Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 24: Wall, SD, to Pierre, SD

Today's Mileage: 117
Average Speed: 15.2 mph
Max Speed: 39.5 mph
Average BPM: 141
Max BPM: 166
Calories Burned: 3191 
Moving Time: 7:27

I achieved a personal best and a personal worst today. My personal best was reached at the first SAG stop when I had my highest mile-per-hour average over a 30-mile stretch: 19.8 mph. I cycled alone through the hilly South Dakota countryside for most of the way, but did get a chance to chat with Texas Tom over several miles, who peaked my interest in the Hotter'N Hell 100 in Wichita Falls. I might add that to my bucket bicycle list.

My personal worst took place along a lonely, 20-mile northbound stretch of Route 14, in which I cycled as slowly as 4.8 mph into a 20-30 mph headwind. I was all alone and had barely gone two miles in nearly half an hour. The wind created a deafening howl in my ears that blocked even my own thoughts. It was hot. I began to feel defeated. Even on the downhills, I was certain that if I didn't keep steadily grinding my pedals, my bicycle would stall and maybe even roll backwards.

Somewhere around mile three and nearly an hour into Mother Nature's cruelest joke, I realized that if my mood went completely sour, there was no way I was going to make it. So I started to sing. I sang as loudly and as badly as I could into the wind, trying to keep my spirits up, and pausing only when I began to get winded (pun intended). I began with old Prince hits, then sang a little Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder. Delirium was beginning to set in. I belted out Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" and even raised one hand in emphasis while singing, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere," but quickly had to grab the handlebars with both hands when a strong gust nearly knocked me over. Just before imaginary friends began to materialize on the road in front of me and well into the second verse of Boys II Men's "I'll Make Love to You", three of the Geldings pulled up on my left. Startled, I let out a little yelp. They laughed and yelled over their shoulders, "Hop on!"

Toronto MarkJoe and Jeff saved me about a third of the way into that 20-mile stretch of 20-30 mph headwinds. I jumped into the draft of their back wheels and pedaled for dear life. With their help, I was able to nearly double my pace. We took turns doing 1-mile pulls all the way through it. In the end, I was in the South Dakota wind tunnel for almost three hours. Three hours to cycle 20 miles! I'm convinced that if The Geldings hadn't come along, I'd still be out there somewhere on Route 14, seven or eight songs into my Michael Jackson set or huddled in a ditch, rocking back and forth, sucking on my fingers and chatting with Stan. Thankfully, I'm now comfortably lounging in a hotel room in Pierre, South Dakota, and have regained enough cognitive abilities to know that Stan wasn't real.

At mile 77.7, we took a right turn that made a cross/tailwind out of what used to be a raging wind monster. It was remarkable how quiet the Earth immediately became at that turn when the wind was no longer barreling down the road into our faces. Despite some big rollers, it was relatively smooth sailing to the third SAG stop. Dave arrived shortly thereafter with Helen in tow. He heroically pulled her through the headwinds, insisting that she not get in the SAG van and reassuring her that he wouldn't leave her. He was a man of his word and Helen rewarded him later with a steak dinner in lieu of this evening's Chinese buffet. Jeff (ABB staff member) mentioned that today was the worst he's ever seen this day's winds on this tour. The Geldings were White Knights today.

After some snacks at the third SAG stop, I decided to hang with The Geldings for as long as I could into Pierre. We took turns with 2-mile pulls. I'm still trying to get a better hang of the science and strategy of pacelining, but I ended up making it to the Missouri River, crossed from the Mountain Time Zone into Central, and rolled into South Dakota's capital with them. Despite what they said, I'm certain that they set a more comfortable pace because I was there. They even stopped to give me a Gu Energy Gel when I was close to bonking. At one point, Dave mentioned that his head was spinning, but he wanted to press on. Tough guys, The Geldings are.

Jeff took some video upon arrival at the Missouri River. And Toronto Mark got video of us in the echelon.

But no one shot video of the grasshopper invasion. We were inundated for miles on end by swarms of grasshoppers. Before the fatigue disassembled my ability to care, I tried to dodge the ones I could. But swerving to miss one grasshopper inherently sacrificed another. After awhile, I just focused on cycling as straight as possible with the uneven pavement and high winds so that I could keep pace. Our ride began to sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies. The grasshoppers bounced off our legs and wheel spokes. Joe took one to the eye; it splattered across the left lens of his sunglasses. Another one came flying out of his wheel well and headed straight for my face. I shut my mouth just in time. It hit me just below my bottom lip.

Whenever I think of South Dakota, I'll remember Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, The Geldings and ricocheting grasshoppers.

More images from Wall to Pierre:

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 24 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:


ccocochris said...

Omg dying laughing to the point of snorting while laughing imagining u on the open road belting out new york new york going into I'll make love to you....I'm seriously shaking with laughter.....surprised it wasn't empire state of mind....oh girl u crack me need for my WOW here...we can all imagine the real thing ;)

Monique D. said...

So true! (again, agreeing with "ccocochris").

And the grasshoppers?? Yuck!! Whodathunkit!

Unknown said...

Stan??? Who is STAN?? lol
oh yea i was most definitely cracking up on that one. and the grasshoppers gross!!! i could feel them bouncing off of me when you said it sounded like Rice Krispies - gross!!

Unknown said...

Stan??? Who is STAN?? lol
oh yea i was most definitely cracking up on that one. and the grasshoppers gross!!! i could feel them bouncing off of me when you said it sounded like Rice Krispies - gross!!