Saturday, July 26, 2014

3 in a Row, 1000 Mile Months

Victory beer and shot at Stevie C's Dive Bar, Grimes, Iowa

For a mere mortal like myself who does not race or train for racing a 100+ mile month had been a difficult landmark to reach.  For years I aimed for July to be the first month to hit that milestone but always missed the mark.

Strange, with Ragbrai being the centerpiece of the month and the cycling season it should be the month with the most miles.  It used to be.  But 857 miles became the record.  But sometimes I handicapped myself.  Fear of wrecking or ruining a bike before the big ride saw me slacking off riding two weeks before.  And by the time I became a good distance rider my Ragbrai became shorter and shorter.  Last year I had daily work commutes longer than a few days on the Brai.

June 2013 became my first month to see me ride 1000 miles.  This was made possible by RASDak (Ride Across South Dakota) which was responsible for over 400 miles and commuting to work which usually is over 1500 miles per week.

2014 may became the second month to reach and exceed 1000 miles.  1200+.  300 mile weeks helped.  Great weather.

Then I hit 1100+ in June.  2 months in a row.

July 2014 is still alive and recording.  Yesterday on my way to Johnston, Iowa, after work I hit 1000 miles for the month.  3 months in a row.

As for a fourth month this year I do not see it in the cards.  No tours or training for tours.  Lots of bike maintenance to perform.  Need to get two or three winter commuters up and running.  Hot and humid weather expected.  August usually is a low mileage month for me.

Who knows?

Safety Proposal

I can think of two dangerous sections of the Central Iowa trail system that need to be addressed.  One is the new underpass of the Grand Avenue bridge on the Walnut Creek Trail and the other is the tunnel under Beaver Avenue on the Trestle to Trestle Trail.  Both have BLIND spots that pose collision hazards.

The Grand Ave underpass has recently been reconstructed.  Riders make a swooping 90 degree turn around the bridge support.  There is no way to see what or who awaits on the otherside.  I have almost collided with pedestrians and bicyclists here.

The T2T tunnel has a 90 degree turn. In the tunnel it is impossible to see who or what is coming toward the tunnel.  Mary was hit by a roadie here.

Placing large television screens and cameras on the blind spots is probably too expensive but a sensor and warning light would not.  When someone enters the area of concern of the blind spot a the warning light would flash to alert the unsuspecting trail user that there is  a collision risk.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back On the Saddle Again

Yeah, I knew they were closed.  Just stopped for a photo.

A few days off felt like an eternity.  Ride 350 miles in 4 days (87+ daily average) and get home in time for a heat wave.  Monday rode 7 miles to the store and back.  Tuesday's planned single track ride was aborted after 1 mile.  90s with high humidity.  Tuesday it was 82F at 4 am.  Or was that Monday?  Too damn hot and humid.  But the biggest issue is my state of mind.  With our Dakota and Iowa bike tours over I really have nothing to look forward to, nothing to keep in shape for.

So today being the last day of vacation is the last chance for a good size ride.  50 miles.  Good goal.  Makes up, almost, for 2 days of commuting to work.  Weather was good.  Not hot or windy.  Ride to St Marys taking the Great Western Trail.  Pack a snack, fill the bottles and grab the easy riding carbon road bike.  It'll feel like a Ferrari after being on the touring tandem and fat bikes.  Just got to get out of the house.  Easier said than done.

Thoughts of turning around hit before the first mile was completed.  Forward.  Just keep moving.  Keep moving.  At the 18 mile mark I stopped at a lean to, not that lean to, and ate a sandwich and took advantage of the water fountain.  So easy to turn back now.  But only 3.5 miles to go until Martensdale.  Keep moving.

I did not make it to St Marys.  Took a right at the paved road near the top of the first hill.  I had almost 25 miles completed.  Explore this road and hope it leads to something good.  No.  Just a non-incorporated residential neighborhood.  But it gave me the requisite miles and then some.  Stop at the gas station in Martensdale and purchase a tea and fudge round cookie treat.  Caffeine, ginseng, sugar and chocolate.  Eat at the park and head home.

Not my best speed but I never got passed.  Yes, there were other people on the trail, most south of Cumming.  I saw Dallas at the golf course.  Usually see him on the Bill Riley Trail on his hybrid with aerobars during my commute home.  He was trying to get 75 miles in but was "running out of time."

Miles for the sake of miles.  Exercise?  Yeah right.  Hitting a new annual mileage record?  Hell yes.  I think I can reach 10,000 miles this year.  Just keep moving.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Des Moines to Cedars Falls and Back

Marshalltown, Iowa.

Alternative Title: Instead of Ragbrai

When Joe and Donnie's mother took a turn for the worst and they decided to stay home instead of joining us for the ride to Ragbrai Mary and I felt like we should do something different and unique.  We wanted to ride somewhere new.  Time was a premium since Mary had to be back at work on Tuesday.  It was her idea to ride to Cedar Falls and then ride down the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  We could stay at Dave's place.

Before agreeing to this I checked my map.  The same map that had our 2014 Ragbrai plans.  It looked very reasonable.  A two day journey.  Although graduating from the University of Northern Iowa, we had only scratched the surface of the CVNT.  Our very first bicycle camping trip was from Cedar Falls to McFarland Park outside of La Porte City over 20 years ago,  We have done the Fools Ride before but that was only 12 miles of this 54 mile long trail.  Skipping Ragbrai gave us an opportunity to explore the rest of the trail.  Also, there were several other trails we could visit which was a bonus since most of these trails we would normally never ride since they are out of our range and not destination trails.  Some texting and phone calls to Dave secured arrangements for Friday night, our target for the second day of riding.

The Bike

1991 Fisher Gemini MTB tandem.  Now in touring mode.  We met Gary and showed him a photo of our bike and his eyes lit up.  He too replaced the flat bars with drop bars.

Both of our touring bikes are out of commission at the moment.  One needing new wheels and the other much more.  The Gary Fisher Gemini tandem was ready to go.  Add panniers and load up!  It has served us well over the years, a veteran of many Ragbrai and self contained rides.

The People we Encountered

I have to say that this was the most refreshing ride in along time terms of the people we met.  It was good to be out of the metro.  The response to the tandem brought back memories and feelings from the 90s when the bike was new and new to us and tandems we not as common as they are now.  "Nice bike!  Kewl bike!ect.  Children turned around and some stuck their heads out car windows to get a better look.  People asked how it worked.  Other people asked about the trails.  An older man in Baxter, looked like a farmer who would give a rat's behind about bikes asked us about the trail and complained about the failure to the State to give promised matching funds for repairs needed between Mingo and Ira.  Said he went to the meeting about it.  Others asked us where we were going, where we started.  But the main questions was, "you do the Ragbrai?"  That ride still holds magic for people.  People were helpful, mostly, when we asked for directions or locations.  Some have no clue.  "Have not been to that town for 20 years.  It was 15 miles away.  No one honked, shouted, threw stuff or tried to kill us when we were on the road.

 Day One Des Moines to Beaman, Iowa 100.3 Miles

Altoona Library

We left on Thursday morning and headed to the Chichaqua Nature Trail.  Another first, riding to that trail from home by ourselves.  The trail head is almost 20 miles from our house.  To get there we rode on the Gay Lea Wilson Trail from Scott Ave to Altoona.  We stopped at Hy Vee for breakfast.  Simple way to get to the CNT--"Take 1st St to 1st St and a left at the cemetery.  Follow this road over the freeway and do not cross the highway to the Wooden Nickle.  When you reach double affinity (88th St) look to the left and the trailhead you should see."   Then 20 miles of paved trail to the end in Baxter.  We refueled at the Country Corner.

Outside Clark's Bar, Melbourne, Iowa.  the night before 81 bicycles were here.  notice the slack in the idler chain.  I forgot to bring the spanner to adjust.

Melbourne was the next town.  we took F17 out of Baxter then the first left, S62.  Stopped at Clark's Bar and used the restrooms and drank a beer.  Melbourne is the west end of the Iowa 330 Trail which starts in Marshalltown.  Every Wednesday riders from that town ride to his bar.  The previous night he counted 81 bikes!  To show his appreciation for their business he grilled for them.

The 330 Trail is not a destination trail.  It is a means to an end.  It is a safe path along highway 330 and highway 30.  Nearly 20 miles in distance it is marked every half mile for your knowledge and 911 help.  The trail goes up and down a lot which helps break up the monotony of riding parallel a four lane highway.  The trail is dressed with wild flowers and birds.  Red Winged Blackbirds are plentiful and possess the ability to hover over moving bicycles and talk to the riders.  Even the females were out.

Apparently, the loaded bike weighed more than 25Kg.  Got $70 miles out of the kickstand.  A little better than $1 per mile.

This trail merges with Marshalltown trails, namely the Linn Creek Trail system which brings riders into the heart of town and can lead them to the north end of town on highway 14.  We had to stray off trail to Wal Mart to purchase tent poles (I left them at home) and to La Porta Mexican Restaurant.  This added to our mileage.

Beaman Tap, Beaman, Iowa.  nice and clean bar.  Told they served great food.

Taking 14 for a mile north out of town we turned at the first right and headed to Green Mountain, Iowa, on T29.  Rolling past this town we settled into Beaman, Iowa.  The Beaman Tap offers food and beer but we were still full so we rolled west to Conrad, 2 miles, and hit the Casey's.  Ice, pizza and a 6 pack of Rolling Rock tall boys.  It was cheaper than Busch Light 12oz cans.  It was in Conrad that we visited the Comet Trail and rode it past Beaman to where the final down tree stopped us.

Conrad, Iowa

The trail was victim to a bad storm on a Monday and many trees fell down.  The crushed limestone surface was littered with branches and sticks.  That was a shame because it was a nice trail with many benches and monuments.  Unfortunately, millions of mosquitos.  we worked our way back to Beaman and circled the town twice to officially complete the century before setting up camp in the Discovery Garden's gazebo.  We slept on lawn furniture and thus saved ourselves from deploying the tent and packing it up the next day.  That night we stopped at the tap and order two Broad Street Brewing Co 175 beers for $5.75,  Local  craft beer from Reinbeck, Iowa,  cheap!  I think Beaman will be the stopping point for future rides.  Beaman would make a great meeting place for those riding from Cedar Falls.

The gazebo in Beaman's Discover Gardens.  we had electricity, padded patio furniture and a roof over our heads.  Water was available across the street.
The statute was broken before we arrived.
A century for the first day.  Rolling Rock tall boys became our "official" bike beer as it was cheaper than Busch Light.

Day Two Beaman to La Porte City  81.8 Miles

Trailhead in Grundy Center.

In the morning we headed north to Grundy Center.  Mary remembered the western Dressing bull that stood outside the dressing plant so we detoured that way for the photo opportunity.  Unfortunately for us, Richelieu Foods bought out western many years ago and the bull was not sold in the divorce.  On the plus side, as the Casey's General Store cashier promised, the trailhead for the Pioneer Trail was near the Richelieu plant so not a complete time waste.  The Pioneer Trail is a non-paved trail that runs from Holland, Iowa, to Reinbeck.  Grundy Center was in the middle.  Seeing only one way to go we took to the trail.  we encountered 3 pedestrians and saw several bike tracks.  The end of the trail placed us in perfect position to travel north and east to Dike, Iowa, the last town before Cedar Falls.

Dike, Iowa

Outside of Dike a horrible crack in the road before a bridge caused a bracket for a front pannier to come loose and require a repair.  It also required me to drink a Rolling Rock.  This stopped caused us to miss dave by 5 minutes.  In addition, we stopped to use a restroom and to take a photo of the creamery.  We headed north out of Dike on T55 and then right on 130th until we hit Union Rd.  Cedar Falls had really grown since the 20+ years I had left and I did not recognize it.  But we found Leslie at Dave's apartment and she greeted us with open arms.

Cedar Falls--The Vortex

Cedar Falls trails had plenty of map kiosks.  Just one trail closure almost ruined the day.

8 hour stay.  Shower, pizza and nap.  I drank a lot of water.  We could have spent the night but we got there about 11:45 am.  by 6 we were ready to roll.  Out the door at 7 pm with the remains of the pizza and a 6 pack of Blue Moon.  Thank you Dave and Leslie.  Time for what I was looking forward to.  A nice northern sweep of the CedarLoo trail system with an easy connection to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. "the best laid plans.."   The growth of bicycle trails in the Cedar Falls has been phenomenal since we left in 1991.  We knew that the CVNT was connected to these trails.  At the start it went well.  We headed down town.  Reloaded on ice and hit ATMs.  Got to the trails with ease.  Then it fell apart.
Near a baseball park in Waterloo.  Only one animal.  Bummer.

Despite the many kiosks at the beginning of this portion of the ride and despite asking locals which was the best way to go, north or through downtown Waterloo, we lost a lot of time.  After George Wyth State Park the trails lead to the Cedar River.  Lots of stops, gates, dismounts, fishing people to avoid and then the TRAIL CLOSED sign.  the drunken man said we would not make it through on "that bike."  He was right.  Fencing from one end of the horizon to the other.  It was dark now anyway.  Signs warning us that we would be prosecuted for trespassing and that cameras were recording us.  We back tracked to the first road and took to the streets.  Then the streets were closed so we had to detour again.  Eventually we found Evansdale, Iowa, home of the beginning of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  I think it took us 3 hours to get here.

Gazebo #2, La porte City, Iowa, along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.  We had electricity for our phones.  water and a restroom were available at the ballpark near by.

From the trailhead to La Porte City it was 10 miles.  10 miles of dodging sticks on the ground and low hanging branches.  The trailhead in Gilbertville was our only break on the trail.  Well deserved beer was consumed.  The off to la Porte City where we stopped at the gazebo, ate the last of the pizza and drank the last of the Blue Moon and pitched the tent.  We had electricity to charge the phones.  It was not until morning that we found the nearby restrooms and water source.

Day 3 La Porte City to Gladbrook, Iowa  81.4 Miles

The trails here have lots of memorials.
Between La Porte City and Brandon, Iowa, there is an old stone quarry.  Don't know if this was part of it.  Like to camp here sometime.

The plan was to take the trail all the way to Cedar Rapids and hang a right to work our way to Vinton and ride the Old Creamery Nature Trail to Dysart.  But after reaching Urbana and getting there too early for food it was decided to take highways to Vinton.  Not that the CVNT was bad, it was just slow going.  The tandem had tires meant for paved surfaces.  And we knew nothing about Center Point, the next town on the trail.  We covered over 30 miles of the trail, much of it new to us.  Save the rest for later.

A friendly couple on their way to the VA Hospital talked top us in Urbana, Iowa.  He was going to have a triple bypass.  I hope he does well.  He is an air force vet who served in Viet Nam.  She was kind enough to take our photo.

This was the start of it all, a trail filled with blood sport and pain., I remember it all.
my favorite part of the trail.  After this it got rough, real rough.  Our other tandem would not have made it.  Our single touring bikes would have failed.  Our $200-250 Mongoose fat bikes would have excelled here.  2 hours of hell.

The Old Creamery Nature Trail is a limestone surfaced trail.  14 miles in distance it goes through Garrison and ends in dysart.  Not having learned our lesson from the previous trails we took it anyway.  It must have taken us 2 hours.  Sometimes I think that the trail was not officially completed.  It appears as if massive amount of rain has nowhere to go and so it washes away the trail surface.  The county comes out to regrade it and dump rock and sand.  the bike struggled to get through it.  We never wrecked or wiped out but we had a helluva workout and were in full sweat.  Could never find a clean line.  Our cheap Mongoose fatbikes would have kicked ass here.  I tried telling Mary that we needed a fatbike tandem but she said wider tires would do the job.  The Fisher, after all, is a mountain bike and could hold 3" tires.  Somehow we made it and emerged worn out and exhausted in front of a Casey's.  Gatorade, ice for the cooler and restrooms.

Not shown are the cow, panther and bear.  Dysart, Iowa.

Highway 8 to Gladbrook was much faster.  We had to share a stretch of it with highway 63 but no one honked or yelled or tried to kill us.  No where to eat in Gladbrook so we settled for a large pepperoni pizza form, guess where, Casey's for $10.  Used the church across the street for our picnic.  Here someone ratted us out and we had a "visit" from the same lady we saw south of Beaman the day before when we stopped to consult the map.  Felt strange, like the same network of civilian watchers from the movie Hot Fuzz.  Could have been a coincidence.

The Lord provided this place for our dining pleasure.  Electricity available too! UMC, Gladbrook, Iowa.

Union Grove State Park is located 5 miles south of Gladbrook.  As usual, there is a steep hill before the turn to the campground.  We moaned and chugged up it.  81 miles today.  The $12 fee was worth it for a shower and access to water.  we were too tired to do anything else but to finish the pizza, drink a few beers, set up camp and shower.

On the way to Union Grove State Park.
Last campsite

Day 4 The Ride Home 85.4 Miles

Mary's new bike, Marshalltown, Iowa.

The park is located close to the same roads we took out of Marshalltown which made the 12 or so miles to town that much faster.  We needed food. Doo Dah's Diner on E Main St fit the bill.  I had the everything Omelet, coffee and a Mountain Dew and Mary had the Denver Omelet and a Pepsi.  $20.  Filling.  Kept us going for ours. Amen we did want another convenience store visit nor head south past the trails to the wal-Mart corporate business section of town for a big chain breakfast.   Finding the trail was easy, just head to the river and find the YMCA/YWCA.  Back on 330 trail again.

Breakfast at Doo Dah's Diner.  Open 6 to 12 on Sundays.  Best meal we had.

Now the south wind was hurting us.  17 to 20 mph.  And we were heading west and south.  But the crosswind did keep us cool.  We encountered about a dozen cyclists on our way to Melbourne.  There is a Phillips 66 station on the highway.  The easiest way to access it is to cut through the grass in front and cross the highway.  we were luck and did not have to wait in the middle at any time.

The sign said 12 miles and it felt like 50.  The hills seemed to have grown since Thursday and the wind never let up.  We had to pedal downhill.  Never could get any speed.  Crawled up the hills.  After 9 miles we were able to turn and the road leveled off and the cross breeze felt good.  the gas station in Baxter felt like home.  Quart of Gatorade, a hamburger and a liter of water for each water bottle.  Mary and I were drinking water like no others.  10 miles per bottle it seemed.  The tree coverage of the Chichaqua Trail was a relief from the wind.  To our dismay, the Greencastle Tavern in Mingo, formerly Ozzie's was closed.  it was Sunday afternoon.  we napped on the picnic tables and I actually dreamt.

Home trail.

That nap did us good.  Recharged we were able to reach the end of the trail in respectable time.  I am not sure which trail had more bikers, 330 or Chichaqua, but the latter had more pedestrians.  Always good to see people.  Our last major stop was in Altoona at a Kum & Go.  The front wheel was making a noise and was a bit out of true.  Oh, well, I have a new set at home waiting.

The Gay Lea Wilson Trail was our best trail of the day.  The best trail all ride IMHO.  We had speed.  We could relax as we were almost home.  just the industrial section of the SE Bottoms to deal with and all the street repair and detours.  Normally we'd take Scott Ave but Scott Ave is under major reconstruction is many places so we got on Maury and after crossing SE 14th and reaching Pete Crivaro Park we heard for the last time "NICE BIKE!!"  John Brooks, the butcher.  I grabbed my flask and told him to take the shot and shut the fuck up!  He was the first person we saw that we knew since Leslie on Friday.  And a friend too!  Home at last.  Hit the remains of the East River Trail and turn left to Little Italy.  85.4 miles.

Fritz was glad to see us!

348 miles in 4 days.  Pretty damn good.  1 century out of it.  Numerous trails that we visited for the first time.  Proving we could ride to Cedar Falls and back was an achievement we are proud of.  Next time faster!

The map.

Ragbrai Stats Personal

Many people were commenting that this year's edition of The Ragbrai was a bit short on daily mileage.  So in an effort to understand their complaints I looked back through my bicycle log to compare previous years that I participated in The Ragbrai.  Please remember that I have not "officially" ridden since perhaps 2000.  I have not officially been totally on route since perhaps 2005.  For me and many of my friends "The Ragbrai" is mainly riding self contained (bagging/touring) in Iowa for several days in a succession away from home and during the or near the last full week of July.

Unfortunately, I do not have mileage history for 1991 through 1995, 1997-1999 (possibly the last year I had a wrist band), 2001, 2003 through 2006.  Of those missing years I know that only in 1993 did I not do any of the ride.  1991 was my first.  1992 was Mary's first.  I have photos of many of the missing years.

1996 453.8 7 days 64.82
2000 386.1    6 days 64.35
2002 398.7 6 days 66.45
2007 325.7 5 days 65.14
2008 427.1 7 days 61.01
2009 did not ride
2010 444.5 7 days 63.5
2011 414.8 7 days 59.25
2012 301.6 5 days  60.32
2013 269.5 6 days 44.91
2014 348.9 4 days 87.22

Please note that in 2014 Mary and rode toward the northeast on our own and unsupported except for an 8 hour layover in Cedar Falls and totally avoided The Ragbrai.

An interesting comparison is with my ventures into South Dakota.  In 2012 we rode Tour de Kota.  However, TdK folded after that and veterans of the ride created RASDak, Ride Across South Dakota, for their pleasure.  TdK was a 6 day loop in 2012 not a border to border tour.

2012 439.2 6 days 73.2
2013 446.5 6 days 74.41
2014 515.1 7 days 73.58

Dropping lows and highs for The Ragbrai, I average 63.1 miles per day.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Cheap Bike Saturday

Taking a photo of a watermelon near the river.

Taking a break from serious riding I spent yesterday gathering photos for Bicycle Ride & Seek, a game we play on FaceBook.  July's Challenge seems a bit heavy on my fast bikes so I used my less expensive and more camera friendly bicycles for the remaining photos.  I rode over 12 miles on these fine machines.

The 1977 Raleigh Grand Prix Mixte

I found this at Wal-Mart.  Not inside.  On the bike rack literally rotting.  Tires where flat and shredded off.  It was there a few months.  I gave it time and then picked up with the Burley trailer and brought it home.  Originally, it was equipped with drop bars for a women's racing bike.  After a season or a few rides I decided to replace those bars for something more comfortable.  Then my son rode it off a curb and destroyed the rear wheel.  So another year in the shed before I replaced the 5-speed rear wheel with a 6-speed 27" wheel.  It has Raleigh derailleurs with shifters on the downtubes.  The front shifts the opposite way a "normal" or latest shifters move.  Wierd?  Quick release hubs.  I use it for casual riding, neighborhood trips.  I once rode it to Cumming with Mary.  I also used it on the NBB Cruiser Century in 2013.

At Iowa's Capital Building.  Photo of a water fountain.
Photo of an elevator.  red thing is a Dora the Explorer toy.
Photo of a POTUS name that is something other than a street sign.  Lincoln with his son on the Capital grounds.

Sears Women's Bike

This bike was a garage sale find.  $15 I think.  All I had to do was to air up the tires.  Long term project.  I once rode it to Tacopocalypse.  It has been sitting outside by my shed.  Yesterday was it's first voyage in 2014.

Rose Manor on Scott Ave.  Needed a photo of a green door.  Originally,, had photographed the raleigh in front of the Continental for 3 green doors but the photo was crap, too much flash.
The Watermelon Series.  Part of the July Challenge was to take a picture of a bike and watermelon by a lake or river.  I planned to slice the melon up but the river area is too icky right now.
Flood mud.

Mongoose Dolomite

To complete Cheap Bike Saturday I rode my most expensive cheap bike.  I paid $225 for this machine.  New and free shipping.  I took it out at night on a quest for food.  No photo of that ride exists so I used the Lorax shot.

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.