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”. ( 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.

Fly like an eagle

While the official bald eagle watching days came and went in January, I wasn’t sure anyone had told the eagles about those days. They tend to hang around their winter nesting sites through March, so I thought I might have a chance today.

I drove out to Prairie du Sac and checked the river overlook (next to the cafe that hosts us for breakfast on our annual Fall Colors Ride and Eat). No eagles to be found, so I headed out on the riverfront path. The eagles didn’t seem to want to pose. I thought they might be hanging out near the dam where humans and gulls were fishing so I took to the mountain bike trails and hiked through the woods. About the time I was distracted by other thoughts, sure enough, there was a roosting eagle. I slowly and quietly got out the camera and monopod. As I mounted the lens the bird took off. I got one blurry shot of a bird in flight.

After hanging out on the beach for a while I decided to just enjoy hiking in the woods and turned to head back to the path. Another eagle appeared and was kind enough to pose for a few shots.

After that it was just stopping by woods on a snowy morning as I followed meandering paths. Unfortunately, our old breakfast place has closed so I didn’t get to stop for elevenses.

Since Badfinger spent a week featuring covers in his blog Powerpop, I thought I’d give you Seal’s cover of Steve Miller.

Al Sleet

I woke up Thursday morning to sleet. By the time I finished breakfast it had turned to snow. That meant it was time to shovel, before the snow and sleet combined to make the sidewalk a skating rink.

By the time I finished, it looked like time to start again, so I did the sidewalk in front a second time. By the third shoveling a few hours later, the amount of snow I moved was probably measurable in tons.

For those of a certain age, sleet brings to mind our favorite weather forecaster:

The last shoveling included several hundred pounds left at the foot of the driveway by the snowplow.

After shoveling I had an exciting ride to the bike shop to repair a recalcitrant disc brake. The first block was hard going until I got to a plowed street. The bike had to stay overnight. (Riding home on Tuesday I heard a grating sound while braking on a steep downhill, the brake lever felt vague for a second and then worked again, but continued to make a grinding noise the rest of the way home.)

Overnight turned into three days, $150, and a new set of brakes. Planned obsolescence? I have bikes with rim brakes that are over 30 years old. Other than replacing pads and cables now and then, they are original. These disc brakes were 7 years old. Nothing would get the pistons to retract fully. After replacing pads (since they were worn anyway), trying to free up the pistons, replacing the fluid (which was cloudy and a bit had leaked during one of my maneuvers so it needed bleeding anyway), trying again to free up the pistons (they would move out but not fully back), I took it to a shop (a rarity for me) and they pronounced it dead. The brand had been bought out by another and discontinued. Parts were no longer available and, if they were, the labor cost to dismantle and repair it would exceed the cost of a new brake.

After a new set of brakes I took the bike out and did a run on the path out behind the shop to bed in the new pads, then rode for an hour or two to enjoy the sunshine and 41º weather (5 C).

Hints from Heloise, or Snappy Sammy Smoot’s Handy Hints

(Depending on your cultural reference. For either, you have to be old.)

Rubbing snow on fresh blood removes it in a jiffy. Works well on jacket and gloves and you stay dry. And no, I did not commit any crimes to learn this.

(Ed Note: Heloise Cruse wrote a household advice column that ran in newspapers until her death in 1977. You could write in questions like writing to Ann Landers, Carolyn Hax, or Miss Manners. She was a big proponent of the many uses of nylon netting. Her daughter took over after her death. Snappy Sammy Smoot was an underground comic book character written by Skip Williamson. The only hint I recall from him was “Don’t wee wee on yer tee vee set.”)

Snow sculpture

I hit the Lake Geneva Snow Sculpture contest while still in progress this year. That meant two things: 1) sculptors were still working and; 2) it was a lot more crowded than when going the Monday after it ends. With above-freezing temperatures in the forecast, I was afraid of too much melting by Monday.

Batman in ice. Note sun damage on left. The ice sculptures on the sunny side of the street were in bad shape.
Ice lobster
Ice bear
Back side
Front side
Dragon – with moose rack? and donkey
She is drawing a sword (visible from the back). I liked the juxtaposition of the snow and human faces
Finishing touches on a fish
The sculptors all worked from scale models in clay. They had to submit photos to be accepted into the competition.
Top of sculpture below
Too big/not a wide enough lens to see it all. (And too many people to stand farther away and see anything but spectators.)
The sculptors used a variety of tools. Most looked custom-made. This and the two images above are all the same piece.
From an Edward Lear poem, The Old Man With a Beard
One Bear Band
Otter with Sousaphone
Since this was a favorite, the sculptor deserved to be more in focus.
Front side of hunter. (This one is from a cell phone, that’s why the snow color looks different.)
The back side. If you didn’t walk around, you missed the best part.

Teams came from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, Colorado, Alaska, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Winter triathlon?

I walked down to the lake to ski, figuring it was warming up too quickly to want to spend the time to go somewhere with hills. I walked home for lunch, then rode my bike to a lagoon on the other side of the isthmus to skate. Does that count as a triathlon – cross-country skiing, biking, ice skating?