Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 21: Lusk, WY, to Hot Springs, SD

Today's Mileage: 92
Average Speed: 14.3 mph
Max Speed: 34.2 mph
Average BPM: 138
Max BPM: 169
Calories Burned: 2595 [3835 according to]
Moving Time: 6:27
Blog & Ride Details

Maddy and I found our groove in South Dakota.

But before I get into that, I learned a few things about Lusk, Wyoming, prior to cycling out of its "city" limits at 6:30 this morning. First of all, the Legend of the Rawhide festival - and the sacrificial live-skinning of a White man - is reenacted every year (hence the "rawhide"; the hide was literally raw).

Secondly, Lusk is the only town in the United States to have a memorial statue of a prostitute named Featherlegs, who was slain by ... wait for it, wait for it ... Dangerous Dick. I'm not making this up. It's history, folks. Oh, the irony. There are so many things I could say about that, which I am sure have already been said, but I just can't help but wonder about the most pressing question. Has she been memorialized in stone because she was a great humanitarian or was she just remarkably good at what she did? Karen even pondered aloud, "Featherlegs ... she was a Lady of Lusk."

Enough comedy.

Maddy and I cycled comfortably, and mostly solo, through the Wyoming countryside, along a highway lined with sunflowers, from Lusk to the first SAG stop. The shifting headwinds throughout the morning were not motivating me to push the pedals any harder than I had to. On the rolling hills between the first SAG stop and the second, I chatted with Gary and Margot, who appeared to be using today as an easy recovery ride. Smart move since we have a tough day of climbing tomorrow.

Just before the second SAG stop, we crossed over the state line around 10:30am and coasted into Edgemont, South Dakota.

Maddy and I departed from the SAG stop on our own and well after Margot and Gary had left. I never saw Margot again, but as I passed Gary doing 21 miles per hour, up a gradual incline in a low valley of the Black Hills, alone, into a headwind, he hollered at me enthusiastically.

For many of the more experienced riders on this tour, 21 miles per hour - regardless of hill index and wind direction - is not a major feat. But for someone like me, who purchased a first-ever road bike in January, has only really began cycling in March, and has been nursing a sore Achilles Tendon since Day 6 due to inexperience and over-use, I am amazed at how far I can extend my limits. I mean, it was a slight stretch when I told Mike that I had been cycling for five months.

Remember that scene from Forrest Gump when his leg braces fall off while he's running? He looks down, surprised, and then looks up goofily, albeit confidently, and speeds away. That's how I felt today as I glanced at the tall grass over and over again, trying to make sure I was really pedaling into a headwind. I couldn't believe it.

I'm almost hesitant to claim on this blog that I pounded the 6% grades of the Black Hills of South Dakota at speeds ranging from 6 to 12 miles per hour and consistently pushed 18-23 mph for nearly 10 miles in the valley - on a moderate incline, alone, into a headwind - for fear of being labeled an exaggerator or a cocky, arrogant beginner. However, being aware that I have nothing to prove to anyone on this tour or reading this blog, I only have accomplishments to document for myself ... and dammit - I want to remember this day.

Twenty-one days in, Maddy and I had our first really incredible ride together. It must be documented for my memory bank. There are a few random thoughts that I've drawn from this afternoon's experience and gathered below.

I realized the importance of recovery drinks on Day 1, but I've since learned that Jeff was right about Gu Energy Gels, and Ann has made me a believer of electrolyte powders. I've been trying to figure out the strategy for fueling long rides and I accidentally stumbled upon a winning combination for my body today.

I don't have the competitive ego and drive to race, but I'll tell you what gives me my ultimate adrenaline high. Speed. Not the speed that gets me ahead of the pack. But my speed. Knowing that I am generating movement and even perhaps achieving a personal best. I have no desire to overtake anyone for the thrill of competition. Even seeing them get smaller and smaller over my shoulder doesn't do much of anything at all for me. In fact, if I weren't checking for traffic, I wouldn't even look back.

Not to take anything away from the legitimate and awe-inspiring glory of victory, but particularly on a tour like this, if your primary focus is overtaking or outpacing other cyclists all the way across America, you're going to miss so much of the beauty of this ride. Competitive ego has no place out here.

Here is what I have determined that it is for me on my bicycle: It's the thrill of the tireless strength you can feel building within your own body - even if it's brief - that exhilarates me. It's the high of having a good day. Of completing a goal, whether you're first or last. My ride. At my pace. Add some sweat glistening on your skin under warm sunrays and wind whipping your face and suddenly ... life on a bicycle is really living! Whether it's organized competition or personal fulfillment, Beth said that the high I felt today is what keeps cyclists on their bikes.

Beth also found the ranch where "Dangerous Dick" lived ...

... [chuckle-chuckle] ... I'm here all week, folks. Don't forget to tip your waiter.

Today was a good day. But a good today doesn't guaranteed a good tomorrow. There will be days - especially throughout the remainder of this tour - that I may not even feel like cycling. When limbs will ache. When my ass and my saddle will not be on speaking terms. When I will be tired. When the miles pass slowly and uneventfully. There will also be more days where I prefer to linger and soak in the scenery. Those days can be just as fulfilling as those packed with adrenaline. You have to find what makes you tick each day. But I think Beth is right. Those moments of near-nirvana and ultimate euphoria, when Maddy and I are in our groove, will keep me coming back for more.

More images from Lusk to Hot Springs:

[The slow Internet connection in Hot Springs, SD, is aggravating;
will upload more images later;
I know the anticipation is eating you alive
... at least it's not skinning you.]

Or just click here to view my entire photo album of Day 21.

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Hot Springs, Day 21
Across America North:
Hot Springs photos


Monique D. said...

"With the booty in hand, Dangerous Dick returned to the swamps of Louisiana, which had long been his preferred choice for his outlaw activities." -- quote from your link. HILARIOUS!!!!

I loved this... now go upload the pics woman.

C Mack said...

Well, if nothing else, I got a history lession. The links in your latest entry went on for quite a while about the old west. Very interesting. Then I remembered I was originally reading about your trip. What an education.

Be safe.