Day 23: July 8, 2002 Devils Tower. DAY OFF|
Mellow day. Awoke, packed up the tent. Got a coffee. Read the paper. Talked to John, another lawyer on the trip, though very, very free spirited (Makes me look like a total straight arrow). Laid on the ground and read the local paper.
Came up to lodge in the park. Camped out writing. . . doing some laundry. Devil's Tower Lodge. Great place, great hostess in Lorna. Feel like I'm at home, with the exception that I get to gaze up at devil's tower lodge. Hot today (what's new), though it should hopefully cool off tonight so that I can hop in the hot tub.
Was able to download pictures into the computer (thanks, dave!). I've even labeled them. I have no idea, though, how long they'll take to send via modem. Priority is the updates, though. We'll see.
Please remember that these updates are stream of consciousness updates that, basically, are my private journal updates. I am not proofing, nor editing, them. So, please excuse the rambling nature, and sometimes (often) incoherent or repetitive or boring or. . . nature of them. I didn't think that they'd be of interest to anyone other than me, or perhaps some of my nutty cycling friends, so I didn't have a real intent to share the daily entries. Rather, I thought I'd provide perhaps a weekly log. However, given the shortness of time (can't do multiple entries) and the positive reviews of these rambling tales, I will continue to share with you (unless you request to be removed from the distribution list, which you should feel free to do without any retribution) my journal entries. However, I'm realizing that they really are taking a ton of time to write. So, it may be that the detail, frequency, or length of them will vary, and will likely diminish. (Thankfully?) Again, though, remember, they're stream of consciousness entries.
Day 24: July 9, 2002 Devils Tower to New Castle, 78 miles; TOTAL: 1659 miles |
Fun! Beautiful! No question about it. . . except for arriving at camp, from the b and b, at 7:10, and finding everyone gone. Yikes, what's up with this? I even had some challenges finding the Penske, the vehicle in which our bags are stored. Typically, breakfast is from 6:30 to 7:30; but, no exaggeration, there wasn't a single tent left, the bike holders had been disassembled, and the bags gone. What did folks know that I didn't? Alien abduction? Did I miss a time zone change? Turns out that folks were just paranoid about the heat, and the hills. Huh. A week ago I would have been panicked. However, it was only 80 miles (did I say only 80 miles??), and, I'd have all day to do it. It can't be that bad.
Hills in the am weren't too bad as there was no wind and it wasn't hot. The day, actually, stayed that way. Great café stop in Sundance with Heather and Brent (from Columbia, MD, though Heather came via Ontario, where, get this Sherry, Canadian Girls Kick Ass (My friend Sherry, with whom I traveled to Italy with in the fall, has a "girls kick ass" logo on her top tube!)) and Jim and Lauri (yes, I hammered and caught up with folks at the first water stop). Thankfully, we didn't stop at the Texaco station where many others stopped. Actually,
Started to roll into town, and asked the construction dudes where we could locate the town's finest ice cream. Turns out that the main street diner sported great malts (even I liked them). The town was a real town, and even had a wonderful county courthouse. Dinner at the senior center, complete with local piano player, was actually quite good. And, believe it or not, energy tonight for the local movie - WindTalkers. Review? Huge potential; horrible execution. Give it a pass, unless you're high on the need for shoot 'em up blood and guts. Nonetheless, fun to actually make it to a movie, and stay awake.
Ear plugs were handed out as the trains were supposed to be horrible this evening. I keep my pair, as a standard, in my sleeping bag. Perhaps there were trains, but I heard nothing, until the symphony of zippers commenced at 4:30 or 5 in the am.
Day 25: July 10, 2002 Newcastle, WY to Custer, South Dakota; 44 miles; TOTAL: 1703 miles; 5th State - South Dakota
Breakfast at the senior center - great stuff, and healthy. What a fun group of folks! The ride this am was wonderful -- Had made reservations for Jewel Cave, though cancelled them.. basically, didn't want to be on a schedule. Life at home is too scheduled, and even though there's plenty of time to play today, I just want to do what I want to do in the moment. Made it to lunch by 9:30 or so (second breakfast??) A great morning's ride, and reminiscent of some highway 1 rides.
Today's ride was way easy, and way beautiful. Tons of green, some good climbing and fun descents. Yea, I'm feeling great. . . and really enjoying the riding, the comraderie, the exercise, the endorphins, and the adrenaline. Life is good. Not certain it gets much better; and, 44 miles? No problemo! What a gift!
Don't remember when I made it to Custer, but the plan was to have some ice cream or iced coffee, and then make the trek to Crazy Horse. We passed home for the night - unbelievable - a Flinstones Theme and Camping park. Fun stuff. . . . and Jim found a coffee shop - at an 1881 bank, where we sat outside with our coffees and newspaper. Ah, life is good. Way too good. I can't remember the last time I got to just sit, sip a good latte, read a paper, and chat with good friends. We talked for about an hour and a half, trying to decide whether to make the 8 or so mile trek, uphill, to see Crazy Horse. I wanted to try hitching a ride, but Jim wasn't wild about it, and Patricia, who stopped by, gave a not so endorsing view of her experience. Actually, as we hung out at the café, numerous folks came by and gave us reviews, and info for us to make our decision. I know, big decisions, eh?
Day 26: July 11, 2002, Custer to Rapid City, South Dakota; 72 miles, and perhaps the most beautiful day on the bike, and certainly the funnest; TOTAL: 1775 miles
Today was truly a remarkable day. If I could have dreamt up the most unusual, yet beautiful scenery of which
I could think, I could not have dreamt of this. The morning was a quintessential one - rather than the normal
buffet of stuffing myself for breakfast, I returned to the bank coffee shop for a breakfast more reminiscent of
home - a nonfat latte (gotta choose those calories), bagel and cinnamon roll (ok, I didn't say exactly like home),
along with the paper! Seriously, today was supposed to be a pretty easy day - 70 or so miles, and only a 3300 ft
total elevation gain. Yea, supposedly. As of now, while an incredible day, I'm, as the brits would say, totally
knackered. But, I wouldn't have changed a thing. Nothing.|
After hanging out at the café for 45 or so minutes, waving hello and goodbye to the parade of cyclists, I donned my bike, only to be surprised by the 6 mile climb. Hmmmm,,,,,ok, I kind of hammered, wanting to catch up with some friends (Lauri and Jim) and figured I'd get my exercise early in the day. We entered Custer State Park and were treated to a glorious view of Sylvan Lake. The climb was great - plenty of green (I forgot what that was like) along with lots of shade, no traffic, and fun winding roads - a mellow old la Honda (a climb from home). As we climbed a bit more, we reached an overlook/plateau/gathering area in which we were surrounded by pinnacles jutting out of the sky, and magnificent views of Custer and the valley below. Actually, it appeared as if the road came to an end - the tunnel through the other side wasn't readily apparent. While I guess I've heard of Needles Byway in the past, I really had no idea of what it was. . . or how pretty it was. Truly, it was absolutely incredible. If I were to dream up one of the most beautiful/fun places, I couldn't have dreamt of this. One of the times you know there's a G-D. The vistas, the needles/pinnacles, the road construction, the culy-q's, the hills, the tunnels, the bridges - they were all fabulous. It seemed that every corner I turned, the view got more interesting, more beautiful. What a spectacular area. The weather was perfectly cool, and the skies, at least above us until we descended, clear. And, again, to get to do this from the seat of a bicycle - oh my gosh. I really couldn't believe my eyes. I do believe that South Dakota is the sleeper state - I had no idea how beautiful it is, and how much fun it is to ride through. Certainly beats reports I've heard from Kansas! Would definitely like to return - stay in Custer at the bank's b and b, bring bikes and hiking boots, and truly get to explore Custer State Park and the needles highway! Picnics and vino would also be stellar!
The Mt. Rushmore stop was voluntary and off route, and most folks passed on it since we spent so much time enjoying the morning. And, the 2 mile climb up to Mt. Rushmore didn't seem appealing to many. I couldn't pass up this one, though I did seriously consider locking my bike to the street sign and hitching a ride up the hill. Jim, though, convinced us to make the climb, and, in retrospect, I'm happy I did. Mt. Rushmore is quite impressive indeed, and well worth the visit. It was odd, though, to be around so many people again - tons and tons of tourists. ... nonetheless, the avenue of the state flags was moving, particularly this year, as is the grandeur of the carvings of the presidents. Surreal. Had a great downhill (10% grade) and off to lunch we were. Oops, we were the last group to arrive - I think around 2:30 or so (usually we're there no later than 11:30). Again, I knew we had done at least 3300 feet of climbing, so I wasn't particularly worried, until I was told that the afternoon held lots more of ups and downs.
New lunch twist: Rather than normal PB and J, even with banana, I arrived and grabbed a banana, popped some peanut butter on it, and loaded on the M and M's. Oh yea, and then the sandwich - pb and j, banana, and nutella! Mmmm, mmmm, good!
Funny for the day - after lunch, perhaps 5 miles out or so, pedaling along, thinking of hinky pinks, we crossed a cattle guard and heard some rattling. Turns out that Lauri's mirror fell off her bike, and under the cattle guard. Being the chivalrous husband Jim is, he quickly jumped off his bike and crawled under the cattle guard. I couldn't stop laughing - his butt in the air, his face to the ground, the burning heat, couldn't have been a better picture! And, yes, we got great pictures, and he had to basically pick Lauri and I off the ground laughing to start biking again. Hmmm, doesn't seem so funny in words - perhaps the heat, perhaps the endorphins, perhaps just plain old fashioned fun,,,it was funny!
To make a long story short, the afternoon (around 35 miles or so) was all ups and downs, and HOT! But, again, it was beautiful. Ah,,,,, yes, the legs can get tired again, and tired they were. When we hit Rapid City, and 16e, and landed our eyes on the climb up 16e I must admit to getting a bit annoyed. Oh well, pedal onward.
Arrived at the school, and plopped myself on the grass, completely knackered. No matter, an unbelievably great day. And, topped with South Dakotan Chinese food (actually, it wasn't bad - not too greasy), along with my new flinstones water bottle (yea - it's even purple!) and mail call. . . a great day. Oh yea, how could I forget? I was told that there was a wine bar in town. Even though we were 5-6 miles from town, a few of us (Brian and Renee) hopped a cab and made it to town and the wine bar. Yum! Brian and I also bought a bottle to share tomorrow evening before dinner.
Day 27: July 12, 2002 Rapid City to Interior, South Dakota, 85 miles; TOTAL: 1860 miles|
Tried to get an early start to beat the heat. . . . but, no matter, still seemed that we weren't on the road until 7:30 or so. 44 east, no turns. It is amazing, even on a bicycle, how we go from some of the world's most spectacular scenery, and greenery, to barren, desolate landscape. The first 30-40 miles or so were farmland. Entered and passed through the Grasslands National Park (where the hell are the grasses??) as well as the Badlands (or mars-scape, shall we say). Even given the barrenness, it still was beautiful. The headwinds, while not awful, certainly were present (lacking was the west to east winds), and, while hot, it could have been much worse. The terrain was pretty flat, so it was a get to the destination kind of day.
Way cool bar at lunch today, in Scenic (which is a total misnomer, or more aptly said, America's most mismatched named town - there really wasn't anything scenic about Scenic .. . . except, maybe, the gas station. Population 25). The bar sported four bar stools, old milk containers with tractor seats. Ah, very comfortable. And, of course, the obligatory sawdust floor. Despite wanting to have a 30 minute lunch stop, this little stop, diet coke and all, consumed an additional 30 minutes. (sign outside actually said, Indians Allowed)
Dinner was in shifts today....too small a café. Great food, though maybe I was just hungry. Got back to camp, a koa with a wonderful shower, laid down, and promptly fell asleep. The nap felt good, and now the sun's set and I'm typing away in my tent. Tomorrow is a Badlands day - should be fun, so long as the heat stays temperate. Yep, the body's working, and feeling good. Getting on the bike is actually fun everyday.
Day 28: July 13, 2002 Interior SD to Philip SD; 73 miles; TOTAL: 1933 miles|
Stats: Badlands National Park, great great French toast
Another fun day, what can I say? This trip just gets better and better with each passing day. I truly am having the time of my life. Left the KOA campground in the am, to the sights of a mars looking landscape (or atleast what I think Mars may look like). Great great frenchtoast. . . and, then, we got to play in the Badlands all morning. How Fun! Rich gave Lauri, Jim and I the title of Team Sweep ('cause we explore so much). In the afternoon, of course, the wind picked up, the heat soared, and the riding became somewhat boring. Brian, a former Disney software jock and current rocket scientist from southern Californian, joined the brigade, and we had fun, despite the weather. My body couldn't withstand beer in the afternoon (too dehydrated), though we did stop in the local bar in Philip for chips and 7up for me. Interesting find: a veterinary supply and package liquor store. No, this isn't two stores; it's one. Oh, and by the way, they also sold horse saddles and cowboy hats. Huh. Yes, we're in South Dakota.
At night Brian and I opened the bottle of wine we bought in Rapid City. Ken came by, and said he'd swap some wine for cointreau. We offered some to Rich (the tour leader) as he went by, totally forgetting the ban on alcohol on school grounds. Yikes, did I feel bad, and like a little kid. However, we were only sampling the wine to ensure that it was worthy of drinking later. J After dinner, which was likely the worst dinner of the trip, Brian, Lauri, Brian and I decided that we were 'off campus' enough at the edge of a gorge, and enjoyed the bottle of zinfandel that we had bought, while listening to church bells ringing and song played, and gazing at the setting sun. Yep, a perfectly fine evening. Afterwards, Lauri and I decided to check out the see saws, as well as the 'merry go round'. Yea, what a trip. On the seesaws, we were able to get in perfect balance, pretty darn quickly. Then it was off to the merry go round. Spin, spin, spin, and laugh, laugh, laugh. Tom came along and had both of us get on it. Lying down, closing my eyes, spinning through the world, and then opening them.. yepper, what a great time. No drugs needed, only a kid's heart. That was pure unadulterated fun. I then, though, was pretty wired, despite stopping by Marianne's tent, which was currently visited by Tom and Ken, for some cointreau (Julie was saving her care-packaged wine for her bday dinner the tomorrow night), and couldn't go to sleep. Cell coverage actually worked, so I had a great conversation with a friend back home about, you guessed it, the meaning of life. Good, good stuff.
Day 29: July 14, 2002 Philip, SD to Pierre, South Dakota; 91 miles; TOTAL: 2024 miles|
Stats: 1 town (if you can call a gas station a town); Styx music; 2 turns; unlimited hay bales; 100 + degree temps; one international airport (at the lunch stop - still can't figure out how it's international)
Most interesting Hinky Pinky (from Ken): A divorced Santa. Any guesses?
Daily trivia? What 2 state capitals have names of months in them? (this kept us going for an hour or two)
First person to answer these two gets a double dip ice cream cone, compliments of me.
OK, today was the South Dakota I thought I'd experience. I thought: Hot, dry, barren and desolate. I didn't think "wind," though I should have. For sure, it was hard. No, there weren't mountain passes to climb, or centuries to tackle (though it was 91 miles). Rather, it was a long day, with plenty of rollers (aka hills, which, of course, the routers failed to tell us about), and heat, and, of course, Wind. I can't say much about the scenery, other than dry, desolate, barren views off to the right and left; and, often in front of me, two jerseys and two butts. As my friend Nancy described it, all we saw, all day, other than bales of hay and brown hills (anyone who thinks California is brown, should spend some time in central South Dakota), was hills. Aptly put, it's one hill after another - you crest one hill, and you see the next one, for miles at a time - about 86 to be exact, until, of course, we landed our eyes on the Missouri River.
Spent the day in formation with Brian, Lauri and Jim, shielding each other from the wind, sharing mental teasers (hink pinks have become commonplace), trivia, and laughter. Ken, a one weeker from southern California, caught a lift from us later in the afternoon, and added a few good hinky pinkys as well. After the right turn onto highway 14, there was one other turn. Oh yea, and the town of Midland. Hmmm, there was a gas station, with a convenience store, at mile 26. Not much else. Let's see, route notes mentioned shade at the picnic stop at mile 56. Important stuff, truly. Nonetheless, it was another great day. There really is something about the sereneness of sharing pedaling, helping each other through, knowing now that we'll make it, sharing a common goal, though for different reasons, and making our own fun, even when the scenery sucks. And, it's amazing how a simple gas station convenience store can lift our spirits, and make us laugh, and make us want to stay. Lauri and I decided that Skinner really did
My hardest time of the day was between the last two water stops. At the last water stop, Whoo Hoooo! The hot water, and Gatorade tea, was beginning to get to me. The SAG wagons had ice. A perfect get-me-up. I also, for the first time, applied some chamois cream as I started to get some saddle sores. No place to apply - I at least crossed the road, whereas Jim, realizing the ditch wasn't deep enough, just turned his back to the road. Yep, the group is becoming family. No water fights today. Too tired. I actually sat at today's water stop - good thing, ended up getting a quick neck massage. But, not too tired to finish off the ride. As we entered town and crossed the Missouri River, we were too tired to even stop for pics. Not even I wanted to stop (though perhaps I should have). I wanted to get there (wherever there is). The poor woman at the Chamber of Commerce. About 6 of us showed up, looking for ice cream, and a good place to eat dinner. Personally, I laid down on the floor and stretched and put my head on my helmet (which works as a great pillow). I could have slept there if given the chance. Heat, I melt, but, as in life, I'm learning.
Our 'night on the town" (nights before days off are on our own) was at Mad Mary's Steakhouse. Plenty of local color; and, again, another great time. A good bottle of vino, and meat (not much choice around here), with plenty of laughter. . . the Double Dutch came into the restaurant, probably about 30 or so minutes after we did - the hostess said, "we really don't have much space, unless you want to eat with a bunch of cyclists" How great! Oh yea, and the sleep. Ah, a bed, a fan, and not too hot temps. Good stuff!
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