won’t come home to a disaster of overflowing piles.

Manure management is one of those jobs that is made easy by frequent attention. Let it go for a day or two between scooping and it can become an exponentially more significant project.

Last night, I opened up a gate to a section of pasture that still has long grass, to allow the herd a brief session of grazing. The first thing three of them did was pee. The second thing they took turns doing was laying down and rolling around.

When I looked their direction to see they finally got around to seriously grazing, the setting sun was illuminating the clouds to create the impression of a great conflagration. Photo Op!

One last day at the day-job today before vacation. I hope to try mowing the yard tonight and maybe doing a little laundry so I can pack clean clothes for the bike trip.

If I pack warm clothes and rain gear, maybe I won’t need them. We all know that if I don’t pack those things, it would guarantee that the week would turn out cold and wet.

If we see fiery clouds in the evenings during the bike trip, I hope it will mean, “sailor’s delight.”

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Successful Surgery

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We are happy to report that Cyndie’s surgery was all good yesterday. There were no complications in the 4 objectives of cleaning out the arthritis, removing a spur, cleaning up the rotator cuff, and reattaching the ruptured tendons.

The outpatient procedure allowed her to be home by the end of the day, where she immediately began experimenting with our variety of chairs and couch in search of a favored perch. Pain management was easy last night, as the nerve block hadn’t yet worn off and the whole arm down to the hand was without feeling.

Today will likely be a bit more challenging for her, we presume.

They had her strapped into the brace before she even woke up from the procedure. She will wear it for the next 6-weeks, except for taking showers.

Quite a fashion statement, don’t you think?

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Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Animals Sense

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This morning we are headed to an outpatient surgery center for Cyndie’s shoulder repair. The plan is for an arthroscopic procedure to reattach ruptured tendons and clean up any tissue tears, and then clean up arthritis discovered in the MRI done to assess the injury.

The silver lining in this incident is that she hadn’t previously realized the extent of arthritic damage in that shoulder that was contributing to a chronic discomfort she had come to perceive as ‘normal.’

Welcome to the world of chronic Lyme disease outcomes. Sure, she was treated extensively with long-term antibiotics back when her symptoms mushroomed to a level of undeniable evidence, but it’s an imperfect science. Even more so back in the ’90s when she experienced it.

A vast majority of health insurance corporations and plenty of doctors closely associated would like her to swallow the company lines that she is completely cured. We tend to feel the wild litany of afflictions picking away at our sanity every year since that initial treatment are unsurprisingly identical to the long list of Lyme related symptoms listed in medical research reports.

Her debilitating arthritis is just a fraction of the issues she experiences, but at least modern medicine offers clear surgical options to repair or replace arthritic joints.

As frustrating as it is to be going through this routine again, we are at the same time grateful to have this opportunity. We intend to focus on the potential for less pain in that shoulder, and the return of function of her dominant right arm.

I want to know if she will be able to hoist bales of hay again. Hopefully, even better than before.

Our animals seem to recognize she is in a world of hurt since the arm was yanked. Cyndie reported that yesterday Legacy approached her and uncharacteristically, with his head down, ever so gently rubbed up and down her afflicted limb with his nose, as if in acknowledgement of her discomfort.

Pequenita, who generally reserves the majority of her affection for me, has switched allegiance and has been sleeping on Cyndie the last few nights. I spotted her on Sunday, all curled up in a ball with her head turned over, sleeping just below Cyndie’s pillow.

We are all mustering our best Cyndie care-taking energies to guide her through today’s procedure, and then on to recovery and rehabilitation. We’ve had some practice with this. I’m pretty sure we know what to do.

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2017 at 6:00 am

Silt Filtered

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The new silt fence installation mostly worked, but it wasn’t quite up to the task of yesterday morning’s deluge. We received 2-inches of rain in a span of about 20 minutes. I made a quick reconnaissance trek to assess the worthiness of our installation in the moments after the downpour and found this:

It was a little deflating, but not unexpected. Interesting to see how easily the water pressure pushed away the bales as it overflowed the plastic fabric barrier. The good news is that most of the silt did remain on the uphill side of the fence.

The water will not be denied. When I pushed the bales back in place and stopped the overflow, the soil beneath my feet simply bubbled up with flow out of the ground like a spring.

Five and a half years ago when we started this property adventure, I had no idea what I was in for in terms of actual land management. If I have learned anything in that time, it is that whatever the design might be that we conjure up to enhance this land, it better fully keep in mind and will be wholly subject to, the whims of the changing climate and the water behavior it will unleash, from drought, to frost heaves, to flash flood and everything in-between.

With reverent reference to the classic thriller, “Jaws” :

We’re gonna need a bigger fence.

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Written by johnwhays

June 12, 2017 at 6:00 am