Monday, July 19, 2010

What else you got?

Day 26. Sioux Falls South Dakota to Worthington Minnesota. Oh man, what a day. The elements threw everything they could at us today. At one point, I looked up at the sky and thought to myself – what else have you got to throw at us?

Before getting to today though, I forgot to mention that on our way to the ballpark last night our taxi drove through the Sioux Falls suburb of Minnehaha. I didn't know that Minnehaha actually existed. That's the second place on this trip that I thought was a punchline (the first being Hell's Half Acre) that is an actual place. Who knew?

Today is the first day of the fourth leg of this trip. In terms of sheer mileage, today and the next 3 days are the biggest 4 day stretch on the trip, totaling over 350 miles (close to 600 kms). Today was only 70 miles, but it was a rough day nonetheless.

When we woke up, the forecast called for 30% chance of rain. However, the Sioux Falls radar and a look outside confirmed a 100% chance of rain. Dark skies greeted us as we loaded the truck and set off. It is one thing to get a bit wet at the end of a ride at home. It is quite another when you have 70 miles of riding stretching in front of you and a Travelodge room waiting at the other end. Now I'm not knocking Travelodge (my room is fine), but it ain't home and there is no convenient washer and dryer at the ready. It's yet another thing altogether when the day in front of you is the first of 4 days totaling over 350 miles. I think everyone was a bit anxious as we started out today.

So, what did the elements throw at us today? Well it started with some lightning as we pulled on to the main road and then we got some rain showers which were pretty substantial. What those of you who don't ride a bike don't understand about riding in the rain is that it requires extreme caution. Bike tires are very narrow and don't have a lot of contact with the road (they are designed to reduce rolling resistance). When roads are wet, bike tires can't be entirely trusted.

So, it's raining and we're working our way through a park system in Sioux Falls (a nice park system by the way). It's dark and it's kind of hard to see. When we leave the park we start riding on Sioux Falls roads which are absolutely the worst roads to ride a bike on. There are big gaping holes in the seams of the road, monstrous potholes, gravel and busy traffic. Furthermore, there seemed like there were dozens of railroad crossings, which made it even more scary. Just to make matters worse, the railroad crossings were at odd angles to the road (as opposed to being perpendicular to the road which is safer).

Railroad crossings are an even greater hazard to cyclists in the rain. The metal tracks, when wet, are like ice to a bike tire. You slip immediately and go down. Even when you know this, you can still get tripped up. That happened to Baltimore Mark and Beth today. Both of them went down on a railroad crossing in the rain and I saw it happen about 100 yards in front of me. Having fallen in the past, I know just how painful falling on pavement can be. Plus it gives you a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach knowing that you may be next or that one moment's lack of focus could result in you going down. Though it looked awful to see, neither Mark nor Beth were seriously hurt. We continued on in the rain.

The other thing about rain is that you can't form a paceline in it. There's water being kicked up in your face from the rider in front of you (it's called a "rooster tail") that is annoying (who wants to be constantly splashed in the face with dirty road water?) and potentially dangerous because it hampers your visibility. So everyone just split up and maintained a safe distance from one another.

Before we left the city of Sioux Falls, we did stop at the Falls in town and took some video. It would have been nicer in better weather:

We (Joe and I were riding together, but a safe distance apart) left the horrific roads of Sioux Falls and made our way out into the countryside. We got to the 23 mile mark and, guess what? I got flat #6 of the trip. It was my rear wheel, which is a bigger pain to repair than the front wheel due to the derailleur. But I am a man now (in cycling terms) and I actually repaired the flat and had the tire back on the bike in about 15 minutes. Just as I got my tire back on, Jeff rode up and told us that he had a flat on his front tire about a half a mile back that he just fixed. He watched me finish fixing my flat and we rode 100 feet, and then Jeff got a flat, this time on his rear tire. That's 3 flats between us within a half mile. Jeff fixed his flat and Jim (the mechanic from ABB) happened to drive by. He sold us some new spare tubes in case we got another flat (which thankfully we didn't), checked us over, and sent us on our way.

By this time, we hardly even noticed that the rain had let up, and before we knew it, we were at the Minesosota state line. Our 5th state. Amazing. Unfortunately, once the rain let up, the wind started to kick up, right in our face. This made the riding tough. As it turned out, today ended up being our second slowest day of the tour so far. Today's ride reminded me of a part of the Passover seder that Jewish people go through each year. It recounts the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt, and specifically recalls the 10 plagues that the lord brought down upon Pharoah that convinced him to "let my people go" (as they used to say). Each year during the seder, we pour 10 drops of wine to recall the plagues. Well, I don't mean to compare riding a bike to being freed from bondage under a cruel Pharoah, but to commemorate today's ride (and with no intention of being disrespectful) I am going to pour 10 drops of Gatorade to recount the 10 plagues of cycling:

rain (rain)
bad roads (bad roads)
railroad crossings (railroad crossings)
headwinds (headwinds)
saddle sores (saddle sores)
heat (heat)
cold (cold)
sore feet,
wrists, and elbows (sore feet, wrists, and elbows)
grasshoppers (grasshoppers)
the slaying of the first born son (the slaying of the first born son)

I'm just kidding about the slaying of the first born son – that was a real (or real in biblical Old School terms) plague. The final plague of cycling is:

getting lost and not finding a Dairy Queen (getting lost and not finding a Dairy Queen)

Today, we had 7 of the 10 plagues thrown at us. Let's hope that's the worst it gets for the rest of the trip.

FYI – the DQ Blizzard count is up one today (I tried the Snickers Blizzard at the suggestion of Jordy Rose – very good, but hardly transcendent); the Snickers count is static today (I can't count the Snickers Blizzard as a Snickers bar due to legal restrictions imposed by my attorney)

6 Snickers
12 Blizzards
5 milk shakes

Now on to today's mail:

Ancient Aunt Pittipat from the old folks home in Toronto writes:
"It was nice to read that you are missing us here at Due North Mark! Oh are not missing me. Well! Wait till you are back in your office...if the air conditioning doesn't are on your own!!" Aunt Pittipat, it's nice to see you can still work the computer machine to send me an electronic message. Well done!

Jordy from Toronto writes: "
Just a fast email to let you know that I’m a regular and steady reader of your very enjoyable and informative blog. It is obvious you are having a great time and a special and unique experience and I feel lucky to be able to get a small taste of your adventure and learn about the lesser traveled areas of the USA while I’m at home sitting on my ass!
I have always been a fan of DQ – my favorite is the cappuccino skor blizzard. Have you tried the snickers blizzard yet? I was wondering if this would count in both categories of your all important count?! Thanks for the Blizzard suggestions. I have had the Skor version (here it's called Heath bar, but it is the same). It was great. Upon advice from my attorney, I have been advised to count the Snickers Blizzard as a Blizzard rather than a Snickers bar.

Here are my Garmin stats for the day:

This is Joe's blog:

1 comment:

  1. Saddles sores... I've been wondering how ye ole arse was holding up. I can't believe you've travelled all these miles and this is the first I'm hearing of it. Is your seat uber padded and EXTRA wide (tee hee)