Monthly Archives: July 2014

Back to Back Centuries

So here we are in Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, and Minnesota’s 3rd Largest city. The ride here was beautiful, rolling hills, farms, nice small towns. The weather was great, slight wind out of the north, temps in the 70’s. It was the second day of back to back centuries, something I haven’t done in a long time. So let me try to tell you what it is like for me to spend approx 8 hours ( including stops) to ride 100 miles.

Load is at 7:00 AM-put your bags in the truck and go. The first 20 miles are great, as the air is fresh and the sun has that nice early morning glow, and we generally lave in a group. After 20 miles or so, I usually start riding by myself as I want to stop to take photos, or don’t want to maintain the pace of others, or I simply choose not to ride in a group. Then the head games begin, a song pops into my brain, I look at the scenery, I try NOT to look at the odometer too often as a “watched odometer never gets you there”! I think about stuff: life, family, work, what’s next on this trip, where might our next vacation be, all while still paying attention to where I am going, and staying safe on my bike The repetitiveness of cycling always help me think. I often do “head math”; I’m 25% there, I’m half-way there, at this pace I will arrive by 2:00 PM. Then a different song will pop into my brain, and I hold onto that for a while. In a funny kind of a way, a route with hills makes that day seem to go quicker, because I am focused on climbing and descending without a spot for any thing else in my brain . Reaching the half-way point is a biggy, as then I start calculating a more realistic arrival time. And then, miraculously, there are 30 miles to go, at which point I can “feel” the finish. We joke that, like eating in the dark so the calories don’t count, the last 10 miles hardly count. However, it seems that there is always a climb at mile 90 or so, and in the larger cities, a lot of navigating to get to the hotel, when you just want to BE THERE!

Anyway, tomorrow is only 88 miles, so it will be a shorter day, but there are lots of climbs and descents, so it should go quickly.

alan

Clear Lake in Waseca, Minnesota

Clear Lake in Waseca, Minnesota

typical farm in Minnesota

typical farm in Minnesota

fields of corn

field of corn

Sag stop with mural as bike rest

Sag stop with mural as bike rest

Main Street, West Concord, Minnesota

Main Street, West Concord, Minnesota

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Mankato, Minnesota

Tough day for me today, 2 flats as a result of a slight tear in my rear tire, so we lost lots of time while I tended to them. We rode 110 miles with an unfavorable wind, either coming from over our left shoulder, so not really a tail but a cross wind, or when we headed North, directly into the wind. The temperature however has been wonderful, 50 degrees when we load, mid 70’s as a high-in July! And naturally, we made it, and after all, part of biking is overcoming the adversity you find along the way. We are definitely in an area of the country that makes things, either agricultural, or by-products of farming. Almost every town we went through has train tracks, with factories, or grain facilities. As for the country side itself, as one rider said as he passed me, “a whole lot of nothing”, just acres of corn, soy beans, and hog farms. Tomorrow is another 100 mile day, but hopefully I will have better luck with my tires.

alan

The Des Moines River as it wind through Windom, Minnesota. Not the grain elevator in the background

The Des Moines River as it wind through Windom, Minnesota. Note the grain elevator in the background

Tending the Soy Bean crop

Tending the Soy Bean crop

Train and grain elevator in the town of Madelia, Minnesota

Train and grain elevator in the town of Madelia, Minnesota

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Welcome to the Midwest

Today we left South Dakota and entered Minnesota. The 2 states feel different somehow. South Dakota, though definitely NOT the West like Wyoming, still retained some Western feel. Minnesota clearly feels like the Midwest. The towns in Minnesota look like people live in them, unlike South Dakota where every small town we went through looked like it was struggling to survive. The farms are looking like farms I would recognize with fields surrounding the homestead with farm buildings., the houses look nice, and there are trees. In Wyoming and South Dakota trees are incredibly uncommon, whereas today, they were fairly common.

We left Sioux Falls by riding out of town past the Falls, very nice way to leave the cit, and see the falls one more time. The weather today is crazy, with temps in the 70’s as a high, and winds out of the NNW at 20+ miles an hour. We saw BIRDS struggling to fly into the wind! Not much of a tail wind, more of a crosswind, as we are heading directly East, but it made it  difficult at times to stay on your bike when a gust would blow across. Nice terrain, mostly flat with some rolling hills. Tomorrow is a long day, 110 miles with an early load at 6:30AM.

alan

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

Welcome to Minnesota

Welcome to Minnesota

Main Street, Luverne, Minnesota

Main Street, Luverne, Minnesota

Farm near Adrian, Minnesota

Farm near Adrian, Minnesota

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Day Off #3-Hard to Believe I’m that far into the Trip

So here I am in Sioux Falls on Rest Day #3, along with Peg, who finally arrived after a few canceled and/or delayed flights, but to me it didn’t matter when she got here as it was wonderful to see her, and to spend the weekend together. It felt like being at home.

Peg and Me at luch

Peg and me at lunch

Reflecting back on the is past leg of trip, it was probably the toughest 8 days of riding of the trip, almost 700 miles-including 2 centuries with one in close to 100 degree heat, a fair amount of climbing including one day with close to 6,000 feet of climbing, and as an extra bonus, a couple of days with strong head winds. This is also the period where that first exuberance of doing the trip has sort of worn off, and some days just seemed like hard work, but as the Grateful Dead said, “at least I’m enjoying the Ride”. But I got through it, feel strong, and look forward to the balance of the trip.  One other rider dropped out this week, and 2 left as a planned exit in Sioux Falls, so we are a slightly smaller group.

Let me say a word about the staff, and the concept of a supported ride versus a self-supported ride. First the staff. Six people, a leader-Jeff, a meal/logistics person-Judy, a route person-Karen, a health person-Pam, 2 mechanics-Jim and Mike, who also does “color commentary” every night at rap about the town/area we are in. These people work really hard to always make us feel like we are safe and sound, even when, while on my bike, I can see NO other people either looking forward or back for as far as the eye can see! It really is quite a feat. In addition, they are always upbeat and enthusiastic, even when they know what lies ahead, as they have all traveled this route MANY times. Before I left for this trip, people would ask me, “why not go on your own?”. It never occurred to me that we would pass through areas of the country where there are 45 miles between a store, in a town of 50 people. How lovely to see the ABB van waiting to give you food, water, or just that little word of support to get you “home” for the night.

Tomorrow it is on to Minnesota and then Wisconsin, with this upcoming leg culminating in a ferry ride across Lake Michigan. I feel good and it should be a great week of riding!

alan

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

Peg and Me at Sioux Falls

Peg and me at Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls

 

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Sioux City, End of the Third Segment

NO photos of Cornfields today, though we rode through ENDLESS Fields on our way from Mitchell to Sioux Falls. Nice ride, 73 miles, not much climbing, and once again, the weather seemed to cooperate. There were bands of thunderstorms North of us, and South of us, but we rode in this corridor between for almost the entire ride, with a few showers as we entered Sioux Falls. You can tell when you are in an agricultural area, as the buildings in the small towns take on a functionality unique to grain or corn, and the processing and transporting of those crops. Each small town has big metal silos, and grain elevators for loading either trucks or fright trains.

Grain elevator building

Grain elevator building

SAG Stop in the heartland

SAG Stop in the heartland

In the town of Canistota, we watched a kid’s tractor pull, where the little kids get on a tractor like tricycle kinda thing, and try to drag this sled with weights on it. Serious business for the kids, as we were told that they seriously train for this, we tried to recruit them to ride cross country in a few years, but there were no takers. Interestingly, there is a sizable Mennonite population in this area, and they are in the background watching the event. Welcome to the heartland of America!

Day off tomorrow, Peg is flying in, should be here in time for supper if the airlines don’t mess things up more than they already have.

alan

Canistota, South Dakota-Girl's Tractor Pull

Canistota, South Dakota-Girl’s Tractor Pull

Canistota, South Dakota-Boy's Tractor Pull

Canistota, South Dakota-Boy’s Tractor Pull

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The Corn Palace

Last night after dinner, there was a rain shower, followed by a wonderful Rainbow, a good omen for the second half of our trip.

Rainbow over Chamberlain, South Dakota

Rainbow over Chamberlain, South Dakota

We left Chamberlain and the Missouri River Valley early this morning for Mitchell, South Dakota. In Mitchell is the “World Famous Corn Palace”. Another tourist mecca, that I don’t quite get, but, it seems to work for them as 500,000 tourists visit every year. Inside is all things corn, in every sense of the word. There is also a little Mister Corn statue across the street. On the way to Mitchell we passed, you guessed it, lots of fields of corn, as well as Wheat, Soybeans, and a few other crops. The one I photographed went on for at least a mile, maybe more. The ride today was lovely, 72 miles, very little climbing, nice weather and tailwinds. The other day I said I felt we had left the West, another way to verify that is the humidity, which in Idaho and Wyoming hovered between 10% and 20%, in Mitchell today, the humidity is 65%, feels like home to me.

alan

Cornfield-view #1-looking West

Cornfield-view #1-looking West

Cornfield-view #2-looking East

Cornfield-view #2-looking East

Street sign in Mitchell, South Dakota

Street sign in Mitchell, South Dakota

Welcome to Middle America

Welcome to Middle America

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

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Half Way There!

Half Way, WHOO HOO! 25 days, 1,890 miles, 67,000 feet of climbing! Astoria, Oregon seem like such a long time ago. Now on with the second half of the trip.

America by Bicycle; Half Way Point

America by Bicycle; Half Way Point

Today’s ride took us through the Missouri River Valley to Chamberlain. This is probably the last day with any serious climbing for a while, as the next 4 days of riding only have about 1,000 feet per day. Today however, we had climbing with more and stronger headwinds than yesterday! We pretty much rode the 84 miles into a 15 mile an hour wind from the South, which naturally, was where we were going. As one normally very upbeat rider said as we stopped for a quick bite, “this wind is taking away my will to ride!” but it didn’t. The thing about wind is unlike a hill, where you struggle, but can see the end, or at least know there is one, with WIND, it NEVER ENDS and it is relentless, and EVIL. Oh yeah, I fell, when my front wheel just glanced off the rear wheel of the person in front of me as we were meandering up a hill in the wind. Not serious, just a bloody elbow, knee, ankle, I kind of bounced on my hip, which took most of the fall. I finished the ride, and should be okay for tomorrow.  Luckily, because of the wind, we were only going about 10 miles an hour, so I kind of just landed, without the usual “slide” that causes the “road rash”. Tomorrow we head East again, 2 days until Sioux Falls, a day off, and best of all, a visit from Peg, can’t wait!

alan

The Missouri River from an overlook just South of Pierre

The Missouri River from an overlook just South of Pierre

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The Missouri from just north of Chamberlain

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Leaving the West

There are many opinions as to where the West begins, or in my case ends, but I think it happened today when we crossed the the Missouri. This is the river that Lewis and Clark used to go north (against the current) to find a passage to the Pacific. We entered into Central Time today, and the landscape and vegetation has begun to look a little less foreign over the last the few days. We also pass the halfway point of the trip tomorrow, as we follow the Missouri south to Chamberlain.

The ride today was a long, tough ride, 118 miles, a fair amount of climbing, a fairly strong headwind for about 90 miles, and as an extra bonus, we got a late start because our breakfast “chef” was having “issues”. Oh yeah, and because we crossed into Central Time, we lost an hour out of the day. We had an interesting run in with the local constabulary, because we were riding in the the roadway as the shoulders were real lousy for long stretches because of all the cracks and debris, HOWEVER, the truckers complained and we were warned to “Stay off the …. roadways!” or they would impound our bikes. By the end of the day, tempers cooled, and we all made it in. I learned up close how big Farm Equipment can be, while I was riding, probably about 85 miles into the trip, just focusing on the crappy shoulder, when I looked to my left, and am looking UP at the top of a tire on a tractor which is pulling not one, but two trailer-like contraptions for digging furrows and planting seeds. No sooner did this one go by, when another one descended upon me, these things are HUGE! All in all, a challenging but interesting day.

alan

Sunrise from Wall, South Dakota

Sunrise from Wall, South Dakota

Rock formations outside Wall, South Dakota

Rock formations outside Wall, South Dakota

More rock formations while leaving wall

More rock formations East of Wall

Hay bales

Hay bales

the terrain outside Pierre, South Dakota

the terrain outside Pierre, South Dakota

hills outside of Pierre

hills outside of Pierre

On the East bank of the Missouri River

On the East bank of the Missouri River

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Wall-Where the Famous Drugstore is

As we left Rapid City this morning, we began our descent our of the Black Hills, which we will complete tomorrow when we get to Pierre, which is on the Missouri River. We were once again back in farmland with our first sighting of crops, rather than grazing cattle, since we left Idaho.

Back into farmland

Back into farmland

hay bails in South Dakota

hay bails in South Dakota

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Agricultural small town America

It was a short day, so when we arrived, we went over to the “Famous Wall Drugstore”. Approximately 500,00 people a year visit this place. There are billboards for miles around on the back roads, as well as the Interstate. I don’t get it, it reminded me of a Disney production, something recreated to resemble what we think an old time drugstore should be, except that it all one big tourist attraction. Very long day tomorrow, with headwinds in the forecast.

alan

The "Famous" Wall Drug

The “Famous” Wall Drug

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Up Close with the Presidents

We left Hot Springs for Rapid City, with the hope of seeing free range animals in Wind Cave National Park, and 2 “mountain sculptures”. We weren’t disappointed. As we made our way through Wind Cave-where all the animals are free range, we first saw Prairie Dogs poking out of the ground, then disappearing just as quickly. But the BIG moment came when one of the Buffalo approached and then crossed the road quite close to us-these are BIG BOYS!

free range buffalo in Wind Cave National Park

free range buffalo in Wind Cave National Park

These guys are BIG, in Wind Cave National Park

These guys are BIG, Wind Cave National Park

As we kept climbing, we started the day at around 3,250 feet, and climbed as high as 5,750 feet-the last time we will see that altitude, the scent in the air changed from Sweet Clover-which smells just like honey, to Evergreen, as we were back in mountainous terrain with huge rock outcroppings.

the Black Hills of South Dakota

the Black Hills of South Dakota

We rode past the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is still being worked on, that long horizontal will eventually be his arm pointing West. And finally, after LOTS of short, STEEP climbs then descents, got to mount Rushmore. It is a pretty amazing place, as the faces just seem to appear from nowhere. There is a small but vocal group on the trip who think it is all pretty silly. I liked it, it kind of reminded me of the Tidal Basin area of Washington DC, one of our family’s favorite places to walk. We finally have a relatively easy day tomorrow, 58 miles, not TOO Much climbing, and a late start so we can sleep in  little bit.

alan

Not yet finished Crazy Horse Memorial

Not yet finished Crazy Horse Memorial

the road to Mount Rushmore

the road to Mount Rushmore

First view of Mount Rushmore

First view of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

Me, and the gang of four

Me, and the gang of four

Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore

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