Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fair Talk, Plotting Courses, and Lots of Pedaling

I was plotting out a course on my laptop late one night last week for a bike ride the next day when I received an Etsy notification that one of my large stained glass panels had sold. A notification that should've caused a feeling of elation, caused instead my heart to sink a little because I was sorta hoping none of my larger pieces would sell. We enjoy having them in the windows of our sun-porch, and they help prevent birds from crashing into the windows the panels hang in front of. I have them on my site to display my ability more than anything. I quickly accessed my Etsy account and increased the price on the other remaining 6 large panels to soften the blow should they too sell some day. The panel that sold was the first of the larger panels I did last winter. I'll be making another to replace it when I finally find my way back into the studio in a few months.

We made it to the Dakota County Fair last Thursday to continue our tradition of watching the demolition derby. Maybe it's because Rachel couldn't be there with us, or maybe the derby didn't quite live up to our expectations but it was sort of a letdown this year. We left after 3 heats. I was talking with a neighbor who was also there with her daughter that night and they too were disappointed, leaving the same time we did. We kicked around the fair for a while afterward taking in some of the exhibits and getting our fill of fair food. It's our warm-up to the State Fair! I mentioned to Tammy how Tim used to love coming to this local fair.

The route planner (mentioned above) I was using to plot my bike ride is the one found on RideWithGPS. It's a nifty tool. I made a tutorial video for it in 2009 and the guys at RideWithGPS stumbled onto it and used it on their site for years before making their own. It's especially useful for mapping longer routes where I'm riding in areas I'm not very familiar with. It suggests less traveled roads but it won't distinguish between paved or gravel, and I really wish it did. Instead, I'll drag the little Google man over the road I'm considering using to see the Google Street View of it and what its surface is. I've been using the program quite a lot lately.

Between my fat-tire bike and my road bike, last week was a big week for me on the trails and on the road. I had 260 miles in my legs for the week before deciding to attempt a double century (200 miles) ride on Sunday. It all worked out well but there was a time around 4 hours into the ride where I was seriously thinking of abbreviating the ride and giving it a go another day. The forecast wind was for 7 mph out of the south but it was easily 12 to 15 mph instead and it was putting the hurt on me as I tried to keep my speed up. It didn't help matters that my #2 knee wasn't at all happy with the extra demand I was placing on it. I kept telling myself that once I got to the halfway point and I could put the headwind to use as a tailwind I'd be okay. And I was.

It was difficult staying hydrated with the temp in the lower 90ºs (33º c) but I was able to find places along my route to grab some Gatorade and get back on the road. I find these little guys especially useful for getting a quick fix of sugar into my muscles to fuel me. The extra stops added to my overall time but I had no other choice. As determined as I was to stay hydrated, I still lost 3.4 lbs by the time I finished.

Here's a link to my ride on Strava or click the image to the right and then click it again after it opens for a zoomed in view of the route I took.

I kept Tammy updated on my position through the use of a beacon sent to her phone via Strava, a site I use to track my rides. It updates my position every 30 seconds. I like that she's able to take a quick look and see that I'm still making progress. She can send texts to my Garmin Edge 820 (cyclocomputer) which gives me a few canned responses to use for a reply. it's simple and quick. I love technology!

There's no better time during the week to go out riding than Sunday morning. The streets are quieter then than at any other time. It was a little foggy to start but with my front and rear strobes, I felt comfortable that I was being seen.

I'm not certain that I'll still be doing the double century ride with Silver Cyclists that I spoke of in my previous entry. I'm more of a solo rider after all but I've done the hard work to get myself in shape so I just may show up and help out.

That's all I've got.



Video from a ride into Wisconsin on Monday. There's a map to my route at this link on Strava.




Sunday, August 5, 2018

A Living Legend and Summer Traditions

I received this message on Google Hangouts back in June: "Hi, Kevin! I am a journalist (freelance, though this piece is for Jalopnik) and I am writing about someone you know. Wanted to see about having a quick interview with you."

I wasn't sure what to think so I messaged him back: "Sure."

The person contacting me is named David and he was doing a story about a man who lived next to us for several years in the late '60s and early '70s -- Jim Barbour. In doing his research about Jim, David came across this piece I'd written ten years earlier where I talked a little about Jim, or Mr. Barbour as I knew him. He said my blog post was about the only thing he could find online about him and he wanted to know if I had some time to share any additional memories or thoughts I may have about Jim that he could possibly use in the article he was writing. I was happy to help.

We spoke on the phone for 20 minutes. I told him of my intrigue with Mr. Barbour as I'd often see him out in his driveway tinkering with his blue Austin-Healey Sprite race car, and how cool it was when I learned that he raced it at the track in Brainerd. I also spoke of how it apparently wasn't lost on anyone in the neighborhood that a black family was moving in and how I sensed a level of concern that wasn't there for any of the other white families when they moved into their newly built homes in our neighborhood between Jefferson High School and Hubert Olson Elementary/Junior High in Bloomington.

David published his piece a few days ago, and it's very good. I believe he told me he spent 15 hours over the course of 2 days with Jim to gather as much history about him as he could. My contribution didn't make it into his story but it may in a future continuation piece or on David's podcast. No worries. I'm just happy to see Jim's story told.

From Tuskegee Airman to Racing Godfather, Jim Barbour Is the Living Legend You Don’t Know About

I'm beginning to get excited to get back down in our glass shop and come up with some new stained glass designs to bring to life. I woke up to a notification a few days ago informing me that I'd sold 2 small sun-catcher panels overnight; this in addition to another I'd sold a couple days earlier. It's not as though my pieces have been flying off the shelves of my Etsy site so this was a pleasant surprise. But my shop will have to wait until the snow begins to fall. That's just the way it is.

One of our traditions in the summer is a trip to Rochester to spend an afternoon with Rachel, taking in the food, music, and artists selling their work downtown at the city's weekly Thursdays on First and 3rd event during the summer. It's always a nice time for us to get together and catch up on whats happening in her life. She's really made Rochester her home and is putting her roots down there. We can understand why. She's continually running into friends along the way while we're with her and we couldn't be happier for her. She's thriving there.

Tammy and I made it out to the Uptown Art Fair Friday afternoon and into the evening -- another of our summer traditions. We really enjoyed ourselves, taking in the various artwork for sale and conversing with many of the artists. As a bonus, we came away with some nice pieces of art as well. Tammy spotted a print of a painting that she'd mistaken for a photo. She called me over to have a look and I could see why she liked it. Without much hesitation, we decided to purchase it. It's titled Serenity, and it hangs on a wall in our kitchen.

I had a long ride of 170 miles (254 km) on Tuesday as part of my training for the Dawn to Dusk 207 mile (333 km) ride with the Silver Cyclists club in Lakeville a month from now. I could've done the full distance on Tuesday but that wasn't the point. I'm simply trying to get some decent base miles in my legs so I have both the confidence and stamina to do the ride with enough strength in my legs to go even further if I wanted. I could go into the ride less fit and draft among the group, having them pull me home but I'd rather I be able to take my turns at the front and show the young ones that this guy isn't ready to be put out to pasture just yet.

That's all I've got.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

My Rather Short Bucket List

After 32 years, 952-892-6617 and I have parted ways. Technically, when I was first assigned the number it had a 612 area code. For the longest time about the only calls we've been receiving on it have been from telemarketers but the landline was bundled with our cable package and it was simply cheaper to keep it. That's no longer the case. And speaking of area codes, did you know that the area code for Cape Canaveral (where they launch the space missions) is 321 as in 3-2-1 liftoff!?

I really only have one item on my bucket list, and that's to spend a week or two in San Diego riding some of the same roads on my bike that I rode when I was stationed there in the mid to late '70s while in the Navy. I can't imagine what feelings and memories being on those roads again would evoke in me so I need to find out. Honestly, the thought of it gets my heart racing a little.

Sometimes I feel like the years are slipping away much faster than I'm comfortable with and I find myself counting how many years I have remaining where I'll still have my mobility to live the active lifestyle I enjoy. I don't feel old but how will I feel in 15 years and how fast will those 15 years race by?

The boy in me has always been the dominant force in my life. Where some people have an old spirit, I feel like mine is young. Perhaps it's my first go-round on this planet Earth, while others with their older spirits have been here possibly many times before. Yes, I sometimes toy with the idea that reincarnation is a real thing and that some of us are destined to live lives in the next life in the shoes of those we spat on in this life. I would be concerned if I was one of those slamming the door shut in the faces of refugees in this life -- just sayin'. To me, it's no more ridiculous a belief system than any other. I used to think I'd leave this life and find myself standing in the presence of Jesus but I just don't know anymore. And to be honest, the idea of spending eternity singing praises to God does little for me. But then I'm speaking from my human perspective on this beautiful floating planet. Who's to say what's beyond this life and this dimension?

I still believe in a higher power but I'm just not as confident as I once was about what or who that higher power is. As I've said here before, those who claim to be the most loyal followers of God too often give me reason to pause and question it all. I will never stop seeking because that's my nature. Life is a journey and if you're not questioning and changing and learning along the way you're maybe just going through the motions.

I installed a simple device on both of my road bikes to keep the chain from falling off the small inner chainring when I shift the chain from the large ring. It's called a chain catcher and it works great! I dropped my chain 3 times on a 2-hour ride a few weeks ago and I figured there must be a better way. It's nice to now shift with no worries that I'll drop my chain. Here's a link for any of my cycling friends who may be interested in getting one.

The video below is from a ride a few days ago. It's a 9.5 mile (15 km) loop and an old favorite of mine for when I want to work the hills a little, and it's close to home. I don't listen to tunes too often anymore when I ride but this day I was listening to a mix of stuff from David Baerwald (another old favorite of mine) so it seemed fitting to overlay the video with a song of his. Enjoy!

That's all I've got.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Supertramp? Yes! And A Trip Back In Time

I just finished burning a few Supertramp CDs for my daughter. She's recently developed a love for '70s rock music (Supertramp in particular), and Supertramp was and still is my favorite band. I saw them twice in concert when Rick and Roger (the main forces in the band) were still together. I've seen Roger's solo shows a couple of times since their split in 1983, and I flew out to Los Angeles in 1997 to see the reconstituted band play at The Greek Theater -- a great experience! I couldn't have been more pleased to hear that Rachel's interested in hearing more of their music.

And speaking of Rachel -- Tammy and I spent last weekend at (her boyfriend) Drew's mother's cabin in northwestern Wisconsin with the 3 of them. Jenny's cabin is less than 15 minutes from the city of Webster where my parents owned 40 acres of land from the early '70s to the mid '80s. We kicked around the town of Spooner for part of Saturday before driving to Clover Meadow Winery to taste some wines. The atmosphere there was fun and we enjoyed ourselves but the wines were disappointing -- and we're by no means wine snobs. As Tammy commented, "They all tasted the same!"

I took off for a couple of hours later in the day to try and locate the property my parents used to own. With the help of my brother Keith, I was able to find the land. They purchased the 40 acres from sisters Anna and Susan Rollinger who lived in a house across the highway from the property. Their older home has been moved a few miles away and a new home was constructed further back from the road which confused me as nothing was jibing with my memory of the area from 40 years earlier. I phoned Keith and with the help of Google Maps, we were able to determine where the property was.



I visited with the people who live on the land that Anna and Susan used to own. Jack is the mortician in town and he told me that he purchased the property from Anna and Susan in 1984 when they decided they had become too old to continue living in their home and doing the necessary maintenance. He said it was his father who purchased our 40 acres from my parents for $10,000 and that he later sold it for the same price to the druggist in town who has built a home on the property. Anna passed away in 1990. Susan is also buried in the same cemetery but I was unable to locate her gravesite before the deer flies chased me out.

I also took some time to drive around Bass Lake where we'd sometimes spend a few hours in the afternoon soaking up the sun on a small sandy area along the north side of the lake; then and now.


My parents and Keith and Tim would drive up to the property on Fridays after my dad came home from work. They'd spend the weekend living among the trees, mosquitoes and deer flies. It was fun. They'd tow a small camper which was actually quite comfortable. I'd sometimes make the trip with them but more often than not I'd stay behind putting in hours at Penny's Grocery, bagging groceries for customers and working the parcel pickup.

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The Emerald Ash Borer has arrived! It's been slowly but steadily working its way toward our city for a number years, and now it's been detected in our neighborhood. Here's a photo of a flyer I noticed on a walk 6 years ago. It's decision time. We can treat our 3 ash trees at a cost of a little more than $100 per year indefinitely to keep the beetle at bay or we can choose to have the trees removed for around $2800. I considered having them removed but Tammy would like to keep them. It didn't take much convincing for me to agree with her. It's possible that whatever tree we'd choose to replace them with will fall victim to some other form of beetle 20 years from now, and that played into our decision. Our corner lot would lose much of its character without the trees.

And speaking of decisions -- I called a couple of tattoo removal places to inquire about the cost of having my small ankle tattoo removed.I figured I'd be able to have it done for not much more than $150. I figured wrong. I received an email reply telling me, "You're going to be looking at a total of 7 to 10 treatments for complete removal. Price per treatment will be between $65 and $80." Hmmm -- what to do?

I've been golfing with some retired controller friends lately. It's been fun. Eight of us met up at Montgomery National Golf Club Tuesday morning on a beautiful day for golf. I hope to get out with them more often in the coming months.

Keith, Tracee, Claudia, and Dan came over Wednesday night for dinner. It was such a nice time. We sat around after dinner and chatted until it was nearly dark out. It was especially nice to catch up with Dan. I can't remember the last time we've been able to do that. Maybe never.

That's all I've got.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Bike Speak and the Geek in Me

Fourteen years ago tonight I was putting the finishing touches on one of the best days of my life; a 266 mile (428 km) bike ride from our home in Lakeville to Tammy's parent's home in Babbitt, Mn. I doubt I'll ever attempt such a distance again but I've learned to never say never.

I received a group email from a friend last Thursday inviting me to take part in a longish ride the next day. It would be a ride with some of the riders from Lakeville's Silver Cycling bike group. I first rode with them in the spring of 2005 when our paths crossed on Hwy 246 south of Northfield. Although I'm mostly a solo rider, I rode with them a few times. Steve and others in the group are experienced, competent cyclists and I enjoy their company. I've been lacking any long rides this year so I scrapped my plans for a round of golf and joined the ride. It was a lot of fun! (See embedded video below.)

I appreciate the way Steve (aka Silver) and others in the group sniff out some more-off-the-beaten-path routes for their rides. Friday's ride was no exception. We worked our way toward Faribault on roads I'd never taken, much less considered taking. I chatted with Steve while we rode and he mentioned their Dawn to Dusk ride, a 200 mile (double century in bike-speak) ride on Saturday, September 1st. Without much hesitation, I committed to the ride. It's been 7 years since I last did a double century but this gives me something to work toward, and I like that. Here's a video from that ride. It's not as slick as my more recent productions but I sorta like the narration aspect of it.

People who know me well won't be surprised to hear that I'm a numbers geek, in that I like to keep stats on all of my workouts, going back to 1984 when I became a runner. My involvement with endurance sports predates 1984 but that's when I started taking notes.

The sort of data I track has changed over the years and varies depending on the activity, but for cycling, I'm currently logging the following: distance; time; average speed; max speed; average heart rate; max heart rate; cadence; wind; temp, and feet climbed. I'll also make notes of how my body felt and any other thing that I think may be noteworthy. It's what I do. Not all of this data makes it onto my online workout platforms (I currently use 3, never knowing when one of them may be axed), I save that for my logbooks of which I'm filling in my 34th this year. I don't expect anyone else to understand why I do this. I just do it.

From my records, I can see where my peak riding years were from 2004 to 2010 (age 47 to 53). After that time is where I began to incorporate walks into my routine along with our elliptical and Concept 2 rower.

2002 -- 1797 miles (2892 km)
2003 -- 3800 (6115)
2004 -- 7552 (12154)
2005 -- 7452 (11993)
2006 -- 9002 (14487)
2007 -- 7529 (12117)
2008 -- 5848 (9411)
2009 -- 5847 (9409)
2010 -- 6884 (11079)
2011 -- 2936 (4725)
2012 -- 2825 (4546)
2013 -- 3896 (6270)
2014 -- 4604 (7409)
2015 -- 3652 (5877)
2016 -- 4975 (8006)
2017 -- 4242 (6827)
2018 so far -- 2363 (3803)

After Friday's ride with Silver and the others, I felt like my desire to crank out more miles again was rejuvenated. I had so much fun out there that I went back for more on my own Sunday morning and finished the week with 310 miles (500 km). A good week of riding.

I was just writing in my blog recently about finding a balance between my outdoor activities but I've got to go with what my heart wants -- with what makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning, and for now it seems that's my road bike. I'll be golfing with some friends tomorrow morning but I'm already looking beyond tomorrow, to Wednesday, when I'd like to spend a good part of the day on my bike doing my homework for Silver Cycling's Dawn to Dusk ride. It's good to have a goal.



Independence Day Ride

Friday, June 29, 2018

Pride Parade and Some Words About Birds

Tammy and I took in our first Pride Parade event last Sunday. Rachel was in the parade, walking along with a friend of hers who is a candidate for Hennepin County Commissioner, Irene Fernando. We drove to Mall of America where we picked up the light rail for a ride into the city. Storms to the west of us threatened to rain on the parade but they fizzled out. It was a fun time. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the recent retirement announcement of Justice Kennedy from the Supreme Court of the United States and the likelihood that another conservative pick by Trump* will risk rolling back many of the gains made through the court in recent years, and not so recent years. The protections for same-sex couples affirmed by the court not so long ago are now in jeopardy of being stripped away. But we've got the Citizens United decision that tells us corporations are people too, so you'll have to excuse me for being more than a little confused.

I finally got our cuckoo clock back from Blackstone Manor Clock Repair in Hopkins after having dropped it off 10 weeks ago for repair. They're a busy shop!

The clock is around 23 years old and was something my former stepson Joe picked up for me when he was visiting Germany while in the Army. The little cuckoo bird stopped functioning some time ago, and more recently the clock would simply stop altogether. $100 later and it appears to be as good as new. I was telling Tammy that someday we're gonna have little grandkids and they're going to want me to hold them up and wait for the little bird to come out at the top of the hour. I want to be ready! The clock probably doesn't really fit with our decor anymore but our home feels like it's missing something without it. We're both glad to have it back.

And speaking of little bids, our neighborhood is full of the sounds of little tweets coming from various nests everywhere you go. I was walking Charlie a couple nights ago and he stopped at a mailbox a few doors down from ours. He was intently staring at the mailbox. I backed up to see what he was focused on and I could hear the tweets from a nest inside where the paper is put. Alex told me it's a nest of Great Crested Flycatchers. He saw the mother fly out of it one day and recognized what kind of bird it was. Alex is our go-to guy in the neighborhood for so many of our nature-related questions.

In addition to baby birds, we've also got an abundance of tiny toads hopping all through our yard. I'm as careful as I can be to not mow over them. I'll stop the mower and take them to an area between ours and our neighbor's home where there's a lot of ground cover and where they'll not be in my way. I love those little guys! Is there anything cuter?

I took some time a few days ago to set up my video camera to capture the action at the birdhouse in our front garden where a family of wrens resides. I compressed 30 minutes of video down to just a few minutes of footage (video embedded below). Watch as the adult bird exits the birdhouse with something white in its mouth. That's actually the droppings of the babies in the nest.

Description from Wikipedia:

"A fecal sac (also spelled faecal sac) is a mucous membrane, generally white or clear with a dark end, that surrounds the feces of some species of nestling birds. It allows parent birds to more easily remove fecal material from the nest. The nestling usually produces a fecal sac within seconds of being fed; if not, a waiting adult may prod around the youngster's cloaca to stimulate excretion. Young birds of some species adopt specific postures or engage in specific behaviors to signal that they are producing fecal sacs. For example, nestling curve-billed thrashers raise their posteriors in the air, while young cactus wrens shake their bodies. Other species deposit the sacs on the rim of the nest, where they are likely to be seen (and removed) by parent birds.

Not all species generate fecal sacs. They are most prevalent in passerines and their near relatives, which have young that remain in the nest for longer periods. In some species, the fecal sacs of small nestlings are eaten by their parents. In other species, and when nestlings are older, sacs are typically taken some distance from the nest and discarded. Young birds generally stop producing fecal sacs shortly before they fledge.

Removal of fecal material helps to improve nest sanitation, which in turn helps to increase the likelihood that nestlings will remain healthy. It also helps to reduce the chance that predators will see it or smell it and thereby find the nest. There is evidence that parent birds of some species gain a nutritional benefit from eating the fecal sacs; studies have shown that females — which tend to be more nutritionally stressed than their mates — are far more likely to consume sacs than are males. Even brood parasites such as brown-headed cowbirds, which do not care for their own offspring, have been documented swallowing the fecal sacs of nestlings of their host species.

Scientists can use fecal sacs to learn a number of things about individual birds. Examination of the contents of the sac can reveal details of the nestling's diet, and can indicate what contaminants the young bird has been exposed to. The presence of an adult bird carrying a fecal sac is used in bird censuses as an indication of breeding."




And one last video before I close out this post. This is from my loop to the single track trails at Murphy Hanrehan, a little more than 6 miles from home. Always a fun time, unless I crash and injure myself!


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Piqued Curiosity and We're No Longer Deserving

Another rainy day today had me sitting on the couch in our sunporch fixing dead links on my website. I don't add to the site all that much anymore but I've got a lot of time invested in it over the years so I'd like to keep it and its links somewhat relevant. The one area of the site that I'm considering refreshing are the pages devoted to stained glass. Much of what I have there are photos of my early work. I'd like to add photos of some more recent creations. Also, I need to add SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) coding to each of the sites I manage (a total of 3). Beginning in July, unless I've got the coding added to the site it will show that it's an unsecured site next to its URL, looking somewhat like the image to the left. A secure site will have a padlock icon next to the URL. GoDaddy wants $60 a year for each site to keep them secured. For that price, I'll figure out the coding on my own.

I received a message via Google Hangouts a couple hours ago: "Hi, Kevin! I am a journalist (freelance, though this piece is for ________) and I am writing about someone you know. Wanted to see about having a quick interview with you."

My curiosity was piqued.

I replied, "sure".

We spoke on the phone for maybe 20 minutes but he asked that I not mention any specifics at this point, so I won't. I can say that he began the conversation by saying he didn't want to mention the person's name that he wanted to ask me about ahead of time because he was looking for an organic response from me. With my permission, he recorded our conversation for possible use on his podcast in addition to the publication he's writing for. Watch this space.

I've been kicking around whether or not I wanted to pile on to the voluminous coverage and outrage that's already out there about the separating of immigrant children from their parents on our southern border, many of whom are seeking asylum for humanitarian reasons, meaning, they hold no hope for their children or themselves if they remain living the lives they're living; meaning, they risked their lives and the lives of their children to make the arduous journey to our border. I have no doubt that I would be among them if I was in their shoes. How about you?

I started writing about it but quit, lacking sufficient words to express how I truly feel. Heartless, was about the best I could do.

We've got $1.5 trillion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy but we have only a dismissive, hateful reception for those who desperately look to us for help because they remember a time when we were that shining city on a hill. But no more.

We're no longer deserving of either the Statue of Liberty or the words of Emma Lazarus enshrined on her base.

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

What's become of us? I no longer recognize my country!

Like I said, heartless.