Day 23. Pierre to Chamberlain South Dakota. Just another magnificent day in cycling paradise, aka South Dakota. South Dakota has to be the best kept secret in American tourism. It has beauty, dramatic landscapes/vistas, is an outdoorsman's Eden, and (aside from Mount Rushmore) is empty. Perfect weather (85F and a little breezy), lush prairie scenery, and empty roads usually add up to great cycling, and today, South Dakota delivered in spades.
Speaking of spades, I forgot to mention that yesterday, to help break up the tedium of a long day of cycling, the ABB crew organized a game of SAG poker. For a buck, each rider drew a card at load yesterday at 5AM. Then, at each SAG stop (there are 3 of these
"support and gear" rest stops on a long day like yesterday), each rider drew 1 card. At route rap (the nightly route briefing), a "community card" that was common to all hands was drawn (your 5th card to help form your poker hand) and the high hand and low hand split the pot. I didn't win, but it helped divert our attention from the horrible winds yesterday.
I also forgot to say that last night's dinner was at a Mandarin-like Chinese buffet. This was the first Chinese food I have eaten since I left. Now those of you that know me know my love of Chinese food. I wasn't anticipating anything great in Pierre South Dakota, but either I was starving or desperate or both. It wasn't bad at all. Actually, it was OK. I capped another fine dining experience with a Blizzard at DQ. I wanted a Heath Blizzard, but they were out, so I got a Mint Oreo Blizzard. Not great. I'll try something else next time.
Today marked the passing of another major milestone in the trip. We passed the halfway mark around 8:15AM this morning. My estimate of the total mileage on this trip is 3,677 versus their estimate of 3,652 (including my trip out to the Pacific Ocean to dip my wheels, so I could officially go coast to coast). I don't know why it's different by 25 miles, but we'll see where it ends up in New Hampshire in 3+ weeks. Whatever. One way or the other, today we passed the halfway mark, and it was quite exciting. As you can see from the above pictures, the ABB staff puts a mark on the road showing where they think the halfway mark of the trip is, and like state lines and time zone changes, we all stupidly (and proudly) mark the occasion with a few pictures and some good natured high-fives. That's me lying on the road (don't worry Mom, there weren't any cars coming). Here's video of us regaling in the moment:
Baltimore Mark was very excited today because he had specially ordered riding jerseys made for his ride and they finally caught up with him yesterday. Doesn't he look all spiffy? At the first SAG stop, we were in the gravel driveway of a farm that the owners were nice enough to let us use. We were right next to a field of wheat ("wheat...wheat...everywhere...wheat" – name the movie!). I've always wanted to walk into a field like that and see what it feels like. It was cool. What they don't tell you about an idyllic photo op like that is that there are all kinds of animals (snakes included) that are in the fields. I know because I could hear lots of scurrying near me when that picture was taken. Also, we got to play fetch with the farmer's dog named Duke, a three legged retriever who was ecstatic to play with lots of new friends dressed in weird cycling gear.
When I go through all these things we're experiencing, I wonder what I'm going to remember in 30 years (if I'm around, and if I have a memory, and if I can still think, and if I can articulate thoughts...). Will it be the cycling and the challenges we faced (wind, mountain passes)? Will it be the wonderful people I've met? Or will it be something simpler that for whatever reason, stuck with me, like Duke the three legged retriever. I wonder. Anyway, here's more video of me riding along the Missouri River and valley in beautiful South Dakota:
We may have passed the halfway point in mileage today, but I think we are way over the halfway point in difficulty. The major mountain ranges of the West are a memory. The first three legs of this trip (the third leg of which ends Saturday in Sioux Falls) will have covered 1,989 miles in 4 weeks of riding in which we will have ridden 25 days. During leg 1, we rode 9 consecutive days. During leg 2 we rode 9 consecutive days. By the end of leg 3, we will have ridden 8 consecutive days. Each of the first 3 legs averaged 663 miles/leg.
The next three legs are 1,640 miles. Leg 4 is 7 consecutive days for 606 miles. Leg 5 is 6 consecutive days for 493 miles. Leg 5 is 7 consecutive days for 564 miles. We've got decreasing mileage and decreasing numbers of consecutive days between rest days going in. We know there are still a couple of brutal climbing days in Vermont and New Hampshire as well as back to back 100 mile days next week in Minnesota, but I can't help but think that we're over a major hump. That is, if the weather and wind continue to co-operate.
As all of you know, I'm a glass-half full person, so I can't help but see the bright side here. I know what my Duchess will say to this comment – "where is my husband, Mr. glass-is-half-empty, and what have you done with him"?
FYI – the DQ Blizzard count is static (no DQ within walking distance in Chamberlain), but the Snickers count went up by one today. However, I had my first McFlurry today (Oreo and Reeses), which was actually pretty good:
10 Blizzards (including 1 McFlurry, which is kind of a Blizzard)
4 milk shakes
Now on to today's mail:
Eleanor (my mother-n-law) from Toronto writes: "When you originally booked this crazy trip, I didn't think you should leave my daughter for seven and a half weeks. Now that you're not here, I can see that I was wrong. Take all the time you need, like 6-8 months." Wow, it's nice to be missed!
Here are my Garmin stats for the day:
This is Joe's blog:
Trip journal and photos by our tour leader Mike Munk:
This link is Jeff's blog:
This link is Baltimore Mark's blog:
And this is Katie's blog: