Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘bicycle touring

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

Inaugural Ride

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The ol’ legs, they ain’t what they used to be. It almost feels like I’ve gotten older than I’ve ever been before. Yesterday, I got out on the bike for my inaugural ride of the season. I do love winter, but there is no way a person can’t fall for a day in spring that sprouts with a blue sky, calm winds, and warm temps.

It was an opportunity that I needed to grab to get my cycling season underway. My annual bike trip in the middle of June is only two and a half months away and I need to break in a new saddle. Plus, I have committed to hosting a warm-up ride in the countryside around Wintervale in May.

I need to scout a route that will be suitable in length and challenge. Yesterday proved to be a chance to both break in my butt and start the process of establishing a route. I did well in both accounts. For the route, when I say that I did well, I mean that I found several roads that will not be candidates for the warm-up ride.

Things started well enough, as I headed out on roads I was familiar with. The superb weather and the idyllic landscapes were as good as could possibly be. As the miles mounted, I recognized the energy in my legs waning. As I approached the road that I was hoping to use for my turn west toward home again, I found gravel.

Ugh. This was my last chance before reaching a state road that was not so bike friendly. So I turned off the pavement. Luckily, this was an old unpaved road, so the surface was hard-packed almost as smooth as asphalt.

I could live with that. After a couple of more turns, I was getting really ready to reach home, thinking that it would have been nice if I’d tucked an energy bar into my jersey pocket.

I was looking for 610th, a road that I knew previously was gravel, but thought I’d seen new pavement in the last couple of years. As I turned onto it, there was a fleeting moment of hope, because the first 50 yards was pavement. The gravel that followed was nothing like the hard-packed old roads I’d traversed earlier.

This stuff seemed like it might have just been laid down this spring. It was the worst of class 5 gravel that offered absolutely no smooth tire tracks and left my rear tire slipping if I stood up to pedal. At the first incline, I had to throw in the towel and dismount.

I walked my bike up the loose gravel road as my tired legs complained about the change. Too tired to walk and too tired to ride is a good sign I’d used up pretty much all the strength reserves my old legs had to offer.

Those roads will definitely not be on the route we will be taking in May.

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Written by johnwhays

April 2, 2017 at 10:03 am

Bike Week

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I’ve been riding the “Jaunt with Jim” bike ride in the middle of June for probably 15 of the last 20 years. Jim Klobuchar has retired and passed the ride along to the leadership of my friend, Bob Lincoln, who has rechristened the ride the “Tour of Minnesota.”

The usual routine during my travels is to compose and schedule Relative Something posts in advance, to provide continuous content while I’m away. However, we’re in the year 2015, and I think it’s time I stretch my abilities and join the craze of mobile technology being promoted everywhere I turn. I have downloaded the WordPress app, and this year I endeavor to achieve a “live” daily peek into my experiences biking and camping by posting from my phone. Oy.

Wish me luck. And carrier service. And battery life.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the great June bicycle trip, I am once again providing the youtube video of the song I wrote about the event, set to a slide show of photos I took during a couple trips that happened in northern Minnesota a bunch of years ago. It pretty much describes the event from start to finish. That’s why it is over 8 minutes long.

Today, we will be leaving Chaska, MN early in the morning and will ride a mere 50-some miles to Faribault. I hope you will find a post here tomorrow morning about the first day of this year’s ride.

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2015 at 6:00 am

Preparations Underway

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It’s that time again. In 4 days I depart for a week of bicycling and tent camping. Preparations are underway to get my bike ready, my butt ready, and my gear pulled out of storage.

I haven’t been out on the bicycle much at all this year, but I have snuck in a couple of rides covering a reasonable number of miles, enabling me to feel at least minimally prepared for what’s ahead. On Saturday I ventured out alone to explore some of the country roads around our place, and managed to be out riding for twice as long as I had intended. I figured that to be a good sign. One, that I was even able to do it (although I was thoroughly spent by the time I reached home again), and two, that I was feeling up to riding for that long.

I tried to follow that up yesterday with another workout in the saddle, but very quickly my legs let me know they hadn’t had enough time to recover from the day before. Seems I picked a tricky time to ask my body to readjust to getting less sugar, since I also need to prepare to do a week of long distance cycling. My energy stores are a bit confused.

It is a good thing I cut my ride short, because we had family stop by to celebrate Cyndie’s birthday which was during the week last week. I thought they were just making a brief appearance while on their way home from the lake, but it turned out they hadn’t been at the lake and ventured our way just for a little party. What fun!

DSCN3525eCyndie served up some treats and pulled out the lawn games for the niece and nephews. They gave her a fabulous collection of mini figurines and decor that are now wonderfully arranged down by the labyrinth garden. We had a beautiful afternoon of outdoor activities, although keeping to mostly high ground.

Overnight Saturday, we received another inch and a half of rain in a spectacularly dramatic flashing thunderstorm. Our low spots are now all standing water after a pattern of repeated soakings last week. The horses —well, mostly the two geldings— rolled in the fresh mud in attempt to keep the biting flies at bay.

Despite how annoyed they were with the flies, all four horses seemed particularly well-behaved during the period our visitors were mingling with them at the barn.

DSCN3526eDelilah was delighted to have so many people to interact with and throw things for her to chase. She completely dropped any hint of heeding our commands and made herself at home in the landscape pond whenever she got hot and tired. It looked like she was thinking about taking up tree climbing at one point, when something particularly interesting got her attention up in a pine tree that was much taller than with which she should have been bothered.

I know this week will be gone in a blink and my hours for packing will expire, but I’ve done this bike trip enough times that I’m hoping it will all fall into place in the nick of time.

I usually does.

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2015 at 6:00 am

Parting Shots

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I will end my series about the 2014 Tour of Minnesota bicycle ride and tent camping week with a few remaining photos to provide a view of some universal scenes. As I reviewed my files to select these, it occurred to me that I am missing a picture of our favorite bike tech, Mike, at our Penn Cycle support van. That is a good thing for me, because it is probably a reflection of my minimal needs in the way of bike repair this year, despite the harsh conditions.

Mike did pause one repair to hand me a pliers from his tool box so I could loosen the nut on my valve stem when I was trying to top off the air in my tires. He is the best combination of capable and humble. Mike is a precious person and major contributor to our good experiences on this ride.

A view of tents set up for the night, followed by the next morning. That would be Rich’s tent, always in the running for the last tent taken down each morning…

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Speaking of Rich, he is a very special friend who, on the morning I felt at my worst during the week, pulled me along for the first leg of the day. That makes a huge difference by the end of the day, having had an easy go of it at the start. I was lucky to share one of the great spectacles of the ride with Rich. I peeked around his shoulder to notice two riders approaching while we were on the Casey Jones Trail. It was just a glance, and my brain struggled to reconcile the information received. The figures we all black, head to toe. On a bike? Could they be women riding in burkas?

What was I thinking? It was gorilla suits, of course. A very hilarious moment for us, giving a high-five to a gorilla riding past us on a bike.

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As always, it is the people who make this ride special. Sharing meals, miles, and all the trials and tribulations of adventure vacations. Special thanks are due to the support crew who handle our bags, so we can ride without needing to carry tents, sleeping bags, and spare clothes.

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A special salute to Bob Lincoln, who accepted the role of leading the ride this year. His was truly a trial by fire, with unprecedented difficulties sprouting at every turn. He handled it all with superb professionalism and produced a fantastic and safe experience for every rider. Thank you, Bob!

IMG_4004eOne last shot, courtesy of Rich, on the morning of our last day. It was sunny, and we were dry. In the distance was the only spot of the week where we were faced with riding through flood water that was over the road. It soaked my shoes, through and through. It seemed only appropriate.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2014 at 10:28 am

Pedaling Upwind

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Seriously, we agreed to go, and even paid for the privilege of riding bicycles in a region that is so windy that they hold National Championship windsurfing competitions and power companies put up wind turbine farms.

What were we thinking?

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Maybe more of us would have thought twice about dealing with that wind if we would have known that the region was also going to be soaked by repeating waves of massive thunderstorms creating flash floods that closed roads, destroyed crops, and trapped a lot of cows.

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We witnessed innumerable fields with large amounts of topsoil sediment dropped in the lowest draining corner, and even more fields with massive amounts of previous year’s dead stalks and debris pushed into piles where it flowed over roads, or dropped in winding patterns when flood waters receded.

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Luckily, the camaraderie and shared accomplishment of like-minded friends proves to be a superb distraction from how miserable we might otherwise feel were we to endure such dreadful conditions alone. Riding while chatting —when the winds aren’t gusting so severely as to make that impossible— is a great way to cover long miles and not notice how far you’ve actually gone. We had opportunities to experience a little of both situations on this year’s ride.

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2014 at 6:00 am