Atmospheric CO2

Welcome to carbonstories.org. On this site you can learn about Michael Johnson-Chase and follow my blogs. With some exceptions, this site follows "theme based" cycling tours focusing on social and climate related issues. Slowed down observations of the world over days, weeks and months at 10 to 15 miles an hour can reveal a depth and quality of understanding about our environment often missed by faster modes of travel.

Glacier to Seattle, Post 1

 Showing off my latest setup. Each trip, I'm a bit more compact.

Showing off my latest setup. Each trip, I'm a bit more compact.

 A midwestern Box Turtle lounges on a bike path near Rib Mountain, Wisconsin. 

A midwestern Box Turtle lounges on a bike path near Rib Mountain, Wisconsin. 

According to The Wisconsin State Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin’s state bird, the American Robin, arrives 13 days earlier in the spring than it did in 1990. The DNR also reports (without fanfare) that drought, heat waves, heavy rainfall, and other extreme weather events are likely to become more common in Wisconsin’s future. The state may also see as many as 60 days per year where the temperature tops 90 ̊F by the end of this century, with more than 14 days over 100 ̊F

Small wonder then, as I arrived in Kronenwetter, WI, last Friday to visit with my kids and grandkids for Fathers Day weekend, I was greeted by a number of weather advisories. They seemed more than usual, and it turned out that they were. 

Officials in northern Wisconsin said a man found dead near his truck was killed by flooding that swamped the Upper Midwest over the weekend. The Ashland County Sheriff's Office said Monday that the 75-year-old man, whose identity has not been released, was found some 60 feet from his truck in a flooded ditch near the White River on Sunday. Dozens of sinkholes and washed out roads were also reported Sunday as flash flooding triggered by heavy rainfall swamped several towns from northern Minnesota and Wisconsin to Upper Michigan".

Associated Press (AP)

FullSizeRender.jpg

A flooded yard near Colby, WI. 

I awoke today to more weather alerts, heavy rain and flash flooding. Today is the first day of my latest trip, and I am on my way to Minneapolis, where I will board the Amtrak "Empire Builder." This route runs from Chicago to Seattle and allows one to roll a bike onto a luggage car without boxing it for a mere $20 in addition to one's ticket. I will get out in western Montana and cycle the remaining 850 miles and three significant mountain passes west to Seattle. But not before I say goodbye to the remaining glacier fragments in Glacier National Park, my first destination in the West.

According to Wikipedia, the glaciers in the Park have been reduced in area since 1966 - some of them by as much as 85%. The average area reduction over the approximately 50-year period is 39%. Currently, only 26 glaciers in the Park are larger than 0.1 square kilometers (25 acres) which is used as a guideline for deciding if bodies of ice are large enough to be considered glaciers. By that logic, many glaciers in the Park are already gone. But more on that later. First I must get there. And along the way I am saying goodbye to other things, such as reasonably predictable and benign June weather. 

 The swollen Wisconsin River.

The swollen Wisconsin River.

I waited until 10 am for the rain to subside enough to cycle. I was fortunate for the remainder of the day. Although there was drizzle, I didn't have to endure any downpours. My bike has been freshly tuned, and it was a pleasure to be on an open highway, taking the rollers with as much speed as I could, feeling my legs thrust and my lungs open up. I was in a little bit of heaven all day. Why did I wait so long to do this again? Although inaccurate because my GPS was temperamental, you can see my route by going to my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect at:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2787107526

 The road to Colby, WI. 

The road to Colby, WI. 

There's something about the smell of silage and cow manure. I grew up smelling it in Galesburg, Illinois, depending on the direction of the wind, and I used to spread a mixture of the two ingredients from a tractor on a nearby farm. I worked for a farmer who was a family friend in high school, and I used an old cog thrower wagon with "New Idea" painted on the side. Turns out the company is still around - I saw a marquee sign for their products today at a farm machinery store. I do think it's worth noting that in the Northeast there typically are gas marts where there are farm machinery stores in the Midwest. As a case in point, I biked for 32 miles through numerous intersections before finding a store where I could buy food. But I could have bought 3 or 4 tractors along the way. And a plow, corn shredder and a combine. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Old gates leaning against some trees. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

An abandoned farmhouse near Colby.

FullSizeRender.jpg

A restaurant in Abbotsford, WI. 

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

My sweet abode for the evening. A classic mid-century motel run by a South Asian family in Abbotsford, WI. What could be more American? Edward Hopper would be happy here. 

More to come. Thanks for reading! 

Glacier to Seattle, Post 2

Thinking about Carbon