Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Stormy Weather and a Giant Revolt

It's the 25th of September and we still have hummingbirds at our feeders. I think they're juvenile offspring from the adults that returned in early May. I've read where the adults fly south in early September while the juveniles will stay around a little longer. I usually use a mixture of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water in our feeders but as of a few weeks ago (based on a recommendation I read online) I've been adding just a touch more sugar as a high octane mixture to fuel their flight south. Each day they remain seems like a bonus day especially considering how much cooler our nights have become in the past week since a cold front and an associated line of severe weather came through, leaving in its wake a lot of storm damage a half hour south of us.

The squall line spawned several tornados in addition to straight-line winds ahead of it and wreaked havoc on Northfield and nearby communities. Keith and Tracee lost several trees while many other trees on their property sustained considerable damage. They were really fortunate though because it could've been so much worse for them. Their home was spared any damage. Many others couldn't say the same. Here's a photo I took of a farm less than a half mile north of their home.

I've found my next bike. Tammy and I were bumming around the city of Chaska a couple weeks ago and happened to park on the street in front of the new location of Michael's Cycles. How convenient, I thought. I made a quick stop inside to check their inventory of gravel bikes. (I've been lusting after a gravel bike since last spring.) They didn't have many in stock but Austin was happy to show me what options they had available to them online. One bike in particular really stood out for me. It had the component group I'm desiring and it filled every other square I had on my list of must-haves. It's a Giant Revolt Advanced O, and the charcoal color also works really well for me, especially when it's covered with a layer of gravel road dust! The bike won't be available until mid-December but I'm in no hurry. I've always lived my life with the thought that good things in life are worth waiting for.

Here's a review of the bike.

We spent Sunday at the Renaissance Festival. We weren't there 30 minutes before I had a run-in with a knee-high trash can, leaving a nasty mark on my shin.  We'd just finished watching this attraction and I was looking back over my shoulder as we walked away. The shortish trash can was out in the open but because I wasn't watching where I was walking, I hit the lip of it hard with my left shin, infecting the wound it made with an assortment of nasty germs. Within a matter of seconds, someone on staff was tending to my bloody gash with a first-aid kit while they summoned a human-powered taxi to take us to their main first-aid station where they did a more thorough job of cleaning and dressing my owie. I'm on blood thinners so I tend to bleed quite a lot before it eventually stops. We were back out among the masses in a matter of minutes.

It's been 8 days since I've been on any of my bikes but I'm not suffering any withdrawal. My golf clubs are taking up the slack. The ride below was the last time I was on my bike. I did a longish (for my fat-bike) loop down to the river bottoms and back. What began as a beautiful sunny morning turned nasty by the time I exited the trails. I worked as hard as I could in the last hour of my ride to stay ahead of the storm. Fun stuff!

That's all I've got.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ride Speak and I Love Hue

I'm sitting on the deck overlooking our backyard, enjoying the cooler temps and lack of bugs while Mandolin Orange provides background music. Charlie is keeping me company. I'm not sure it gets any nicer for deck sitting than this. To be inside right now wouldn't seem right. I don't do this enough.

I have a love-hate relationship with autumn. I love the cooler weather and the beauty of the changing leaves but I get more than a little tired of the ongoing task of bagging up the fallen leaves. The season won't be over until I've filled 60 compost bags (in addition to what gets taken away in both of our yard waste receptacles). Yes, I actually track this meaningless stuff. Our leaves are still green for now but not for long.

I thought I was maybe done with longish rides for the year after the Dawn to Dusk ride a little more than a week ago, but I was wrong. I decided to ride the Jesse James 💯 in Northfield last Saturday. What a fun ride! My plan was to accompany some friends on the ride at a more leisurely pace than I typically ride at but our little-peloton-that-could sorta fell apart after 20-some miles. I latched on to a fairly fast group as they passed us and hoped my legs wouldn't show any signs of tiredness from the D to D ride one week earlier. They were more than fine. I'll be adding this to my list of rides for next year.

It's time to give the nod to my fat-bike. It's been patiently waiting for me to get my fill of road riding for the past two months while it's sat mostly idle. I do see more trail riding in my future but I'm not so sure I'm done with longish road rides this year as I'd thought. What better way to see the fall colors than from my bike, either on the road or from the trails -- or from a camera on a drone. I still have that on my wish-list.

Rachel and I have begun a bit of a tradition. Last Sunday we rode in the St Paul Classic Bicycle Tour with 5500 others, making this the 2nd year in a row we've ridden the ride together. The cool, crisp air felt nice at our 7:30 start. We took in the entertainment while waiting to rendezvous with my friend Reid and his bride Danielle at the first rest stop. It was nice to finally meet Danielle and to catch up with Reid. We used to ride the trails together a few times a year but it's been a while. We were overdue for a ride and a chat.

On the way home, we decided to make a stop for some fast-food. The new Chipotle restaurant in Lakeville had just opened its doors for the first time within the hour so we decided to throw caution to the wind and fight whatever crowds were awaiting us. But there was really no line to speak of. Former Mayor Matt Little (who, if I'm not mistaken, helped lead the effort to get our city a Chipotle restaurant) was there with his wife, and by the looks of it may have been their 1st customer.

I Love Hue -- Check it out.

That's all I've got.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Dawn to Dusk 2018 With Silver Cyclists

I've had a fascination with endurance sports for at least the last 30 years. I used to love to watch ABC's Race Across America coverage back in the '80s, making sure my VCR was set well in advance to record it. I'd sit in front of my TV and marvel at the determination of the competitors. Sure, it was as much an act of sleep deprivation on wheels as it was a race but it captured my imagination, and I admired those who put themselves in the arena to compete. The annual Ironman Triathlon coverage in Hawaii was another favorite of mine to watch. I, on the other hand, would have to be content in my personal life to make do with an occasional marathon and longish efforts on my bike.

Over the past few years, I've moved away from the long rides I once loved, leaving me to wonder if I'd ever find the zest for them again. Walking 18 holes of golf was fun but hardly a replacement for the endurance athlete within me and neither were the hours spent on my fat-bike. I seemed to be okay with the less ambitious me.

But I wasn't.

I still had a desire to go out and do long distances and train for longer rides but I convinced myself that distracted drivers had taken the fun and safety out of it. Distracted drivers are a real problem for cyclists and they will always be of concern for me but do I want to allow them to prevent me from doing this thing I love?

I got a group email invite from a friend in early July looking for anybody interested in a longish ride the next day. I hadn't ridden with Steve in a while and I had no other plans so I told him I'd be there. The ride took us on some roads south of Webster that I'd never ridden -- roads that are the kind I expect to be waiting for me in heaven. Roads that are winding, twisting and hilly with very little traffic. It was out there riding with 7 others that day that I rediscovered my love for road riding. Steve suggested I consider riding with his group in their annual Dawn to Dusk ride, a 207 mile (333 km) ride in early September. It had been seven years since I'd last completed a double-century and to be honest, there were times when I figured those days were behind me. But he had the wheels inside my head turning as fast as those under me at the thought of training for and completing another ride of that length. Before I could talk myself out of it, I told him "I'm in!"

I finished the ride with Steve and the others that July day with a rejuvenated desire to ride. I felt like I'd been saved!

I went back to those same roads two days later and did the ride again. Within two weeks I rode up to Taylors Falls and back (157 miles/253 km), sealing the deal. I was back! Over the next month I'd complete several rides of even longer distance as I prepared for Dawn to Dusk 2018. The last thing I wanted to do was to show up unprepared for whatever effort the group had in mind.

Which brings me to last Saturday: Dawn to Dusk 2018 with Silver Cyclists

I got an early start, waking up 15 minutes before my 4:15 alarm, thankful that I was able to fall asleep within a few minutes of my head making contact with my pillow. I was fueled and on the road by 5:25 as I made my way to rendezvous with the other riders 20 minutes away, allowing time to fix a flat should I have such crummy luck. I didn't.

There's always some nervous anticipation for me before the start of something such as this, but I was feeling confident. My knees felt fine and I knew I'd done my homework. My only real concern was once we were several hours into the ride, that our collective tiredness would give way to inattentiveness, leading to a crash within the group. Thankfully, that was never an issue. Everyone in the group was a capable rider who came prepared.

And what a blast we had!

We rolled out of Eastview Elementary parking lot at 6:00, just as we'd planned. We'd need every minute of daylight and more to do this distance this late in the year with the sun rising later and setting considerably earlier than it was just a few weeks ago.

A group of riders in Northfield was waiting for us to arrive in town so they could lead us out to a point an hour south of the city. I would guess they were 12 to 15 strong. I thought that was a very cool gesture on their part.

The forecast had us expecting sunny skies with a light northwest wind but that wasn't what we were experiencing out on the road. An overcast sky grew darker the further south we rode until a steady drizzle developed, eventually turning to a light rain. The rain abated after an hour and left us with clouds to shield us from the sun. I heard no complaints from the group.

We had several stops planned along the way with Shad's parents working as our support crew, driving ahead of us after each stop to set up shop at a predetermined rest stop ahead. We'd arrive and they would be there with coolers full of drinks and food to refuel us. It was a treat to have them working behind the scenes on our behalf. They were such a valued part of our day and we made sure that they knew we very much appreciated their efforts.

Two in our group of 15 were only going halfway and were being met by their wives at our lunch stop in Wabasha leaving 13 of us to complete the ride.

The sun finally made an appearance as we wheeled out of Wabasha and crossed into Wisconsin. The road became a little sketchy for a stretch near Lake Pepin where Brian picked up our only flat of the ride; a small leak that he could never find the source of. We were back on the road in a matter of minutes.

Our final rest stop came in Cannon Falls where Shad's parents met us with a large tray of fried chicken. Oh man! It was the best chicken ever and I was in need of the nourishment it provided.

Refueled and on our way, I started doing the math and figured we'd probably finish in the dark. But not to worry -- we made good time on the final leg and arrived less than 10 minutes after sunset. This was truly a dawn to dusk ride, and then some!

Here's a map of our route.

We quickly took a group photo with what remaining daylight there was (it was considerably darker than the photo suggests) before opening one final cooler for a beer to toast our achievement. I headed out afterward and arrived home aided by my light, feeling so good about having done what I needed to do to be a part of this day and looking forward to next year's ride.

I'm in!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Rested and Ready, I Hope

Tammy took me out to see our first game at Target Field for my birthday last Saturday night. Neither of us follows baseball and I could only name one player on the Twins but we were there for the experience more than anything. The Twins lost but that didn't matter. We enjoyed ourselves and both commented that we'd like to do it again. We even drank beer and munched on salted peanuts the way real fans do.

I golfed in the annual retirees Red Eye Memorial golf tournament Tuesday. There were off and on rain showers the first 2 hours of the tournament but the rain let up by the time we made the turn. It's always a fun time, especially the gathering at a local pub in town where we get a chance to catch up with one another afterward. There were two older men in our foursome, Archie and Roger, age 84 and 87 respectively, and I was so impressed by them. I would not have guessed their ages based on their golf swings. They both said that staying active is the key. They didn't have to convince me of that. I have a difficult time sitting still for very long.

I took all of last week off my bike. I've been riding quite a bit more than usual the past 5 weeks in preparation for tomorrow's annual Dawn to Dusk ride put on by the Silver Cyclists group out of Lakeville, and it finally caught up with me. I did a 110 mile (177 km) ride two weeks ago this Sunday and although I felt fine on the ride, the next day it hit me hard that I needed a rest. I spent the next several days in such a tired state that I couldn't even consider riding. My resting heart rate was about 12 beats higher than its normal 38 - 41 beats per minute. That's a sure sign that my body needed a rest. I sprinkled in some walks over the next 10 days but that was all.

I went out with Rob and Steve Wednesday morning for a few hours of easy spinning. I'm good-to-go for tomorrow's big ride and my bike is ready. I'll be leaving from home in the dark around 5:30 to rendezvous with a group of about a dozen others. We plan to roll out at 6:00, a few minutes before sunrise and return around the time it finishes its arc across the sky. We'll hook up with a group of about 30 riders in Northfield and they'll lead us out to a point about 20 miles south of the city. We'll take it from there. I'm quite sure it'll be dark by the time I get home after a celebratory beer with the finishers. I've added a headlight to my bike.

For anybody interested, I'll put a link to my Strava beacon on Facebook that will show our progress throughout the day. I believe it updates every 30 seconds. Here's a link to our intended route. The weather forecast couldn't be better with a temp in the low 80s (27ºc) and light northwest winds.

Our hummingbird feeders have been getting lots of use lately by a pair of hummingbirds that I'm quite certain are the same pair that returns each year. They're especially active now as they work to store up as much fuel as possible for their long journey south to warmer climes -- a journey that takes a couple weeks. I expect they'll begin that journey in the next few days.

That's all I've got.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Toby is 15 and Too Much of a Good Thing

I'm sitting out on the deck with the pups, listening to Augustana while a hummingbird chirps its dissatisfaction at my presence. The cool evening air feels nice. If I never see another 90º day again in my life that's fine with me.

Our city, Lakeville, has contracted with a company to get its residents a discounted price on the preventative treatment of our ash trees for the Emerald Ash Borer. It's a daunting little bug that will destroy any ash trees in its path if the trees aren't treated with a chemical. We had 2 of our 3 ash trees treated last week at a cost of around $120 each for a 2-year application. Because it stands on the boulevard, the remaining tree will hopefully be treated by the city next spring, or so they say.

I'm a little late to the party but I finally signed up for Nextdoor, the neighborhood social media site where people can post about events in their neighborhood; lost animals; items for sale; reckless drivers, and whatnot. I'm not sure how much I'll use it but in less than an hour after signing up I was able to find a new owner for a fertilizer spreader I no longer needed. I was surprised to see how many of my neighbors had already signed up; I would estimate around half. 

Toby turned 15 a few days ago but he didn't feel much like celebrating. We'd had him in to see the vet a couple days earlier and he's still not fully recovered. This is such a difficult phase in his life and I feel so bad for him. He can only hear loud clapping noises, and his vision is limited due to cataracts. He shows little interest in walks anymore, and up until a few months ago, he used to love them. I was able to get him out for a little less than half a mile yesterday and he surprised me by sprinting home from a few houses away. He still has that in him. Hopefully, he'll be up for walking more when the weather turns cooler.

I couldn't be more pleased with the external power pack I bought from Garmin to power my Edge 820 on longer rides. Without it, my 820 is only good for maybe 9 hours at the most, and that's not enough especially when I'm in unfamiliar places and I'm in map mode where power is drained more rapidly. There are less expensive ways to attach an external power source but I like the way these two pieces work together.

I got up early Sunday for a longish ride and was on the road a few minutes before sunrise. There's something about a Sunday morning that no other day of the week can compare to because of the lack of traffic -- especially the route I took to the south into a light wind. It's not a stretch for me to say that it's somewhat of a spiritual thing for me out there with so little to distract me from my thoughts.

I'm taking a few days off my bike to let my body more fully recover from all of the riding I've been doing. I'm over-trained. I like seeing how many miles I can ride in a week but there's a price to be paid and walking around sleepy all the time is part of that price, as is being more prone to illness. I like that I'm itching to ride because that means I'm not burnt out. That's never a good place to be. I look forward to riding the trails at Murphy again on Thursday.

I'm hitting the links tomorrow morning with some fellow retirees. Willingers Golf Club in Northfield is now part of the PCC membership that many of us belong to and we're going to check it out. It's been at least 25 years since I've played there, and of all the courses I used to play in my younger years, it was one of my favorites. I would guess it's in the top-ten of courses in the metro area.

That's all I've got.

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.

----------------

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.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Finding a Balance and So Long, Anthony

It's a dreary day outside my den window but I welcome these sorta days. We're between lines of thunderstorms and the birds are using the respite to fill the air with their songs. I've got nowhere that I need to be.

It's taken me nearly a few years of retirement but I've finally reached the point where I'll allow myself to take an afternoon nap. A nap was never something I could indulge in when I was working because it only made more of a mess of my sleep schedule than it already was. It's nice to know I can play that card pretty much whenever I choose to now.

I've been spending more time riding than golfing this year and I'm enjoying the change of pace. I sorta neglected my riding for my love of golf last year and although I have no regrets about my time spent walking the links, I wanted to find more of a balance this year.

While I enjoy the relaxed nature of a round of golf, it can't compare to a hard workout on any of my bikes. My fitness is still lacking on the bike but it's coming around and I find that to be encouraging. I still have issues with knee pain (and likely always will) so I especially enjoy days when they're both feeling good and allow me to go hard to where my quads are feeling the burn and my heart rate's history shows an abundance of time spent in the red zone afterward. A good ride will leave me with a satisfied feeling long after my bike has been put away. I also try and manage at least one to two days of long walks each week.

Toby woke me up before 6:00 AM yesterday as he typically does. I let the pups outside and went back in to turn on the TV and fill their bowls with food. I stood there stunned, hearing talk of the passing of Anthony Bourdain. I was especially saddened when I learned that he'd taken his life, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter. What a tragic loss but just as tragic, what sort of demons must he have been battling?

It's understandable to question how someone who seemed to be blessed in ways unimaginable to the rest of us could throw it all away. But that's not how depression works. I'll get in an occasional funk where I'm feeling blue, but I can typically pull myself out of it by taking a quick inventory of my life's blessings then dutifully banish my pitiful thoughts. But that's me. I have to accept that for some my method isn't an option.

Sometimes I'll hear people say that God won't ever give you more than you can handle. I used to nod my head in agreement but I no longer do.

I loved his show for the way it gave us a glimpse of worlds unfamiliar to our own, and for his commentary. He was a remarkable man in a most down-to-earth way.

I think I'll go catch a quick nap then go for a walk; maybe the rain will be done by then.

(I just noticed that the video below needs to be opened on YouTube's page. Just follow the link. It's worth the extra click.)


Saturday, June 2, 2018

WWJD?

As I sorta figured would happen, my stained glass items on Etsy lost much of their rankings (for search engine queries) while I had my shop on vacation mode while we were away. It'll likely take awhile but I'm hopeful that they'll make their way back up in the rankings to where they were before we left.

I've been able to chip away a little at a stained glass project I'm doing for my brother Bryan and his wife Sue. I was hoping to have it done and mailed to them before they leave for vacation in July but I don't think I'll be able to finish it in time. The lure of being outside is simply too much for me this time of year as it always is. I'm trying to work on it just a couple hours at a time but even that's a big ask for me now. I'd include a photo here of the design but I want it to be a surprise for them.

Tammy and I made a fairy garden for Trinity Care Center where her mother is a resident. We're pleased with how it turned out. It's indoors and in a common area where it's easily seen. We thought it would be fun to occasionally change it up and add to it so it gives the residents a little something to look forward to. We hope little ones coming to visit their elderly relatives will also enjoy it.

I continue to struggle with the dismantling of the world I once knew, or perhaps it was all an illusion and I'm just now catching on. It wasn't that many years ago when Tammy and I were active members of a mega-church, volunteering with their Tuesday night services meant to reach the disadvantaged in the community and even going there to cast our election day ballots for every Republican candidate that was put before us because that's what good Christians do. We accepted the lip-service paid about welcoming all who came through the doors at Hosanna! -- except when it came time to allow "everyone" to participate in the functioning of the church. Those in the GLBT community need not apply. I had ditched my Republican ways long before penning this piece where I was examining and coming to terms with the role of the church in my life.

WWJD?

I'd had enough of the hypocrisy, and so I walked away. It would take Tammy a few more years but she would eventually do the same.

To christians (intentional lower case c), it became sport to bash a man who was working his heart out to try and right our nation after it was left teetering on the brink of economic collapse at the hands of those who claim the mantle of being fiscally conservative. It seemed they would rather see us fail as a country than to work with the man, fearing that their help may actually contribute to his success. Yet, in spite of them, he was successful.

The Affordable Care Act was far from perfect but it was a step in the right direction. What good, god-fearing person wouldn't want others to have access to decent healthcare? Apparently, the vast majority of christians. They had bought into a mob mentality of despicable thinking influenced by the divisive voices of conservative media and they fought side-by-side together to sabotage it. And they were largely successful. Did they never once stop and ask themselves, WWJD?

We're in the midst of a gun-violence epidemic in the U.S. but you'd be hardpressed to find many christian conservatives who care. They appear to have become so deluded by conservative media that they've put their love of guns ahead of any reasonable attempt to try and address the growing problem, say nothing of the thought about WWJD? The cold blue steel in their pocket is the real-deal while the crosses they wear are relegated to good-luck charms status. I long ago stopped wondering why our flags are flying at half-mast. There's one senseless tragedy after another anymore with little to distinguish one mass shooting from another, except the location. And the response is always the same: It's too early to talk about the politics and possible solutions.

The church has shamefully failed to lead in any sort of discussion with respect to immigrants fleeing the most desperate situations, situations that very few of us can even begin to imagine. In this poll by the respected PEW Research Center, only 25% of white evangelical Protestants feel the U.S. has an obligation to help refugees. What a sad reflection of those who most proudly identify as christians.

WWJD?

And then there's Trump*.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Oregon, Here We Come!

We were only away not quite two weeks but it feels like we were gone much longer than that. Each of our days was so full that we were exhausted at night before the sun went down. Bryan and Sue went out of their way to show us around the area and points beyond, driving us several hundred miles to visit family, vineyards and the coast. Tammy and I both fell in love with the area. I used to say that if I didn't live in Lakeville, I wouldn't mind living in western South Dakota. I may have to rethink that #2 spot.

The Pacific Northwest is appealing to me on many levels, one of those being cycling. I found myself daydreaming about being on my bike and exploring all it had to offer. Some of the roads were a little sketchy from a cycling perspective but there were many other roads that were more than fine, especially the shoulder along the Columbia River Gorge drive. And speaking of the gorge -- wow! What an amazing stretch of highway that goes on like that (in the video) for well over an hour. Riding my bike there has been added to my bucket list.

Tammy reserved an Airbnb for us in the town of Sherwood just a couple miles from Bryan and Sue. It was small but it met our needs, plus it had a fenced backyard for the pups.

On Saturday afternoon, Bryan and Sue drove us to Kings Valley to see Scott and Melody and their family which has grown by one since the last time we saw them. I thought I had a photo of them to add here but apparently, I don't. They live out in the country with a river running through their backyard. That would've been heaven to me as a boy growing up.

In addition to being with family I hadn't seen in too long, I had several highlights on the trip; one of those being Sunday afternoon with a friend I met in the Navy. I hadn't seen Jack (aka John, aka Muckly) since December 11th, 1979 when I left our ship at the end of my enlistment. We met at Starbucks in Olympia, Washington and spent a couple hours at a patio table on a mild afternoon catching up on one another's lives. Jack used to skipper many large tall-masted schooners for several years after he left the Navy: the Invader, the Bagheera, and the Red Witch. He was First Mate on the Adventuress. He started out as an ordinary crew member and worked his way up. He's also raced sailboats. Impressive! I remember talking with him in our previous lives about his days of sailing but I had no idea how advanced he'd become.

Jack is a rep for the cannabis industry now. He travels the country setting up large meetings/conferences where those in the field can gather and display/promote their products or services related to the industry. It made for a fascinating discussion. I also learned that there's a nifty app to guide you to the nearest "rec store" as they're commonly referred to.

We consulted the Weedmaps app then left Starbucks to go to a cannabis/rec store so I could satisfy my curiosity.

Here's a photo of us from back in the day.

Another highlight of the trip was spending Monday morning at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum with Bryan. The museum has lots of vintage aircraft on display with the biggest draw being the Spruce Goose that Howard Hughes built in the '40s at considerable cost (considering it only flew once for a few seconds). We paid the extra money to get a tour of the flight deck and a more elaborate description of some of the engineering that went into the plane. It was well worth it. Here's a link to some photos I took at the museum.

Tristan and Cambria met us at Bryan and Sue's Monday afternoon where we were able to spend a few hours with them, enjoying each other's company and some drinks. It was the perfect afternoon to sit out in their backyard and soak in the sun. And speaking of their backyard -- Toby loved it! We let him loose there the 2nd day we were in town and he came to life -- exploring and acting more excited than I'd seen him act in a while. We would leave Toby and Charlie in the backyard while we were away for hours at a time. It was the perfect place for them! Bryan and Sue have done some very nice things with their landscaping. I wouldn't mind having something that's a little easier to get my arms around, just like what they have.

We drove to Cannon Beach on the coast on Tuesday; it's a little less than 2 hours away. It was a cool, windy, and overcast day but not too cool for us to walk the beach and take in the sights. And of course the obligatory touching-the-pacific-ocean photo-op. Again, my thoughts turned to my bikes -- my fat-bike in particular. I couldn't help but wonder how much fun I could have there on my fatty cruising the coastline.

Tammy noticed a family trying to take a group selfie and offered to take their photo for them. They then wanted a photo of her with them. They were an Indian family now living in Sweden and they talked about how much they love it here in America. Tammy will often go out of her way to befriend minorities, feeling a need to reassure them that we welcome them here because let's face it, that's often not the reception they enjoy these days. I admire her for that.

Here's a link to some photos I took of our time at the coast.

Tuesday night was trivia night at Pizza Schmizza. We actually had a shot at finishing in the middle of the pack but we went for broke on the last question of the night and gambled our position away to finish dead last. But we had a lot of fun, and the pizza was excellent!

On our last day before leaving for home, Bryan and Sue took us to the Ponzi winery just a few miles from their home in Sherwood for some wine tasting. I was surprised to learn that they have dozens of wineries within a couple hours of where they live. Another item for the "pros" list if we were to ever make a "pros and cons" list for why we should relocate.

We left for home early Thursday morning but not before one last visit with Bryan and Sue. Sue made us a delicious french toast and ham breakfast that would hold us over until that evening and our date at The Seasons of Coeur d'Alene Restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho where they serve the best hard cider I've ever tasted: Wicked D's Granny Apple. Yum!

We drove to Livingston, Montana on the 2nd day of our homeward leg with plans to stay in Bismarck for the 3rd night but we scrapped those plans about 90 minutes east of Livingston and drove straight through from Livingston to home. We both caught a case of get-home-itis. It was nice to be away but it's so nice to be home after being on the road.

We had such a nice time and are so thankful to Bryan and Sue for guilting us into coming out to see them. 🙂 They're wonderful hosts and we can't wait to return! Perhaps we'll fly next time but honestly, we really enjoyed the drive, and Tammy's Crosstrek is a great little car and did well to carry us 4136 carefree miles (6656 km for my metric friends).

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Next Stop, Bismarck!

Our hummingbird feeders are awaiting the return of our tiny friends from their vacation homes well to the south. It's going to be a couple weeks before I can replace the sugary mix they contain because we're leaving town in the morning to visit family and friends in the Pacific Northwest. My brother Bryan and his family left Minnesota nearly 25 years ago and I have yet to make a trip out west to visit them. He's been back here several times as has his wife Sue. We're overdue. Toby and Charlie will be with us so Tammy has reserved rooms at Airbnb's along the way as they seem to be more accommodating for those traveling with pets. We found a cute Airbnb in Sherwood, Oregon to rent where Bryan and Sue live. It turns out that Bryan did the photography for the woman who owns it. How cool! It's been 4 years since our last vacation so we're excited to be hitting the road again. Tammy's Subaru Crosstrek is packed and fueled and waiting. We'll have SiriusXM to keep us company in addition to Pandora.

I put my Etsy shop in vacation mode. It's a nice feature to let people know I'll be away and unable to fill any orders. My only concern is how suspending my site's activity will affect its search rankings. I suppose this is one way to find out.

Up until this last weekend, I've been putting in lots of hours down in my basement studio working on another larger piece. I designed it during our spring blizzard a couple weeks ago. If we couldn't have spring outside I decided I'd create my own indoor spring. Here's a link to some photos on my Instagram site. I'm getting better at estimating how long a piece is going to take me to fabricate. I was telling my brother Keith that I figured the project was going to take me 45 hours. It took 48. I'm pleased with how it turned out. The real test for me is when we get back from vacation and whether or not I'll be able to continue to produce more art during the summer months. I'd bet against me at this point but we'll see. The golf courses are all open now and my bikes are chomping-at-the-bit to be ridden. Oh, and a ton of yard work awaits me when we return.

And speaking of bikes -- I think I may be developing a new love: a love for a gravel bike. Gravel bikes are different than road bikes in that they're designed to take you off the smooth surface of pavement and onto gravel roads where skinnier tires struggle to stay upright, much less hold their line. Their geometry is also different from a road bike in that their wheelbase is typically longer, creating a more stable and comfortable ride. This desire/love for a gravel bike caught hold of me yesterday when I rode the Miesville FiftySix ride with hundreds of others, mostly on their gravel bikes. I was on my fattie and struggling to keep up with those around me even though I was working considerably harder and likely putting out more watts than they were. A nice leisurely ride is nice but I crave speed, especially in the environment I found myself yesterday. It's a big investment for me but knowing how much use and fun I'll get out of it overshadows my concern for cost, as it always does when it comes to bikes.

That's all for now.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Waiting on Spring and a Meet and Greet at Our Home

It's mid-April and I'm sitting by the fireplace with my feet up, feeling like it's the dead of winter. We just dug out from a major snowstorm that blanketed us with between 15-18" (38-46 cm for my metric friends) of snow. We've broken the record for snowfall total for the month so at least we earned bragging rights for that. Our snowbanks are as high as they've been all winter it seems but I'm hopeful that some milder temps in the offing will make quick work of them.

The snow is pretty but so are flowers, bone dry single-track trails, and freshly mown fairways. I'm ready for a change.

I completed another larger stained glass panel over the weekend. Of all of the pieces I've made since taking up residence down in the glass shop last November, I think this is my favorite. There's something about the flow of the lines and the minimal touches of color that works for me. I listed it on my Etsy site but I'm in no hurry to see it go. I added a few extra dollars to the price to take the sting out of selling it should someone want it.

Here's a link to it with additional photos on my Etsy site.

I tried sitting down last night to come up with my next stained glass design but I came away empty. Often times a fresh pair of eyes the next day makes all the difference. I hope to find time tomorrow to come up with something because I need a project to work on.

We're hosting a meet-and-greet/fundraiser for Maggie Williams this coming Saturday afternoon from 2-4 at our home. Maggie is running for the Minnesota State Legislature in district 58A. We don't technically live in the district (we're a block away) but what's important is supporting candidates who share our views no matter where they reside; plus, I'm her treasurer. Feel free to come out and ask Maggie whatever questions you may have for her. We'll have some snacks and drinks as well. I hope to see some of you here. Contact me for our address if you're interested.

That's all I've got. Carry on!