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Friday, March 20, 2015

Early Spring, late return

I've gotten out riding a little lately, after taking the whole winter off. Since November 21st I stayed off my bike and used public transport as much as possible - last week I took the bike, cleaned it off and got back to riding. Five months is the most time I've gone without riding since 2008, including winters, it's also the most amount of time I've spent riding Metro Transit. The Twin Cities now has two Rail lines, and is adding at least one more in the next few years, so they add to the commuting experience as well, though riding again has been nice.

New downtown Saint Paul bike routes have recently passed legislation, and with another stadium being built, (completed), at the nexus of the Bruce Vento Trail, the Mississippi River Trail and the Lowertown Saint Paul Farmers Market, it seems reasonable to accommodate the growing demand of citizens. While I did not get much skiing in this winter, owing to a lack of snow and motivation, I did find it rewarding to take some time off and explore public transportation - drivers are great sources of route information, if they aren't too busy or running late.

David Byrne, (that David Byrne) wrote a great series of travel essays that all fit together under the bicycling moniker of "Commuter Experience". I recommend reading it, if not for the way he consistently finds the best in things when they are at their worst, then for the way he approaches being a knowledgeable person, with vulnerability and humility, every time he rides a bicycle in a strange city.

Bicycle DiariesBicycle Diaries by David Byrne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just watched "Birdman", so I'm all giddy with crossover artists. Way to go Dave. Nice travel memoir.

View all my reviews

Dried flowers, Saint Paul. Photo by Michael McKinney.

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael Mckinney.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hogback toast

Minneapolis, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Minneapolis, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Saint Paul, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Minneapolis, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

Lake Minnetonka, 2014. Photo by Michael McKinney

The long story is pretty complicated, so I'll shorten it to 2008, when a cousin of mine in Colorado printed out a GPS map of a fifty mile bike ride from Fort Collins to Boulder. I was riding his steel frame road bike, and though I had never ridden the route, it was easily the highlight of 2008 - I didn't get lost, it was a fairly challenging ride, and I handled it. I even enjoyed it. I surprised myself, really.

A hogback in Colorado is what the Boulder locals call a hill, and in Minnesota, it's what a lot of people would look at cross eyed and say "...that's the biggest hill I've ever seen." In a state with 55 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet high, it's pretty easy to see why misinterpretations regarding elevation are bound to happen. Take a minute to google "Number of 14,000 foot peaks in Minnesota" and reward yourself with a broad understanding of regional linguistics.

Anyway, this particular bike ride had a few good hogbacks and fifty miles at elevation, so my cousin planned it for me in advance with a map from MapMyRides and BikeRouteToaster, a fairly simple mapping program. When I got back to the level headed Midwest, I spent some time learning about MapMyRide; going on a bike ride on familiar roads, getting home, walking to a library and charting out my ride, sometimes printing out the BikeRouteToaster results for elevation and sometimes saving the work on MapMyRide.

Footnote, manually mapping a fifty mile bicycle ride on a public library computer and then having the map lost after a system wide reset is a little frustrating, almost as frustrating as the same thing happening at a coffee shop where the wi-fi is free as long as your coffee is pricey enough.

One thing led to another, and in 2013 I bought a wrist top GPS - a Garmin 210 heart rate monitor and GPS computer. No more manual mapping, but lots of statistics and Stravasshole-ism, (I had no idea "King of the Mountain" was anything but a game kids play at snowpiles while waiting for the bus), but there you go. Since then, the mapping and recording of rides has been a lot simpler. Rather than spending up to an hour manually entering turns and miles on MapMyRide, I plug in the Garmin 220, (I upgraded in 2014 after some technical issues), upload the data to Strava, MapMyRide and Garmin Connects and get on my way.

That is as uncomplicated as I can make it.

Thanks for reading, and here is my favorite bike ride from 2014, a double loop through the fairly hilly region of Cherokee Park, Kaposia Park and Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2014 Year in Books

Here is a list of books I read and updated to the site Goodreads from the year doesn't include newspapers, magazines and cereal boxes, but it does include the many books I read about communicable diseases, nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization, so I've got that going for me.

For the Crossword enthusiast, I guess DeLilo's Underworld was the one most vital piece of literature I read, but the most enjoyable was probably Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.





    Michael's bookshelf: 2014-reading-challenge



            Autobiography, Vol. 1


            2 of 5 stars


            Autobiography, Vol. 1


            by Mark Twain






            Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life


            4 of 5 stars


            Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life


            by Barbara Kingsolver


            "Coolidge effect."



            land, working, craft, and 2014-reading-challenge




            Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef


            3 of 5 stars



            by Gabrielle Hamilton


            Difficult and worthwhile, but also petulant and melodramatic. If she were a fictional character in a novel, I'd expect her small gains in emotional validation would not contain the burden of her motherhood.

Despite concluding her memoir...






            Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness


            2 of 5 stars


            Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness


            by Lyanda Lynn Haupt






            Both Flesh and Not: Essays


            2 of 5 stars


            Both Flesh and Not: Essays


            by David Foster Wallace








Monday, October 6, 2014

Speculative appreciation

Highland Park Golf Course, Photo by Michael McKinney

Highland Park Golf Course, Photo by Michael McKinney

Minneapolis Mill District, Photo by Michael McKinney

Highland Park Golf Course, Photo by Michael McKinney

Como Park Golf Course, Photo by Michael McKinney

Winter Cycling Commute, Photo by Michael McKinney

Highland Park Golf Course, Photo by Michael McKinney

I've been trying to think of what specific bicycle ride from 2013 stuck in my mind as my favorite one. It seems a little pointless, and maybe the value of doing it is not so much about making a point about that particular bicycle ride or myself, maybe it should be more a focus of what did not happen to me in 2013. There were not a lot of dramatic failures, crashes, car accidents, altercations, sporting event fracases, nothing stands out in my memory as profoundly dissident from the rest...which is why I have been trying to think of something that happened that was more important than all of those other calamities that had previously relegated my attempts. I'll get back to you.

Okay, I found one. I went Cross Country Skiing in December, and rode my bicycle to the trail and back home. The day was a little colder and windier than I would have liked, and the snow pack was pretty soft, so the skiing was the time I got home I was a little frustrated with the whole exercise. Which is funny because a month or two later the roads were so covered in ice and packed snow I skied on the road to the trail, did a few laps and skied home. Anyway, the bike ride was just a couple of miles to the trail and back home, so I am including the Nordic skiing portion of that days activities from my Strava feed,

...and a few pictures I took from that day and a couple others.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August update

"The limits of excess are governed by one's ability to surpass expectations."

- Me, just now.

I'm pretty sure that's plagiarism, but Google won't reveal to me the original thinker who came up with it, so I'm going to use it and hope for the best.  I've been reading, and riding, and baking bread, as usual without a lot of surprises.  There was a decent couple loaves of bread using ground steel cut oats and cranberries, there were a few decent rides on Minnesota Nice Ride bicycles and I finally read The Stand by Stephen King.

I know, I'm really undershooting this.


I did just get out and ride a couple of routes I had been thinking about for awhile - cycling to Marine On St. Croix and back from St. Paul was a solid seventy miles, riding out to Lake Minnetonka and back, (including a new trail bridge on the Luce Line) has been a reliable fifty miles, (even though one particular stop light reminds me of a family portrait where everybody has to stand and wait until the moment is right, and then do it over because somebody heard a mouse fart or something), I rode through West Saint Paul and got through a couple of challenging climbs without too much trouble...

...a lot of these rides are probably daily or weekly routes for some of the areas more competent cyclists, for me, between trying to stay employed and trying to keep my feet on the ground, they are something to look forward to.

The thing I do not look forward to is getting into trouble.  Be it other cyclists not appreciating my attitude, local citizens charging me with disrespectful behavior or those close to me saying I am flippant and narcissistic, I guess a lot of it seems redundant and perfunctory.  Until I get pulled over by a police officer, while riding a bike, for going through a red light.  Or pulled over by a parks and recreation officer for riding through a closed trail section.  I don't know what to say about it, other than this is not the platform for those legalities.  I would welcome open and relevant discourse from a reader who felt disconcerted after reading this, then meeting me, and finding that I am not who they thought I would be.

I get frustrated.  I get angry.  I get downright mean sometimes.  Believe it or not, I am not only my own worst critic, I am my own worst enemy.  Shaquile O'Neal says having the right attitude is the only thing an athlete can completely control, and I guess if you can shatter backboards you have a valid point.  He wasn't much for the free throws though, was he.

Here's my latest Goodreads review, on a collection of short stories by Ian McEwan.

First Love, Last RitesFirst Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Last Day of Summer is pretty magnificent.  There is a lot of Flannery O'Connor in it, but there is also a tension that is brought out throughout the narrative that seems to reside in the story itself.  Although it is a tragedy, it reads like a triumphant lesson in love.

Cocker at the Theater is the other story that really got my attention.  Very short, very funny and still a bit bawdy.  The other stories in this collection, (besides Last Day of Summer) had more than their fair share of reproductive body parts in reference and function, yet this one was the only one that caught a play within a play, and set the quality of lasciviousness as humorous and just a little bit of harmless fun.  Something to be tolerated and forgotten, rather than lauded, dramatized and sensationalized.

So, two of these stories really impressed me, and yeah, I know, it's Ian Mcewan and who the hell am I, but that's what I'm going with. 

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Minnesota River Bottoms

                    Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

Windy day yesterday for bike riding, the mud along the Minnesota River corridor is still very fresh, deep and akin to quick set cement.  I hit one nasty patch that stopped my wheels and required about fifty feet of pushing the bike, pulling mud out of the brake calipers, pushing the bike, pulling mud out of the brake calipers, and so on and so forth. 

Otherwise, a pretty decent ride.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

*Crickets Chirping*

I haven't written any blog posts here for awhile, I have been busy adding to a series of daily iPhone photos to my Flickr site, updating at Twitter, riding my bike and recording the routes with my Garmin 210 GPS, then uploading that data to MapMyRide, Strava and Garmin Connects...among other things, (reading, baking and still struggling with my drivetrain).

You might think it would be easy to sum up in a few hundred words a few blog posts to pass the days with, a favorite bike ride from last year, a particularly egregious set of circumstances precipitating an epiphany of some kind while riding, a typo in a novel that changed my opinion of that particular writer, (paging Harry Tuttle), even a few quick pictures of any bread I have successfully baked recently.

Instead, I come to this, the 81 digits of sudoku that have been directing my time for hours on end, every day, for years. I think I have not shared adequately, the amount of effort these things pull out of me, and so, I will open the vault and share a small set of photos, previously shared on Twitter with the hashtag, 30 Days of Sudoku.

That's all I got.
30 Days of Sudoku, November 2013.  Photo by Michael McKinney
30 Days of Sudoku, December 2013.  Photo by Michael McKinney.
30 Days of Sudoku, January 2014.  Photo by Michael McKinney.
30 Days of Sudoku, February 2014.  Photo by Michael McKinney.
30 Days of Sudoku, March 2014.  Photo by Michael McKinney.