Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘bike touring

Still There

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I’ve made it through two days back at work, but like many years before, my mind is still back on the week of biking and camping with friends. Those days are a powerful elixir that takes a while to wear off.

The Tour of Minnesota is holding a photo contest which provides me an opportunity to revisit the trip, with an expanded view from my own, by perusing the 200-plus submissions from fellow riders.

Here are a couple of my own shots that I liked well enough to toss into the fray…

 

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

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

Wheels Rollin’

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DSCN4872eMy favorite photos from cycling are usually ones taken on the road from the bike. When I remember, I carry my pocket camera in my jersey so I can slip my hand through the strap and pull it out for shots on the fly. Unlike my sure-handed friend, Rich, who deftly wields his iPhone for photos from his bike, I want the comfort of knowing the wrist strap will back me up when I fumble the grip.

Even when I remember to have the camera at the ready, usage requires I have ample space to allow my bike to wander off course a bit in the act of capturing shots. I have a tendency to float across lanes when I twist my torso around to compose a view behind me.

DSCN4875eGood shots can be had when a lot of bikers are bunched up, but those are not times I feel safe to be veering off course in the act of shooting.

Although the majority of this year’s Tour of Minnesota was on bike trails, there were still a few occasions when we were out on the open road. With only minimal traffic and an ongoing intermittent rumble strip to deal with, we had opportunity to spread out and stretch our legs.

It was good to have a little variation from the monotonous, albeit beautiful,  miles of railroad-grade paved trails.

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At one point we came upon a crew repaving the road. We simply joined the autos in waiting a turn to pass through the construction zone.

It felt a little too exposed to be on a bicycle, just a few feet away from fresh steaming hot asphalt, large dump trucks, and huge steam rollers crawling along as we rode through.

Some riders cannot resist the urge to stop and shop whenever we come upon garage sales. It pays to have a way to carry new treasures when shopping by bike.

Doobie is one to find a way when his muse hits. Light saber on the backpack, stuffed python snake wrapped around the bike frame. He doesn’t let anything bog down his free wheelin’.

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2016 at 6:00 am

Trip Withdrawal

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I’ve been home one day and I am noticing a distinct void from the abrupt absence of the large group of companions I enjoyed last week. Though personal space and familiar comforts of home are precious, the camaraderie we shared can be addicting, putting up a good fight for my desire.

I want both.

DSCN4819eNow I’ve got my bathroom and bed back, but a lingering longing for the instantly available connection with inspiring souls leaves me wanting. I think that is what draws so many of us back to this annual ride each succeeding year.

Looking at a picture of the very first morning, taken just moments before we pedaled off en mass on the first leg of the week, I am instantly reminded of the excitement and anticipation of what lie ahead for us.

It started out with a damp fog just above the ground, but our 2016 ride in the heart of the state was blessed with some great weather and easy riding. A high percentage of our miles were accomplished on the 115-mile-long Paul Bunyan State Trail between Brainerd and Bemidji.

I had a really nice time meeting riders that were new to our group this year, discovering kindred spirits from as far away as Maryland, Texas, and Colorado, as well as a few from within the state of Minnesota.

DSCN4830eThey all won a piece of my heart, but challenging that for the highlight of the year for me was the opportunity to ride with first-timer, Sarah Gordon, the 10-year-old daughter of my treasured friend, Rich. They rode together on a borrowed tandem in a brave “test of concept” exercise for both.

I could see how difficult it was for each of them to manage at times, and they did a spectacular job of facing the challenges and achieving their goals, all while maintaining a superb attitude. They inspired and energized me greatly.

Sometimes we can become narrowly focused on doing this ride for our own personal reasons, but there is an equally significant value for those around us when we make the decision to participate.

I am forever grateful that Sarah decided to ride with us this year, and equally thankful for the rest of the crew, new and old, who showed up this year to make the 2016 Tour of Minnesota a particularly special biking and camping week.

How ’bout we do it again next year, eh?

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