Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today we celebrated Jonathan's birthday. Hooray!

The morning began with a bike ride that we thought would be approximately 8 miles but turned out to actually be 18.7 miles. Our initial breakfast plan to grab a Whole Foods breakfast burrito fell through when we found out they only opened the breakfast bar on the weekend. Trying to think of another breakfast plan, we settled on the superb French Meadow Bakery & Cafe. If you shop at health food stores, you might have seen their bread. We got a little turned around trying to find the French Meadow however, and so our quick ride turned into a long one. The bike trails out here are almost like highways and we literally weren't sure which exit ramp to take!

We made it in the end and our yummy breakfast included hemp toast and this tasty turtle mocha...

In the afternoon we headed to Minnehaha Falls, took a stroll around the lush park and enjoyed the scenery. We even passed a few historic landmarks including the first house built west of the Mississippi (in Minneapolis anyway). It's kinda nice to know that this serene place is only 25 minutes from our house (as long as traffic isn't too crazy). Had we known we could dip our toes in the shallow pools created by the falls, we'd have worn our boating sandals. Instead we watched as lots of kids splashed around and cooled off in the hot afternoon sun.

To top the day off we went and enjoyed our lunch/dinner at The Happy Gnome.

The Happy Gnome charmed us right away. How can you not love a place where gnomes of all types are hanging around the pub? They serve about 70 beers on tap, with easily twice that number available in bottles. I'm not a beer drinker but Jonathan tried the Odell Bourbon Barrel Stout and found it to be magnificent. Their menu lists a lot of local fare including elk & bison burgers. We didn't try those, but the sandwiches we did eat were flavor explosions. Yum!

We enjoyed the day exploring our new town and spreading birthday cheer. Every day is an adventure!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wear and Tear

Full disclosure: I was T-boned by a van while I was pedaling home from work some two years ago. I eventually recovered and my bike, bent but not broken was repaired, though it was never quite the same again, showcased by a slight wobble at higher (12mph+) speeds.

When we arrived in MN we were itching to explore the Greenway, and the hundreds of miles of bicycle paths that run through the Twin Cities. On our first outing, one of my pedals started coming loose. I easily discerned the problem: two out of four screws holding it in place had dropped out at some point. An easy fix and we were back on track in no time.

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place”
- John Bender, The Breakfast Club

The next day, we used the bikes to run errands. On our way to Whole Foods, I felt something pop, and the whole bike trembled. Nothing felt out of place, so I chalked it up to a bump in the road. Later that day, we went back for a leisure ride to the Uptown lakes.

4 blocks away from home I felt another pop, -- my bicycle shook uncontrollably. I feared the worst - somehow the frame was splitting apart, probably at a welded joint. Was it the accident? The 800 miles strapped to the back of the Jeep? The day it spent outside in the rain? Regardless, the wheel was rubbing up against the frame, and I couldn't quite tell why. We took my old and busted ride in to Erik's for a diagnosis.

The experts chalked up my problem to a few broken spokes (D’oh! Now why didn’t I see that!). I was honestly amazed at the service and turnaround. Back in NWOH, there’s a dearth of specialty bike stores and it took days, sometimes weeks to tune up a bicycle. Erik’s mechanics replaced my wheel and I was back on the road in less than 3 hours. Better still, the persistent wobble from the accident two years ago was gone. The bike felt like new. Everything was good! Hooray for Erik's!


Out on the trail the next day the rear wheel went flat. Examining the tire I found no external punctures and figured maybe it was related to the tire’s replacement, so back to Erik’s we went. They confirmed my suspicions - the tape their mechanic applied to the rim had shifted, causing a spoke to puncture the tube. They fixed me up free of charge and sent me on my way. Awesome.


Another mile on the trail the next day and I had another flat. Same problem. I was getting tired of walking my bike around the Twin Cities, and once again, returned to Erik’s. They set things right, and I haven't had problems since. Still I can't help but laugh to myself:

if I wanted a flat tire, I’d have fixed it myself.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mission Statement

Minnesota or Bust catalogs our journey as we uproot from the familiar and comfortable surroundings we’ve known most of our lives and head west in search of opportunity. Like the Ingalls family from the Little House books, we’re entering relatively unknown territory.

This move may not seem like much to those of you worldly folks who’ve rolled like tumbleweeds your whole lives, but consider: I have lived a majority of my life in close proximity to where I was born and raised, within a 20 mile radius, where family was always close.

My wife carries a more colorful passport, with stamps of not only Ohio, but also CA, TX, IN, IL and (surprise!) MN. To be fair, she’s lived in Northwest Ohio for a majority of her life, having moved to the region (from the Twin Cities) close to twenty years ago. Together we have over 50 years of Ohio residency.

With no direct relatives, friends or contacts in the Minneapolis/St. Paul phone book, we have no immediate support system but each other. In essence, we’re starting from scratch - the proverbial blank slate.

Understandably, this is a BIG move for both of us. This has also prompted a lot of questions from our immediate family and friends, who were somewhat startled with the alacrity in which we made the transition.

We’ll get into the Why Minnesota? question another day.

Right now I just want to point out the identity crisis at hand. Our URL is not, in fact, the same name as the blog title, but rather denotes a reference to our location (Minnesota, Vikings) and our passion (cycling). In a year’s time, this blog will evolve, from its current “Welcome to Minnesota” theme. It will still chronicle our adventures in Minneapolis, but will drop the “or Bust” as we’ve finally established ourselves.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This Is My Zen Life

I went into work one morning, determined to apply the principles of living in the moment to my job. This is me, at 6 am, measuring ingredients and batching product. This is me watching 500 pounds of sugar grains sparkle like tiny diamonds as I pour bag after bag into a gigantic high speed mixing vat.

This is me at 8 am, coordinating warehouse traffic, stacking pallets of product--a giant Rubik’s Cube puzzle colored only in shades of beige cardboard. This is me at 11 am, overseeing filling equipment. Row after row of emerald bottles arrive like train cars, stopping to load up - then moving down the track again to the next station.

This is me at 1 pm driving a forklift onto a produce trailer, the smell of sweet apples and crisp cucumbers filling my nose. This is me at 3 pm getting told I need to clean out my desk and leave the building. 10 years of routine, stripped away in 10 minutes.

This is me downsized and living in the moment.

A long ride home, a weekend of deep thought, lots of discussion and research led my wife and I to one conclusion: We needed to leave Northwest Ohio and seek out a better economy. We knew the longer we stayed, the faster our resources would dry up. We looked at relocating to any number of areas, and our search became a bit of a Dr. Seuss rhyme.

Would they be loggers in Seattle?
Or sell tea in Boston?
Would they pack meat in Chicago?
Or rustle cattle in Austin?
Bake cupcakes in L.A.? or even N.Y.?
No, no. The cost of living there was too high.
They looked closer to home, east of the Dakotas,
And in the end settled on the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

So in four short weeks, we cleared out the homestead, packed up the essentials and moved on down the road to a brighter job market:

Minnesota or Bust.