I planned an somewhat easy day knowing that the weather would play a big role the amount of miles I’d be able to do. After sleeping in till nine and taking my second shower in less than twelve hours I ate some cookies and a granola bar, drank a coffee and packed out of my motel room. I took advantage of the computer in the motel lobby and contacted my connection in Pierre with an email letting him know I was planning on riding to Alaska today and into Pierre tomorrow. As I soon found out at the laundromat,where I was drying the clothes I washed by hand, I was actually riding to Akaska. My contact in Pierre probably thinks I’m really fast if I’m riding all the way from Alaska to Pierre in one day! I went in to a grocery store in Mobridge to some fruit and to just avoid starting my ride in the rain. I got into line at the checkout behind a native American gentleman and I’m assuming his granddaughter. After swiping his card the cashier said it didn’t work and he was short on cash so I volunteered to pay for it and said that I’d had a lot of people being very kind to me and wanted to do the same for someone else. He had a native veteran hat on so I shook his hand and thanked him for his service.
So many people,strangers or not, have helped me on my travels and have really lifted my spirits along the way and maybe I helped make that little girls day, a small way of me saying thanks to all of you out there for you kindness.
On the road I quickly realized I wasn’t going to ride twenty miles past my goal of Alaska (actually Akaska) like I thought I might do trying to get a head start on tomorrows ride. The wind and rain were blowing in my face and I had water dripping into my gloves and making my hands pretty chilly. Leaving town I had some climbs and was moving very slowly and at the top of a large hill outside town a ways I started bombing down to the valley below. The rain hitting my face at the faster speeds of racing downhill, compared to crawling uphill, felt like the difference of a belly flop from the springboard and the diving platform. I had a lunch stop planned at another “resort” and by the time I got there I was freezing. With cold hands and icier toes I walked in to the restaraunt and ordered what must have been my tenth burger of the ride. After lunch, I added another shirt and a pair gloves to what I was wearing, thinking that would be what I needed to get to Akaska and my next chance to get out of the rain. I was wrong. Shortly after leaving my lunch stop I started shivering and my teeth were almost chattering. I wished I had stayed at the resort a bit longer warming up but since I was one the road I just tried to push the tempo and heat myself up. I had a monster hill that helped get my core warm but my toes were frozen solid. After the hill my body temp felt ok and even my hands felt warm. (my toes never recover) I passed up lots of great photo opportunities but I wasn’t going to take off my gloves and get my phone out in the rain. I usually think I’m pretty tough in the rain and cold temps but there is a difference between cycling to work for 45 minutes and spending five hours in windy,rainy,forty degree weather. I was coming to terms with with elements and was starting to get a rhythm on the bike and the paved road turned to a muddy gravel mess. I actually said “yes” out loud because I was thinking wind and rain and mud, why not. The fish tailing and sinking into the mud was a fun game for the first mile or two but after that it was becoming a real challenge. It was hard to find the sweet spot on the road where I could gain the most traction and not sink or slip all over the place. If I was standing my back tire would slip and I’d waste energy but siting on the saddle was wearing me out. I’d say it was about ten miles of off roasting before I saw pavement on the horizon. I was exhausted and the bike was not happy with all the dirt and grime in the gears and brakes. As soon as I hit concrete I stopped and tried to rinse some of the muck off with a water bottle. I was climbing another hill and in the distance saw nothing but hills and empty fields and my heart started to sink because I really thought I was close to town and all the sudden as I got further up I saw one house and then another and then a whole little town that I knew was my little Alaska and instantly my toes felt better. I rode down one street looking for a place to warm up and circled back when I realized it was nothing but trailers so I found another street that look promising and as I was rolling towards a bait and tackle shop I heard a hissing sound coming from my back tire. What a perfectly timed flat tire. If it had happened a few miles back I’d of had a hard time changing it in the cold and rain.