Blowing & Drifting

Life in and around Northfield, Minnesota.

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Iditarod Dreaming

February 28th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Tomorrow, the biggest, baddest fatbike race of them all starts: the Iditarod Trail Invitational, run on the dogsled route from Anchorage, Alaska, north and west to McGrath, the end of the "short" 350 mile race, and Nome, the end of the "long" 1,000 mile race.

This year, a bunch of my fatbike-racing friends are doing the races, including these yahoos from Minnesota and South Dakota:
Midwest Iditarodders (photo courtesy of Mark Seaburg)

My buddies Ben Doom and Mark Seaburg are fourth and fifth from the left here. And I loaned my headlamp to Charly Tri, at left. (I want that lamp back, Charly!) I’ll be rooting for them and for other friends I’ve met – Jay and Tracey Petervary, Beat Jegerlehner, Kevin Breitenbach, Petr Ineman- and not yet met – Toni Lund (an incredible photographer) – starting Sunday afternoon.

As you’d guess, I am very eager to do the ITI. The checkpoints and other milestones ring in my head like bells: Knik, Yentna Station, the Skwentna Roadhouse, Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, the Dalzell Gorge, Rohn, the Farewell Burn, Nikolai, McGrath…

With finishes in two Arrowheads and one Fat Pursuit, I have enough experience to do the "short" race to McGrath. The problems, as usual, are time and money. Including both travel time and up to five days of racing, I would need about ten days off to do the race – a long time to make Shannon handle all the domestic duties, and a long time to be away from work. Maybe more importantly, the adventure would cost several thousand dollars to do: the race entry fee, extensive travel to and in Alaska, lodging there, plus all the usual race costs like food and Alaska-ready gear and food and batteries (so many batteries!) and food (so much food!).

Someday, right? Till then I’m going to follow the race from afar – which you can do this year with Trackleaders. I’ll be glued to it for the next week! Ride hard, everyone!

→ 2 CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · borrowed content · cycling · diversions · Minnesota · nature · photos · sport · winter

Old Cat’s New Tricks

February 26th, 2015 · 1 Comment

This is what I see whenever I sit down to eat something from a bowl.


Grandma Cat can tell the difference between the clinking sounds made in bowls or on plates. If she detects food being consumed from a bowl, she comes begging, hoping that it’s cereal, so she can have the leftover milk, or ice cream, so she can slurp the melt.

Tonight, despite a solid 15 minutes of begging, she got nothing, since I was eating some chicken chili. When I let her sniff them empty bowl, she gave me a look of equal parts disappointment and hurt, then padded away to the sis.

→ 1 CommentTags: 365 for 2015 · family · miscellany · photos

Trapped in D.C.

February 21st, 2015 · No Comments

My conference trip to Washington went well until this morning. I made it to D.C. without any problems, found the conference itself very useful and interesting, and enjoyed hanging out with friends and colleagues. With a forecast of snow for Saturday, though, I expected delays in getting home, even though the snow wasn’t really very heavy:
Morning Snow

And that’s exactly what’s happened. My early-afternoon flight home was canceled, and the airline rebooked me for Sunday morning. (Though I was assured that the airports are shut down, I heard airplanes taking off just a few hours ago…)


So I went for a little trip over to DuPont Circle, one of the places in D.C. that I know slightly. I took the Metro, which is always fun:
DuPont Circle Metro Stop

I stopped in a burger joint to get lunch when I arrived at DuPont Circle. I was the last customer of the day: the girl behind the counter told me that the shop was closing "due to the bad weather." I ate a delicious cheeseburger and fries while watching one person after another ignore the sign on the door announcing the closure, walk in and up to the counter, and then be told that the place was closed.

Sated, I went down the street to Kramerbooks, an excellent indie bookstore. I couldn’t find the book that our waiter had recommended the night before, but I browsed for a while, then decided to find a coffeeshop to check email. Though I wanted something local and cool (Kramerbooks qualified on both counts, but I didn’t want to wait for a table!), I settled for a Starbucks, partly because the sidewalks were so awful that I didn’t want to walk very far. I saw people shoveling their sidewalks, but they were putting the snow in front of the next businesses over, not in the street!

Just after I got my order, the very crabby manager announced that he "had" to close the shop – due to bad weather. Why a coffeeshop has to close because of snow, I have no idea: he was doing a booming business. When I tried to take a picture of the scribbled sign in the window, he flipped it over so I couldn’t!
Closing Starbucks

With two strikes against me, I decided to just head back to the hotel. On the way, I took a picture of the DuPont Circle fountain, since everyone else was, too:

DuPont Circle in the Snow

Standing in the park, I noticed that it’s apparently part of the national park system, which means I’ve set a new personal record for national park properties visited in one year, at three – Yellowstone and Grand Teton last month, and now this one.

Then I took the train back to my hotel. The cars were packed with hockey fans and discomfited tourists, so it took a long time. And even though the sidewalks in Potomac Yard were awful, too, I enjoyed the walk through the snow – one of my few outings this winter in actual snowfall. The streets were even worse than the sidewalks:

Jeff Davis Highway

I totally understand now why snow is such a disaster for cities any further south than, say, Philadelphia. They’re not ready for it and can’t handle it.

Apparently, neither can the airlines. When I got back to my room, I had a voicemail informing me that my Sunday-morning flight, too, had been canceled. Now I’m supposed to leave Washington on Sunday evening, getting back to Minnesota around midnight.

Sigh. Oh well. Like Chesterton said, an adventure is just an inconvenience rightly considered.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · diversions · nature · photos · stupidities · traveling · winter · work

Fun with Deafness

February 16th, 2015 · 1 Comment

As I walked into the Muni tonight to get some beer (it’s Monday! we can buy beer again!), I distinctly heard a customer at the counter tell the clerk, “So went out there and there like five hundred vanities there!” I wondered “WTF?” and went about my business, trying at the same time to eavesdrop on the other customer’s business.

“When we went down to Florida, I hoped we would see one vanity, but that was just so many vanities!” I wondered if this woman was some sort of Menards/Home Depot nut, traveling the country to visit the bathroom-furnishing sections of home-improvement stores.

I selected my libation and walked up front, catching the end of her conversation and realizing for the zillionth time that my ears had let me down slash provided good entertainment: “It was amazing to see all those manatees! Like a herd of cows in the ocean!”

→ 1 CommentTags: 365 for 2015 · borrowed content · diversions · Minnesota · Northfield · winter


February 15th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Vivi loves loves loves to write and draw little vignettes of various odd characters. She’s currently making a PowerPoint of individual “imaginary friends,” each of whom is distinct and crazy. Until that’s ready to be shared, this illo of made-up people is good:

Vivi's Characters

Vivi’s Characters

→ 1 CommentTags: 365 for 2015 · art · borrowed content · girls · parenting · photos

Interview with Tracey Petervary, Fatbike Monster

February 12th, 2015 · No Comments

One of the great things about the fatbike community is how back-of-the-pack guys like me can talk to and learn from racers who are way up front – people like Tracey Petervary, an accomplished long-distance cyclist, a really cool person, and a pretty dominant champion.

T-Race at the 2014 Fat Pursuit (photo by Kid Riemer)

T-Race at the 2014 Fat Pursuit (photo by Kid Riemer)

T-Race has enjoyed particularly remarkable success in fatbike racing, which everyone agrees is the hardest and best form of bike racing. Most notably, Tracey has won the Iditarod Trail Invitational in Alaska by setting the women’s records on both the northern and the southern routes – 1,000 miles between Nome and Anchorage. Back home in Idaho, she was first female champion at JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit in 2014, making a gigantic late-race push to finish second overall.

And here in Minnesota, Tracey has now won back-to-back titles at the Arrowhead 135, taking the last year’s race in memorably cold conditions (and finishing fifth overall) and winning again this year. With the win, she became the only female rider to win the Arrowhead twice. (For reference, only one man – Jeff Oatley – has won the race twice, back to back in 2010 and 2011.)

Proving her awesomeness, T-Race agreed to answer a few questions from me about her 2014-2015 racing so far. I’ve lightly edited her answers for clarity.

Talk first a little about your training this winter. What does a week look like for you – long rides, short hard sessions, a mix? Do you do much training off the bike?

Training? I am a bookkeeper so I get a lot of training sitting on my ass, ha ha. I have been supplementing my time off the bike with Targhee CrossFit, where my coaches keep my weight low, to keep me light and add to my strength, which adds confidence. A week may look like 2-3 days of CrossFit during the week, an hour of snowshoeing to pack down the local Rush Hour Trail I like to ride with the boys [ed.: Rippin’ and Chillin’, the Petervarys’ dogs], and 2-3 days of weekend riding anywhere from 2 to 5 hours.

One part of your winter was serving as co-race director for the Fat Pursuit in early January. What was it like to help run the race, rather than race the race?

The stoke was huge at this race, so it was just straight up fun. The quality of racers and the excitement from the volunteers and the community made it stellar. It was fun to be on the other side, helping racers have a good time, cheering everyone on at different checkpoints, making notes to make the event better, and organizing and talking to the awesome volunteers, who were just as excited as the racers. I got to spend time with friends who don’t race but love to be a part and volunteer. Helping JayP was great; he had a lot of patience and I know he was relieved to have me help, which made me feel good.

The Arrowhead is just part of your winter campaign, which also includes the ITI next month. Why did you choose to race the Arrowhead again this year?

I chose to race the Arrowhead again because it’s a fun race and because I wanted to come back to challenge myself to get a better finish time. It’s like a reunion of friends I don’t get to see often which is really special. I also knew it would be a different race, as far as temperatures.

Tell me about your race strategy at the Arrowhead, given the conditions this year. Did you have a goal time in mind (Eszter Horanyi’s course record – 18:18, set in 2012?)? Did you have goals – in terms of time or effort – for particular checkpoints or other landmarks on the course?

I thought about the record briefly going into the race, but I didn’t feel in record shape – which is how racing goes sometimes. My goals were to beat my own times, have a solid race, and be efficient, making no stops other than the checkpoints.  When I was getting close to Melgeorges [the second checkpoint, near midway in the race], it started to set in that I may have a chance at the record.

What kind of tactics played out during the Arrowhead? Racers were finishing fast and furious around you – four finished in the half hour ahead of you and five finished in the half hour after you did. Did you ride with anyone? Chase? Pass?

The section between Melgeorges and Ski Pulk [the third checkpoint] went very well for me. I passed a few guys, my riding was solid, I felt good. I wasn’t really sure where others were; I was just focusing on getting to the finish ASAP.

Some more general questions. First, your bike. You ride a gorgeous Salsa Beargrease, “Fave.”

Fave the Beargrease

Fave the Beargrease

How did you set up Fave for the Arrowhead – tires, drivetrain, bags, et cetera? Do you always use flat pedals and regular boots on Fave, or is that a race-by-race choice? Were you testing anything interesting? Did anything work particularly well or not work particularly badly?

The set-up for this race is usually the same as far as gear: tires were 4 inch Dillingers front and back, drive train was a 1×11, my frame bag is custom from Carousel Designs with a stretchy part for expansion and embroidered with my name. I got a pair of 45NRTH Wölvhammers this year, so that was different. I really like being clipped in. The warm temps made it tricky. My feet actually overheated and then got wet and cold, but I was able to dry my socks and and the second half of the race my feet felt great!

Second, food! You are a pretty accomplished cook, and maybe even a little bit of a foodie. What do you like to eat and drink during races, when you’re rolling and when you’re stopped? Any treats that you save for particular moments?

Thanks! I like to eat things that make me feel good, that I can be ok with eating as far as ingredients. I also try to eat things I don’t eat all the time and save for race food, but that I have tried in the past so they’re not a shock, such as locally made Kate’s bars and GU Brew, Gel, and Chomps. This race I ate jerky from Wyoming Ranch, which was dynamite. I liked the salt and it was easy to eat. I used to eat a lot more sugar and candy, but these choices were better. My stomach never went south.

Third, what do you think about when you’re on the trail? What goes through your head? Your effort? The sounds Fave is making? Dreams of food and drink?

It depends where I am on the trail. I listen to music to change the mood or just to listen to something. I think of what I am doing and that this is a race and try to keep that focus. I also think about my time in the checkpoints, what I will do and what needs to be done to get in and out, and yes definitely how good the grilled cheese and wild rice soup is gonna taste!

With the AH now past, how are you building up to the ITI?

Mental preparation for me is big. I think about the sections of the trail, what they could be like, how I will handle the lack of sleep, the checkpoints, but always remaining flexible. I am following my regimen of 2-3 days of CrossFit. My coaches keep my weight low, so I am getting stronger but not bigger. I ride two or three days a week and will snowshoe one day a week.

 Looking past even the ITI, what’s your “off-season” look like, besides cooking and walking Rippin’ and Chillin’? Races? Tours? Advocacy?

There’s an off season?

Finally: I see a lot of racers carrying mementos, slogans, and the like on their bikes. I pin a card with Mike Riemer’s “Stay constant” advice to my bars, for instance. Does T-Race carry anything like that with her when she’s out there on the trail?

I don’t have anything on my bike, but some quotes that have stuck with me and that I think of often are “You gotta want it,” “It ain’t over til it’s over,” and “Tell the mind to go, the body will follow.”

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · borrowed content · cycling · diversions · photos · sport · winter

Julia Draws Stravinsky

February 11th, 2015 · No Comments

Julia’s excellent art teacher had the kids try to do a drawing of Igor Stravinsky, riffing on Picasso’s famous piece from 1920. I like Julia’s a lot.

Julia's Stravinsky

Julia’s Stravinsky


→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · art · autumn · borrowed content · girls · school

Rinella, American Buffalo

February 10th, 2015 · No Comments

Tetons Bison

Tetons Bison

Steven Rinella’s American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon is excellent look at the natural history of the North American bison, framed by the author’s hunt of a buffalo in Alaska in 2006. As his trek illustrates in gripping, gory detail, the connection between humans and bison has always been complicated. Bison are the oldest kind of meat on the continent, but they have also carried a heavy symbolic weight for centuries, if not millennia – as food, as collections of usable flesh and bone, as holy creatures, as emblems of the West and of America itself. Rinella does a superb job examining all these aspects of the buffalo, and telling a great adventure story, too.

This passage on the buffalo’s extraordinary ability to withstand the cold is maybe my favorite bit in the book:

Rinella p. 66

Rinella p. 67


→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · art · book report · nature · photos

Fat Pursued – Fat Pursuit Race Report

February 9th, 2015 · No Comments

In January, I made a second attempt at finishing JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit in Idaho. I hope this race report for Salsa Cycles conveys my excitement and satisfaction with the race:

I was shivering at the predawn start line of JayP’s Backyard Fat Pursuit on January 10th – not from cold, since it was already 20 degrees, but from eagerness to stop anticipating the event and start racing it. I had been looking forward to this moment since I DNF’ed in the first edition of the race, in March 2014. Getting pulled from that race by Jay Petervary after 34 hours and 100 miles of riding had been tough to take, though I knew I could not have gone any further or faster with the bike, legs, or lungs I had then…

Head on

Head on

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · cycling · diversions · narcissism · nature · photos · sport · stupidities · traveling · winter

Puzzled No More!

February 8th, 2015 · No Comments

Huzzah! After weeks of work, all 1,000 pieces of “Confection Street” are in their proper places! Vivi did the last thirty or forty pieces all by herself! The finished puzzle looks great.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · art · borrowed content · diversions · family · girls · Northfield · parenting · photos · winter

Grandma Cat

February 7th, 2015 · No Comments

Sabine, our beloved grandma cat, turns 20 years old this spring. Since she was a rescue, we’re not sure of her exact birthday, but the folks at the shelter where we got her in summer 1995 thought she’d started her life sometime in late winter or early spring. She looked like this back then – here with her “brother,” Snowshoe, who died very young:

Baby Cats

Baby Cats


Now, she looks like this, pretty much all the time:

Grandma Cat at Rest

Grandma Cat at Rest

She still does make an effort to cozy up to us every day, and – judging by her loud purring – loves to sit on or next to our legs, soaking up our warmth and enjoying gentle strokes of her back and head.

Though her appetite still strong, and she can definitely meow with surprising volume, she can’t jump quite as easily as she used to, and as this video shows, she’s apparently quite deaf – or maybe just good at ignoring the vacuum.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · family · Northfield · photos · spring · video

950 pieces down…

February 5th, 2015 · No Comments

We need a term – possibly a German loanword – for the feeling one has when he looks for weeks at an unfinished puzzle which his youngest daughter has prohibited him from completing.

950 pieces down...

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · art · diversions · family · girls · Minnesota · parenting · photos · winter

Millennium Falconry

February 4th, 2015 · No Comments

This is probably my oldest surviving toy. I remember buying it at the K-Mart in Menominee, Michigan, so I must have been in third grade or younger. I loved it then and still do. I’m glad my girls have it now, though they don’t know or care much about Star Wars.

Millennium Falcon

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · diversions · girls · parenting · photos · recollections

Imbolc and Cailleach

February 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

A tardy note on the Gaelic holiday of Imbolc, traditionally held on February 1 and associated with the onset of spring – or a prolonged winter.

From Wikipedia:

Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over. At Imbolc on the Isle of Man, where she is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to take the form of a gigantic bird carrying sticks in her beak.

Cailleach would be a great name.

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · borrowed content · history · miscellany · spring · thing I learned today · winter

Canis lupus

February 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

Says Julia:

"I drew this amazing wolf pic based on a picture from the Internet!"

→ No CommentsTags: 365 for 2015 · art · borrowed content · girls · parenting · photos · winter