July 1-15

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Tuesday, July 1, 2003

I have departed my beloved KATY trail and re-entered the world of traffic and pavement. In ways it is a blessing. My bike is an absolute mess after three days of traveling over crushed limestone and the heavy rains of the past week washed out several parts of the trail making travel onerous. As an added bonus to the road, many of the historic sites visited by Lewis & Clark are identified by means of historic markers that certainly add to the trip. I am presently seated at a picnic table in Arrow Rock State Park, watching the sunset. It was a long day, 85 miles and I can already tell that my tent beckons.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Some long undeveloped stretches through central Missouri. Hills are reappearing. Still reacquainting myself with life back on the pavement. Arrived at my destination a little earlier than expected which allowed me to take care of many errands. Still on schedule to make Atchison, Kansas by the 4th of July - near the site where Lewis & Clark celebrated almost 200 years ago.

Thursday, July 3, 2003

I got a little worried today when I saw that my handlebars were leaking. Then I realized how absurd that was and determined that the leak was actually sweat running down my arms and dripping off the handlebars. My hands were so constantly soaked, they pruned. And if the sweat wasn't running down my arms, then I sweat that it was dripping into my eyes. They heat border lined on unbearable and the fight to keep myself hydrated was a never-ending battle. Though I always have two water bottles easily accessible, in heat like today the water is only really palatable for 20-30 minutes after which time it is prime to make instant oatmeal. The heat also played havoc on the road by blistering the tar so that I felt as though I was riding over a giant plastic sheet of packing bubbles (kind of cool). I arrived in Paradise, MO late afternoon and was so hungry I didn't even bother warming up my Spaghetti O's with meatballs. The sun is setting over the Smithville Reservoir and the campsites are filling up for the Independence Day weekend. I'm truly looking forward to the fourth.

Friday, July 4, 2003

I had an epiphany today. If you're bicycling early, you avoid the traffic; the heat and you get the good lighting for morning pictures. I had gotten used to breaking camp late while traveling with others and only today got on the road at 6 in order to avoid the heat. I hope to make it a habit. A very pleasant day of cycling. More rolling hills with nice views over the cornfields. Passed through the adorable town of Weston but found most everything closed in light of Independence Day. Also crossed into my fifth state, Kansas. The heat index was well into the 100's today and I'm glad to have arrived early. Though Lewis & Clark spent July 4th in the area in 1804, the festivities for this historic event have been slated for next year, the actual bi-centennial of their visit. I ventured up to high school stadium to watch the fireworks and wandered home to sleep. A good day.

Saturday, July 5, 2003

Let's just take it as a given - today, like every day of the past week was hot. The heat index was forecast between 110-115. At least most of the route closely followed the Missouri River that provided a nice breeze. I encountered three other riders heading west on the Lewis & Clark today. Steph, from Milwaukee and two folks from Holland whose names I can never recollect (and I'm too embarrassed to ask again). I also crossed another state line into Nebraska, state #5. Still encountering the cornfields and rolling hills. I rode with Steph for a while and recalled how nice it is to have someone with whom to chat.

Sunday, July 6, 2003

The excessive heat continued today with several sections I’d classify as searing. Pulled into Nebraska City, Nebraska, found a site next to the Missouri River and had an afternoon to chill. It was nice having a traveling companion again and amazing how quick the miles pass when you have someone to chat with. Steph is a fellow Midwesterner, Wisconsin to be exact. She has the same destination and a similar pace We plan to travel together, at least for a few days. By arriving early, we avoided the worst of the traffic associated with the long weekend and met some interesting folks at the marina where we camped. We grilled some steaks and put back some brews while a nice breeze blew off the river and through the cottonwoods. A large chunk of today's trail followed another rails-to-trails route. Apparently the wild marijuana is not a big concern of the Bureau of Drugs and Tobacco because we passed mile after mile of the stuff growing wild along the roadside.

Monday, July 7, 2003

My rear tire had a lot of fun with me today. I ended up changing the tube three times (using every tube I had) and I still could not get the thing to hold air. For the final 12 miles into Council Bluffs, IA, I had to stop every 10 minutes and fill the final tube until I could make it to a bike shop. But I am happy to say; I now have all new tubes and a new tire. We hopped on another bicycle trail but for the most part skirted the foot of the Loess Hills in Western Iowa (my seventh state). Impressive hills largely because of the contrast they provide to the plains immediately to the west. We camped in the Missouri Valley fairgrounds and dined on super-sized blizzards at the local Dairy Barn.

Tuesday, July 8, 2003

I couldn’t have imagined a more menacing scenario for a bicyclist than the one we encountered today. Imagine a blind corner with two cars quickly approaching from the opposite direction and an angry dog in hot pursuit. Did I mention that the road was gravel? I aged a couple of weeks in those few minutes. This morning we witnessed an absolute downpour. At least we had not yet broken camp and we were able to wait out the brunt of the storm under a pavilion. The rain turned out to be a blessing since it provided some relief from the heat of the past few days. Our path strayed from the Loess Hills today, which allowed us a better view of them from a distance. As of this moment, I will call Iowa drivers the most courteous I've encountered so far. Once they spot you, almost without fail they begin moving completely over into the other lane, occasionally to the point that I've seen them kick up dust from the far shoulder. If passing is not an option then the driver will often wait behind you until an opening is provided instead of trying to sneak between you and the approaching vehicle at 60 m.p.h. A highlight of the day was our visit to the replicas of Lewis & Clark’s keelboat and pirogues. Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings were forecast for the evening that provided Steph and I all the excuse we needed to splurge on a hotel in Sloan, IA.

Wednesday, July 9

It did indeed rain last night which is always welcome (and encouraged) when you are in a haven like a hotel room. Hit the road late today in order to take care of some errands in town. Two miles into the ride I had a slight scare - the distant clouds looked exactly like snow-covered peaks. Obviously, that is not a worry in Iowa. We zigzagged our way through Sioux City, Iowa and soon after crossed the Sioux River into South Dakota. The past week has been an ego boast - five states in seven days. We crossed paths in Elk Point with the bicyclists from Holland. In the next few days the maps show some remote stretches with limited services. I'm already clearing space for extra water and emergency food.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

It was actually chilly last night. It's days like today that provide a certain degree of satisfaction knowing that the fleece that I carted over 2000 miles had a purpose. Awoke to some ominous looking clouds that never really turned into anything but a threat. We biked into headwinds all day that resulted in the second lowest average number of miles traveled per hour (10.3 m.p.h.). At least it was flat. The trail continued through farming countries and often we shared the road with large combines/tractors. The folks continue to be extremely friendly. You can always count on spending an extra few minutes in the convenience store answering questions on your destination and starting point and then spending another few minutes defending the sanity of your decision. One observation, people in South Dakota must not wear much sun block. I’ve had a dickens of a time finding it in the local pharmacies.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Victory #1 to the mosquitoes. They were unrelenting last night and eventually forced me to the tent early. This unfortunately excluded me from the festivities going on. Without knowing it, Steph got roped into some late night beers with locals at a bar across the way. As a result of her late night, I waited until 9:30 and then departed solo. A nice climb up the river valley to start the day and then some small hills with intermittent headwinds. Instead of a rest day, we made today into a half day in Springfield, SD along the banks of the Lewis & Clark lake. The short day kept our group from last night’s campsite together again tonight (Case, Margarita and our new traveling companion – Hobo Hank). Hank, Steph (who caught up) and Hobo Hank enjoyed a fine meal at a local steak joint.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Grasshoppers are stupid. We rode through some areas completely infested with them and their only apparent defensive move to avoid being smashed was to jump into our spokes or us. It might have been a cool feeling/sound if I wasn't wearing sandals and constantly pulling the things out from between my toes. The route itself was gradual and closely followed the Missouri River for the morning before veering away from the river and hitting the farmlands. Though there was a mild headwind we felt strong and opted to push on past the first prospective campsite. As a result we said goodbye to our Dutch friends, Case and Margarita and Hobo Hank. Unbeknownst to Steph and I, it put us in Burke, SD for the town’s annual rodeo. One of a few times I felt like I was in a different country while still being in the U.S. I did what I could to fit in, but without Wrangler jeans, a cowboy hat and a big belt buckle - it was tough. Burke provided me another trip highlight.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

75 miles today and not a single town with services along the way. It made water difficult. As a bonus, we had a strong wind at our backs for most of the trip and we were able to average the most miles per hour of my trip to date (over 15.5). Lots of the farmers appeared to be harvesting their wheat, which occasionally resulted in huge pockets of dust blowing over the roads and some minor farm machinery traffic. Otherwise traffic was a rarity. I got so bold; I wouldn't even dismount my bicycle for pee-breaks. We ended up staying in the first town with services - Chamberlain, SD which is along the shores of the Missouri river.

Monday, July 14, 2003

What a day! I feel like I am continuously using superlatives to describe my travels. But today certainly deserves them. The wind was atrocious and coupled with a 10 mile gradual uphill climb only emphasized the ugliness. The wind was so strong at places I couldn't pedal over 10 M.P.H. while going downhill. It was also desolate. When you encounter a sign that says "No Services Next 46 Miles" you tend to take it seriously. Especially when you are on a bicycle and your intended campsite is primitive (i.e. no water or facilities). Unfortunately, I had planned to load up on water and dinner at this last stop (Stephan, SD) only to find out the water was not potable. Worse yet, I only found this it after slamming half a water bottle and realizing it tasted like salty puddle water. The clerk comforted me by letting me know some people that drink the water don't get sick at all. Ironically, the store was also out of bottled water, so I slammed as many chocolate milks as my stomach would hold, and prayed that my two bottles of water would tide me over until tomorrow. Most of the ride went through a Sioux - Crow Reservation and in the small towns Steph and I were a hit with the children. Upon finally arriving at the De Grey campsite, I knew I would not survive with my limited supply of water and I approached the only house I saw. Not only did he allow me to fill my water bottles, he and his girlfriend drove down to the campsite later on with bottled water and beer. I am eternally indebted to Perry and Lisa. We also met Dave Miller, and professor from SUNY - Cortland who is kayaking the Lewis & Clark trail and writing a book to aid future waterway travelers. Overall, a tough day with a wonderful ending. Tuesday,

July 15, 2003

We opted to make today a semi-rest day (less than 30 miles) since Pierre would likely be one of the last cities of any size that we'd pass through in the next few weeks. I said farewell to Dave who joined me for a cup of coffee before shoving off in this kayak. The ride was short and easy and offered some nice views of the river. Pierre proved to be an extremely pleasant town. Both Steph and I had some bicycle maintenance done, including a new chain for the halfway point (I'm actually more than 50%) and a third truing of my back tire. I also found an old time barber pole and got the haircut that is hopefully going to get me home. Stocked up on groceries and was somewhat in awe by an aisle in the store that was reserved solely for ammunition. Also visited one of the nicer ice cream shops - Zesto's for a malt and then chilled over a couple of beers at Bob's. Though a complete day, a relaxing day.