Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour: Beginning Of The End- Part II

The "Race Against Death Tour" stops in Scenic, South Dakota in search of some morning grub....

After a blazing run into Scenic, we searched around for a place to get something to eat. The thing was that we had gotten such an early start, nothing was open yet. We were flabbergasted at that, and the lack of any visible signs of life here. The place was obviously a hackneyed tourist trap, but it was weathered, run down, and anything but "scenic". Finally we were obliged to wait until the local general store opened for business in about a half an hours time.

We finally got in and settled down outside, as usual, and started in to chowing down. The long opening salvo to the day left me starving, as we generally just had two packets of instant oatmeal a piece before riding each day. That wasn't nearly enough after that fast ride into Scenic on this warm, calm morning.

As I munched my food, I was blankly staring across the street to an empty lot of tall brown grass that looked as though it hadn't been mown in months, if ever. As I looked, I saw the torso of a man rise straight up out of the grass in the middle of the field. I choked back a gasp of surprise, and Troy and Ryan both saw what it was I was looking at. A Native American slowly stumbled to his feet, empty paper wrapped bottle in his hand, and on shaky legs, he stumbled out of the lot away down the street.

"What the f#@k!", exclaimed Troy. And we were dumbfounded to find any other words for several minutes beyond that. We did get the rest of the food gulped down in a hurry, as our nerves were on edge now. We wanted to escape this weird, living nightmare of a town as soon as possible. Saddled up and ready to move on, Troy again at the front, we moved on down the sun drenched blacktop.

It wasn't long before we ran into several grasshoppers along the road. Big green ones. They were jumping around and getting on our legs and on our bags. Hitch hiking insects! But that wasn't the worst of it. The throng of hoppers thickened, to the point that the entire roadway was covered from ditch to ditch. Hoppers were going through our spokes and under our wheels at such a rate that our tire treads were green with bug guts. The spokes were singing a "plinkity-plink" tune as the insects hopped through the whirling mass of wires to their inevitable death. Every so often, a giant orangish-red hopper would be seen. Dwarfing the already enormous green brethren, these would make a serious "clunk!"if they got caught up in the whirling machinery.

As the surreal plague of insects played itself out, we were mesmerized by the spectacle and the sound. Suddenly, I became aware of some movement ahead. As I looked up, I saw a wall of insects peeling away from the surface of the road as if someone or something was turning the page of a book. The wave swept over us with a deafening roar, and our bicycles almost came to a halt.


Not just any old wind, but a wind that wasn't there, and suddenly was. The power of the gust was immense. Maybe a blast of 40-50mph at the snap of a finger. That's what blew the insects off the road, and us to a near stop. It wasn't just a gust either, it was not giving up. It just kept blowing at this incredible rate. Once we figured out it wasn't going to stop, we got into a line and started taking turns pulling at the front. It was slow going. We all ended up in our lowest gears. Unable to move much faster than ten miles an hour, we were obliged to stop after about two miles of butting heads with this wind. Completely exhausted, surprised, and baffled. We didn't know quite what to make of it.

Next week: More wind, more misery.

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