I’m writing this several weeks after the fact, so my mind might be a bit fuzzy. But I assure you that it wasn’t all that interesting of a trip and what I got out of our mini adventure was more mental then physical and that a change of scenery helped lighten my feeling of being stuck in some sort of work/life cycle that was never changing. After being stationary and in one place for almost a full calendar year, this was a nice way to clean out the doldrums and routine of ordinary life. Even though it was for only one week and 580 miles west of home. *(Reminder for all those who don’t live in the US, 500 miles or 805 km may seem like a long road to travel. In my reality those 500 miles are a vast open space of virtually nil with nothing much in between. Brian and I happen to live in a portion of the US where it is a 4 hour/250 mile drive minimum to get to the nearest big city… Des Moines, IA. Never heard of Des Moines? Not to surprising, it’s not that big of a city and no where nearly as famous as Chicago, IL which is 7 hours and 410 miles away. Needless to say I seem to have picked a lovely spot to live that happens to be in the middle of nowhere. I truly do love living here in Minnesota but there are several heavy tolls you need to pay if you choose to reside here. More on that later, I am sure.)
For editing purposes and as a side note the * will be used for when I go off on a wild tangent. When some of my writing might not be relevant to the paragraph it is contained in. I will try to remember to use it and often.
Rapid City, Our Starting Point
It turns out that weather men are evil beings sent to this earth to confound, confuse, and mislead the whole lot of us! I’m only half kidding.
Brian and I found a host in Rapid City through Couchsurfing for that first night in town. We arrived in the late afternoon by car and didn’t want to start out right away. Needing to stretch out, do some mapping, and get provisions before we got rolling on the bikes.
In the morning after checking the weather, we realized that it wasn’t going to be good. The highs were fairly normal at least for this time of year, around 50f/10c. It was the lows that ruined ourplans, 18f/-7c. The nights were going to be a bit cold for my taste. During our cross continent trip I know we will be hitting some colder temperatures but this is beyond what we had anticipated. Fortunately for us we came packed with all our gear and four seasons worth of clothing. We packed for the real thing, I just didn’t think we would need to use it all this time. Though camping was going to be out of the question. I know we wussed out but my sleeping bag is only rated so low.
So when I said it was more of a mental then physical trip, I lied a bit. Really it was both but the physical part for me at least played a challenging yet smaller part then the realization that this was what I was going to be doing for the next year or more.
I’m so glad I ride my bike almost everyday when I’m at home. That first day out of Rapid City almost killed me. What I failed to realize is when they say Black Hills they don’t actually mean hills, they are real mountains! Living in the plains for the last 7 years has desensitized me from fully rationalizing what mountains are. It has been at least those 7 years since I have been able to gaze upon their majestic beauty on a regular basis. I do a fair amount of traveling and to mountainous regions but I rarely ride my 80+ lbs bicycle up them. Brian happened to have his handy dandy gps with and he recorded our extremely long accent that day. 3426feet in 38 miles or 1044 meters in 61 km. Either way it was a long day without much down. There is no where as far as I know in my adopted home state of Minnesota that you can gain that sort of elevation in that many miles. (Later on I checked to be sure.)
During the arduous climbs, all which Brian kept telling me at the top of each hill that we were at higher elevation then our last high point, I had plenty of time to take in the natural beauty around me and to have a personal discussion inside my own brain as to “What in the hell was I doing?”
It was a real shock to my system, al the months of planning and saving money, and now I was unsure if I really wanted to do this. Ride my bike for the next year or more? I kept trying to tell my self that this is something I had been dreaming about for the last 3 years. Bur the Black Hills were kicking my butt. Almost 40 miles of nonstop climbing on the first day, on new bikes, with all the gear! It had me thinking twice about where my life was going and I wasn’t sure I was ready for it. Later talking with Brian, I came to find out that he too had similar doubts about the whole grand plan. Really was just the shock of getting on the touring bikes again after them being put away for the last year or more. We pedaled all day up, up,and up, only stopping midway to rest in a country store, grabbing a Coke and eating a little.
One thing I remember for my previous tours is to never trust the locals when it comes to distance and terrain. In India everything was 2 km away and always back in the direction we came. In mountain towns people will stop you on the road to tell you that the worst is over or “Don’t worry it’s mostly flat up ahead.” Just remember that all of this is bunk. I don’t think they intentionally lie, I just don’t think they have any idea what it’s like to ride a bike for long distances. Not even in their home towns. This was the same advice we got at the little store. It was not flat at all! Around 16 miles out from that stop and night was fast approaching. It’s that time of year when the dark comes quick and it’s even faster in the mountains. We got about 6 miles outside of Deadwood before I started to get cold, a bone damp cold. Stopping on the main road that leads into town so that I could change gloves and put on more layers. All that climbing you work up a sweat and as the sun started to go down I started to freeze. By the time I got my extra coat and gloves on it was dark and we were starting that cold descent into Deadwood. ( I totally understand now why the Tour De France fans hand the rides newspapers for the down hills.) Luckily for us shortly after the sun disappeared we found a campground/cabins so that I could get out of my wet clothes, eat supper and get warmed up.
Sleeping that night didn’t come easy for either of us. All that exertion had produced exercise insomnia. (Reminder to take melatonin when this happens) The next day after a hot shower all those fears and uneasiness from the day before where gone. I felt ready to take on this small challenge and much better about tackling the bigger multi-continent tour. There was much more climbing to be done but this time I felt that I could push through and even enjoy it, a little bit.
That first day was by far the worst for me. After that initial 24 hours everything went pretty much smoothly. Other then the weather (hot climbs, freezing descents, and cold nights) and a few climbs of more then 10% grade that I pushed as much as pedaled. The one from Keystone, SD to Mount Rushmore was a bear with a fully loaded bike. But these are the types of things that keep you on your toes. I love to travel, to immerse myself in different situations. Sometimes it’s great and everything goes smoothly and other times it’s hard and hellish. But in the end it’s always sweet because I get to experience something I wouldn’t have if I just stayed at home. I want my life to be full of experiences and not of regrets.Our South Dakota Shake down was a success! Plus we made a stop in the Bad Lands and hiked around for a bit. Good to switch things up every once in awhile.