Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Touring Series: A Dead End

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more.

As "The Race Against Death Tour" wakes up in Wynot, Nebraska after a 93 mile day, the riders look forward to knocking another state off the list....

Day 4- Thursday, August 10th: After a fitful night of sleep that was interrupted by a local softball game and the requisite party afterwards, along with the rumbles of thunder all night long, I awoke and quietly got packed to head out. We quickly ate our morning oatmeal and headed out of Wynot for the main road and a turn westwards.

A rare image of myself (R) and Troy. Note my front panniers are still gone here.
The road was hilly, there was a fair amount of climbing in this region of Nebraska. It certainly wasn't flat! Along the first miles, we saw a road sign warning of road construction in a town called Niobrara up ahead. We saw the sign pointing cars up the road northwards to Yankton, South Dakota. We stopped there for a moment and debated about what to do, but in the end we opted for the planned route and a first stop in Crofton. It couldn't come soon enough for me, since the climbing had burned up the oatmeal and I was hungry.

Coming into Crofton, we found a gas station that had just opened up and they had some meager pickings, but that would suffice for me, because by now, I would have eaten the bark off a tree, I was so hungry. The fellows at the station seemed a bit put out by our presence. The sideways glances were not well concealed. They told us that on bicycles, we could "probably" make it through. Probably was good enough for us, so we hit the road westwards.

The day was getting hotter, and it was not very windy. What wind there was came from an easterly direction, so we did have a wee bit of an assist. We would get an even bigger one later. At one point during the late morning, we topped out on a high ridge that offered a view for miles. The resulting downhill was one I won't forget for a long time. It was just one of those times that everything gelled on the bike, not just for me, but all three of us. I don't recall how long that descent was, but I do know that it was a long, long way. Maybe three miles. And after that, we had the tailwind with the big ring engaged, laughing, soft pedaling......well, you get the idea. It was one of those moments that you wish you could repeat again. Maybe someday.....

At any rate, after several miles that seemed to drift off into a dreamy haze, we reached the approach to Niobrara. The river here had flooded the road into town earlier in the year, so the State was in the process of raising the roadbed three feet higher. It got kind of rough in spots, almost off-roadish. We dodged big end loaders, dump trucks, and other equipment at times. At one or two spots we were obliged to dismount and walk our rigs, but we did get into town on that ribbon of dry land bordered by water, weeds, and waterfowl.

Once we got into town, we spied a big convenience store. Food! It was about 11:30am, so the time was right for some grub. We parked the bikes and sauntered in to find some good stuff there. What wasn't good was the news we got from the lady at the register. She told us we had no way out on pavement westward, and that the construction was heavy out that way, so bikes wouldn't be allowed. (Yes, there was only one way in and out of Niobrara on pavement!) We took our purchases and with deflated countenances, we mused on what our next move could be. That was when the lady at the register started asking us more questions. She was curious about our trip, what our rigs were like, and where we were headed. We politely answered her, but we were really not here to engage in story telling. We had a big problem in front of us. We needed to figure out a plan.

Well, wouldn't ya know it, but the lady behind the counter mentioned that she just might have a plan. Maybe, if we could fit everything in, she could give us a ride. But she wasn't sure. Don't get our hopes up, and all of that. She was getting off in a half an hour, so if we could wait, she would see what she could do.

Well, that was really the only option that we could consider a possibility then, so we definitely took her up on it.

 The rare image shared today is on the ridge where we had the eastward wind assist and were having the best time ever. I don't know if you have an experience cemented into your psyche where the riding experience was so sublime and enjoyable that you can close your eyes and see yourself there again, but this was one at the top of the list. Probably top five or better for me for sure.

We were picking flowers from the side of the road, tall ones, as we rode by, sticking them in our bikes and in our hats. Laughing, smiling, just experiencing pure, unmitigated joy. It's something that if you could bottle it, you would be a zillionaire from the sales of it. But that's what makes things like that so precious and special. The rarity, the surprising appearance of the experience, and the fact that, maybe, you'll spend the entire rest of your life and never feel that again.

The scene in Niobrara was chaotic. Road construction had upset the town's traffic patterns and we came off a huge "mountain top high" to be slapped in the face with the reality that we may have ridden ourselves into a corner. We could ill afford to have to backtrack out of Niobrara and find another route, especially since roads were scarce in this territory. The word that maybe, just maybe, this lady had a way around our conundrum was all we had to hang our hats on, and admittedly, it wasn't much. Putting our trust in a complete stranger who may or may not have the answer we were looking for, hinging the entire success of the tour on that, was a huge gamble. I felt the stress and so did Ryan and Troy.

Next Week: Waiting for a half an hour seemed like an eternity..........

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