Sunday, August 2, 2020

Butterflies, Eagles, and Norms

Tammy and I are keeping watch over a monarch caterpillar chrysalis that's metamorphosing in our den. It formed its chrysalis on the 24th of July—9 days ago. The monarch butterfly usually appears within 9-14 days. I'd like to capture some video of it as it emerges if I'm around so I can bookend this video I took of it forming its chrysalis. I was amazed at how quickly it changed from a caterpillar to a chrysalis. 

Tammy had ordered a dozen caterpillars from an online site but they were never able to fill her request. We needed to go only as far as our backyard garden where we'd planted a few milkweed plants to find what we were looking for. We figured one was enough and allowed any others to remain in the garden. We'll be planting more milkweed next spring to attract them. 

I've got a nice rotation of riding, walking, and golfing that's keeping me active outdoors. I like the variety. It wasn't all that many years ago when my only focus was road riding. How I never burned out on a steady diet of 300-mile (480 km) weeks or more I'm not sure. Those days are likely done, at least for this life. One thing I've noticed with my gravel riding: I sometimes get pounding headaches after a longish ride—headaches that develop later in the evening after a ride and oftentimes stay with me through the next day. I thought (and still sorta do) that the headaches were the result of not hydrating well enough during and after my rides but I'm not so certain that's the reason for them. I'm wondering if there's something in the gravel dust I'm exposed to that may be causing them?

I carded an eagle last week playing with Steve at Valleywood Golf Course on the 16th hole from 173 yards out with a 5 iron. We had to wait for the greenskeepers to exit the green before we could play our approach shots. They sat off to the side and waited for us. I knew I'd hit the ball well but I couldn't see how close to the hole it finished. When we came up to the green, I asked the greenskeepers if they saw where my ball landed because I wasn't seeing it. They both replied, "It's in the cup!" Haha! How fun was that!? The last eagle I made was on the 1st hole at Wyandotte Golf Course in Winona, MI at least 15 years ago. It's a par 5 and the group ahead of me waved me on. My ball landed on the green leaving me at least 30 feet for eagle. I somehow managed to hole it out with an audience. It's funny how those memories stay with me all these years later. I'm certain my most recent eagle will have its place as well in my list of memories. I'm a simple guy. 

The COVID-19 virus continues to plague the US while Republicans continue to downplay it and appear to want nothing to do with easing the financial burden on so many who are struggling to put food on their table and pay their mortgages, say nothing of utilities and car payments. I think their plan is to offer little to nothing in the way of assistance, forcing people back to work thereby giving the appearance that all is well and that we've put the virus behind us. It's ludicrous thinking and something the virus would laugh at if it could. 

It's not helpful that we have a president who can't tell the truth about anything. The thing is, had he been honest with the American people from the outset and led us through this difficult period by being honest about what we're up against, he would've been seen as a man doing his best for the good of the country. Instead, we have a president who is clearly only out for himself and will do anything imaginable and unimaginable to win the election and retain power. Who would've ever thought that a political party would force people to the polls to vote during a pandemic when they could've ensured a safe and fair election through mail-in ballots? This is especially concerning in high-minority areas where Republicans have drastically reduced the number of polling places, forcing people to stand in lines for hours on end to cast their ballots. 

I read an article in the Boston Globe a few days ago about what happens if Trump loses the election but refuses to concede the loss? Yes, that's the sort of thing that's actually being talked about here. What then? From the article: 
"Using a role-playing game that is a fixture of military and national security planning, the group envisioned a dark 11 weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, one in which Trump and his Republican allies used every apparatus of government — the Postal Service, state lawmakers, the Justice Department, federal agents, and the military — to hold onto power, and Democrats took to the courts and the streets to try to stop it."
The article goes on to talk about how our form of government relies on norms, not laws for transition of power. What if a president takes it upon themselves to disregard those norms? What then? Here's a link to the article.  

I been using my rear-mounted camera to enhance my ride videos and have managed to record two dogs giving chase to me so far. Plus, I've been playing around with the TimeWarp feature on my GoPros to capture some time-lapse video. I like the effect it creates but I suppose I should be careful to not use it too much. It's pretty cool.

Edit: I nearly forgot! Tammy and I celebrated our 21 year wedding anniversary on Thursday. We took a nice drive up to Stillwater and bummed around the city for a few hours, enjoying a late lunch at the Freight House. How does 21 years get away so quickly? Our rhythm is off a little with the pandemic all around us. Still, it was nice to be able to celebrate in our own little subdued way.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Eject! Eject! Eject! And Another Perspective

In aviation, one of the more dire circumstances a pilot can find themselves in is what's referred to as a flat spin. A flat spin is where the nose of the aircraft is in a more level position (rather than pointed downward), placing the aircraft's center of gravity closer to the spin axis, rendering the rudder and elevators ineffective in breaking the perilous spin. More often than not, it's an unrecoverable situation.

We, in America, are in a flat spin—I'm speaking of our democracy.

Fascism and authoritarianism are taking root here at the top while a solid 38% of the country doesn't seem to notice or maybe they don't mind because it's their guy who is leading the revolution—if you can call it that. I'm saddened by the fact that I have two siblings and many other relatives, friends, and neighbors who are caught up in the madness and continue to support the imbecile in the Oval Office.

You don't tear gas peaceful protesters to clear a park for a photo-op of the president awkwardly holding up, of all things, a bible—a book he's clearly never read, and you don't send in unidentified paramilitary goon squads (where they're not wanted or needed) to beat and arrest peaceful protesters to show that you're a "law and order" president and still get to call yourself the leader of the "free world", especially when you've just pardoned the man who stuck to the plan and kept his word not to testify against you, lying to investigators and to Congress with the understanding that he'd be pardoned for his crimes. We're supposed to be better than that.

In case you've forgotten, there are still children who haven't been reunited with their parents after having been separated from them at our southern border. Trump is still an unabashed racist who has cost us tens of thousands of lives because of his failure to lead in our country's efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. No reasonable person can believe a word that comes out of his mouth. He has diminished our standing in the world among our allies as he's alienated them while cozying up to some of our planet's most despicable dictators. He's working to abolish the Affordable Care Act, attempting to do away with preexisting conditions while still offering nothing in the way of a replacement—a replacement he said would be crafted in the first month of his administration. He's given away the store in the way of unnecessary tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy while defunding programs put in place to help the neediest among us to help pay for those irresponsible tax cuts. He's vilified our media while creating doubts in many of you about the credibility of so many of our institutions meant to protect us from bad actors. And most recently, he's attempting to strip funding for coronavirus testing because it looks bad to know the extent to which we're failing to control this thing.

That's leadership?

It's been nearly 4 years since I've spoken with my sister. She's a victim of conservative media while all I can do is watch from the sidelines as she goes deeper and deeper into the wilderness of hate, fear, and lies. It's truly sad and I take no comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in this phenomena. My mother fell into the same abyss the last several years of her life and for that, I'll never forgive the voices of Fox who conned her and continue to con countless others.

In a fighter jet, the pilot has the option of pulling the eject lever and bailing out of the aircraft to avoid death from a flat spin. Our only option as a society is to eject this most corrupt administration and its enablers this fall on election day, or perhaps we should refer to it as ejection day because it's clearly time to eject.

Moving on.

I've been recording snippets of my rides for nearly 11 years. It's what I do. I had no way of knowing when I made this first recording west of Jordan on a loop to Belle Plaine what it would lead to. I'm sometimes amused by my crude early attempts at capturing video out on the road. When I first began making my recordings, I did it with one main thought in mind: I wanted to be able to look back on these moments decades from now, to be able to relive them and reminisce about my life that was. I thought, how fun it would be to have had the ability to record videos from my time in San Diego in the mid to late '70s when I first got into road riding—to be able to look back on some experiences from those rides all these many years later. I didn't want to find myself saying that same thing decades from now, especially when I have the ability to capture some of these moments. That's why I do this.

In my last blog post, I talked about someday getting a drone to take with me out on my rides and capture video from an entirely different angle—video with me actually in it. That will have to wait a while for technology to improve but until then I've decided to add one other perspective to my ride videos: a rear-facing camera. The idea came to me mostly out of a desire to capture video of dogs giving chase to me that seldom make the front-facing view of my GoPro. I'm usually working too hard to try and stay ahead of them to get a good look at them as they chase me down so I thought it might be fun to have a GoPro do that for me. And also, I think it will make for a nice additional perspective when we resume our group rides, hopefully, next year.

I haven't yet had the chance to try the new camera angle on one of my rides but I did take it out for a quick spin up the street to see how it looks. I like!

I've added a GoPro Hero 8 to the front of my bike. My Hero 7 will work the rearview. Time to get out in search of some pups to video! Watch this space!

That's all I've got

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Sidelined Mile-Markers, Stained Glass, and Video Talk

Lately, I find myself gauging the passing of time and the seasons by the growth in our gardens. In the spring, young chutes of leatrice rise out of the ground reaching full bloom by mid-July, enticing bumble bees that bumble from one flowery chute to the next, so loaded down with pollen it's a wonder they can make the return trip home. Within a couple more weeks some of our hostas will take their turn at sending up their flowering risers. Before too long I'll begin to notice glimpses of color among the sumac patches along the roadside on my rides. The chill in the air that's sure to follow will be a welcome relief from the hot, humid few weeks that precede it.

And so it goes.

So many mile-markers of summer have been sidelined this year: the Edina Art Fair; the Uptown Art Fair (as well as several other art fairs); the Dakota County Fair, and the State Fair—they've all been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Surprisingly, I'm still getting emails for advanced ticket sales from the organizers of the Renaissance Festival, seemingly oblivious to the pandemic, or very hopeful.

I'm feeling a sense of urgency (as I do every summer around this time) to try and squeeze in as much outdoor activity as possible from my days. It's difficult for me to remain still for very long, especially this time of year—but I had to do exactly that last week. I received a request from a repeat client on my Etsy site, wondering if I could possibly make a suncatcher in a design that's no longer available. I had actually just thrown the pattern out in the previous week's trash, quite sure I wouldn't be needing it again. I took some time to reconstitute the design before cutting and piecing it together and sending it off to its new home in Franklin, Tennessee.

One of my larger panels sold last week. We like to hang them in the windows of our sunporch to deter birds from crashing into the windows. I know I should've been thrilled to receive the notification of the sale but I'm not really. I grow a little attached to them. I detailed some handling instructions for the buyers before heading off to FedEx to have it bubble-wrapped and double-boxed for the trip to its new home in Ohio. It arrived safely 48 hours later. It's always a relief to know they've arrived without issue.

Being down in my basement shop last week was actually kind of nice. I could feel the tug of a dozen other things I would like to have been doing outside but I was also enjoying the slower pace of my stained glass work. I hope to begin working on a replacement panel for the larger one that I mentioned above. I have a design already in mind from a suncatcher I did last winter. I went out last Friday and purchased the glass for it. All that's left is for me to find the time. I know it's around here somewhere... 🤔

The deer in our neighborhood are as plentiful as ever and because of them, our potted flowers don't stand much of a chance. I don't mind, though. I find that a few nibbled flowers are a small price to pay for the blessing of having these beautiful creatures grace our yard. (The blog continues below.)

Charlie isn't at all fond of walking in the heat and humidity of the kind we've been contending with. I try and walk him early in the morning but even then he has little interest. We usually manage 10-14 miles (16-22 km) of walking together each week but lately, we're down around 4-5 miles (6-8 km). I'm hoping to have him out later today after some storms pass through leaving us in cooler air.

I've been contemplating purchasing a drone to use for capturing aerial video while on my rides. There's a "follow me" feature that some drones have that allows the drone to follow a person's cellphone signal, taking video of them in the process. I like the idea of being able to do that but so far, none of the drones I've seen are ready for primetime with respect to the "follow me" feature. They all seem to have difficulty staying locked on to the signal they're supposed to follow. There may be some larger drones that are more capable but I need something smaller that will easily fit in my camelback backpack while leaving room for my sports drink. My wait for the ideal drone will continue.

Until I find the perfect camera I'll have to be content with my simple grounded videos. One change I'm considering, though, is a rear-mounted camera to capture video of the dogs on my gravel rides that give chase but never make my front GoPro's viewfinder. I think that could make for some fun footage!

That's all I've got.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Pups, Trees, Golf, and Riding

I'd planned to be out riding early this morning but my legs insisted I take a day off, or at least the morning. Between golfing and yard work, I was on them all day yesterday and they're tired. I hate to let a beautiful day go by without taking advantage of it but perhaps I'll feel up to a late afternoon ride instead. I was thinking of seeing if Tammy would like to go for a drive in the country today as our schedules have been more miss than hit lately and that's mostly my fault.

We had Pepper Jack spend last weekend with us. He's about as rambunctious and adorable as a pup can be and we totally fell in love with him during our few days together. He's a handful! He kept trying to get Charlie to warm up to him but Charlie is hesitant. PJ was both persistent and submissive in his attempts and it was cute to watch him try. I hope he'll find more success in future visits. And he's a little biter! Not at all in a mean way—he's just playing but with his oh-so-sharp puppy teeth, it doesn't take much to puncture the skin on my arms. They're still healing.

Vineland Tree Care was here a few days ago to trim several of our trees. We've been using their services for nearly 6 years, having been burned by fly-by-night operators who routinely come through our neighborhood, lacking any sort of real training as arborists while charging a premium price. Vineland Tree Care sent a team of 5 guys who spent the better part of 3 hours pruning our trees. Mike (the crew's lead) advised me against pruning one of our ash trees because it was in the process of failing due to a split in the main trunk. He said a strong wind storm could cause it to break apart and come down. We're making plans to have them back in the fall to remove the tree. I'm going to miss it because it provides ample shade for our sun-porch in addition to being a beautiful tree. I planted it 28 years ago when it was maybe a little more than an inch in diameter.

I seem to have caught the golfing bug again. Up until this week I've not had much of a desire to be out walking the links. I've golfed a half dozen times but my heart hasn't been in it. That changed for me during a round with Steve on Tuesday. I really enjoy our time golfing together and I want to spend more time improving my game. Steve has been effecting my approach to the game by watching the way he uses his irons instead of longer hitting, oftentimes less accurate clubs to advance the ball while taking hazards out of play. Yeah, that should be an obvious strategy but too often my optimistic side takes over and convinces me that I can pull off a low percentage shot and that's been costing me strokes.

And speaking of golf: Bob came into town this week from Florida. Bob and Karen had been my next-door neighbors for the past 25 years until two years ago when they uprooted to put Minnesota winters behind them. Mark (another neighbor) and I got together with Bob out at Bellwood Oaks for a round of golf. It was a beautiful afternoon to be on the links together, catching up.

I'll close out this entry with a few ride videos taken since the last time I updated my blog.

That's all I've got.

Monday, June 15, 2020

I Sometimes Wonder, and Meet Pepper Jack

When I was stationed in San Diego in the mid '70s, I strolled into a 7/11 one night and purchased The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. I wasn't into politics but considering how Nixon had been forced to resign just a few years earlier, the book intrigued me. I brought it home with me while on leave and my dad noticed it. "What are you reading that for?" he queried. I actually thought he'd be impressed because I believed he was more conservative than not, being a financial manager and subscribing to the Wall Street Journal. I didn't give it much more thought. Years later I was driving in my car with my dad on our way to the driving range at Southern Hills Golf Course when I excitedly told him about a new guy I was listening to on the radio: Rush Limbaugh. I tuned into Rush's program and was somewhat surprised again that my dad wasn't showing any interest in something I thought would appeal to him.

My dad may have at some point been a conservative but those days were clearly over. Rather than support more progressive candidates, though, he instead chose to be cynical about them all. I regret not having taken the initiative to probe his mind more than I did, to get beyond his cynicism.

The last year of his life was spent glued to the OJ Simpson murder trial. He passed away in September 1995, three weeks before Simpson was acquitted. My dad would not have been happy.

I sometimes wonder what he would've made of our politics today.

I've got a new favorite walking route. It's an 8.05 mile (13 km) walk that I like to do at least once each week. It's the perfect distance for me. And here's a typical week of walks for Charlie. I let him choose the direction our walks take us. Like Toby when I used to have him lead our walks, Charlie does a nice job of varying each day's direction.

My Pixel 2 cellphone disconnected from my car's Bluetooth last week and appeared to be trying to reboot but it couldn't get beyond the startup screen. I got home and researched online for a remedy—none of which worked. We used to replace our phones every two years but since retiring nearly 5 years ago, we're reluctant to replace them as often. I was hoping to pull 4 years from my Pixel 2 but I've had to abandon it at 3 years and 3 months. A tech I spoke with said it's likely a faulty motherboard and wouldn't be worth the cost of replacing it.

Our new Pixel 4 XL phones arrived on Saturday which means we're in the early stages of learning the myriad of features they possess, most of which I'll likely forget about and never use. Rachel suggested we watch the various YouTube videos available to learn our phone's features. She upgraded a while back to the same phone.

Speaking of Rachel...she and Drew have a new addition to their family. No, it's not a grandchild for us but a close 2nd. Meet Pepper Jack! He's an adorable Shih Tzu with a feisty personality all his own. We brought Charlie with us when we went to see him a week ago. It was so cute to watch Pep (as Rachel calls him) follow Charlie around. Charlie had to jump up in my lap to get away from him. He's a keeper!

I had my fat-bike in the shop for the past month to have some maintenance performed that's beyond my ability—bleeding the brakes. All of the bike shops are backed up about a month for maintenance requests. I was asking a friend who used to own a shop why it is the local bike shops are reluctant to hire more mechanics. He said it comes down to bench space to work on the bikes. They just don't have enough of it to accommodate more mechanics. That makes sense I suppose but I would think they would factor that into a shop's layout during the planning stages for the business. I think the next time I need my brakes bled, I'll purchase a bleed kit, watch a few YouTube videos and take on the maintenance myself. It can't be that difficult.

I got in a good mix of both gravel and singletrack riding this past week. Variety is important to me as it helps keep fresh my desire to ride. So far this year, walking the links is mostly taking a backseat to my other activities. I've been playing some but not as much as in years past.

I was commenting in a post to Facebook recently that riding the singletrack trails at Murphy-Hanrehan is where I feel most alive. There's nothing in my world that does that for me the way singletrack riding does. I have to exercise caution, though, because of my bleeding disorder (I'm on a blood thinner) but oftentimes it can be difficult to rein in my desire to push my limits. The video below is from my ride at Murphy last Thursday evening. The subsequent videos are from rides since I last updated my blog.

That's all I've got.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

It's Not Too Much To Ask, Is It?

I read a book a couple of years ago titled Waking Up White by Debbie Irving where she writes about her life of privilege that allowed her to ignore the hardships of others different than herself. Once realizing that she was indeed privileged, she set out to try and more clearly understand the ways in which her privilege manifested itself in her life while at the same time helping her to gain a better understanding of the struggles of others who don't share a similar privilege because of their skin color. It was eye-opening for me and dovetailed well with what has been an ongoing effort in my own life over the past dozen years or more to try and see the world through eyes other than my own. A practice that has revealed in me my own tendency to be ignorant of others' struggles.

I'm a work in progress.

Before reading Waking Up White, I already understood that my life was one of privilege but I had never taken the time to try and put myself in the shoes of someone who wasn't so fortunate, at least not in a way that challenged me. I began to wonder what it must be like to live with the heavy burden that because of my skin color, people were making hurtful, inaccurate judgments of me. It's a thought-provoking, worthwhile exercise to undertake. The problem with it, though, is that I'll oftentimes move too quickly on to other thoughts in my head and I'm back to enjoying my life of privilege. I don't think any of us who aren't a person of color can truly know what it's like to live under the never-ending specter of racial animus. It's a burden and I can't imagine what that would do to my psyche over time. It has to be demoralizing no matter how strong a person may be.

I encourage you to do the same—to try and imagine life as a person of color and under the judgment of others and what that might feel like. Unending.


I rode my bike into South Minneapolis Thursday morning to have a look for myself at the scene where George Floyd was murdered under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that led me there.

As I approached the area I slowed to a stop and observed for a few minutes before getting off my bike and slowly walking around what was a surreal scene with people quietly leaving memorials and paying their respects to George. Pedestrians traversed the intersection while people in vehicles patiently waited for a break. A few people were painting a mural of George on the south wall of the Cup Foods store that George was murdered in front of. A group of 3 men stood around a motorcycle, talking about injustices at the hands of police that they'd witnessed. A minister stood on a corner of the intersection next to me, live-streaming his thoughts to (I assume) his Facebook followers. And then, out of nowhere, it hit me and I found my heart in my throat as I stood in front of this small memorial. I had no connection to this man other than a human one yet there I was on the verge of shedding tears for him. Senseless racism had taken another one of theirs from them and I felt terrible.

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee on the football field during the national anthem in a quiet protest of police brutality was too much for many of you. Conservatives ridiculed him and accused him of being unpatriotic, never once agreeing that maybe the man has a point. He does. Peaceful protests in the streets by those standing up to the violence and marching in George's memory were met with tear gas and rubber bullets while just weeks earlier, hundreds of white protesters, some armed, gathered inside Michigan’s state capitol protesting the closing of stores during the pandemic. They were met with no violence whatsoever. I'm tired of the hypocritical double-standard that black Americans are faced with each and every day, and I'm tired of family and friends of mine who still don't get it. It's disheartening.

I spoke with the minister after his live-stream. He warned me not to go near the scene of the previous night's riots 3 miles to the east, saying there was still a fair amount of unrest there. I considered his advice but decided to have a look for myself. I figured I could approach the area slowly enough to survey it and make a determination if it was safe. It was.

I went one block out of my way to check on Glass Endeavors where I purchase my stained glass supplies. My heart sank when I saw that one of their front windows had had a cinder block thrown through it. I chatted with Zoi while she worked to clean up the mess. I prayed the shop would survive the coming nights' unrest.

I didn't see any unrest that the minister had warned me of. Instead, I found people walking around in seeming disbelief at what had become of the area. Again, I got off my bike and walked slowly around the area, surveying the damage which was extensive. The AutoZone store was a complete loss with only the front door left mostly still standing while the rest of the building had collapsed. Helpful people worked the area with trash bags picking up what they could, trying to make the best of an awful and sad situation.

The only tension I saw was from a group of people facing off against a phalanx of police, venting their anger at them. Additional police overlooked the crowd from the rooftop of the 3rd precinct police department. The building's windows had been broken out in the previous night's melee. The building would go up in flames later that night—just so unimaginable to me as I stood there in that moment.

There was more to see but I'd seen enough. I got on my bike and began the ride home, somewhat numb—my mind trying to process all I'd seen. How would this play out in the days to come? How would it end?

I have so much to say about all of this but I suppose this is enough for now. I process things best when I write in my blog and I still have so much about what is unfolding all across our country that I need to understand.

Here's a collection of photos from the 38th St and Chicago Ave intersection as well as the Minnehaha Ave and Lake St intersection.

I put together a video of my ride and some of what I saw. If you've seen my ride videos before you'll know that I typically begin and end them in the same place, be it in my driveway or a parking lot; it's my signature of sorts I suppose. It seemed to take on a different feel with this video, though, as I left my world of white privilege and traveled into the inner city, to an area of devastation and sadness before returning to the relative safety I take mostly for granted. It caused me to pause and reflect when I saw it in that light.

The people I observed Thursday morning were sweet people simply in need of respect, fairness, and justice; nothing more than what most of us take for granted. It's not too much to ask, is it?

That's all I've got.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Immigrants, and The Inaugural Heywood—Sort Of

I was up early last Saturday to participate in a ride out of Northfield (25 miles south of me), trying to get a jump on the day with hopes of completing the ride before forecast rains arrived in the afternoon. I tuned to the '70s music station on Sirius XM for the drive, curious to see if I could guess the month and year of Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown rebroadcast that was playing ('70's music will always have a special place in my heart). The first song I heard was "Wildfire" by Michael Murphy, number 29 of the countdown. I guessed the rebroadcast to be from either April or May of 1975 because that song (as songs sometimes do) always takes me back to a memory of sitting on the bus for the ride to school from my apartment in the spring of that year, my senior year. It's also a favorite song of mine. Sure enough, the show was from May 17th, 1975.

The number 22 song on the countdown was "The Immigrant" by Neil Sedaka—a song I hadn't heard in maybe decades.

I drove the stretch of Highway 19 toward Northfield listening to Neil's distinctive voice while contemplating the lyrics to the song, my thoughts drifting to the refugees and asylum seekers on our southern border whose stories have been mostly forgotten, overshadowed by the coronavirus that continues to loom over much of the world. Are we still that welcoming place we were led to believe we are; that shining city on the hill—a beacon for others to look up to? Were we ever?

I arrived at the parking lot near Bridge Square with the song still in my head where it would remain throughout the ride.

I accompanied Tammy to an appointment in South Minneapolis Monday morning for some minor surgery. I wasn't keen on hanging out in the hospital for the few hours she'd be there so I went for a walk along streets I was somewhat familiar with, having lived not far from the hospital when I lived with Noy in her home at 2406 13th Ave South from 1981-83 before we were married. I walked past her old house to have a look and reminisce for a moment before moving on.

My walk eventually took me to the Minneapolis Institute of Art where there was a striking display of thousands of life vests tied to the columns at the front of the building. The life vests were actual vests worn primarily by desperate refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria and Afghanistan before making the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece in 2015-16. It was a sobering display and one that brought "The Immigrant" song to the fore of my mind again to run on a loop in my head for the rest of the day.

Is turning our backs on the crisis the response Jesus would've offered? I don't know about your Jesus, but my Jesus is better than that.

I'm saddened by what's become of our country and I wonder how much longer we can keep this fragile democracy together traveling the path we've been taken down; punishing refugees and those seeking asylum; stripping away assistance for the neediest among us to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy; ignoring the rule of law and replacing experienced civil servants with grifters loyal to a corrupt, lying, destructive, and totally incompetent president. We must do better.

(This blog entry continues below)

The ride I was taking part in Saturday morning was the inaugural Heywood ride, replacing what used to be the Almonzo gravel ride. The Heywood was actually canceled due to the pandemic but at Michael's suggestion, a handful of us decided to ride it anyway, separately, as we've been doing for the past two months of Saturday rides along various routes. It was such a fun experience. I was a little concerned going into the ride not having done this distance (110 miles, 177 km) on my gravel bike. I paced myself and settled in for a steady-Eddie approach to the distance and chipped away at it while capturing some video along the way. We couldn't have asked for better weather with moderate temps and a nice breeze at our backs for the return.

A few of us met in Bruce's backyard afterward for a celebratory beer and conversation about the ride. The social aspect of our rides has been missing of late so it was nice to be able to do this in our social-distancing way. I had to laugh, though, because at one point I had to spring up out of my chair to stretch out a cramping left hamstring. Moments later, Bruce popped up out of his seat to stretch out a cramping quadricep muscle. It's the sort of pain you earn—a pain that says, job well done!

That's all I've got.