Friday, July 20, 2012

Valentine to Sioux Center

      Since leaving Valentine, the towns have been flying by.  Exotic places like Sparks, Norden (of the two, one had a store), Springview (public campground next to a golf course where the fairways were brown and the greens were sand), Burton, Mills, Butte (in Butte I was going to camp in a city park but rain and wind chased me to a hotel at 9:30 PM), Spencer, Bristow (in Bristow I went in what I thought was a grocery store but it turned out to be a meat and used clothing store. As it was Friday the 13th, I beat a hasty retreat before I became the daily special).  Lynch (a town with 2 bars, a grocery store, movie theater, but no ATM), Minowi (population 1), Verdel, and finally Niobrara, the last town in Nebraska for me.  From there I crossed to South Dakota.

        South Dakota has had it's share of fun names too.  But somehow, it's different.  Also, although there are a lot of roads, everyone is using the same one (the one with pavement).  In Beresford, a stranger started talking to me with the usual questions. After about a minute, he said the town campground was closed but I could camp in his yard if I wanted.  Lacking a better option, I said sure!  Yard became porch; a nice 3-season porch with a tv and a jukebox and a fan... And the stranger became Donnie, a mail-carrier who has done the RAGBRAI two or three times in the past and may do it again this year.  Thanks, Donnie.

       As I got closer to RAGBRAI, I've actually encountered other riders heading there and the locals are more likely to have heard of it.  One of the things I'm looking forward to: with 10,000 other people riding bikes, I'm much less likely to get stared at like a space alien when I go, well, anywhere.  

       And Thursday morning I arrived in Sioux Center.  A couple days early, but I can deal with that.  Sunday starts the big ride, and a week later I'll be in a car for the first time since June 1st.  Then I'll be on a train (first time since 2006) and 48 hours after that I'll be back in Seattle.  And the adventure continues from there. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


      Tires are holding up well.  Despite the miles of hot pavement, miles of gravel roads, dirt roads, despite running over assorted stuff, the tires are holding up well.  Enthusiasm is starting to wear thin, though.

       I stayed at a campground in Glenrock for a week.  I wanted to spend just a couple days, but they had a better rate for a week.  And they had a shower and wifi if you were next to the main building.  Downtown Glenrock was walking distance, so if I wanted to go to the only grocery store, or the only hardware store, or one of the nearly 7 bars, or 3 restaurants, it was an easy walk.  

       I was certain that the time off would help renew my excitement for riding.  And it did... For the first hour or so.  Then the gravel road threw some sand sections at me.  Sand is tough because the skinny tires sink in and wash out and generally don't work. It was bad enough that I had to walk several times.  That'll take the wind out of your sails.  That and record heat.  

        I have tried to get back to my base; back to being a tourist.  That is my comfort zone.  And although I really like riding a bike, after 40 days of this tour, riding a bike has become more of an obsession and less of a hobby.  That, I think, is the beauty of my van.  There I have options.  I can stop at a museum, I can go for bicycle ride, a motorcycle ride, or a hike.  I have my rock climbing gear, air-conditioning, my own picnic table... It's my home on the road.  

       That said, when the wind is at my back and the road is flat, riding a bicycle is still one of my favorite ways to spend time, cover the miles, and see the sites.  I relish the feeling I get when I'm out of food, out of water, hot, tired, and pedaling into some city limits after a long day.  I'll take a highlighter and trace my route on the map, and every inch of the map triggers memories of the miles covered to get there.  Riding a bicycle compared to driving the van: it's the difference between reading a book and reading the story summary on the cover.  Between watching a movie or watching the previews.  

       Just writing this is having a medicinal effect on my waning enthusiasm. Today is a day off in Valentine, Nebraska.  Tomorrow I'll hit the road again, continuing east to Sioux Center.  Miles to go, but I feel like I might be let down when this ride is finished.  Time will tell.  Lately, while riding, I alternate between planning the next bike ride and planning the sale of all my bicycles.  Like you, I can't wait to see how this adventure ends.