Somebody or some book told me there were going to be days like today. There certainly has been a higher incidence than normal of people telling me that I'm nuts. But even though I've flirted with the devil in discouragement today on more than one occasion, I rode the final 10 miles (after 10 hours at it) on smooth fresh pavement with a 20 mile tailwind amid stunning scenery and a setting sun. It's amazing how even the worst of days end up manageable or even good when it's all done.
The clouds were in turmoil as I pulled out of Indian Creek this morning. I had to do about 10 miles east and 10 south before the pavement ends, then about 22 on gravel before I get back to pavement on the other side of the detour. The wind was getting wound up from the east.
As I rode east into the wind on US12 there was growing darkness to the north and west. As usual, it's hard for me to figure out just which way the thing is moving, but it's obvious that widespread and great pestilence is about to visit itself upon the landscape. It would be just my fate to have all this happen while I'm pulling the rolling pig down a bunch of dirt roads.
The pavement ends about when the raindrops start falling. At first it's a light rain, and I'm able to work things out with the road & find a decent riding path. There's not a lot of loose gravel and the wheel paths are well packed, so it's not a bad riding surface although bumpy. The terrain is gently rolling, so far the grades aren't too bad.
Well then it started to really rain, and there was electrical activity, so I began looking for shelter. As luck would have it, there was what looked like a recently abandoned farm with an open barn, I rode right in and made myself at home for the moment. (Note: this day and forward there're not a lot of images taken in the rain, I did not want to get the camera wet....or muddy)
images from the barn in the rain.....
Made a sandwich & ate it. Got the camera out of its waterproof bag & shot some pics. Watched the clouds. Eventually enough was enough. Impatient guy that I am, I declared the thunderstorm basically over, donned all the rain gear, and during a lull in the rain, set out again. What was I going to do, spend the day in an abandoned barn with a bunch of stale cow dung? The GPS said the hamlet of Akaska was only 4 miles away, and there's supposed to be a bar there. Much better venue for a rainy day.
At this point the ride becomes a bit ridiculous, as the rain and wind get fired up with renewed vigor. No lightning but everything else. Here I am running into a stiff headwind with heavy rain on a gravel road. Somewhere in South Dakota. The GPS indicates the eastward on-wind tack will turn southwest shortly, I press on. A guy going the other way in a Dodge pickup pulls up and offers to drive me to shelter, I thank him, tell him I'm already wet & will make OK into Akaska, he says it's just around the corner up ahead.
I pull into Akaska in driving rain, the last mile or so riding through a couple of inches of water in the ruts on the road. This is not fun with the trailer. Made me think about a particularly muddy ride John Whitaker & I did last winter. I wasn't pulling the trailer then, but the mud really sapped our energy and fouled our gear.
Akaska is basically a fishing camp, and they were all gathered at the bait shop which doubles as the bar. I was greeted with the usual "you've got to be nuts stuff". No argument there. They were able to find a tea bag somewhere to make me some hot tea, and I ordered a rudimentary meal off a rudimentary menu. It was now 1:30 PM, and what's running through my mind is a question of how am I going to get through the 15 or so miles of mud to the paved road & another 30 or so to a motel where I can clean up and dry off, as Akaska is not where I want to spend the remainder of the day and evening. The vibes just weren't there.
Around 2PM the rain stopped and the sun has come out.
There are various storm clouds doing their thing elsewhere nearby on the South Dakota prairie, but not here in downtown Akaska. I get back on the bike and head south on a rain soaked dirt road.
The east wind is blowing strong, I need to do 10 miles of up and down soggy dirt, with a blistering side wind, then beat into the wind east 3 miles before I get back to US83 on the south side of the detour.
I know there will be other challenges between here when I cross the railroad bridge & grind up my driveway in Burnley Station, Virginia. But this 13 mile ride, fighting strong winds and soggy muck, not knowing when another storm will strike, is clearly a benchmark for difficult and trying circumstance on this trip. This is wide open prairie, no place for shelter, and it's not flat. At one point I was grinding up a grade in ultimate granny gear--that's 24x34 on a 26 inch rim. I had no choice but to press on. Fortunately, the only rain that happened was a few sprinkles.
Eventually I reached the 90 degree turn to the east, which meant tacking directly into the wind for the last 3 miles of dirt. I did most of it crouched low on the aero bars making 7 or 8mph.
Finally I reached the paved road and turned south. Even with the fierce crosswind, I was on smooth pavement, and the worst was behind me. The GPS said I had 11 miles south on 83 before I intersected US212 and headed west 10 miles to a known motel. I ground through the 11 miles, and when I made that right turn and for the first time today, ran with the wind, for 10 miles, it was a great thing.
I am camped in a motel room on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River.
The restaurant is in the same building as the motel, which means I don't need to interface with the wind or rain again today. OK by me.