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:

Tirebiters and alligators and fog, oh my!

We spent Tuesday night in a campground at the edge of a highway construction project.

As soon as darkness fell, the floodlights were fired up and the heavy equipment started.

It looked like the set of Close Encounters at Devil’s Tower. When the fog settled in it became surreal, as the bright lights glinted off the water droplets in the air.

They packed up and left at first light.

Our ride out of Stowe was on a busy highway with multiple tirebiters:
Tirebiter (noun)
1) a linear crack in the pavement, parallel to your direction of travel, sometimes made worse in hot weather if filled with tar;
2) a sewer grate with openings parallel to the direction of travel;
3) a railroad crossing with tracks at an oblique angle (the closer to the direction of travel, the worse it is).

The best (worst) tirebiters and alligators were in places unsafe to stop for photos. An alligator is an area of pavement that resembles alligator skin.

Once we got onto back roads the ride improved immensely. We did briefly revisit US 2, last seen out west. It sprinkled off and on much of the day. The most rain came while the sun was shining.

Stuff that will change next week:

     1) I won’t have to worry about where I can plug my phone in next;
    2) I won’t have to wonder where the next bathroom is or where there is a tree or secluded place where I can pee;
     3)  I won’t have any yellow arrows to follow to tell me where to go;
4) I won’t have to worry about getting into camp early enough to spread everything out to dry;
5) I’ll have to cook my own food;
6) I won’t be able to eat so much ice cream;
     7) I’ll have to make my own coffee;
     8) I won’t drink as much espresso or beer;
     9) I won’t do laundry in the shower every day;
     10) I’ll go to work every day instead of riding my bike.
11) I won’t check the weather forecast for two cities every morning – the one I’m riding from and the one I’m riding to.
12) I won’t go looking for WiFi or worry about exceeding my data limits.
13) I won’t be writing this every day.

The WiFi here is intermittent. The login screen keeps popping up again. Saving of this post only works some of the time and photos appear and disappear at random. I will try to post this, but publishing has failed three times now.

 

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

Devil’s Tower!

No extraterrestrials have landed yet (it’s still daylight), but Devil’s Tower is right behind me.

The staff is busy prepping for their annual Devil’s Tower Cantina. They’ve been squeezing limes and stringing lights. It is Margarita night.

We’re told that the campground shows “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” every night when it gets dark. We’ll see if I can stay awake that long. I’m usually in bed by 9, before it gets dark.

I haven’t been in an RV park in a long time (ever?). The RVs are humongous, with pop-out sides so they look like a double wide mobile home. Some have a White Freightliner cab.

We passed a freight yard today. I rode past a string of locomotives coupled together – there were 0.62 miles of locomotives. Coal trains take more than ½ mile to pass – when we are going in opposite directions. Someone who talked as though he knows what he is talking about said they are 1.4 miles long.

The gods must have mercy on my heathen soul. After yesterday’s crash I feel amazingly well – ice and Kinesiotape may have helped. We had an easy day today, only 69 miles and favorable winds. I was here before it got really hot.

I met another rider going the other way when I arrived at 12:15. He said were were absolutely not to arrive before 1:00. 9419B126-4A84-44C1-A481-B8F46206076AI found a nearby bar and tried the local brew. A couple of Harley riders came in a few minutes after me and one asked the same question – “What’s on tap?” and got the same answer – “Nothing”. I recommended the local amber ale I was having and he liked it. By the time I left the temperature was approaching 95.

Very low battery. Will recharge when the sun comes up and post more tomorrow. A great evening! I’ll explain more (with pictures) Monday morning.