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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 24 - Wall to Pierre - The Great Wind!




The Death March...






That's what they call this day of the ride when the temps exceed 100 degrees...


I can hear the conversation now...

"What did you do on your vacation?"

"Oh, I did The Death March."





Hmmm....not me.

Today is 117 miles - hilly - hot
(but not 100, only in the high 80s)...

..and a blasting headwind when we turn North at mile 50-70.










I'm not doin' that!


So we load up my bike and I get a lift to mile 30.










We leave at dawn - it's going to be a long day...








ABB, knowing its a tough day, livens things up with a poker game...



Draw one card at start, one at each SAG and one at the end. High hand and low hand split the pot.






We have a new biker joining us, Janice, she is just here for one week...

Good luck, Janice, you picked a tough week...








And poor Michael starts out the day with a flat tire...







It's interesting riding in the van...

Keeping track of all the bikers...

Talking on the radio with the other two SAG wagons...

"Rick's out in front - about mile 13. Then Tom and behind him is Katie." 



But we buzz ahead of them all and drop
Phillip and me
at mile 30 -

in the middle of nowhere.


And off we go...

I'm so glad I've gotten a bump up...

The legs feel okay but I'm dreading the turn into the wind at mile 56.4 in the town of Midland.




Construction ahead...

I talk with the guys on the motorcycles while we wait to go through...









The landscape
is pretty much
all hay...

They even hay the median of their highways...


No trees, no prairie flowers, no wildlife...

Just fields...




.....and the wind!




It's blowing 20-30 mph now...

from the North-Northwest...

and we're going east...







Until Midland!



We have a SAG there and the fast riders are catching up with Phil and me.






Katie is up there with the big boys!

She's amazing!

One year ago this girl didn't even own a bike!


I jump out into the wind...

Might as well get this over with...




Brutal! That's the word I hear most...

This wind is absolutely brutal!

Can't even see it...

Not even flags around to warn us with their angry flapping...


Only the grasses leaning back to the South...





....as if to say...
"go back...go back...
before it's too late."

And the mighty Wind Spirit must have a sense of humor, because he sent a big hill to climb as soon as we turn into the wind.

In desperation, I line up behind Phillip to shield me from the wind.

Phillip, with his heavy bike, is our slowest biker...



I'm the only person who has ever tried to draft behind Phillip.

As we inch along up the hill being beaten down by the relentless wind, I look at my Cateye.

We are going 3 mph.

At this rate we will be fighting this wind for 7 hours!

After one mile Phil quits - "This is ridiculous! I'm flagging down a pickup truck."




I look around...

We may not see a pickup truck for four hours.

I wish him luck and trudge on slowly fighting my invisible foe.

The thoroughbreds pass me.

I try to speed up to get in their wind shadow, but they are too fast...

As soon as space opens between us it feels like a giant hand pushes me back away from them...

I crawl along...

This is miserable...


Then Dave, usually a thoroughbred himself, passes me...

I try to get behind him, but I can't keep up...

But, look!

Dave slows down!

I hit the pedals and get behind him...

I stay for about a mile then I begin to drop again...

Dave slows down till I can catch up...

He waves me alongside him...

Since the wind is NNW, the sweet spot is just to the right of his back tire.

We are actually going 9 mph!

I'm worried. As the wind gusts, my wheel wobbles in my hands...

I'm afraid I'll hit his tire.

"Don't worry," he says.

 "At this speed we won't go down."
At mile 10 of The Wind, we see the van with Phillip.

"Jump in!" says Phil.

Yes! I begin to load my bike.



No - says Dave. We can do this!

I can't believe it! I have to be slowing him down.

Wouldn't he rather put his head down and burrow through the wind as fast as he can?

I am torn. I am scared of The Wind.

"Will you stay with me?" I ask.

Yes - he promises.

So, full of doubt, I get back on bike, back behind Dave's wheel and I follow.

It seems to get easier, now that I know he will hang with me.

Every 3 miles or so I have to stop to get a drink...

Even just standing upright is hard in this blasted wind...

We see no other bikers...

We're still towards the front - going slowly - but no one passes us...

Hours seem to pass when all I can hear is the storm in my ears...

Finally through blurry eyes I see the crossroads ahead...

It's the turn!

A few more efforts, the muscles creaking...



...and we turn to the East.

I have to stop for a breath! Eat a power bar and restore what little strength I have.


Thank you, Dave!









And he bikes on to the East...

A few moments of recuperation and I, too, head east.

Wow! Now the wind helps. Not a pure tailwind, but it's so strong it pushes me along...



In no time I arrive at the SAG stop by the river...

With vans parked to block the devilish wind, we rest and celebrate surviving the last 20 miles.

Al pulls up.

She was carried along by the Swiss boys, Daniel and Bruno.

Most people made it with the stronger bikers carrying the weaker ones.

Now, with the wind behind us, Al and I bike together for the last 40 miles...



Huge, sweeping vistas - very green - it looks like Ireland...

...reminds me of the Irish shirt I followed through The Wind.

Al and I swoop and climb these big hills...

She tells me her plans for the future - she graduates next May...




Organic Farming, Dance Studies or Massage Therapy School -

all very tactile...

She is not one to spend her life among dusty books...




We have a great time together...

...bonding in a way made possible by shared adversity and adventure.







Midway - another SAG - Jeff hands out power bars like Halloween candy...




And we spin the last few miles into Pierre (pronounced Pier), the capital of South Dakota.

This capital city is smaller than my home town of New Castle.

All of South Dakota only has 3 escalators!







We cross the Missouri River - imagine Lewis and Clark with their flatboats entering the unknown on this river.

Do you think they ever faced The Big Wind?









The Capital dome is black to celebrate the Black Hills.

They seem a world away from here...





Into the hotel...

 I follow Barb's advice - drink chocolate milk, eat peanut butter crackers, and hold your feet in the air...

It's all about recovery...

Tonight skip ABB's Chinese buffet...







...and go to
The Cattleman's Grill
with Mark and friends...

I need protein to build muscle!


And maybe
I will be stronger
tomorrow...








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