Sunday, March 27, 2022

Electrifying Biking

The past week has been awesome with the warmer above freezing temperatures and the snow gradually melting away. Our driveway is no longer covered in half a foot of ice. No, with the rains we have been having, it is now rutted deep in mud for the next 3-4 weeks until the sun is out long enough to warm the ground and dry it up.

While some people may be a little dismayed at the muddy mess we have going in our driveway and yard, I am ok with it. No longer am I having to do the ridiculous penguin walk to keep from face planting on the ice. I can now stride down the driveway and take running leaps over the pools of mud scattered about down to the mailbox and road. My only worst case scenario is to jump and not clear the muddy puddle of cold standing water. But so far it has only happened once. My shoes luckily were able to get hosed down and thrown in the washer with all the other muddy messes we have made this week.

Once past our driveway, the road up to the highway is fairly thawed and drying with less ruts and mud in the way. And once down to the highway, it is ice free and fairly dry when it isn’t raining. Which leads me to why I am giving these road reports. It is now officially biking season for this winter weary woman! 

Last Fall, right before the snow started falling, I bought a new electric bike, an E Bike, as they are called. I have had one the past several years due to  back and arthritic leg issues. But last Fall I bought one that fits my short height, is comfortable to ride, and is good for pavement and gravel roads or even a little off-road riding. And the really great thing…I feel safe on it, because I can let my feet touch the ground and still pedal and stretch my legs out. Before the snow and cold temps came I was able to test it out and put a little under 100 miles on it. But then the freezing Minnesota temps and snow came so my baby was parked downstairs. At least until we went to El Paso last month. I did fold her in half and stash her in a tote in the back of Big Eddie. 

The plan was to stop along the way and take the bikes out and explore through some of the towns we went through. But the 2 big dogs with us and a long winter of lying around after eating everyday, made Max and Zoe…let’s just say…out of shape and kind of lazy. I had high hopes of just letting them run alongside us on their leashes while we rode around and explored. Last Fall they were both traveling up and down the road next to me while I rode. But I guess 4 months of eating and lying around watching Lassie and Rin Tin Tin turned them into couch potatoes. And I will admit, the long winter got me lazy too.

As for right now I have charged my bike battery, polished up my bike from the dust of Texas, and am ready to ride solo until it dries up a bit more out there. A few weeks maybe? Who knows? But then I will hit the rails and trails (bike paths made from old railroad routes) and state parks and dirt roads around here. Sometimes solo, sometimes with the dogs, and sometimes with my Best Half. He has an E Bike too. And we go out riding sometimes together. But to be honest it is more of a challenge riding with him than the 2 dogs trotting next to me. 

Remember he is very hard of hearing to the point of almost deaf in certain situations. And biking just happens to be one of those situations. With a helmet on, the wind blowing in his ears and not being able to read my lips because I ride behind him to watch for traffic, let’s just say it usually winds up me shouting to him. I wind up yelling “turn left”, ``there's a car behind you”, “wait up” or my favorite, when he is talking ahead of me and I can’t hear him…”What’d you say”? I am sure we are not the quietest or most relaxing people to come across on the bike trails. The quietest thing about us are our E Bike’s silent motors. 

Last Fall, I had a brilliant idea to use the 2 walkie talkies we have and hook up the earpiece/microphone to the helmet to easily chat back and forth. I showed my Best Half how it would work and how it would make it really safe biking together because I could tell him when a car was coming up behind us. I got everything set up and we set out on the bikes to try it out. I was so convinced it was the best idea I ever had. We got out there and started riding, our walkie talkie radios clipped on to our shirts and the earpiece in my ear and clipped right next to my Best Half’s “good ear”.

I pressed the mic and started to talk to him. No response. I tried again, and no response. So I put the throttle down and cruised up alongside him and realized his radio was turned off. Of course he couldn’t hear me! So I turned it on and we started out again. I pressed the mic and remembered I had to count to 3 before talking or only half the message would go through. No response…I tried again and said “please answer me if you hear me”. My radio clicked on to my Best Half midway through a conversation. Throttling on, I zoomed up to him and reminded him to count to 3 before talking or I’d only get a part of what he was saying. By this time he was getting perturbed that I kept telling him what to do. Guys don’t like that. That’s not just a Minnesota thing, it is global.

Off he went ahead of me, and my radio came alive with his voice saying something, but it was muffled and the wind seemed to cancel out his voice. I throttled back up to him once again. He stopped and asked what was wrong this time? I took the radios off of us and put them in my bike bag. I realized this was actually worse and probably louder than no walkie talkies at all. 

Last Fall before we put our E Bikes in storage, I went and bought us a pair of helmets with intercoms built into them. The speakers are built into the sides of the helmets and there is a microphone in the top of the front. And there are 3 buttons on the side for communicating or listening to the built-in FM radio. It’s bluetooth and syncs with a cell phone and is quite simple to use once the buttons are figured out. I got them both set up and we sat at the kitchen table going over how to use them. We went to different rooms in the house and talked to each other. It was working! So we took them out and up the road to test them out on the road.

To my surprise they were clear and working well. I had them set up for just the intercom and instructions were given to not press any buttons or it will cancel the intercom. A few minutes went by and my Best Half pulled over alongside the road. I came up alongside him. He took the helmet off and had me take a listen. It was the FM radio going. He had accidentally pushed the radio button. It got set up for the intercom again and we finished the ride. We got home, happy we figured it out, and put the helmets in their storage bags and the bikes downstairs for the winter. 

Only now that I have pulled my bike from downstairs do I realize that I will have to relearn how to use the helmets all over again. I have forgotten. But that is not the worst thing to happen. What is worse…I will have to show someone else how to use it all over again too.

So if you are out there on the bike trails and you see a couple of E-bikers yelling back and forth, remember to allow us some grace. We are learning once again how to use the helmets. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Tick Tock Goes the Clock


A week has gone by since we took that leap up an hour into Daylight Savings Time. And it is just now that I feel like I am coming out of my back to the future moments. Twice a year we set our clocks either ahead or back an hour. And each time it never ceases to amaze me how it takes me a good week to get back into a routine that makes me feel rested and not like I have traveled through a foggy time tunnel.

In the Fall, “falling back” an hour is not so much of a problem, except for the early darkness that comes around 4PM. I get an extra hour of life to do as I would like. Maybe it is sleeping an extra hour, or if you’re like me, it might be getting up that hour earlier and going around and resetting the clocks on the microwave and stove and in my office. I do thank God those 2 times a year we set our clocks back or forward that we no longer have a VCR/DVD player to have to reset. That always was such a momentous chore to get the time right in case we wanted to record a show. So grateful for being able to now just hit that little red record button on the remote and take care of business. But even with that I screw it up. Last week I thought I was recording a show only to find out I hit the record button too many times and it went from recording one show to recording the series to not recording anything. So I just leave any recording up to my Best Half. He’s a pro at it and it always works. And that leaves me more time to reset all the clocks in the vehicles. I have to admit here that I usually need to take the owner’s manual for each vehicle out and read how to do it. And if i am being totally honest, there have been times where I just left the clock in a vehicle and couldn’t reset it. So for 6 months the time was correct…the other 6 months let’s just say it was an ongoing discussion with passengers in the vehicle with me.

But back to the time change this past week. While I am always more happy to change the clocks ahead in the Spring compared to in the Fall, it is not without a lot of commotion to my body and mind. I love that Daylight Savings feels like we are coming out of a long dark cold winter. It stays daylight well into the evening now, but I am once again getting up in the dark of mornings. I am an early riser, usually between 5 and 6:30 is my Engström Rooster Gene awakening. But move the time up an hour and have it be complete darkness at that time, and my body and brain will fight getting up. It is dark and feels cold, no birds chirping outside the window in the crabapple tree, and definitely no signs or sounds of the 2 dogs awakening inside. The only sound from either of them is Zoe’s vibrating the floor with her snoring. 

For the first few weeks of going to Daylight Savings, it is a definite chore of convincing my brain that it is time to get up. Even though retired, and able to sleep as long as I want, I just can’t justify being in bed past about 7 am. I feel like I am wasting what time I have left here on earth and need to get moving. And with that thought, I usually will crawl out of bed and grumble a bit to myself about it still being dark and cold. And there are a few not so kind thoughts about the fools that started this switching the clocks back and forth. 

Once up and done complaining under my breath, my thoughts start to focus on doing my Tai Chi routine before anyone else is awake and the house comes alive with the smell of coffee, the TV or Alexa popping on with news of the day, and Max barging in and trying to do Tai Chi with me. It is just me alone, quietly stretching and breathing and taking in the newness of the day as daylight begins to come through the window. If I let it, it becomes a very spiritual or Zen moment for me, taking it all in. I start to awaken as my body stretches and sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies with all the snap, crackle, and pop I am hearing from my joints and bones. But I remind myself that I was unable to do it just a few months ago. And the steady inhale and exhale brings my brain into focus on all that is OK and good in my life. 

This week I reached another milestone and am now 64…a year I used to question often whether I would ever reach it, being that my parents died so young. It was a thought I had up until a few years ago when I reached an age past what they survived. Looking back, maybe it was a crazy thought, but very real at the time for me. But here I am one year older, alive at sunrise and planning Spring planting, fishing, biking and time when all my kids and grandkids can get home from all over the country so we can celebrate retirement, aging, adulting, being a kid…and life together. Happy Daylight Savings everyone!

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

For the Children of Ukraine


Hi Everyone,

Another week has gone by and it is now week 3 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This morning I watched Ukranian President Zelensky give a speech to our US Congress and President Biden. He also showed a video of Ukraine before and after the Russian invasion. It was heartbreaking to watch and I am not ashamed to say it brought me to tears seeing all of the children being injured and people fleeing their homeland.

We have several listeners in Ukraine, Poland, Russia and neighboring countries. Please continue to send your thoughts and prayers for those being affected. And if you feel inclined to offer assistance in any way, please follow your heart. There are many organizations that are offering assistance to Ukraine. One such is U.N.I.C.E.F. You can make a donation and specify it to go to Ukrainian children. Just go to

Many Blessings to our family and friends in Ukraine, Poland, Russia and neighboring and surrounding countries. May peace come to you soon.

Sue and Dave (my Best Half)

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Cloudy Days, Sleet and Spring

Sitting here at the kitchen table, looking out over the field, there is finally the possible  hint of Spring in the air. No it is not sunny and 50 degrees out. And no, there are no leaves budding on the trees just yet. Afterall, it is only mid-March. But There is sleet coming down with mixes of freezing rain and it is 32 degrees out. Yeah, that is 32 degrees above zero! The drizzle is slushing up the driveway and melting the snow in the grassy areas of the yard. And I can see the leftover corn stalks from last Fall when they were chopped down to a foot high. True signs of Minnesota coming out of her long winter of a frozen tundra and getting ready for her lush green warm mosquito infested fields of the upcoming Spring. And warmth of eventual Summer. I can feel it, and I can smell it. And I can feel the excitement filling up inside for Spring chores around the farm.

In the past, around this time of year, I would always have a good case of cabin fever going on in my life. You know that feeling that winter will never leave, it will always be below zero and you will constantly be walking like a penguin to avoid slipping and falling on the ice, which I have managed to do 3 times so far this winter. But this year, maybe it was the 3 week reprieve we got in Texas, but my cabin fever is pretty well tamed for once in my life. Or maybe it is just that as I age, time goes faster and the seasons pass by more quickly. 

But as I sit here looking out at the drizzle and sleet, I am starting to think of the things that need to be done as we unthaw from 6 months of winter. Things like plan the garden and figure out maybe a new garden area. And cleaning the yard from the winter winds whipping across the fields. And the least favorite chore for us…those landmines the dogs have left out in the yard all winter. The dreaded scooping with the pooper scooper. That chore always makes me long for a chihuahua and a mini poodle. But the reality is we have big dogs that do big jobs in the yard. And it takes many wheel barrels of hauling it out of the yard. But even that task after a long winter inside won’t deter me from the beauty of the upcoming Spring.

As the days start to get longer, and the weather warmer, I am excited to hop on my bike for a long ride down some country roads, prepare the garden for tomato plants and watch the corn pop up out in the field. Winter, you have been a long one. Until the ground is thawed and we are able to do all those chores, I will sit here in the kitchen at the table with my tackle box listening to the new Winter Storm Warning that was issued for tonight and tomorrow. Sorting and compiling a list of what needs to be restocked in my tackle box, I will sip on my mug of hot tea, longing for open waters, a sunny day and floating in the kayak on a calm clear Minnesota lake. Only another few months away…

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Northbound and Down..But first a Little More South

Our 10 days in El Paso with our son and his family quickly had to come to an end and we needed to pack up Big Eddie and the C.O.W. and start our trek back towards our Minnesota winter, which according to all those back home, is never-ending. There was an expected storm crossing the upper Midwest and ready to drop a foot or more of blowing snow on Minnesota. And there was another storm behind that one that was supposed to bring ice to all the states we needed to travel through to get home. We were getting many texts from family and friends telling us to stay South for a while longer. 

After looking at the Texas map and putting into the GPS the many possibilities of getting home, eventually, we finally plotted a route. It consisted of leaving El Paso and heading East to the mountains near Fort Davis and then swing South and go into the Rio Grande Valley to feel a little more sunshine and warmth. Was it a long drive from point A to point B in Texas…yep. Texas is such a huge state. I doubt even born and raised Texans have seen all of their state, it is just that huge. While we were driving we were very aware of how few and far between houses are from one another. And how far the homes are from any town. While I complain about my 36 mile round trip to Walmart for groceries, these people easily have triple the distance to any town. It made me wonder if many of the kids living on these ranches are homeschooled. I can’t fathom riding a school bus 1 or 2 hours one way everyday.

After spending a night in Fort Stockton at the Walmart parking lot with about 20-25 other travelers, we hopped in Big Eddie and headed one last time South towards the border. It was an out of the way trip but we decided it was worth the extra time being it was in the 80’s and sunny there and our need to not go North in the next few days into the Blizzard.

We have seen so many incredible sights the past few weeks while on the way to Texas, while in Texas and on the way home. From vast desert land to hills and mountains with outcroppings that look like cathedral spirals at times. I seriously kept looking off into the distance expecting to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding out of a canyon. 

We camped at Falcon State Park near Rio Grande City on the border in Texas. It is set on a hill overlooking Falcon Lake which is a reservoir connected to the Rio Grande River. From our campsite we could see the Mexican shore and tell if anyone was swimming across. It was quite the thrill for this Canadian border/Minnesota girl. While no one swam across, the coyotes were circling the campground and howling a good part of the night. So there was some excitement.

In the campground, when we took Max and Zoe for a walk, we met some other Minnesotans from McGregor which is not too far from us. They had been coming to Falcon Lake for a number of years and stay for a few months at a time. I couldn’t help but notice their nice boat and got the fishing report for Falcon Lake. And hearing about the platter sized crappies and 10 lb bass, I caught myself just about drooling for some Shore Lunch and hot oil to fry some fish in. I am so looking forward to this year fishing the many Minnesota waters. And I am looking forward to sitting up North by a campfire, maybe playing my guitar after a long day paddling the lakes and fishing. And just gazing into a mesmerizing fire.After leaving Falcon Lake we headed over to the Rio Grande valley and around Mission and McAllen. Near Mission there is the last ferry from the US to Mexico and it is a man pulled ferry. For a really cheap fee $2/person and $5/vehicle you can walk on or drive your car on to the ferry and the 2 guys will pull the rope that is tied up across the Rio Grande and pull you to the Mexican side. It is a sight to watch and just hard to believe that something so primitive from today’s modes of transportation still exists. And probably work way better too. It has changed quite a bit since the last time we were there. Instead of a couple of guys pulling a ferry across and a lonely border patrol agent sitting idly in a little shack, it is now a grand concrete fenced in checkpoint like all the other entrances into the US. But still a man pulled ferry.

As we rounded the border and wound our way up to Corpus Christi, we realized that after about 3 weeks of being gone from home, we really were ready to get back to Minnesota. Even if there was another foot of snow on the ground and it is still below zero. As great as this trip had been, it was time for these  Minnesotans and their canines to head North and bundle up and face the rest of Winter. But 3 weeks out of the cold and snow was something to experience.

So rather than continue up the gulf and into Louisiana’s gulf coast we decided to start heading North to home 3 days early. We decided if we waited out the second storm we would be stranded in rainy cold Louisiana an extra few days. And while still warmer than home and the foot of new blowing snow, well we just wanted to get home. We had had such a great time at the RV park with the family and looking around El Paso, we were pretty content to call the trip successful. And after leaving and seeing so much more of Texas, it was almost more than we could process. Again as I said before, Texas is one gigantic state!

With the most current radar and weather forecast we decided if we headed straight North into Oklahoma we would be behind the blizzard hitting the Plains and home and ahead of the one just to the West ready to drop ice and sleet all over Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. So off we headed due North up Interstate 35 keeping one eye on the weather and the other on the clock hoping to time it all. Let the journey home begin!

The first evening on the way home we drove until dark and wound up at a truck stop in the midst of a couple dozen or more 18 wheelers surrounding us with their engines running all night. I was just drifting off to sleep with the constant noise of the semis when all of a sudden a train whistle about 10 yards from us blasted. I bolted up and my Best Half rolled over exhausted from driving and mumbled that it was just like in the movie My Cousin Vinny. I settled back into bed and once again started to fall asleep about an hour later. Again the train went by blasting its horn. All night long, every hour, a train came by. It was an interesting night trying to sleep. Fortunately, the driver is also pretty deaf and didn’t hear much or even wake up through the night. 

We got up and fed the pups and checked the radar and weather for the area once again and wasted no time heading North. We finally were out of never-ending Texas and into Oklahoma and Kansas. As we continued North the weather stayed pretty stable and temps were in the 50’s. I refused to get out of my shorts and flip flops until it was actually cold once again. And as usual, I got many stares from the locals…until they saw Big Eddie and the C.O.W. and saw the license plate was from Minnesota. 

Our last night of sleeping in the C.O.W. in Kansas brought the temps down to 1 above and all night the camper shook with the intense Kansas winds. We both burrowed into the winter polar sleeping bags and stayed warm. The dogs were on a sleeping bag and had 2 big quilts on them and dared not move for fear of coming uncovered.. Since we had been gone to a warm climate, they had started to shed their winter coats. 

The next morning I donned my jeans and hooded sweatshirt and polar vest and hat and hitched the dogs up to go out for a fast potty break and we all dove into Big Eddie shivering and shaking. The wind chills were in the -10’s or colder. And just the day before that we were in 84 degrees sunny ourselves as we drove along. My body can not acclimate to 90 degree temperature changes in a matter of 4-5 hours.

We drove like crazy the last 15 hours just to get home and not have to stay in a cold camper another night. We were right between the 2 storms and the roads stayed dry and clear the whole way home. We managed to pull into the driveway about 8 pm only to find that the neighbor had plowed us out so we could get in with Big Eddie. And our other neighbors who had been watching the inside and outside of our place had left a welcome home note and a batch of fresh baked cookies. Nothing better than Minnesota neighbors.

Our ventures took us about 4000 miles cross country and we saw great sights and got to be with the family down in El Paso, and meet people from all over the areas we were in. And as I have said before, America you are the best when we look for the best. But the last 100 miles home, I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz…I was clicking my frozen feet saying “there’s no place like home, there's no place like home”. Minnesota…you’re home sweet home to me.