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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Late May, 2018

One of the most common questions people ask me when I first meet them, is: "What do you do?"

It would be nice to say it is strictly a Minnesota thing, but I really have not seen that much of Minnesota. I have lived in Stillwater, Saint Paul and Minneapolis all of my life. Maybe people in Embarrass don't ask that question because they are all freezing cold year round...I mean I know a little geography but if you sent me to Windom I would spend all of my time trying to find the Wind Farms, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to do brief employment surveys of my peers.

So, what do I do?

Since injuring my foot in 2015 I have tried to maintain a fairly compulsory rehabilitation schedule. There was a full time job, after college, which never paid much...there were a couple of full time jobs, actually. I delivered newspapers for a year. I worked in retail and the service industry. I worked for a small outdoor industry retailer specializing in rock climbing, cross country skiing and sea sounds too good to be true; what I have learned since 2010 tells me some of it was. I worked in arboriculture and bakeries as well, to limited success.

I sold my car in 2009, have moved five or six times, depending on your opinion of temporary housing, and have struggled to find full time employment that matched anything as reliable and equitable as something that now seems fictional. There is irony in there somewhere but I never put it together well enough to explain it.

Since moving to Saint Paul in 2010, I have volunteered at a number of different agencies that pertain to either my educational or professional experiences. I read as much as time allows, ride a bicycle and bake bread when doing so does not seem like more trouble than it is worth. Sometimes, I have to re-prioritze things in a way that values self-preservation over dedication.

In February and March of 2014 there was still so much snow on the roads I decided to ride less, because fighting traffic became too difficult. What happens is the more snow is plowed to the side of the road, the further out cars parking on the side of the road have to be - rather than being parked next to a curb, cars are parked three to four feet off the curb (on both sides of the street) because a big snow pile is there instead - so cars are pinched into both lanes and bicycles are less welcome.

Anyway, that was my experience. Die hard cyclists would provide much counter point here and I did see people riding that spring, as I walked onto the bus, stepping over snow piles four feet from the curb.

So what do I "do" though? 

Mostly I volunteer, and I try to remember that being employed again relies heavily on an equanimity sufficient enough to utilize whatever social and professional skills I have learned in a productive manner. Volunteering is often a great opportunity to test that sense of place without feeling like a failure will cost me my livelihood. And so it goes.

Anyway, I did participate in another #30DaysofBiking this April, and while I missed out on the handful of group rides occurring around the Twin Cities, I did manage to ride all thirty days, despite a massive blizzard, cold temperatures and a worn drivetrain that eventually will cost me some sad amount of money to replace. With a move to Minneapolis on March 30th of this year, I was hard pressed to get my rear in gear, but managed over 500 miles and a good day at the Fulton Fondo in May.

So for now that is what I have been doing.

My bicycle is at a shop, and I have been happily enjoying Minnesota NiceRide as a reliable adjunct to my commute. It would be nice to get back to feeling like the bicycle was something more essential in my day to day routine, but time will tell.

The fishing has been getting better, so that makes me happy.

Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you.

Dropping Cletus off in Minneapolis for repairs, Photo by Michael McKinney

Not even a bad pothole on Summit Avenue, Saint Paul. Photo by Michael McKinney

Sunset on Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Photo by Michael McKinney

A snowy Organic Molecule on the U of M campus, Photo by Michael McKinney

Cletus surveying the Mde Maka Ska sunset, Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnesota #NiceRide in a blizzard, Greenway Bike Trail, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael McKinney

The day after, still on a NiceRide, Photo by Michael McKinney

Photo by Michael McKinney

An urban fox patrolling near Lake Harriet, Photo by Michael McKinney

Day 30 of #30daysofbiking, Photo by Michael McKinney

At the start of the 2018 Fulton Fondo, Photo by Michael McKinney

Definitely a new Personal Best...I released it quickly, Photo by anon

The new DIY bike storage space, Minneapolis, Photo by Michael McKinney

My incredulity after finishing the Fulton Fondo without dropping my rear cassette, Photo by Michael McKinney

Friday, February 23, 2018

Late February

I had the good fortune to be accepted into a study abroad program in college. It was more than twenty years ago, and through some miracle I found myself in Ireland, England, Scotland and then turned loose upon the European continent for six weeks. Having had the opportunity to see Germany and Ireland, Scotland and France, I now wonder more at the capacity to diminish travel accessories than the panacea of architecture, art and culinary experiences I missed out on.

I brought a portable CD player that only worked on level ground, needed two AA batteries for three hours of music and a carrying case with 40 compact discs, and if traveling with a few books was not enough, I bought more books from a Parisian bookstore called Gibert Jeune and carried them home to gather dust on a bookshelf for twenty years. Last summer I finally got around to reading one of them, and let me tell you Leo Tolstoy had it right, "We can know only that we know nothing..." but you can skip everything but the last fifty pages and it still makes sense.

I don't do a lot of fishing in the winter, and while I initially made efforts to ride my bicycle as frequently as possible, my winter cycling is woefully thin compared to many, many regular cyclists commuting throughout the winter in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. What I have noticed from previous mileage is the tendency for roadways to become narrower as the snow accumulates along the peripheries. Bicycle trails are well maintained however, so negotiating debris fields along certain stretches of roadway between moving traffic and parked cars seems unnecessary by comparison.

Last year's total mileage was about a third of where I was four years ago, I appreciate the fancy Velo Viewer infograph telling me I climbed Mount Everest once, but it is not as comforting as not having foot pain. As such I spend more time riding Metro Transit buses and trains, watching the consistent diaspora of bicycle styles between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. On the same day a casual observer will see skinny-tired steel frame single speed fixies with leather strapped pedals being ridden through the same snow, slush and ice as a person on a carbon fat bike with monolithic tires set to 9 psi. The benefit of there being ample snow means the cross country ski trails are more usable, where it is more likely to see a fat biker negotiating single track mountain bike trails than a rebuilt single speed.

Speaking of ample snow, it just snowed again and it sounds like it will snow some more before March. By April it might still be around, but hopefully the transition between road tires and studded tires will not include too many instances of the former on ice or the latter on asphalt. 

Early season skiing on man-made snow, Minneapolis . Photo by Michael McKinney

Finding the bike lane, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael McKinney

Art Shanty Projects on Lake Harriet, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael McKinney

2017 Velo Viewer Infograph, Michael McKinney

December Sunset, Saint Paul. Photo by Michael McKinney

Skiers racing along Nicollet Mall, February 2018. Photo by Michael McKinney

After finishing War and Peace around Mid-Summer, the remainder of my Goodreads Reading Challenge was mostly non-fiction books, with a couple of Tom Clancy and John Grisham books in there too.

Tight lines.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Early December

The weather has abruptly dropped off the shelf, as many local weather forecasters had been expecting. After a very warm November and unprecedented wildfires and hurricanes in the national forecast, some Minnesotans may have begun to expect a similar calamity in their weather system. Obviously not, as lakes and creeks have begun freezing and the daily temperatures resume their typical below freezing averages.

Three category four hurricanes in a row through Central America and wildfires throughout the western United States have made the anticipation of weather less a premonition of happiness than a prayer for strangers caught out.

Summer in Minnesota was enjoyable, I again volunteered for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as a Volunteer Stream Monitor along Minnehaha Creek, a 22 mile stream through Western Minneapolis flowing out of Lake Minnetonka. Since a 2014 flooding, changes in the stream and surrounding bodies of water have mandated changes in the way it is managed, and following along as a volunteer has been a gradual evolvement from passing spectator to willing participant.

My responsibilities as a Citizen Stream Monitor are fairly simplistic, and often the process of getting to my water collection site is more complicated than the process of measuring the turbidity or generating quantitative judgements of the recreational or aesthetic potential. I hope to resume my volunteering when the snow and ice melt next year, but for now it is back to planning for winter bicycle riding (studded tires and bring a bus pass just in case) and volunteering with the City of Lakes Loppet Foundation during their Loppet Festival in Minneapolis, which this year coincides with the Super Bowl.

Stay Warm!

Minnehaha Creek Northern Pike, Photo by Michael McKinney

Minnesota Nice Ride late season, photo by Michael McKinney

Bread, photo by Michael McKinney

Pottery through the Saint Paul Community Education Program, photo by Michael McKinney

Me with a Largemouth Bass, anon photo

Saint Paul Mural, photo by Michael McKinney

Mountain Biking on July 4th at Wirth Park, Minneapolis, photo by Michael McKinney

Minnehaha Creek Smallmouth Bass, photo by Michael McKinney

Minnehaha Creek Largemouth Bass, photo by Michael McKinney

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend 2017

It is a really nice day outside today. Plenty of sunlight, light breeze, some chance of rain later in the day. I have been in a Minneapolis library for the last three or four hours, working on getting a handful of crossword puzzles finished as near to acceptably perfect as my ability allows. I think more than enjoying the effort it takes to answer the question I look forward to the time when I can get myself back outside again to pursue the motivations that got me started on expressing myself a little more clearly, even if it meant risking the impunity of not knowing exactly how to.

I enjoyed riding in the 2017 Fulton Fondo again this year, and thanks to the non-profit organization Nice Ride Minnesota, I have enlisted in a Community Partners program that gives me access to their many kiosks around the Twin Cities. My own bicycles are waiting at home waiting to be used, and besides a few minor mechanical issues are ready for another day.

There were a nice few weeks back in April when I got out fishing along Minnehaha Creek, between Lake Nokomis and the Mississippi River, and had some luck catching large rough fish. So far this year that has been the most noteworthy thing...besides Donald Trump getting elected president, which I am doing my best to refrain from commenting on. Minneheha Creek has been crowded a lot lately and it is a constant reminder of how lucky I am to enjoy good health to be able to simply keep walking to another fishing spot if the one I had hoped to try this afternoon has become another person's favorite fishing hole.

Carp from Lake Hiawatha, April 2017.

Fulton Fondo II completed, May 2017

Carp from Lake Hiawatha, near Minnehaha Creek, Minneapolis, April 2017