Day 22 – More Wisconsin, lots of hills and Lake Michigan

Day 22-  Sunday, August 9 – – Portage to Manitowec, WI – 126 miles, 2500′—wrong!

This was a bit of a strange day.  It felt sbudued — grey overcast skies, moderate temps, not much wind.  Everyone seemed to berindina bit slower and looked tired.  All because tomorrow is a rest day people seemed to be anticpating it.

The cue sheet or sheets were longer than usual – 3 double sided pages instead of 1 double sided one. There were so many turns for the first 50 miles or so that Lon and Dave Jordan painted arrows on the road at the turns for us

More riding through the the lovely Wisconcsin country side, but not quite as dramatic as previous days.  Lots of well tended farms and homesteads. We did see two buggies of Amish families on their way to church.

I headed out with the boys, but discovered that my legs were feeling pretty good.  At the second water stop, I left before they did with Kathleen.   Then all of a sudden there were hills and rollers that went on for miles. I road behind Tim quite a bit and found myself going up hills in much bigger gearing than I usually do. There was much more climbing than what the cue sheet said.  My computer registered 4800′ instead of 2500!

I did see glimpses of the cheese industry.  First dairy farms that said they were “milk producers for cheese” and even a cheese company.

After the last water stop, about 28 miles from the end, I found myself ahead of Kathleen, Bob B and Jack.  I wasn’t going very fast, I just somehow got way out front and stayed there.  It was the first time the whole tour that I was riding by myself and was enjoying it. It felt good to feel strong again.

I caught my first glimpse of Lake Michigan through the trees as I approched Manitowic.  It sure is huge. I have seen the lake from Chicago, so I know it looks like an ocean.

Our hotel was right on the water’s edge across a channel from the ferry terminal that we head to tomorrow.

We had another disasterous dinner experience.  Because there was only one  restaurant nearby that was open, we all went there and completely overwelmed them.  Sunday night is normally a slow night so they were understaffed to handle 40+ people.  We didn’t even get seated until 8:30.  But the food was excellent,  so it wasn’t a total waste of time and we didn’t have to get up early.

The ride was fun and once again I surprised myself at how well I did on the hills. The really flat routes we were on for several days are harder because you have to pedal all the time and never get any relief.

So on to a nice restful morning on our own in Manitowic until we get on the ferry in the afternoon.

 

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This what the contoured farming looks like.

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One picture of an Amish farmer at work.  A mile or two down the road you would see a fully mechanized farm.

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Two of the boys, Cliff and Dave, looking a little subdued.

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A grey, overcast day most of the way to Manitowec.

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Yes, there is cheese in Wisconsin.

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Here I am riding at the back of line and the view we often had.

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This is a view of the rolling hills we encountered for most of the day.

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First glimpse of Lake Michigan through the trees.

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Day 21 – Wisconsin is not about cheese…

Day 21 – Sat, August 8, – La Crosse, WI to Portage, WI – 133 miles, 4,300′

Wisconsin is absolutely beautiful. Stunning.

The route for the day was miles and miles of climbing, steep ones, right from the start, so I opted to skip that whole section and sag to the first water stop at mile 50. The profile of the route after that was much flatter. One of the other women, a lovely person from Tucson, named Kathleen,  joined me.  We high-fived each other every time the road jutted up for our decision to be in a van and not riding.

Lon was driving the van we were in and told us all about the state as that is where they live!  We went through the most stunning, panoramic and lush farm country.  There were stretches of contoured crop planting that was stupendous to see. Curves of color and texture molded along the hills. Just gorgeous.

When Kathleen and I first headed out, we did have a stretch of pretty good climbing, but it didn’t last long and my quads and me made it up just fine. For the rest of the day we were on fabulous country roads.  No cars, good road surface, pleasant temperatures, some wind but mostly cross winds.  We moved along at a leisurely pace enjoying it all and each other’s company.

The terrain changed to smaller farms with the more traditional single tall silos, not the short stubby, metal ones that we have been seeing in the more modern, larger farms.

We went through an Amish county, too.  We saw many men working their farms and animals in their traditional straw hats and pants with suspenders.  A classic horse and buggy driving in the other direction.  A beautiful young woman walking down the road in their traditional dress, with an elaborate bonnet.  We wanted to take pictures so badly, but didn’t want to offend them.  Kathleen did stop at one point and had a long conversation with a young man, but still hesitated in asking to take his picture.

The whole afternoon we sauntered along country side roads, with no center lines or road markings.  Their names were County Road Y or X and other letters. We went through forested areas, even ones that looked just like the straight pine forests we have in New England.

Kathleen’s boy friend, Tim, who used to be a Cat 1 professional racer, joined us somewhere in the early afternoon.  He is one of, if not the strongest rider on the trip, but is happy riding with Kathleen a good part of the time.  Actually, I think he rides with her more often than with the fast “guys.”  He did pull us along at a bit faster pace than Kathleen and I had been maintaining as we talked quite a bit while riding.  New concept. Get to know the people you are riding with, rather than just plugging along and/or staring at the wheel in front of you. Of course, we had so many days with headwinds and heat that all you wanted to do was put your head down and get to the end as soon as you could.  No time or energy for socializing.

We not only got to the hotel nice and early, but got cleaned up quickly and headed out to an early dinner.  Great!

I had such a lovely day today, both in terms of riding company and the countryside we went through. Yesterday’s bum mood is long forgotten.

I can’t wait until Terry posts his pictures as I am sure he took some fabulous ones. I will share those when I can. I have a couple on my phone out the car window which I may post later and the following few. I just can’t capture what some of these places really look like.

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Here are Kathleen and Tim on one of the beautiful, endless country roads we were on all day.

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Day 20 – Bike Trails, Mississippi River and Wisconsin

Oops. Pictures got loaded here instead of at the end.  So you’ll see parts of the day before reading about it.

This is the location of the second water stop.

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Here are riders heading out.

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The lovely lunch spot on the amazing bike trail that we were on for miles.

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Here are the boys ahead of me on part of the bike trail. Very pretty, right!

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A nature shot at bike sculpture exhibit in a town called Houston, MN.

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Some of the bike sculpture.

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The community center in Houston on the bike trail.

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Another innovation – a do-it-yourself bike repair station.

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Day 20 – Friday, August 20 – Albert Lea, MA to La Crosse, WI – 143 miles, 1500′

Lovely morning with an early morning start at 6:00 am because of the long day.  I had thought I would do the whole ride as there wasn’t supposed to be much climbing. Plus “everyone” said it was a pretty ride, which it was.

I headed out with the boys hoping to stick with them all day.  The roads still had some of those awful creases, but not as bad as yesterday.  The landscape was lovely – same as yesterday.  Green, lots of green, plus fields and crops galore.

After the first water stop, we were in a bike trail for about 12 miles.  Wow, they have bike trails here that are wonderful.  Well paved, through the most scenic routes. Even though we were motoring along at a good clip – I still found the up ticks hard and my quads were still mad at me. At the second water stop, I decided to sag up to lunch.  Good thing because it was a very, very hilly stretch.

The strangest thing happened, though, when I got in the van.  I immediately fell asleep.  Conked right out.  Alison, who was with me said I didn’t snore, but I was in such a deep sleep that when I startled myself awake, I had no idea where I was.  Gee, do you think I am tired? Nah, couldn’t be.  I’ve only been riding how many hundreds of miles for 20 days with only one day off my bike. Piece of cake, right?

The lunch stop was in an amazing village on the trail.  Lovely picnic area and crowded with families out on their bikes.  I joined the boys again after lunch and we were on the bike trail for miles.  It meandered through forested areas with a river on one side. Then would open out into fields again and back into the woods.  Most of it was well paved and only a few other riders out.  Not over crowded with runners, skaters, walkers, etc. that crowd the trails at home.

Was feeling kind of blah — whatever that means — so decided to sag from the last water stop into the city.  So I drove passed the welcome to Wisconsin sign and over the bridge crossing the Mississippi.  That was OK as it wasn’t as dramatic as the crossing was on my 1999 cross country trek.

I will admit to being in a cross/frustrated mood in the evening. It wasn’t helped by the number of us overwhelming the restaurant in the hotel ..an hour’s wait for food..having to walk to another place up the road, with such slow service that I thought I was going to scream..yuk.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until 8:15, too late for me.

However, the day was lovely and if a late, somewhat frustrating evening is all that goes wrong on this trip….how lucky I am!!

 

Day 19 – Flat route + tailwind = Yahoo!

Day 19, Worthington, MN to Albert Lea, MN. Thursday, August 4 – 120 miles, 1400…my computer said 2543′

I felt as though I hadn’t ridden in days.  The rest day was just the right thing to do because I did feel better today and so did my legs.  It was an easy day, too, so I could ease my way back up to normal output.

And what an easier day it was.  After three days of horrendous headwinds and heat, we had a tailwind and no real climbing, certainly not compared to what we have done. There  were forecasts for rain in the morning and thunderstorms in the afternoon.  It did rain before we started, but by the time we actually got on our bikes, it stopped.  There were huge black clouds following us most of the morning and we could see it raining other places, but not on us.

The terrain continued to be nice and green.  Lush fields of corn and alfalfa on both sides of the road. Early on there were lots of wind mills, too, which I don’t remember seeing so far.

It was fun to ride with the boys again.  We had a good line going, trading pulls every mile or so, and we just motored down the road between 17 and 20 mph all day.

There was one stretch, though, that was awful.  The road had creases or cracks across the road it felt like every 10 feet. It was so jarring as your bike would bounce off them.  My hands got so sore and numb from all the bouncing.  Finally as we approached Albert Lea they got a little smoother, but it was quite hilly the last few miles.  I think that is where all the climbing for the ride was.

A highlight of the day for me was that I road 100 miles in 6 hours and 58 minutes! I believe it may have been my first or certainly only the second or so time that I have done a sub-seven hour century.  Not bad.

The other good news was that afternoon rain held off until we pulled into the driveway of the hotel.

This was also one of the longest rides I’ve done on tour and we have even a longer one tomorrow– 140miles– but we will have a tail wind again and the temperature will only be in the 80’s.  Plus, we will ride a lot of miles on bike paths which everyone says are great fun. We also will cross the Mississippi River. We’ll see if I do make it the whole way.  I hope so.

The next several days are long ones and if I do the whole distance I may not have time to update my blog.  On Monday we have a “rest” day when we take a ferry across Lake Michigan.  I may have time that morning to fill in any days I can’t get to.  Stay tuned.

Here are a couple of shots of me that Terry took.  That is Dave Groat, from Littleton, CO in front of me.

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Here ‘s a sculpture that was in the park where the first water stop was.

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This an historic gas station at the last water stop, which even sold ice cream.  PAC Tour treated us all to an ice cream.

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I was trying to capture a very pretty river.

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Day 18 – Rest, KP Duty and Minnesota!

Day 18 – Mitchell, SD to Worthington, MN. 135 mi, 2,240′

What a wonderfully relaxing day.  Retta and I headed out about 7:45 and explored Mitchell a bit until we found a real coffee shop!  Great treat.  Then we drove to the lunch stop at mile 84.

Finally, the terrain is turning more interesting…lots of green, trees, fields with colorful crops.  So refreshing, even before we crossed into Minnesota just after lunch.

I helped a bit to set up for lunch, putting out the bike racks and benches, but the real help I provided was……drying the dishes! Yup, it was a vital task as Susan insisted that the plastic cups in particular, but paper plate holders, plastic cutlery, serving dishes, cooking utensils…every thing for 50+ people be thoroughly dry to prevent any mold in this humidity.  There were more than enough dish towels to move from a damp one to dry one and clothes line to hang up the damp ones.  They have thought of  everything!

I got to literally be in and see the inside of the food truck/van. It is similar to a boat…a place for everything and everything in it’s place.  I learned to ask first before guessing where to put things away.

The crew works exceptionally hard to take care of our every need and puts in long days before and after we are finished riding.  That is what makes our experience so pleasant and enjoyable on a PAC Tour.

We got to the hotel about 3:00, plenty of time to do a full load of all my “street” clothes which badly needed it.  I can wash my riding clothes out in the bathtub, because if you squeeze out the water with towels they can dry over night.  But not anything that is cotton, of course.

I think I mentioned yesterday that my bike computer wasn’t working. I put in a new battery last night, but it didn’t seem to work.  It was so hot in the driveway that I couldn’t stand being out there and said f…it.  I woke up in the middle of the night in a bit of panic attack thinking how would I ever get it to work.  For some unknown reason, I turned the pedals and the computer turned on.  Yeah. It may have been that it got too damp from all the fog yesterday morning. I need at least one navigational device working to help find my way.

The riders said it was a very long day, because the strong headwinds wore them down mentally and physically.  Several didn’t finished until after 5:30.  I think, too, whether they will admit it or not, people are tired. The next couple of days are a little bit shorter, 123 and 128 miles instead of 140+, but rain is predicted for tomorrow. That will cool things down a bit, but then we have to contend with all of  our wet gear when we finish.

Here is one of the early waters stops with a few riders who road in the van to get a leg up on the day.

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Finally some greenery.

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Here is a well tended house as we entered Minnesota.  We stopped in the driveway to help a rider who was having trouble with a wheel.

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This is my attempt to show the landscape.  I think I’ll just crib some more of Terry’s shots when he posts them.

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This is the beginning stages of setting up for lunch.

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I had to take this shot of some friendly horses near the lunch spot for my friend and horsewoman, Althea Angel.

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And surprise of surprises look what is in my room at the
Travel Lodge in Worthington, MN.  It would have been even better if I had had a hard day of riding!

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Photos….

Here are some shots I have shamelessly copied from Terry Lentz’s amazing photos on Google Photos.

This is the bulletin board that is our bible of the day’s instructions and information at the end of each day.

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The ice cream didn’t last too long in the heat and with everyone gobbling it up.

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The foggy start yesterday morning.

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Sun flowers!

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Days 16 & 17 – The Badlands and Half Way

Day 16, Monday, Aug. 1 – Rapid City top Murdo, SD – 147 miles, 4180′.     Day 17 , Tuesday, Aut2 – Murdo to Mitchell, SD – 144 miles, 2000′

This part of South Dakota is not my favorite place.  It is pretty desolate and has been blistering hot for the past two days.  Long straight roads that go on forever with nothing interesting, well except for the Badlands, to look at.  As the afternoon progresses it just gets hotter and hotter.
These few days are some of the longest mileage wise so everyone is out on the road much later than we’d like to be.  Even the best of us feel a bit bedraggled.

Monday started out quite promising.  On these long days with the heat and headwinds, riding with others is almost a must. I road in a great group of the boys, including, Jeff, Cliff, Mark, Dave, Richard, etc., and was doing great keeping up with them and doing my part.  Richard did come to my rescue early on when I had to stop to pee and then pulled me back up to the line.  At the second water stop, however, I forgot my camel back and they continued on without me when I had to go back to get it.

It was then I made a huge mistake, huge.  I pushed much to hard trying to reach a couple of riders ahead of me hoping they’d help my catch back up with the boys.  I road so hard that it was as though I had done some interval work  and hurt my quads pretty badly.   I finally backed off but the damage was done.  I did meet up with three others to ride into the lunch stop.

The highlight of the day was riding through the Badlands.  The are incredable rock formations and deep crevices that stretched to the horizon on both sides of the road. Our lunch stop was at the visitors center so we had time to absorb them.

I decided to stop then and road to the hotel with Retta, who I think mentioned before.  She is one of the rider’s wives who is driving their car and helps  as one of the lunch crew.

Everyone who finished the day said it was pretty brutal with the heat.

Murdo is the tiniest place I have seen that is lined with second rate motels. We couldn’t figure out why that is.  It is near the interstate, but it is a pretty sad place.

This morning, Tuesday, we woke to thick, impenetrable fog, which didn’t clear for over an hour and made everything as wet as if it were raining.   I headed out with the “boys” hoping to enjoy riding with them as much as I did yesterday morning.  But it was not to be.  My legs were dead and just wouldn’t cooperate. I couldn’t pedal well at all.  I finally just feel off the back to get as much lift as I could to the first water stop at mile 34.  I should have stopped there and called it a day.  But Alison, a gal from Australia on the ride with her husband, was there and we decided to ride to the next water stop at mile 60 and sag from there.

It was still relatively cool and a bit over cast, but it was the longest 25 miles I’ve ridden in a long time.  My  two navigational devices were not helping.  My computer hadn’t worked all morning and my phone battery was running low for some reason even though I have a back up battery.

We got to the water stop which Dave Jordan, a former Bostonian and someone I’ve know since I first started riding, was manning, when a third rider came and wanted a ride too.  Dave waan’t sure he could fit us all in.  Even if I had the will to ride to lunch at mile 83, I didn’t want to ride without a phone in case anything happened.  But Dave figured it out and we all got ferried to the lunch stop.

Once again, when Retta finished her lunch duties/clean up, she chauffeured three of us to the hotel.  At least Mitchell, SD was some what of a sizable town but it was too  blistering hot to appreciate it.

As the riders came in, they all looked pretty beaten up. The route had to go along mostly frontage roads by the interstate and weren’t in the best condition.

The highlight of today was that we passed the half way point of mileage of our trek across the country.  I for one don’t want it to be half way.  I don’t want to start counting how many days we have left.  And I am not going to.

I have decided, though, to take a rest day tomorrow to give my legs more rest  and get my mojo back.  Tomorrow is destined to be a repeat of the last two days in terms on boring terrain, headwinds and heat.  Not a bad day to recoup.  I will ride with Retta and help out at lunch.

I finally have better internet connection and was able to upload more pictures.

Here I am riding with Louise Comar, one of the fastest riders in the group, who I rarely see on the road. She is here with her new husband an they are the first honeymooners on a PAC Tour.

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The Badlands.

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The scenery for the past few days.  Lots of crops and bales of hay.

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Here I am pedaling with the boys.  Louse’s husband, Terry, takes  upwards of 50 pictures a day with a camera while riding along.

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The half way point!

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Another shot by Terry showing the landscape.

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Day 15 – Ran with the Buffalo

Day 15 – Custer to Rapid City, 75.6 mi. 6750′ !!

Today was the most climbing per mile of just about any day on the trip.  And climb we did.  I almost didn’t do the 75 mile loop up to Mt Rushmore and through Custer State Park to see the buffalo, because I thought my legs would be worthless.  Turns out they weren’t and I totally surprised myself at how well I did climb.  It was a great ride.  One of the most fun days.

I loved being in the forest with trees and greenery and lovely meadows, instead of the barren landscapes such as yesterday.

One of the main reasons for going the way we did was to see the buffalo, who roam freely in the park. And that they do.  We first saw a few loan ones in the woods by the side of the road. Then we rounded a bend and there was a herd of them. OMG, they are big and a bit scary when they’d turn to look at you.  When they decided they wanted to cross the road, they would and make the cars stop.  Of course, cars were stopped to look at them. It was a thrill to see them.  We came across a second herd a bit further down as well. We also say deer and or antelope, a bunch of mules, also crossing the road, and fields filled with ground hogs peeking out of their mounds of dirt watch us ride by.

The other highlight of the day while we were in the buffalo area, was riding with the fast “guys” who were also meandering along.  I road for a while with Louise Comer, one of the fastest riders in the whole group, who is on the trip with her new husband.  The first honeymooning couple on a PAC Tour trip.  Usually I only see them before and after we ride.

One of the steepest parts of the day was riding up over a 10% grade to get to the Mt. Rushmore Entrance and Visitors Center.  We had been seeing the monument from afar as we approached it.  We had gone through three narrow tunnels cut into the hills.  The first one was lined up to see the monument at the other end.

As we sat eating lunch, a thunderstorm seemed to be heading our way, so several of us sat in a lovely gazebo to wait it out. It never did cross directly over us, so we finally headed to the hotel and never got wet.

It turned out to be one of the most fun days so far.  Challenging terrain, with lovely multi-mile downs to match the climbs, some rollers that were close enough to power up and over the next, heavenly greenery all around and amazing animals.

I am having the worst luck with uploading pictures.  I am sure it is operator error, but I also think the Internet connection is not adequate.

Here are two shots of buffalo.  I’ll try to up load more tomorrow.

 

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Day 14 – Entering South Dakato – 5th State

Day 14 – Gillette, WY to Custer, SD 115 miles,  3500′

This was not the most pleasant day. It started out riding past some of the infrastructure…including a rail line with what seemed like an endless one of railroad engines ..of the coal mining that makes Gillette the “energy capital.”

Basically we road on endlessly boring, hot and windy terrain.  Plus, I was tired and not much oomp.  I road with Drew Carlson and Ken Johnson, the Sacramento boys, who maintained a relaxed, moderate pace.  However, the slightest up tick seemed tortuous.  I almost bagged it at lunch, but decided to keep going.  Luckily, Drew was with me and helped me limp into the last water stop at mile 95.

The route did get better as we entered the Black Hills National Forest for those that did the whole day.  I did see a flock of the horned sheep grazing on the side of a hill.  The area had a forest fire several years ago and was still covered with blackened trees, but the undergrowth is coming back.

The other highlight of the day was an unexpected violent thunderstorm after dinner.  A few of us went for an after dinner ice cream and literally made it back to the hotel as the heavens opened.

Tomorrow is another huge as we will be exploring the Mount Rushmore area.

I only took two pictures, including a state crossing sign/photo op, but the internet isn’t great here and the pictures won’t load here.

 

 

 

Day 13 – The day after the big day…

Day 13 – Sheridan to Gillette, WY – 112 miles, 4,400′ – Friday, July 29th

It rained last night, but was bright and sunny today, which promised to be bit easier than yesterday.  I was a bit wary of doing 112 miles, though, and I was right.

The spirit was willing, but my legs were dead from yesterday.  I had trouble holding my place in our little pace line even on the gentle 1 – 2% inclines.  Plus, it got hot pretty quickly and we had a nasty headwind. The terrain was just plain bleak.  Miles and miles of rolling dusty ground.  We did see lots of cattle and horses.  At one point there was a group of horses with two of them lying down.  It looked so odd.  A couple of times, too, the cattle were actually running along the slopes where they were grazing. That struck us funny, too.

All in all it was a bright but hot, dusty, bleak day.  I was going to try riding at least to the lunch stop at mile 73, but when we approached the second water stop at mile 55, I knew I was done for the day.

Again, I hopped into the luggage van with Lon as he was there manning water stop.  We stopped at the lunch wagon and then went on to the hotel.  I enjoy riding with him as he knows so much about all the areas we ride through.  And I can help out little bit in getting everything set up for the riders before they arrive.

Also, getting cleaned up early on a hot day is delightful.  I am here to have fun and that I am!

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Here’s a bit of the terrain we road through today.

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This is Jeff Rogers, a riding partner from Wilmette, IL, with whom it turns out we have many friends in common.