Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ranchers Relief Ride RASDak 2014

Dana Fairchild doing a quick daw while climbing through the Badlands.  Leather gloves, nice touch.

The second RASDak (Ride Across South Dakota) was given a new purpose from the sudden early snow storms of October 2013 that killed much of the cattle in that state.  Ranchers and families lost their livelihoods in a matter of days when cows were stuck in deep snow and froze to death.  Our ride was only 8 months away and the organizers decided that we could help these devastated people.  For many there would be no Christmas, no income and large debt for removing carcases.  The 140 or so riders were able to generate over $10,000 for the relief.

RASDak is a week long bicycle tour that showcases the natural beauty of South Dakota.  The ride began on the western side of the state and moved east.  Mount Rushmore to Sioux Falls.  Specifically the Palmer Gulch KoA to the Sanford sports complex.  This year we rode through the Black Hills and through the Badlands to the more diverse agricultural and populated eastern side of the state.

Our usual suspects left from Des Moines for our third adventure in South Dakota.  The Hildreth brothers, Joe and Donnie, Tom Riggs, Mary and myself and new person, Jim Petrie (sp).  Jeff Veltcamp would meet us at Palmer Gulch.  Since the bus was available we needed only to take one vehicle pulling a trailer but Jim drove on his own.  More room in the truck for the 4 hour drive.  Interesting, the truck had about 40 miles more than what we actually would ride on our bikes.

Bike laid down awaiting placement into the truck.  All bikes were separated with blankets and cardboard.

The two bikes that Mary and I would ride all week.

The ride began in Sioux Falls.  We loaded our bicycles on a truck and and gear on the bus we took to the Black Hills.  This was very convenient since it solved the logistical nightmare of driving ourselves across the state and having someone drive the truck and trailer back to SF.  The bus was also comfortable and modern with wifi and electrical outlets.  We stopped near Chamberlain for a lunch break.

There was a large tent at Palmer Gulch, our overnight and starting point.  Here we placed our bikes and gear inside and set up our tents.  It looked like rain so I appreciated being able to start the ride with a dry bike and dry gear.  Sunday's breakfast would be down the road in another tent.  A restaurant was located in the campsite and offered half price appetizers.  I had the chicken quesadilla which was huge and a meal in itself.  The gift shop had many items that we needed or thought we needed.  By morning the last of the brown "jersey" gloves had sold out.

Tim Fairchild made and sold this bling.  Also available in bolo tie form.

We spent the rest of the evening with our RV friends around their campfire.  We became friends with Tim Fairchild on previous rides.  His brother Dana was riding this year and spent most of the evening gather firewood.  When not gathering wood, Dana showed off his cowboy themed hardhat that met Mexican standards but not the standards of his supervisor.  Dana is a lineman (utility not football).  He also showed us a variety of western shirts he purchased for the ride.  It was the Ranchers Relief Ride and he was going to dress as a rancher.  Little did we expect but he rode the entire 524 miles while wearing that hat and cowboy boots.  Our friends from Wisconsin, Tracey Lyons and Jim Williams, were there too.

Sloppy Firsts

The universal sign of bad news.  Upside down is mary's Trek, 10 miles or so later we discovered the sidewall gash.

The rain began about 3 am as we slept in our tents.  During a predawn lull in the precipitation we got up and struck the tent.  Having lived my entire life in the middle of Central Standard Time and on a much lower elevation I am struck how earlier sunrise is in the western side of South Dakota.  An hour earlier.  And since my internal clock is set on CST I tend to wake up early in that state.  We were also amazed at how cold it was.  By mid-June one expects warm or hot weather.  Admittedly, we were not prepared for it having failed to pack cold weather gear.  Sure, we had rain jackets but no gloves. Mary had tights I did not.  We managed.  Only on the last day were we able to leave without wearing jackets or warmth layer.  After a pancake breakfast we rolled away.

John on his 1988 Trek 670 with Campagnola Nuovo Record.

A left turn would have taken us to Keystone, SD, and Mount Rushmore and traffic and hills.  A right turn would avoid a few hills and cut off 10 miles.  In cold rain we opted for the right turn.  We saw the Faces last year and it was said that they were obscured by clouds.  Hill City would be our first stop.  After a climb in the mountains and a few down hills and much beautiful scenery of granite outcrops in pine studded hills we stopped at a convenience store for warmth and tea and then at the train museum for a photo.

Despite the cold rain I stopped for this photo of a caboose.  It was needed for Bicycle Ride & Seek. a game we play on FaceBook.

The ride between Hill City and Rapid City is gorgeous with smooth rollers and a few climbs.  I was enjoying a long downhill when our new friend John approached me from behind and uttered the word "flat."  I was hoping he was referring to the road leveling out but I hear "Mary" next.  A quick U-turn on the wet pavement and a mile climb had me with her as Tracy was about to reach for the pump.  Tracy donated a tube and they managed to get it installed as both I and Chad, the support wrench from Spoke-N-Sport, Sioux Falls, arrived.  Use his pump.  Unfortunately, the tube was pinched.  Fortunately, Chad sold us a new one and installed it.  Rolling again.

Chad to the rescue!

Sheridan Lake Road is a great road to ride on.  I'd like to do that again when it is dry.  Tracey was long gone, having taken off when Chad arrived.  John stayed with us.  After 10+ miles and many climbs and downhills, I was behind Mary while activating the front shifter when I heard it.  Was not sure if my derailleur crapped out or what but Mary confirmed that flat #2 occurred.  Fortunately, I had a great pump attached to my cage and a new tube.  Pumping the tire revealed bubbles on the side of the tire.  Great, a brand new Connie Gatorskin with a sidewall gash.  No one had a patch kit, my gear was spread out in 4 luggage bags.  No one had a knife of pair of scissors to cut a sleeve out of the dead tube to protect the new tube.  No one had a bill smaller than a $20.  I estimated that I inflated the tire to 80 psi and gave Mary the instructions, DROS, Don't Run Over Shit.  We had about another 20 miles to ride.  Nurse that bike in.  It was cold.  I remember looking at both Mary and John and watching them shiver.  Life and death moment.  Somehow I was not shivering.  I told John to move on.  He stayed.

When someone offers you a map do yourself a favor and take it.  One was offered to me when we reached the rest stop inside Rapid City.  Instructions were simple, take the trail all the way to the fairgrounds.  But simple things are not always that way when doing a task for the first time in unfamiliar terrain during light rain.  Trails often turn into sidewalks and rain often causes flooding and trail closures and campsites are often on the opposite of town with the route taking bikers the safest way there.  A few detours, course corrections and instructions from a Native American got us there.  We had the option of sleeping inside a building but with the rain finally ending I set up outside.  I have trouble sleeping inside with 140 other bicyclists.  We took the SAG bus downtown and ate at the Firehouse Brewery.

Enter the Badlands

The Badlands used to be part of the Black Hills.  The surface of the Badlands was created by the erosion and drifting of the rock from the Black Hills.  Millions of years in the making.  And then IIRC some geological event pushed the the flat surface of the Badlands up like a dome.  And millions of years of erosion have left the Badlands as we see them as a wall of buttes and walls whose jagged peaks topped with volcanic ash hardened into rock from another event.  The Badlands are shrinking 2" every year and moving north toward I-90 and southeast into the Missouri River.  take a gander at the Cheyenne and White rivers.  very thick water there.  Day 2 would take us there.

We stayed in Cedar Pass on the Badlands National Park.  Mary and I had a premo campsite on top of a small butte.  Unfortunately, we had to defend the butte from other would be campers.  As it is said, who ever gets there first and strikes a tent before others has the right.  Hope nobody was offended but there are times when spreading out is good.

The ride there was mostly flat with a few rollers.  Wide shouldered highway.  Highlights were Scenic, SD, a ghost town bought up by a Korean based Christian church, and Interior, SD, where we had lunch at the volunteer fire department and returned to have pizza and beer at the Wagon Wheel bar and a beer at the Horseshoe Bar and Casino.  We returned to Interior for breakfast, biscuits and gravy at the Cowboy Corner gas station.  Breakfast was prepared by the same woman who made our lunch at the firestation.

Two Major Climbs and Riding on a Freeway

Boots and cowboy hat and leather gloves climbing up the hills of Badlands National Park..  Dana Fairchild.

Beauty and the pain.  One of the most scenic roads a person could bike through.  The exposed rock is not unique to the Badlands as it exists in other places but the world's largest concentration of them is here in this national park.  For a flatlander like me a sense of awe swept through.  It could be a scene from a western movie, a dinosaur monster film or the set of Star Trek.  And the road was wide and smooth.  there are a few climbs and two major climbs.  Some people had to get off and walk their bikes.  Others like me downshifted to the bottom of the gears and focused on the view.  There were plenty of scenic stops to rest and recover.  Drinks and snacks were available from our support vehicles.  After the last stop we flew downhill and out of the park to the rollers that led us to Wall, SD.

The riders of these bicycles dug Wall Drug.  At least 2 purchased bumper stickers and put them on backpacks and bike bags.

South Dakota is one of the few states that allow bicycles on the Interstate highway system.  We were routed to ride one mile on I-90 since there are no roads, paved or gravel or dirt, connecting Wall to Quinn, SD.  Fortunately, the shoulder was wide.  With a speed limit of 75 mph this was a blessing.

Riding a Bicycle on Interstate 90

After the freeway experience we rolled through Quinn and Cottonwood, SD, rustic and scenic, to the overnight destination of Philip, SD, where we stayed at the high school.  Due to storm warnings the majority of us slept inside.  It was not until the 1st Responder arrived and said that 70+ mph winds were soon to arrive that we struck the tent and moved inside.  Mary and I slept on the stage.  It was dark and quiet but a bit uncomfortable as our camping gear is meant for the outside not on hardwood floors.  Dinner was at a steakhouse.

Crossing the Reservation

Some of the residents of White River, SD.

Being in a different time zone is a strange feeling.  I live in CST.  The ride begins in MST.  My internal clock was an hour ahead of where we spent the first few days.  Even sunrise seemed to be early.  But the day we awoke in Central Time it seemed that we were now an hour behind, even sunrise.

The following day we took SD highway 44.  This day is forever embedded in the riders mind with the sound of kerpluck as our wheels hit an endless supply of cracks in the road.  Our two pairs of Bontrager race Lite wheels held.  I heard that someone had spokes break at the rim.  But the "kawthunk kawthunk" sound still reverberates in my noggin.  We stayed at the high school.  Mary and I slept outside the elementary school and enjoyed free wifi.  Many riders stayed inside.

White River is on the edge of the Reservation.  The community is a mix of European and Native American people.  I recommend the tour through the museum to get a better perspective.  Here one finds many old photos such as the one of the 1928 rodeo featuring at least 50 men in their warrior regalia.  The battles between the two cultures were fresh memories for both sides.  I wonder if they wore their warpaint with pride or humiliation.  At least one fought for the US in WWII as a gunner on a B-17.  His plane was shot down over Germany and he became a POW.  I wonder how the Germans treated him, a descendant of the wild west which fascinates the world even today.  He survived and returned how passing away in 2005.  Yet the poverty remains.  Any empty coop building now is the depository of many empty glass bottles underneath the steps and along the sides.  I saw someone purchase a 12 pack and stumble along the way.  the only difference between her and my friends is circumstances at birth and expensive bicycles.  The next day I read that our president was in North Dakota saying that we need to do more for Native Americans.  Go visit and you will see.  yet on the way out of town I heard a cry from the right side of the road.  One young man drove his truck on top of a hill and gave us the yell.  Whether a greeting or a blessing or a curse, perhaps he wanted us not to forget.  We were leaving his land and returning to ours.  the Missouri River awaited at the end of the road.

Divebombing the Mighty Mo

Another beautiful day of hills and buttes and scenic vistas.  The most painful part of RASDak is not the climbs or the wind or the rain rather the will power it takes not to stop the bike and take photos.  Today was one of those days.  I managed to take a few.

At Dixon, SD, the rest stop was supposed to be at a bar but that business was struck by lightning the week before.  A fundraiser was held for the owner to rebuild.  Cathy informed us that we had the option to SAG from here to the overnight.  True we would be close to 100 miles and a few of us would exceed that distance.  Construction on a near by road increased traffic especially of large trucks.  Cross winds made crossing the river a bit more dangerous.  However, crossing the Missouri on bicycle  is a rare treat for me and an opportunity to set speed records.  I hit 46.5 mph.  Mary got over 45.  John hit 49.5, bummed that he did reach 50 and Brian (?) hit 48 mph and was upset he did not get any faster.  A T-Bone steak dinner was available.  A few of us managed to have seconds.

On to Parkston

Ragbrai training in Parkston, SD.

I kept wanting to call this town Pakistan.  Don't know why.  Nice ride.  Nice town.  Friday night street fest with live music and a few bars to hit.  We stayed at the school.  Pork loin dinner.  Pork is rare in South Dakota because of the dominance of the cattle industry,  But the state began to look more like Iowa.  We saw agriculture and farming instead of ranching.  If you can grow crops then you can feed pigs I thought.

Mary's ankle was bothering her so our first stop in Parkston was at a convenience store for the purchase of Aleve.  Conveniently, a Godfather's Pizza was set up inside so we enjoyed pizza as a end of the ride refueling.  Around the corner was daves Discount Liquor & Fried Chicken.  Photo opportunity if there was ever one.  Then we got to the school and set up camp.  Bikes were placed inside.  Electrical outlets seized for phone and camera recharging.  Showers were warm.  After dinner we went downtown to the street party.

Last Dance--Parkston to Sioux Falls

88 miles to the finish.  A tad bit longer than I would like for a last day ride.  Last day rides generally suck.  Hurry up.  Deadlines.  On Ragbrai this is when people generally get sloppy and accidents occur.  For us it is the race to the truck  Discussion on short cuts was aired.  The wind was a big concern.  Seemed like we would be fighting it again.  Rain, it looked like rain.  It sprinkled for 20 seconds while we slept.  Nothing more.  But the best short cut involved a different highway that despite a wide shoulder was rumored to be a crappy and busy road.  Still there were two lumps we could have cut off.

After breakfast we left.  Packed before eating.  We skipped the first shortcut heading north instead of returning to our old friend SD Highway 44.  A moment of confusions caused Jim P to turn around at the bottom of a hill to verify if we were heading in the right direction.  We were.

A little later I felt it.  Although the road was a bit rough it felt worse.  I stopped and squeezed my front tire.  Low, very low.  Flat number 3, my first of the week.  We were next to a Lutheran church so I set up shop on the steps and got to work.  The trouble maker was a small piece of glass.  Last tube.  Patch kit was in my fanny pack inside my backpack on the luggage truck.  My pump got the tire inflated to at least 90 psi in 2 minutes.  Chad pulled up when it was over and asked if we needed help.  I purchased a tube and patch kit and had him dispose of the old tube for me.  Rolling again.  On to 44.

Once again the wind was bad.  We came across Tracie and Jim and I explained the purpose of drop bars and encourage all of them to use them.  Sure, it hurts for the first time but one can gradually train the body to be comfortable while in that position.  And when lacking aerobars and fighting wind the drops are your friend.  usually a 3 mph difference.  At one point we stopped for a Power Bar.

Lunch was in Parker, SD.  The city put on a lasagne feed for us.  Some high school boys had an acoustic band set up doing contemporary rock.  They were good.  The locals seemed glad to host us although most of us looked half dead.  Merely wanted to eat and use the restroom and get the F out of the wind.  Along this way I did score 2 photos that I needed for Bicycle Ride & Seek, a FB game.  I got a 50s vintage Chevy and a road grader.  So I was happy about that.

After Parker we got some much needed tailwind and it started looking like we would reach Sioux Falls.  Until we reached 38 Roadhouse nothing much to report.  Two fast bikes passed us at warp speed.  We encountered another rider from Iowa who looked a bit lost but could not keep up with us on our recover pace tailwind stretch.  We had 21 miles to go at this point.  6 Harley Davidsons were pulled over for a mechanical issue.  I asked them if they needed help.  I had a pump I told them.  Suddenly my mobile phone lit up as we reached service.  Then the 38 Roadhouse.  Many of us gathered here for the last beer before the end.  Even Jim stopped in but he was more concerned about getting to tracie's car than a libation.  24 hours of LeMans was on the tv and I wondered how much stimulants would be required to stay up and watch the entire race.  The next 3 or so miles were easy.  They were the last.  Shower and clean clothes.  Load up and wait for Riggs.  Tom was late because he encountered the iowa we spotted earlier.  Said he could not keep up and did not know where to go.  It was raining now.  we made it in dry.  Tom's premonition about riding in the rain came true.

It was sprinkling and cool when we left.  An hour later we were in Sioux City, Iowa, to eat at a Pizza ranch.  it was hot and humid.  Not that hot but enough to be a shock.  Welcome to Iowa!

Pizza Ranch's western decor seemed very fake and plastic after spending a week in the West.  But fried chicken and pizza, although not a cowboy staple, was delish!

7 days
515 miles
3 flat tires between the 2 of us
140 of the best riders in America
I'll do it again.  I can think of no better bicycle tour in the MidWest.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like quite the adventure. Great write-up and photos.