Update From the Road #3:  Cross Country Bike Trip 2005 Archive

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I’ll start by saying that I am in Casper, Wyoming, about another 650 miles since the last update. If I can sum things up in one word since last update, it would be “wind”.

I seem to recall mentioning in my last update that I have been lucky with the wind thus far. Well, that ended as soon as I clicked the send button on the last update. I woke up the next morning to 24 MPH winds gusting 30 to 35. The wind, of course, would be straight in my face the whole day. Did you ever hear the expression, “It’s like riding through mud”? Yeah, well I would have preferred to do that all day. Little did I know that from there on out, I would be dealing with some serious wind.

That day I also ran in to my fist other cross country riders. Fortunately for them, they were going from Calgary to Florida with a nice tail wind. We had lunch together and talked for about an hour. It was a big day at the Dairy Queen in Tyndall, SD.

OK, I have a bone to pick with some of these small towns I pass through. The town of Platte, SD put me over the edge. Many towns put up signs of the accomplishments of their town, usually state High School champions and the like. The sign entering Platte included “1978 Boys Track State Champs”. Come on. What is the statute of limitations here? I won’t put a specific number on it but it is way less than 27 years. And incidentally, out here bull riding is a High School sport. Platte High School was the state champs in 1993. 12 years, I’ll give them that one.

I came across a few interesting things along the way in South Dakota. Some of those I enjoyed the most were combination businesses. Some of my favorites were: Mindy’s Wigs and Supermarket, and North Vue Motel and Auto Sales. Surely you can see the economies of scale there. I have also found more than one ATM machine that gives out only tens. What am I going to do with 20 ten-dollar bills?

Those ten-dollar bills…I can spend them in a bar in Kadoka, SD. After a long Friday on the bike I ended up in Kadoka, SD which is a one bar kind of town. Please forgive me as it is going to be a bit lengthy describing my evening. It was just classic.

The bar was called something like Bar 15, presumably representing the total number of teeth of the 5 staff members combined. As I walked in there were 4 guys walking in ahead of me all wearing argyle shirts, the latest in cowboy wear. When I walked in the music didn’t stop, but people knew I wasn’t “from ‘round these here parts”. I order a Bud (you can’t go wrong with that) and was served by a bartender with on open wound on his forehead, no joke. As best I could tell, he was in prison as recently as that morning. I ended up talking with some totally decked out local who was the game warden in town. He had the whole cowboy thing going with the exception of the spurs.

Although I was allowed in without one, I think it was mandatory to wear a hat. Cowboy hat was the number one choice, followed by a trucker’s cap (it was OK though as they may well have been one or the other). The cowboy boots and Wrangler jeans were optional, as were the oversized belt buckles, but everyone had some combination of the three. Oh, and there were some killer mullets.

There was a live band by the name of Westbound. The crowd was eagerly awaiting their hit “I like my women on the trashy side”. The band was playing Country, Western or perhaps both. How would I know? I am from New York City. The band even had beer holders on their microphone stands. Think the Blues Brothers when the band was playing behind that cage, only without the cage and in more of a strip mall kind of bar. It was an experience.

The day after my night out I made it to Badlands National Park. There is some spectacular scenery there. I got there relatively early as I wanted to take a ride along the scenic loop, however, a combination of a mild case of food poisoning and the 103 degree temperature sidelined me for the entire afternoon. To those of you thinking, “but it’s a dry heat”, stick your head in an oven. That’s a dry heat as well. 103 is 103. I rallied in the evening to get in 20 miles. Well worth it.

From the park it was to Rapid City, SD and a rest day. Pedaling in to Rapid City though, there was a tragedy. You know how dogs love chasing bikes? Well this one didn’t look both ways before heading out in to the road. I didn’t look back at the carnage, but the screech of the tires, the look on the woman’s face standing on the side of the road and then her cringe, I think it was curtains for our hapless canine friend. A moment of silence please.

I rented a car in Rapid City so I could take in some of the sights. I started in Custer State Park, apparently one of the top state parks in the country. In comparing to the State parks that I had seen, I would have to agree. Plenty of wild life including: Bison (tons of them), Pronghorn Antelope, Prairie Dogs (everywhere) and some feral Burro.

Next stop was Wind Cave National Park, home to 95% of the worlds Boxwork cave formations. The cave itself is 107 miles long, 5th longest in the world.

On my way back I stopped in the town of Hot Springs, where a complete woolly mammoth was discovered. What I could not discover though was anyone who could confirm the existence of any actual hot springs.

I found it rather curious that in western South Dakota the speed limit is posted in both Miles and Kilometers per hour. Regardless, I still failed to obey the signs and was pulled over by a South Dakota trooper. I managed to talk myself out of a ticket, but still got an official warning. The document is actually titled “Courtesy Warning”. It was very cordial.

Next day it was to Mount Rushmore, which, looks pretty much like every picture you have ever seen. It was kind of cool though to get there from NY entirely under my own power. Later that day I was passing Jewel Cave National Monument and figured I would pull in. Three caves on one trip is more than enough, but this one is soon to be the second longest in the world. There is an expedition going down in October to map out a new area. It’s currently 121 miles long.

The next state in on the itinerary was Wyoming, known for its distance between towns. The longest stretch of literally nothing I had so far was from New Castle, WY to Wright, WY, 69 miles. I can’t say nothing, because I tornado came through about a month ago and leveled much of Wright. That’s something. Along the way though, there was no place to get anything to eat, drink or otherwise. It was desolate. Halfway through is no place to have any problems. Worst case scenario, there was a car that came by on average every hour. After a few hours of riding I thought to myself, “Wow, I am far more sluggish than usual”. It was only then I realized that my back brake had been knocked out of alignment and had been rubbing on my tire the whole morning. Duh. That wasted a lot of energy.

Did I happen to mention that I hate wind? Sure it’s great when you have it working for you. But when you are pedaling 90 miles straight in to it, like today…not so much fun. Actually, I have probably been fighting the wind for the better part of a week and a half with no end in sight. It seems like 90% of the time the wind is at least partially against me. I guess I deserve it, riding against the prevailing winds.

I could probably come up with another dozen, but here are three ways in which you know it is windy: 1) debris is flying past you on the road, 2) flags make that crisp snapping noise as they are being muscled about by the wind, and 3) you are in one of the lowest gears on your bike and have trouble riding down hill.

So I find myself in Casper, Wyoming a few days shy of the big climb in to the Rockies.

The basic stats:
Days Ridden: 29
Total Miles: 2,153
Average Miles a Day: 74.2
Longest Ride: 116.3 Miles

Hopefully the next update will be from the west of the Rockies.

Kevin
 

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