Top/bottom ten

The greatest hits and worst miseries of the tour, not necessarily in order of how good or bad they were and not necessarily ten of each:

Tour top 10:

New York week (after the first 50 miles) -Finger Lakes/wading in Lake Ontario after a cold front came through, temperature and humidity went down, tailwind all morning; up and down through the Adirondacks, beautiful day in Lake Placid. If you took away the first 50 miles and replaced them with the first 50 miles of the next week, this could be #1.867CEBD3-27F5-4014-AACC-1FC37BBC5BE8

Wisconsin week – Cannon Trail, the Great River Rd., Baraboo Bluffs/Devils Lake/Merrimac ferry, Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive. Great roads and no traffic all week. (Visits from family and friends put this one over the top, but it was already great.) 

The ride into Baraboo contained the single steepest climb of the entire trip ( a short stretch of Terrytown Road). 

The Sparta to Elroy Trail, while the first Rails-to-Trails conversion, has been surpassed by several others. It was actually the low point of the week. While the tunnels are a novelty, riding for 30+ miles on gravel is not my cup of tea and takes a toll on the bike. I know, gravel riding is the new thing, but I’d rather ride on pavement if given the choice. 

I’m almost reluctant to admit that the area I ride regularly was the high point, but it also assures me that I live in the right place.AA48B9A9-93D9-405F-B4A3-8637855C927A

Needles highway/Black Hills/Badlands – The Needles Highway was the single high point. This was a magical fairyland, otherworldly in its beauty. I am amazed that I never knew of this place. I could ride that road ten more times and still see new things. The area was phenomenal and the road was the best we rode in >4300 miles.   E2692CEC-A68A-498A-9B90-C0D7F1978AC7

The Badlands are also otherworldly. Different, in that they can be seen as bleak in broad daylight, but change minute-by-minute in early morning light. Like Needles Highway, I wanted to ride that same road again at sunset after riding it at sunrise. 

 

Bike path through Grand Teton National Park, climbing Teton Pass, descending to Jackson Hole and a great bike path. The path through the park kept us away from traffic and in view of the mountains. I met Santa Claus at the foot of Teton Pass, along with a group riding from Texas to Alaska. The pass was steep and tough, getting steeper as it went. Standing at the top of the pass was a feeling of accomplishment and gave a great view of the valley below. After descending to the valley we were led on a secluded path into town. The valley is well set up for bicycles, with paths connecting the towns.

 

Thompson Pass – first time over the continental divide and first big pass, descent into Thompson Falls, a town mostly owned by a single family, where we saw their bar, ice cream shop, catering service, and bus service.

Devils Tower. A campground situated right at the base of the tower. The tower itself rises out of nothing. It is not part of a mountain range but, like Ayers Rock in Australia, is just there. It is no surprise that it was used as the backdrop/centerpiece of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. 9DCB1F78-14DE-4EBC-9051-1754A42439FD

The margarita party was our first real chance to sit down as a group and just hang out together. 

Smugglers Notch. A day that started with threatening weather that never fully materialized. The pass enveloped by clouds as we ascended, never really sure how high it was, on the approach or while actually climbing it. A climb that was over before I realized it; not because it was easy (it wasn’t) but because the top was invisible until we were there. The steepest descent of the trip, made hazardous by the wet pavement so we took it slowly. 

 

Bottom 10:

Riding 105 miles in 40° rain. The camaraderie made it tolerable. A day that I would have stayed in bed had I been on my own. 

Climbing a mountain pass in a hailstorm. Another day saved by a group – the same group. As Greg told me before the trip, the 70 degree and sunny days will all blend together, but it is the days like this that will make lasting memories. 

72 mile ride that turned into 102 mile ride, the last 1/3 into a brutal headwind, finishing with a helmet splitting crash in an endless industrial waste land. The only day that I wanted the van to stop for me. I got back on the bike and rode the final ten miles, so I did ride EFI. We stopped at a convenience store for a cold drink and found other riders draped over coolers and freezers. Misery loves company.

The first half of that day was actually really nice. 

Mile after mile of horrendous pavement,90+ degree heat, and endless headwinds across the Great Plains.

Mile after mile of flat and boring countryside in Michigan with bad highways and rude drivers.

Re-entering the US at Niagara Falls and riding 50 miles before getting into the countryside.

Bone jarring expansion cracks through Central Minnesota.

Hill City to Custer – uphill, bad headwind, relentless sun/heat, horrendous traffic, grooved pavement causing painful whining noise – and there was a reasonable alternative route nearby.

A few random thoughts:

  • had some great encounters with bikers (of the Harley persuasion) – both on-the-road salutes and chats at the roadside.
  • In the first week I waved to a Corvette behind me to acknowledge it and, as it passed, I saw a peace sign flashed out through the T-top.
  • A random motorcyclist flipped me the bird for no apparent reason.
  • A friendly bar owner brought watermelon out to us on a hot, dry, and windy day.
  • On another hot day I stopped in a coffee shop for an iced coffee and the air conditioning was so cold I just hung out for awhile. It was a day when I realized getting somewhere was only a small part of the plan.
  • When I walked into a brewpub, I was met by applause. Another rider had arrived before me and told our story and they knew I was part of that group.
  • Greg repeatedly referred to the Lake Michigan ferry crossing as “The shortest longest day”. We rode only 40 miles but got into camp with just enough time to pitch our tents before it got dark.
  • Somewhere out west (I think on the Tetons day) a Russian couple riding from Denver to Seattle stopped in and joined us for lunch.
  • On another day, in the middle of nowhere, I happened upon a scruffy-looking guy walking his bike in the opposite direction. I asked if he needed help. He said, “Is the next town about 4 miles ahead?” I agreed that it was. He thanked me and kept walking. (Only 4 miles from town it wasn’t really the middle of nowhere – it just seemed like it.)
  • The look of incredulity when I told some kids at a lemonade stand (on our last day) that I had ridden >4300 miles for that lemonade.

That’s it for now folks. Daily life is intruding on my writing time. I have a sewer line to clear and more. Posts will be a little more irregular after today. Maybe when my bike gets here I’ll look at the odometer and give you my total mileage. Maybe not. Numbers don’t really say what I want to say. Thanks for joining me on this journey. It’s been real.

I’m not going away entirely. As Phil Ochs said:

…not in Kansas anymore

The first 20 seconds contain the essence.

We awoke at the edge of the Badlands and rode into the park for breakfast at the park cafe. We were on the road by 7, but earlier would have been even better. I’d love to ride through here at dawn and dusk to watch the light change. A day off so we could just spend the day here and do some hiking would be great.

Once the sun is high in the sky, the Badlands tend to look stark and desolate. In the right light, it is a magic land.BB07480F-88D1-4DCF-818B-1A35389F60777EB9E035-7D9F-4FEB-8C86-B38E1DC7DBE3597B7AB4-882F-4BDE-8BB9-69C0BDDA8A85A30E7BCE-D138-4230-850D-07E3D7C9566Dl

I’m having connection issues, so apologize if things look weird. Pictures that appeared a few minutes ago and were saved are now invisible to me. I hope that doesn’t mean you get two copies

The light changed quickly. Lunch was in Wall, home of the (in)famous Wall Drug. The lesson is driven home daily that “prevailing winds” are not the same as “today’s winds”. I thought we were crossing the country the “easy way”, coming gradually downhill across the plains to the Mississippi, propelled by the westerly winds.

Instead, mornings are quiet and afternoons are into 15-20 mph easterly/southeasterly gusty winds. Below is the original jail in the town of Cottonwood (pop 9).AB7EBB6A-5089-4CA9-A14E-958FBBC7061D

That photo took minutes to upload, so I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Tonight we’re in Philip, SD. To Pierre tomorrow and then a day of rest.

Jekyll and Hyde

It was another Jekyll and Hyde day. Fast and easy in the morning, a slog in the afternoon.

We spent the night at the Rapid City Fairgrounds (camped outside the Fine Arts Building). They turn their dead trees into sculptures. Here are two of them and a candidate for future work.

There was a Rotary Club picnic nestled between the two halves of our campsite. I chatted with some Rotarians – the first group were fascinated and amazed by us – then I found the storytellers.

I talked with two divers – one headed for Palau, and another who may not still be diving but was full of stories. He has lived all over the country and in Australia (Navy) and told of his near-death experience diving at the wrong time of year in Haunama Bay on Oahu.

This gives me a handy excuse to link to Jake Shimabukuro:

Since the ukulele is currently popular, you owe it to yourself to hear someone really play it. Jake will be on the West Coast this month, then the East Coast. On September 24 he’ll be at the Overture Center in Madison, WI (per the Overture Center) or at the Capitol Theatre in Davenport, Iowa (per his website).

We left Rapid City on an expressway with fast commuter (?) traffic. I wasted no time getting out of town, riding at a steady 24 mph until I was past the airport, then backed off a bit.

We rode through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland (the name appears ironic, as it was mostly barren) and skirted the Badlands. We’ll see more of the Badlands tomorrow.

The first photo is sort of a “mini-badland”. That flat-topped area in the foreground is less than 10 feet tall. The second photo is up close and personal with a wall next to the highway.

It was a fast morning, cool and cloudy, with favorable winds. After our picnic (they don’t like to call it lunch – today it was at 9:30 AM) stop in Scenic, SD, everything changed.

We faced a 20 mph headwind and blazing sun for the next 30 miles into Interior, SD. We’re now ensconced in a campground at the edge of town – with a population of 67, pretty much everything is the “edge of town”.

The campground has a store, so I had a bottled (Dunkin’ Donuts) latte on arrival and a “Knuckle Head Red” (from the Knuckle Brewing Company in Sturgis) after setting up camp and taking a shower. (Truth be told, I’m drinking it now.)

It rained overnight in Rapid City, so I had to dry stuff out before setting up camp – being windy has its benefits.46A99579-FF42-43AB-AC0C-6D28D6877EDC

This last photo will probably be appreciated only by plumbers. It is the urinal in the campground. In the space of a few inches it includes iron pipe, copper tubing, and a brass fitting. The flush valve is a valve from a bubbler (drinking fountain to you foreigners). It is not particularly straight. I chose not to replumb it;)81CD5A62-BDC8-4A73-A26B-BC209FFEE4A0

The sky is slowly filling with clouds. More rain may be on the way.

I take it back – rain isn’t “on the way”. While proofreading this, rain appeared suddenly. I ran to put the rainfly on the tent and stash everything that was out to dry inside before it got wetter. I took my laundry down and then realized that the tin-roofed shelter I’m under is full of holes.

Just as suddenly, the rain has stopped. I’ll rehang the laundry, but I think everything else will stay in the tent.

Aaahhh! (Aaarrgh!)

This post was 429 words, 2 video links, and 6 pictures a few minutes ago. Now when I look, it is only a title. None of my saved versions survived. I guess this is all you get today.

(Four hours later)…I just found a Wi-Fi network that might work so maybe I will try to repost.

At sunset Saturday the van rolled in to our campground carrying all the riders who are staying at a hotel 9 miles down the road in town.We are camped right at the foot of Devil’s Tower.

As they disembarked the party began. The staff had spent the afternoon preparing margaritas and bean dip, and they strung glow sticks around the bar, which was the open back of one of the cargo trailers. Greg’s Cantina was open for business. Live entertainment followed shortly.

(Fast forward to 26:15 for “Reba’s Cantina”)

Robin, one of the British riders, was in an uncommonly good mood, as he had ridden out early Saturday morning to watch England defeat Sweden in their World Cup match in a pub 40 miles down the road.

He sat down and immediately asked all at the table to name our favorite movie. A lively discussion ensued. He was impressed that some of us Yanks knew the film “The Loneliness  of the Long Distance  Runner”, and were aware of the actor Tom Courtenay.

As the party wound down, I made my way to the outdoor seating area behind the camp store to watch the climactic scenes of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.

When the film ended I found myself in more complete darkness than I have seen in quite some time. I was guided back to my tent by the North Star. Scorpio was visible on the western horizon.

Being up so late, I planned on sleeping in. I was awakened by a barking dog at 6 AM. I guess that counts as sleeping in these days.

I did laundry before breakfast, took advantage of the hot sun to recharge my back up battery with the solar charger, and took advantage of the shade and breeze to recharge myself.

Next week we head across South Dakota, including  the Black Hills and the Badlands. Had we been traveling as the crow flies, we would be in the middle of Wisconsin by now. We are following the route of the drunken crow.3CEED3E9-726D-419F-A486-3CD09643C6C9