Sunday, June 24, 2012

TdK: Iowa Invasion and South Dakota's Best Effort to Repel

It was Joe's idea.  His daughter wound up at the University of Sioux Falls.  I never knew that town had 2 universities.  Augustana is the other.  I've been there.  Hot and humid in the summer, -76F windchill in the winter.  But Joe has been pestering us to ride there for a few years.  Then he discovered Tour de Kota.

When he presented it to Mary and I I thought he had ridden it before.  It was described as Ragbrai in its infancy.  Less than a thousand riders.  The route was a loop starting and ending in Dell Rapids.  Not the logistical nightmare Ragbrai can be.  Dell Rapids is north of Sioux Falls and a mere 4 hour drive from Des Moines.  Donnie would drive his truck and there would be room for all of us.  Tom Riggs, another Talldog would also be coming with us.  Why not?

We got there early on Saturday.  Registration check in would be 15 minutes away.  Not many people in Dell Rapids yet.  Plenty of room to set up tents.  Being used to the overwhelming hordes on 'Brai this felt strange.  Everything seemed well organized.  Dinner would be served in a couple of hours.  people from the first overnight were handing out water bottles with coupons for tomorrows destination.

After packet pick up we spread a blanket and killed the cooler.  5 of us drinking Busch Light because the cooler needed to be killed.  Then we hit the Monkey Bar.  We spotted this establishment on the way in.  Located next to the campsite it had to be the place to go to once we settled in.  But as soon as we got in we heard the crickets.  The bar had a foul odor and there were only two TdK riders there.  We stayed for 1 round. 

The barkeep was a bit chatty.  By this time we had a good buzz going on.  He related to us that there was no way he could ride to Beresford on his 22" BMX bike.  Then he told us about his unicycle.  Not sure how he got it but he claimed to have one with a 7' seat post or something like that.  Not sure if he could ride it either.  But Mary nearly busted a gut when he said "when the circus came to town..."  Circus folk know how to ride unicycles and he was going to give it to them.

Bottoms up and time to flee.  We exited and walked the bike path to see the rapids of the town's name.  Newly built, I was impressed that this small town would invest in a path for pedestrians and cyclists.  Not a long trail but a start.  But it did not lead to downtown so we had to cut across a bridge to get to our next destination, Norby's Bar&Grill and liquor store.  The door to the right was to the liquor store, left to bar proper.  From the bar one can see into the liquor store which is open until midnight.

Not smelly.  $2 draws.  Food available.  At Norby's one can hear telephone conversations about semi-truck repair although the atmosphere and decor was of a generic sports bar dive.  But as soon as we stepped in we were disappointed.  No riders.  WTF?  Saturday evening and everyone is missing.

A 40 year old woman walked in and sat near us then ordered a pizza without cheese.  We learned her age when Joe mistakenly said "people our age" when talking to her about TdK.  Definitely felt like an older crowd on this ride.  Joe is 15 years her senior.  We laughed at him.  She told us that we would be among the youngest on this ride.  She has done this one before.  Her name is Tracy and she would become the first friend we'd make on this ride.  I hope to see her again.

Tracy got her pizza.  Either burnt or raw but she ate it anyway.  Locals came in and soon shots were floating our way.  One was an off duty bartender here.  She financed the shots and criticised our visit to the Monkey Butt.  But that they served Monkey Balls which were quite good.  I think they are meatballs with cheese centers.  Gonna be sorrow trying to wake up tomorrow.  And to really put the last nail in the coffin we decided to cross the river again to go to the Old Dutch Inn.  This made me laugh because the name reminded me of the Dutch Mill (see if any of my dear readers remember that place).

We stopped at Monkey Butt again since it was on the way.  No riders.  Smell gone.  Mary asked for a little water and he gave her a shot glass.  I think we each had a Busch Light.  One round only.  We learned that the Monkey Butt owner did not like Norby's but the Dutch Inn was good.  Feel free to drop his name there.

The Old Dutch Inn was also a restaurant that could be used for special occasions.  Only a handful of locals here.  No riders.  Donnie ordered shots of apple pie which were delicious and I had a Boulevard Wheat served in a half gallon mug.  Had I know it was going to be that big I would have ordered a bottle.  Joe decided to order water after the barkeep disappeared.  'Hey Cindy, Julie, Leslie, Terry, Joan, Ralph," he cried out in vain.  We still laugh at this failed attempt to get service.  I think her name was Tammy.  Soon it was time to stagger home.  We got to the tents around midnight.  There seemed to be a few more tents now.  Good.

I woke up around 5 am.  Got dressed and went to the pancake breakfast.  many riders now.  Apparently, they slepted at home or in Sioux Falls and got dropped off.  But I had a headache and it took all my concentration to choke down half a pancake and 3 burnt sausage links.  I think this is where Jeff joined us.  He is a friend of Joe's USF daughter but he spent the night in his own bed in Sioux Falls.  Time to pack and roll.

Yours truly hung over riding up a slight hill on day one.  This was before the wind.  Photo courtesy of the Argus Leader

The road out of town was rough and every crack killed my head.  But I used this broken up road to rehydrate.  I consumed an entire large water bottle within 6 miles.  At the 6 mile stop there was a support vehicle and I refilled the bottle.  This was where we met Dennis.  He rode a Serotta with Campy.  A man after my own heart.  And he rode slow with me as we continued to the western outskirts of Sioux Falls.

Tom Riggs near Sioux Falls just before the death ride.  Phot by Argus Leader

The closer I got to SF the better I felt.  But unfortunately the worse the wind got.  we did what we could.  Mary and I stuck together and got in a draft with three people from Omaha.  The married couple had a pair of LeMonds, Buenos Aires, which struck up the conversation.  The threat of rain ended and the sun was in full glory and our speed was beginning to suffer.  prospects of a long ride.

Lunch was served in Lennox, 44 miles from the start.  Yeah, 'Brai food.  Walking tacos, pasta and BBQ ground beef sandwiches.  I had the BBQ and then a double order of pasta.  Donnie missed the tun and went straight saving a few miles but missing lunch.

8 miles of strong cross wind to Worthing, "Water and food available at this stop.  Take a rest and enjoy a breather along the route," the Rider Guide stated.  we found the SAG and refilled and topped off bottles.  21 miles to go.  I joked that it would take 3 hours ride time.  I was very, very close with my gest.  There was nothing on this stretch except for SAG water stop.  Wind speed seemed over 20 mph now.

Joe, Mary and I took off.  11 mph is all we could muster.  When we had gone 1 mile I called it out.  Joe laughed.  We stuck together the best we could.  After about 5 miles I had had enough.  I dropped and took a 2 minute breather off bike.  Once back on it was still slow as hell.  Wind speed approaching 30 mph.  Single digit speeds for long stretches.  I tried to jump on a draft but they were either too slow of fast or too dangerous.  Basically I would go for 3 or 4 miles and stop. 

I read an interview on the Argus Leader that TdK usually has the worst day ever and the best day ever.  Today compared to that Thursday on 'Brai, Saggy Thursday.  The Stretch from Bell Plain to Sigourney.  Double pacelines at 11 mph.  I think this was worse.  Every time I looked at the computer the 10ths had not moved.  straight south into the heart of the evil wind.  A few miles at a time.  And it was my hope and prayers that this awful wind would stick around for tomorrow when we went in the opposite direction on the other side of SF.

I saw a group of riders around a private support vehicle.  I stopped and they gave me a bottle of water, going out of their way for a cold bottle when all I needed was a wet one.  But their speed was almost mine and I did not want to go down in a draft on the first day.

Another stop was at the only shady spot on the road.  Soft grass and shades.  Here I was able to talk to a man who did the diabetes century ride with my sister.  Forgot his name but he was riding with his son and both sported Hawkeye jerseys.  I could not get him to keep up with me so I rolled on in solitude.  The SAG vehicle said that we were 6 miles out.  A fucking half hour if I redlined it all the way or slightly less than an hour.  I seemed to do 8 mph.  It was only 2 pm.  Pretty of time.  There would be a water stop 3 miles from town.  I ate my last Powerbar, topped off bottles and got back into the battle with the wind.

I was really hoping that the building at the last stop would be a tavern or a convenience store.  It was a consignment shop to my heart's discontent.  Drain a bottle and refill.  3 miles to go, 3 miles to go.  About a half hour in this wind.  And yes, I heard more than one fit and trim person said that they could only do 8 mph, 10 at max effort but that was unsustainable. 

I think I only stopped once.  Obviously it was a 30 mph sustained with 40 mph gusts.  never was I so happy when I sighted Beresford, SD, our destination.  Never was I so pissed off when the pink route marker did not call for a right turn.  "Continue south and then find the camp at the opposite end of town.  Goddamn Ragbrai trick!  But alas I made it.

This was the bastard I needed to see coming into Beresford.

And we were treated well.  Luggage was near the campsite.  Mobile phone charging stations and laptops available for those that wanted them.  What a njice touch!  Free shuttle to free showers, towels available if one wanted to keep theirs dry.  Free shuttle to dinner.  They gladly gave us a ride to Casey's and later a person gave us a ride to Dollar General in his personal vehicle.  Needed aloe for sun/wind burns.

No beer that night.  Needed serious rehydration.  The spaghetti dinner was subpar for my Little Italy tastes but I could have had a second or third plate.  I had one but the piece of cheese cake was heavenly.  Soon our misery was gone.  It could not possibly get worse, could it.  Looks like a great head wind tomorrow.  By the looks of the folks riding back to Sioux Falls, that wind would be divine.

This week would be very different from 'Brai.  more challenging.  Less stops.  Much less food and drink on the route.  But the smaller atmosphere felt great.  And the challenge.  We ride all year.  Now we have a week of riding our fastest bikes in a well supported tour.  Time to see if all the year's riding will pay off.

Joe relaxing in Bereford.  Clean and fed, ready for more


Mary's Trek and my Versailles in classic 69 position to not scratch the paint.  My shadow

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