Day 17: Mitchell, SD to Stow, MA

Day 17 — Mitchell, SD.  Some of you know this already, and some of you don’t, but my ride has come to an end and I will be returning to Stow this weekend. I’ve been fighting a cold but thought I could ride through it. On Monday, about 40 minutes into Day 17’s ride, I started sweating profusely and falling behind my group. I was lightheaded and had to spend the day in the sag van. PAC Tour as always did everything they could do to keep me on the road but all of my options entailed spending all or part of the next few days in the van. That’s not how I anticipated crossing the country. Between the major mechanical failures (still in need of resolution) and this physical failure (and a few I have not mentioned in this blog — knees, back, foot), it became clear to me that it was not going to be possible to continue to log 100+ miles a day on the bike for the next 16 days.  I’m ending my ride in Mitchell and making my way home.

Thank you to all of you who followed me on this journey and for your valuable words of encouragement along the way! It meant very much to me and helped me get this far!

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Day 16: Rapid City to Murdo, SD

IMG_1108Day 16 — Murdo, SD. We left the Black Hills this morning with a nice tailwind and headed toward  Badlands National Park, where we had lunch. Along the way we saw lots of prairie dogs, antelope, and even buffalo! The Badlands are truly amazing. The temperature started to creep up about the time we got there to give it a real desert feel. We could see the topography change all day from agricultural/ranch land to desert to now more scrub brush. Unfortunately real trees seem to be a thing of the past, making headwinds tougher. The wind did eventually turn to come from the north but was never that bad. Also, at the start of the day we could still see mountains on the horizon, but not now! It was a long day but everything held together. Today’s ride was 147 miles with 4,100 feet of climbing.  Currently in the metropolis of Murdo (below).

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Day 15: Custer to Rapid City, SD

IMG_1090Today was kind of a rest day. It started with a slow roll into Custer, SD, for coffee and then a ride to the Crazy Horse Monument (below), a privately funded Rushmore-like monument to Crazy Horse. If ever completed it will be several times larger than Mt Rushmore. Then we climbed to Mt Rushmore itself for a sag stop and lunch. Rushmore is pretty impressive and I’m glad I got a chance to see it. I’m sad to say that today was the last day on the ride for my friend Jim Miller, who was planning to ride to Minnesota but had to cut his ride short for business reasons.  That’s the two of us pictured at Mt. Rushmore.
Unfortunately toward the end of the ride I had another major mechanical failure when my front derailleur broke (the last problem was the rear derailleur). PAC Tour has jury-rigged a mechanical substitute that I hope works until a replacement front derailleur arrives later this week.  Kathy has been pressed into service to help arrange for bike part delivery. Hoping for the best! Today’s ride was 45 miles with 3700 feet of climbing. [Wife note: Did he say that is “kind of a rest day”?  He did.]    Remembering my dad today on what would have been his 90th birthday.

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Day 14: Gillette, WY to Custer, SD

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Today was tough! We battled strong headwinds or crosswinds all day. Fortunately I rode with a group of about 8 and we took turns in the front. And having my bike back made a huge difference! We were on the road about 10 hours today, including stops, a little less than 9 hours of riding time. Not too many pictures today because it was a tough day but we did cross into South Dakota at about mile 89. Today’s ride was 115 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing.

Day 13 pt 2: Sheridan to Gillette, WY

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Today we rolled through ranches and prairie lands in eastern Wyoming. It was extremely hot, and there were awful headwinds. Everyone had a tough time, especially after the climbing yesterday. But the big event is that my bike is fixed! I have it back and I’ll ride it tomorrow! Next stop: South Dakota!

Day 12: Powell, WY to Sheridan, WY

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Today was one of our tougher days, but a good day! We crossed the Bighorn Mountain range, a “spur” of the Rockies. We climbed for over 26 miles at increasingly steep grades, which topped out at between 12 and 14 percent for about a mile. I’m not sure I’ve ever done climbing like that. I didn’t have too much trouble though I stopped twice for a breather, probably due to the altitude. It was also difficult to stay hydrated. The country is beautiful and desolate. We were rewarded with a descent of over 10 miles and it was a lot of fun! The day ended with a 20mike flat roll over hot plains into Sheridan.

Today and one day in South Dakota should be the end of our tough climbing until New York and Vermont (thank you glaciers!). Pretty soon, on the plains, our Challenge will be headwinds. Today’s ride was 122 miles with 7,500 feet of climbing.  The new bike part arrived today.  Hoping to get on my own wheels at the next stop.  Stay tuned!

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Day 11: Columbus, MT to Powell, WY

We rolled through southwest Montana today and into Wyoming. Wyoming is much less forested than Montana but, thanks to irrigation, there are a lot of ranches and some farms. We saw corn for the first time and lots of baled hay. Lunch was just over the Wyoming border (yay, new state!). We’re traveling mostly southeast now after an initial northeast start. In the next few days we’ll start heading due east. I’m now riding in a consistent group of five people out of a total of 22 riders. Today was a tough ride and tomorrow will be even tougher, we go over the Bighorns. But I felt pretty good today! Tomorrow will be tough for everyone. Today’s ride was 110 miles with 5,300 ft of climbing.

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Day 10: Bozeman to Columbus, MT

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Today was a good length ride but a lot of downhill so relatively easy. The only way to navigate this area, however, is on I-90, so we rode on the interstate for over 20 miles today. Yes, that’s the same highway that turns into the Mass Pike! I’ve ridden on interstates before and this one wasn’t too bad but still very unpleasant on the whole. The speed limit out here is 80, and trucks are doing more than that. It threatened to rain all day but never did. A very active freight train line paralleled the highway for most of the day so I saw lots of trains! Today’s ride was 105 miles and 2,500 ft of climbing. Still working on bike repair logistics.  Looking forward to seeing the “Welcome to Wyoming” sign tomorrow!

 

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^Rest Stop!

Day 9: Butte to Bozeman, MT

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Today was a good ride. A long climb for the first 20 miles to the continental divide (unfortunately not marked) and then a long but not too steep descent. I rode with a good group that kept the pace reasonable and kept my tendency to go fast on hills under control. Kathy’s helping a lot coordinating bike repairs with a bike shop in Wyoming and I confirmed that the replacement derailleur shipped! Bozeman is another university town and looks interesting, though we are staying in the outskirts in the cheap motel and fast food district. Today’s ride was 100 miles with 3,500 feet of climbing.  Thanks to Jim Miller for the photos immediately above and below this text.

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^ The morning bike and breakfast scene

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^ Coming into Bozeman