No Name Tour: Day 16 – The Long Straight Road

Last night about 1 a.m. I rolled over and my right hamstring went into a massage be spasm. I managed not to yell but the spasm lasted ten minutes. It gradually abated for another then minutes before going into spasm again.

Ten minutes later my leg calmed down and I could go back to sleep.

Rough night.

We had breakfast at the hostel. The meal consisted of food we bought at the supermarket last night. Over the meal we discussed options for getting past Nickerson. The main roads we needed to use we still closed by the flood.

Sweet T opted to listen to locals who told him to go north, east of Nickerson. Then go west, passing the flooded area to the north. We opted to use the google. We knew we were taking a chance in but it worked out fine.

From our Adventure Cycling maps we knew that there would be no services along our route of over 70 miles. BYOB.

We went west from Hutchinson for about 16 miles. For part of this segment of the ride we were pacelining. We crossed over the Arkansas (pronounced Are Kansas) which flows south from the Nickerson area. The river was high and fast.

Fast, I wasn’t, and the three-man pacelining became a duo.

Next we turned north for six miles. Mark and Corey guessed right; we ended up just to the west of the flooded area.

Here we turned left for 50 miles. Without a turn. Just straight through the prairie. Corey told me that, in addition to riding into a light headwind we were climbing on a grade of 1 to 2 percent.

Mark sped ahead. I tried to keep up with Corey but my left knee and my need to use a restroom kept my speed down.

Mark, then Corey, stopped at a roadside sign that said “Water for Bikers”. Corey suggested that I stop and ask to use their restroom.

Sherry gives water to cyclist. A true trail angel.

I did. No problem. Then the homeowner named Sherry gave me a cold bottle of water for the road.

Odd roadside monument to Warren G. Harding

And the miles went by. Slowly. On and on through a wildlife preserve with more birdsongs than I could count. This is a stop over for many migratory birds.

Quivers National Wildlife Refuge

Then came the farms. Some had grain growing but most were not yet planted. Ponds of water were visible in most of these fields.

On and in. The terrain rising before me. Just a bit. The wind pushing against me. Just a bit.

Corey is the yellow dot in the distance

After over six hours of riding I caught Mark and Corey waiting on a bridge over the Arkansas River. (Our route was a line under its arc.)

We rode into Larned and stopped by the police station to get permission to camp one the surprisingly dry city park. We were told that tonight the city would be spraying for mosquitoes. We decide not to risk exposure to the insecticide and checked into a $50 per night motel. It’s everything you’d expect and less.

Miles today: 73

Miles total: 1022.5

Any Road Tour: Day 40 – The Mule goes over the top

Last night I over did dinner again. Cheeseburger (Montana beef is mighty tasty) with fries, three local Belgian white beers, and tater tots stuffed with jalapeño and cheese. Suffice it to say, I did not sleep all that well.

I awoke at 5:30 to a massive muscle cramp in my left calf. It hurt so much. I told myself to breathe through the pain and it subsided. (Frankly, I think the breathing just took my mind off the pain.)

Breakfast was a massive serving of biscuits and gravy with an equally massive side of hash browns at Mel’s Diner across from the Inn. I was disappointed that the Fonz wasn’t there but the food was great.

Off I rode budding Augusta farewell. I headed south roughly parallel to the Rockies. A favorable wind allowed me to ride comfortably for 20 miles before I turned west and began THE CLIMB OF DEATH.

I road a two lane highway with minimal shoulder (thanks to rumble strips). Speed limit 70. Up, down, and around the road meandered. The ups were bigger than the downs as I slowly made my way to 4,500 feet. Then the gun began.

The climb to Rogers Gap at 5,600 feet was 8 miles into a headwind.

Of course, to make it more interesting the road became steeper near the top.

I pulled over to rest about 3 miles from the crest and my bike started to roll backwards. I had been climbing so long that I didn’t realize how steep it was.

I paced myself as I ascended. Getting to the top wasn’t particularly difficult, it just took a long time.

Then I saw the sign for the top. Continental Divide, Ma! (Sorry. Geezer cinematic reference.)

Some cars were parked on the shoulder. A woman got out of the rearmost one and offered to take my picture.

Her name was Maria. We got to talking and I mentioned that I wasn’t sure where I was staying tonight. Maria was doing field work with the Montana Native Plant Society. She invited me to stay with her group (of over 100 people) just east of Lincoln.

I begged off then took off down the mountain. Or not. The dreaded soul sucking westerly Montana headwinds were much stronger on this side of the Mountain.

Running low on food and water I realized that it was poor form to turn down such s gracious invite.

After I crossed a beautiful river, I followed Maria’s directions and ended up at their campground . It has a lodge building and shower facilities. I will be camping along a river.

I arrived around 1:30 so it’s a short day for me. Tomorrow will be a tough 80+ mile grind into the wind to Missoula and a rest day.

Miles: 52

Total miles: 2,956.5

Any Road Tour: Day 25 – Wobegon in Sauk Centre

I pretty much go to bed and wake up with the sun. Here is the sky last night just before sunset. Imagine cool breezes and you get the full effect. If you are standing by sideways that is.

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After eating first breakfast of PB&J on tortillas, I left Alice’s Attic at 7 am, well before my host was up and about. It was great arrangement and Alice made me feel quite at home.

As I rode away I spotted some of her cattle lying in a field. When I mooed they all stood up and gave me the hairy eyeball as if to say “Can’t you see we’re sleeping?” Here they are last night checking me out.

The next 19 miles were a straight line through farms and fields to Bowlus. On the way I crossed the Mississippi for the last time. It’s a much prettier river up here.

In Bowlus I stopped for second breakfast at

Jordie’s Cafe. One of the cafe’s workers saw me pull up and said “Hi John.” I asked her how she knew who I was and she said she saw my picture on Alice’s webpage. (This was good to know since I don’t need any more worries about my fusiform gyrus.)

Oatmeal, hash browns, an English muffin, coffee, and OJ filled my tank and put a smile on my face.

In the park across the street I called Mrs. Rootchopper to check in on the home front. She’s consulting contractors to redo my man cave while I’m on the road.

The park was adjacent to the Lake Wobegone Trail which I promptly took toward Sauk (pronounced sock) Centre (spelled the British way).

I had a tailwind I stopped for a moment to spray bug repellent on my shirt. It seems the few black flies that are still around love the spot in my back between my shoulder blades. After that I flew down the recently repaved trail. It was about as nice a trail as you could want. It even featured Minnesota’s longest covered bridge.

Within a few miles the skies opened up and big cold rain drops started pelting me. I put up with it for a while then pulled over to put on my rain jacket. Three minutes later the rain stopped.

I stopped to take a picture of a water tower for some reason.

My next stop was Charlie’s Cafe in Freeport for lunch. Lunch was tasty so I had desert. It was awesome.

When I came out of the restaurant the sky had cleared. The sun was very strong and the humidity was through the roof.

I rode about ten more miles to Sauk Centre. It was only 2:30 but I decided to respect the heat and humidity as well as the forecast of overnight thunderstorms and grab a hotel room. This made it my shortest mileage day so far.

Today’s miles: 56

Tour miles to date: 1,798

A medical note or two:

For the last two weeks my right index finger has gone numb. I swear it’s not from chastising drivers.

Of greater concern is my left calf. It’s a little sore and swollen. This is where my deep vein thrombosis or DVT formed. (The DVT was the source of the blood clots that lodged in my lungs over the winter.) I need to elevate it overnight. If I need to I can always go to an ER and get an ultrasound.

On a cheerier note: I passed 5,000 miles for the year yesterday.

Any Road Tour: Day 24 – Alice’s Attic

Somehow I actually slept a few hours in my tent last night. I was stirred from my slumbers by some of the chattiest wildlife on earth. And by a passing light rain shower that sprinkled my uncovered tent.

Up before dawn I packed my things and rolled out for what was supposed to be 73 mile day. I had a strong tailwind so I expected it to be an easy day.

Breakfast in the town of Sunrise didn’t pan out. I took a pass at viewing Richard Widmark’s birthplace because I can’t think of a single movie he was in even though I must have seen dozens of them.

I finally sat down to a fine country breakfast in Harris, 18 miles into my day. I get about six miles to the tortilla.

I left the restaurant and immediately made a wrong turn. I was distracted by the fact that the restaurant had apple fritter French toast on the menu, Tragically they were out of them. 😱

I clued in after four miles. Good thing I had a tailwind. Um, wait…

Four miles of headwinds later I was back on course in Stark. The roads, scenery, and towns reminded me of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

Tailwinds pushed me through one rural metropolis after another. Granny. Springvale. Then Dalbo. Here I could stay at a free bunkhouse on a farm. I went into a bar for food and contemplation. The bar food was delicious and totally hit the spot.

It was only 40 miles to another farm roadhouse open to cross country bike tourists. So I headed for Alice’s Attic.

Along the way I passed an organic rock farm. Or maybe not.

I made a pit stop in Milaca for packable groceries and cash.

The heat and humidity increased as I rode. Clouds were building to the southwest. With four miles to go a small fluffy white dog charged across the highway to do me in. How this dog is still alive after running across this highway is beyond me. The dog was harmless but he was very fast. I took off. The loaded Mule was instantly accelerating through 17 miles per hour. Dang.

I pulled into a farm with an AA sign out front. I had a 50/50 chance of shelter or an alcoholics get together. Luckily this was Alice’s Attic. It’s a farm/antique place run by Alice. I am pretty sure she has a Group W bench somewhere in the barn where I am sleeping tonight. If you want to find a particular item, just go ask Alice. I think she’ll know.

Alice has been welcoming Northern Tier cyclists for 15 years, quite the trail angel.

Rains’ a comin’. Tomorrow might be a short wet one.

Today’s miles: 92.5

Total trip mileage: 1,742.

Further…