Delighting in the Fleet of Prairie Grasshoppers

Recent Cityscape Photography

Lately I’ve been taking walks and bike rides around my fair city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Taking a walk is quite useful for noticing interesting compositions for photographs. Biking can be a little fast for observation, but works sometimes too. I think it was Thoreau who extolled the virtues of sauntering around with a half-focused demeanor of observation in search of wonder.

Here’s a window into what I’ve seen lately, taken generally with my phone and not a more earnest camera. I consider them sketches. These are all on Instagram for simplicity, feel free to follow me there.

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Turf

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Sunbird.

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New Poetry in Junk Drawer Magazine

I sent out a few poems to the folks at Junk Drawer Magazine and two were accepted. One is relatively recent, and the other I wrote when I worked at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (a factual poem about House Wrens making nests). Click the cover image below (Junk Drawer’s artwork, not mine) to see the latest edition.

Spring Trail Photography at Riveredge Nature Center

I’ve been out practicing photography more at Riveredge Nature Center this spring. Comparing my recent pictures with pictures from last year, it’s exciting to see how my work has grown. Lots of practice.

Spring, fall, and winter are great because of all of the shadows. Until the leaves drop again, summertime is for flowers on days without too much direct sunlight. Have a look at what I’ve been up to below.

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Ecologists will talk about “plant communities,” which may sound silly at first. What they are referencing is that each plant or tree or fungus is specific about moisture, sunlight, soil type, and a slew of other factors. Plants that have similar needs, or offset or work in concert with one another will flourish in close proximity to these needs; functioning very much as a community. These interactions become more apparent the closer one looks. So we invite you to get down to plant-eye level on the trail and study the interconnected universe of moss and fungus and lichen and downed trees and flowers too residing along the trails at @riveredgenaturecenter. As we like to say, “Everything is connected to everything else.” – Leonardo da Vinci . . . . . #spring #flowers #ecology #milwaukee #wisconsin #ephemerals #photography #plantphotography #moss #springephemeral #wildflowers #westbend #ozaukee #forest

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Pictures from the Black Lives Matter Kids Walk Protest in Milwaukee

Pictures taken at the What About Us #BlackLivesMatter Kids Walk #protest Saturday, June 6 in #Milwaukee. Click the arrow to see more pictures.

Seeing the Warblers of Spring Bird Migration

Got out to take some pictures on the trails at Riveredge yesterday morning. Here is a Palm Warbler that stayed still for just long enough.

And here are some of the folks out social distance birding…

Something about this bench was so inviting. Maybe it was the surrounding sun. 😉

First Impression Review of a Fat Bike with the RockShox Bluto Fork

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Riding at River Glen in Milwaukee.

I’m forever trying to find tools that can do the most things, reasonably well, and within a budget I can afford. This past summer I blissfully fell down the rabbit hole of mountain biking on a 15-year-old donor given to my son a decade before it would fit him.

By summer’s end I appeared to have reached the limits of the bike’s geometry, suspension, brakes, and gearing and started researching upgrading to something more modern. Then it dawned on me…did I want to wait 5 months to ride again in Wisconsin? Nope! The answer? A fat bike.

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Wearing a pre-suspended winter outfit.

I picked up this first generation Trek Farley and started shredding once trails were sufficiently snowy or frozen. I was glad to be winding through the woods, but early on I realized that my palms and wrists had zero interest in tagging along for a rigid ride. A cabal of riders owning you’d never need more than those big tires for suspension opinions are well known, but my left wrist in particular was not in agreement.

I started looking into suspension systems and was quickly a little bummed that they were overall about as expensive as the amount I’d paid for this well-maintained secondhand fat bike. So what did I do? The same thing I did to find my fat tire bike. I called Dream Bikes. Ever Heard of Dream Bikes? Dream Bikes is (their words) “a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization that strategically places used bicycle stores in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods to provide hands-on, paid job training to teens.” They also accept and refurbish donated bikes.

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See those rings on the fork stanchions? That could mean a rebuild is in my future. No big deal, still cheaper than new.

Granted, Dream Bikes doesn’t as of yet receive many donations of fat bikes or components, but in a month my once-a-week calls paid off and in March they received a secondhand RockShox Bluto fork. “Hooray,” cried my left wrist.

Being an early fat bike, the first Farley wheel set wasn’t outfitted with accommodations for a suspended fork. The Dream Bikes crew were patient and stayed the course when it became clear a new front wheel would be required to fit this upgraded fork, so I was without my bike for a few weeks of the rainiest, snowiest, melt-browniest time of year in Milwaukee. Perfect timing! Once it was all put back together, I’d paid less than half of the price of a new Bluto (let alone the new quick release re-laced front wheel setup).

So how’s it ride?

I’ve only been out to the trails a few times so far, but already I can tell a big difference. In addition to the fork, this bike also features a 1x shifting system, dropper seatpost, and updated geometry – all upgrades I’m acquainting. So far I don’t really notice the added weight of the fork, and if anything I’m probably learning more to lean my weight toward the back to lift and jump obstacles.

I’m already a lot faster on this bike now than a couple of months ago. Part of that I can sum up to not slowing down to avoid coming down hard on the front end and my palms taking the brunt of that force. I’m more comfortable, so I’m able to ride harder, fast, and go bigger on jumps or obstacles without concern an uncomfortable descent.

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Fat bikes are pretty capable, but I haven’t tried water yet.

I tend to ride with higher pressure tires than some people on fat bikes because I enjoy the fast rolling characteristics of a taut tire. When not in snow, I run tubed tires between 11 – 15 psi depending on the conditions and degree of slickness. These fast, bulbous tires, however, with a rigid fork, can result in the front end easily sliding out in tight curves. With the Bluto, the fork absorbs those forces, allowing me to attack turns aggressively without concern for low siding. It’s a balance between fork air pressure and tire air pressure. For my (presently) ~220 pound frame I’ve been running the fork pumped to about 130 – 140 psi.

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Thank you Dream Bikes! Have a nice day.

The bike isn’t as fast or as quickly cornering as a smaller, more conventional-sized mountain bike tire bike, but I knew that going into this endeavor. With motorcycles, people often say it’s more fun to ride a small bike fast than to ride a big bike slow. In an odd way, I’m finding that’s almost reversed with mountain bikes. I’m finding it fun to surf this big tire bike, whereas a more precise scalpel-esque race bike might feel twitchy and expose my relative lack of skill.

Additionally, feeling fast isn’t necessarily the same as being comparably fast. I’ve never raced bicycles in any competitive sense. Last year I started mountain biking in earnest and I’ll turn 40 this summer. I’m having fun and couldn’t care less if I’m not as fast as someone with a more accessorized lifestyle.

Overall, for me, the Bluto fork has made this bike faster and more fun to ride. In the past the Farley felt overall stuck to the terra (and maybe that’s because I spent the first few months of our life together riding in snow), but now I feel like I can really make this ride fling and sing. And that’s what we’re all looking for, right? A little more harmony.

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Oh and that slick retro wool jersey? Got that years ago at Dream Bikes too.

Voting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The line of people waiting to vote was quite stunning, so I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures.

Chronicling The Brass Rooster for OnMilwaukee

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I ran into John McLaughlin of The Brass Rooster and was stunned by the hat he was wearing. This isn’t surprising, as John and Kate have provided a haven for haberdashery in Milwaukee for a decade now. This hat, however, had some unique artistry going on. So I made plans for later in the week to stop by the store, and came up with this article for OnMilwaukee.