Anyone who has lived here for a while (or a couple of whiles, as my son once said) knows that spring is not here, even though it might feel like it, until the last spring snowstorm.

We may have just had that. I was warned yesterday that snow was coming overnight. I checked the forecast before bed and it said 1-4 inches between 4 and 10 AM. I was ready to shovel when I got up.

I wasn’t ready to have to force the door open to get there. I measured 10.5 inches on the porch post. It was still snowing and it was melting.

After shoveling I went for a walk. The 1-4 inches came over the tops of my 15 inch snow boots. That is not an ocean in the photo below. That is a lake that I have paddled, skated, and skied across. Visibility is a bit limited.

The crabapple trees hang onto their fruits tenaciously. They’ll fall when the new crop comes in.

I tried to sculpt the snow. It was going to be a child on the beach making a sand castle. The snow was too warm, too wet, too coarse-grained. I suppose I could have built a large box, filled and compacted it, removed it from its mold, let it harden a while, and then carved it. Since my back porch thermometer says 40º (4.5 C), I’m not sure how successful that would have been.

The ducks seem to like the open water

This may have been that spring snow. The current forecast is for 55º (13 C) by the end of the week. Not that I ever believe forecasts that far out and when they were that far off about today 12 hours ago. In other news, the aurora borealis (northern lights) was/were visible in this neck of the woods last night. The last time I remember seeing them myself was about 50 years ago. Photo below from Baraboo, WI.

Phot by David Deano from the Wisconsin State Journal

Bike theft

Spring has sprung and the university police just reminded me of the dangers of bike theft. Here are their tips:

  • Lock it up: secure the bicycle frame and wheels to a sturdy, fixed object like a bike rack or a metal post. Or store it in a dedicated, secure bicycle locker.
  • Get a good lock: we recommend a quality ‘U-style’ lock. Chain and cable locks are easily cut in seconds by someone with the right tool.
  • Invest in the lock — not the bike: we suggest spending your money on your lock, and not on the bike. There’s a thriving illegal market in stolen high-end bicycles and parts — so don’t tempt thieves with your $4,000 racing bike. A $50 garage-sale bike secured with a $100 lock is a good recipe for retention.
  • Register your ride: while it’s no longer required to register your bike in Madison [ed. note: It’s no longer possible], it’s still a good idea and can help with recovery if it’s ever stolen.  [ed. note follows] There are national bike registries. My bikes are registered at two and here are the links to register yours:
  • https://project529.com/garage/
  • https://bikeindex.org

Both services request a description of your bike(s), serial number, and photos. Project 529 specifically asks for a photo of the serial number. Bike Index asks for distinguishing characteristics. You can register as many bikes as you have, and it takes only a few minutes.

I would add a couple of tips/modifications to the police guidance. Their advice re: a $50 bike vs a $4000 bike specifically refers to leaving a bike unattended on campus. If you have a $4000 bike, my advice is: keep it locked inside of your house when you’re not on it. If you transport it with a motor vehicle, transport it inside the vehicle. If possible, conceal it. Make sure the vehicle is locked. If you have to transport it on the outside, lock it to the rack, which should be locked to the vehicle, and keep it in sight. It’s harder to steal a bike from the roof than from the bumper.

Locks slow thieves down. They are not foolproof. Another way to slow them down is to loosen the rear wheel quick release. If someone tries to ride away, the wheel may jam itself into the bottom bracket shell or against the seat tube and make it unrideable, if you have horizontal dropouts. Or it just may slow the thief down, maybe annoy them enough to steal a different bike. (If you do that, just be sure to tighten it again before you ride off.) There are times you will want to leave a bike for a few minutes and don’t have several pounds of lock with you. There are light and transportable locks that will slow someone down. If I were in a cafe, I’d sit by a window near the door if I were using this sort of lock. The police here use “Bait Bikes”, which are left out and monitored to catch thieves. They also make available (or did, in the past) stickers that say “This may be a Bait Bike”. With that on enough bikes, it makes it harder to know which ones really are bait bikes. See if there is a similar program in your area.

Airtags can be concealed on a bike. (There are a number of products designed for this.) They won’t prevent theft but may make the bike easier to track.

I’ve been riding for 65 years and have had one bike stolen. It was in an office but unlocked. The office was staffed all day. That person went to the bathroom and (weeks later) told me she heard someone come down the stairs and wheel the bike out while she was in there. I got that info too late to do anything about it, but I know who had access to the office at that time. Live and learn.

Bikes stop a thief.
Good advice.


Once upon a time, the US had an agrarian economy. You had a lot of children. You had to – that’s what kept the farm going. There were the occasional “confirmed bachelors” and “spinsters”, often code for gay or Lesbian, who didn’t have children.

We became urbanized and having children was an ingrained habit. Then we discovered birth control and mostly Roman Catholics had a lot of children. Coming from a family with six kids I was often asked if I were Catholic. I wasn’t. Maybe my parents didn’t have very good knowledge of birth control. Maybe they had poor impulse control. Maybe it was a way to get the chores done.

Time came that having children became a choice, meaning something to argue about. People who chose not have children were called “selfish”. People who chose to have children were called “breeders” or “narcissists”.

Some had children because it was still what was expected of them. Some had children as a way to remain closeted. Some had children because that’s what they wanted to do with their lives. Some chose not to have children in order to do something else with their lives. Some chose not to due to unresolved childhood trauma/poor role models. Some just never got around to it and then realized…something. (They didn’t really want kids? They thought it was too late?)

I was around 20 and visiting my older sister. She yelled at her kids in my presence, then looked at me and said, “I sounded just like dad”. That was not a proud moment for her.

I was already ambivalent about having kids. I liked kids. I liked being around them. Maybe I would be a favorite uncle, or the trusted adult you could go to when you couldn’t talk to your parents.

That day became a pivotal moment. One of Ursula K. LeGuin’s characters said, “They say here ‘all roads lead to Mishnory.’ To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.” Ursula K. LeGuin  (1929-2018) The Left Hand of Darkness.

I realized that I did not want to be my dad. I also didn’t want to be the anti-dad. I was stuck on the Mishnory Road. I would not be a parent unless I could walk a different road.

It took twenty years. I was now with a partner with whom I wanted to have children, and I was me. I could continue to be me as a parent. My own upbringing wasn’t gone, but it no longer controlled me. I was on a different road.

I am not here to tell you to have children. I am not here to tell you not to have children. If that ship has sailed, I’m not here to tell you that you made the wrong decision. I am here to tell you that, if you already have children, you have a tremendous responsibility. I hope you already know that.

The best I can determine, the job of a parent is to support their children to grow into decent human beings. The job of a mother is not different from the job of a father. One does not have to be the breadwinner. One does not have to be the nurturer. Those are not traits that you were imbued with by the sex organs with which you were born. And they are not mutually exclusive. And is that somehow harder to understand for straight people?

If you want a Mini-me, you are a narcissist and you shouldn’t be a parent. If you have unfulfilled childhood fantasies and you want to live them out through a child, you shouldn’t be a parent. If either of those is true and you’re already a parent, you’ve got a lot of work to do. If you want children in order to feel fulfilled, get a life. Then maybe have children.

Image from TVTropes. Verne Troyer and Mike Myers.

If you ask me (you didn’t but you’re still reading so we’ll pretend you do), a parent’s primary job (after meeting the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) is to support children in answering the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and implied in that is, “what do you want to be now?” Growing up comes soon enough.

What does that look like? If your children have interests they want to explore, you find a way for them to do that. You accept that not all paths will lead to a career or a lifelong interest. You accept that your children are individual people. If you have more than one child, they are not the same and they don’t have the same needs. Your job (like a teacher’s job) is facilitator. One child may know what they want. You help them find it. Another may have no idea. You help them with a variety of experiences to explore. A third may have an idea, try it out, find it wasn’t for them, and try another.

All of these have limits. You aren’t made of money (unless you are). But, once you have chosen the path of raising children, they are the priority. Supporting their growth wins over your new toys or fancy vacations. Not every interest requires cash (or only cash). Some programs have sliding fee scales or scholarships. Sometimes your time is needed more than your money. Some of my biggest fun came as a barn dad and as the recording engineer for concerts. Coaches, drivers, mentors, and other support people are needed. Grants are available. Creative problem-solving comes in handy. One of my kids graduated from high school with more than two years of college credit. That didn’t ultimately mean two fewer years of college, but did mean the ability to focus on a field of interest and have some graduation requirements met on arrival. The other chose a major as an undergrad that cut in half the time (and money) needed for a graduate degree.

One of my kids did a partial summer program in Italy. I was hoping it would be grad school in Italy so I could save money to go visit, with an Italian-speaking guide in the family. Oh, well. Instead, I got this custom poster. They saw this poster in Italy, translated it, and made a copy in English. I think I have the only one in existence.

I didn’t join my friends on Wednesday Night Bike Rides until my younger child was five. That wasn’t a problem. I didn’t want to be away. After I started those rides, I was reading a bedtime story on Thursday night and that child said, “Daddy, we miss you when you’re gone on Wednesday nights. But you’re in such a good mood on Thursdays, it’s good for the whole family that you ride.” I didn’t ride my bike coast-to-coast until the kids were grown. That wasn’t a problem. I had other priorities. From that child, I received this t-shirt:

If it’s too hard to see, there are two pairs of cowboy boots in the image – big ones and little ones.

My advice? If you aren’t ready, don’t have kids. Go out and live a little. If you’re ready, the things you give up won’t be sacrifices, they’ll be investments, and the dividends will be paid every day.

As Joan Baez sang in Diamonds and Rust, “speaking strictly for me” the gifts of parenthood are more than I ever asked for.

Oh yeah..it is also not your child’s job to have grandchildren for you. Don’t ask. If they want to have children, and you have nurtured a relationship with them, they’ll tell you. And if they don’t tell you, but they have children, it will become obvious at some point anyway.

I’m not sure what made me feel the need to pontificate today. Sorry…am I? I feel like John Lennon, singing “When you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out (in)”. Just a bit ambivalent about hitting the button to post this.

Welcome to spring, which arrived at 4:24 PM CDT (2124 UTC, aka GMT) yesterday; unless you’re where it is fall that just arrived.


Winter sometimes lasts forever here in the tundra. Every now and then we have to do something to remind us that spring will come. We pore over seed catalogs, start seedlings under grow lights, tap maple trees, and we head to the fairgrounds for a weekend to think about getting out on the road and the water.

A local bike shop and paddling shop each take over a building on the county fairgrounds in March. The bike shop has more bikes in one room than you usually see in one place (and they have a second room for tandems, recumbents, trikes, and folding bikes). If you want to try on a variety of bikes, it’s the place to go. Test rides are limited to an indoor test track, so you won’t get to try any major climbs. We came home a few thousand dollars lighter and 40 pounds heavier with a new e-bike for my wife. She and the neighbor now match, as they each got a new bike that day.

Canoecopia boast a huge selection of canoes and kayaks of ABS, Kevlar, fiberglass, and gorgeous woods. Any gear you can think of is there, from camp chairs to dry bags to car racks to camp trailers. You want to build your own boat or trailer from a kit? Here’s your chance.

In addition to buying things (or just window shopping), there are days of workshops. I attended one on preparing for your first overnight kayak trip, with features on what to bring and what to leave home. He talked about “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”. In the “must-have” category, he included a gravity water filter system. Since you’re going to be on the water, there’s no reason to try to pack all the water you’ll need for cooking, washing, and drinking. With a gravity filtration system, you fill the “dirty” bag just before you arrive at camp and hang it somewhere. It will filter into the “clean” bag while you set up camp. No pumping, no chemicals. As a bonus, you could use the bag as a shower if necessary.

That seemed like a pretty good idea, but I hadn’t done my homework. I didn’t want to just buy the one he had. Lo and behold, my member rebate from REI arrived about that time so I did my homework and hit day 1 of the REI spring sale. The filtration system I had planned on was there but, better yet, my second choice was there and 45% off. For that price I could buy two and still save compared to my first choice. I bought one and saved the difference to spend on an ultralight and packable folding chair, for which I could also use a 20% off coupon. I saw too many folks on my coast-to-coast ride reclining in comfy chairs in front of their tents while I sat on the ground.

Also in his “must-have” list were dry bags. No matter how careful you are, the inside of a boat is not going to stay dry. I hadn’t gotten anything except a cell phone holder yet, since the bags are a bit pricey. After the workshop I headed back to the sale and found, on a lower rack, the previous year’s models (which appeared to be identical to the new ones except for the packaging) for half price. An assortment of dry bags was now mine.

From the workshop I went to the movies. They were showing an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released feature-length documentary “Greybeard: The Man, the Myth, the Mississippi”. (IMDB.com says it is on Amazon Prime. Neither Amazon Prime nor the filmmakers agree. The filmmakers told me they are still editing and have only the 30 minute short, not the feature length film, available for release.)

“Greybeard” is the tale of Dale Sanders, who put his canoe into the headwaters of the Mississippi on his 87th birthday, with the plan to arrive in the Gulf of Mexico 87 days later to reclaim the Guinness world record for the oldest person to canoe the length of the Mississippi. He already holds the records as the oldest through-hiker of the Appalachian Trail and rim-to-rim-to-rim (across and back again) in the Grand Canyon.

He is a wild man. Before the film, he danced up the aisle, cackling madly. After the film he stayed to answer questions and then returned to the canoe builder’s booth to show his canoe. In the film he admits to slowing down as he gets older, though in person he shows no sign of that. Paddling all day in the hot sun and into the wind might be a bit harder than answering questions after a movie.

Today the sun is shining brightly, melting last night’s wintry mix from the front steps. The temperature might get above freezing. The shallow bays are free of ice. Paddling season will return.