Thursday, June 30, 2011
It would seem impossible, nay, unfathomable, for a place to be more open, more vast, more desolate than the plains and prairie of South Dakota. Well my ignorant Binglers, I have found such a place. The locals call it Wyoming. I call it “the god awful place of unyielding winds, vast stretches of road without water or shade and elevations over 6,000ft (aka Wyoming)”.
Leaving Hot Springs South Dakota, I had about another 26 miles in the now seemingly crowded and cosmopolitan state. Crossing into the “Forever West” state, I headed south. 60 mile stretch of no services, no water, no trees, only me, brewing storms, hail, lighting, and fellow bike tourers. Thats right, finally rode for a stretch with other weary travelers who had been a day or two ahead of me throughout South Dakota. They are on their way to the coast from Philly, and while we parted ways in Lusk, it's fun knowing they are out there somewhere in the wastelands of central Wyoming. God speed.
Stayed two nights in Lusk. Watched a softball game that brought back memories of shoeless Joe Jackson, as I learned the fix was in. Leaving the next day, the winds were blowing steady from the south. Had I gone north from Lusk, the winds would have been blowing from the north. Abhor is the strongest word I currently have to relate my utter hatred for the headwinds I have biked in for two weeks. And with the elevation, the little rolling hills have felt like mountain passes as I huff and puff and get my bike blown down. Somehow, after 85 miles and near exhaustion, made it to Hawk Spring State Park and was bestowed with cold spring water.
After fixing a flat rear tire and yet again flat nomad tire, biked into even stronger winds, higher elevations, and 100 degrees towards Cheyenne, the state capital. It was to be a 65 mile day, but this biking bingler wouldn't have none of it. I threw the thumb. Everything that passed me, I had a thumb going out, until finally, someone stopped and offered me mercy. Biked 40, hitch 25, and made it to Cheyenne covered in hay, dry sweat, and sweetly only 2 blocks away from where I am couchsurfing.
Another day off to get my legs for the ride into Colorado tomorrow. First stop, Fort Collins and then to the end of part one, Boulder. I can already taste the sweet flowing waters of Boulder. My bike will undergo a metamorphosis, as will the landscape I will encounter in the next two months, 2,500 miles. Wyoming is one of the very few states that I will actually be in twice, as I will eventually come back into the western part of the state to go to the Tetons and Yellowstone.
Stayed tuned for my two month wrap up, some stats, and before/after pics. You'll also notice a new little paypal donattion button on the right hand side of the blog. I have decided that those who are willing and desirous can donate small sums that I will donate to various bicycle related groups, collectives, organizations that I come in contact with on my travels. Till then, keep pedaling.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The words unusual, extreme, severe and record breaking no longer have the umph they once had. With the Missouri river flooding and rain fall beyond belief, this is the year where new adjectives to describe our world are needed. On the bicycle I not only see, but feel and experience the nuances of nature, weather and how the human species has chosen to affect the delicate balance of the planet. The earth herself has tides, ice ages and droughts, heat waves and thunderstorms. Her moods and climates vary as part of the cycle of life. But we have thrown a wrench into the mix, and have taken her moods and made them into viscous mood swings that seem to be getting worse and worse.
As I have crossed South Dakota, this state where they used to go weeks on end without rain, I have ridden with rain and the threat of rain everyday. The rivers are all flooding, and will remain so until the winter. The prairie has abandoned houses from those who rushed in to an environment, tried to make it something it wasn't, and learned a hard lesson. We have chosen to create a civilization and way of life that has as a necessary foundation: pollution, violence, war, greed, anger, lies, and hatred. We have chosen this. While I see much of this on the road (cough CARS cough), I also see that which makes the human animal so wonderful. Our love for each other, our warmth, sharing, care and kindness are attributes that make the human community so amazing. We can choose to destroy the waters, the skies, other peoples and places, or we can choose something different.
… From the capital Pierre, I entered my so far longest stretch of no mans land. A 66 mile no service section where, had it been the normal 100 degrees most likely would have found me eating the abundant grass searching for water. Instead, with a grin on my face as the headwind battled me, I made it to Midland and partook of a feast hosted by a very large family reunion. The next morning, it was Badlands or bust. Another wonderful headwind made my journey all the more difficult, as did the near constant rainfall that day. However, it was worth it as I cycled into the eroded rocks, cliffs, ravines and colored soils that have seen large mammals that no longer roam this world. I also learned that the Badlands are greener due to the rains than they have been for a long, long time. Set up camp in the high winds, meet another bike tourer from NYC going to San Francisco who made the horrible mistake of putting her wheel in the bike stand and having the wind blow it over. This will always equal one thing: bent rim.
With rains and winds waking me, I got an early start on the scenic drive and got to see, feel, taste and smell this wonderful geological landscape nearly by myself. Plus, without cars and rvs on the road I was able to switchback up and over the 4 major passes that, with the wind, made me take over 4 hours to go 25 miles. And I still had 65 more to go!?!?!
First, it was a break at Wall Drug, the “South of the Border” of the Midwest. Got my ice water and had a 20 mile stint on the interstate before getting off and continued to plow into the head winds and the constantly rolling grasslands. About 10 miles out of Rapid City, and after over 9 hours of cycling, my wonderful warmshower hosts rescued me and saved me from most likely another 2 hours of biking, and a killer hill to get to their house. Rapid is a prime gateway to the Black Hills, and with the pine trees, mountains, and zig zagging roads, after more than a week of the South Dakota vastness I made it to it's crowning jewel.
The jewel, however, is hilly. With pines, and cottonwoods, jagged rocks piercing the sky, hills of dark reds and greens, twisting mountain roads with tunnels and bridges, the Black Hills are a magical cycling experience. My first stop was Mount Rushmore, which I hadn't really thought about being a mountain. Well, it is. 10% grade for 2 miles of grueling climb and I panted and sweated my way to the viewing platform of the stone carved faces. Then I left. And left with a furious downhill until, as all my downhills would prove, another grueling climb began fresh.
Even though I sweated and grunted and ached form the climbs, the hills provided me with wonderful vistas, pure and clean energy emanating form the trees, rocks and abundant wildlife. After a night camping in Custer State Park, I hit the roads early to avoid traffic, but it turns out I only avoided car traffic. Had my first encounter with the giants beasts, Bison. There two stood, carelessly in the road, staggeringly big and smelly, and in my way. So I stopped, and waited, and waited, and waited. 20 minutes a car came by and drove right up to the bison. It didn't care. He yelled and slapped his car and finally, slowly, it walked just enough for the car to pass. Soon a park ranger came and gave me some blockage so I could get by without completely fearing for my little life being squashed by the bison. Of course, this was all on top of being ridiculed by prairie dogs all day long. They chirped, and barked and called out to me for hours. Amazing.
Underneath the waving grasslands, as I discovered, is wind cave. One of the largest, most complex cave systems in the world, only 5% has even been discovered yet. Spent an hour underground, seeing delicate formations nowhere else on earth. And it was nice and cool, an added treat. From there it was to Hot Springs, where I am staying two nights and visited the Mammoth Site, an ancient sinkhole where hundreds of mammoths fell in and their bones have been well preserved. And I imagine a certain brother of mine snickering that I too probably got stuck in the sink hole. But no, I didn't. They didn’t have any turnstiles there.
|boxwork at wind cave|
And so, from Hot Spring I will end my mammoth adventure of South Dakota. I head west to the Wyoming border and then due south for several days as I make my way to Boulder Colorado. Remember, if you want to send me mail or any surprises, I will be at this address in about a week-ish and staying for about a week-ish. Check out all my SD pics https://picasaweb.google.com/rossbikepics , and keep on keeping on.
Send me mail at:
c/o Jamie Seiffer
3345 Chisholm Trail (#206)
Boulder, CO 80301
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
One might be snorting under their breath saying, " Isn't all of South Dakota bad land?" Very funny. sure, its flat, and rolling, and windy, and rainy, and endless and endless and endless. But, after days and days, you get to something magical. You discover that under all this waving grass is a hidden world of million year old soils and rock, ancient animal fossils that no longer roam this world. You get to the Badlands.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The myths are true, cycling in South Dakota isn't like cycling anywhere else. The wide vistas are beautiful and stark reminders of the emptiness you are in. At times exhilarating, other times frightening as deep dark symphonies crash overhead, and the wind. My god, the WIND! Let us take a bike ride to the past when we first came to South Dakota...
Water water water everywhere, In my trailer too. For 12 miles I rode in the hardest deluge of rain I had ever had the unique pleasure of biking through. It rained so hard and so fast that the streets of Sioux Falls became lakes and ragging rivers. The streets were so full of water my nomad was half under water as I biked to my warmshower host for the night. Both he and I were soaked getting my things inside his apartment, but then just like that, the rains left. So I visited the namesake of the town, Sioux Falls.
Despite being inside, woke up and was out early, and I needed every hour as my second day saw another kind of weather: Wind. Gusting, and I mean, GUSTING headwinds 100% of my way to Mitchell and another warmshower host. Took me over 8 hours to cycle the 70 miles, and my legs for the first time since leaving Vermont were super sore. Mitchell, of course, is home to the now only Corn Palace in the world. Yup. My next day and another new weather pattern, wind reversal. The same gusting headwinds became my best friend in the whole world as it was now a gusting tailwind, and I cycled 100 miles in 6 hours, and my legs feel fine. Massive storms rolled through at night, crashing thunder and lighting, and I was told what a tornado siren sounds like. Similar to my black bear, its something I hope to never have to experience. Not even once. Nope.
From Kennebec I went through the Fort Pierre National Grassland (it is what it sounds like) to the capitol of the state, Pierre which sits on the Missouri and has had issues with the river's flooding like everywhere else. Bike paths and river side parks are all underwater, and will be for a long time. The dam above Pierre is releasing more water than Niagara falls. Crazy. Taking a much deserved day of rest here in the capital before heading back into the vastness of the state towards the Badlands and Black Hills.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Missouri river know first hand as its been flooding like crazy. And with the rains have come the flat, non-ending farm lands. Spent a night in a reconstructed 1800's wood cabin, and visited Pipestone National Monument and camped the night away in Split Rock Creek State Park.
That brings us to now, Sioux Falls where I am staying with a warmshower host before heading west into the vast interior of South Dakota, and where more rains await. I take the good with the bad, the ups and the downs. Often I smile, sometimes I frown. I pedal each day, across this great land, making my way... bingle by bingle.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
In one way or another, I have always lived east of the Mississippi. I'm proud of that fact. For no reason really. But all of my biking thus far has also been east of the Mississippi I could be proud of that, but that would be pointless, as I am now no longer east of the great river. I have crossed the ragging torrents of the Mississippi, and shan’t see her waters again until I cross back to the eastern shores when riding in the south. For now, lets give some props to the east
I left Duluth following it's beautiful riverside bike trail that lead me to the trail head of the Willard Munger State Trail. This trail, as it currently stands, is 67 miles of off road paved bike path that lead me to the casino town of Hinckley. While the day was car free, it was full of something. Obsessive heat. Only a week ago it was 40 degrees and I was praying for warm weather. Well, I got it on a 90 degree scorching day that left me dripping. Guzzling water the whole day, I camped for my first time in a non-warmshower house. They let me in, let me shower, and provided me with needed rest and hospitality above and beyond.
The next day, while another 16 miles of paved off road bike path greeted me, so did an even hotter day with temps near the 100's. All my water tanks were full up, and I drank them through before calling it a short day and ending at the William O’Brien State Park along the St. Croix river. Took a dip in the lake, took a shower, took a walk, and took respite.
I then followed various bike paths into the twin cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Cities have been making amazing strides in regards to bicycle infrastructure, as I saw in practice all over the state with 57 paved rail trails. Leading into St. Paul was the Gateway trail. From that's end, I freewheeled down to the Mississippi River Trail, part of which is a 10 state trail that follows the river. Naturally, I got insanely lost and had no idea what direction I was biking DESPITE the fact that there was a particularly large river to orient myself with. Regardless, various green ways and bike paths later, I made my way through the cities and to my warmshower host for the night. From Duluth, I road on nearly 100 miles of paved, off road bike trails. That's amazing.
So now I'm a west side boy, and I’m proud of that fact.
In other news, many Bingaholics have been pleading with me to give some scope to my biking. So here it is, using a system perfected by the Mongols as they conquered Asia and Europe. I call it: As the Moon, Does the Bike
- Phase I – This phase is my 4 month solo biking across the northern parts of the country. We can break it down into two main parts. Part 1 is my leaving Burlington, Vermont on May 3rd and ends when I arrive in Boulder, Colorado. Part 1 will be more flat than hilly, and these two months are training for my legs. Part 2 starts from Boulder and ends in Portland, Oregon on September 7th. Part 2 will see me cross the continental divide not once, not twice, not thrice, but FOUR times. I nickname this the “You Crazy Boy” Segment.
- Phase II – Upon arrival of my friend and touring partner, Chris, on September 8th in Portland, we will travel south along the Pacific coast towards southern California, and then proceed to tour the southwest, slowly making our way towards Austin, Texas for the new year.
- Phase III – New Year, new friends. Joining the crew in Austin will be Brittany and Christine, and together we will tour somewhere in the south, depending on the weather. Not sure. But when Christine leaves us to return to Burlington, I know this phase ends and then begins..
- Phase IV – The Mystery Phase.
Also, as I will be staying with a friend in Boulder, you can send me mail now at anytime. I think I will cycle into Boulder around end of June-ish, so get those letters, packages, solid gold bars together and mail me at:
c/o Jamie Seiffer
3345 Chisholm Trail (#206)
Boulder, CO 80301
As always, check out my updated pics here: https://picasaweb.google.com/rossbikepics
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Did you know that no other state produces more cheese than Wisconsin? Well, you do now. But I didn’t know it until I came to this fabled land. I saw Wisconsin as my next Ontario, a place to visit but most likely pretty quickly onto other places, like Minnesota for example. But to talk about Wisconsin, I of course have to talk a little bit about Michigan.
After leaving Marquette, I made a bee line westward towards Ironwood city. It took me two days, besieged by monstrous thunder storms that howled like the devil howling loudly, with me finding shelter only moments before the onslaught of rain and lightning. These storms brewed, flew, and left quickly and all day long for days on end. I also saw a moose, had a dog chase me for nearly ½ a mile, and saw a wolf which I thought was a coyote but I now think was a wolf which is even scarier. It was really big. Despite the winds, the storms, and the rains, I made to Ironwood and to another example of the amazing hospitality of people, especially warmshower hosts.
A mile out of Ironwood and I shed a tear for Michigan, and said hello to Wisconsin. The day would leave me in Ashland, where I couchsurfed with some bike friendly Northland College students for two nights. Ashland, like many towns in this area, were once very rich big cities thanks to all the various metal ores that were mined. But no more. Ashland, like all the other towns and cities, are struggling as the mines and economy dry up. What will be the fate of towns like Ashland? That depends on the communities I suppose.
From Ashland, I decided to follow the Bayfield Peninsula, which would let me tick off another national lake shore, Apostle Islands, and also let me have at least a little time in Wisconsin. A beautiful day full of sun, warmth and headwinds and I camped the night in the town of Herbster. The next morning, with a nice 5:30am wake up, I was on the hilly road again. Until, the bear. Yes, I have now come across my first (hopefully last) black bear. As I was climbing the hill, about 50ft in front of me I slow a large, slow moving object. It was a bear. I sat and watched the bear lumber into the woods, waited another few minutes to be sure it was gone, and continued on my way. Later on, I saw a deer (not very exciting) but I also say it's tiny, amazingly cute, spotted baby. Seeing the baby deer, which looked like a rabbit from far away, is one of the greatest treasures I have gotten thus far on my trip. Want more baby deer, less bears.
But that’s it for Wisconsin. A four day sojourn that reminds me of Ontario, only I ended up in Duluth Minnesota this time, not Michigan. But I enjoyed Wisconsin. The wildlife, the spring waters, the cheese hats. Yes, strangely, everyone was wearing a cheese hat. All the time. Well, from Duluth I follow the Munger Trail, 3rd longest paved trail in the world, and from there... who knows. So, till then, keep pedaling.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
|Hiwatha, the largest Indian. Ironwood, MI|
Goodbye eastern time zone, goodbye great lakes, hello central time zone, and the mid west. a new adventures begins. See all my Michigan pics (along with all my biking pictures) https://picasaweb.google.com/rossbikepics