Wednesday, March 4, 2009

TdK '08

While I wait for the last of my plans to fall into place for this summer, I'll review 2008. My buddy, Pat, flew in from San Jose to KC and we drove up to Sioux Falls, SD for the Tour de Kota. It was the 4th year for this event. my brother-in-law, Bruce had done the 2 prior years, and I had joined him 2 years ago. It was a loop from Sioux Falls to the Missouri River and back. The first day we started a beautiful, sunny day after a night of rain, and I hit a road stripe at mile 2 and went down (he's no fun). No harm, no foul. Then a nice rolling ride to Mitchell to camp in the city park.

The next day was sunny, but windy. Strong, gusting, soul-sapping, buzz-killing windy. I rode by myself for a while, joined a pace-line that was too fast for me after about half an hour, and wondered why I had thought this had sounded like fun. Finally I came across a group that had banded together to survive the day. Two women were in-charge. One had a timer and a bell. They formed 2 lines, and the riders at the front would, side-by-side, take the brunt of the wind for 3 minutes, then she'd ring the bell, they would peel off to the rear, and 2 more brave souls would take a turn. We weren't going fast, but we were going. I'm convinced they saved my life, or at least my sanity, that day, temporarily.

At mile 53 we reached Kimball. Residents of Kimball went all out to make us feel welcome. They had entertainment and a myriad of food choices. While foraging through the 4-H barn for sustenance I ran into Pat, who had recharged with 3 pieces of pie. While we finished our lunch we discussed options: 17 more miles would get us to Chamberlain, the river, our campsite. Or, we could take the century option, go south about 10 miles, and prolong a miserable day on a bike. As someone who is susceptible to peer pressure, and not always that bright, I fell for Pat's argument that if we went south, at least we would be riding in a cross-wind for a while, rather than straight into the damn thing. About 25 lonely miles later we had only seen 1 other rider, when Duane from Brookings, SD caught us. We stopped for water at a SAG set up in the middle of nowhere and were informed that we were the 4th, 5th, and 6th riders they had seen all day. Number 7, Mark, showed up while we were there. Opting to feel like a real man rather than a moron I continued on to the bitter end. Pat raced in ahead of me, and when I reached the campsite he was being interviewed by a reporter from the Argus Leader (tour sponsors) who was doing the tour, and covering it for the paper. Among fellow campers we were congratulated, and told we were idiots. Ce la vie.

The next day was a scenic ride climbing the bluffs that run along the river. I had to stop several time for pictures. We had a perfect day for a ride as we made it to Highmore by early afternoon. Payback is hell, and the next day we paid for the perfect day, with the perfect storm. It was only dripping when we finished breakfast, but we were sure it would clear up soon, so Pat and I found a cafe dowtown, had some coffee and waited. When it was clear....that it wasn't going to stop, we put on rain gear and headed out. The whole morning was road grit in your teeth, and rain up your nose. Fun. 25 miles from our start, we skipped the SAG at the local school, opted for a diner on the edge of town, and had another breakfast. Comfort food. The good news is that while we ate the rain stopped. We rode as hard as we could to get to Huron and be done with the day. Thankfully, the state fairgrounds offered hot showers, good food, and entertainment, as well as massages to make us feel whole again.

South Dakota offerd great weather the next day for a 90 mile ride to Brookings, incuding lunch at the school in Oldham. Sandwiches, chips, cookies, and of course, pie. Nice evening in Brookings, until the tornado sirens went off. Pat got water in his tent, and Bruce had to take the poles out of his to save it as the wind was making it stand at an unnatural angle. One of Bruce's buddies called a friend and he came to pick up anyone who wanted to sleep on his floor. Everyone went except for me. I was already cozy in my MSR Hubba Hubba, which had not let a drop of water inside. When Pat was dropped off the next morning we packed up and headed off to find a cafe. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?

The ride back to Sioux Fall was advertised as 68 miles. It wasn't raining, but the wind was back. Mostly from the west it was the kind of wind that makes it hard to stay upright. With a very few brief respites when we went east it was a cross-wind all day. Then, after Pat had texted some cycling buddies to anounce that he was "so done with this s---hole state", and our odometers showed we should have only a few miles left, we took a right turn into the wind. I had to laugh to keep from crying. We could see Sioux Falls in the distance! It was right there! But we dutifully followed the planned route which eventually went south again, then east until we were inside the city limits. We found the bike trail which would take us to the finish. Nice trail, but it went on, and on, and on..... 68 miles turned into 90. We were a little crabby, Pat called it grumpcon 5, but once we got back to the car and were showered and fed, it felt good to be done. I have a handful of patches for completing century rides, but the one from TdK '08 is one that I really earned.

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