Friday, July 16, 2010

Twice the man I used to be

Day 24. Chamberlain to Mitchell South Dakota. I am twice the man I used to be. Why? Remember a couple of weeks ago I changed a flat tire and became "a man" in cycling terms? Well, today I changed not just one, but two flat tires. I got the first flat at about the 31 mile mark (just under halfway to Mitchell). I got the second flat about 100 feet after the first flat. Those are flat numbers 4 and 5 for me.

One funny thing though, before I get on to today's ride. Last night at the route briefing, Karen from ABB described the route into town as "turn left as you pass the Safeway, turn right as you pass the Walmart, etc." When she said "after you pass the Dairy Queen, make a right to the hotel" one of the riders named Sandy replied "oh we won't pass the Dairy Queen". That's the way we all think out here. We stop at DQ for a Blizzard every chance we get. It was a very funny comeback line.

After we left this morning, the ride was pretty straightforward. We had a bit of a climb out of Chamberlain and then a gentle rise until the 20 mile mark, but it was pretty flat with little wind. For the first time since the ride to Casper, the terrain was pretty boring. Lots (I mean lots!) of farms and cornfields (hence the obligatory "Field of Dreams" shot above). By the way, unlike all the stuff I couldn't see but could hear running through the wheat field yesterday, the corn field was dead silent. Unfortunately, there were tons of mosquitos though and I got bitten pretty good.

We were rolling along nicely and I was having a chat with Margot from Connecticut (about The Duchess mostly) when we started riding through a couple of miles of rough gravel road. As soon as we got off the gravel I felt my rear tire going flat. No big deal. I got my tube and tire changing stuff out and changed the tire all by myself. I checked the tire itself as I've been taught to look for the cause of the flat. Then Jeff double checked it. It looked OK. I did need help putting it back on the bike though (believe it or not, I had it turned the wrong way at first – Jeff had a good laugh over that). As soon as it looked like I was good to go Jeff and Joe rode off to the next SAG which was only 4 miles away. Baltimore Mark just happened to stay behind with me as I got rolling. I didn't get 100 feet when it went flat again. Now though I had no spare tube (I had just used my spare) and clearly I had tire trouble of some kind.

I pulled over, took the wheel off again and Mark and I went through the tire with a fine tooth comb.We did find a tiny hunk of metal embedded in the tire that caused the flat in the first place. We tried vainly with tweezers to try to get this spiky thing out of the tire, but in doing so, we punctured the tire itself (which was probably shot anyway). Mark and I were trying to figure out what to do when ABB mechanic Jim rolled up in the mechanic van. He told us the tire was shot, lent me a new tire until tomorrow and got us on our way.

I can't say enough about the ABB staff, especially when you have these roadside issues. It's nice to be able to keep yourself going, but it's even better to know that the support is there if you need it. I wasn't going to die out there (some nice South Dakotan would have given me a ride I'm sure), but this could have ruined my day. Instead I was going again within 20 minutes and it was no big deal.

By the way, when the clerk at the convenience store 10 miles outside of town heard I had a flat and got delayed 20 minutes, he said "that flat tire was a blessing – now you have to spend 20 less minutes in Mitchell, South Dakota". That was a pretty good line too.

So, better late than never, we arrived in Mitchell, an interesting tourist town (at least that's what I think) developed in the late 1800's. The centerpiece of the town is, of course, the Corn Palace. Here's the wikepedia info on this site:

I thought this was fascinating. It is a mixed-used venue that is covered in corn-based mosaic-like artwork. It was originally built to demonstrate the region's agricultural fertility. Now, it is just a place where people like Kenny Rogers plays concerts or local high school teams play hoops.
Here are two videos of the Corn Palace here in Mitchell South Dakota:

Margot has organized a couple of shuttles to take us to the local rodeo tonight, which should be cool. I think a couple of the cowboys from the rodeo are staying in this motel based on the spurs I just saw walking down the hallway.

The one thing that is interesting to observe on a trip like this is the roles that people take on as we get more familiar with each other. Within our little group of 5 Geldings, Jeff is clearly the bicycle expert in terms of understanding bike mechanics, riding form, and paceline stuff. Joe is the ace pacesetter and former ultra-marathoner who can pretty much take anybody down in a race. Baltimore Mark is a mixture of medic and rolling support van. His bicycle expertise is very good too and he has a lot of experience in bike maintenance that proved helpful to me just today. Dave is (and I mean this in the most complimentary way) like a cycling ox. He is brutally strong and is tough in any conditions and has proven so several times since we started riding together on day two. But, what's my role?

I think I am a mixture of class cut-up and organizer. I know almost nothing about my bike. I'm not the strongest rider. I am not nearly as equipped as others. But I help pull my share and hopefully keep things light, especially when it gets tough. I re-told one of my favorite jokes the other day on one of our tough long rides, and it got a big laugh. It goes something like this:

A guy learns that his best friend has been sleeping with his wife. He confronts this best friend of his and says "Morty, I have to, but you?" It's probably funnier in person, but it helped keep things light. Yeah that's me – class (or paceline) cut-up.

Last minute update – we just went to the Corn Palace Rodeo. Very cool. Like being on another planet. Not necessarily a bad planet, because it was fun and interesting. But like being on an alien planet nonetheless. Really alien.

FYI – the DQ Blizzard count is up and the Snickers count went up by one today too (Snickers Dark, a first for me, which was delicious).
Samantha, check out the name of the guy who made my Blizzard today (see picture above):
5 Snickers
11 Blizzards
4 milk shakes

Now on to today's mail:

Jill from Toronto writes (about Duke, the three-legged retriever): "I think you need a dog guidebook. That’s no retriever. That is what one would call a mutt." One man's retriever is another man's mutt, Mrs. Kennel Club. Either way, Duke was retrieving pretty good yesterday, especially on just three legs.

Kenny from Toronto writes: "Eleanor must be delirious from the heat. The Lipsons miss you. At first I would read your Blog because I wanted to hear about all your adventures. Now I seem to focus almost exlusively on the DQ Blizzard count (is that bad?). Stay safe." Eleanor isn't delirious from the heat, I assure you. Also, what about the Snickers count – it's soaring!

Here are my Garmin stats for the day:

This is Joe's blog:


  1. You'll always be three times the man to me, Pa.

    -Katie Scarlett

  2. why does everyone else's blog have pictures of you attempting to put your injured wheel on the wrong way??