I left Mobridge, SD to a beautiful Missouri River Vista at 5:40 AM. It was the last time we'd see the river today. I climbed long Hills into a sunrise over the beautiful rolling prairie. I passed a few riders on the way out of town and saw very few the rest of the day. I like to start with positives.
For those of you who read my daily Sioux City Journal RAGBRAI articles a few years ago, this is a lot more about the ride experience. RASDak has very few, exceedingly small towns sparsely located. There is no carnival atmosphere and no cast of characters in every sort of costume riding every imaginable contraption. RASDak Bike Tour 2021 is less colorful more about the bike experience so if this bores you this is your permission to exit the ride.
This ride can be described in 3 words, hard, hard, and hard. You could also use biking synonyms hills, headwinds, and heat. The destination for tonight was Gettysburg, SD, 77 miles away. A manageable distance for most experienced cyclists.
I made a tentative plan to leave with new friends Howie Van Ginkel and Jeff Nibbelink from Rock Valley. The plan was to beat the heat and forecast for increasing winds. Dutchmen are not usually late but this time I was. I made a game time decision to try to catch them or wait for my fellow Siouxland Cyclists and risk the wind. I chose the former.
10 miles in my knees, butt and back were already burning. Later the sun would take care of scorching the rest of my body. The increasing winds were 15 - 25 miles an hour with higher gusts. Soon I was craving the winds I complained about yesterday.
At 21 miles I pulled into a convenience store, my first opportunity to fuel up on calories. Jeff and Howie were just pulling out and offered to wait but I knew they should not pay the price for my sloth, so I told them I'd catch them, never believing for a minute it was true.
I found myself focusing on little goals; the next hill, that lone tree on the horizon, the next turn, the 1/3 point, the next point to get water, get food....
At mile 38 the halfway point and a turn east into the teeth of the wind, Jeff and Howie waved me down. I'm not sure if they were legitimately taking a rest, being "Iowa nice" or trying to take advantage of my extra pair of legs in a draft line. Bikers can save considerable energy by taking turns leading with the others protected behind them in their draft.
We arrived in Gettysburg at 1:30 to 97-degree temps. Jeff and I were pretty gassed, but Howie had a little left in the tank. I could have gone to see the famous Medicine Rock in a local museum but there was no way in leaving the air-conditioned school I'm staying in.
Many did not complete the ride and there is no shame in that. It was tough. The consensus from a lot of others who did was "toughest ride I ever did" and "harder than any century ride I ever did" (cyclists speak for a 100+ mile ride). I concur. The RASDak director said it was the toughest day they've had in the 8 years of the ride"
Tomorrow's does not look a lot easier as we point our tires toward Pierre. It's 74 miles with 20-30 SE winds and near record temps.
Let me end where I started with positives. It was a great day. I got to ride with new friends. Without Howie and Jeff, I don't think I would have been able to complete the ride. Together we persisted, pedaled on, met the goal, completed the ride.