Getting out to vote.

Bike locked up at my local polling place.

Today is a primary voting day in Minnesota. I always vote. State officials are expecting an extremely low voter turn out today. In my precinct there were only three races to vote on. One state race, one county race, and a local judiciary race.

Heading out to my polling place to vote.

A few words on politics. Skip this if you don’t wish to read some political views. It’s VERY rare I ever voice my opinions. I’ve learned my views are exceptionally rare and very unlikely to be taken serious in most conversations. But with this years race my views may carry more gravity.

Time warp back to 1984. I was in college. I did some volunteer work for a presidential campaign. One of the major parties. It must have been a bad experience. Or my college studies may have awakened something in me. I can’t even remember what was going on or what happened. But I made two decisions back then I felt I had to make. They may or may not have been related. 1) I vowed never to vote for a Republican or Democrat in a major national election. 2) I vowed never to step foot in a Walmart. I have kept both of those vows with one exception. I did go into a Walmart once while on the Appalachian Trail in 2001. I think we bought Vitamin I for some physical pain I was having.

My major issue with the two main parties is with who they represent, not you or I. The ginormous spending on a military offense department. And the aggressive means the parties use to limit any other voices in the conversation. They work together to do this.

Both parties represent the moneyed interests, the people and businesses with money and Wall Street. They both appoint Wall Street insiders to run the Treasury department and the Federal Reserve. They both use our Department of Offense to defend the interest of the people with  money around the world. They both govern through conflict rather than compromise.

That’s in a nutshell.

When another voice rises it usually comes from a fringe party. These fringe parties are usually the alternative choices to the two major parties. I would like to see a third party with a moderate platform. A candidate that can bring every one together. I don’t see that with any party. No one will work with the Republican candidate. Republicans won’t work with the Democratic candidate, and the third party candidates would have an incredibly huge hill to climb to get anyone to work with them with their radical platforms.

What’s the solution? Hell if I know. But I haven’t seen it yet.

Oh, I’m on a personal boycott of the media now through the November elections. I’ve turned it all off. I deleted “news” sites on my phone. I listen mostly to podcasts these days. I was increasingly annoyed by the coverage….or lack thereof. The media isn’t asking the hard questions or holding the candidates accountable for what they say. It’s quite sickening to be honest. And a waste of my time.

Think hard about what your vote says. Don’t believe there are only two choices. There are many choices.

Bees love our front yard!! It’s a mini prairie.

Everything but the bike……

Hiking on the SHT through Enger Park.

It’s that busy time of summer. We enjoy the bounty of local foods. Susan has started calling August and September harvest season. We participate in a CSA (community Supported Agriculture) and get a weekly share. Susan does some gardening in our small urban yard. The past 7 or 8 years we freeze and can our way through these months. Putting away fresh, mostly local organic foods. Last weekend was blueberry picking weekend.

We make a day trip out of it. We drive a couple hours east along Lake Superior to the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin to Highland Valley Farms. It’s a beautiful berry farm carved out of the North Woods nestled in a small valley. With 10,000 blueberry bushes you can pick till your hearts content. We also make a stop in Washburn at the Coco Bakery and Cafe for lunch. They offer both Gluten Free and Vegan options. A rare place both Susan and I can have multiple menu choices. Once home we freeze berries, I make GF/Vegan Blueberry pie, Blueberry jam, Blueberry lemonade, Blueberry pancakes, a second Blueberry pie…’s Blueberry heaven for a week or two. We picked about 35 lbs of berries. I normally make freezer jam. The past five years Susan has been learning how to can. So we took our jam making to a new level and canned the Blueberry jam. That way there isn’t jars of jam taking up freezer space.

Blueberry jam in the basement pantry ready for winter.

All this to say is when the harvest is happening it takes priority. Cuts down on the bike rides. I used to go out for rides anyway. That left Susan with more than her share of the work. Now that I’ve learned how much I enjoy having this kind of stuff around during the winter months I’ve been putting in the work to help make it happen.

Friday I had to do a medical transport back to Duluth from Fargo, North Dakota for my job. That was an 11 hour day. I made the most of the drive. I’ve only made that drive a couple of times. It’s 250 miles straight west to Fargo. There are no freeways. The first 210 miles is all two lane roads through the North Woods. Much of it is National and State Forest lands, and Native American Reservations. It is also scenic lakes country. I only took a couple of pictures. Th highlight for me was crossing the Mighty Mississippi River. Although it hasn’t quite reached it’s “mighty” status here in Northern Minnesota. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t even notice it.

The “Mighty” Mississippi River not far downstream from it’s Headwaters.

I saw this drive as somewhat epic. Not only did I start this drive East of the Mississippi, cross the river and end up West of the great river, I also drove through 210 miles of the North woods of the Upper Midwest.

Driving through a couple hundred miles of North woods.

The last 40 miles opened up onto the Great Plains of this massive continent.

Reaching the Great Plains.

And eventually I arrived in Fargo. That’s right, the Fargo made famous by the Coen Brothers. You betcha!

Arriving in Fargo after crossing the Red River of the North. A river that flows North.

I was fascinated at having this opportunity to drive across the state of Minnesota. Perhaps I’ve spent so many years traveling at the speed of a bicycle, that moving at 60-70 mph for five hours is a novelty to me.  Of course, the whole time my mind was wondering what it would be like to bicycle the same route.

Ahwww, back to Duluth and the biggest of the Great Lakes.

Ever since I started to get back in to cycling more than a decade ago, my rides had become a priority. I sacrificed time with Susan to put on miles. We fell into a routine of me riding my bikes and she would spend time gardening and working on her interest in Fiber Arts. We’ve come full circle and are now making an effort to spend more time together. That usually involves hiking more than anything else. Yesterday was Saturday. We got out to enjoy some of the hiking trails and parks right in our own backyard. The Superior Hiking Trail now traverses the city of Duluth, mostly along the ridgeline above the city. It’s a 300 mile footpath that stretches from the Border with Wisconsin to the south, through Duluth and then heads to the Canadian Border following the ridges of Lake Superior. It’s one of the major reasons we moved to Duluth from the Twin Cities back in 2001.  The trail is now more 50% longer than when we moved here.

Today we parked west of Enger Park and did an out-and-back section that included Enger Park. It’s a gem of a city park situated on a high point above the city. It has an observation tower and elaborate gardens. Here’s some highlights from the day:

The gardens at Enger Park:

The Japanese Gardens at Enger Park:


The mission for today. Run a few errands and then finally get out for a bike ride……



TBT: My first Surly Bicycle

Surly Cross-Check
My 2005 Surly Cross Check with fixed wheel and Surly Dingle Cog.

This picture was taken in January of 2006. I had lived in Duluth, Minnesota for a little over 4 years at the time. I had been car free for several years. I was learning how to ride through the harsh winters we have here. I was becoming weary of replacing drive train parts every Spring. Six months of salt and sand on the roads was drastically shortening the life span of many of the components on my bicycles.This Surly Cross Check was my first attempt at simplifying my bicycles and trying something that might work better in the winter.

I decided a fixed wheel (fixed gear) bike was the way to go. No gears, no deraileurs to gunk up. I bought the frame new from a local shop. The shop then worked with me to set it up as a fixed wheel with durable mid range parts. It had Surly hubs. Sugino Cranks. Bull horn handlebars with one brake, a front brake. The drive had a double cog in the back, a Surly Dingle Cog with a 17 tooth and 20 tooth cogs. The front rings were a Rocket 41 tooth and a Surly stainless 38 tooth.

It was a wonderful experiment. It didn’t pass the “ideal winter bike” test with our hills. I could ride any hill in Duluth with the gearing, but….I needed to stand on the pedals to do it. When there was snow on the roadway I would lose traction as soon as I stood up. When seated I couldn’t turn the pedals over on the steeper hills.

December 2009. A later version with a Nexus 8-speed IGH and drop bars.

Although I discovered I enjoyed riding a fixed wheel bicycle, it didn’t work for some of the winter conditions I faced. I owned this bike until 2010. I would eventually buy a Nexus 8 speed wheel to use in the winter. I would switch it back to fixed wheel for the summer. This was a period of time in my life where I put on more miles than any other time. From 2005 to 2010 I logged more than 22,000 miles on this bike with it set-up as a fixed wheel.

When I replaced this Cross Check with a new Cross Check project bike, I stripped down the frame and Derrick in Kentucky bought it. I’m not sure if he still has it or not.