Rain?/On hiatus!!

Editor’s Note: The program is freezing and won’t let me add anything at the end. If the post seems to end abruptly, blame the software. It won’t let me insert the last photos at the end, so I’ll try at the beginning. This is the sky as we arrived at camp for Thursday night.

I just found out I have used up my family’s data allotment, even after doubling it. I expected wireless internet access much more often than I actually have it. This will be the last post until I have wireless, which I hope will be this weekend at St Olaf. After that, who knows?

I slept inside Wednesday night due to forecast for thunderstorms pretty much all night and all day today. I figured I’d at least start the day dry.

At the meeting, Greg asked who already knew they wouldn’t be riding. We were supposed to be facing thunderstorms and headwinds all day. Radar showed a low pressure area spinning over the road we’d be riding on.

We left Watertown with the sun shining, riding east into the gathering gloom. Some riders sagged right from the beginning, to avoid riding in the rain. Others left early, presumably to get it over with. I, on the other hand, lingered over coffee and donuts and was one of the last to hit the road.

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A few miles down the road I came to this billboard, which reminded me of the following Merle Haggard song. You can hear it with hipster irony if you choose to. It was certainly not Haggard’s intention when he wrote it at the height of the Viet Nam war. I’m not sure what he thought about the song 30 years later.9FF45D80-9FB5-435C-BDBE-E2655C417D23

The rain always seemed to be out there. Cars coming toward us had headlights on, but not wipers. And they were dry.

The wind shifted and became a tailwind. I flew down the road at 25 mph with minimal effort. I still wasn’t catching anybody. I guess they were all going that fast.

We crossed the border into Minnesota and it was getting hot in my rain jacket and shoe covers. I had already taken off the warm gloves and was just using them as padding under my hands. I jettisoned the rain clothes at the lunch stop.

I finally saw a few others at lunch. At mile 58 we ran into a section with major expansion cracks. They looked and felt like drainage ditches running across the road. I slowed and rose out of the saddle for them. Then I started bunny-hopping the bigger ones. My knees and wheels were taking a beating.

After 10 miles, smooth pavement returned. The sky remained dark in the distance, but the sun actually came out for the last 5-10 miles, when we turned south into a wind that had shifted again and was now coming from the south.

I think the wind came from every direction at some point in the day. It is amazing how much my attitude is shaped by the weather. A few days ago, pushing into a headwind, I wanted to go home. My thoughts were all I had and they were not profound. Today, breezing along, I was ready to do two days in one. I was having so much fun I thought I could go 150 miles.

77A50DC1-F5E1-49DD-A014-10379B6ADC61We arrived in the town of Montevideo and I think I found the first French Mexican restaurant – at least that’s what the sign looks like.

The town is the Sister City of Montevideo in Uruguay and has a plaza dedicated to Jose Artigas, an Uruguayan hero.54815928-1B6E-484A-9AC0-A58419BF1E97

We completed 82 miles by about noon so stopped at a cafe in town for espresso, then stopped again for a root beer float. 3F0742F6-8DE1-4A41-ADB4-ACA0773468FD

As we approached the school where we are staying, the sky became ominous once again. I brought my tent out and it began to rain. I decided to cover my bike first. By then the rain was coming down hard enough to convince me to forego the tent and set up in the gym again. Rain continues to dominate the forecast tonight and tomorrow. Vamos a ver.

El triunfo

July 19, 1979 marked the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution over the Somoza family dictatorship in Nicaragua. I have to mark this day with “Hijos del Maíz”, by Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy y Grupo Mancotol.

For those who speak no Spanish, the song says that the Nicaraguan people are children of corn, and describes the many influences and uses of corn in their culture.

While in Nicaragua, I had the opportunity to hear his brother Carlos sing. He was described to me as “the Nicaraguan Bob Dylan”. That Dylan lacks a brother like Luis Enrique weakens the comparison for me.

I also have to mention one of my personal heroes. Ernesto Cardenal was born January 22, 1925, exactly 28 years before I was born. There is a 28 year cycle in many calendars, so this might mean something. It might just mean I’m full of myself to think I can compare myself to him in any way. Cardenal is a poet, a priest (who once studied with Father Thomas Merton in Gesthemany, KY), the former Minister of Culture of Nicaragua, and the founder of a communal artistic community on the island of Solentiname in Lake Nicaragua.

He is known mostly for long narrative poems and his poem “Zero Hour” (“Hora Cero”), about US imperialism in Nicaragua and the murder of Sandino, is one of my favorites. I had the pleasure of hearing him read from “Cántico Cósmico”, an epic poem of the history of the universe, beginning with the big bang. Yes, you can be Roman Catholic and recognize the big bang theory and a universe billions of years old.

He also wrote simple and short poems, so I offer this:

        Ésta será mi venganza: /Que un día llegue a tus manos el libro de un poeta famoso/ y leas estas líneas que el autor escribió para ti/ y tú no los sepas.

My own translation:

This will be my revenge:/ That one day a book by a famous poet will come into your hands/and you will read these lines the author wrote for you/and you won’t know them.

(I can’t seem to get line breaks to appear without extra spacing, thus the slashes for line breaks.) Somewhat the reverse of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”.

We are two days from Northfield,  where my daughter spent the last four years at St Olaf College, a running Ole and Lena (or Sven and Ole) joke.

Today’s Ride

We slept in today because it was a short ride. We were headed north-northeast, with a wind from the southeast. During northerly stretches it felt like a tailwind and during easterly stretches it felt like a headwind. We mostly rode north so it was an easy 61 miles. The sun was filtered and it stayed cool. The forecast is for thunderstorms tonight so we were eager to beat the weather into Watertown.

Riding out of town we passed the Wilder homestead where I learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter was also a writer and the oldest war correspondent in Viet Nam.

We stopped in Hayti for gumbo, so of course I thought of Hank Williams.

 

Leaving Hayti we rode along a lake, a great change from the endless miles of prairie. There were even trees! Especially welcome was the fact that we rode much of the day on state and county roads, not US highways. In my hierarchy of roads,  town roads are first, then county, then state, then US. We’ve been riding mostly on US highways.

Overheard at the rest stop (from a concept by The Cheeky Cyclist):

”It’s not a pull when  you’re trying to drop everybody.”

I needed to buy a few things and Google Maps told me there was a bike shop in town, so I checked it out:

The owner was surprised to see us. He told us the bike shop in town had closed and he knew the town needed a bike shop, so he opened this place a month ago. He specializes in restoring and re-selling bikes from the 1950s and ‘60s. He didn’t have what I needed but we had a great visit. He is trying to get a contract with Trek to sell their bikes. He currently sells no new bikes. About the only new stuff I saw was a small collection of water bottles. The shop is called simply “The Bike Shop”.

South Dakota has a program to raise awareness of highway deaths. They mark the spot of deaths like this:06376029-39D1-44F7-9209-C4A57FA089CDSome of the signs, instead of saying “THINK!”, say “WHY DIE?”. On a climb in the Black Hills I saw six of these signs at one curve, in groups of three, two, and one.

We are now in the Watertown Middle School. Another in a series of inspirational school posters:

Tomorrow we cross the state line into Minnesota, one more notch in our belt as we leave South Dakota behind. The forecast is for rain all day all along our route, with a stiff headwind. Oh, joy.

Halfway across the USA!

Today we hit the point of no return. We are now closer to our destination than our beginning. Of course, it is even closer to give up and go home;)

Before leaving Miller behind, I want to acknowledge their high school. Schools tend to give lip service to honoring academic achievement but make heroes out of their athletes. Miller has a large banner in their cafeteria honoring their high scorers on the ACT:68BF3FAF-C8A9-48C2-A05C-51A40B2A64D7

We hit the halfway mark for miles this morning and for days at the end of today. We celebrated the halfway mark in St Lawrence, SD this morning with a little chalk art.

The last one is a selfie – that’s my foot. In purple, it says “Halfway/across the USA/Half-fast/Cycling Club”. I know; you can’t read it.

From there we went to see a 30 foot tall horse sculpture. Unfortunately, my camera froze at that point and there is no picture. The work reminded me a bit of the work of Dr Evermor.

At our morning water stop, the farmer whose land we were at the edge of stopped top chat. He asked Michael and me if he could take our picture and did so. I couldn’t reciprocate due to my frozen camera.

We had lunch in the home of the “World’s Largest Pheasant”. I sort of got a picture of that.8E4BF1CD-D523-452F-8266-16599FB33533

”It’s a slog” – Kevin

After lunch we continued on a slightly uphill trend, into what at rest was a refreshing breeze but while moving into it felt like a headwind. (If you add 10mph wind to whatever speed you’re going, it feels like pushing a lot of air.)

We spent most of the day going in a straight line down US 14. Changes in pavement and shoulders (concrete, asphalt, brand-new asphalt, chip seal, gravel; different configurations and locations of rumble strips) helped keep things interesting.

We are spending the night in De Smet, SD, the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.38C8E8EE-F5CD-40BB-BEAD-59C00EE8B211We’re camped in a nice little park which they had just irrigated before we arrived, so laying things out to dry was not possible. All my gear is in the tent to keep it from getting wetter.

I strolled to a local watering hole for a taste of local libations. Nothing on tap, nothing regional. I drank a Pabst. Nobody sitting at the bar. Two groups of friends at tables. Three TVs on different channels, no one watching any of them. (Competitive beanbag tossing on ESPN, America’s Got Talent, and NCIS.)

This place calls itself “The Little Town on the Prairie”. Folks drive their 4-wheelers around town for transportation.63FE5924-A2E9-4843-8496-F8A14018C554

Tailwind!

I been thinking about the wind so much I might as well be sailing.

After a posh stay at the Pierre Indian Education Center (my own room with bed and bedding, semi-private bath), we started our fifth week headed mostly east for a change.

Winds were light, the air was cool. We hit a construction zone with a flagger. After about a 15 minute wait she let us through and we had the road to ourselves – like our own critical mass ride.D58AEDC3-25AE-4CED-92DF-3C8952E67664

We rode a few miles before we could see why the road was a single lane in one direction. A little farther and we started facing construction traffic coming toward us in the single lane. That made things interesting.

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Lunch was fish tacos featuring walleye caught by some of the riders Sunday. Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace may be facing some competition!

After lunch the wind picked up and we headed north with a tailwind – 25 mph riding with no work.

We turned east again into a crosswind that varied, sometimes hitting our right shoulder, sometimes straight across, sometimes giving us a little help. After 89 miles we pulled into Miller, SD. Midweek we will be halfway on this journey.