Saturday, November 29, 2008

Riding Notes and Thanksgiving 2008

It's been a mild week in the Midwest and I took advantage of it by getting out for a couple of nice rides. I took Wednesday off from the salt mine and finished hanging the remaining Christmas lights on the outside of our house then rode into St Paul. I caught a couple of guys climbing highway 13 into Lilydale and they asked me if I wanted to tag along. They were both in their early 30's, from St Paul and working the hills. They knew where to find them and St Paul has several worth seeking out. I accepted their offer. We spent the next 45 minutes riding from one climb to the next. I'm always game for hills. Both the ups and downs. I'd have stayed with Brad and Caleb longer but I had to get home so I could catch a few hour's sleep before the all-night shift. I got back with just under 55 miles on the day.

Today was another gorgeous day. I got out at 1:00 and headed west into a light southwesterly breeze. The plan was to do the Jordan loop. I got a bit further south than I'd intended but it was all good as it had been years since I'd taken Hwy 8 to the west of Hwy 13 and I was overdue. I picked up Hwy 21 and came into Jordan from the south. I jumped on Hwy 169 and took that north into Shakopee periodically checking the time and doing the math so as to maximize the daylight but being careful not to be too ambitious about what I could squeeze out of the ride. I don't like getting caught out after sunset as I've got no lights. There are a couple of reflective spots on my clothing but that's all. I got into Prior Lake a little past 4:00 and knew I'd have to work hard to finish my ride before the sun went down at 4:35. With the low overcast, it was actually getting quite dark a few miles east of Prior Lake. I made it home at 4:38 and was glad I didn't try to maximize my daylight any more than I did. A nice ride at a little over 63 miles.

We spent Thanksgiving 250 miles to the north at Tammy's parent's home in Babbitt. Tammy and Rachel headed out 3 hours ahead of me as I needed to get a few hours of sleep after the all-nighter. I was on the road by 11:00. The first 3 hours of the trip were fine but the last 60 miles took 90 minutes to negotiate.

Babbitt is a slowly dying mining town. There's little fresh blood coming in but there are plenty of the older folks moving on and I'm not referring to warmer climes such as Florida. It's sad to see. I never saw the city in its hay-day of the mid to late '70s when there was opportunity for anybody who wanted work. It's been in a slow fade since those days. I don't think the town ever marketed itself to the outdoorsman as Ely has 15 miles to the north. That may have been a crucial lack of foresight. The Iron Range of which Babbitt is a part of relies on the four T's for survival: timber, taconite, technology, and tourism. There's little of either of those four T's occurring in Babbitt from what I can see.

It can't be an easy life for those who choose to live their lives there. There's very little in the way of work and as the town dies little by little, what shops remain have fewer people to service.

It won't be long before the temps will be dipping toward -30f or colder at night. It goes without saying that the residents of Babbitt and the rest of the Iron Range are a hardy people.

Rachel and I headed out late afternoon yesterday and dropped Grandpa off at the retirement home where he stays 45 miles to the southwest in Virginia. Each time we say goodbye to him we think it will be our last goodbye. He'll be 82 in February. It's hard to carry on a conversation with him with his hearing as bad as it is. Too many years in the mines working next to big diesel trucks, the blasting and all the other noise associated with that difficult work have taken their toll. We hope to see him again at Christmas.

Tammy will be back tomorrow night. Here's a bit of video I shot just before leaving.

It was a nice drive back for the two of us. With Rachel's schedule as full as it is we don't get to talk nearly as much as we used to. She read for a while until we got to Cloquet but then turned off her book light and we chatted the final two and half hours home. I don't think there were ten seconds of silence between the two of us. I enjoyed that.

We got up this morning and Rachel and I got busy trimming the tree. It's a tradition we started our first Christmas together 9 years ago. It becomes more and more a time for reminiscing as the years go by. Some of the ornaments have a small story behind them and we laugh about them each time we unwrap one and recall the significance of the ornament.

There's the glass bell with the moose inside that Rachel accidentally cracked her 1st or 2nd Christmas here. She was worried that her mom or I would be upset with her so she didn't say anything. She hid it toward the back of the tree and waited for the truth to come out the following year. There's also the starfish snowman that Toby took a bite out of when he was just a pup.

 Oh, and then there's the Pickle ornament. Rachel and I were in Fleet Farm a few years ago when we saw it on the shelf. She thought it would be a great addition to our tree so we bought it not fully realizing the importance of it until we took it to the checkout counter. Once there the cashier told us that his family also has a pickle ornament. He said that the custom is for the parents to hide it on the tree Christmas Eve and the child who finds it Christmas morning gets a special gift. We had no idea. We don't do that. We even keep it in its plastic box because it looks even more tacky that way. 

Speaking of tacky; we also have a picture frame ornament with the photo it came with still in it. Do you know these people because we sure don't? Regardless, they're a part of our Christmas celebration each year.


Anonymous said...

We had several Xmas tree ornaments with stories in my parents home when we were growing too.

We inherited some of the old family ornaments later, but it's not the same as they have no relevance to our immediate family now.

I like both your noted ornaments (the pickle and family photo) a lot!

Anonymous said...

We have been setting up our xmas tree the day after Thanksgiving ever since our first daughter was born(17 years). This is the first year we haven't.(new carpeting next week) we also have the ornament stories but we have pix of our family in the photo ornaments.

BTW, you give your daughter crap about texting and driving. I see it's OK to video tape and drive though!?!

Kevin Gilmore said...

"BTW, you give your daughter crap about texting and driving. I see it's OK to video tape and drive though!?!"

It's okay for me to do as I do because I've got years of experience behind both the wheel and the camera...and because I'm the one who pays the insurance bill. But yeah, I admit there is a hint of hypocrisy to it all.

Anonymous said...

Only "a hint of hypocrisy"?!

Just like an FAA manager. Do as I say, not as I do.

Leading by example makes for a stronger argument...

Kevin Gilmore said...

Unlike faa management, I'm able to at least when I'm being a hypocrite. Is that worth anything?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's worth something, I've got this bridge......