Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Day 27, Jordan to Winnet: New scenery, meeting cyclists on the road

Day 27, Jordan to Winnet: New scenery, meeting cyclists on the road

Wednesday June 24, 2020, 54 miles (87 km) - Total so far: 1,531 miles (2,464 km)

It was hot last night in the tent. So I set the alarm early to get out before the heat.I wanted to somehow find a cell tower to let folks know I'm okay. I rode past several, always checking. In Sand Springs a woman said the carrier is Verizon. So not sure when I can connect with folks and post updates to trip diary. I reached Sand Spring at 33 miles. Already it was warming up. I refilled water from a bottle dispenser which makes me wonder about drinking the water in this area. The lad I especially at the store/way station in Sand Springs were very helpful and welcoming. There are clean toilets and a shower room. They invited me to camp, but it was too early.
The hills were not as b ad as yesterday, but I could tell I didn't have umph. The legs just aren't there after so many continuous days in the saddle. My goal for now is Lewistown where my friend's sister will come to get me from FT. Benton, take me to her house for a lay up and feed, and then take me to Great Falls. Hopefully, I can catch up the journal using Wi-Fi.
Anyway, about 5 miles after leaving Sand Springs I met 3 cyclists heading East. It was fun, felt like a reunion though I never met them before and have already forgotten their names. One invited me to stay in his yard in Missoula. They told me in so many words not to stay in Mosby. The RV park was cluttered with junk, offered no shade, and the guy was a bit iffy. I've done this before and not been happy.
I made it to the rest area around 12:30 and hung out trying to see about getting a ride to Winnet where there was camping. At least a town. Jim and Nan pulled up I a nice van camper. Jim was originally from Chicago, so we got to talking and I broached the topic. They said yes. So they drove me the 22 miles.
We drove past it. Though Winnet is the county seat it is just a cluster of silos and tin buildings. It has a bar, post office, general store--camping is by the pool like in a yard. There is no toilet, no water, no showers. The pool guy said the closed the showers because of Covid. So no one showers before entering the pool. I'll do the night swim for $2. Clean up then. Steal water from a faucet by the pool. Power up devices as best I can at pool. Hmm no toilet, I'll have to make like a squirrel when no one is around.
Tomorrow hopefully, Lewistown.

Day 26, Circle to Jordan

Day 26, Circle to Jordan

Tuesday June 23, 2020, 70 miles (113 km) - Total so far: 1,477 miles (2,377 km)

Those were 70 miles of climbing. Over 1,800 feet. It was continuous. You surmount one hill and there in the distance are 3 more. I'm exhausted.How she did it: I got out at 6 because I heard the road narrows and there is truck traffic. At 32 miles I reached a rest area on 200. A guy told me most of the climbing was behind me. Hmmm. I would ride 36 more miles to Jordan. No shade, climbing in the sun. Temps were in the 80s. Low humidity. I rode most of the day through Garfield County, where more dinosaur skeletons have been dug up than any other area. Info from sign at rest area: 300 skeletons exhumed. The area was a shallow sea billions of years ago. Now it is pretty dry, with exposed rock, but mostly rolling grassland.
At one point I pulled over, there was a house with a barn/garage. I just needed a little respite. The family arrived while I sat there and brought me water and stool to sit on. To be honest the yard was full of junk. You get the idea that life is hard scrabble. The older woman who arrived on a 4x4 reminded me of a character from Winter's Bone the movie, the one with the eerie raspy voice. It was 12:30 and 13 miles left.
I really pushed myself. You know the feeling, when you are at the end of yourself, but you have to keep going. It was mental. I so much wanted to quit. Topping a hill to see another, I was choking. I made it to Jordan by 2 pm. And went straight to the post office to pick up my new tent poles.
Complications: package not there, no cell signal, cannot call company, cannot contact my host in Ft. Benton to get address for forwarding. The water in Jordan gives you diarrhea so I have to buy bottled water, weird camping situation. No electricity.
The city park in Jordan is across from a truck mechanic. Cars and trucks pulling up, loudly braking. I would judge the vault toilet as not Covid compliant. And, there is a decomposing, fly-infested dead bird, a turkey vulture, festering right next to the water pump. Compounding this image was info gleaned from my ACA L&C trail guide, that Jordon was fairly receptive to a group that ended up being ultra white supremacists that took over the town until run out. This was not a long time ago but fairly recent.
I really needed to get good sleep as I didn't sleep too well the night before in Circle. It was so quiet without wind that I could hear birds fighting in the shower e later next to where I camped and the sound of bugs hitting the tent fly. I was worried a wild animal would come for my food.
So working through a number of problems. But, first eating at town bar and cafe.

Day 25, Glendive to Circle, MT

Day 25, Glendive to Circle, MT

Monday June 22, 2020, 55 miles (89 km) - Total so far: 1,407 miles (2,264 km)

A perfect day, really.I knew I only had about 50 miles. Intel from the lady at the welcome center at Wilbeaux had said it was somewhat level. I awoke at 5:30, left the hotel an hour later, got a breakfast sandwich to go at a gas station, was at a grocery when it opened to get more tuna packets and bars. On the road by 7:15.
It was level, some noticeable up. Train tracks stretched to my left. I think they use them for parking because for about 30 miles cars were parked. A long stretch of them. I made Lindsay by 9:30 , a very small place but was able to use a bathroom at Ag place.
I kept going. The sky was a perfect blue bowl turned over top of me. Big Sky Country. You can see for miles, rolling grasslands. After I left the tracks there was more climbing, but reciprocated with downs. I made it to Circle, really just a circle on the prairie, by 12:30. It seemed too early to stop. Tomorrow's ride is 66 miles, I could get a jump on it--except: absolutely nothing again until Jordan. I'd rather eat, rest up, leave in the a.m. with breakfast sandwiches and 5 bottles of water. It seems risky to set out when even stealth camping might invite a bear or other unwelcome wildlife.
Upon entering Circle there was a concrete dinosaur, a kind of mascot. Presumably the land around here offers up dino bones. Had lunch at the Lunch Box Cafe., a healthy wrap option. And, then circled back to the park next to the community pool. I'm set up with shower, water, and electricity.
Tomorrow I hear will be hilly. At the grocery a woman said it gets hillier the further west you go.

Day 24, Medora to Glendive, MT

Day 24, Medora to Glendive, MT

Sunday June 21, 2020, 65 miles (105 km) - Total so far: 1,352 miles (2,176 km)

4 States down, 4 to goI feel quite accomplished, though I'm not resting on any laurels yet.
It really was nice of that couple last night to let me camp in their spot. The last few days I've been saving $$, so even while riding today I thought of getting a hotel.
A bit of a review of Medora Campground: hello, if you are sold out, no vacancy, then have a crew restocking the restrooms. This a.m. the festering bathroom had no tissue. Each woman was taking her life into her hands reaching into the garbage to re-use TP. I know, gross, add on top of that Covid. Someone said it'd been like that all weekend.
I got started at 6. With Mountain Time, no need to pack up in the dark, already light by 4:30 a.m. I wanted to start early because of the highway. Also, being Sunday traffic should at least start light. The winds were calm and the gradients gentle. I didn't feel like I was pushing hard. The sky was overcast and temps were in the 60s.
It was about 26 miles to the state line. Then another 8 to Wibeaux, where I pulled off for the rest area. There I ate a big snack since I wasn't sure how many places down the road I could pull off, lean the bike, and have a break. The information lady at the information center at the rest area might have been struggling with Alzheimer's. She kept forgetting words and every question I asked about what to expect in Glendive she answered, oh, I don't know. Nevertheless when I left she said, stay safe, I'm going to be thinking about you. She sure was sweet.
Though there was 3 exits before Glendive, there were no services. I just kept going, the 30 miles to Glendive. It was tough at the end. But the road was not bad, almost flat at the end. Winds picked up when it started raining, stopped by a guardrail to put on rain jacket.
I arrived at 2 pm and pulled into a cafe, busy because of Father's Day. I ordered the most caloric thing I could think of: a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. While eating a couple came in--he's biking and she's in a camper van. He said Montana is tough.** I felt like saying: it all is. I had no idea of camping options. At the diner the waitress said people don't really camp at the city park. I called the state park out of town, they had rustic tent sites 3 miles from water source on a windy road with 17% gradient. That would leave the KOA literally across the street from the cafe. Regardless of the price they were my last option. Except they hadn't turned on water. No bathrooms, no shower. I can't tell you what I'm thinking. Like how can you even begin to think that might work for someone arriving on a bike?
In addition several motels were CLOSED.
I'm loving the Yellowstone Inn. We're on the bank of the Yellowstone River. It was only $60 total with tax, GREAT shower with little soap amenities, which are starting to come in handy. The rooms have a fridge and microwave for reheating the food I couldn't finish. Comp coffee starting at 5 a.m. So I got my motel wish.
Tomorrow only about 50 miles are planned to Circle.
**he was riding with no bags, etc not sure what this portends for me, with bags/cargo.

Day 23, Richardton to Medora

Day 23, Richardton to Medora

Saturday June 20, 2020, 64 miles (103 km) - Total so far: 1,287 miles (2,071 km)

It was so relaxing staying at the Abbey. I left after breakfasting with the monks. Last night I participated in Vespers. The place reminded me of home--except no women.The mornings have been overcast and chilly. I forgot to take my sunscreen shower. The first miles were hard--1) leaving a secure place, no watch, and a sore on my bum. I made it to Dickinson, a substantial size town, where I bought an egg sandwich, a used watch from a thrift store, and moleskin at a pharmacy. I felt lucky to get these things.
It was 40 more miles to Medora. Winds were not ferocious but not exactly favorable. At times I struggled to make 9 miles an hour on flat ground. At Belfield I ate a snack and then got onto the highway. I wasn't looking forward to it, but it actually ended up faster. The hills were more gradual. I had a wide berm to myself. I just had to remind myself to relax. It was 18 miles to camping.
All day I'd been riding what they call the high plains. Rolling grasslands. Then suddenly I crested a hill and there were the Badlands. Despite being on the side of a highway, I snapped pictures. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to camp in them.
Medora is having cowboy musical days. The place reminded me of Moab, with cool-dude crowds buying ice cream and fancy coffees. The campground was packed. You know u r in trouble when they ask if u have a reservation. That would be no. Nor am I getting data. Hemmed in by Badlands. I walk out to tentville and ask a couple if I could double-up with them. Yes! It's far from the bathroom, but at least I can stay. Tomorrow, hopefully, Montana.

Day 22, Glen Ullim to Richardton, ND: Short day, staying at Assumption Abbey

Day 22, Glen Ullim to Richardton, ND: Short day, staying at Assumption Abbey

Friday June 19, 2020, 27 miles (43 km) - Total so far: 1,223 miles (1,968 km)

Last night it dropped below 40 degrees. There was a heavy dew on plastics and tent. Jeremy and I headed out together at about 9 a.m. We made it to Hebron for an egg breakfast at a cafe. We discovered after we left that we entered mountain time zone. I said goodbye to Jeremy in Richardton. I also bought a watch battery, but watch problem not resolved. Do I need a watch? Can check time on phone. I think the sweat killed it.I was achy, and though the climbs were not bad, the wind made progress slow. Arrived at 12 noon, in time to have lunch with the brothers.
Assumption Abbey is where Kathleen Norris wrote Dakota and Cloister Walk. Her work has been very influential in my own life and writing. In their bookshop were books by Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Later will eat dinner and attend Vespers.
The next few days will be rainy, would still like to chug along.

Day 21, Bismarck to Glen Ullim,ND: Finally met another L & C cyclist

Day 21, Bismarck to Glen Ullim,ND: Finally met another L & C cyclist

Thursday June 18, 2020, 61 miles (98 km) - Total so far: 1,196 miles (1,925 km)

Yesterday when the mechanic fixed me up, he said the new rear cassette would give me more teeth in the climbing gears. Today I felt like a lion.As per my MO,I struck out early, but not before stopping at a supermarket. I was surprised it was open so early. It is also the first grocery I've been in since Chicago that had more than 3 aisles. I bought some granola bars and am I glad. I needed that snacking power. The first 15 miles out of Bismarck and Mandan to old 10 were easy enough. But, then. The climbing started. Definitely feeling like the West. I climbed over 1.000 feet in 20 miles. Into 17 mph winds. What's weird is that I felt fine.
I was super hungry by the time I made it to New Salem, home of the world's biggest fiberglass Holstein to celebrate the town's dairy history. There was a GREAT small-town grocery there. They had prepared foods!! I bought some great cheese and hot chicken fingers. I ate them at the city park not far from the Holstein perched atop the hillside. I could have stayed. There was camping, electricity, a porto. I couldn't make up my mind. I made phone calls, sorted out a tent pole problem, arranged housing at Assumption Abbey in Richardton. It was only 2. I got back on the bike to smash out the last 20 to Glen Ullim. Well, that idea vanished with the pavement. I did 500 more feet of climbing on gravel. My neck and shoulders are stressed from trying to control the bike. Not a single vehicle passed me. So no chance of rescue. I made it to Glen Ullim in a drizzle, via a grocery store again for a can of soup to go with my great cheese and crackers. Camping is outside of town for $6.
Temps all day were in the mid60s. Right now in my tent 59. It will drop down to the 40s. After washing up from supper I came back to the tent area to find another cyclo tourist. He is Jeremy from Canada staying for the time being in st. Louis. He is trying to do big miles each day. Tomorrow I stay at the Abbey where Kathleen Norris wrote Cloister Walk. I will have to buy cards for my friends.
Anyway. it gives me hope I'll meet other bikers.

Day 20, Beaver Creek to Bismarck, General Selby park

Day 20, Beaver Creek to Bismarck, General Selby park

Wednesday June 17, 2020, 50 miles (80 km) - Total so far: 1,135 miles (1,827 km)

I'm sitting here with the fluff from cottonwood trees drifting around me. No winds, except for a breeze. Temps low 80s. Everything feels good, normal--except this is like a rare day for me.I loved the campground last night. First I was fed the brat plate by Donna at her trailer, then Pat and his extended family fed me an all-you-can eat beer batter fried fish dinner. They kept talking about how many calories I must burn. I tried to tell them about the extra Covid weight.
I always turn in early, since I'm up early. I really do like lighting out at dawn. Anyway, last night an electrical storm blew in. I think it passed in 3 stages. The first had big wind. I thought it might flatten my tent, but the poles held. I'd seam sealed the tent, but wasn't sure how well it shed water. I didn't get wet. Lastly, the thunder and lightning scared me. One hit fairly close and I felt the ground shake. I prayed.
At 4:30 I was out of the tent, packing. That's when I discovered my sunglasses were missing. They could be in the rangers car, office, or Donnas trailer. I left with a sinking feeling.
The ride was ups and downs. Wind was not vicious, but also not helping. And, without my odometer, I was never sure about progress. I have a sort of ACA map, so about 10 miles out rang Larson's bike shop. They were busy, but would fit me in. I made it there exactly at 12 noon.
I was a little traumatized. He said not only the chain but rear cassette was shot. I also had new front brake pads put on. With labor it was around $90. I couldn't help think of the money, but it was necessary for safety sake. Anyway, the lowercase me great directions for getting out of town. And to a DQ while eating lunch I signed into my bank account.
I started with a little over a stimulus check amount, but my balance was still way above that. It's like I haven't spent anything. I refreshed thinking it was a mistake. But, no. What a relief. Also the bike guy gave me a pair of glasses left sitting around the shop. I have to get used to them. Also, last night Pat packed me fish to go. So tonight fish, and my leftover DQ.as it was too much.
Bike is ready to go. Odometer is back. I'm here and have met a Chippewa Sioux woman living out of her car with cancer who is a Christian. She asked me if I wanted to go to the casino, but I'm fine.

Day 19, Selby to Beaver Creek rec. Area

Day 19, Selby to Beaver Creek rec. Area

Tuesday June 16, 2020, 80 miles (129 km) - Total so far: 1,085 miles (1,746 km)

Well, all the prayers, positive vibes, etc worked, because I made it through the heat, tough terrain, and wind.A few people have commented, supposing I am naive: didn't you know about the wind? Yes, I expected it and also knew that it normally blows from the West. What I've been recording here and for the past 2 weeks have been historic winds. For example I just had a brat in the trailer of life-long ND-oans, 2 couples, they said never have they seen it like this. He said it is 20 miles OVER the norm. He said it was likely blowing at 30, possibly getting over 50. At all these campgrounds are fishermen disappointed because they cannot go out on the water. The wind doesn't stop; it just blows.
That said, they were favorable today. I packed up and left the city park in Selby at 5:45; I wanted to get a jump on the heat, etc. I had 5 FULL water bottles. Once heading north there would be nothing. Not even the occasional farm. It is all corporate farming. Three thousand plus acres. And, no shade trees.
The wind was maybe only 20 when I started, reasonable. I went to Glenham and took the Glenham road up to 1804. Yes, there were twists and turns, climbing out. I used my lowest gears, plus the wind got me up without too much pressure on the knees. I took lots of pictures. A squall was blurring up the sky, I rode through a bit of rain. Mostly it made me hurry. I reached Pollock at 10 a.m. at 45 miles.
It was a greasy kind of town. Really no reason to hang around. Temps and wind were still moderate, I kept going. Naively I did think, since I had plenty of water, I could wild camp in a bay bale. Hahaha. This is all corporate farming g. No hale bales per se. Certainly I could camp under a yacht size combine. Before leaving Pollock I got Intel on campgrounds. A guy said if I went 40 more miles I'd find camping at Beaver Creek, federal US army corps of engineers land.
I made it by 2 pm. By now the winds are just ripping. It was hard to control the bike downhill. I pull in and I need to set up an account, register online. Ok, if you have a signal. I was lucky in that I found a ranger in a truck and asked for help. She asks me if I have a Smartphone, as if everything will be solved. There are a million and one random reasons I will or won't have connectivity. Downloads can take 5 or more minutes, meanwhile the site times out. It took us an hour to get me a reservation. I did mention that the current system leaves one distracted by the bureaucracy.
She blamed it on Covid.
Anyway, I was invited inside a trailer for a brat, fresh strawberries, and another fruit salad. Plus a date bar. As I was putting up my tent another camper invited me over for a fish dinner!! We'll see.
Once in Bismarck I'll need to find a host or camping and bike repair. I want to see about brake pads and a new chain before heading West. Also once again my odometer is on the fritz.
·Ate sooo much fried fish. Totally full.

Day 18, West Whitlock to Selby: On the road for 2 and a half weeks

Day 18, West Whitlock to Selby: On the road for 2 and a half weeks

Monday June 15, 2020, 45 miles (72 km) - Total so far: 1,005 miles (1,617 km)

So that was fun: I'm going to be in the local newspaper, the Selby Record.First, the ride today was hard, but also least I could hang onto the bike. At no point did I feel the wind pushing me out of control. Leaving West Whitlock, hahaha, Kelly from the bar/bait shop arranged a ride for me. Thank goodness or I'd really be toast right now. He left me off by 212. Going east I had a bit of the wind helping, but once I turned north it was full at me, maybe 17-20, so not as high as some days. Also temps moderate with cloud cover. Even so, there were FEW places to stop for a break. About 20 miles in I had what I'm now calling a barn stop. It was 17 more miles before I saw another farm--close to the road and not far off in the distance. Mostly it is rolling grasslands, grass blowing in the wind--and the sudden clatter of quail rising up from the grass beside the road.
I made it to Selby right off the highway by about 3 pm (averaging about 8 miles an hour). Also the ACA directions take you into Akaska and onto gravel roads for 10 miles. I didn't want to do that because of being alone. The area would be remote, little traveled, also hot and hilly. I didn't want to be a corpse. I arrived in Selby right when it was truly heating up. I always question myself: should I try for more miles? You see, tomorrow the winds are predicted from sse, they will be more favorable for the direction I'm going. I'll have to be up and out early to beat the heat. The 40 miles north of Mobridge to Pollock are twisty and hilly. I want to have plenty of water when I leave Mobridge because not sure how many barn stops will be possible as I take 1804.
I'm camping at the city park, next to the swim pool that will charge me only a Dollar. There is water, electricity, and bathrooms.
So getting a few grocery items (stocking up in case I have to wild camp if I don't make it to Pollock) the grocery clerk asked about my trip. We chatted for a bit, then she said, you should go over to the Selby Record and tell them your story. I gave Karen a card for my blog at crazyguyonabike.com and she recorded me. She also snapped some "action" shots. Karen just bought the paper 2 weeks ago.
Tomorrow is going to be rough=heat, wind, terrain, send prayers and good vibes.

The kindness of strangers

The kindness of strangers

Monday June 15, 2020, 45 miles (72 km) - Total so far: 1,005 miles (1,617 km)

The WHY part of my trip is getting filled in. I have met so many kind and interesting people. From the Native American man on the Yankton Sioux lands to Tammy, Warmshowers host in Pierre. Though only chatting, I am see a broader America, than what is boiled down and simplified through media.I do know that old labels like conservative and liberal mean a spectrum of things. Mostly, so far can say: we are not the sum of easy categorization.

Day 17, back in the saddle again, to West Whitlock rec. Area

Day 17, back in the saddle again, to West Whitlock rec. Area

Sunday June 14, 2020, 62 miles (100 km) - Total so far: 960 miles (1,545 km)

Wow! Incredible, so many things. Tammy and Scott were great Warmshowers hosts. Tammy is training to be a wellness coach and I think she understood I was nervous getting going. For a number of reasons:The weather. Last night the winds picked up again. These were blowing non-stop 30 mph winds. I could hear the windows rattling. So when I woke up I already felt defeated. It was also supposed to get into the mid90s today.
The roads, SD terrain is tough. Rolling hills are doable, bluffs are energy sucking. Hills with serious sidewind is scary.
I'm also recovering from breaking down, a feeling that left me feeling vulnerable.. Now the very fact that everything worked out is one successive miracle after another. I am in God's hands. But it really struck me how close I was to catastrophe, flying downhill on that old wheel. The new wheel is great. I have confidence in it and the spokes are heavy guage.
Finally, there would no towns, gas stations, places to refill water.
I got going the first time at 9. That's when I discovered the magnet for my odometer, trip computer was on the old wheel in Dusty's garage. So we loaded up my bike and went over to Dusty's. We couldn't synch it, so I said I'd just go. Tammy offered to take me to 1804, which was a big help, that way without a computer wouldn't have to guess distances to get out of town.
On the road I finally met Scott who'd been gone fishing. We passed on 1804, and pulled over. Of course he fixed my odometer. I gave him a hug and took off. It was about 10:30. With the strong winds pushing me I made great time heading north. There were 3 places where I needed to turn east and it was hell holding on to the bike in the crosswind.
I got onto the 212, a busier road and the trucks and wind made things tense. I stopped at South Whitlock Resort. They could let me camp for $17 without bathrooms, water, or showers. I had West Whitlock on my phone, knowing it was about 7 miles off-route. But part of that was going north, so a push. Let me just say the 7 miles getting here were cruel. Steep ups and downs. Those 7 miles took me to the middle of nowhere. I'm hoping I can get a pickup ride out tomorrow a.m.
At least at the very end, at West Whitlock, a dead end peninsula into a "bay" of the Missouri is a bit of a resort. The bait shop sells food. So settled in with tea and pizza and WiFi.

Day 16, Off the bike, complications, miracles!!

Day 16, Off the bike, complications, miracles!!

Saturday June 13, 2020

Physically and mentally I have been driving myself. I guess it's fear. Afraid if I take time off that I've wasted a good day of riding. That tomorrow will be harder. That the mojo keeping me going will go away. But today could not be helped.When covering and locking up my bike last night I discovered a broken spoke. I taped it. Then thought: this is crazy. A total reset is necessary. A couple problems though: I am in the middle of stinking nowhere in the middle of Covid. I am surrounded by reservations that do not want visitors. I cannot get going and have a breakdown. I cannot risk going downhill on a bad rear wheel. The sensible thing is to stay put and figure something out.
I contacted a Warmshowers host in Pierre who was away fishing and whose wife was dealing with an ailing pet. Scott reassured me he'd try to help. So I went to bed. This a.m. He sent me his wife's phone number. We talked; the dog was better. She'd come to get me. Wow! But, not for long. What about the bike? I thought, one problem at a time. She drove me to the only bike shop in town that was about to close for the weekend. The owner was using a cane, could not lift a bike, and his spoke cutting machine was broken. We talked, and I ended up buying a new rear wheel with double bonded spokes. A friend named Dusty will install it. All this by 4 pm.
Waiting now to go to a neighbor's to eat. Dusty will do the work at 8 pm. If all goes well I could be running tomorrow.

Day 15, Snake Creek to Ft. Thompson camping

Day 15, Snake Creek to Ft. Thompson camping

Friday June 12, 2020, 77 miles (124 km) - Total so far: 898 miles (1,445 km)

I'm super tired. This is my 15th day in a row of cycling, through EVERYTHING. Today was also beautiful.I woke up and was gone by 6:20. By 12 noon I'd done 50 miles with the help of a faint south wind. I stopped in Chamberlain which has an excellent Main Street. The storefronts are "Western." I got a bite at a cafe and then hit the drug store for some ointment for my backside. No wonder I've been so sore in the saddle. I also got more snacks and tuna from Family Dollar.
Then I stopped at the Atka Lakota Museum. The center told 2 stories: 1 about the St. Joseph Indian boarding school and the other story was about Lakota culture. The boarding school is a very complex issue I'm finding. There was good and bad done, and good intentions gone wrong. I had a Thomas Pynchon moment(I believe he's the author I'm thinking of) when looking at a display of 19th century Indian objects, were actually the props donated from the movie "Dances with Wolves."
I wanted to hang out and wait for the sun to go down a bit before tackling the last 20 miles, which with the wind helping should only take an hour. Hahaha. Leaving the center was uphill as we were also leaving the river. I was on this path that took me up to a glorious overlook with historical significance. Lewis shot a "wild goat", what is an antelope at that spot. The next 15 miles were brutal and beautiful. The landscape was these dramatic rolling hills, verdant green, wild, unblemished. I was climbing in my lowest gear sometimes for a mile. One after another, hurtling descent where I took the whole lane, and then up. At one point going down (it was just me, no cars, nothing) I did a Comanche yell.
By 4 I was in Ft. Thompson, but I have no signal, no data; it's hard to figure out where camping was. A security person at the reservation grocery tried to help me. He told me exactly where to go, but did I listen, no. What he said made no sense since there wasn't a sign at the road and you had to go down behind the dam and all the power lines. I rode back and forth over the dam twice and was scouting out stealth camping. But I needed some water to after that. A couple guys in safety vests with the U.S. Army Corps of engineers were doing something and I stopped to ask if they had extra water. Paid for by taxpayers a guy said, help yourself. We got talking about my trip and he was from Chicago. He moved away just as Wicker Park was gentrifying. Anyway, he showed me satellite imagery of the campground I was looking for.
So I'm beat and need to see how to contact my Warmshowers host from where I'm at.

Day 14, North Point to Snake Creek, via Burke: I'm back in the game

Day 14, North Point to Snake Creek, via Burke: I'm back in the game!

Thursday June 11, 2020, 77 miles (124 km) - Total so far: 821 miles (1,321 km)

Today: temps in low 80s, winds 9-13, nnwIn other words=do-able.
I haven't had a day like this on this trip until now. I was up and out early, as is my MO. I stopped again at Abby's Cafe where I bought a breakfast sandwich. The same waitress, the only waitress, possibly Abby herself, was there. She remembered me and we spoke some more. She is older and is in some ways inspired and also concerned for me.
I must come across like Rucksack Annie, the octogenarian who used to walk the Appalachian trail with a bag tied to the end of a stick. I roll in a bit discombobulated, harried, and slightly overweight. Not really the right material for what I'm proposing to do. Today I was especially nervous. There should be NO excuses for making miles.
My main concern was food, eating it and replenishing. I bought a breakfast sandwich at Abby's that lasted me literally 30 miles. I'd stop to eat some and keep going. In Bonesteel was a pretty decent grocery store. I feel like I have enough emergency food for at least 3 days. You see you never know if a town has food, gas station, or...an actual cafe.
It was a gradual, steady climb from Bonesteel to Burke. In Burke I was at 52 miles and it was 1:30, so lo and behold, there was a cafe. Calamity Jane's. I bought an ice cream and a cup of coffee and hung out, plugged in, and caught up my Memoirous blog. I loved this establishment, definitely stop there if going through Burke. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as good coffee and baked goods.
At 4 I got going, knowing it would take me 2 hours and 20 miles to Snake Creek. Before winding my way to Lucas and out to 1806, I met a young vibrant mom of 13 kids who was loading scrap into the bed of a pickup. She waved hi as I stopped quick to grab a snack from my handlebar bag. She walked up to the road with 3 of her kids to chat. Her name was Fawn. She told me that last year two cyclists from England slept behind a couple of their hay loaves.
I made it to Snake Creek before 6 pm, but only because the last 4 miles were stressful downhill, back to the Missouri and over a long bridge. I was afraid of truck traffic both ahead and behind, but there was a pause in that action, thankfully. This rec. area actually has non-electric, so a little cheaper, still $23. I steal the electric anyway.
I'm loving the grasshopper green grasslands, the sloping hills, and incredible blue sky. Also enjoying not fighting the wind and heat.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Day 13, from by the Missouri to North Point State rec. Area, Pickstown, SD

Thank you SO MUCH folks posting encouragement in the guestbook. I don't feel as quite alone. This has been a tough trip, no lie, but so far I've met some amazing people.
Last night's wild camp was perfect. I was a little afraid only because the weather really deteriorated. I was better off where I was than back at the regular campsite as I was protected by the ramshackle shelter. I watched from my tent door the wind blow and the dark clouds. Today, later on, a woman told me just across the river in Nebraska they'd clocked 80-90 mph wind. I was lucky not to be pinned down there for days.
There are annoying wind and dangerous wind. Today's was closer on the dial to the latter. You see I could hardly go straight into it without being pushed back and when it came from the side it pushed me over. The occasional downhill was the worst: if I got going fast a gust might whoosh me right over, so I had to be on the brakes and ready to put a foot down. Temps never got above 73, so dehydration not an issue, though I was slowly drinking through my reserve.
I hadn't realized my route was through the Yankton Sioux Reservation. It took almost 2 hours to cover 12 miles. In Marty, a very little town, there was an abandoned Indian boarding school next to the church. The church had a tall steeple and was made from stone. Very substantial for a crossroad. I saw groups of people picking up and cleaning the grounds. The road was cluttered with tree debris. Further on I pulled off to eat a snack and a pickup came into the drive. He was with the tribal road department and explained that the storm had dumped hail. I said I saw a couple cars pass me with broken windshields. He said they were cleaning up the church. He told me about the boarding school. I told him I thought it was mean to take children away from their homes. He added, they took our language. I then asked him if the nuns were nice. He said they'd pull their ears if they were bad. I said, laughingly, some kids need it, and he laughed too. They now take care of the old nuns left on the place. He gave me water from the building and Intel about the road.
So the next 15 miles were hard because of the wind, but I goaded myself to keep going....It was only 15 more miles. I made it to Route 46, went uphill to the closed casinos. He'd told me that of the 500 people in the community about 20 had tested positive. Folks were still deciding if they were going back to work and how after the quarantine. Pickstown was downhill, where I found an open cafe serving breakfast. I splurged. There are only the most minimal food items in the area, and I really need to stock up. I might have to pay convenience store prices before I come across a Dollar General. There are no more Casey's.
Sitting here in the campground next to a "bay" in the river, a little cold from the relentless wind. Tomorrow's weather: better.

Day 12, Lewis and Clark Rec. Area to wild camp by the Missouri

Up till now I felt a little ridiculous carrying long johns and wool socks. Today, is one for the record books. Also a bit exciting.
Last night I fully expected it to rain. It thought I'd wake up to storms. But, no. I hadn't even bothered to set my alarm for 4:30, what I've been doing in order to hit the road before heat and wind. So at 5 a.m. realizing I might be able to get going and move on, I hustled to break camp. I had plenty of water, battery, and food. I almost made it to Springfield before dark skies made me look for cover. I pulled over at just the right place.
I parked next to an open garage and a cute doggie came out to greet me. Next I met Hardy, who owned the place. Immediately he got me a cup of coffee from his man cave and checked the weather. We reckoned I should hang for a bit, till one of the dark green area on his screen passed. He told me Lewis and Clark had actually camped on his property in September of 1804. A local historian had figured it out using journals etc.
As the storm rattled by into Nebraska I put on riding tights and my new rain jacket. Temps had begun to cool. The wind was maybe 20 mph. Which I now consider normal. After awhile Hardy said he had to go check some traps. A farmer near Springfield had called to say there were coons in them. So we loaded up my bike and he drove me there eclipsing 8 miles.
I kept going on route 37 my ACA directions had me looking for CR18 but as I went past a sign for Avon, I didn't realize I should have turned there, 312 Street. Again the wind pushed me south 3 miles before I checked my phone. I use phone directions as a back up if I lose track of the ACA ones. Of course I had to go back--into the wind.
By now it was almost noon, so I knew I should eat. The wind and spitting rain were terrible, but I thought someone is going to come by in a pickup and take me where I need to go. After that barn though where I ate lunch there was NOTHING. Hardy had mentioned there was little along the way except ranches and grassland. I rode and rode, and rode. There was maybe 2 cars in the opposite direction, but after 2 hours nothing going west. There was lots of bluegreen grass beneath the stormy overcast sky. To my right was the river, not always visible but there and to my left upsloped grassland.
The wind was absolutely brutal. In the distance I could see lightning and hear the rumble of thunder. I was maybe doing 6 mph.
At a bend off the road I saw a broken down shed. Beside that were the shelf-like boxes for bees. A little gravel road led back to it. Here, I thought. It was 1:44 and I'd been struggling and a pickup had finally come but passed me by when I waved my arm like an idiot to get him to stop. The sound of the wind is like waves beating the shore. As I set up in the shed the weather breaks down completely. It is gale force and sideways rain. I reckon it is at 30, gusting to 40. This has been the windiest bike trip ever, beating out Scotland.
I'm cozy in my tent, only wishing for a tea, but will have some with dinner. I have 2 full bottles, and 2 partials. So must mete out water on a need basis, until I get somewhere tomorrow.

Day 11, Elk Point to Lewis and Clark Rec Area

I'm in a bad mood and there is no reason. Except I probably waited too long before eating and then was frustrated by the registration process for camping.
Again, the winds blew hard all day.
I broke camp at 5:45 and the winds were favorable. I was making good time. Vermilion a college town was still asleep when I went through so didn't stop. I rode through Gayville, and I thought Yankron would be next. With the wind pushing me along I was cracking the whip, chugging along at 18 mph. I saw a water tower ahead for Yankton--except it was Viol or something like that. I'd blown past my turn. No problem. I checked ked my phone and a course correction wasn't too awful. Temps were not too high and there was even some cloud cover. But turning back put me directly into the wind. I could make no headway. It ended up being time and energy consuming. I wanted to get back on track, so didn't stop. I wanted to eat lunch in Yankton, so didn't stop. I'd used up almost all my water.
I was not exercising self-care. I just didn't feel like stopping in the wind. I made it to Yankton wrecked, having done 55 miles. It was 12 noon and I looked forward to a restaurant meal, but most places only offered carry-out or were closed. I ate at a Tastee Freeze where when I gave the kid 2 water bottles and asked for ice he put like 4 cubes in each. Then, because of Covid I knew they couldn't refill my bottles, so I asked for a cup of ice water. Again, the kid gave me like a diixie cup.
So I figured my stopping point was only 4 miles down the road, I'd make it. But the area was confusing. Once I turned in there was a bike path that took me by campgrounds, but they were all electric for RVs. Of course no one was in the tiny booths. The area is huge with different names. I asked a campground host about tent camping and he sent me further down. Which made sense be cause my phone indicated there was camping there also. Every mile into the wind feels like two. The wind has whipped the Missouri river into waves.
Finally I flag down some girls cleaning out a shower house. They tell me to call 1-800 south Dakota and make a reservation. I'm like this place is empty. But there is no self-registration, no people. A ranger drives by and helps me find the welcome center where they tell me in the whole vast area, there are only like 2 tent spots, and then another attendant walks over and interjected: they are right by the dump and far from the bathroom.
For heaven's sake!!!! It's all too much. I'm in a bad mood. I tell them I'll take an electrical site for $27.90. The ranger said it's only a few dollars more. $12 I said, to be exact.
Checking weather---a real dousy tomorrow, all day rain and wind gusts up to 40 miles an hour. I maybe here 2 nights.

Day 10, Sloan to Elk Point,.SD

The wind is blowing so hard, it is like it is trying to break something. It doesn't stop, but is continuous, blowing and bending the trees.
So about the Sloan "campground". It was more for RVs for transient workers. The owner told me to set up on a grassless patch in his yard. I was right next to his AC unit, and RR tracks. But I could hear none of that over the road of the wind. There was also no where for me to go and hang out of the wind and sun. I wrote up my daily post at the Subway. It was a while for the sun to set, about 8:30 I went into the tent. My gauge said 90 degrees. I was melting even just laying in there. The wind shook the tent all night long.
I was up early. Right before leaving at 5:30 the owner poked his head out the door and asked for $$. He was bare chested and in his sleeping shorts. He only asked for $10.
I am now following the ACA directions. I made it to Sioux City at 25 miles. It was a little tricky. One, there were hills and two, there are a lot of highways to avoid and go under. Luckily it was early and a Sunday morning. I've had problems with either data or cell service or both. In SC I was able to get a signal so plotted a course to the riverfront.
Once in North Sioux City, I was in South Dakota!! I passed a bank readout that said 8:20 and 93 degrees. The heat and wind were not sustainable. So decided to stop in Elk Point, SD at a city park .I prayed it would be okay. Arrived at noon, unbelievably the wind was even stronger. I pulled under a shelter. Here there is plentry of cold water, shade, open bath house (always a concern now with Covid), and ELECTRICAL. The only thing is I don't want to set up my tent yet. So hanging at the shelter, clean and hydrated!
The wind tomorrow is the same 20-27 mph from the south, and temps only in the high 80s. I'll be up early to try and get to Lewis and Clark Recreational area.
*Loess Hills are the result of glacial deposits, silt and sand, blown by the wind, much like sand dunes. China has Loess deposits. So riding over them is like riding up and down Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Day 9, Lake View to Sloan, Iowa: Iowa is a hard nut to crack

Wow, what a day. Starting.at 4:30, I was up early. I'd set my alarm in order to break camp and be on the road by day break. Also because some people out on a boat on the lake partied all night long. At 3 they started drumming.
A quick glance at the weather showed winds from EVERY DIRECTION. They started off from the North at 7, then would shift n/e 7-10. By 3 pm they would come from the south at 30 mph. So my job was to be on the right road in the right direction at the right time. Thank God temps were moderate and started with cloud cover.
I felt sluggish to start. Lots of ups and downs. By 8 a.m .reached Ida Grove, 25 miles. After eating a breakfast sandwich I was ready to go, and just like that the wind was at my back.
Here's the thing: I had to go south even though Sioux city is north and west. The problem is most roads going that direction are gravel and route 20 is dangerous. I want to arrive alive. So I rode south to Danbury just to get on a paved road going west. I asked the kid at the gas station if the Danbury Blacktop was hilly. His eyes got big. Yes.
I'd read about the Loess Hills. I assumed they were rollers, lopping up and downs. Noooooo. These hills were constant, no let up. And so steep. I had to go down to my smallest crank. This was over and over and over. I couldn't believe I was doing it. So there was very few farms, just these incredibly rolling hills all around. At a certain point I must have finished my last hill and I started going down, down, down. I feel like it was at least 2 miles. I descended into a valley where there was Oto a tiny town. It felt like Bavaria..
53 miles so far.
I had no data or bars, but GPS found me. I went to the only thing open, a bar in what looked like an old bank. The bar owner was from Wales via Alaska. I told him I did a JOGLE and had gone through a little slice of Wales, by Tintern Abbey. He told me if I went the direction I'd planned, I'd be going through more hills, out of control hills. And there were no services, nothing up there.
I pivoted, going further south to Smithland and getting on 141. I had 2 serious climbs to get up and over, them descended from the Loess Hills. The wind was with me, and I was ratcheted up. Then: a detour, bridge out. Added 8 more miles. Looping back to the highway the wind was blowing hard from the south. The Welshman had said there was camping in Sloan. About 15 miles south of Sioux City. So I guess tomorrow I'll be there.
Camping is like the owner of a hotel's back yard. My bike is leaning against a cart full of recycling. It is next to the Kum & Go gas.station and a Subway that can only do cold sandwiches because the toaster broke 3 weeks ago. It is 3 pm, 80 miles, and the wind is a blast furnace. Temps are in the lower 90s. This place is no Camp Crescent, but it'll do. The owner drove me around the property in his truck and we chatted a bit.
So at Subway because my tent is too hot, also the wind is so strong, I have it totally staked down, but it was hard to set up. Still no data or signal. Must be a T-Mobile dead zone.
Tomorrow the weather report says temps will reach 97.

Day 8, Boone, IA to Lake View

Today . . .well, it was beautiful.
I went to bed worried about so many things. Basically would I make it. Depending on when heat and wind set in, I'm a goner. Yesterday after the spoke break and ride to Ames for emergency repair, I was back to plotting a course. Getting to Boone was horrendous in the heat and with the cross-wind. When that exhaustion sets in I ride a mile and put a foot down rest, then after the next mile I do a shade rest (if I can find it), sometimes I do a yard break where I lean the bike on a tree and fall to the ground under the tree in some farm yard.
Either way I get it done, but it is ugly.
So today left the motel at 6:15 a.m. It was cool and I must've had the wind at my back because I flew. By 9 at a Casey's in Dayton, 27 miles. At noon I had a significant break at a park in Lohrville (after a stop at Casey's), 55 miles. But I had at least 22 more to go.
I was going to stay longer but after an hour I was ready. My new thing: filling my water bottle with ice. Today each ice bottle lasted me until the next. Weirdly enough the wind had shifted and was helping me. I was able to cross-off a couple more small towns. At Lake City I was at 63 miles, had ice and was hydrated, I kept going to Auburn, where there were more ups and downs. About a mile outside I pulled in for a shade break. There were welcoming Adirondack chairs, so I sat down. I realized I was at a little gardening center. A woman rounded the corner and I said hi, just resting. We got to talking about my ride.
I told her that when I was 16 I wanted to ride across the country but my parents wouldn't give me permission, now at 61, it's my time. I discovered she was a Christian and I shared a bit about the work we do in Chicago. Anyway, when I told her where I was trying to get to for tonight, she was astonished, that's 13 more miles. Which would have definitely put me over 80. By now it was 4 pm. She offered to drive me and I said yes.
She went different from my directions but insisted she was taking me to the campground. I just figured GOOGLE. I was trying to get to a state park on a lake and hoping there would be showers, that the toilets would work. Angie and her husband dropped me off at Camp Crescent in Lake View were there is swimming, putt-putt golf, and a concession stand. I'm more used to the lonely county park with a vault toilet. The place was PACKED. It reminded me of Cornerstone Festival. I'm in the tent area next to adorable children running around surrounded by RVs. Before saying goodbye and thanking Angie she slipped some $$ into my hand. I told her I was fine, I didn't need it, but she insisted. This is part of the reason I wanted to do this trip, meeting folks.
So went for a swim, feeling great, and closer to my goal of Sioux City--maybe tomorrow.

Day 7, Boone, Iowa

This has been a win some/lose some day, one step forward/one step back.
I left the shelter at 7:30, with a plan. The day was already muggy. After Bangor, I rode on one road all morning. Marble Rd. took me through several small towns. I was sluggish, trying to keep hydrated. It was hard as it was high humidity and little cloud cover. In Zearing at 11 a.m. I bought a hamburger lunch at a gas station cafe. The lady accidentally dumped my Gatorade when I asked for water. She let me take another.
I headed out and passed a few more small towns. At Roland I sat under a shelter in a nice park and refreshed. I was going west and had just passed a Casey's, my new favorite place when I hear CHINK and my tire grabs. I immediately know what it means: a spoke broke. I brought a spoke wrench but not extra spokes, nipples, or a wrench to extract the cassette. Basically I was screwed. I rode back to Casey's. I wasn't there even 5 minutes before a young woman walked in and I asked her if she was going to Ames. Yes, she said. I explained I needed a mechanic. We had my bags off and were on the road in no time. And just like that I pivoted.
At Bike World the guys quickly got me in and on a rack. Yes, the back wheel is carrying a lot of weight, but I did my Scandlandia trip and last year's Green Mountain tour. Yes, they said and the wheel is showing signs of fatigue. They got me straight and also lubed the chain and tightened/adjusted my cranks in under an hour. They were also EXTREMELY kind about the cost. The kid sort of brought me to tears with his kindness.
With some new directions and a new plan I left around 3, but by now so tired, so hot, and a stiff wind from the south. Which helped about halfway, but when I turned west to Boone, my body was hot and my mouth and lips dry. The 8 miles took me an hour. I'd wash up on someone's lawn for a shade break and lay in the grass panting.
Once in Boone I assumed camping or stealth camping would be easy, or a graveyard. It was a bigger town and for the first time in a long time I was reminded: oh, yeah, there's a pandemic. I tried Airbnb, I tried Warmshowers, I checked out the parks. All closed. Nada. So I rode further south in town to a Super 8. $70, with a seniors rate. I told myself not to worry about the $$. It's just that I didn't reckon for it twice in one week of the trip.
Just saw that we get Continental breakfast. So that's a plus. I'd really like to get back on itinerary tomorrow. We will see. If all goes well I could be out of Iowa in 2 days. Fingers crossed.

Day 6, Marengo to Timmon's County Park, Marshalltown, IA

Last night I was really wondering if I was up to doing this trip. Today set everything right.
As predicted thunderstorms rolled in early a.m. I slept soundly. With all the wind and dust stirred up, my sinuses felt blocked. I got going at 7:30 with a semi-plan, one easily adjusted. I headed north and west, the winds were north and east, so perfect. Compare/contrast: yesterday after an hour of riding I'd maybe only done 5, today I did 16 miles in one hour.
At a certain pt my route ended at route 30, a super busy highway. I checked directions and saw I exited after only a half mile. Yes, but it ended up being gravel. I chose to stay on the busy road. Trucks literally passed next to me. I hung on for 7 miles, when it became a divided highway!!
The exit took me to Lincoln Highway Byways, a clever idea to bring in tourists. The town of Tama, despite its pioneer roots, has many Hispanic people. Of the restaurants I saw 3 were Mexican and one served Asian food. It was a dusty dry town. I ordered a burrito that was so big it served me then and later.
I finally feel like I'm on tour. The afternoon was HOT. But be cause I was able to ride I created a breeze that cooled me down especially going downhill. I made it to Marshalltown by 4:15 and saw there was camping by a river, by the JB Swift meatpacking plant. I waited to register, filled out my card, and put $$ in the envelope. But the campground host had bad news. The toilets and shower house were not open because of Covid.
I sort of need those things. He told me to go 8 more miles to Timmons. I mentally did not want to but talked myself into getting back on the bike. Thankfully Timmons is on the way for tomorrow, so already ahead of schedule.
Camping at Timmons is $15, no showers, a pump with delicious cold water, and a porto. BUT free electricity. Can charge it all. I took a bird bath. Had the rest of the burrito, and am feeling content and satisfied.

Thoughts so fat

Roads: not all roads are the same. It is hard to plot a course. Most roads in Iowa go north/south, east/west. And, not all of them are paved. So in order to avoid gravel roads, you have to sometimes go up then down and etcha-sketch your way. The gravel I've been on so far is not tarmac, but a bunch of loose rock. When riding I look for hard-packed dirt tracks.
Covid: I have forgotten all about it, between the winds and being exhausted. Yesterday I never once reached for my mask. There are no signs on doors requiring one. I met a Warmshowers host on a day ride when leaving Bettendorf and I queried him, would you be inclined or not to take someone. He said he probably would. No one is thinking about it out here.
Wind: I've been so demoralized these past few days. I'm really wondering if I can make it. So while in my room at the motor court I called a friend. The whole time I'm talking it sounds like someone is trying to break into the room. It's the wind rattling the door. My friend in the religious community I belong to has been busy stopping looting on our block in Chicago, they go out in lawn chairs and sit on the sidewalks with music blaring and try to keep the peace. Anyway, she acknowledged the winds. What?! She heard about them on the news. So I'm not making it up. So glad--now back to the riots.
Social media: so grateful to unplug. Is this what one needs to go through, a crazy cross-country bike trip in order to get away from the staggering amount of news, hype, outage, commentary, and sometimes actual nonsense??? The pressure to post and pick a side.

Day 5, Hills Access to Marengo, IA

Well, it didn't take long for my plan to blow up. Today could have been worse.I knew it was going to be hot, hotter than yesterday. My plan was to be up and out early and get water and a breakfast sandwich at Casey's. The wind was strong, but I maintained. Still tired. Ever one mile was like riding two. The first 15 miles were paved as I headed west, into the blustery wind. Then my directions put me on gravel. Again I maintained and found the hard dry spots--especially when climbing so that my rear wheel didn't slide.
I am an old lady, riding solo, so, yeah, I'm slow and careful. I took a bit of wrong turn and a young hog farmer gave me a ride in his pick up to F52 Trail, paved. By now it was 10 a.m and getting hotter and windier. I haven't even done 20 miles.
In a little wayside town I pulled over. I was at 28 miles. The wind was killing me. I was wrecked. That's when I decided to go north. Go with the wind. A course change brings its own problems. I hadn't previewed anything and wasn't sure about road conditions or traffic. I saw I could get to Marengo along the Iowa River. I virtually flew up 149, taking frequent drink breaks. I was really feeling good, like Jane. I could actually ride up the hills and maintain 13 mph. But once I turned on West 6, again trouble keeping my bike on the road between the wind and trucks whooshing by. The furnace blast wind dried me out. I made it to a BP gas station and tried to figure out options.
There is a park in Marengo I might be able to stealth camp at, but it was supposed to thunderstorm tonight. Right next to the BP was one of those motor court motels. I went to the office and the lady said $55. I "splurged". Since I was going to have to come up with a new plan I may as well plug in to outlets and get charged up.
Weather for tomorrow is winds from the North and west, still fairly hot.

Day 4, Bettendorf to Hills Access by the Iowa River,

Today's miles were hard-fought. But first the good part.
I started at 8 a.m. under overcast skies. So no worries about heat or sun exposure, two things that rob me of energy. Temps have risen the past few days to high 80s, but I hear tomorrow it will reach 90. There was also some occasional pitter patter rain. Just like yesterday by mile 25 sore and achy. I want to get stronger as the trip goes on.
Today I had my doubts about . . . everything.
My Google direction took me off truck-traffic roads to quiet gravel. Which was okay at first. The first segment was approx 10 miles. There was wind that I estimated at 20 mph. Brisk and steady. I stopped at an old barn at mile 25 to eat and rest. After, the gravel kept going. Eventually on rout 6 made it to West Liberty. I was at mile 45, with only 13 to go. I didn't bother to refill my water bottles.
Boy, did Google do me wrong. I was routed to 10 miles of loose gravel road. On top of that it was hilly, so almost impossible to gear down and get up as my rear wheel kept slipping. And, going down was chaotic and stressful on the loose rock. PLUS add on, wind. Now it is virulent prairie wind blowing over the fields, pushing my bike on the gravel. Literally. I had to put my feet down in order to not get pushed over. I ended up walking. A lot.
I drank water and rested my head on the handlebars. It was hard to breathe as the wind snatched my breath away. I wanted to flag down a pick-up and get a ride, but there was no traffic. Finally I reached pavement and turned south. Into the full force of the wind. I was so exhausted; I wanted to quit. Yet, I was only 5 miles away.
My next turn was onto 520th Street with a wide berm perfect for cycling. Why didn't Google put me on that as it was an option and optimum way to get where I was going????
It took me over 2 hours for those miles.
Hills Access camping is only $10 with no electricity. One mile down the road is a Casey's, a bar for food and water as there is no potable water on site. No showers, vault toilets.
As I was setting up a couple arrived doing a day ride. I quizzed the gentleman about tomorrow's plan. He assured me everything was paved. I hope he isn't full of baloney.
In my tent cleaned up at the pump, hiding in my tent from the gnats.

Day 3, lock 6 Hennepin Canal to Bettandorf, Iowa

Last night my neighbor's had a party all night long. They did not go to bed until 45 minutes before I pulled out. That said, I was exhausted and slept well--just the two times I ran out of the tent to potty I heard them.
I again got started early, by 7:30 on the trail. The Hennepin Canal trail is flat and pretty well maintained, actually it is a dream. The only problem is it can be boring. I loved seeing the mist rise off the water, and there are tons of antiquated locks that no longer work and instead waterfalls for the spawning carp to try and ladder up. There were large herons with primordial wings that make whoosh sounds when launching. I also heard other birds. But, after awhile there was only the crunching of my tires on the tarmac. Trail conditions were a blistery tarmac, hard-packed gravel, and loose rock. At first I was only making 9 mph.
I stopped, but only for like 15 minutes, so of course after 5 hours in the saddle my body was stiff. I was just really trying to get to Geneseo for lunch. I made it completely wrecked and with little water left. The fountain was not turned on yet. I felt like the Little Match Girl begging passersby for water. No one had extra.
I ate and revived a little. My phone finally got coverage and I realized the end of the trail was only 11 miles away. I stood up to leave and a woman came running up with a liter of water; she went to the store and bought it. I was so profoundly blessed.
The next 11 miles went fast. The trail surface was even better than the preceding 45 miles. I made it to Colona and map quested directions to the Channel Cat, the ferry over the Mississippi. I'd checked the website out and everything seemed to be running and they took bikes. I made sure to get there in plenty of time before the last ferry.
Except--they wouldn't take my stuff. They'd take me and the bike, but my panniers were considered cargo. The kid said I can give you a phone number if you want to complain. I said I didn't want to complain, but I needed a new plan to get across the river. Had I wanted to head to Davenport and then Bettandorf I would have angled my approach differently, instead of adding miles by going north to the water taxi landing. That's all.
I called Monique, who I was staying with. She drove over the bridged and fetched me. We had all sorts of early plans to social distance and wear a mask and have me sleep in her back yard. Gone. I'm inside and were jabbering away unmarked.
Always the first night in the tent is fitful. I woke up a lot. That said, I really love the new tent. My old one aS a little coffin tent where I had to crawl in and out by the front. A side entrance is way better.
I had decided I would get off the I and M, and rode smoothly on quiet roads. I'd done 30 miles by 10. Chalk it up to an early start. I broke camp at 7, after a sunscreen shower. I'm trying to be good about protecting my skin. On Route 71 I rode by the river or river backwater. Right before Starved Rock came some sharp, sudden climbs. And, the roads were busy. Because this was the first day Illinois was open, Starved Rock was a mad house. Hundreds of cars, no masks, no social distancing.
There were so many more climbs today than I anticipated. I was truly pooped. I really hope I haven't gotten in over my head. Route 29 after Spring Valley was up and down. I made it to Hennepin Canal around 3 and took some pics. The trail is nice, LEVEL, but I was so tired. I made it to the campground by 4. There are vault toilets, but no water sources. When I pulled in there was already 2 family groups set up. One of the guys gave me a bottle of water. I think I have enough for tonight and in the a.m.
Canals I have ridden: I and M, C and O Towpath, Got a Canal in Sweden.

Day 1, Aux Sable lockkeeper's house, near Morris, IL

Day 1, Aux Sable lockkeeper's house, near Morris, IL

Friday May 29, 2020, 20 miles (32 km) - Total so far: 20 miles (32 km)

I can't decide if I'm happy or sad. I'm here, late afternoon after only 20 miles relaxing with a tea, book, and this journal. Birds chirp in the treetops. In the distance I can hear water rushing through the Aux Sable access. It's good to be away and in nature.The I & M canal path was fairly busy. Also muddy, which slowed me down. The bike ran good, but I'm heavy. My gear including handlebar bag and water is 58 pounds. I'm carrying extra water as, for example, where I'm camping there is no water source. Tonight I stay in a three-sided hut, stealth camping.
I said goodbye to my friends and we cried a little. This will be my longest, farthest trip ever. On one hand, I've been wanting to do this cross-country trip since age 15. While here I am age 61 setting out to do it alone. I'm understandably nervous. I can get easily dehydrated, I know nothing about bike mechanics, there are crazy people out there, and right before leaving my dermatologist called to say the thing she removed last Friday was baby cancer. Of course, I asked her to explain. She said she thinks she got it all,  we will see.
Sooo. I'm on the road. Overweight and hopefully not Covid, and hopefully cancer-free. I promised to wear my orange overshirt and sunscreen.
It will be hit or miss with Wi-Fi and charging devices until Bettandorf. Until then one day at a time. I've started.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Now for Something Really Interesting

I'm gone.

That's right, I'm away.

I've escaped Corona-madness on my bicycle and will check in when WiFi access allows.

Look for me in Iowa. South Dakota, North Dakota. Montana. Idaho. A sliver of Washington state. Oregon.




Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Normal People


Normal People
BBC available thru Hulu

Normal People is based on the bestselling novel by wunderkind Sally Rooney.  I can’t seem to get the characters of Connell and Marianne out of my mind. There were so many Shakespearean “what-ifs” that beset their relationship. Miscommunications that led to tragedy. It seems like a great love story if it wasn’t so normal.

I’m not s millennial but I get them. It is an age group that has had a lot thrown at them, though this series does not touch upon any historical milestones or events. Basically there are no terrorists. Or action, for that matter. Yet the dialogue and interactions rise above navel-gazing, I think because we are so emotionally invested in the characters.

That said there were moments where the sex (and there is tons of it graphically depicted) nibbled at the edges of Fifty Shades of  variety, which for me was emotionally off-putting in the sense that I wanted to scream at Marianne WTF! Stop it! You’re better than this! The same with Connell Wake up! Or Go back!

But that’s the point, the winding series of push/pull, for the characters to figure out who they are both together and apart. To finally realize what they really want.

It’s weird. In the beginning episode we see both characters confident in themselves, though in different ways. Connell knows he is popular, the big fish in a small pond, while Marianne can’t wait to flee her small provincial west coast Irish town for college. She knows she is smart, though friendless. Until Connell. Neither understand the strength of their relationship.

At Trinity College in Dublin the dynamic flips and Marianne is in her element and Connell is trying to get his feet under him. They are both trying on different personas—evident by the people they date. We see both characters journey with the hope they are smart enough to figure it all out.

By the last episode we see them not as two but one. One of the last scenes is a birthday party where Marianne is laughing and relaxed. Connell still struggles in social situations but seems to have come to grips with his anxiety, and acceptance. Both have settled into worn out shoes, none more surprised than they.

And their love for each other is apparent. Sometimes frustratingly so. I think at the birthday party even their friends see this. Like them, we wish the couple the best, knowing that even as they graduate with brilliant prospects they still have many more roads to travel.

Good luck Marianne and Connell.

Normal People': Hulu/BBC's New Series Is A Great Adaptation Of ...



Monday, May 25, 2020

The Great Believers

The Great Believers
Rebecca Makkai
Viking, 2018

“We were the great believers.

I have never cared for any men as much as for these who felt the first springs when I did, and saw death ahead, and were reprieved—and who now walk the long stormy summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “My Generation”

A striking epitaph for Rebecca Makkai’s latest novel, The Great Believers about . . . .

Imagine a mysterious virus suddenly besetting a population. The illness itself sets those people apart, publically identifies them. It hits with impunity, across all ethnicities and age groups. At first no one knows how it is spread . . . they have an idea formed from fear and panic, prejudices and assumptions. A mixing of fluids. And, because this population is somewhat small, though no one knows exactly because it can sometimes be hard to tell, and marginalized, the rest of the world carries on. Years later as the outcry grows for treatment, a vaccine, more is done to stop the spread, to help those infected to live with the disease.

Now imagine AIDS in the 1980s, 1990s in Chicago, in Boystown, and the fight. The battle to be heard and not die. Rebecca Makkai has tackled a huge subject and brought us deep inside characters who lived and died during that time.

She uses a braided narrative jumping between principally 1985 and 2015 with a character named Fiona who acts as a witness. She lived through the impact and the aftermath with great buckets of survival guilt, investing all her energies into trying to fix something bigger than herself. To be the last one in the hospital room soothing, holding a hand.

The novel encompasses a broad swath of history up to and including the 2015 terrorist attack in Paris. But it is this feeling, of a generation lost, misunderstood, cast aside that she dwells in, beginning with those living in artist enclaves in Paris after the First World War. We follow a couple as they struggle with artistic ambition and shell-shock, gender bias and inequality. The author connects that group with those living on society’s fringes in Boystown, a gay enclave in Chicago.

I came to Chicago in 1982, right as Reagan was inaugurated. Who knew what was up ahead. I was a recent college grad on the cusp of my own great adventure. As news of a new infection spread I sought to sort the hype from the facts. Sin from science. By the time I married in 1986 there was a test and all those filing for a marriage license were required to take the test. I am ashamed to admit the numbers of people dying was not in my purview. I only know that a few years later I volunteered to work a table at an AIDS Walk fundraiser. Thousands of people signed up, most had been directly affected by loss of a friend or loved one.

The world of art and entertainment has certainly borne the brunt of those loses.

Rebecca Makkai has written a great historical novel that allows us to feel the pain and urgency of that time, that long stormy summer.



Monday, May 18, 2020

Trying to Remember

From the Corona Files


If this were 2018 I’d be leaving on one month for a month-long bike ride along the North Sea. If this were 2017 I’d be six weeks out from a cycle tour of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the coast of Maine followed by Art Week on Great Spruce Head Island. If this were 2016 and Obama was president we’d have no pandemic and I’d be going from John O’Groats to Land’s End in the UK. Even last year at this time I’d be planning my daughter’s wedding and a quick trip via the Adirondacks, Vermont, and a bit of New Hampshire.

Now all memories as I stare out my window, wondering when I can get back on my bike, trying to remember who I used to be.


Friday, May 15, 2020

WHY is TURKMENISTAN reading my blog--be gone Internet trolls!!!

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