Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tour de Kota 2012 The Final Ride

The final sunrise.  I did not see this because I stayed in my tent.
The soft rain hitting the tent woke me up.  Still early enough to continue to sleep.  I wondered if the rain picked up if people would delay their 430 am wake up.  The rain seemed harmless and I drifted back to sleep with the hope of an extra hour of shut eye.
Instead of sleeping the bikers dressed inside their tents as usual and prepared for the last day.  The rain ended and people packed up on schedule.  Mary and I were among the last to pack and leave.  The tree we locked our bicycles to protected them from rain. Our bikes were dry.  Always a nice way to begin an 84 mile bike ride.  Our team was in a hurry.  Joe had a wedding to participate in the next day and we wanted to be back in Des Moines before nightfall.  No sleeping in. 

Time to feed.  Powerbars are the breakfast of last resort.  I recall a sign that said breakfast would start at 6 am.  I hoped for their sake that they were planning to serve it on down the road because this campsite would be empty long before 6 am.  Two other options were available.  Wards was having a $7 breakfast feast, later described as too much food by Joe.  A place called the Boondocks, 8 miles into the day, would be serving breakfast.  I found a third option, the Shell station had big sausage biscuit sandwiches on the cheap and Mountain Dew to wash it down.  The rest of the team ate at Wards.  Sacrifice quality of breakfast for sleep seems to be my SOP.  I looked forward to the Boondocks just in case.

The sky was overcast and rain seemed to be in the realm of possibilities.  I wore my rain jacket for a warmth layer to begin the day.  8 miles out and I was ready to strip it off and put it in my jersey pocket.  Too cloudy to have Tom carry it.  The jacket may be needed later.  The Boondocks nightclub was just ahead and we used this location to strip layers.  Funny thing happened at the Boondocks bar.  The owners decided that they'd do only one event for TdK.  That event was a tiki party and band the night before.  No breakfast today.  That was ok with me since I did feed but I was glad that I did not count on this stop.  Not the first time they pissed people off.  From what I heard, and this could be local rumor, they borrowed money to build their stage and have yet to pay the city back.  Lacking kybos or open restrooms, many riders found a spot to "rest" here.  Jackets off, bladders empty, time to ride.

3 TallDogs and 2 Mystery Machiners riding to De Smet.  Not the tight draft we normally kept but a nice photo taken by a professional for the Argus Leader

You stare at the wheel in front and hope that the person behind is keeping an eye on your rear wheel.  Pay attention to the rider in front.  Watch the cadence.  Look for shifts in saddle position, hand position ect.  Any movement could signal a change in speed and one must be ready to react.  Quick glance at the computer for speed.  Is your leg speed appropriate for the bike's speed?  High speed spins to save legs.  Do not mash big gears yet.  70 miles left for the day.  No time to look around.  Not much to see anyway, farmland and small lakes.  Few trees or buildings.  Watch the road for cracks.

This is how it went.  Somehow I got behind Donnie who lead.  The highway had a wide shoulder but the left side had rumbles on it.  We had about a section almost a foot wide.  The extreme right of the road was rougher than the shoulder.  Bike in front require precision teamwork to pass.  Donnie would call out, "Is it clear back there?"  Someone would reply "yes."  Donnie closed in on the slow bike and then waited for the break in the rumbles before passing with losing speed.  Then my turn.  Get out on the road and pass that bike or bikes.  Wait for Donnie to jump back onto the shoulder and then follow in the break between rumbles.  Everyone followed.  This went on for 20 miles until we got to Howard.  One only stop when Donnie had to pee.

Back on the road and same formation.  Total reliance on the bike in front.  I hear Donnie yell, "PIECE OF SHIT!"  Appearing before me is a flat piece of metal about the size and shape of an 8.5"x11" piece of paper.  I nail it dead center because there is no time to react.  It makes a sound and becomes airborne narrowly missing Joe but Mary runs it over next sending it Jeff's way.

"Sorry, I thought it was a piece of paper," Donnie expresses his regret.  The trouble with drafting.  No forward visibility.  Later, going into Howard, I would run over a bag of electrical brackets that fell off the pre-fab houses we saw moving on trucks at the intersection.  Somehow, I manage not to flat.

Fire station in Howard.  Joe in foreground taking a photo.  Photo from Argus Leader.

I stop at the gas station in Howard and purchase a breakfast burrito and a Mnt Dew.  Others went to the fire station.  We are nearly 30 miles into the day.  54 left.  Good pace.  I stopped at the SAG wagon and pumped my tires up.  They were down to 80 psi.  With all the road debris  my tires were rolling over I needed an extra 25 psi per tire.  The others pulled away without me but I quickly caught up on a rough road with a black sky.  Damn, will it rain again?

Pie in Canova

Pie ala mode.  Not mine but I like this person's style!
Just a quick 10 miler mostly south to Canova the lunch town.  The skies cleared somewhat and the chance of rain diminished.  But it was only 9 am and lunch was not on our minds.  I think they offered rib eye sandwiches but everyone opted for the pie.  I had a slice of blueberry ala mode.  Tracy offered to split a sandwich with me as if it was a dare, I'd try some if you try some.  Perhaps she was hungry but not a glutton like me.  After the pie my mood was on the 30 mile stretch that awaited for us.  30 miles in between towns.  Sounds like a Ragbrai southern route.  But TdK arranged a stop 16 miles into the 30.

Melisa and Beau Anderson of Dell Rapids in Dell Rapids at the end of TdK

It should be that Melissa said she was listening to "angry" music.  We saw her and Beau loading up after lunch.  She rattled off a bunch of for the lack of a better term "alternative" bands and when I asked about Skinny Puppy Beau smiled.  We connected on the weird scary music level.  Damn, I'd like to hang out with them again.

Feed Zone.

The next hour went quickly and soon we found ourselves at the 16 mile rest area which I think was a rural water facility.  The American Cancer Society Relay for Life team from Madison was serving snacks.  Among the snacks, mostly baked goods such as brownies, were $2 ground beef and BBQ sandwiches and $1 cans of mountain Dew.  Yes, I had 2 of each.  the only thing missing was potato chips.  I require sodium on hot days.  Julie was there.  She sagged in.  Apparently, she crashed in Howard.  A friend of hers made contact and locked bikes while turning into the fire station.  Although not injured she was forced to sag because her Cannondale no longer shifted gears.  We flagged down the rolling bike repair shop who said he'd work on it in Chester, the next town 14 miles further.

Resting between towns.  Emily, Event Coordinator,  is in blue and Julie is in the orange.

Time to roll.  I got in line for the kybo but gave up after a my friends left and waiting for an eternity.  Some people can hold it.  Some others take an hour to unload.  I do not have patience.  The person behind me I recognized from day 2.  Then she had a Tour de Rookies or Colorado jersey.  When someone asked her about Ragbrai she replied that she does serious rides only.  I can show you a serious 'Brai.  She gave up waiting as well.

Time to play catch up.  Aim for the ass in front and work my way to it.  Say "howdy" and pass them and look for a new ass to catch up with until I find my friendlies.  Move like a shark, victim to victim.  Eventually I saw Joe who just finished answering Nature's call at one of the few shady areas of South Dakota.  He said he slowed down to wait for me and used this opportunity for what it presented itself to be.  I had been looking for such a place since leaving the rest stop.   Joe was kind enough to hold my bicycle as I walking into a field behind some trees.

The last two bikers I passed noticed what I was doing although I had me naughty bits hidden from view.  'Hey, that's not fair!" one woman shouted.

"Honey, I was built this way!  There's plenty of room for you and your friend," I retorted.  Bicycle 101: the world is your urinal.

It was a lot larger than this photo shows.

I knew we were closing in on Chester because the lawns were beginning to be groomed.  We were entering an area where people painstakingly care for grass and worry about appearances.  Civilization at last.  A large green-grey mass was in the middle of the road.  The beads identified it.  A large snapping turtle.  It was about the size of a car wheel.  Team Duster was here.  Nobody else on TdK sick enough to place beads on road kill.  The rest stop was on top of the hill in front of a cemetery.  Chairs were provided.  Purchases were helping fund prom.  I asked about a gas station.

Sure enough there was one at the bottom of the hill.  It had a restroom and cold beer!  I took advantage of both.  That tallboy of Busch Light would be my last beer before completing the ride.  I drank it outside just to show others that it it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy a beer responsibly while on an 84 mile bicycle ride.

The final push I rode with Mary.  17 miles.  We skipped the last stop.  Bottles were full and we were not hungry.  Donnie slipped ahead to fetch the truck.  Time schedule on the last day.  No time for screwing around.  Had to be back in Des Moines before dark.  4 hours of driving would kill me so I was grateful that Donnie was up to the task.

Obligatory milestone photo.  If on Ragbrai this would be I-35.  This is I-29 near Dell Rapids, SD

We stopped once before reaching Dell Rapids.  During ragbrai it is customary to take a photo of I-35, usually on Wednesday.  On this ride I snapped a photo of I-29.  It looks the same as I-35.

The remaining miles were uneventful.  Flashes of memory as we pedalled past buildings and landmarks we only seen once as we drove into town a week earlier.  Norby's was still there and it had a few bikes in front.  The Monkey Bar was open and the Watertown girls were stopping in.  At last our park and TdK headquarters.  Donnie's truck and trailer were parked in the shade.  Jeff's wife was there waiting for him.  Melissa and Beau made it too.  Time for photos and a shower.  After loading we went and had burgers provided by the BSA.  I then bought a beer from the Quarry Day's tent.  Probably was a hell of a party that night.  But we were heading to home.  Our families were waiting.  Our beds were waiting too.  I did not wake up at 430 am on Saturday.

Jeff napping.  Not on last day.

Final shot.  Our team.  Jeff, Tom, Joe, Mary, Chris and Don Juan.
From an email I received from Tdk this week....

We've compiled a few statistics about this years' riders that we'd like to share with you:

  • The 2012 Tour de Kota had 727 registered riders between the one-day ride and the six-day ride.

  • Riders came from 23 different U.S. states plus Austria, Manitoba, New Zealand and Saskatchewan.

  • 74% were from South Dakota.

  • All ages were represented - 1% were under 13; 2% were 13-17; 13% were 18-34; 26% were 35-49; 45% were 50-64; 7% were 65+; and 6% thought that their age was none of our business!

    I met the Austrian, he was born in Des Moines.  Technically, he is Italian.  We met a woman from Saskatchewan on the first night.  She was riding with a woman she met on BRAN, Nebraska's tour.  Tracy, Mary and I were part of the 26% while the rest of the team belonged to the 45% except for Jeff.  I think he may have been in the 26% but he looked like a 13%er to me.

  • I hope to return to this ride again.  Its long miles is its strength.  Its small numbers, its virtue.

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