Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tour de Kota 2012: Heaven and Hell Day 3

Pipestone National Momunent has a bike rack
Alternative title: I Can See For Miles and Miles or If Only Tonight We Could Sleep

Brandon, SD  Mc Hardy Park

Our stay here coincided with Brandon Bicycle Fest.  All the locals were encouraged to visit the park.  Food vendors, three bands and a beer garden.  The 6 of us chose to pile in a 4 door Honda and have dinner with a family that lived between Brandon and Sioux Falls.  They were kind enough to drive us back in two cars which was good since Mary could not get her door shut on the outbound trip.  When we returned I broke out the Fireball and we did one round before bedtime.

It was hot.  Although it was still very windy and we could see the tops of the trees move back and forth, our campsite was in a hole without the wind.  No airflow.  Mary and I moved our Thermorests out of the tent and slept in the open.  No mosquitos.  Rumors of rain were alive so I watched the sky.  Distant lightning.  No thunder, no clouds.  However, little sleep.  430 am came as a merciful call to get the hell out of this town which was incorporated in 1973. 

Powerbar breakfast for Mary and I although breakfast was offered across the street.  Then a climb up the hill.  Half way up the four lane hill we spotted two riders pointed back to camp parked in the middle of one of the lanes standing off bike talking on mobile phones.  No cars to honk or yell at them.  The route out of town was not marked very well and I had a fear that we were making a 15 mile mistake before I saw the pink route marker.  Things improved greatly there after.

The wind slowly came to life.  Going east would provide us with a cross wind.  North a big ring tail wind.  It took some time to get rolling up to speed.  One stop in Garretson, 12 miles, at a gas station for a sandwich and Dew.  15 miles later we stopped at a park in Jasper for coffee and bananas.  Mile 42 found us at the Mc Donalds in Pipestone, MN, the scheduled lunch town.  BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, fruit, chips, oriental salad and misshit drinks provided by the Chamber of Commerence.  Mary and I ordered breakfast food.  So did Tracy.  Clean restrooms.  No line.  Air conditioning.

Joe was excited about Pipestone.  Native Americans began collecting pipestone from the quarry here over 3000 years ago.  There is a museum and a national monument in town.  Mary and I took a 3 mile round trip side trip to visit the latter.  The others hit the museum.  Then we shifted into big ring and had a 20 mile high speed cruise up Highway 75.

Same as Ragbrai.  Find a group of bike in front and aim towards them.  Catch them, recover and move on and repeat until a group moving at the desired speed is found.  Move like sharks.  Mary and I found the people with LeMonds from Omaha that we briefly rode with on Day 1.  Unfortunately, the woman was not with them.  They did the first pull.  24, then 27 mph for a long stretch.  And when they tired, dropping to 18 and coasting at the tops of hills, I took over and got us back to the upper 20s.  Mary never led.  Soon they were spent so it was just the two of us.  We left our teammates back in Pipestone since the museum was not open yet.

Buffalo Ridge

Closing in on Lake Benton we encountered hills.  My quads started screaming and I had to back down.  I remember cattle bellowing and I started to laugh.  Mary move ahead and did not offer assistance.  Thanks, honey.  Soon the flat land turned into the Buffalo Ridge, similar in nature to Iowa's Loess Hills.  These rolling hills are very beautify and helped me recover.  I found myself closing in on 40 mph downhill, limited by a rough road.  Soon I was in town.  One bottle of Brisk iced tea and a Vitamin Water and a Powerbar and it was time to enjoy the crosswind.

This is my favorite.  Campy deraileurs and triple crank.  Suntour shifters.  Paul himself rides this one.

That stem!!  Nice touch!
Tyler was the next town.  A rest at a park.  I was able to get a good look at two custom Paul Fuller bicycles.  Paul builds these in Sioux Falls.  Classic road bikes with modern components.  The blue one is almost full Campagnola.  I love the brazed stem.

Russell was the last town out and as such I planned to enjoy a beer at this stop.  Just one.  We had been riding hard and were obiviously going to beat my prediction of getting to the overnight town, Marshall, MN, at 4 pm.  Reality had different plans.  The only store in town did not sell beer and the bar was not open while we were there.  I did not throw a fit but may have left a comment that I was north of the Mason Dixie Line and not in Alabama or Mississippi were such alcohol restrictions only serve the pockets of bootleggers.  Instead I purchased a Starbucks Frappiccino and a Dew.  Sugar and caffeine for my final pitstop.  We had to take the sidewalk for a bit to avoid a large hole in the road where 3 men were fixing a broken line of some sort.  Get speed up in the crosswind and shift to big ring for the final push to Marshall.

I have a feeling the kids placed these rocks.  Free labor!

It was Mary, Donnie and I.  Riggs was perpetually behind.  Jeff had to turn around because he thought he left his wallet in Russell.  The three of us stopped to photograph this wall and house.  At first I thought it was the ruins of an old church or estate but closer inspection reveals that someone is working on this.  Joe soon caught up and related Jeff's blunder.  Later he said that he had his wallet the entire time.  He misplaced it on his person.

This 17 mile stretch was interesting.  Despite the crosswind we could keep speed at a respectable 16 to 18 mph.  Then the final turn north.  As soon as the direction changed we could feel the heat of the day.  A vaccumm.  No more gentle breeze on the face or body.  But when we got it up to 24 mph we received a cool wind.  At 30 mph even better.  35 mph on a flat provided the best cooling.  No looking back, we were pushing through.  Donnie shot out like a rocket leaving Mary, Joe and I behind.  But we still kicked ass.  Passing people like they were standing still.  I think we surprised an older gent on a Litespeed titanium who was drifting in the middle of road.

Marshall soon was in view as my computer was registering almost 100 miles as a stop light loamed in the distance as a finish line.  I still had a few tenths of a mile to go so I kept the coals pouring on having slowed down a bit.  But I was able to hit the century mark at 25 mph, 6 hours and 12 minutes.  Mary and I finished the day with over 102 miles.  But Joe and Donnie needed a bit more.

A man in vest was signalling us to turn left at the high school but we continued forward.  Beer was needed as well as some extra distance so our companions could get their "hundy."  We found downtown and an establishment called Sam's Place.  No bikes in front.  Joe road an extra block to get 100 for the day.  Donnie opted to wait until we left the bar.  Tammy was the barkeep and $1.50 mugs were her game.  We had at least 5 each maybe more and we split 2 pizzas, my treat.  maybe 10 or 15 minutes later another bicycle team walked in, some opting to bring their bikes inside the bar.  They sat a table and let their leader do all the talking with Tammy.  Then Tracy entered and sat with us.  This time she ordered Chinese from next door instead of a cheeseless pizza.

After our fill we went to camp.  We were urged to sleep in the gymnaseum because of another rumored storn.  Riggs had already set his tent up, Joe being his tent bitch.  Mary and I opted to set ours up for more privacy and the lack of light and noise that sleeping outside versus inside a refugee center (the school).  We did put our bicycles and luggage inside, taking only what we needed for the night and the next day's clothing.  Then we walked back downtown on a lovely new bike trail to the Chinese restuarant for dinner.  Hunan Lion.  Tracy had the chocolate cake having eaten before hand.

The wind never died.  Being hot, I set the tent up to benefit from the cooling properties of the wind.  But this had a price.  Mary feel asleep quickly.  Once again I could not sleep.  The wind beating on the tent bothered me quite a bit and by the time I realized that I should have set the tent up aerodynamically it was too late.  Around 1130 pm the second line uprooted its stake and I found myself outside wondering how to secure the front end.  Time to abandon ship!

"Honey, get dressed quickly we got to move inside."

We gathered the remaining stakes and carried the tent inside with everything else inside it.  Once inside we emptied the tent and put it away.  As we were doing this Riggs and Joe were tearing theirs down too!  We quickly helped them once our stuff was secured.  Tom and I being old Scouters understood the severity of the situation and without speaking I helped him roll up and pack his old tent.  This was an event I have done many a time.  Emergency evacuation.  Keep the tent from flying away as someone tries to pack.  Same with the ground tarp.  They said the wind was blowing the side of the tent right on top of them.  Blair Witch style. 

Riggs and Joe slept inside the hallway despite the lights being on and the heat.  Mary and I took our pads and sleeping bags outside and slept in the darkness listening to the wind and staring at the clouds wonding if it would storm or not.  Another night with inadequate sleep.  I should really have focused on sedating myself like I do on 'Brai but that would hurt me the next day as another century awaited.

Funny how this Cure song did not pop into my head until after TdK.  So fitting.  If Only Tonight We Could Sleep from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me 1987

If only tonight we could sleep
In a bed made of flowers
If only tonight we could fall
In a deathless spell

If only tonight we could slide
Into deep black water
And breathe
And breathe...

Then an angel would come
With burning eyes like stars
And bury us deep
In his velvet arms

And the rain would cry
As our faces slipped away
And the rain would cry

Don't let it end...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tour de Kota 2012: Day 2 Redemption

The first day kicked our asses.  There would be no drinking tonight.  If the wind would switch and come from the north we would be hosed AGAIN.  Brent Cohrs, blogger for ChicagoNow claims that the winds were steady at 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.  The first day there were moments that I thought that I had wasted $300 and a week of vacation to be here.   We refueled, rehydrated, recharged mobile phones and got to bed early.

Another night of poor sleep.  Too hot.  Up several times to check phone charge and visit the kybo.  But soon the wind seemed calm.  and then EVERY ALARM IN EVERY TENT WENT OFF AT 430 AM!!!  All at the same time.  I looked at the time and groaned.  Really?  This is a vacation.  62 miles.  No real need to leave so early unless the wind was from the north.  Since the much rumored storm never materialized the wind would be from the south.  8 hours total time max including stops.  I started the joke, "How do you know when it its 430 am on TdK??  Don't worry, you will find out!"

We had little choice but to get up.  My earplugs were buried and joe was nervous about the wind.  Before everything was put away two Christian kids pulled up in a golf cart to take our bags to the drop off.  Nice!

Mary and I consumed Powerbars and water for breakfast.  Easy to digest, just what we needed, no line and we paid for them a long time ago at 25 cents each at Hy Vee.  Donnie, Joe and Tom had the $5 breakfast sandwich and coffee.  Since they dress and pack faster than we do they were fed and ready to roll when we walked the bike up to the route.

The route was similar to Day One.  Opposite direction.  Instead of skirting the west of Sioux Falls we would do the east side.  North and east in steps.  Today we would cross the Sioux into Iowa for lunch and afterwards enter minnesota before turning west to Brandon, South Dakota.  Canton would be the first town on the route.  27 miles out but there would be stops at mile 14 and mile 21.

Only one I have seen.  Near Moe Land Lutheran Church, designated rest stop at mile 14

The ride to Canton was easy.  I lagged behind my friends.  I caught up with Harvey near this sign.  harvey was one of the bikers at the Monkey Bar.  Today he was having issues with a tire.  his bike was an old Gitane touring rig with gumwalled 27" tires.  Said he needed a pump but I think he needed a tube and possibly a tire.  None were found on my bike, just CO2 and a skinny tube.  I informed his support vehicle that he had a flat.  He was not far from help.

So far the road was flat thus far.  When we turned north small hills appeared.  Nothing to fret.  And when I was lamenting that I'd never hit 40+ mph this week I found my self doing 38 with a steep climb.  Newton Hills park with a Boy Scout reserve on the bottom.  At the top of the park I looked ahead and only saw the tops of trees.  Time to fly.  I got my 40 not once but twice on this curvey descent.  And to have my cake and eat it too, I did not have to climb anything afterwards.  Biker's paradise.  Soon we were in Canton.

A Powerbar does not last more than 27 miles so I hit the local gas station.  PumpNPac.  No relation to Kum&Go.  I bought a delicious breakfast burrito and a cherry pastry here and a liter of Mountain Dew.  Refuel.  While waiting for the restroom I noticed that there was a casino in this establishment.  Strange idea to this Iowa boy.  I did not enter.

Part of our week was these rest stops.  And when we would be ready to leave Tom would pull up on his recumbent.  I do not care what they say about 'bents being faster than upright bikes.  For every recumbent that passes me I pass 200 'bents.  Tom mentioned that his chain was skipping and Donnie found the culprit immediately.  His chain was falling apart.  An appropiate length of chain was removed and Tom was ready to roll again.

See how the chain is breaking.  Could have been nasty on the road at 40 mph.

We crossed into Iowa not long after this stop.  I noticed hills to our right and correctly assumed that it was part of a river valley.  But it was not until we turned east and crossed the Big Sioux that I knew for sure.  Once in Iowa I noticed 3 things that made my eyes swell up with pride for being back on home turf.  First there were hills.  Second, immediately after crossing the river there was a state park with a sign shaped like Iowa.  Third, a Jeep Grand Cheorkee got on the road, accelerated too quickly and had to brake heavily.  yes, this was Iowa!  Hills and asshole SUV drivers.  In South Dakota they practically drive in the ditch to keep away from bicycles.

Iowa, our liberties we prize, our flag we swiped from France.

Lunch today was provided by the Norvartis Company.  Located near Larchwood, Iowa, this pharmacutical business specializes in large animal medicine, the animals that we eat.  Our visit to their facility coincided with their company picnic.  Mary and I did not eat.  The PumpNPac breakfast was filling.  but I was thirsty so we headed into Larchwood proper.  had to go off route to the business district.

This one is for Craig Lein, photos in the Beer Cave.  Joe and Mary while we cooled off in Larchwood, Iowa.

Not a glamor shot.

A good place to cool down

Mary, Joe and I had one beer each.  The woman running the place allowed up to stay inside and drink at the table.  Nice!  Not sure how legal that was but better than standing outside drinking 16 oz of Miller Lite.  BTW, Larxhwood's Buweiser comes from Spenser, Iowa.  Next stop Minnesota.

Glad we rolled forward not to the right.  Just north of the Iowa border.

North of town we crossed state lines again.  Nothing big.  Barely a sign.  We would roll north until we hit a tire place where I bought a can of Dew and a bag of chips for a $1.  They had the cooler and shelving of a convenience store but sold tires instead.  I could hardly fathom how cheap that was.  But maybe because there was a large cross on the wall and "TO GOD BE THE GLORY."  I  could forgive them for not selling beer.

From there it was a 5 mile ride to Brandon, SD, at high speed.  Nothing to note but a large woman holding a sign  seeking riders to visit a waterslide in Valley Springs.  But we were cruising and almost to the overnight.

Brandon had us camp Mc Hardy Park down in the bottom.  Shuttle service to the high school for showers and later to Pizza Ranch for lunch.  Hours later Besty Hildreth, Joe's daughter, picked us up in a small Honda and took us to doug Hoff's house for a lasagne dinner and beer.  Two large meals today.  A good ride and a happy ending.  I was beginning to enjoy Tour de Kota.  Endure Dakota, heck, I was thriving!

All I really needed.  Shades, a map, a pint and a table to rest at and think things over.  Larchwood, Iowa.  What a shame the other TdK riders did not experience this.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tour de Kota 2012 Overview

Tour de Kota or TdK was started 7 years ago as a multi day bicycle ride in South Dakota.  Its creator is Argus Leader Media, a Gannett company which also owns the Des Moines Register (Ragbrai).  According to the Rider Guide, the raison d'etre for TdK is for the celebration of "the best South Dakota has to offer--hospitality, breathtaking landscapes and never-stale weather."

Unlike Ragbrai, Tdk is not a border to border ride.  That would require the logistics to move an army and cyclists of elite endurance level.  Maybe not, but the eastern part of the state is much more bicycle friendly.  South Dakota's population resides mostly on the east, hence more towns.

The route varies from year to year.  Sometimes in a line or a loop.  Last year the overnights were at colleges and universities.  This year it was a loop.  I really like the loop idea because of the logistics.  We did not have to travel far into the state for the ride nor need to shuttle back to retrieve our truck and trailer.

6 days, 470 miles for 2012.  Nearly the same mileage of 'Brai with one less day to complete it.  Wheels spun through 3 states, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota. 1 overnight in Minnesota as well.

The Riders.  For some reason we thought that there would be up to 900 riders.  550 was another number that floated around.  But this year only 350 week long riders showed up for the adventure.  Rumor had it that the numbers dropped this year because many of the overnights lacked sufficient motel accommodations.  Judging by the overnights near Sioux Falls, many people opted to stay there in motels and their homes.  We skirted around SF quite a bit.  The average age of the participants must be 55.  Quite a few retired folk.  I do not recall seeing children riding all week.

The Ride.  The route was primarily on state and county highways.  Often these roads possessed WIDE shoulders.  Rest stops and towns were scattered throughout the day.  The Rider Guide listed each stop and reported the mileage to the next stop.  Local groups would provide food and beverages for purchase at these stops.  A lunch stop was part of each day.  Usually they offered sandwiches, walking tacos and sweets.  Not all the pass through tows had convenience stores or restaurants so it was very important to always top off water and feed.

Most of the overnights were in small towns.  Camping was at parks.  Larger towns such as Watertown had motels available.  Dinner and breakfast was usually available at the campsite.  These were sponsored by local groups, Boy Scouts, churches, school groups ect.  Entertainment was available including bands and local singers.  Shuttle services for showers and dinner was provided as well.  We were able to shower every day.  We were able to have a shuttle (gator) give us a ride to a Casey's.  One local gave us a ride to Dollar General in his personal truck.  We met many kind and generous people in South Dakota. 

Support.  Billion Auto provided 2 Suburbans that pulled SAG trailers (8 to 10 bikes each) plus 2 Tahoes with bikes that could hold 3 bikes a piece.  These vehicles patrolled the route every day.  The Event Coordinator, Emily, drove her personal Honda CRV everyday.  Many riders had their personal support vehicles on route.  The SD Air National Guard pulled their government issued truck and trailer on the route every day.  Official TdK vehicles carried water for riders.  These vehicles would be stationed at predetereminred rest stops and sometimes at other locations if necessary.  The Rider Guide that each participant was given had the final sweep times of the official TdK SAG and support vehicles.  These and their drivers plus the private support vehicles did a phenomenal job of the disastrous rain day in which the majority of the riders were caught miles from nowhere in heavy rain and hail without shelter.  Majority of the riders were rescued from the highway and sagged to safety. 

Comparison to Ragbrai.  The obvious comparison is the numbers.  Tdk was up to 15,000 to 25,000 less riders and people.  Unlike 'Bria when you could meet someone and never see them again, on TdK we saw the same people every day and were able to make friends with them.  Ragbrai has much more of a festival atmosphere.  Only once or twice did we ever see Burma shave signs.  Pass through towns did not have music playing for us as we entered.  The mayor's wife was not pointing us toward the beer garden.  The early overnights seemed to keep us together away from the locals, one had to make the effort to leave camp.  As the week went on we wandered away quite a bit.

Regarding the ride, TdK is more challenging that Ragbrai.  Back to back centuries, less pass through towns and fewer people selling food and drink in between stops.  And the wind.  It is relentless.  Most of the state is flat with few trees or buildings to stop it.  One could ride 10 miles without seeing another human including other riders.

Bikes.  Most people brought road bikes.  There were a few touring bikes but none were bagged out.  I saw only 1 520 and it lacked bags.  Even the touring beasts that had front and rear racks did not have panniers on.  TdK carries up to 2 bags per rider.  Mary and I used 3 bags.  We also saw 2 tandems which seemed low as it was good tandem country.  Maybe 10 recumbents were there including one of our teammates.  So why not bring your fastest bike and haul ass??

The people seem more conservative here than in Iowa, both riders and locals.  No one cross dressed.  No big drinking ragers.  Our team from Iowa seemed to be the only ones that enjoyed a beer on the route and we did that maybe two or three times.  Most bars did not open until after we rolled through.  Although, as the week rolled on we would see other riders in the bar at the overnight and empties in the campsite the next morning.  The majority of the riders woke up and sprang to life at 430am and were asleep by 9pm.  A tire shop had a large cross inside with the words "To God Be the Glory" above it.  I spotted a yellow warning sign that said "Church".  Culture shock for us.  No naked day, no future state legislatures running across kybos, no one shoving politics or PETA down our throats.  Pleasant in a way.  If we could get them to sleep in.

Would I do TdK again??  In a heart beat.  I had a great time pushing myself to new limits on my road bike.  I did not miss the chaos of the 20K extra people of Ragbrai.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gonna Be a Long Week

I found this on  Mary and I on the Wednesday of 'Brai 2005.  I have no clue who took the shot.  I think this was the road between Crystal Lake and Thompson.  A significant photo due to the fact that the bike Mary is riding is stolen and the one I am on was damaged by Quin and later cannibalized for the build up of my Trek 560.  It was my first quality road bike.  Glad I was able to enjoy it on Ragbrai.  Quin used it the following year for 'Brai.  Thank you nameless photographer.

Saturday morning 5 of us leave our sacred homes and beloved State for a week of riding elsewhere.  Tour de Kota begins on Sunday.  This will be my first vacation since I don't know when.  Thus my productivity and attitude at work and other obligations will decline significantly.

As a Ragbrai expertern I hold this week with as much trepidation as the week before 'Brai.  I generally do not ride much during it.  No unnecessary rides.  Need to limit the possibility of hurting myself or busting my equipment.  I do not want to be sweating bullets  fixing a bike or a tire moments before Joe, Donnie and Tom pull up to pick Mary and I up.  Nor do I want to do repairs at our campsite in South Dakota Saturday night.  And I do not want to bust out the emergency reserve of powerful narcotics to atone pain from a crash.  Vacation.  Time to relax.  Leave the world behind and enjoy the beauty of a fast light road bike in its element.

My To Do list is small.  Clean and lube two bicycles.  Perhaps purchase a few tubes.  Pack clothing.  Pack essential tools.  Charge camera.  Purchase film.  I still love that medium and like to have a camera that I do not need to plug in.  Find spare memory cards.  Organize camping gear.  Perhaps open up the sleeping bags and let them air out.  Make sure tent has its stakes.  Refuel body.  Drink lots of water.  Pack medicinals.  Obtain a bottle of fireball.  We will need that.

Other stuff as well.  Notarize the will.  Heaven forbid but if the untimely death of Mary and I should happen all minor children go to Mary's parents.  Insurance cards organized.  Letter granting Mary's parents to seek medical treatment for minor children should the need arise.  The dark shit of life.

And the insurance cards belonging to Mary and I.  The second thought that ran through my mind last year when the idiot in front of us clipped the rear wheel in front of him and subsequently went down on the road was that I had left our medical insurance and prescription card at home.  My first thought was that the fork would break when I ran him over.  There was contact despite the HARD TO PORT I piloted the tandem through.  I ran over his head but managed to keep the bike upright and did not damage the wheel or fork.  That's the danger.  Idiots who do not know how to ride in crowds.  And the older I get the more I fear them.

Wait.  It will be a week of waiting, anticipating. That is where the difficulty lies.  I have no patience for things I cannot control.  If a 45 minute wait at the Apple Store was an eternity, this week will be an eternity in purgatory.  Seeing the goal but unable to reach it in a quick manner.  Time works so well upon us.

I will be grumpy.  I will be fine.  I will feel blue.  I will feel good.  Carbo loading.  Ah, I can legitimately eat pasta.  Solace in food before we embark on a 470 mile adventure on roads I never ridden on. 

4 more days to go.  I wanna be sedated.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jordan Creek Trail

QT now sells Tisdale wine, normally $3 a bottle at Fareway or Hy Vee.  Some of it is actually from Italy.  Need a cork screw.  Location: 63rd and railroad, Vally Junction, WDM.

Visited Jordan Creek mall via bicycle today.  On map it is an easy ride.  The Jordan Creek Trail takes one right there on paper.  New Central Iowa Trails sign posts are located in strategic spots to help people unfamiliar with the trail.  The trail possess its own mile markers and 911/GPS signs are located on this path.

This is West Des Moines premier trail.  From it smaller trails feed off to residential and business areas.  JCT also connects with the Des Moines metro trail system at the Walnut Creek/Bill Riley Trail on its eastern terminus.  Small feeder neighborhood trails connect it north to the Clive Greenbelt Trail.

Because it serves as the backbone of the WDM trail system it is confusing and requires repeated visits to master.  The Greater Des Moines Regional Trails map is a basic guide.  I never bother to use Google Maps on my phone.  Mary and I have joked about a can of spray paint and an ubersized Sharpie to mark our turns and warn of our mistakes.  "WRONG TURN!!!"

Despite deriving its name from the Jordan Creek that the trail follows at points and the family that back in the day brought federal $$ into Iowa and supported the Underground Railroad, the terrain it traverses is a mix of shaded tree lined areas to suburban sprawl to industrial.  Not a looker as far as trails go.  Definitely a trail to get a biker from Point A to Point B.  Today's target: Jordan Creek Mall/Towncenter.

Mary and I have ridden out here several times.  Maybe once or twice a year.  The trail was here in 2001 according to my old INH trail guide.  I recall riding this with Dave Hatcher back when he lived in Valley Junction.  A decade or so ago there was really no reason for me to visit the trail.  It lead to nowhere I needed to be.  Jordan Creek Mall and the suburbanization of WDM has changed that. Well, not really, it is not essential that I visit JCM or the newest Bike World.  More good cropland turned into consumer urban sprawl.  New and pretty and exciting, all the bells and whistles of a brand new American car that in 15 to 20 years will look like shit unless it is taken care of.  Perhaps in 30 years Adel will have the latest and greatest shopping area.  As Erika Githens once said, no reason to go past Valley Junction.  Yeah, there is a little bit of socialist in me.  tiny but there nonetheless.

So we grabbed our current commuters and got on the trail at Mullets exactly .5 mile from our home on Des Moines southside.  We took this past Gray's Lake and into Water Works Park, crossed the Raccoon River and got on the Bill Riley Trail proper.  We took a left where Riley meets Walnut Creek trail and rode this to the end at the QT on 63rd.

Nice surprise here as they finally laid the trail connection from the QT to the light south of railroad.  Here there is a button to seize the right of way and cross 63rd and get on the JC trail.  This section is out in the open and if the wind is from the south there will be a strong crosswind.  This section leads to the Raccoon River Park.  But first it passes an industrial zone of concrete and cement works.  It is tempting to continue past this and into the park but the JC turns right to cross Fuller Rd.

Look for these signs

This seemed busy on a Sunday afternoon, a mixture of cars and SUVs and work trucks.  This section is noticeably older.  Aging asphalt trail reminiscent of the John Pat Dorrian Trail but a few years newer.  Cracks and weeds.  We rode by a man walking as his youngster rode a bike with training wheels.  Eventually we hit Grand Ave and turned right.  Although we passed a few Central Iowa Trails signs we made the unmarked counter intuitive move to turn right and head in what seemed like the opposite direction we needed to go.  Mary has a bit more experience out here than I do.  We did, however, last year turn left and got nowhere fast.

Crossing Grand the trail soon parallels  EP True.  The scenery s of apartment buildings and townhouses and suburbia.  Nothing remarkable.  Intersections are rough as the trail seems to be an afterthought of city planning on a budget.  Front suspension would have been nice here.  On the other hand, no one was training for the big race of the triathlon like they do on the trails we normally live.  There were a few people on bikes.

Now the trail gets tricky.  There are a number of tunnels to cross major roads.  Often when we emerged we had to loop around to find the right trail.  Sometimes it seemed that we needed to go in the awkward direction for 15 yards to find the next tunnel to cross again.  So it was at 50th Street.  We even looked at the sign that indicated that we needed to turn right.  And when we did we entered the tunnel and crossed EP True and immediately knew we made the same mistake as last year.  But we continued for some unknown reason and discovered that this was the way to the latest bike World.  A little road action and we were on the outskirts of Jordan Creek Towncenter.

Using visual confirmation we took a mix of road and sidewalk to get to Scheels.  No issue with cars.  But no bike rack once we got there.  yep, they sell bikes but if you ride a bike that you purchased from them you had to be creative in parking it.  Or brave.  Or both.  Mary said something about a bike rack possibly somewhere else but I decided the benches were good enough to secure our aluminum steeds to.  Yeah, a bronze statute of Ronald Reagan dressed as John Wayne but no bicycle parking.

What the hell, better parking than if we drove there.

After conducting business we rolled away differently that we came in.  Mary said there was a tunnel.  And I remember that tunnel.  I think Brad Overhoser was with us on that journey but this time we could not find it.  Instead we found the trail and went the wrong way, too far north.  We would have had to hop a curb to get where we wanted to anyway.  But once we turned around we were where we needed to be and where we should have been on the incoming trip.  I photographed the sign marking our mistake.  Bent arrow means skip tunnel and turn at the road.

Eventually we will learn this trail system.  But it may be a slow process as the trail leads to place only designed to exchange money for goods and services.  Not a trail to enjoy for its own sake.  I located Trader Joe's on this trip.  Cheap wine.  I may be back sooner than you think.  31 miles, wrong turns and all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Family Trestle Ride

The moon has to compete with the Trestle's light!
Despite having Monday off for Memorial Day it has been a long stressful week.  Tuesday being the fill in Monday has everyone busier than they should be and generally in a crappy mood.  My right eye still screwed up from the contact issue.  Then my mother's inability and refusal to take care of herself nearly took her to the grave.  Saturday would have to be a special day to clear our minds and enjoy life again.

Long rides were not an option.  We needed time to rest and get things done before more shit hits the fan.  Mary and I also felt a desire to spend quality time with our children, whom normally patiently wait at home for us to return from bicycling adventures.  Why not take them with us?

Quin would be working at Mullets.  Joe was celebrating his friend's HS graduation elsewhere.  Timmy went to a friend's house.  But our two daughters would be available.  Dora is always home on a Saturday evening.  Katie happened to be home most likely because her boyfriend had to work.  Mary and I talked it up with them.  Ride to the Trestle under the light of the moon.  They have seen the photos but never have been there.  Photos cannot do it justice, one must be there.

For once we had a vehicle available to deploy us near our destination.  Removal of the two backseats allowed us to fit 4 bicycles inside without having to dismantle them.  We could have carried a 5th bike if necessary.

The Raleigh, once an abandoned 10 speed now reborn as a fun commuter and town bike.

Originally I was going to take my newly restored and modified Raleigh Grand Prix mixte but I let Katie ride that one.  She was a bit disappointed that her Trek 830 was left at home.  Such is life, I wanted to see if the work I did on it was quality and what I needed to finish.

Dora took her "pink" bike, a Magna purchased for $5.  No rear brakes but the front are good.  It sat on the deck for a year or so until last week I replaced the tubes and got the beast rolling again.  She liked the thumb shifters although the front derailleur was not functioning.  Her quality bike is a Trek 220 with Gripshift.  But she wanted to ride the pink bike instead.  New to her and different.

Mary took her road bike and me the faithful and trustworthy Red Phoenix.  Mary's bike would make its third visit to The Bridge, last week being its second.  My red bike, despite being my workhorse and most ridden bike for the past 4 years, would make its maiden pilgrimage to The Bridge.

3 of the steeds we rode.  Mary's Trek is missing.

We left early enough so that the girls could be there on The Bridge before sunset.  Let them see the spacious Des Moines river valley in the light of the sun 13 stories about the water.  We would stay and enjoy the moonlight under the blue hue of the bridge's lights.  After all, once you have been under those lights you really don't ever want to be there during daylight hours.  Maybe that is me.  I cannot get enough.  However, if we have a real winter I'd like to be there to see the snowy landscape in the daytime.

The trailhead in Madrid at the Flat Tire Lounge would be our drop zone.  We considered Slater but 7 miles of flat with farmland on either side is dull.  It would add 14 miles to two people who have not ridden much or great distances this year.  Keep it short and enjoyable. 

That was the plan and we kept it, mostly.  Joe Hildreth called and invited us to ride with him and his brother and someone named Tom who would be on Tour de Kota with us.  I related our plan and he said that we'd meet on The Bridge.  It was good to have an opportunity to see them.  Mary and missed the "information" meeting in Cumming due to my mother's health disaster and later because of rain.  He wanted to meet Friday but we were in Ottumwa.  We leave in two weeks and these missed opportunities only accent the other attempts we have tried.  Busy schedules, busy lives.  Besides, their company is always good.

Parking at the trailhead was ample by the time we got there.  Quickly we unloaded and rolling westward.  The downhill is deceptive.  I feared there would be grumbling on the return.  There was none.  We got to The Bridge in no time.

Group shot by a stranger.  One rule of photography is to get close, then closer still.  And watch for evening shadows.

Photo time!  Always bring a camera when on this trail.  I used my phone's camera and my new camcorder.  Someone was kind and offered to take our photo.  This was appreciated.

Self portrait.  Katie shadowed out.  Shadow of camera on Mary.  Dora has a great smile.

No kidding, but it seemed just when we got there Dora had to answer nature's call.  She rode to the shelter and overlook but there was kybo.  I think there is one at the parking lot east of the trestle.  She said she could hold it.  But as time wore on we realized that it would be sometime before the sun went down and the lights came on.  We rolled west again.


Destination Woodward.  Many bicycles rolling east on this section.  At times I swear there would be hundreds of bikes on The Bridge but people tend not to loiter as long as I do.  I knew there would be restrooms at the trailhead.  Two birds with one stone, Dora and others could rest their bladders and we would take some time off the clock for sunset and darkness. 

Joe called on this part of our trip.  They were at the Flat Tire and would roll west to meet us.  A paceline from the opposite direction came flying down the trail.  One guy said "eyes up" as they passed.  I was hugging the right and working my phone.  If that comment was made to me then he can fook off.  I have thousands and thousands of miles ridden in my biking career.  I can hold the straightest damn line for miles on end.  I an an experten at riding parallel to the white line on a highway for hours.  If I chose to look at my phone while riding, you are safe.  However, I have seen pacelines crash and burn and bust bones and bounce heads and spill blood many, too many times.  If anyone was being a danger to others, they were.  Trails are not for race training.  Then again he may have been warning those in front of him is the draftline.  I was ahead of my group who were most likely riding side by side.  I can get crowded out here.

Coming in to town we could see the new campground north of the trail in Woodward.  Conveniently located right off the trail.  I have reservations about using this facility since 10 homes were removed to make way for it.  But the trailer park was in foreclosure.  I hope those families and people found new homes.  I'd hate to benefit from their loss.  Enough opinionating.

We had Woodward's trailhead to ourselves.  That is a luxury on a bicycle ride.  Mary was getting anxious for the lights.  She has little patience for sitting around on rides.  Other people and groups came to our location.  I always take an interest in seeing who is out and about.  All sorts of bikes.  Lots of jerseys.  I wore a cotton t-shirt from the Flat Tire, cotton shorts and underwear.  it was not a long ride nor a training ride.

Eventually a blinking light belonging to Joe appeared.  After a greeting and the arrival of Donnie and Tom, Joe suggested we go into town for food.  We ate before leaving, they did not.  Mister C's was our next stop.  The menu was limited.  Donnie purchased breaded and fried beef things that looked like potato wedges.  Dora ordered onion rings.  Joe bought us two rounds of beer, Busch Light as I suggested.  Katie, although of age, had a Coke and Dora enjoyed that cola as well.

There was a group of older riders there as well as a few locals.  The riders were in their 60s, a few in their 70s.  All rode bikes to that location and all were riding back to where they started.  Joe said something that I had been telling others for sometime lately but not him.  "When you stop moving you die."  I though of my mother, who is the same age as our tavern companions, laying it the hospital bed unable to sit up let alone walk, telling us that she was fine.  No Mom, you having been killing your self for decades.  This time your inactivity nearly got the job done.

Joe and Tom in Mr. C's.

Donnie ordered two rounds of shots, Fireball as I shouted, and 5 of us did them.  Joe, Mary and Dora abstained.  The barkeep sat at our table and poured them into plastic cups.  Well, if one is going to expose their children to the bicycling subculture, might as well do it right.  Time to go.

Customer service with a smile.  Barkeep sat down with us for the Fireball.  Said she had bad eyes.  Bet she saw us throwing tip money her way.  A very pleasant experience.

The ride back to The Bridge was mostly a downhill coast.  Dora almost started to complain about the darkness and how long this 2.5 miles was taking when The Bridge in all its lighted night glory appeared along the bend.  At that moment she realized why we were there.  there were two recumbents rolling our way, one with a train whistle.  Never know what one will find on a trail.  We rode to the center and enjoyed the sights and the blue glow of those magnificent neon tubes.  Photos and talking.  My daughters had a great time.

I busted out my moscato and shared.  I had it in an aluminum water bottle obtained at the Funhaters Ride two years ago.  It will hold almost an entire bottle.  Photos and video recording.  The moon was almost full but very bright in the cloudless sky.  I bet the super moon would have been awe inspiring from here.

Vessel for the moscato.  Donnie and Joe related how they bumbled into The Saddle the night before and "freaked out".  They laughed when I whipped this out.

Alas, we had to leave.  I know that Mary and I will be back next month.  We plan to skip Webster City during Ragbrai so we can bask under the blue lights.  Where else would one rather be on a bicycle at night?  Then I noticed that cars pulled over on highway 210.  They too wanted to enjoy the view.  Probably jealous that could not get closer.  But I envied them as well.  I bet it looks glorious from their viewpoint.  Another time, another ride.