The last three days really took their toll. I am still having the time of my life, but I really needed some rest time.
The Mount Rushmore Day was exhilarating, but somewhat stressful. That day was the only day I went into with extreme nerves. We had been told that the park was very hilly and there would be a lot of traffic. There was an optional 30 mile ride through Custer National Forest that only the strongest riders chose to do. My 45 mile route ended up having 3000 ft of climbing and the 70 mile route had 7000 ft of climbing. I started stressing first thing in the morning and almost opted to sag to Mt Rushmore. I was really worried about traffic and steep hills. However, Mt. Rushmore was my pinnacle. I had to ride my bike to Mt. Rushmore. I wanted to see what it looked like and always remember the first glimpse of the monument. So, I put my fear behind me and rode towards the park. First, I stopped at the Crazy Horse monument. I was really surprised to see how little has been done on this monument. I guess I have seen pictures of what it will look like one day, but did not realize that only the Indians face had been completed. I did not stay there very long at all as I wanted to spend more time at Mt. Rushmore. And would you know, the ride in was relatively easy! All the worrying for nothing! Yes, it was hilly and there was some traffic, but there was a decent shoulder. However, the best part was after cresting a steepish hill, I pulled over into a small parking lot to look at my cue sheet. I noticed people taking pictures behind me so I turned and looked and OMG! there is George Washington. It was like someone splashed cold water on my face! I have wanted to see Mt. Rushmore forever, and there was George Washington! I continued to cycle into the park and had a blast. It is huge. My only regret was not having enough time to really enjoy the park. I would have needed 4 hours at least and we only had 1.5 hours.
My biggest mistake of the whole trip happened next. With 20 or so miles to go, I made the assumption that "it is all down hill from here"! I proceeded to get my butt kicked with the climbing. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved almost every minute of it! We were on a really windy back road with little traffic and it was just up and down - some of the hills got to 9%. Thinking it was all downhill, this was a little demoralizing, but the road was beautiful countryside.
Continuing with my mistake of "it is all downhill from here", we started our longest day of the trip on Sunday. We started an hour earlier at 6am instead of 7. I thought, hey we are doing 3000 ft of climbing in 145 miles, that has got to be easier than 3000 ft of climbing in 45 miles. WRONG. Never underestimate an easy day on paper, because it may not be easy with weather conditions! Sunday was a mixed wind day. Sometimes we had tailwinds, some headwinds, but mainly crosswinds I started out having a really good day and made it to lunch early. It was really neat riding through the badlands, as I had no idea what to expect and they were truly spectacular. They are really hard to describe, but bam, in the middle of nowhere are these great rock formations. After leaving the Badlands, the wind really started picking up. I wanted to sag once I fell behind the back of the6pack by 30 minutes, but the back of the pack was waiting for me! It was nice that they waited and it gave me the encouragement to continue. I was exhausted when we got in at 5 - however, it was 6! We crossed over a time zone when we entered Murdo, SC. So we had to scramble to get everything ready for the next day and get supper.
Monday, we were still reeling from the time change. Once again, I originally decided that the day would be easy. However, after Sunday, I knew better! With only 1690 ft of climbing but a steady crosswind all day, it was a slog fest! I sagged up one rest stop and that put me back at the back of the pack! I should have sagged up two rest stops. I was just slow, and the terrain was not much to look at - corn and grassland. It started to get warm. The heat did not bother me, but it took out several of our riders not used to riding in heat and humidity. The last 20 miles, the wind seem to ease some or I got a "second wind" and I finally made it to the motel after 7 pm. Getting in at 7 on a ride at home is not so bad, but here, you still have to get a shower, dinner, wash clothes and it was my night for a massage. Yes, we get massages here from a crew member somewhat frequently! I ended up eating Arbys at 9:30!
So, that brings us to today. I told Vikki that I wanted to be in by three and that if I could not keep up, I would sag early and often! I just needed a little bit of time off the bike this afternoon. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I intended on sagging at the first sag when I could only maintain 12 mph for the first 30 miles, but it seemed as if the van was already full. I continued to ride. I felt good, I just had no power output against the wind. Then, something caught my eye! Badgers! Oh, I was thrilled! I love seeing wildlife and I had never seen a live badger before. This made me start thinking about a book I read as a kid about a boy and a badger - Sterling North's Rascal. It was a great book and I named my hamster after the badger, Rascal. BTW, other good books to read even if you are not a kid are The Yearling and
Where the Red Fern Grows. So, as I continue to slog away thinking about good books I read as I kid, I see the van! Veronica realized that I was pretty behind the others and made room for me!
WHOO HOO! So, I rode in the van with her to lunch, grabbed lunch and headed out to her last sag - 20ish miles from the end. I was now way ahead of the fast guys and no one in between me and the hotel! I could ride 5 mph if I wanted and no one would care. So, I rode at a comfortably slow pace and took pictures when I wanted. I stopped at a gas station when I got in and leisurely cleaned my bike, showered and blogged! What a great refreshing day! And to top it off I had a package from my friend Sharon Stevens from Plano. She and I rode my last 4 day training weekend together. Sharon, today was very much like our weekend in Italy - somewhat hilly, but not too bad, some wind but not as hot with much better road surfaces!
Today's corn - apparently there will be alot of corn and soy over the next few states...
My real live and in person badger!
Hey Don - we are at an old Texaco!
Old school house - see the bell in the roof
Looking forward to a new state tomorrow - Iowa! Pray we get favorable winds!