Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Day 17: Tuesday, 31 July

Austin, MN to Praire Du Chien, WI...[map]
I'm back and it feels good!
Mileage: 135.0miles, Start: 7:00am, Time: 9hr:19min,
Avg: 16.6mph, Rolling: 14.5mph, Climb: 2,335ft,
Weather: Sunny and quite humid, Temp: 64-86°F
Knocked out a quick 135 miles today. I'm back and it feels good! I took it quite easy during the day, but still managed to ease myslf near to the front. My two days rest sure helped my general physical state, aswell as fixing my dodgy calf.

It was quite a nice stage today. The early section was reminisicent of Southern England. I felt right at home, apart from the fact I was riding on the wrong side of the road and sweating profusely at 7:30am. We've still got a slight headwind, though. Prevaling westerly winds my bottom...

Highlight today was crossing the Mississippi river at the end of the day. This is the metaphorical dividing line between Western and Eastern America. We had great views of the river from the arched bridge into Prairie Du Chein, our overnight stop. There was even a Mississippi river boat moored on one shore!

All in all, a nice day, and I'm glad to be back in the saddle!!!

Early one morning just as the sun was rising...
We'll mostly be seeing a lot of this - corn...
...and this - soya bean.
Another state change
Continuing the everything in America is big theme...
Amish buggy. I was so excited I fluffed the shot!
Another One!...Oh Bugger...
Me at the Mississippi
Another state - are we moving or what!

Monday, 30 July 2007

Day 16: Monday, 30 July

Worthington, MN to Austin, MN...[map]
Another day in the van - it's exhausting + I'm a radio star...
Mileage: zero miles,
Weather: Sunny, quite humid, Temp: 70-88°F
(For my fans, by popular request, I've added photos to yesterday's entry...)

Made the tough decision that the calf hasn't quite healed enough to take 143 miles, so I'm in the van again today. Actually, I was in a car... no several cars during the day. Steve (with me yesterday) tried out his leg but stopped after 20 miles. Hope we're both better tomorrow. I was joined today by Jerry who has a boil on his...err...he can't sit on his saddle. We had Rebecca's (Lon's daughter) Jetta today, so in theory we had a bit of freedom, but the day didn't turn out that way...

We found some roadworks near Jackson that we couldn't get the riders through, so we were looking for a detour. First option was a 20 mile detour - vetoed, too long. Next Susan (tour director) tried the police to see if we could use the I-90 - vetoed as 'too dangerous' by the cops. (Although we've been riding I-90, further west, we're not allowed to in Minnesota, even though the I-90 is relatively traffic free with a good shoulder). So the only choice was to roll the riders down a busy road (more dangerous than the I-90 - smacks forehead) and let them criss-cross to Jackson on a minor road.

We set up the first sag stop at a John Deere Tractor dealer. There were some rather big machines on display and some fun pictures were taken.

Jerry wanted a sleep and asked me to drive, but I had to disappoint him, I didn't have my driving licence on me, and I didn't want to run the risk of being carted off to the local jail, or Guantanamo, or something... (Although, I'm sure all my readers would mount a vociferous campaign for my release!). We pretty much followed the riders from then on in. I waved a lot and shouted (encouragement) a lot. So, much so, I needed a double cheeseburger and two puddings for lunch at Blue Earth to compensate.

I also became a radio star! A reporter popped up and started interviewing Lon (tour director) about the tour. He then interviewed me, because I was a Brit! I gave such a good account of myself, I'm sure it'll be on all the majors later today... or maybe just Blue Earth local radio - KZWY (or something).

I hitched another lift as Jon wanted to go and P in the road... (Mark the road with Pactour arrows for the riders to follow diversions, that is). After ice-creams (life is tough) I got to the finish first. My second first place!

What, ... using cars doesn't count? Damn.

ps: Should be back on the bike tomorrow...

First sag at the tractor dealers...
Just after making the first down payment on my new toy...
(or: Shaun's suggestion for cutting though the M25 jams...)
(or: @ the Ohio Boys - Mine is bigger than yours!)
The calm before the storm - mid-morning snacks...
Route 66 custom number plate on van.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Day 15: Sunday, 29 July

Mitchell, SD to Worthington, MN...[map]
It's rather boring in the van...
Mileage: nil/zero/zulch miles,
Weather: Sunny and quite hot, Temp: 70-86°F
Decided to ride in the van today. My first day off in 2 weeks of riding! The calf is a bit sore, but I'm hoping it's not too serious. I think I've got a small tear deep in the middle of the calf. It feels OK just walking around so there's hope.

It was rather strange at breakfast being in 'civvies'. Steve from Australia was also resting after he pulled a quad so we stayed together during the day riding in the motel van with Lon. We offered help where we could at the controls, putting out food, ice and bike racks. It was a day to take those unusual pictures youu don't have time to take whilst riding. It wasn't that relaxing though, so it was good to get back to the hotel mid-afternoon.

After a shower, I mended some punctures and listened to the iPod, waiting for the others to return. Everybody seemed to have a good day, although there was 5 miles of gravelled roadworks to negoitate.

Hopefully, I'll be back on the bike tomorrow, although I'm not afraid to take another day off, if required, as there is still a lot of riding left to do!

Seven takes a day off. (It's not impressed)
LtoR: Will, Gerry, Peter, John, Woody, Joe('s back), Robert
Funny signs on van door
Everybody's first port of call at a stop!
Kurt, my room-mate. Not as scary as he looks...

Day 14: Saturday, 28 July

Murdo, SD to Mitchell, SD...[map]
Caught an injury today unfortunately...
Mileage: 82.6miles (to lunch), Start: 6:30am, Time: 6hr:39min,
Avg: 14.1mph, Rolling: 12.4mph, Climb: 1,358ft,
Weather: Sunny, comfortable, Temp: 65-85°F
Didn't feel too good starting out today. Maybe yesterday took more out of me than I thought. My legs were pretty dead setting off. We also started out on the same boring road we came in on yesterday. The wind was still against aswell. I struggled.

Then I gradually pulled a muscle in my calf. Now, most injuries gained on this tour, you know you can ride though. I thought the same with this calf pull aswell. So, I kept riding. This turned out not to be the correct move this time, as the calf got worse during the morning. I finally had to call it a day at lunch and catch a lift to the hotel, so as to limit the damage.

I'm resting up this evening, after having a massage and ice. I'll have to see what it's like in the morning, but I think I might need a day off. Might not be a bad thing anyway. This tour is hard and quite a few people have already had a 'holiday'.

Missouri River.
Old Bridge across the Missouri

Friday, 27 July 2007

Day 13: Friday, 27 July

Rapid City, SD to Murdo, SD...[map]
Good day in the Badlands...
Mileage: 147.7miles, Start: 6:30am, Time: 10hr:00min,
Avg: 16.6mph, Rolling: 14.8mph, Climb: 2,788ft,
Weather: Sunny and comfortable, Temp: 68-85°F
Highlight of the trip for me so far - The Badlands. Really weird scenery. See the photos below. Extraordinary sediment rocks formations, eroded by the wind. I assume this area must have been underwater a long time ago. Bear in mind that it's at 3000ft!

For the ride, we had headwinds the whole way today, so pace-lining was the way to go. Caught a fast long train early on and made good time to the first control. We formed several alliances thoughout the day to defeat the wind. It meant the difference between riding at 14mph as opposed to 18mph - the effect of draughting is that great.

I was feeling pretty good today and came in with the first group!

Headwind + Paceline = No problem.
We have to pay? Whose got some money?
View from lunch stop
Cedar Pass in the Badlands

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Day 12: Thursday, 26 July

Gillette, WY to Rapid City, SD...[map]
That was smaller than I'd thought it would be...
Mileage: 160miles, Start: 6:30am, Time: 11hr:15min,
Avg: 16.3mph, Rolling: 14.2mph, Climb: 6,500ft,
Weather: Cloudy, cool and rainy. Hooray!!!, Temp: 62-70°F
Big news of the day - the weather has broken! We had proper English weather today. Was I happy. I think most of the others were happy aswell, although Gerry said it was cold, the Aussies were wearing overshoes and many rode the whole day in jackets. A few even asked me how to ride in the rain at breakfast! Laugh I did!

Today, on paper, looked quite hard, 160 miles, 6500 ft climbing. I didn't find it too difficult and finished well up at the front.

Quite a scenic day today, as we crossed into South Dakota and into the Black Hills National Park. Very pretty winding road through a forest, although a lot of the trees seemed to be dead. A fire maybe? It must have been a while back, as the grass was well established. We also visited Mount Rushmore and took pictures of the famous 4 presidents craved into the rockface. It was impressive, but was a bit smaller than I expected it to be. Oh well.

Upon leaving Mt. Rushmore we steamed through Keystone. Think Blackpool at its finest! And talking about fine places, we also passed through Newcastle today! Waye, aye, man.

Waye, aye, man!
Like Newcastle, only prettier...
Another day, another state.
Nice road, shame about the trees...
Ho, Hum.
At Mt. Rushmore.
Rapid City, South Dakota.

Day 11: Wednesday, 25 July

Sheridan, WY to Gillette, WY...[map]
Having a rest day, but still doing 110miles...
Mileage: 111.4miles, Start: 7:00am, Time: 8hr:19min,
Avg: 15.6mph, Rolling: 13.4mph, Climb: 3,530ft,
Weather: Not as hot, Temp: 65-92°F
The calm after the storm. A rest day. So, how do you rest and move 110 miles down the road?

It's all about conserving energy. You climb hills in low gears (spinning) with as little pressure on the pedals as possible. You coast down hills. If the wind is favourable, you again ride (quite fast) with as little pressure as possible. Riding in groups allows you to expend even less effort. You eat. You drink. Lots.

You write short blog entry. You sleep early...

More road works today...
Gentle rolling farmland
Go, red line, go!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Day 10: Tuesday, 24 July

Cody, WY to Sheridan, WY...[map]
Big day in the mountains
Mileage: 146.7miles, Start: 6:30am, Time: 12hr:04min,
Avg: 15.4mph, Rolling: 12.2mph, Climb: 6,742ft,
Weather: Hot, Temp: 65-102°F
Today was all about the Big Horn. A 30 mile climb over a mountain. It was a challenge and a half and we'd all been anticipating it for a few days.

The day started easily enough with a quick 50 miler to the base of the mountain range. After a brief photo stop we set off on the climb to dinner. It would take anything from an hour and half to three hours. It started ominously, with a headwind blowing over the shallow part of the climb. This meant I was knackered before hitting the start of the ramps. Then it started. It was one of those climbs where you can see the upper reaches from the base and it looked an awful long way away. I settled in for a long grind. I hadn't fully recovered from yesterday's ride, so my pace was pretty slow. 8mph...7mph...6mph. It took me 2hrs 15mins to do the 18 miles.

After lunch, the climbing continued, as we made our way up to 9,300ft. The views of the Big Horn Bowl were stunning. After such a hard climb, I deserved a good downhill. Unfortunately, the wind spoilt that, so I ended up pedalling down! Then I got a first and second of FOUR punctures, so my mood was rapidly going downhill (at least something was!). I mended my punctures while being sucked dry by flies.

Eventually there was a good 11 mile downhill and it was enjoyable, although as you descended the heat was building back up to furnace temperatures. It was in the hundreds again for the last 25 miles into Sheridan. I was on the road for over 12 hours.

A bit of an epic day. Very hard, but enjoyable in a masochistic sort of way!

They weren't kidding...
Looking back down
The gory details
Four hours later...

Monday, 23 July 2007

Day 9: Monday, 23 July

Columbus, MT to Cody, WY...[map]
Hotter than hell... I expect.
Mileage: 108.7miles + 5miles in truck, Start: 7:30am, Time: 8hr:29min,
Avg: 15.8mph, Rolling: 12.8mph, Climb: 5,859ft,
Weather: Hot then Hotter, Temp: 70-104°F
Climbing day today, except I didn't think it had quite enough climb. Kurt and John are normally first back with me and a few others a little while later, give or take. Now, Kurt and John are both big and strong but neither can climb for toffee, so the climbers had a chance today!

I had a 'hotel flat' this morning, that I only noticed just before breakfast, so fixing that put me a bit behind schedule. As a result, I left reasonably late and had to catch groups up through the morning. During the early gentle climbs I made some time up and made the second rest stop at Bear Creek well up there. I chased Kurt out of the control but we then had a 12 mile downhill section, so I didn't make contact until we were forced to stop for road works.

We weren't allowed to ride through so we hitched a ride on a flat-bed truck and bounced at high-speed through the dirt and gravel to the Wyoming border! A funny experience, if rather frightening. 6 bikers and their bikes crammed in a pick-up with the tail-gate down, holding on for dear life (well, I was anyway). This took us to lunch at the border. It was now very hot and we still had 40 miles to go...

Setting out again (after pouring a cup of iced water over my head and re-applying factor 50) it felt like riding into a furnace. The sun was beating down relentlessly, the wind was up (a headwind of course) and the scenery was just dirt, hills and mountains. My computer read 116 degrees and we still had climbing to do. I got through water very quickly, but managed to kept going through the gentle rise and then the steeper pass. It was then downhill to Cody, but the wind was strong so it was still tough rolling along. Glad to reach Cody, but Kurt and John were already there.

Tomorrow is harder (!), and there's a warning on the noticeboard that you have to reach lunch by 1.30pm in order to make it back by dark! I just hope it's a bit cooler...

Red Lodge, MT
Loading up!
Bumperty, bumperty, bump.
Nearing Cody - temperature over 100 degrees

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Day 8: Sunday, 22 July

Bozeman, MT to Columbus, MT...[map]
Down hill, with a tailwind, on a smooth road, following a tandem. Very nice.
Mileage: 104.0miles, Start: 7:30am, Time: 6hr:19min,
Avg: 20.1mph, Rolling: 16.5mph, Climb: 1,502ft,
Weather: Hot & Sunny, Temp: 62-100°F
Today was one of those days that cycling was invented for! After a short climb out of Bozeman, we just cruised 100 miles to our destination. Managed to break 50mph for the first time on this trip, coming down the other side of the Bozeman pass. Then we managed 20mph+ to lunch, with very little effort.

Had a lot of fun following Susan & Lon's tandem at 30mph+ along the frontage road. I had a cricket / grasshopper take a ride on my handlebars for about 5 minutes along the way. He sure was lost, when he jumped off!

Temperatures climbed well today, with no cloud cover at all. Coming into Columbus several signs flashed over 100 degrees. Had a wait for the room keys, so some went for a swim in the river. With my fair skin, I decided this would be suicide, so I went and sat in the air-conditioned lobby with a few other sensible people.

Very little effort required today, but that's about to change in two days time...

Strong paceline = 30mph
My passenger for 5 minutes.
(Or: "Faster Shaun, faster. We can catch 'em")
(Yes, I did take a pic of my handlebars at nearly 30mph!)
Out in the wild (mid)west

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Day 7: Saturday, 21 July

Butte, MT to Bozeman, MT...[map]
I like descending. I like it a lot.
Mileage: 100.7miles, Start: 7:30am, Time: 7hr:24min,
Avg: 16.4mph, Rolling: 13.6mph, Climb: 3,441ft,
Weather: Hot & Sunny, Temp: 58-92°F
Expected another punishing day in the saddle, as my cough is still life-threatening (in a man-ish sort of way), although the bee-sting has topped out. Luckily for me, the day had more downhill than uphill! Big Time Bonus.

Early climb up Pipestone Pass (6,418ft) had me spluttering a bit, but my legs carried me through. Well, that and the fact this is not the first time I've suffered on a bike (smiles...). We also crossed the Continential Divide today and although it's not downhill all the way, it made a good effort for the rest of the day.

At our first rest stop in Whitehall, there was a town fair going on, complete with vintage cars, fete stalls, horse-shoe tossing etc. It was a shame we carried straight on through. But we had descending to do!

It was great descending by the side of the Madison River. There was loads of people on the river, floating on tyre inner-tubes, inflatable dingys etc. They were having a good time, especially the ones that had their beer coolers floating with them! (That would be all of them, then Shaun)

Good recovery day, all in all. Much easier than I expected. Let's hope it continues...

Jim (with a feather in his cap).
Bob (aka Dad). Sorry Bob.
Yes, I know my glasses aren't on straight.
Floating down the river with your beer...
Good place for lunch!