Friday, June 25, 2021

The Best Hottest Dam Bike Ride RASDAK 2021

We returned to South Dakota for our fifth adventure across this great state.  This ride was slated for 2020 but the Covid-19 pandemic forced a one year delay.  I am surprised that the ride was held this year.  Salute to all those that did their part in fighting that dreaded illness, from healthcare workers, the scientists that developed the vaccines, those that wore masks and practiced social distancing and those that stepped forward to get their vaccination.  Life is returning to normal.  Time for the Best Hottest Dam Bike Ride!!  Pollock, SD, to Vermillion, SD, along the Mighty Missouri River.

So what is RASDAK?  Ride across South Dakota.  From the ashes of TdK  (Tour Dakota) cyclists from this state created a new bicycle ride to showcase South Dakota.  Kassey Abbott is the CIC.  This ride is extremely well organized.  Riders will have maps, cue sheets both paper and electronic, know where they will be staying and know the meal options.  SAG service to schlep their luggage and ensure the safety of riders plus bike shop support on the road and camp everyday and night.  The route is well marked and rest/water/food stops are on the map.  The sparsely populated conditions of this state make such events challenging and the organizers did an excellent job making it the best ride possible.

The Bikes

Most of the bicycles brought for RASDAK are road bikes: skinny tires and fast. The ride averages 70 miles per day and the wind and heat generally pick up around noon making the afternoons hot and windy.  The lack of services on some days makes a fast bike desirable.  However there are exceptions.  The trend of gravel bikes and go anywhere road bikes have slowly crept in over the years.  No fully bagged touring or bike packing bikes on this years ride.  There was a gentleman on one of the last American built Trek 520s sans bags and front rack.  Likes the ride of steel.  One tandem this year.  Mary and I will always be remembered as the "tandem couple" for the year we brought ours.  Maybe next time.  Recumbents, there always are a few, mostly Bacchettas.   This year a front wheel drive 'bent as on the route.  I have never seen one before.  Trike made an appearance in 2019 but for this year a Catrike ridden by Dave Sundae was out on the days he did not drive a SAG vehicle.  E-bikes made an appearance, one for the overnight coordinator and one ridden daily.  We discussed E-bikes one day and the consensus was that sure, great for the hills but who wants to carry that extra weight for 100 miles?

Ruth and her Domane at the finish.  There were quite a few Domanes on this ride.  Endurance bike that is a lot more comfortable than the standard road bike.  Trek's response to the Specialized Roubaix and racing on cobblestones in France.  Perfect for South Dakota roads.

Dave and Rose's Santana Sovereign.  They are from Clive, IA, part of my metro.  They inspired me to get our fast tandem back on the road.  Just needs a front brake pad (already purchased) and new tires ( already purchased) and a good cleaning.

High tech recumbent.  Front wheel drive.  Saves a mile of chain.

Late 80s early 90s vintage MTB.  Got to admire the rider.


Loaded up!  I suppose there is a better way but the CR-V holds both bikes and all our gear (two bags each).  Did not need to take the wheels off the bikes.  We can carry the tandem in here sans wheels and the wheels and bags would be along the sides of that bike.

At the Varsity in Vermillion.  Thank you for the photo Joe.

Friday and Saturday were traveling days ala high speed.  Guess Sunday through Saturday would be traveling days, too, but at bicycle speed.  We loaded up our RD1 and left Des Moines Friday morning and drove to Vermillion where we would unload our bicycles and gear onto two trucks, one for bikes and the other for luggage, and then ourselves on half full motor coaches for the 6 hour drive to Pollock.  But that would begin on Saturday morning.  First we had to celebrate.  Stepping out of the vehicle we were cold cocked by the heat.  100*F said the sign on the bank.  The team was gathering heat be dammed, well three of us: Joe, Mary and I.  A beer at the Varsity Lounge, check into the motel and then the 23 mile drive to Yankton to meet friends at the 1872 Saloon.

The former mill that now houses the 1872 Saloon.

Outside the Black Orchid.

Rick and Pam

After dinner at The Rivers Edge, formerly The Landing, Rick, Pam, Mike, Jeanie, Bruce and maybe a few others from Team Road Booty, memory fades quickly, met us at the 1872 for libations, karaoke and a pub crawl: Backspace Brewery, The Black Orchid.  The plan was to hit another two places including the Ice House (where you get to smash the bottles underneath the place) but a member of Mary's Heroes could not hang.  No names here but not me or Mary.  Not quite the party scene from Das Boot but a stellar effort nonetheless.  Thank you Mary for cutting back and becoming the designated driver.  The 6 hour bus ride would be the rehydration and recovery portion of the pre-ride.  Bring plenty of water and Gatorade.  Purchase more whenever the bus stopped.  Enjoy the a/c.  We were supposed to wear masks during this but since everyone had their shots and the bus was at half capacity the requirement was dropped.  An eternity later we arrived in Pollock.  It was 100*F.

The original town of Pollock sits at the bottom of the lake that is to the east of this historical marker.  The good citizens then relocated their homes and businesses to the higher ground where it sits today to avoid the water that the dam would allow to pool.

Our destination was the community center.  We opted to sleep in our tents.  Fortunately the humidity was low so once the Sun set it cooled off.  The constant 20 mph wind was our fan.  Dinner was provided in the gymnasium, the center was a former school.  We also visited the local watering hole to see more friends.  

Many of us are veterans of this ride and it was great to reconnect.  The majority of the 227 (the count I heard) riders are from South Dakota especially the Sioux Falls area.  Many also participated in the now defunct TdK.  Mary's Heroes rode the last ever TDK in 2012.  A lot of these people are farmers so the conversation in the circle of chairs for beer drinking wafted from bicycles to agriculture.  "First step in retiring is getting rid of the livestock.  Hate getting to this ride and getting that phone call "Kraig, your fence broke and some of the cows are out."

 Pollock To Mobridge 54 Miles


Added another state to the list of states I have bicycled.

Looking at North Dakota from the safety of South Dakota.  That stone weighs 800 lbs.

Mary and I on the border.

At 5 am there was the beauty of lighting and the rumble of thunder north of us and far away to enjoy while we awoke.  No rain fly on the tent.  I prefer looking at the stars and maximum airflow.  Nothing to fear according to radar but I did notice a few drops.  Change into our kit, strike the campsite, load luggage onto the truck and roll.  Head north.  Wait, I thought we were riding southeast?  Yes, but Pollock is 9 miles from the North Dakota border.  There are 800 lb stone markers every half mile along that border, the only state line thus marked.  A must see.  Plus this would most likely be the only opportunity to pedal a bicycle in North Dakota.  How many people can say that they did??

It was a nice 9 mile ride to that state.  The sunrise looked like a giant orange eye underneath an eyelid made of clouds.  However, I was too busy keeping up with others to take the opportunity to photograph this.  Once the border was reached I pedaled on a bit to be sure to ensure that I did ride in North Dakota.  The border stones were a bit disappointing.  We were expecting something about the size of a small car forgetting that rocks are as dense as our skulls.  Still an interesting stop. Afterwards we returned to the community center for breakfast.

It was a windy day, 26 mph and gusts up to 40 mph (felt like that whenever a broadsiding crosswind hit) with hills but the winds favored us at times.  But it was a short ride if the 18 to ND and back were substracted.  Many of us exceeded 40 mph on the hills.  One woman hit 50 mph.  Me, the downhill lover, I was over 40 mph on four occasions this day.  44 mph was my best for the day and subsequently the week and for the bike.  I cannot recall a day in which I have more than one 40+ let alone two but 4, unbelievable!  I was in heaven!!!  Spirits were high!  Little did I realize that this would be the best day of riding until Friday.

School mascot in Mobridge.

"Walleye up" statue near the river in Mobridge.  By John Lopez who also did the tiger at the school.

The view of the Missouri from the bike trail.

Mobridge was a fun overnight.  Camp was set outside the school and we explored town after showering.  Early enough for a cheap lunch we filled ourselves at Taco Johns.  Great WIFI there!  Afterwards we visited the Walleye Up statue on the riverside bicycle trail.  The river is so beautiful and clean looking here.  Someone said something about the land near the river is for grazing only to prevent soil erosion from going downstream.  Whatever the reason it is blue and green much like some oceanside seashore resort advertisement.  The trail is short but enjoyable.  Stopped at a grocery store for forgotten supplies before returning to the school we hooked up Joe and went to the Moose Lodge for dinner.  A six pack of tallboys was acquired from a convenience store later before returning to the river's trailside trail for another view of the Missouri.  Back to the school and charging the phones and sleep.

Would make a nice city bike with a little bit of effort.  Obviously stolen and left in mosquito infested weeds.  I pulled it out.  Huffy Cranbrook.

Nice sheltered table.

  Mobridge to Gettysburg

"And the Birds Flew Backwards"

Pickett's Charge may not have happened here but the ride into the Sun took place on the way to this town.

Lost dreams...

The angry robot hanging on Mary's bike with a whip in its hand.

I stared at this tree for what seemed like an eternity from two hills away at least.  On top of a hill.  One of the few trees in South Dakota.  I knew if I could reach it I would live.

"I'm dressed like a road beacon on my way to Valhalla breakfast.  And everything hurts."--Mark E Smith, The Fall, Everything Hurtz

Fitting song for a day like today.  The never ending cycle in Valhalla and bicycle tours.  True, those battles did not take place here but the riders eat breakfast and battle the wind all day.  30 to 40 mph head and crosswinds all day.  By 10 am the thermostat dialed it up and by the end of the day it was 100*F.  One can train for hills.  One can trail for wind to a certain extent.  But one needs luck or relocation to train for heat or all three.  Training for the three before the first full week of June is very difficult.  Here we were.  Many people I talked to opted to SAG at the 21 mile stop.  This is Selby at the Shorty's One Stop gas station.  Those were the best miles.  From there it was an endurance test.  Keep moving from one rest stop to another.  Keep spirits high.  Stay hydrated.  Reapply sunscreen (a big failure of mine as I noticed late into the day that my arms were matching my top tube).  17 miles later we were at a water stop sponsored by the Campbell and Walworth Co 4-H group.  4-H groups were a very important sponsor of water and snack breaks.  One can ride all day across South Dakota without finding a convenience store or restaurant.  Tim Fairchild rode his fatbike up to a group of cyclists and told us to stop lollygaggin' around "You think it was 120 degrees," I answered back, "Can't be more than 114 degrees..."  He said I was the first to get the Blazing Saddles reference.  He also said that the beer would taste all the more better tonight.  He was right.

The 15 mile ride into Hoven was the worst.  The oven was on broil.  No shade for miles and miles.  Tim had pulled over into an approach.  Sitting as if in meditation I pondered what he was doing until I saw the phone in his lap.  Mary and I were riding with Matt Cook at the time.  We would pull off the road from time to time to rest and drink.  2 minutes off the bike could do wonders and sometimes it was too dangerous to drink while riding because the wind potentially could blow one over if riding with one hand.  Then out of nowhere, riding in the opposite direction, Dana Fairchild, Tim's brother and driver of their RV, is in the other lane on a proper road bike.  Not long after that Tim catches up with us.  "Not only do riders lose weight on rides like this but bikes do as well."  He later told us that Dana would meet him like this daily and he ended up getting quite a few miles.

Many towns in South Dakota have these.  This one is in Hoven.

Matt Cook

A sign appeared announcing that Gettysburg was 16 miles away.  Matt's brain was faster than mine, "that cuts off 15 miles."  But it was loose gravel of unknowns and off route and unsupported and the fact it was between two farm fields I doubt any shade would be available.  The 700x30 tires Mary and my bikes had would not cut it.  Matt's Trek 920 could but he stayed with us.  Eventually we made it to town.  I found  the bus and asked Mike if we could SAG.  He said we could so I went to the bus and looked for the beer Joe placed on the bus for us.  Could not be found so I had one of theirs before purchasing a 18 pack of Busch Light for the bus.  Mary had reservations and thought it would be quicker to ride on since the bus was waiting for others.  I felt like I rallied and got off, returned to the gas station, bought a ham sandwich and a Gatorade and choked it down hoping it contained the strength I needed for the remaining 16 or so miles.  The last stop before leaving Hoven was at St Anthony's Church, the "Cathedral on the Prairie."  Photos and a/c.  A gentleman asked me to take his photo.  A few days later I discovered that he was a priest that signed up for RASDAK.  Not only did he ride every day but he held Mass everyday at 5pm.  I wish I would have made the effort to attend but usually at 5 pm I am busy setting up the tent, showering or refueling.

"Wear Your Favorite RASDAK Jersey Day"

The main altar and tabernacle.

St Joseph holds Jesus.  St Anthony to the left.

St Mary and what I believe to be a Czech version of a young Jesus.

6 miles later I was out of steam and POed that I let her talk me out of the SAG.  True, there was the promise of a tailwind from Lebanon to Gettysburg but the wind seemed to change directions and eliminated that.  Pam and Rick passed me and offered to let me draft but I was not up for that and let them pull ahead.  Soon we saw Gyle driving the Econoline pulling a trailer, official SAG vehicle.  I wanted a cold bottle of water but also got in the van and called it day.  60+ miles completed.  Probably the last two to SAG. 

Gettysburg, SD, the place were the battle wasn't, home of the Battlers.  We stayed at the high school.  Showers, food, a/c, all the needs filled.  Our tent was pitched across the street in a corner of a park underneath shade trees with a moat to protect us from intruders.  The previous night our campsite was invaded by squatters.  The walk was worth it and we did have modern restroom nearby which was fortunate because the school was locked at night and someone name Kraig may have tried to break in.  

After showers and dinner Mary and rode into town in search of aloe since my failure to apply sunscreen had my arms matching the color of my bike's top tube.  Also DEET because my bottle is in the panniers of my barely ridden touring bike and batteries for Mary's light.  We opted to bring our NiteRider Mako lights instead of the Lumina because the former use AA's and thus no need to plug them in.  Also, the Mako's are less expensive so replacing them would not hurt as much.  Both lights use the same mount.  The gentleman at the Dollar General asked us if we were with the bike ride.  Good to let the locals know that we were and share our wealth.

It was so hot on the way to Gettysburg that the beer not in the cooler exploded.  Nobody claimed the six of Keystone Light.  Who bought it, it's a mystery.

Tonight's entertainment.

Photo of Bruce's head!

The best evening of the week occurred that night due to serendipity.  Since the consumption of alcohol is illegal on school grounds, Mike parked the bus across from the school in front of two houses.  Rick asked one home owners if he could plug the bus in since the generator would be very loud and the other home owner jumped in and said he'd be glad to do this.  He was in his 80s, tall and skinny.  That evening he came over to the bus with a banjo and guitar and a song book, chair and stool and played for us.  "I'd rather play in front of people than inside by myself," he said.  This we enjoyed as the sun set with a red glow.  The pain of the day now a blurred memory.  People were requesting Johnny Cash but his style reminded Kinky Freidman, not the vulgar witty lyrical style rather his folk musical style.  Think the Ballad of Ira Hayes would have been appropriate but I kept requests to myself.  Of all he played two stand out.  Orphan Train, a song about people in NYC giving away their children to a train to ship them across the US in an attempt to be adopted for a better life.  The other was his last, So Long, Been Good to Know You.  He then bowed and said good night.  Two minutes later the local policeman pulled up and said that the bus was parked on the street and that was against the law. He then said he wanted to go home to sleep and if orange road hazard reflectors were placed behind the bus he'd let it slide.  The bus had two.

Gettysburg To Pierre:  Stormin' the Capitol

"Because I am an idiot."

Trucks at the turn past Bob's Bait Shop.

After topping a hill the dam north of Pierre is in view.  There was a parasail in the sky down below.

The day started with a 16 mile ride with tailwind west to Bob's Bait Shop and Convenience Store.  It was nice to have this wind for a change.  Speaking of the wind, an email was sent out during our stay in Gettysburg detailing SAG opportunities for those not wanting to battle the forecasted winds.  Yes, another windy hot day for us.  But 16 miles of tailwind.  Other then the bliss of the jet stream push was a rider asking "what the hell was that boat doing out here?  No for sale sign or anything."  I must have missed it.  The scenery was cropland.  But it is South Dakota and dreams are often broken and abandoned in the vast emptiness.  I pondered if the USSR/Russian space agency ever had contingency plans to land their spacecraft here in the flat featureless and scarcely populated regions of this state.  As for abandoned boats, theft or broken vehicle or trailer.

After Bob's Bait Shop the route turned south into the wind.  Mary immediately dropped me when I stopped to photograph some old cars set up at the turn. Next stop 20 miles but I forget where I was on miles when I stopped at a road where Berry Fast Cycles was stationed.  This is a mobile bike shop from Pierre with a Trek account.  His name is Berry and his wife's maiden name was Fast.  He was not official for RASDAK and was not to sell services and products but he offered water and given the severity of the heat was encouraged to help.  Pierre would be his last night.  As I pulled up desiring an ice cold bottle of water which I saw him pass out earlier he was just setting up.  "Water, whiskey and energy snacks."  Sure enough, that orange plastic shooter of Fire Ball was chilling next to the water.  BINGO!!  Time to lighten my bike.  "Watch this," I told him as I removed the storage door on the Domane's downtube and produced a bottle of watermelon vodka and proceeded to neck it.  It went well with the Cliff Bar watermelon gels he gave me.  He was so amused he took a photo of the vodka in the Trek's tool compartment.  One more hill to lunch.  Big respect to Dave Sundae for riding his trike up that bastard.  It was the steepest hill thus far and the shoulder was shite with rumbles.

Open liquor cabinet.  Time for a shot!

Lunch was at the Oahe Speedway.  Shredded BBQ pork sandwiches and sides.  Drink and refill bottles.  This may have been my last big lunch for the week.  Less food more often became my method.  But it was a great lunch, proceeds for a group trip to Mexico.  Here I finally met Mike Ramirez the rider who crashed at the bottom of a 40 mph hill on this ride in 2019.  He was airlifted out.  I remember him because he rides a fabulous blue and purple gleamed S-Works road bike and is from Des Moines.  I was glad he returned and his bike, too.  He said he does not remember the crash.

Back on the 1804 Highway, named after Lewis and Clarke, we encountered the beautiful Missouri River again after climbing several steep hills.  Someone was in the sky over the water in a parasail and we stopped at the Oahe dam and met up with 4 members of Road Booty and the priest. The seven of us were the last riders of the day.  Crossing the dam we enjoyed the view and eventually reached the outskirts of town.  Jim Mure was waiting with the SAG wagon.  Cold water and the opportunity to avoid the BS of riding through town.  Why not?  I was weary of tandem rock trucks spraying us with sand and rock every time they passed.  IIRC we already had 70 miles under our saddles.  Our friends took the trail into town after I suggested it.  Our faster friends, Joe, Jeff, Rich and a few others took the same trail and stopped to cool off their feet in the water.  Here the water is pumped underneath the dam and is colder that the water upstream.  I believe those small Shimano SPD pedals combined with the pavement tempt of 140*F causes hot feet and pain.  No issues of that sort with my iSSi pedals.

At last, Pierre, South Dakota.  Our campsite was on the football field of the local high school just below the Capitol building.  The Governors is the name of the school's teams and Governors Guests was the wifi.  Below us was the older business district and we could see both of our banks.  Dinner was provided by Beck's Chevrolet and Cadillac.  Free pizza and beer, fruit and dessert.  It was a feast and we were not shy.  Shuttle service was provided.  Before bedtime I checked the radar.  Thin lines of rain were heading north east of Pierre.  I felt safe and like most I did not not put up the rain fly.  The person next to us slept in a hammock.

About 210 am I became aware that we were surrounded by thunder and lightning.  The wind which never really calmed down was now a good 15 mph stronger.  Hammock Man tried to seal himself up inside his bedding but soon jumped out and ran for the shelter of the locker room with all his belongs. Time to put up the rain fly or "wing" as MSR labeled it.  Ever read Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea?  Yes, that was me in that storm trying to keep everything together, arms stretched out like Christ on the cross, holding the fly waiting for a nanosecond pause in the wind in order to stake the wing down.  Had to tie one side to the bicycles.  By now my sleeping bag was wet and I was cold.  Two more hours of sleep possible.  Sure enough at 4 am the wing was unstaked on one side.  ABANDON TENT!!!  Pack and run.  It was not raining hard but the wind was strong.  During this process I talked to Randy from Huron in the tent next to ours.  "The rain came through the tent.  I pulled out the instructions in the middle of the night and found out that this tent is not designed for rain.  I guess I am an idiot."  Not as dumb as I was for not having the rain fly on.  However, we knew that once we got to the next overnight it would be near 100*F again and sunny.  Everything would dry out quickly and at the very least we'd have something to do.

Pierre to Chamberlain

GTFO of Pierre

Back on the Reservation

Action shot while riding to a hill someone warned me about.  By now hills are just an annoyance, they merely slow me down.  My precious cloud cover is beginning to give way to the sun.

Despite the storm today would be the best day to ride since Sunday.  This was much needed as I was questioning the wisdom of returning to this state.  Thoughts had been focused on riding my touring bike in Iowa where shade is plentiful and a convenience store about every 10 miles and no need to hurry.  The route was marked by better rest stops, less food more often to prevent over eating.  And dead rattle snakes.  Dead rattle snakes lined the road.  I have yet to see a live one.

If you need a 6 of Busch Light tallboys and some bovine meds, Mack is your one stop shop! 

SD-34 was the highway we used for 60 miles until we reached Fort Thompson.  It was underneath a lovely shade of grey clouds to keep the sun off of us.  Gentle hills except for one.  By now we had our hill game on.  I recall passing a "dinosaur" house.  On the left a green Sinclair dinosaur in the front yard was the first one to spot and then a few others including a triceratops.  Next door what appeared to be an abandoned house complete with abandoned and neglected cars and a Toyota Prius, too.  We traveled east until we reached Mac's Corner, gas station, garage and convenience store.  Pick up the meds for your cattle in the same cooler as the Budweiser.  I purchased a ham sandwich keeping with the less food more often routine.

Welcome to Fort Thompson, South Dakota.

A sign of the times greeted us 13 miles later as we rolled into the town of Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.  "DRIVERS DO NOT STOP.  KEEP ON GOING. COVID!"  Lunch with seating was offered at the Lode Star Casino just around the corner.  Other choices lacked seating.  We regrouped with friends and the reports were that masks were required everywhere and you really wanted a mask in the casino because of smoking.  Even the carpet was said to be turning black.  Mary and I opted for the Dakota Mart grocery store.  Two signs on the door.  The first encouraged people to wear shoes since they "do our best to sweep up broken glass" and the other was the MASKS REQUIRED.  They did have free masks at the door.  I did not know this and in my haste to GTFO Pierre failed to pack one so I borrowed Mary's wet mask.  Her handlebar bag is not rainproof.  Just wanted cold water for the empty bottles and Gatorade but no cold Gatorade so Rock Star lemonade energy drink instead.  Not experiencing angina in months, why not?  22 miles until Chamberlain.

Back on the road now called BIA 4.  The familiar red chip rock sealed highway was now much worse than usual until we exited the reservation.  A farmhouse had a closed wooden gate prohibiting unwanted visitors and said "QUARANTINE" in red hand painted letters.  I don't blame these people.  Why should they trust the US government or state government?  History has fueled that distrust.  Blankets with smallpox is a lesson not forgotten.   In the Dakota Mart Mary spotted a sign about a class to teach girls how to cook macaroni and cheese.  I saw a sign stating that "human trafficking is not traditional."  Neither is tossing beer bottles out car windows onto the side of highways.  About this time Mary commented that she forgot that we were to ride through a reservation today.  Just as I affirmed we saw the iconic symbol of reservation poverty: a car without a hood and apparently, judging by the smashed windshield, lacking passenger and drivers seatbelts heading our way.  Usually some doors are missing.  To add insult to their injury, older white people in nice polished and restored classic cars were driving toward Fort Thompson from Chamberlain.  I don't know if there was a car show or a parade but I found it impressive:  Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, convertibles, muscle cars, old Cadillacs and stuff from the 50s I can never identify and few antique European roadsters were in that line as well.

Going up!

Looking back!

Real hills have this message thanking the Kasey Abbott for picking this road.  Only saw two of these.  Notice that the paint matches the arrow markers????

But at the top of the Three Sisters there is a fantastic view of the river.

The road suddenly improved and its name changed to SD-50.  We were off the Rez and about to enter the Three Sisters.  According to Brad Ericson, the Three Sisters is the name for the three hills we were about to climb.  Some time ago a cattle truck crashed along this road.  Legends and hills and shift the chain to the largest cog in back.  Finally we were on top and the road was smooth and Chamberlain was in visual distance and what should have been a 40+ mph downhill presented itself to us.  Turn the GoPro on and engage warp drive!  I enjoyed this all the way to the Akta Lakota Museum.  Mary and I stopped and visited and enjoyed the air conditioning and the history.  A mile later we were at the campground.

I found these photo cut outs a bit creepy.  They look a bit too real.

During the 2019 RASDAK we overnighted at the Red Cloud School and visited his grave.

We stayed at the American Creek Campground.  The RV section seemed to be filled with people for a fishing tournament.  The was a shower house and food trucks were waiting for us in a nearby parking lot.  Plenty of space for camping and we spread our stuff in a large area to dry and claimed a bench for ourselves.  Sorry children, these monkey bars will be the drying racks for our tent and sleeping bags.  My gear was dry thanks to the wonderful but cheesy travel bag I purchased from the band, New Order, webstore.  One of Mary's bag was not so good in the rain.  Having spotted a laundromat between the museum and the campground we knew what to do.  Besides, I was almost out of clean off bike clothes.  The place had a/c.  Dinner was provided by food trucks and breakfast at the shelter house.  It was a great day of riding and we got everything dried and clean.

At the bait shop in Chamberlain, according to the clerk, this cat was missing for quite a while but recently returned.  When kitty ate a certain amount he had to stick his paw into the can to get the rest but the clerk came out with a spoon to scoop it up for him.

Chamberlain to Platte

"Thursday Ladies"


Time to air the tires.  Friday before we left Des Moines I pumped all four tires to 100 psi.  Bad habit, Che, I hear you say.  But We have always had 100 psi on our bikes until these two joined the fleet.  Decades.  But the new thinking is less air is faster.  Let's test it.  The tires lost 20 psi in 5 days of riding chip rock roads.  Daily average 70 miles.  I could now push down with my thumb on my front tire and feel the softness.  Three more days of riding.  We could always let some air out.

First we had to climb out of Chamberlain on one of those forever hills.  No wind for a change so my freshly sun blocked arms produced sweat like a river rolling down to the brake hoods.  Joy--NOT.  But the wind resumed when I climbed out of the hole.  Having been dropped by everyone one of my friends I jumped in on Ruth's group of riders and a wonderful double paceline.  Four or five of us and I wondered why I have not drafted until now.  Well, I hate to draft.  Too much staring at the wheel in front of me and not enough time to enjoy the scenery.  But speed does increase significantly.  This group had almost every variant of the Trek Domane.  Ruth had the SLR Dura Ace version, John the Ultegra and mine the 105.  Ruth was running with 700x25s, John the 32s with 60 psi that day as he was experimenting, and me 30s with 100 psi.  We made good time to the first stop.

This bike belongs to Ruth.  It is the top o line Trek Domane, Dura Ace.  Absolutely stunning!!

This is John.  He rides the Ultegra version of my bike.  Like me he rode a LeMond before getting the Trek.  When Ragbrai overnighted in Greenfield he thought he had a flat.  He checked his tires and they were fine but once he was rolling again it still felt like he had a flat.  He got off the bike again and discovered that a chainstay had broken!   So he taped it up and nursed it to Greenfield where he found a machine shop.  The shop owner said he could weld it back together.  Got it on straight and did a nice job.  Not only did John complete the rest of Ragbrai on the LeMond, he finished the season before taking it back to bicycle dealer for a warranty!  Steel is real!!


More art.

Interacting with art

Always wear a helmet. You never know when a piece of art will toss a bale of hay on your head!

Back on the road I jumped in on the draft provided by the Thursday Ladies.  Good conversation and speed.  Someone had a hub that made an air leaking noise whenever she stopped pedaling which is quite often in a draft.  I looked around for a mechanical shop until I realized it was a bicycle.  We caught up with Mary and she joined, too, and eventually we pulled the group until a stop.  Probably not my fair share but something to let others rest.

Mile 37 was Academy and the stop was at the fire hall.  Paradise!  COLD COLD a/c and food and drink. it was hard to leave.  The five days of riding were taking its toll on Mary.  She was strong as ever but cranky on the road.  Blaming the saddle, the air pressure, the roads (really have not seen a smooth road yet) and her allergies.  In reality it probably was never being able to put this many high mileage days in a row with this wind and heat.  And possibly the saddle.  Get the Terry with the titanium rails...  As for me, my legs hurt and my skin was dangerously close to cancer.  Sleep deprivation, I never sleep well during these events.  I was sick of heat and wind.  But I was getting my fueling down properly, downing a bottle between stops and eating light throughout the day.

Once again hot AF when we reached the overnight town of Platte.  The girl from California was spotted at the city limits with a flat tire.  I was ISO a convenience store.  Needed a quart or two of Gatorade.  A Casey's appeared, Amen!!! In my mind I was starting to believe that South Dakota was a figment of my imagination or a twisted masochist simulation.  There were cars and trucks but no gas stations.  There were people but no stores.  Where do these people fuel up their vehicles?  Where do they get food?  Are their cars fueled by heat and sun and wind?  Do they sustain themselves on those elements alone?  Honestly, there were days that I'd only see two gas stations 85 miles apart.

Once again it was confirmed that it was hot.  Main Street Platte, SD.

We were to sleep inside the school.  Not outside.  Ride officials made that decision for us.  A BAD thunderstorm was to hit about 4 am.  BUT when that front hit the wind would become a tailwind.  A long awaited wind.  This would be our first night inside and our only.  Until then shower, change to off bike clothing and hit the bars!

After our showers Mary, Rich, Jeff, Joe and Brad and a few others walked to the restaurant on Main.  I had the Deluxe Cheeseburger, side of macaroni salad, huge serving, and a beer.  Alaskan Brewery was on tap.  Someone or several someones bought 3 or 4 pies and passed them around for everyone to enjoy.  Peanut butter and jelly pie was among that taste of heaven.  We had a big round table and others joined us.  In fact, the place was invaded by riders.  FEAST!!!  Later that evening were returned to Main St and went to Kuips Tavern for much deserved libations and bar pizza.  Not the stellar performance of Yankton, we kept it calm.

Platte to Tyndall
"Prayers For Rain"
"Totally Wired"

The National weather Service was correct.  The thunderstorm hit at 4 am.  I got up and checked, yes it was raining.  Try to sleep some more but several wake up alarms went off in the gymnasium.  No tent to pack.  Get up and dressed.  Eat breakfast and drink coffee while we waited for the all clear.  Lightning was the issue.  And true to their word, the wind changed direction and we would have a tailwind.  It was about 630 am as I was contemplating a second cup of coffee when that ALL CLEAR was given and we could start the ride to Tyndall.

The very last thing the ride officials told us was that the painted route markers ">" may have been compromised by the rain.  I knew that the route out of town was down Main St and there would be a left turn miles later.  I had a map.  Others had it on their phones via RideWithGPS app.  Mary and I may have been the first to leave.  I noticed in my mirror a bicycle light behind us in the distance which either justified my decision or made me responsible for a third lost cyclist.  It was a bit disconcerting riding into the dark leaving town without the reassurance of that white > on the road but I quickly spotted the ever present orange "BICYCLES ON THE ROAD" sign fastened to a regular road sign.  Once out of town the white route arrows were there as the rain had not destroyed them.

The sky was dark from the residual post rain clouds.  We we heading south and to the west the sky was starting to clear except for one long rolling line of clouds, the last remnant of the front.  To the east, the direction we would be heading, the sky was darker and we could see lightning and occasionally hear thunder.  Some time within that first 8 miles the menacing line of clouds passed over us but waited a bit before letting go of its rain.  We stayed dry.

Then it happened.  Foul odors make me ill early in the morning.  The stench wafting over was wet hay, rotting wet hay and a cattle feedlot.  Mary dropped me as I contemplated pulling over to puke or just dry heave on my bike.  I fought it well and chose the latter but fell behind.  Mercifully the turn came and the wind kicked the turbo on and I soon was cresting hills at 25 mph and watching the lightning show ahead.  Enough of that...

The first stop was at the lovely Papineau Trading Post in the town of Geddes.  I wish I would have held off from breakfast because the breakfast croissants here looked fantastic.  I finally had that second cuppa coffee.
After stopping to take this photo, Ruth caught up with me and complemented my ability to stop on a climb, take a photo and resume climbing like nothing happened at all. I thought everyone could do this?

Radar Hill.  That shoulder was the best surface we rode on all week.  I remember when it was brand new black!

On top of Radar Hill.  Kraig found his truck at the casino!  "Land of the Friendly People."  For the third time I opted for the convenience store across the highway.

RASDAK would be remiss if it was this close to the Missouri River without making us climb Radar Hill.  Yes, a hill with a name, this time after an USAF radar station long since closed.  This would be our third time climbing said hill.  On the first climb the road or shoulder was freshly paved.  I believe in 2013 Kathy crashed on it and broken her arm or wrist.  Nevertheless, it was a long climb at low speed but that shoulder was the finest stretch of pavement on the entire ride.   At the top there is is a casino on the left and a convenience store/gas station on the right.  I veered right and necked a quart of Gatorade, refilled a bottle and choked down a ham sandwich.

The rest of the ride went well.  A stop in Wagoner brought back memories of an overnight here.  But miles later I got thirsty for a beer and locked up my wheels in front of the Bon Homme Country Club.  Take note:  golf courses often have bars (club houses).  This one was no exception.  Having skipped the greenhouse tour in Avon I texted Mary and Joe and gave them my location and proceeded to enjoy the spiritual drink/currency of the bicycling community, made by human hands.  After they joined me we had another two rounds before completing the last 3 miles.  Our campground would be at the Bon Homme HS.

Hot Dog Days

Chances are that a golf course sells beer.  This one did.  Later we would see the barkeep at Hot Dog Days.

A homage to the Eiffel Tower.  I read about this in an email but when I got our packet I could not find it listed.  I thought I hallucinated or something but here it is in Tyndall, SD.

Two of the best riders I know, Jeff and Rich (left to right).  Here Rich is failing to keep a straight face while breaking a promise to Jeff about today's ride.  "Jeff had two showers today."  While following a truck pulling a camper and boat, Jeff's first shower was from that vehicle.  He hoped it was "gray water" from the boat and not the "brown" water from the camper.

1927 Chevrolet firetruck.

Dinner was held at the city park and hosted by FFA Alumni.  One of their shirts said "...the jacket no longer fits..."  Grilled ribeye sandwiches.  I went back for a second sandwich.  Then the group photo was taken and Kasey gave his thank you for the RASDAK crew who did a magnificent job.  227 riders in 100*F temperatures and NO ONE SUFFERED A HEAT RELATED INJURY.  Incredible!!  

The second Friday of June is Hot Dog Days in Tyndall, South Dakota.  RASDAK route makers were very kind to schedule our overnight here for this wonderful family event.  What the heck is Hot Dog Days?  Glad you asked.  Main Street is closed off and businesses give away hot dogs in front of their places of business.  There are slushies as well.  Families bring their children and there are face painting booths.  One block is dedicated to a cornhole/bags tournament.  A car show is on the north end and a stage for a band to play.  Tonight's performer conducted an hour long sound check but we were programmed to go to bed by 9pm.  5am comes early.  I woke up at 1am to the sound of Bryan Adams Summer of '69 followed by Sweet Home Alabama mashed up with that Kid Rock track.  I had to switch phones on the charger inside the school anyway but I found it funny that the even the noise ordinance bows to Hot Dog Days.  Exiting the school, Hank Jr's Family Tradition was playing followed by Mony Mony.  I think it ended at 130 am.

The Last Day: Tyndall to Vermillion

John and Connie.  John is a very strong rider.  Convinced Connie to join RASDAK and proceeded to give her a "crash" course in cycling.  She had 35 miles for the year before embarking on this adventure.  New pedals, new shoes, new cleats meant that she fell over a few times.  He took my advice to lower the tension in the pedals to 0 until she mastered releasing her feet.  One morning I looked in my mirror and saw her fall over at a stop.  She also learned that drafting is a dangerous game as she took a nanosecond to look in her mirror and accidently touched his rear wheel with her front.  Lessons.  Much respect to her for not giving up.  It was hell.  Much respect to John for his patience.

Tabor, SD, was settled by Czechs. The shadows on the left are for the kolache stand.  Music was playing in the background.  One polka song went "my wife is drunk and I got to get her home."

The last 61 miles.  I think we got 65.  Hard to believe.  The weather was great for riding unlike Monday through Thursday.  This day just snuck up on us, most of my friends seemed a bit surprised that the ride was almost over.  I was, too.  After a breakfast from the 4-H, Mary and I flew to Tabor, a Czech town, 12 miles away for kolaches.

Then the race to Yankton highlighted by the wonderful curvy downhill to the river.  Here the Domane really shines.  I was missing my LeMond as it is faster on the flats but the Domane is more stable at high speed, sprints and downhills.  Beautiful views of the river and beautiful homes for this multiple mile stretch that empties into the playland for people with boats and those seeking watersport fun.  I spotted the Cottonwood, a bar which was our oasis in 2019 for food and bevies.  And the trail that was the climb out of this paradise to Yankton proper.  A few turns in the urban area and then a wonderful ride to Nebraska via the Meridian Bridge, a double decker bridge that was converted to pedestrian/bicycle traffic only in 2011.  

I did not stop, opting to film the ride on both levels with my GoPro.  One of the features of the Domane is the extra stem accessory mounts.  One is a GoPro mount.  I placed it on hours before leaving for South Dakota.  It was also the first time I would use the camera.  Recordings of various 40+mph downhills and evidence strong wind was recorded.  Unfortunately, the files were corrupted and I had to reset the camera after I returned to Iowa. Of all the rotten luck...  Photos from 2019.

St Louis to Oregon.

Final stop in Yankton was at a Sinclair station for Gatorade and to lube Mary's chain.  It was starting to get noisy.  400+ miles and wet roads, dust, sand ect.  Mine was fine for the remaining 27 miles.  Off to Gayville, the Hay Capital of the Earth.  Here we were the only riders but we talked to a man on a loaded Surly LHT who was riding from St Louis to Oregon.  Said he would not be home until August.  Taking backroads as much as possible.  Wow!  Retirement goals.

Meckling was our lunch stop.  According to the sign we were now in the Hay Capital of the Universe.  Toby's Lounge was celebrating 50 years of business and we helped by ordering fried chicken!  Lots of familiar riders were here.  As we walked in Kraig was standing outside eating a drumstick and looking for his truck.  A lot of familiar riders were just getting here.  Good scene.

Almost to the end so we hopped on the first draftline and took it easy to Vermillion.   Flat until the hill at city limits.  Not a long hill but the best hill because above the tree line I could read the writing on a building, "Winery and Distillery."  Take the next right!  There was a welcoming committee with red swag bags.  In said bag was a coupon for the distillery, "buy a bottle get a second one at half price."  I had a Stella draft and then bought a cab and a bottle of whiskey.

Final ride to the school where our vehicle was waiting.  Showers, thankfully available here, after loading the car.  White line fever again.  One stop to gas up and check oil and to obtain snacks and liquids.  Felt nice to move without effort and the only wind was the soothing freezeout of the a/c.  490 miles bicycled in 7 days.  Moving without sweat, what a concept!


This was the most difficult week of bicycling I ever had.  Sunday, Friday and Saturday were good days to ride.  The rest were extremely hot and windy. Riding across South Dakota is challenging enough with good weather.  One can ride over 80 miles and see only two convenience stores, one at the beginning and the other at the end.  I often thought that this state was a construct of my mind or some sort of torture device.  I would see people and cars but nothing to support them.  Do they survive and get their sustenance from the sun?  Are they prostitutes, no visible means of support?  Or solar powered robots?  Wind powered as well.  Shade, where the heck was it?  I would be dishonest if I did not admit that at times I would have found it preferable to be on my touring bike on some shady trail in Iowa knowing I am on my own schedule and that my rear right pannier holds a cooler of beer.  But that will be in July.

It is not the fault of the organizers that the weather was awful.  Usually one needs a jacket and gloves in the morning.  The week before the 2019 ride it snowed so much that the road for the first day was closed!  This year there was a hard freeze in May a few weeks before the 2021 ride.  Yes, it is always windy but the wind usually is not at full strength until noon and by then the day's riding is almost over.

Hats off and a debt of gratitude to the SAG drivers.  Because of their efforts not one of the 227 riders suffered heat related injuries.  Thank you to the organizers for their adjustments made for the weather, booth rain and extreme heat, plans were made for the safety of the riders.

The SAG drivers.