Erika's Ride - Week 5 - Journal & Pictures
Week 5 - Monday, July 15, 2002 - Sunday, July 21
   Washington · Idaho · Montana
   Montana · Wyoming
   Wyoming
   Wyoming · South Dakota
  • 7/15-7/21
   South Dakota · Minnesota
   Wisconsin
   Michigan · Ontario
   New York
   Vermont · New Hampshire · Maine · Massachusetts

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Day 30: July 15, 2002

So, here I sit, Monday morning, July 15, on the banks of the Missouri River, in South Dakota's capital, Pierre (pronounced, "Peeir"), having arrived here via bicycle yesterday. Huh, pretty amazing, pretty serene, pretty spectacular. Despite yesterday's 100 degree plus temperatures (or the day before, and the day before, and the day before's comparable temperatures) I just can't get over how amazing this trip is. Just two weeks ago, sitting at Jackson Lake Wyoming with John and Paul, I was ruminating about how long 7 more weeks of daily riding was going to be. At that point, I knew I could make it, the question was whether I wanted to - and for what did I sign up. I didn't have much choice, though, and while a number of things kept me going, I thought about how I got through 50 miles saying to myself that it was for the $500 that would go to the Komen Foundation. (I'm still hoping to hit my 50K goal and am about 7k shy of it.) These past two weeks, and particularly the last one, went by in a blur. Now, my body's more or less adjusted (not certain you really ever fully adjust), and I'm truly having the time of my life. And, I can't, for the life of me, believe how quickly this last week, from Devil's Tower WY to Pierre, SD, went. It just disappeared. We're almost halfway through this trip (we passed the 2k mile mark yesterday). And, I gotta say, I don't want this to end. I can't imagine how bittersweet August 17, when we roll into Gloucester, will be. Last week I had social time, good social time. I didn't, save for the night in Interior, feel like I had no energy for anything. Don't get me wrong; it's not that the riding is a piece of cake. But, no longer do I wonder whether I'll make the day; rather, I awake in the morning, believe it or not, pretty excited about the ride (or at least not dreading it), and looking forward to the day's treats - whether they're nature's beauties, or fun created by the folks with whom I'm riding, or both.

I never quite know what any given day will hold, but I know it'll be new, interesting, different, fun, challenging, probably with some boredom, but, if I reach out, always with great people to share the experience, or, if I want, in some great solitude. Much like life. (Brian, actually, is compiling a list of things about life - comparing this 9 week bike trip to life, and the lessons learned, similar in style to "All I needed to Learn I learned in Kindergarten." The similarities are astounding. Sometime in the next week or so I'll share his, along with mine, with you. The list is insightful, and real. Truly. ) The group of 42 folks who are riding the full coast to coast are really amazing, and are really becoming family. It became obvious last night at the Indian Learning Center where we're actually getting to stay in beds. Folks walking down the hall in their pj's, folks sleeping with doors open, folks doing laundry, folks swapping things. The ease of conversation, the depth of communication (with some), the familiarity. Yea, never thought I'd recapture that 'camp' feeling (never, actually, even thought about it). And, all I can say is that this bike ride is recapturing it, and, since we're all a tad older and wiser, it's better, and even more meaningful. What an opportunity, what a blessing.

Like any group of people, however, groups have their issues. Ours seems to be the wake-up time. Breakfast is served from 6:30 to 7:30, so one would normally expect folks to commence rising around 5:30 at the earliest. However, there's a group that's convinced it needs to arrive first, for whatever reason. The symphony of zippers and suitcase rollers begins around 4:30. It's really getting old. They wake the rest of us up. They want breakfast served earlier. . . we want to be able to sleep. It really hasn't divided the group == though one person said to me, a couple of days ago, as I rolled into camp around 4ish, "Erika, you're a really strong rider - what could you have possibly stopped at today?" Well, hmmm - there were the badlands - lots of stops. Coffee stop at the convenience store - lunch - and, of course, upon arrival in town, gotta find a local ice cream store or bar. . . . Even though there are kind of two camps for the early folks and late folks, the group really isn't divided, and we don't want to make it divided. Rather, so the early folks don't feel bad waking us 'late risers ' (btw, late is waking up at 5:30 - yea, you got it. that's late??), a group of us are going to try and set up our tents together. . . we'll see. Someone on the early side said that they were going to have a revolt to have breakfast earlier. Hmmmm, I really hope it doesn't come to that. Stay tuned for the resolution.

Well, off to enjoy some pinot grigio (well, ok, I've been enjoying it). . . actually, gonna lay down by the tree overlooking the river and take a little snooze, and maybe open a book Mary gave me before I left (a first, as I haven't yet opened a book cover).

3 more days in South Dakota, and then Minnesota...

In general, let me share a few words about this week in South Dakota and Western Minnesota. And, to those that originate from these sections of the country, let me apologize, in advance, to the extent that I offend anyone. (And, to those that currently live in these sections, my sympathies. There are lots of other areas of the country in which to live - so get out and explore. And, yes, I know a good counselor you can visit too.)

This week can be summarized without daily updates (so, yes, you can skip the details; but, since you've all been clamoring for details, do read the specifics.) I believe Ken, from Oregon, initially had this idea as to how we, as cross country riders, can truly make our family of friends back home get a sense of what this week was like. Here ya go:

  • Get all your friends in a room and turn the thermostat to 105 degrees
  • turn on a fan that blows hot air in your face, with gusts to 20-30 plus miles per hour, and of course, don't forget to add sand to the fan so that you end up like Pig Pen (you can truly have my experience if you add some water to the dust - as, one evening, my new water bottle leaked in my tent so I ended up with a little mud pile)
  • put on a salt-encrusted T-shirt
  • drink warm Gatorade in a leaky water bottle that hasn't been washed in a month
  • for a snack, eat a banana that's been in your back pocket for the last day and a half
  • for a bathroom break, use a shrub, if you're lucky, on the side of the road
    AND, THE TRUE CLINCHER:
  • Watch (once I get the camera able to upload photos) 300 slides of South Dakota's scenery - but, really, it's only 3 slides, each of which is shown 100 times. Really, though, it's only 2. one of the plains, and one with a water tower in it. (we rejoiced upon watertower sightings because it meant there was some sort of town around)
There ya have it. . . a week in the plains.
A week in the plains
Notwithstanding, though, somehow, on our duff day, as I sit in Goodbye Blue Monday's Coffee House in Northfields, MN, outside of the Minneapolis-St Paul, with another week that's quickly passed me by, I wouldn't have traded this week for anything in the world. Well maybe there are some things I'd trade it for. Seriously, though, somehow, even as I was fighting the head and crosswinds, I was still happy. Really happy. Pedaling along. Singing incomplete songs in my head. Creating new lyrics to tunes. Life is good. No, life is great. There's a sense of peace and a sense of accomplishment. A sense of, no matter what this f'ng wind does, or how hot it is, or how boring the scenery may be, it's still America, and it's still our country, and I'm getting to do it with some fantastic people. And, the people we've met (where we can find them), are hearty, hearty people, with friends and family, just like us, trying to do the best they can to make a living, and make a life. They have my respect and admiration, no doubt. There is no question that these folks are some of the friendliest and warmest folks around. Really reminds me of Alaska. And, with respect to our trip, this week created even more bonds amongst us cross country riders. No question, we were tired at the end of each day. . . but, the group is family. We're all looking out for each other - willingly, and warmly. The goal is to get everyone through. It means that we share humor, we share encouragement. We pass a cyclist on the side of the road and we stop to see what's up, or slow our cadence to share an encouraging word. I consider myself lucky. I road the week with 'the crew' - Jim, Lauri and Brian. Others joined us for portions, but the 4 of us were a Swiss machine. Comfortable with each other's riding style, and comfortable with each other. We laughed, we swore, we talked about serious stuff, and we talked about silly stuff. We played stupid games. When all was really boring, we figured out how to play. Like, c'mon, where else would you get 4 reasonably intelligent folk (ok, that's debatable) to jump off their bikes and climb up on a hay bale, only to get straw stuck in their shorts that is sure to irritate the sores on our butts? Or, to turn ourselves into aliens by putting cattails in our helmets. No, the thought that I wasn't going to make it never made it to my mind. I knew we would, and I knew we'd make our own fun doing it.

Day 31: July 16 Pierre, South Dakota to Miller, South Dakota; 95 miles; TOTAL: 2119 miles

Stats: Pierre was Hot Spot of the US today (another 100 + degree day)

Quote of the Day: I have never traveled so far, and seen so little

Another day in South Dakota. What can I say? Hot, dry, desolate, and winds. Today, Lauri, Jim and I decided to join the early crowd in an attempt to avoid the heat and the winds. Departure time? 5:45 am. Yikes. However, it was a good move, and brought me back to my riding days at home in the winter where I get to enjoy the sunrises. So. . . . early am wake-up call, bagette from the Italian place that was open last night (oh yea, had a great Italian meal last night - blew off the regular dinner), and off we went. Surprised a number of folks. Ended up riding most of the AM with Fred, the other rider that's riding for breast cancer. It was fun, as I hadn't ridden substantial miles with him since the first or second week. (He was excited that our crew was out this early as he wanted to see what we could stop at. We needed to tell him that we had decided to put it in 5th gear today, and cruise. . . ) nonetheless, the road was relatively flat, and the winds weren't too bad. Cruising was fun. Fred also had his IPOD with him so I was able to listen fully to Rocky Raccoon, the Beatles song that mentions the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well as Billy Joel's Piano Man, the song that had been running through my head the last week or so. It's amazing what gets ya through the day. And, yes, Piano Man sung by Billy Joel far surpasses my rendition, in the event there was any doubt. As the morning rolled on, I rode a bit on my own, until Jeff and Fred came cruising up. I decided to ride with them, and we had a fast, very fast, pace line going. Fun stuff! So, all in all, a great morning, except for the really bad road (10 or so miles of it) leading into lunch. Turns out that the route was done on Sunday, and yesterday, Monday, the road crews prepared it for tarring, so it was BUMPY! So bumpy that the hands started to go numb. (RE food - did much better - I really don't like riding on a full stomach. Didn't even delve into my power bars).
Breakfast of Champions -- Lauri loving that day old bread

At lunch at mile 45, instead of pb and j, I got to try Marianne's new purchase - snickers and peanut butter spread. Actually has less fat than regular peanut butter. Good stuff. Didn't stay too long. Rode the remainder of the afternoon with Lauri and Jim. Other than a calf outside the fence and Jim stopping at the local farmhouse to let them know (we tried to convince Jim to get the calf inside the fence, but he wasn't certain he could outrun it - Lauri and I thought it was worth trying as it would at least provide some humor for us. .. ) there wasn't much happening. Actually, though, we were enjoying this stretch as we were on a road that took us due north for 19 miles which treated us to a great tailwind. At the third turn we needed to make for the day (the first being onto the main road, the second being for lunch), we found a frosty freeze, a walk-up ice cream joint. They had homemade orange sherbet - mmmm mmmmm good! That, along with a dr pepper (no, not in a float), provided the ammo for the remaining 23 miles. A couple of other 'crazy cyclists' as our group is called by locals joined as well. Actually, the lady there was great - without even asking, she gave us an ice pitcher of water. The trucker dudes also talked to us, and joked about the aroma they were spreading; but, also mentioned that they enjoyed seeing us out on the road, and made sure to move to the other lane while passing us.

Rolled into town, and, of course, to find some ice cream. Stopped at a local diner, where the only offering was vanilla ice cream, soft serve, but, with some chocolate sauce, it hit the spot. Also checked out the federalist newspaper. Oh boy. Oh yea, the temps? According to the bank, a cool 99 degrees - not!

I've been in need of a bang trim, and decided to do it. After all, what does one do in town when they roll in before 2 in the afternoon. So, I hopped into Pazzaz, in Miller, South Dakota, feeling daring, and asked about getting a bang trim. I assured them that I could shower first, but they didn't seem to care. Actually, it's a 2 chair salon, and was pretty busy. They took keen interest in what we were doing, and assured me that within 10-15 minutes they'd squeeze me in. this stop turned out to be a ton of fun - A woman, around my age, her son around 7 or 8, and his grandma, I think, were all getting their haircuts. Turns out they're living in the town we're cycling to tomorrow (des met), so I was able to get the scoop on that. Should be relatively flat, but a good 10 degrees warmer. Huh, think I'll need to leave early again tomorrow. Actually, it was really neat to hang with the local woman, learn about the town, and them about the ride, and the cause. The bang trim was reasonable (they'll grow). . . and they wouldn't accept any money from me.

Went out for a beer this evening, and spent some time at the local bar. Nancy and Robyn joined the gang, along with popcorn (yea, that's the stuff you eat - turns out all of us sometimes have it for dinner at home - a cycling thing?). didn't' stay long. I was still hot, so I decided to check out the local pool. Turns out they have an AWESOME slide! Had a great time messing around that, and then even tried a dive off the diving board. Yep, it's been way too many years since I've dived off a board. It was such an awesome dive that one of the local girls from Highmore (the town where we stopped for sherbert on our ride) said to me, after inquiring whether I'd be rusty, "Gosh, that must have hurt." Huh, gotta practice! Can't believe, though, that I haven't gone to the pool sooner. Great way to cool down...
But, spent another sleepless night scratching skeeter bites....

Day 32: July 17, 2002 Miller, SD to De Smet, SD 91 miles; TOTAL: 2210 miles

Stats: hot, windy, re-introduced to trees and a light shade of green (as opposed to endless brown)

Day's Hinky Pinky: caffeine in a cyclist's jersey?

Lesson for the Day: people are people, and despite being open-minded and thinking I'm not prejudiced, I am.

Well, we decided to go early again (even though I had another crappy night's sleep). Yesterday, upon landing in Miller, and feeling reasonably good, the collective group's decision (the 4 of us) was that leaving early was a pretty good thing. Wake up call at 4:45, and the plan was to be on the road by 5:30. Turns out that breakfast was actually ready early, and some folks just can't walk away from it. The riding crew of the 4 of us were on the road by 6. We were told there was an espresso stop in a town 15 miles away, so Brian and I were on a mission, and pedaled hard. We couldn't help but pause, however, for an amazingly beautiful, and striking, big orange ball off to our left, in front of us, at 11:00 am. Yepper, a stunning sunrise, seen through the trees. One of those where you just know a picture won't even begin to capture the moment, so I snapped the picture in my mind. This is one, despite the less than beautiful scenery, I'll always remember.

ABC Coffee & Cowboy
(aka book reviewer) in Wessington, SD
We stopped at the ABC craft and coffee shop in the not so thriving metropolis of Wessington. Seriously, South Dakota, at least the mid and eastern part, doesn't have a lot to offer, other than endless views of dry and barren land, though we are getting into some trees, and seeing some greenery. Thankfully. The shop we stopped at, however, seemed like it could be in Menlo Park. Cute, cute things. . . Brian and I were the first two in, and despite another 10 or so cyclists rolling in, we were the last to leave. I think Brian clocked our stop at 1 hour. Hmmmm. Good thing we left early!! J At the shop, I eventually sat at a table (the one table there was) and started talking with a guy in a cowboy hat, obviously a rancher (or at least dressed the part). He inquired as to whether we were watching the Tour de France, and mentioned that Lance was 27 seconds behind, and that it was too bad he suffered his crash. We then talked about whether he had read Lance's book, "It's Not Just About the Bike." (If you haven't read it, it's a great, and quick read, and it's not just about the bike - It's an inspirational account of his battle with, and recovery from, testicular cancer.) While he hadn't read that, he did start talking about Sandra Day O'Conner's new book. OK, I'm a pretty open minded, and I believe, fairly non-prejudical human being. However, I, along with Brian, must admit to that our thoughts about being in the backwaters of South Dakota meant that folks weren't well-read, up to date, well-educated is totally unfounded. Sure, there are these folks, just as there are folks like this in any venue, including Palo Alto. I just never thought I'd be getting my book recs, and a book rec re Sandra Day O'Conner from a rancher in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota. America is an amazing place. Let's not forget that.

  The morning's ride was great, and not much headwind. Got to lunch, and since I had such a great time last night at the local swimming pool, I (and I convinced brian too) brought my bathing suit along and we jumped in the lake at the lunch stop. How refreshing. Not much appetite at all - way too hot, though I did manage to enjoy a refreshing change from peanut butter and jelly, or a variation of pb and j, and had some hummus and pita (good job Cycle America!).

 
At lunch a startling fact smacked me. On the whiteboard, as it is every day, is the day we're on - today it's day 32 out of 63. At that moment it dawned on me that we were exactly half way through. One might think the feeling would be ecstasy. Rather, I was taken aback, and quite sad. I can't believe the trip is over _ over. And, no, there's not a bone in me, and not a thought in me, that wants this to come to an end. Well, ok, maybe a thought or two - like when I have to get up and it's still dark out, or the first few strokes on the bike after sitting awhile when my legs say to me, "Again? Haven't you done enough?" But, seriously, I can't even imagine how I will feel when this summer comes to an end. The word 'bittersweet' really will have new meaning. As in all things, though, I try and think of the good, and the good here is that I know the second half will be even better than the first half because there won't be the anxiety that struck me, as well as the others, about whether I could make this trip, nor the fatigue. . . and, in addition, we know each other, we're family, and these relationships will only grow deeper as time goes on, until, yes, it comes to an end. However, that'll be something to think about a number of weeks out, not now.

The afternoon turned out to be quite challenging. The heat was creeping up again. . . well, maybe not creeping, perhaps I should say sky-rocketing, and the headwinds strong. Although there were only 30 miles to pedal this afternoon, they were some challenging ones. Tom joined the 4 of us, and we traded off the front every mile. Thankfully, we found the Checkered Apron, an Amish run cafe 14 miles shy of De Smet. I downed a Diet Pepsi, and Lauri and I shared a homemade piece of chocolate pie, though I could only stomach a bite or two. I realized that the heat must really be getting to me b/c I had no appetite; and, when I went to stand, I felt dizzy. Also, I wasn't getting enough liquids ('cause, even though there were some trees, I didn't' feel the need to use them, if ya get my drift.). OK, gotta eat, and gotta drink. I downed a bottle of water before the next water stop, about 5 miles away, and choked down a power bar. That helped.

We hadn't had a sufficient number of stops today, and lauri and I talked about getting a shot of all of us on a hay bail. We also had fun teasing Jim about stopping and playing, as the two of us do so well together. At the water stop a hail bay was nearby, so Jim helped hoist Lauri, Brian and I up, and Tom ended up taking a pic of the 4 of us. You can imagine the laughter that ensued as the 4 of us posed for this shot, as well as getting the hay out from our shorts. Mmmm, nope, hay stuck in cycling shorts - not a good combo now is it... particularly when we're already battling the chafing from sweating so much.

Town was a welcome site, and we found Ward's Corner, a local cafe, bakery, clothing shop, internet cafe and... ??? We were holding off on ice cream as we wanted to check out Laura Ingalls Wilder's home (yes, De Smet is the home of Little House on the Prairie) so an iced cappuccino and bagel later (I'm trying to get healthier), as well as email checks/responses, I headed off to explore the town (the others were still checking email or had already left) Turns out that wilders' home was up a dirt road. . .I managed to go most of the way there until I really needed to pee. Gosh, did I need to. Like I said, certain things have really changed on this trip. Along the side of the road and her ranch, I went to drop my bike shorts, until I saw someone come a walking. Hmmmm, I was already tired of walking, and way too hot (the dirt road had too much dirt to actually ride) so I sat under a tree, and waited until it seemed that all disappeared. Also turned out that there was good cell coverage, so I used this opportunity to make a few calls. Didn't get back to the school and dinner until late, but still in time for dinner. I just had to get my bike shorts off though. Driving me nuts! As for dinner -really, no appetite. Had to force food. Fruit was really all I wanted, but I knew it would 't sustain me. Forced some other stuff down.

Yes, we are easily entertained
Little House on the Praire
I planned to swim this evening with some other folks, but I still hadn't showered. Bad move. Gotta shower before 7:30 in this kind of heat. Otherwise, continue to feel like shit. After the shower, I ended up hanging out by my tent chatting. Just never made it out. Truly, I just can't figure out to where the time disappears. And, now, at close to 11, it's another sleepless night, like last night's, as I'm hot, sticky, and fighting mosquitoes and trying to quell itchy legs.

Also got to talk with Vivian and Joe today, friends whom I met on my Italy vacation last year who are planning to join us for the next week and a half. They've been riding a ton, so I'm sure they'll keep me on my toes. Also, Vivian has challenged me to a daily contest of who can eat more ice cream. Watch out Wisconsin!! Nonetheless, despite today's description, which probably isn't motivating you to jump on your bike to start training for a cross country ride, there isn't another place, with another group of people, I'd rather be. Fighting the heat and the headwinds today, I thought about the rides home from the office in the summer. Similar headwinds. . . and, despite the boredom of South Dakota there's still a certain magic to the ride, a euphoria of pedaling, and an overwhelming sense of peace, as well as happiness in getting to share it with the folks I am. And, again, how lucky can one be to get to do this, while raising money for breast cancer research as well. As many have said, it's an intersection of two passions.

Day 33: July 18, 2002 De Smet to Watertown, South Dakota 60 miles; TOTAL: 2270 miles

Stats: hot, flat, desolate, prairies, and, yes, headwinds (again? C'mon, ya can't be complaining, you only have to read about it, I had to ride it!)

So, bored with stories about hot, desolate, flat, headwind-ridden days? OK, me too. . . . perhaps I'll share with you what keeps us going on these hot, desolate, flat, headwind laden days. Now don't get me wrong, I'm thankful that it's been flat; climbing in the heat is a pain in the arse. Literally. No questions about it. And, if you can get some speed on these flat days, and speed means anything more than 8 mph these days, the wind is in your face, and it doesn't feel as hot. Nonetheless, the prairies don't provide a wide variety of eye candy, and there aren't a lot of playgrounds (cafe or ice cream stops, natural wonders (except nature's unending saunas), though there are hay bales and they made for at least 15 minutes of fun). But, just as in life, sometimes ya just got to put your head day and slug it out . . . . but, even when you're slugging, it can be fun, right? We were pedaling by fields of cattails, so we decided, prior to the afternoon's rainstorm, to stop and put 2 each in our helmets - aliens. By the way, Brian, the rocket-scientist on our trip, proclaimed that in the US aliens living abroad should be heavily taxed! The funny thing, , , I swapped my bathing suit (I had brought it again) for a jacket, but when the SAG stopped, no one even noticed our cattails! Hmmmm,,,,what else?

An Alternative Ride...

 

Well, while we didn't come up with 101 uses for bike gloves, we did come up with some. After all, there have to be multiple uses for these cool tanline makers if you're going to pay over $30 for gloves that don't even have full fingers. (And, yes, in case you're curious, I've used each of these at least once. . .)

  • padding for hands/wrists
  • nose wipe (gloves have soft terry on the nose wipe side - seriously). This feature is used daily, and frequently multiple uses in the am.
  • drool wipe
  • tire cleaner (when you go over glass, or . . . )
  • napkin
  • assists in blowing your nose
  • ear warmers, when it's really cold
  • sponge
  • wipe grease from your leg, or other places
  • bicycle polisher
  • sunglass cleaner (this gets a tad challenging, though, after they've been used to wipe your nose, drool wipe, tire cleaner or grease wiper)
  • handwarmer
The afternoon and evening were quite fun. Our usual crew, upon arrival in town, went to Pastimes - couldn't believe it. we're back in civilization. Lattes, and incredible caramel rolls, in a way cool cafe/bar. Brian and I then checked out the town, including the local computer shop and artists' co-op. Turns out that the women's locker room had a scale - uh oh. . . hadn't weighed myself since leaving, and I was pretty curious .. . doesn't look like, though, I lost any weight. . . as most women haven't, though it seems like a number of the guys have. So, the solution? Ice cream! Yea! After dinner, we heard Zesto's was in town (the walk-up ice cream parlor we enjoyed in Pierre), so we co-opted a group of us to pedal for ice cream. Great times! And, we decided that we'd litter coins around Mark's tent one evening (Mark is collecting lost money found, which will go into a pool for lottery tickets. If we win, we'll all be cycling back to the west coast. . . ) We thought about doing a taste test between Zestos and the ice cream joint down the block, but, other than Brian and I, there were no takers. Actually, I really wasn't a taker either. However, Brian and I, as well as the double dutch (Albert and Ander), stopped at the Guesthouse for quarter beers. The bar offered some sort of shots - we ordered up a watermelon and apple shot - basically, jolly ranchers. The fun part is that they came in test tubes. Mmmm, samples. We decided, though I played no part in this, that perhaps the good 'ole doctor (jim) needed some test tubes with beer in them. Don't know, however, , , how they arrived there.

Got back a little late, and wanted to get to bed. Rather than cross the large field by foot, I decided I'd do it by bike. Cruising along I went until, well, uh oh. . . the cattails on my helmet messed up my sense of space, and I became intimately familiar with some tree branches. The cattails got caught, and, while I tried to turn my head so that the helmet would slip under the branches (as helmets, without foot and half things sticking out of them, normally do) I became even more entangled. Basically, think of breaking branches, in the middle of a dark night, with some pleasantries exclaimed, and, finally, a crashing bike. Huh. That was interesting. Good thing I wasn't carrying the test tubes. Luckily, though, nothing injured too badly; just a few scratches on the face, and a silly story...

Day 34: July 19, 2002 Watertown, SD to Montevideo, MN 86 miles; TOTAL: 2356 miles

Stats: official half way point; cornfields; heat let up (only 92 degrees); 6th state - Minnesota

Today we decided to rejoin the late crowd - the heat seems to have broken (anything under 100 degrees is not hot any longer), and waking up at 5 just doesn't make sense. Folks scouted a good tent spot, and I latched on to there reconnaissance. In case you're interested in what qualifies as a good tent spot, here are some of the critieria: 1) away from the early risers, so you're not woken by the symphony of zippers at 4:30 am, 2) away from sprinklers, 3) away from the Penske (so you don't hear the ramp, 4) away from the road, 5) away from overhead lights (these always seem to come on just as you're going to bed, and also seem to be directed right at your tent, 6) in shade, 7) with grass, so tent stakes go in easier, and the ground's softer, 8) a place to pee, if you wake up in the middle of the night (see earlier updates). And, last night, we found spots that hit each of these criteria. Good thing, too, 'cause I really needed a good night's sleep since I didn't get much sleep the last couple of nights. And, we decided that we weren't leaving until later, so I could sleep in until 6. Wow!

Riding today was fine, though we were hit with significant headwinds right outside of Watertown. And, 8 miles out, Jim broke a spoke, which made his wheel so out of true it wouldn't rotate. This is when we're glad we're on an organized tour - Derek, our mechanic, happened to be riding by - he swapped out his wheel, and off we went. I must admit I was a tad disappointed as I've been curious what it would be like to roll into camp around 9.

 
just in case there was any confusion
as to which way to pedal...
 
 
The surprise of the day was at the Minnesota border crossing as the staff had some nifty graphics in the road congratulating us on being half way. We're over half way in days, as well as miles, so we're all a bit puzzled as to what this measures. No matter, they say it's official. Yes, it was a bit anti-climatic, and, among the folks with whom I was riding (the usual crew), none of us seemed the least bit excited that we were half-way as we're all just having 'too much fun.' (Brian's favorite expression)

 
As we entered Minnesota, and our 6th state, we obviously left South Dakota, and weren't at all disappointed, other than the disappointment that accompanies coming closer to the end of the trip. As Joanne said, it's been 6 days and counting that we've had headwinds. What happened to the prevailing westerly winds? South Dakota, with the exception of North Western South Dakota, which is absolutely stunning, will, I'm afraid to say, remain in my mind as dry, desolate, hot, and windy. At lunch Tom suggested, and I was game, about going back to the border crossing and taking a group shot, with everyone mooning, saying bye-bye to the state. However, folks didn't think that there was a Welcome to the state sign.

Fun stuff of the day, other than slugging out the miles? A 5 mile sprint or so. . . ok, that's not that much fun. Huh. Cornfields? They're all over. . . what the significance? Well, potty stops for one. . . And, in Madison, MN (it's important to note MN, not WI), we stopped at the replica of a gas station, to fill up our bikes, and shoot some pics. Not certain who stopped, but he asked if we'd have a few minutes to talk to the local reporter. Of course, we couldn't turn that down. Only downside, however, is that we had a 7 minute stop - count, 7 minutes as some of us (no not me) accuse us women of always wanting to stop for too long. So, in order to entice the guys to stop, I promised 7 minutes (inflation from the 10th of an hour for you attorneys out there).I set my stopwatch, the minutes counting. Lauri didn't have time to finish her Pepsi, and we were out the door. . .. . J we started to pedal along, and on the outskirts of town we found an old fashioned gas station. Gotta fill-up the bikes, and, as we were refueling them, a local driver stopped by to chat with us. He couldn't figure out how we were 'filling' our bikes; or, probably, what in the heck we were doing. When he did, he actually asked us to hang for a few minutes so he could get the local reporter. We obliged, were interviewed, our mugs shot. . . and, we're looking forward to receiving a copy of the article. Other entertainment? Oh yea, it's the double cows 10 miles from the end of the ride, where Brian and I hopped on them, and watched the cyclists and motorists drive by.

 
Filler'er Up - This one even made the local newspaper
Welcome to Minnestoa

 

Day 35: July 20, 2002 Montevideo, MN to Hutchinson, MN; 77 miles; TOTAL: 2433 miles

STATS: hot, windy, desolate, humid. . . cornfields and soybeans; slugging slugging day

Quote of the Day: Complements of Tom, at the last water stop, 12 miles from town: "About 15 miles ago I took the prescription lenses out of my sunglasses because I decided I had seen enough"

We planned to leave around 6:30, sharp. . . At 5:08 (yes, this is accurate - another crappy night's sleep) the wind kicked up, and the rains came. It poured. Laid in my tent for awhile, but, basically, it was helpless. Packed up the gear, left the tent standing. Decided to go inside and right about uses of gloves.

Around 7:30ish the rain let up a bit, kind of, and decided we'd take our tents down, and get 'on the road again'. . . not much to do today - rain, rain, wind, mud. . . there was one town today - 10 miles out, in Clara City. Fred and I grabbed some day old cinnamon roles, and then the regular crew stopped for some coffee. My red, white and blue jersey, despite my vest, had mud stains all over it. While Jim, at the morning stop, was reasonable at washing off our bikes, and he offered to water down my jersey (what a guy), he did get my shoes, my jersey was a mess. Totally. I took it off and tried to wash it in the bathroom. Wash I did, though stains remained. Huh, now I get to wear a soggy wet jersey. Oh well. . .

On the road again. Today was a mentally challenging day (this prompted the introduction to this week which I wrote on our duff day). Terrrible, terrible winds. Bounced us around. Stayed in tight formation. . . which was good for helping each other, but started to drive me a bit nuts. Cornfield after cornfield after cornfield. My Iowa friends were talking about how the scenery reminded them of home. I probably overstepped my bounds. I thought the scenery was pretty uninteresting, and, in fact, was beginning to think that perhaps South Dakota wasn't so bad afterall. You couldn't really even talk today, let alone laugh, as the winds were so strong we couldn't even hear each other speak. No towns - in fact, lunch was in the garage at someone's farmhouse. By then, the rains had let up, and the sun came out (the sun'll come out tomorrow, tomorrow. . . ). Ok, perhaps that was nice, but then, rather than a sauna, the day turned into a steambath. Close to a 100 degrees, lots of skeeters. . . bathroom stops? Hope you only needed to pee -

I had my first living in the mid-west lesson today. Listen carefully. If given a choice, after a storm, of going to the bathroom in woods or a cornfield, which do you choose? I chose the cornfields, thinking there'd be less skeeters. . . turns out, though, they're really muddy. Really, really muddy. Mmmmm, good stuff. Had to sit on the side of the road, in grass, and had dig mud out of my pedals for 10 minutes; and, of course, provide fresh meat to the skeeters. For some reason, they really like my blood. Itch, itch, itch. Lots of welts. (The answer, by the way, is choose the woods!) Oh, yea, and know what else humidity brings? Saddle sores. Oh, those are fun, too. Not. How is it I make it 5 weeks through the country, 2300 miles, without saddle sores, and now I get them? I borrowed some chamois cream. . . . . So, basically, Minnesota, at least this section, is butt butt boring.

Actually, not certain we had every done this before, but we just stopped along the side of the road, the 4 of us, and rested. Stretched our bodies, sipped some water, and for a couple of us, mooned the road and applied chamois cream. No shyness here.

At the last water stop, I was ready to be done with the day. Done. Off the bike. Out of my bike shorts. Needed to air certain areas. I also needed some freedom from the tight formation. I took off, and hammered. Made it to town. . . saw a fruit stand. Met Brian Benson, the produce man. Bought and ate a sweet melon, cut up some watermelon, juggled potatoes with Brian, chatted with him, started to work the stand. Sweet corn, out for 3-4 days, was a dozen for 4.50, melons 3, glads 3 a bunch, 2 for 5. lowered my body heat. Started to become human again. My buddies weren't showing up. . . getting late, went to camp, with 3 potatoes in tow (I promised Lauri I'd teach her to juggle). Heard the pool was open, at the rec center where we were staying, for another 15 minutes. Decided to jump in in my bike shorts and sports bra (my shorts were wet anyway). Ah, very very refreshing. Almost was drowned by a fellow cyclist (and, of course it wasn't provoked!). set up tent, battled more mosquitoes (yes, nice stains on the tent), and off to the fairgrounds for dinner in the pork producers hall!
Spelling
(Advertisement for National Tractor Pulling Association)

Tonight in Hutchison was a special night. It was the NTPA Championships! What, you don't know what this is? Well, let me tell you. It's the National Tractor Pulling Association Championships. Yea, imagine this. Packing your tent in the rain. Battling headwinds all day. Riding in the rain. The rain stops, and then it's a steambath. Battling winds - all 77 miles of them. Not one inch of coasting. And, then, to go to the pork hall for dinner, and learn that we can, for the evening's entertainment, go to the National Tractor Pulling Championship. How can you pass it up? I had to ask my Iowa friends, struggling to keep a straight face, an innocent question - I wanted to learn the rules of engagement. What are the rules? Hard to keep the straight face, and didn't want to be offensive...but, I asked Jim, after dinner, being the good Iowan boy he is if they wanted to go to the championship. Interestingly, neither he nor Lauri did, nor did Brian, or Tom, or Margaret, or Alan, or Brian, or Diane, or Nancy, or Marianne. . . no takers. Somehow, though, I couldn't imagine going to the movies in favor of this contest. So, I went. Geez oh peets. . . that's all I can say. I don't understand this Midwest living. All different classes of vehicles. Need to pull the vehicle (still not certain what to call this thing - that was from Iowa-300 feet.) If your vehicle is successful in pulling 300 feet, it's called a pull through. If there are 3 vehicles that are successful in pulling through, then there's a pull off. Huh. I then inquired, if there are only 2 vehicles successful in doing a pull through, is there still a pull off? Oh yes, there would be a pull off. Any guesses on what happens if there are 5 successful pull throughs? I didn't manage to stay through the end of the championships; rather, I stayed for an hour or two, and left before the really loud class - the modified vehicles (as if the others weren't modified). Went back to camp, met up with a couple of folks, rode into town to get some homemade custard. Jim was giving me grief about where we were going, but brian the produce man, and the lifeguard, both recommended this place. Turns out it was in the Citgo gas station. Ambiance, sucked, though the custard was great. Oh yea, and it was air-conditioned. Huh. Wonder whether we can spend the night here.

Oh yea, back at camp thought I had left the NTPA championship, but we were serenaded for another several hours. . . and, yes, I had to explain the rules to my Iowa friends who swear they've never been to a tractor pulling event. I think they're just trying to keep Midwest fun to themselves. They do, though, keep telling me that this today is not indicative of the Midwest. (I had previously committed to come ride RagBrai (a big annual weeklong bike ride in Iowa I made them promise there wouldn't be any days like today - they couldn't guarantee this, though they said that there'd definitely be towns. I said ok, but I got a commitment that I could at least whine! They decided that my company would be worth it, even if I got to whine! J ) While it's conceivable I could leave California, I don't think there's much danger in me moving here. South Dakota's looking pretty good these days.

Still hot, hot hot, and humid!! The lifeguards told us how we could easily jump the fence to the pool after it got dark so that we could cool off. I was talking with one of them, around 10ish, and, these sweethearts, they just opened the pool for us so that we could cool off. Made all the difference in the world (along with the cortisone cream Jim gave me b/c I couldn't stand another sleepless night nor the thought of another day of headwinds without sleep). . and got a great night's sleep, after winning most of the battles with the skeeters inside the tent (except for the occasional bloodstain, that doesn't seem to wash out, despite my valiant efforts).
A typical afternoon stop
Diane, Andy, Jim, Bill, Jo, Brian & Lauri
Lauri & Jim - St Olaf's
 

 

Day 36: July 21, 2002 Hutchinson (or, "Hutch" as the locals call it) to Northfield, MN; 85 miles; TOTAL: 2518 miles

Stats: some towns; signs for twin cities

Quote of the Day: Guys saying to guys (as many of us are battling saddle sores): "Toilet seats aren't the universal applicators of chamois cream"

Life brings tomorrow, and tomorrow brings hope, if not for today, then for tomorrow. And, today, it came today. The winds weren't horrible this morning, at least on the 1 mile ride to breakfast - which was quite tasty. And, even after the last 6 windy days, I was pscyhed to get on my bike and ride today. Really, is there a ride that goes east to west in the fall? Maybe I can ride my bike home, rather than fly. Who cares about prevailing winds. . . .

Today was a gift. A total gift. As: Lauri promised, when you could look up and around, versus keeping your eye on the road, the scenery is pretty. . . even cornfields after cornfields. Cruising. Good roads. Only, as John L says, "old ladies driving to church early Sunday morning on the road.... Then, an hour later, the same old ladies driving home, after their nap during the sermon..." Yep, the roads were pretty empty. What a difference a day makes. I road a bit with the crew, and then hammered a bit alone. Still hot, and still humid. But, fun to sweat. As many of you know, I don't sweat much, and this was reminiscent of sweating in Taman Negara, the jungle in Malaysia. Truly, it was fun to cruise at 18mph, and push it, at least for a bit. Felt strong. Felt happy. And, to a person, we "now remembered why we liked to ride bicycles'. This was FUN!

 
Young Clan in Northfields
 
 
Stopped in the am at an almost open gas station/convenience store. There was a pretty large group of us - robyn, the gang, nancy, alan. . .STYX was blaring from the speakers, and, yes, I was a happy camper. Lauri mentioned, "it doesn't take much to make us happy, does it?" My Id responded, "yea, it's a dump, and we're still really happy." Oops, remnants of yesterday still in my system. . . Lauri and I rode most of the day together. . . and we had a kick. Great cadence, feeling good. Not much playing, just getting to pedal our favorite toys, riding through America.

Couldn't believe at the the end of an 85 mile day, even with some headwinds, some crosswinds (and, yes, some tailwinds), we pulled in feeling great. Actually, how could I forget, we even got to coast a few miles today (there were hills again, nothing major, but land that goes up, and land that goes down!) on the way into northfields brian and I decided that we needed some more cattails. I had thrown mine away as they were hazardous to ones health (need a warning on them). . . but, we needed to be aliens again. . . donned appropriately, pedaling along, I had another one of my ah-has - saw the sign for the Twin Cities. Gosh, couldn't believe it. I still can't really fathom that I'm riding across the country. It seems like I'm just going out on daily bike rides. But, every so often, like when I saw this sign, it hits me. We're here. And, for lauri, it was really special. Northfields is where she went to college, where one of her daughters graduated, and where one of them is currently going. Prior to arriving in town, we got a tour of the university. St Olaf's definitely sports a pretty campus, and is making me yearn to revisit my college campus of Geneseo in a few weeks.

Tomorrow is duff day - and, for the first time, I really don't feel like I need a day off. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. But, I, along with the others, have plenty of energy. Party tonight. It's Nancy's bday (actually, yesterday was - I offered to take her to the tractor pull, but she wasn't interested. Can't imagine why). And, there's another reason to go out. Reality is beginning to sink in. The double dutch (the brothers from Holland) are splitting up as Adrian has finished up his 5 weeks, and needs to return home to work. Yes, we really are a bubble moving across the country, and a bubble that can't sustain itself indefinitely. Life is change, and this too will change. Our group is special, and doing something very special. Life can't be much better.

My friends, Vivian and Joe (whom I met in italy last fall) are joining for the next week and a half. They pulled into camp as I was talking to my Alaskan friend Barb - great to see them. They have family here, as well as in Michigan, so it should be fun to ride with folks who have some familiarity with the area. And, they're the bearers of great news. It's supposed to storm tonight, and tomorrow is supposed to be in the 80's, and next week should sport similar temps. Yea!!

One of our guys crashed on some gravel this morning. Luckily, though, only 8 stitches required. . . huh, even though folks have stopped having to go to the hospital/clinic for heat sickness (we had about 1 a day for a week), the cycle America folks still need to know where the hospitals are. . .

My night is going to consist of a massage at 5:45; a real dinner (I had choices on the menu. . . I chose roasted duck, Brian and I split a bottle of wine, appetizers, gazpacho, desert - a human being, albeit in shorts, tshirt and tevas, again.) after a wonderful dinner, we sauntered over to the Contented Cow to join the gang - there were 30-40 of us. Tons of humor and laughter. . . and toasts. . . everyone's feeling good. Also had a chance to meet and talk to Raina and George (Jim and Lauri's daughter and son in law) as well as there parents who drove up. . . Also, Greg, the owner of Cycle America was there, and I had some good conversations with him, and to thank him for his support of my charity ride. Believe it or not, we were awake, and actually closed the bar down. A bunch of us then went to the one other open bar, the ruben stein. I had had enough to drink, but we were just enjoying the moment, and the camaraderie that this week brought. Just 'too much fun' And, I was awake -

So, from the Goodbye Blue Monday Coffee House, it's time to pick up my laundry, and rejoin the crew. Wishing you were here to enjoy in person. . . though, have no fear, I'll make sure to have plenty of fun!
PS During the windy days, a group of us positive thinkers decided to come up with 30 reasons why we love, look forward and treasure headwinds. Here ya go:

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