Friday, October 26, 2012

closed storefronts, but wait...

I don't like seeing closed storefronts. Well, I guess no one really does, but having lived in places where the downtowns are plagued by closed storefronts -- any knowing of rural midwest towns that most of the downtown is now closed storefronts-- they make me especially sad.

I was downtown the other day and the closed storefronts looked kind of forlorn. I know they're just closed for the season, but I still can't help but feel a bit of melancholy (not sure of the part of speech here, but I know it's not 'feel melancholonic'). We're not a resort town. We don't lose that much population in the winter and we make up for it with the college students in the fall and spring. The only businesses that close for the season are the DQ, the two burger shacks on the river and the fudgey row businesses. So it's not that sad. While the signs say "Closed for the Season, " they then dispel any doubts with their declaration of "See You Next Spring!"

Friday, October 19, 2012

Making a healthy walk healthier

Wednesday AM. Sitting here at my desk, feeling like I need some exercise. Got about 50 minutes before my morning class starts. But I need a destination. I can’t just walk around just to walk around. Coffee shop! 15 minutes each way, just enough time for a coffee and something sweet to eat.. “Yea, but,” says the voice in my head, “weren’t you just there yesterday eating something sugary?” Hmm. Yes I was. Maybe too soon for another sugary treat. “And aren’t you about out of extra-budgetary cash from doing that pretty often?” Right again. “Better pick another destination.” How about the bookstore? So I walked downtown, past the coffee shop, just around the corner and perused the new local interest books. I’ll go back and get Visiting Tom and let you know in a future post how I liked it . I kept my eye on the time so that I would not get engrossed and thus late for class. Got back with 5 minutes to spare, having gotten some exercise, having found a new book to add to the very long list of books to read, and with a net expenditure of calories this time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's all in the context

I was hiking with the students my eco lab through a forest this fall in a cool, drizzly day.
"Ew, it's stinky," said one of the students. "It smells like rot."
"That's the smell of our forested wetlands," I replied. "I rather like the aroma."
Some of the more outdoorsy students concurred with my point of view but we all agreed that it's not an aroma considered pleasant by all.
It occurred to me that what I really like is the associations I have with that aroma. It makes me think of enjoyable days spent hiking around the forested wetlands taking in the scenery, getting out in a natural area, learning new plants and pondering how that ecosystem functions. It is all in the context.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Enjoying the fall weather bike style

So OK, the sleet did sort of sting on my face. Not the most favorite part of my bike commute yesterday. I tried to time my ride between the squall lines but didn’t hit it quite right. All day, we had wave after wave of rain and sleet for several minutes with about 30 to 45 minutes of sunshine in between. Forty five minutes of clear weather would be just right for the ride home. But I was delayed a bit in leaving so by the time I got away it was ½ way through the clear, which meant I’d encounter a squall. But after the sleet, the last half the ride was in clear weather. A nice ride overall.

I have always thought it’d be adventurous to be a consistent 3-season bike commuter over a reasonable distance. Many years (and about the same number of pounds) ago, I would sometimes do a 15 mile one-way commute but only on nice days. It required a change of clothes and freshen up in the washroom upon arriving at work so it was not a causal ride. I now have a more reasonable, 15 mile round-trip distance which can be done in street clothes. I frequently ride in during summer; this was the first time I had in October. With the recent addition of a commuter bike (i.e, with fenders and – full disclosure - battery assist) and the with the right rain suit, it was really quite a pleasant ride, aside from the few minutes of sleet. 

I had ridden in to work the previous morning in a warm drizzle which was quite a pleasant ride. I car pooled home that evening, leaving the bike in my office overnight. I car pooled in the next morning then rode home that afternoon. I don't claim to be an everyday bike commuter.

Part of appreciating the place one lives is appreciating and getting out in all weather. And here we have all weather. I don’t intend to ride in the winter. Snowpacked roads are too treacherous (I knew people in Fargo who would put a traction chain on the front wheel of their bike – I don’t need to be that hard-core). And subzero weather is a bit too extreme for me for cycling. But regularly biking in from March through October is quite do-able. People like walks in the rain. Rides in the rain can be enjoyable, too, in their own way. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to forego rides in the summer in shorts to save up my bike riding days for fall rides in the rain. 

When I saw that today’s weather was going to be snow/rain mix all day, I chose to carpool in. Today it was a walk downtown this morning for a coffee instead of a bike ride. It was quite an enjoyable walk in the rain that turned to snow. Looks like we’ll get a little accumulation today. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Place and Being Organized

Can where you live determine your level of organization? For twenty of the past 22 years, we’ve lived out-of, but close-to, town. Therefore when we’re doing a plumbing, electrical or construction project we have the luxury of being able to go to town the three or four times it takes to get everything we need to get the job done. Our closeness to town is enabling that way (for the two years we lived in town it was still just 3 or 4 trips to various stores per project). But how about those people who live so far from town that they need to be sure to get everything they need the one time they are in town? That’d be impressive.

The people who live outside cell phone range  have to be even better organized. We all used to be a bit better organized that way. It seemed like only a few years ago that I was resisting getting a cell phone because I said it was for people with poor planning. Everyone used to make plans ahead of time. You had a designated time and place to meet. If the other party did not show up within an unstated but somehow mutually agreed to timeframe, well, we followed the unstated but somehow mutually agreed plan B. If one were meeting someone in town, the waiting time could be just 10-15 minutes but for a remote meet it could be up to 1-1/2 hours to wait until switching to plan B. If the other party didn't show up, you’d ask them about it the next time you saw them. Now no one plans, we – me included -- just call to smake and to change plans. It’s a great time saver. No more waiting and wondering for those precious 10-15 minutes. I’m sure our time is much more valuable today compared to years past and taht we put that saved time to high value uses. I don’t mean to sound like a crotchety old guy. OK, it would have been nice to have been in communication with the people I waited 1-1/2 hours for at a remote site and then had to make the call to switch to plan B. Knowing they were delayed much longer than that could have saved me some time and some worry. But come to think of it, that area is probably still out of cell phone range. So I guess there are still some places where planning is an essential skill.