Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Touring Series: Into The Wild West

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. 

The "Race Against Death Tour" boys awake after a 119.9 mile day, (not counting Jo's truck ride!) to face Day 5 of the tour in South Dakota.....

Friday, August 11th: We awoke and got to our usual morning routine of breaking camp, boiling water for oatmeal, and suiting up for another day in the saddle. Perhaps a bit of a description is in order for what I mean by "suiting up".

We all had minimal clothing for riding. Three days worth of bibs, t-shirts, and our socks. These we washed however we could along the way, and dried them in the air as we rode. Each morning, you grabbed another pair of riding bibs, a t-shirt, and your socks. We usually took turns getting stuff on in the six person dome tent, so you had some semblance of privacy.

Well, this particular morning, I forgot to add the chamois creme when I was in the tent. So, I dipped a three finger full glob of the stuff and walked around the back of the tent to apply without having an immediate audience. The dome tent was tall enough that I would be obscured from view. As fate would have it, just as I am assuming the position to apply the cold, moist creme in the "affected area", a breeze comes up and blows the unsecured tent across the shelter house floor. As the poles make a scudding noise on the concrete, I am left face to face with Troy and Ryan with what must have been a priceless look on my face. They looked aghast for a moment, then busted out laughing hysterically.

It was pretty funny, even if I was embarrassed!

That made for a very light hearted morning pack up. We took to the road with giggles and a fair amount of verbal abuse hurled my way, (all in good fun, I might add) and we pulled out of Burke with a breeze in our faces and a humid, hazy morning on tap. The plan was to follow Highway 18 until we reached Winner, South Dakota, and then just north of there we were to head due west on Highway 44 for a long, long way.

The first town out was Colome, and we stopped at a convenience store briefly for some additional morning grub, but we were back at it very soon afterwards. The highway was somewhat busy, and we were not able to converse much along the way. Soon we were drawing near to Winner and I noticed the landscape was turning decidedly different. Row crop farming, ordered fields, and regular road crossings were giving way to a more desolate, grassy, ranch land sort of look. This wasn't what I was familiar with at all anymore.

Winner was all hustle and bustle. Lots of folks running around with a higher number of Native Americans than I had seen before in my lifetime. We were a bit put out at one point by the roads and where we were supposed to be at, but this was short lived. We saw a convenience store and hit it for some grub before leaving town, even though it wasn't quite lunch time yet. It was getting quite hot though, and we were working hard against a Northerly wind that was at times in our faces, and at times a cross wind.

Winner South Dakota was the last "Mid-Western" style city we went through.

The road out of Winner was kind of a borderline. A crossing from the Mid-West that I grew up in and knew into the wider, wilder, more desolate expanses of the Great Plains. Trees were scarce. Rolling grassy hills were the norm. No gravel road crossings every mile, and no farm houses every so often. It was kind of scary in a way. You felt more exposed, more vulnerable, and yet it was exciting to see what was over the next hill.

Around about three miles after hitting Highway 44 and turning out of the tough northly head wind, we came across a couple guys in the middle of no where. One in a truck, the other standing next to a Harley Davidson parked on the road in the midst of a pool of oil. As we rolled by slowly on our bicycles, I caught the eye of the guy with the motorcycle and said, "How's it goin?". I meant it as a friendly "hello", but as soon as I said it, I realized how stupid that was to say. I put my head down, pedalled harder, and was glad I didn't hear any footsteps running behind me, or worse, a gun shot!

The day into Winner wasn't a very notable one due to the traffic and the city itself being so busy. We were in the similar mode we had been in when we went through Sioux City. We pretty much just wanted to get the heck out of there and be on our way. I do remember thinking it was a gorgeous morning and that I was curious about all the hustle and bustle there that day.

The vast prairies West out of Winner would now be the norm. It definitely was right where everything became different from where we had started in Cedar Falls, Iowa. From the landscape to our entire way of doing things, we fell into a way of life that I would never have the pleasure of being a part of since that time. It was the "meat" of this tour and a lot of significant things happened to me in the days to come.

Next week:  Festus And The Bombed Out Town

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