Monday, December 31, 2018

Looking Ahead At 2019

Thanks for sticking with me through all the "Rear View" posts and looks back at the bikes I used. Now it is time to take a look ahead, as I do every year here.

Many years I have made vague comments about changes and what not that were forthcoming. Many times they did not pan out, many times they did. Same holds for the year of 2019. I'm sure there will be changes and many things I think will change won't. Here is what I do know now.....

  • The Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party will happen Saturday, February 9th.
  • The C.O.G. 100 Iowa Gravel Single Speed Championship will happen March 30th.
  • The Renegade Gents Race-  If they hold it.  UPDATE: Announced for April 6th. GOING!
  • The inaugural Prairie Burn 100 will be June 8th. I am registered to ride it.
  • The Solstice 100 is an event in Nebraska on June 22nd. I am registered to ride in it.
  • The 2019 GTDRI will be on July 27th
  • 24hrs of Cumming. Sam and I have unfinished business. Weekend of August 2nd-4th.
  • The Gravel Worlds event will be August 17th, and I am registered. 
Possibilities: These are things I've been talking about possibly doing. They may or may not materialize into reality.
  • Mississippi Gravel Cup Bentonia, MS in late February.
  • Almanzo 100 in Northfield MN -Mid-May
  • Dirty Kanza 200 All Things Gravel Expo Emporia KS- Early June
  • unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley in mid-Pennsylvania. October. 
NOTE- Most of these possibilities involve lots of travel. Whether or not I can pull any of them off is going to hinge heavily on what I have for funds to travel, and right now, that is zero and not climbing anytime soon. The events I have committed to are mostly in Iowa, so travel is minimized and Gravel Worlds is something I should be able to pull off, and is something I won't miss.

What is ahead up the road? Let's go see!
As for the blog, "The Touring Series" should peter out along about the end of January, maybe the first week of February. That will then lead into "The Interim Years", a series of posts leading the reader from the time period between the tours and the beginnings of Trans Iowa. Then the series of Trans Iowa stories will begin. These will all post on Sundays, for the time being.

The regular posts you've come to expect here will also continue. "Friday News And Views" and the Saturday "Minus Ten Review" posts will be weekly entries you can look forward to seeing all year. That is, unless something unexpected happens.

You never know.....

The rest of the week I'll be posting the usual fare, as you've told me you want to continue to see. That feedback I got earlier this month was very much appreciated and showed me that you readers don't really want anything to change around here. There will be the same opinions, newsy bits, reviews, and tales of my adventures to look forward to.

2018 was a BIG year on the blog. It ranks 2nd all-time for post count at 383 for the year. The most I ever posted was 388 in 2011. I don't quite know how that happened, but I do not expect that 2019 will rival this year. It takes a lot of time and effort to post that much, so I probably should back it down a notch or two next year! Just for kicks, here are some more numbers to chew on. Overall, I have done nearly 5,000 blog posts which have gotten just shy of 5 million views since 2005. Nothing spectacular, but I think I am one of only a handful of bicycle themed bloggers that have lasted this long. So, there is that......

As always, thank you for your reading here and for any comments you've made over the course of 2018. I look forward to hearing from you in 2019 and hope that you will keep coming back to read here.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Touring Series: Not So Scenic

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, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. 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. 

This entry is again a re-edited and combined post from the original entries from 2009. 

We rejoin the three cyclists as they get going on the road from Interior, South Dakota.

Day Seven: August 13th, 1995, Interior, South Dakota: One whole week! We had been out on this tour now for an entire week, and already I had had enough experiences to last a lifetime. However; perhaps the most pivotal experiences lay before me. The relief and "normalcy" we experienced in Interior was something we were hoping would continue as we got up that day in the campground.

Interior was pretty quiet that morning as we awoke and packed up to go. Before we bugged out, we had to stop at a small grocery/general store on the edge of town. It wasn't a very big place, and it really looked like a house more than a store proper, but that is all we had access to out there, so we gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity.

The watch of the bikes fell to me, and Troy and Ryan stepped inside to get more bread and peanut butter for the road. The door hadn't closed yet when I spied a Native American and it wasn't long before he approached me.

He was another young man that spoke like a hippie and was panhandling me for money. He said something about having to get a bus ticket to see his ill sister in a town far away. He wanted five dollars. I said I didn't have any money to spare him, but I wished him well.

He retorted with the following, "Hey man, that's cool. I understand. Well........could you give me. like say, $4.78?"

I did a double take. What? This guy was bartering for a hand out? I declined his offer.

Well, that's cool man. How about $4.32? , he returns.

No. Can't do it. Sorry dude!

"Well, okay man, how about $4.20?", and on and on. It seemed as though Troy and Ryan were never coming out, and they probably were in there awhile, because the guy made it all the way down under two bucks and was still bargaining with me when they did finally emerge from the store.

I bade him a final farewell, mounted my bike, and took off as fast as I could go. Troy and Ryan were laughing at my experience as I recounted it to them. I was just tired of dealing with the "V.I.P" folks on this trip.

The road out of Interior was pretty flat and was skirting the badlands to the North. Too far away to really see much, but we would see a "pile" of weird soil, or strange rocks occasionally. Traffic was almost non-existant, and Troy was wanting to hit the mileage hard in the morning due to the favorable conditions. So, he got out front and lit it up once again. We were strung out behind him as he set out a furious pace to Scenic, South Dakota, the next town up the road, where we hoped we would find some refueling opportunities.

A view of Scenic, circa 2012. This is likely the store we were at in 1995 (Google Images)
 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 in its past, but it was weathered, run down, and anything but "scenic" when we arrived. I looked around and observed the decaying buildings, mostly wooden structures. Faded advertisements, meant to entice passing tourists, could faintly be discerned on the dry rotted wooden siding. 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, purchased food and drink, 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 mowed 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.

Hopes shattered for a "smooth" tour from Interior, and right out of the gate, it seemed. That encounter with the young man outside the shack of a store in Interior was frustrating. There was a bit of relief on the way to Scenic. The road was interesting, the scenery was the best it had been in days, but Troy's infernal pace setting required full attention to matters at hand. Traffic, while not heavy by any stretch of the imagination, was alien to us after three days of non-existent car traffic. So that was a bit of a new thing as well to have to deal with. We had been lulled to sleep as far as dealing with traffic. Even just a few cars was "heavy" traffic since we had to be aware of that now again.

All combined to have us plopped on our butts outside a long, low building in Scenic, South Dakota. We had Gatorade bottles now, since the store sold that, but no where to fill the bottles up. We did stash the empties this time though, with hopes that we'd find water further up the road. As we all sat, quietly munching and drinking, I recall that the silence was odd for us three. It was as if we'd all needed a rest and didn't have the energy to talk. I cannot really say now.

Then the "rising of the dead". Wow! I still can see that in my mind. The guy literally sat straight up! He appeared out of that tall prairie grass as if he was some apparition, a ghost of days past, but he was real enough. And with that shocking view, we were all sprung into high gear to get the heck outta Scenic.

I do have to say that with all these years to reflect, a couple of things were obvious. one- While we were all fairly young, liberal, and open minded at the time, were were definitely uninformed and this social culture and economy was far outside of our comfort zones. To say Western South Dakota was an eye-opener would be a huge understatement. Second- This trip, especially this part of this trip, has left a deep impression upon me which has been with me ever since.

Next: A Quick Recap So Far

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 52

Ten years ago on the blog I was doing all the year end stuff you see now on the blog, so there really wasn't anything news worthy that got posted up. But behind the scenes there was a LOT going on.

It seemed all prearranged somehow, but just as Tim Grahl seemed to be turning his back on his promises to me, and leaving us all who were contributing to a few of his sites in the lurch, along comes the cavalry to save the day. That came in the form of a guy from SoCal who went by the curious name of "Grannygear" online. He and I found each other at Interbike in 2008, and that was not by accident, nor by chance. Grannygear ended up keeping things going when I was ready to throw in the towel on "Twenty Nine Inches".

Between Grannygear and I, and Grahl's finally just giving me the site in the end, we kept things afloat in '08. Things got even better when a German native named "CG" online also started contributing along about this time as well. Between the three of us, we brought back the site from near death at the end of 2008. 

I was in a big time funk though at the turn of the year. I was in the midst of all of this craziness with the site, and there were a few other irons in the fire starting in 2009 which I'll get to later in other "Minus Ten Reviews". 

Meanwhile we had a Trans Iowa to run in 2009, I had review stuff to do, and life forged on......

Rear View 2018: Fall And The Remainder Of 2018

Dreams of Fall single tracking were drowned in copious amounts of rain.
After all the gravel events things calmed down quite a bit and nothing big was happening.

Fall came in and looked pretty spectacular for a while. The Fall colors looked like they were going to peak about the right time and they looked to be better than they had been in years. However; heavy rains came in, we got flooding off and on for most of October, and the single tracking dreams were drowned in murky backwaters.

Meanwhile I had to squeeze in whatever riding I could get on gravel roads. That wasn't all bad, by the way, and the fun rides piled up. Health came back. The legs started working again. I was having some fun again on the bike. A special ride for a co-workers wife on gravel was one of the Fall highlights for me.

Later on I was working with local rider, N.Y. Roll on two events. First was the Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party, and then the other was a gravel road race event we dubbed "Creatures Of Gravel", or C.O.G. and it was to be a 100 mile route. Then I figured why not make it a State Championship, and then to further make the weirdness, why not require every rider that chooses to participate use a single speed device? Yeah......why not. 

The recon was done after a bit of early season snow in November and the route looked great to us. It was a teeny bit more than a 100 miles, but......hey! Bonus miles for the money, right? Then after that settled down it seemed like the site work picked up and all kinds of irons got in the fire, keeping me pretty busy right through the end of the year.

Riding gravel roads with almost zero single track ended finally when in November everything froze solid and we could finally get out in the woods again. Then, of course, the weather warmed up in December and whatta ya know? We end the year riding in mud or back to the gravel roads. Weird!

And that brings us to the end of the Rear View for the year. Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Rear View 2018: The Images

Last year I did a retrospective of my favorite images of the year. I liked it......not sure anyone else did! But I wanted to gather my top images, voted on by myself, and share them. No more than 12, no less than 10. Here we go......

Winter of 2018
Spring 2018
Spring 2018 (yes- chronologically after the above image!)
Summer 2018
Summer 2018: Rider- Joe Hackenmiller
Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational
24hrs of Cumming
Gravel Worlds
Fall 2018
Fall 2018
Fall 2018
My number one favorite photo of 2018 from the last Trans Iowa. 
That's a pictorial overview of my 2018. Hope that you enjoyed that. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Rear View 2018: Late Summer

Team Pink bikes at the 24 Hrs of Cumming
A short week after the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational I made the trek to Des Moines, Iowa to hang out with my brother, Sam, and we were scheduled to do the 24hrs of Cumming. This was an endurance mtb style event where the course was set up in four separate loops which yielded a 400K-ish distance if you did all of it. Spanning Saturday and Sunday, it was to be a big deal for Sam and I.

Sam drew first ride in our two man attempt. So, I had to await his return in the early afternoon. Meanwhile I spent a bunch of time waiting, waiting......fooling around with my set up, waiting......messing with how much nutrition to carry.....and a few minutes talking to a few of the folks hanging out. The attic above the Cumming Tap was our roost for the weekend, so that was part of the reason I was sort of "invisible" much of the time.

When Sam came in and I left, things seemed good for a while but then the weekend previous reared its ugly head, my legs went away, and well..... I finally got back, but we were doomed. Sam started the next loop but cut it short. We then celebrated his birthday at the Tap, I stayed up all night, and the weekend ended with a good time amongst friends.

Following this melt down of the legs was Gravel Worlds, only a mere two weeks later. I tried to recover, but after about 80 miles......... Not so much. I was supremely disappointed, but there ya go. That event ended with at least a good time hanging out with good people. Still, I haven't quite got over the physical meltdown I had over this period, at least mentally. I think physically I have been back on good footing for a while, but the disappointing performances are tough to forget.

At least I got to see some great new territory in Nebraska. This was one of my favorite stretches here.
I also did a little of my own exploration after abandoning Gravel Worlds, and why not? It is a beautiful area to ride in.
Well, after all of that came September and hopes of single track in the Fall. No more events though! I needed to take it easy the rest of the year.

Next: A Wrap On 2018's Rear View.....

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Bikes Of 2018: The Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross

Last version with "dangly bits". Fall 2018
Long time readers know this bike as "Orange Crush", but technically it is a Monster Cross model from Black Mountain Cycles. This one is from the original run Mike Varley brought in several years ago now.

Times change, standards change, but it don't matter to Mike. He still sells every one of these, (mostly), that he brings in. Why? Because at the price you pay, there is hardly anything as good. Even at a higher price, it would be competitive and out ride most anything in its class.

Rim brakes.....still a thing. They work really well if you know how to set up cantilever brakes, (or have a mechanic that does), so the fact that this has no provisions for disc brakes is not a minus here. If you can get past the fact that this model doesn't have disc brakes, you will find a bike that has very few rivals for how it rides and does gravel travel.

When I talk about how bad many carbon forks ride, this is the bike I compare them to. The OG Black Mountain Cycles fork is so smooooth! I cannot speak to his current version. Perhaps a reader that has one can chime in here on the comments. I'd love to hear about it.

That said, the ability to go geared or single speed is a big deal to me and this bike is great as a single speed. I had to set this up as a single speed when I first got it and now the bike has come full circle. Back to a single speed, it will get a lot of rides in 2019, hopefully.

And this is what it looks like today.
I detailed out the build already in a recent "Friday News And Views" post, so I won't rehash that again. I will say that the only future changes I foresee here are the aforementioned lever change and a special wheel build I have planned for this using some Surly New Hubs I have, plus possibly another wheel build I have in mind.

The bike will still be used quite a bit for any future tire testing for, so I expect changes there as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas!

From brown and barren Waterloo, Iowa
Merry Christmas From Guitar Ted Productions!

Wishing you and your loved ones all the best!
Thank you for reading the blog!
Regular posting will resume tomorrow.  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Rear View 2018: Pink MCD & GTDRI

The Bubblegum Princess on its maiden voyage.
Mid-Summer brought two notable events in my life. The first was an addition to the stable which replaced my old Twin Six Standard Rando. It was the Black Mountain Cycles "MCD" model which was renamed by my daughter as the "Bubblegum Princess".

FYI: This will serve as a "Bikes Of 2018" post:

This ended up transforming from a "hope that it is as good as the old BMC I have is", to "Wow! This thing is awesome!" in a big hurry after I rode it the first time. The fit, which I had researched from my other bikes and transposed to the BMC, was spot on. I haven't tweaked a thing since the day it was built. That's very odd for me. 

Besides the obvious pink bit, the bike was kitted out in carbon from Irwin Cycling (wheels) and Whiskey Components (Handle bar, seat post). It has a new Shimano CX series crank with 46/36 gearing and an 11 speed cassette with 11-36T spread. The rear derailleur is a Shimano Ultegra. (Yes- it isn't supposed to work. Hint: It's perfect) That gives me one 1 to 1 gear and usually that's plenty low enough. It's what we had on our old loaded touring bikes as a lowest gear, and that always got me where I needed to go.

The tires are WTB Riddler 45's on there now, but I have run 650B X 47's and in a while it will be back to 700c X 42mm wheels and tires using my all-time favorite tires- the WTB Resolutes. Otherwise, no changes in the near future for this rig.

I really, really wanted to ride this bike on my GTDRI ride, but responsibilities to testing prevented that choice. This would bite me in the you-know-where for most of the rest of 2018.

That be MG wearing his fresh DKXL jersey. Kyle Platts on the right here. 2018 GTDRI.
The second big deal of Mid-Summer was my annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, (GTDRI) which happened on a hot day in late July. It was a big turnout- 25 riders total- and it turned out to be quite a hoot. I think that locally it was something that eventually turned on a lot of riders to Tama County gravel riding. That's a good thing.

I was stoked to have all who came, but was really grateful to MG for making the trip from Lincoln, Nebraska. I also was glad to see local rider Jeremy Fry return to this ride after skipping it a couple of years.

But as I stated above, the bike I was testing and reviewing for Riding Gravel had a 1X set up and I had issues with the bike getting into the lowest three cogs, as in it wouldn't shift into them. That left me pushing way too big a gear on climbs, some of which I had to walk due to fatigue later into the ride. I wasn't real happy about that. Had I ridden the new Bubblegum Princess, well, that would have been a non-issue. Even if I had a balky rear derailleur, at least I could have dropped the front ring down to a 36T. The Apex 1 crank had a 42T ring, and that was killing me. My legs weren't the same for months afterward.

Next: Late Summer 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Touring Series: An Oasis In The Prairie Part 2

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. This post is the remainder of an original post which I broke up into two parts. The first part posted last week. This post is also supplemented with new material.

After a brutal 79.13 miles of heat and dehydration, the "Race Against Death Tour" comes to an oasis on the prairie in the form of a convenience store....

Our receipt from the campground at Interior, South Dakota
Although details on just where we were are fuzzy, a couple of things remain crystal clear about the end of the sixth day of the "Race Against Death Tour". First, we had found an honest to goodness convenience store near Interior, South Dakota, and secondly, "Sturgis" motorcycle freaks were everywhere. "Sturgis" is the name given by the common folks to the big motorcycle rally held the first week of August or so every year. It has its epicenter in Sturgis, South Dakota, thus the name. It attracts thousands of motorcyclists and they were all over the place out here. The convenience store sold gas, so this was a hotbed of activity this particular afternoon.

The convenience store was an oasis for all travelers, but especially for us three weary cyclists who were wandering around, bewildered by all the choices that weren't peanut butter sandwiches. We found some precious water and grub, spied a bench outside, and plopped our tired bodies down to consume and watch the goings on. It was so good, and so busy, that we barely took time to talk other than to say the occasional, "Did you see that?" or "Check that out!". We saw a bunch of cool Harleys and a bunch of strange characters riding them. A couple stood out for me:

First was the pair on a Harley that pulled up under the canopy for gas. They weren't all that remarkable at first: a guy driving and a gal on the back in typical Harley biker dress. Then it happened.....she got off the bike. You know how they say some folks shouldn't wear certain types of clothing? I'll just say that this was a gross violation of that piece of wisdom.
Location of Interior, SD.

Then there was the guy that had a flat tire. A big, gruff looking mechanic was repairing the tire with a plug. He finished up the job and called the motorcycle's owner over to him. "Now listen, this is a plug. It ain't gonna hold forever, but it'll git ya down the road till you can get a new tire. Whatever ya do, do not put more air in the tire. It ain't gonna hold." Well, you guessed it, we watched as the guy rolled his motorcycle over to the air hose, checked to see if the mechanic was looking, and stuck the chuck on the valve. Poof! Psssssssssssssssssss...........

Troy laughed so hard, I thought he was going to attract the guys attention and get us in trouble. Good thing Harley's are loud! Anyway, we were having so much fun, and we were so spent, that we must have sat there for two hours. Finally, we decided we had better go get our tent set up at the campground and take a shower.

The time spent at the convenience store was a good relaxing show, and the campground was just as pleasant. It was a pretty neat, clean place. We all got showered, and played hacky-sack until the sun went down. We acted as if we had never had a desperate couple of days fearing Native Americans and begging for water. It was great to be back out of the desolation and despair we had gone through the past two days. We looked forward to the next day with some eagerness. Things seemed to be looking up.

This was a really fun ending to a really tough day.  I recall that gas station/convenience store was so busy that the constantly changing scenery was amazing to behold. Oddly enough, in the midst of all of this we went fairly unnoticed. You'd think we would have stuck out like a sore thumb there- cyclists among  motorcycle freaks- but we didn't and that seemed odd to me then as much as it does now.

The campground seemed almost luxurious after the few nights we had spent before this. In fact, we hadn't stayed anywhere this nice since leaving the state of Iowa. I remember thinking how great the place was, but in reality, my view was skewed by having lived like a total bum for several days, sleeping wherever we could find a spot to lay down.

That said, this night's sleep was memorable for being so restful and sweet. I didn't want to get up the next day, and I was reluctant to leave the place. Who knew what lay ahead for us? Of course, we were all upbeat and hopeful after ending the day on such a high note.........

Next: A ride to a town with an ironic name.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 51

December 2008 was a heck of a lot snowier than now. And COLDER!
Ten years ago this week on the blog I was about to close out only my fourth year of scribing here. It was snowy outside. Really snowy. And VERY cold.

I was riding the Fargo every chance I could get back then. It was theoretically here in my hands as a test bike for "Twenty Nine Inches", but by this time I knew this bike wasn't going back to Salsa. I loved it then, and I still cannot get rid of it now. It's just too good.

Everytime I think, well, this old thing is probably outdated now, I get on it, ride it, and the love is rekindled all over again. I didn't ride it much this season, but that was due to testing for Riding Gravel. I had a carbon fiber wonder-bike here and that ate up all my "Fargo time" along with a bike that followed that one which came in for testing. Basically the entire Summer was eaten up by that, and then I got the BMC MCD, so...... No Fargo time! 

Well, anyway, the year was closing out fast and Winter had socked us in hard once more. Odd to look back on it now and think that was a "sure thing" only ten years ago. Snow, that is. We could pretty much count on it. Lately, not so much. Now the riding season has been getting extended well into December. Ten years ago if we got a week past Thanksgiving before it snowed we thought we lucked out.

The Fargo handled snow pretty well, but it wasn't a fat bike by any stretch. Then when fat bikes came around as complete, ready to ride purchases, that's when winter started to falter. Wouldn't ya know it......

Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday News And Views

Barren trees and tons of leaves. Fat biking conditions have been unusual here.
Weather Making For Unusual Conditions:

 As you will see in tomorrows "Minus Ten Review", it used to snow here. A lot. Now in recent times that doesn't seem as likely. Winter now means sporadic snows, maybe it will be cold, and lots of brown scenery.

In fact, my latest fat bike rides have been over grounds that are muddy, soft, and increasingly messy. We had a spate of really cold weather here that did freeze the ground back in late November, but since then things have actually been thawing out. It is really weird. It also is really tough on anyone wanting some off road bicycling around here. Either it is certain trails which we want to keep off of or it is the constant sticky mud that fouls up everything. Ice was an issue, but even that has disappeared lately with several days of 50's in a row, and now upper 40's.

I have been fat biking the last couple of weekends as an alternative to my gravel road stuff. I just needed a break for a bit. That said, the rides have been not anything like what I would expect for December. I ended up doing some trail work on various bits of the Green Belt. I also cleared up my old trail, "Marky-Mark", and ended up rerouting about ten yards of it to get around a knot of dead fall and vines that had blocked a portion of that trail. So, on one hand, this weird weather has allowed for some trail maintenance.

It isn't supposed to get really cold, snowy, or anything like Winter for at least another week. Looks like it'll be a "Brown Christmas" around here.

Shifty bits be gone!
As Promised- Gears Removed From The "Orange Crush":

As many of you long term readers know, I had threatened to make my BMC "Orange Crush" rig into a single speed once I had the pink MCD up and running. Well, last weekend I took an afternoon and did the deed. No more gears!

Yes...... it took an entire afternoon to strip off components and replace them with single speed stuff. Why? Wouldn't that be a simple job? Well, you'd think so.

There is a bit more to it than meets the eye though. Both in the bits needed to convert to single speed and the finding of those bits! Having been a single speed aficionado for the better part of my cycling career, I have accumulated a lot of single-speedy stuff. I have a drawer dedicated to bits for single speed. Stuff like cog spacers, cogs, free wheels, and the elusive single speed specific chain ring bolts. I've got crank sets, and I've got chain rings. I even have spare White Industry chain rings that are specific to their crank.

Weird, huh?

Well it is weird until you need the stuff! Then you are glad you have it. But even though I have a drawer full of the bits, you still have to "spec" correctly. So, in the case of the Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross conversion, I had a set of 180mm cranks from, (I think), an old Specialized Sequoia touring bike from the early 80's. It was ginormous in size, so it had been spec'ed with these old Sakae 180mm cranks. Of course, back then everything was square taper, (check!) and took a long spindle, (also Check!), so that bottom bracket had to be tracked down, (UN-52, natch!), and then I had to find some crank bolts, and then....... Well, you get the picture. Time consuming, it was. Nuff of that, here's the pic......

There she is!
I'm running a 40T steel chain ring I got........somewhere. I cannot recall now, but the last time I used this was on a single speed 29"er ten years ago. The crank is the aforementioned Sakae unit in 180mm length. Those old components have an ano process that left a pearlescent glow that I miss. Man is that pretty! The rear cog is an 18 tooth Boone Titanium cog with the matching titanium spacers. I just recycled the chain I was using, an old 9spd SRAM unit, shortened to work with the set up.

There is one minor thing I may do yet and that is to get some standard aero brake levers, so I can get the Gevenalle mounts/levers off the bike to clean things up a bit more. That'll require new brake cables, so I may wait on that till Spring.

Donnelly's new "EMP" tires
Donnelly New "EMP" Tire, Now On Test/Review:

A week or so ago I posted about this new tire from Donnelly. It is the new "EMP", named after Emporia, Kansas, which is, as Donnelly states on the tire's hang tag, "Home of the world famous gravel roads that reach out to the sky."

No mention of Dirty Kanza? Yep..... You know why, right? Licensing agreements. Meaning that to use the name in Donnelly's marketing, they probably would have to get a license to allow that from DK Promotions. I'm assuming that this is the case, so don't take that for gospel, but I would be willing to bet that is the case here.

Anyway...... I just found that interesting. Nothing to do with the tire, per se', but it is designed with the DK 200 in mind, so it has a tough, aggressive looking tread and a puncture protection belt too. I put up an introductory post on hereCheck that out for details. I will say that for now, it looks like a good tire for packed snow, which we should have now........ Bah! Anyway, I'll likely get these on the single speeded Orange Crush soon enough and start trying them out. I figure it can't be long before fenders and aggressive tread will be necessary! And if it continues as it has been, well, I'll have "hero gravel" to ride, most likely. That isn't all bad.

Fyxation's new through axle fork for gravel/adventure bikes.
Fyxation Announces New Gravel/Adventure Forks:

Wednesday news came down about Fyxation's new gravel/adventure forks, dubbed the Sparta FCR and Sparta QR. The FCR variant is your typical through axled, tapered steer tubed, three boss on a side fork with full carbon construction and a pretty light weight. But it is the other fork I am thinking is pretty cool.

The "QR" model is what you think- a quick release model. A straight steer tube, QR wheel fork with carbon blades and an aluminum steer tube. Why? I saw a lot of commentary saying it should have had a through axle. Not QR. Hmm......

Well, it turns out the fork asked for already exists.  Thanks to a commenter on the Riding Gravel facebook page for pointing this out.

  Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

A Gravelly Prediction

 NOTE: The following was to be a part of the traditional Friday post, "Friday News And Views", but after a vague-post on Twitter, I realized that it probably deserved its own post. So, here following is my original take meant for the "FN&V" post and after that, some more additional thoughts and views. As always......

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Gravel racing will look a bit different than this, most likely, down the road. (Image from T.I.v6)
Rumblings. Things popping up. Different resources appearing. All these signs are pointing to something in the gravel racing world. If I may be so bold as to make a prognostication, my gut feeling is that 2018 will be the last time gravel racing, overall, will be what it has been.

Things are changing. Fast.

My feeling is that many events are going to see Pro level teams, more Pro level riders, and Pro only gravel racing in the near future. There will be a national points series started by........someone. Probably not USAC, but maybe. There will be more purse money. There will be super-high end racing bikes, (this is already a certainty), and they won't be festooned with braze ons nor will they take 650B wheels and tires. There will be team pits, as in cyclo cross, where wheels and bikes can be swapped out since team cars on gravel roads is......stupid. Most races will be between 1K and 2K in distance. (The future is metric) There will be big time endemic media saying they know all about this stuff.

Basically, the party is over. Money is coming and already is here. Marketing is coming and is already here. Gravel road riding is poised to become the style of racing in the USA. Like it or not.

That's my take. I could be partially wrong. I could be waaaay off my rocker. I don't think so though.

So, what now? I say, big deal. Let'em come. Let'em bring their idea of gravel to the party. That's what I did, why shouldn't "they" be able to as well? If all the money, marketing, and the way Pro level stuff works, puts you off, then I would say, just go ride your own ride. Put on your own "grassroots" event, whatever that means to you. That's what we did in the beginning of this, so there is no reason for that to go away.

Now, I will say some particular things I've heard have been "goofy", and I will always call that out, (Like title sponsors to old, established gravel events. Really?), but I think that is the outlier. Most of these companies, races, promoters, and media are good, smart folk. It'll be cool to see what they bring along to the gravel scene. But remember, just because they bring their flavor doesn't mean you have to reject and run away saying "Gravel has lost its soul! Grassroots gravel is dead!", because this is your scene. You make it what you need it to be and let the rest do likewise. No reason we all can't be doing our thing out there.

That was the end of my originally scheduled "rant" for "Friday News And Views" but since then a few things have come up. First, some of the Twitter respondents hopefully will read this.  I wanted to point out also that one answer to me on Twitter basically was the last couple of lines in this post, which was written before I got that response. It's interesting that at least two of us are on the same page! here is that Tweet:

Reply to my "vague-post" on Twitter Tuesday night.
Yes.....I am writing way ahead of schedule. I had almost all the rest of 2018's post scheduled already by Tuesday of this week, so that is how this happened. Just in case anyone was curious about the timing.

Now about the "rumblings". No, I am not going to detail it all out for you. I have been paying attention, and I note many things and how they are interconnected. I also get substantiating evidence from sources I cannot talk about now. Putting "two and two together", I have come to some conclusions and I am doing some extreme spitballing here also. Will it all come true? No- probably not. But some of it will.

Finally, I had an e-mail conversation with contributor, John Ingham the other day which had some bearing on this subject, in my opinion. He mentioned how social scientists have identified how Western culture has "shifted over the last 150 years from emphasis on work and self-control to emphasis on consumption and immediate gratification". 

So, how does this have anything to do with gravel events changing? Okay, here's how- Self-sufficiency, being responsible for yourself, cue sheet navigation, unmarked courses, long distances without any means of refreshment, and mechanical repairs being the responsibility of the rider. Let's throw in no prize money, and minimal media attention. Does this sound anything like Pro road racing? Does this sound anything like a "sanctioned" event, or anything like a USAC type deal? No?

Does it sound like "grassroots" or does it sound like "corporate" style events? Think about the atmosphere amongst riders. Is there shared suffering, shared experiences, support  and encouragement between riders before, during, and after the event? Is the format I'm describing one of "all inclusiveness" or one of "every man for himself"? Is it all about a "team leader" or is it all about "self-experience through suffering and enduring"?

Is one more "work and self-control", or is what I described "consumption and immediate gratification"?

See what I mean? I think there are both types of riders out there and one is afraid the other will "ruin the scene". Again, using the words of Beanpole Matt: "Gravel will only change for you as much as you want it to."

Ride on.................

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Rear View 2018: The Kansas Trip

L-R -Myself, MG, and Joe Reed, who put MG and I up for the weekend of DK.
The next big deal of 2018 was my trip to the Dirty Kanza 200/DKXL event where I was the support guy for my brother MG. Of course, before that was the support for the Almanzo 100 events which I did with my son and Ben Welnak of That was a good weekend, but the DKXL thing was a big weekend for both MG and myself. I didn't expect I was going to have any real part in much of anything going on down there, but once again- I was wrong. 

Earlier in the year I received a cryptic e-mail from Jim Cummins asking me if I was going to be around the weekend of the DKXL/Dirty Kanza. I never knew why that was asked of me, and it was something I thought was weird, but eventually I forgot about it all. I had even run into Jim during the weekend's events leading up to the races and he never really let on that anything was up involving me.

In the meantime, my brother MG had gotten food poisoning and it appeared then that his attempt at the invitation only event was in jeopardy. The event was set up earlier in 2017, they announced it back then, but the participants were chosen under wraps by the DKXL organizers and only 34 were invited. To get that invitation then was a big, big deal, and MG was super impressed, humbled, and thrilled to be a part of this "prototype" of what is going to be the "official" DKXL this coming year.

Anyway, MG was on the floor writhing in pain the morning of the DKXL and he was slated to be at the start line by 4:00pm. Joe Reed, our host, and I were sure we were going to take MG to the hospital, but somehow MG rallied and even got a bit of food down. Then it was hoped that he would take the start, but, ya know.......We figured it was only going to be a short lived, save his honor type deal. Anyway.... In the meantime Joe, some friends of his, and I went downtown to witness the first DKXL start.

Just moments before I was called out by Jim Cummins, (shown here in the blue shirt)
Wow! There were far more people at this historic beginning than anyone figured on. Some estimates put the crowd at 800 people, and these folks were squeezed in anywhere they could find a spot to stand. Somehow or another, I managed to get a front row spot to send off MG and perhaps get a few good images of this history making start. Jim started his soliloquy, and pretty soon I understood he was veering into Trans Iowa territory with his remarks.

"Okay, here he goes!", I thought, and sure enough, my name came up. But then he asked if I was there, and I waved my hand. "Okay. Now let's get on with the show....", I thought, hoping that was all there was to it. But no..... Jim called me to his side! I was floored. I never thought I'd get any recognition for Trans Iowa, or for being an influence on the DKXL. I figured nothing would, or should be said, but he mentioned TI, and myself, and that would have been enough. But with this action of Jim's, by his making time to have me spotlighted, well I was supremely humbled. I'm sure folks thought, "Who the heck is this guy?", because, well, let's face it- Trans Iowa is a tiny spec on the scene. And it was over and out by this point as well.

Anyway, what an honor! I was, and still am, floored by Jim's remarks and by his effort to make time to publicly call me out at that moment. He certainly didn't have to do anything of the sort. So, Thank You Jim! 

He made it! MG gets a finish line hug from Jim Cummins after he completed the DKXL
 Then later on MG just kept amazing me at every turn. He eventually pulled out a finish on a day where many of his fellow competitors failed. It was amazing, and I was so happy for him. That really topped off the weekend and we both had something big happen to us where we never expected it to.

My only regret is that I was able to record a killer podcast episode with MG in two parts that, for whatever reason, never saw the light of day. Oh well! I wish that would have worked out, but as it was, we had a stellar weekend. Oh, and by the way, thank you one more time to our host, Joe Reed. You are awesome, man!

Anyway, that was a huge weekend and a big trip for me. Had Trans Iowa not ended this year that trip would be at the top of the heap for cool stuff that happened here on the blog and in my life in 2018. But I am not finished yet! Oh no! There are at least a few more big events to talk about in the looking back on 2018. Stay tuned......


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rear View 2018: Trans Iowa

Well, that was the last time that will ever happen......
Continuing on with my look back over this year, I would say that it wouldn't be overstating the issue if I said that the last Trans Iowa was the number one story for me for the year. In fact, it was the biggest deal in my life spanning back to 2017, when I was pretty sure I was going to make T.I.v14 the last Trans Iowa ever.

Of course, I couldn't talk about that then, and I had only confided the fact to three trusted people. There is a whole story that goes with that, but I will wait on the telling of it for the upcoming Trans Iowa series of tales coming starting in 2019.

I fretted and fretted over just how to break the news to the riders, but in the end, I posted it via this very blog to run at the moment the last Trans Iowa was officially over, which was Sunday, April 29th at 2:00pm. The news quickly spread and in terms of this blog, I think it is the "official" comment leader, which probably isn't a big surprise to anyone.

Everyone asks me now, "So, how does it feel to have that behind you now?" Honestly, I haven't got a good answer. Sometimes I feel a bit "on the outside" when it comes to the big events of the day, but that's about all. Otherwise, I just don't really have any good answers now.

All I know is that the last Trans Iowa, which ended only less than 8 months ago, seems like it ended in the last century. It just seems like it was a lifetime ago. And maybe that's me feeling a part of my life over and done with now. For better or worse, that's kind of how I am and how I've approached things all my life. Once something is over, it's over. And I don't handle everything that way, but yeah..... Trans Iowa is over. I'm moving on, and I have been moving on. That said, it was a big, big deal until it was over!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bikes Of 2018: Surly 1 X 1

The 1999 Surly 1x1 as seen in March
The Surly 1X1 wasn't featured in too many "adventures" that I had on bicycles in 2018, but I did ride it a lot. This year every ride was in fixed gear mode too. Because of this I was able to raise my game in terms of skill and comfort with being on a fixie like this.

That doesn't mean I learned any new tricks, I cannot skid, and I don't ride backward or anything like that. Let's be real here! I am not talking about anything spectacular. I just did a lot of back pressure pedaling instead of using the brakes and my curb hopping skill level went up a few notches.

The small-ish gearing made me spin like a mad man, and that was beneficial to how I rode my other bikes. The back pressure pedaling is also pretty amazing. You can really work your hips and legs in your muscles you don't normally use for cycling doing that. But I wasn't bombing the down hills, like I can when coasting, because I never take my feet off the pedals on this bike.

A few changes happened to the ol' 1X1 this year. I switched pedals to the Fixaytion Mesa MP Subzero pedals. A MUCH better pedaling platform than I had been using. I also swapped out saddles, going through an Ergon and finally landing on a good old brooks B-17 Special. I often used a saddle bag and later, a top tube bag, on the 1X1. I'll likely keep those items rolling on the bike.

Future changes in store are that I need to replace the worn bits on the drive train, a new bottom bracket is needed, and I need to clean out the old sealant in the tires and re-up with new stuff. But other than those wear items and regular maintenance, I expect the Surly to keep on truckin' right into 2019.

Monday, December 17, 2018

End Of The Year Questions: The Feedback Report

Friday I asked for feedback on a few ideas I had concerning "The Future" of the blog and a few ideas I had. Today I wanted to address that feedback in a post. I could have answered in the comments, but as you all know, I don't like doing that when the answers are more general, or about the blog, because then not many people will see those answers.

Okay, so with that let me dive into some thoughts I have after reading all of your comments. And before I get to that.......

Thank You!

I read every comment here and I appreciate all of you taking the time to make those comments. The readers here are why I have kept going for all these years now. It is very encouraging to hear from each of you when you take time and effort to comment.
  • Miscellaneous Topics; I got a few comments I wanted to address here that were singular in nature and comments, quite frankly, I wasn't expecting. I wish I had the experiences, resources, and contacts to cover some of these important concepts that some of you brought up. The thing is, I don't want to cover anything as a topic unless I feel I can do it justice. Secondly, I also want to keep a focus on this blog. Getting broader in theme isn't conducive to my keeping that focus. However; when I get people involved, particularly with my other site,, I can use their expertise and contributions there. So, it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that some of these subjects that were proposed would be covered. They would probably not be covered by myself, and probably not here on this blog. A good example is John Ingham, who has contributed some fine work on the aging cyclist, health, and nutrition. (Plug his name in the search field on Riding Gravel and you'll find his articles.) I will keep those subjects in mind and if the opportunity arises to get a contribution to that covers those ideas, I will link those articles back here. 
  • T-Shirts: I received some positive comments and at least one negative one concerning the t-shirt idea. I did not see any mandate to go ahead with that idea though. I may do something, but I may not since the idea wasn't enthusiastically received, in my view. But that said, don't be surprised someday if you see something here for sale. I've got some resources to do some art projects and t-shirts could be a part of that, but not necessarily t-shirts either. Stay tuned.......
  • Trans Iowa Series: It was pretty clear that readers want to see this happen. I also want to do it. So, you can expect that to happen. Here's my thoughts. A rough sketch idea of what you can expect to see coming.......
First off, I don't think many of you quite understand that the "Touring Series" and this forthcoming Trans Iowa based series are inextricably linked. So, when the "Touring Series" ends, there will be a transitional post, maybe two or three, that bring you from August, 1995 to November, 2004 when Trans Iowa was born.

Expect these posts on Sundays. It was clear that this day seems to work for most of you.

The theme and tone of this series was indicated by your requests that I leave out the "technical" stuff which many of you said was not of interest to you at all. The "back story" was of interest. One of you said, quite rightly, that I have already covered a LOT of ground on Trans Iowa. (Just search "Ten Years Of Tales" on this blog, and you'll see what I mean.) So, not only did you want to read this series, you pretty much had a good idea of what you wanted too.

The "technical stuff" comments were curious to me. First of all, I am not sure what that means to you readers, exactly, and second of all, I don't think this would be interesting for me to dive into either. I don't want to pick on anyone here in particular, but I think one of you pretty much nailed what I feel this should be when you said to tell it," .......... how you would tell it if you were 95 years old and your great grandson came to visit and asked ole Gramps what it was like." 

Essentially, how I am writing "The Touring Series" is what you can expect here. I envision stuff that draws from stories I brought up in the "Ten Years of Tales" posts, of which there are 46 posts! Those will be embellished with my thoughts and feelings on those stories with additional information never before shared.

The only question I have yet to decide is how I want to approach the telling. Chronologically would make sense, but in some ways the themes within this story span years, and that would make for a somewhat disjointed tale. I'm thinking along the lines of characters like Ira Ryan, or how the media became a part of Trans Iowa, and other tales.

It might be more fun to attack this as tales about certain aspects of Trans Iowa, and really, if I was a 95 year old guy, that's how you'd get this story. It would be memories about recon, riders, Level B Roads, etc. You know, like "I remember these guys called Team Polska that came to a few Trans Iowas....."

So, I have to figure that part out yet. But here again- please comment if you have any suggestions. 

And thank you so much for reading here! 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Touring Series: An Oasis In The Prairie- Part 1

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, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. 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. 

We rejoin the story as the three weary tourers are being glared at through the crack in the door of a Native American's residence as they beg for water.....

"What do you want?"

Although our answer was swift and in unison, the moment the words came disdainfully from the lips of the old woman that memory was etched in my brain forever. For a fleeting moment, the thought of being turned down entered my mind. I saw in a flash we three wanderers going from house to house, begging for water, getting turned down, and wandering around stuck in Wanblee as Native Americans laughed at us behind closed doors. It was a weird sensation, but in a flash, it was gone......

"Can we get some water?", we three chimed at once as we held out our bottles.

"There's a hose around back!"..........BANG!

She slammed the door. We stood there dumbfounded for a second or two, trying to digest just what it was she had said, and what it meant. We were desperate, so we assumed that it was okay to go around the back of the house to find "the hose".

What we found there was not unlike what you would see behind anyone's home. Well, with the exception of the double row of thirty automobiles parked in the weeds. But that wasn't our focus. We found the typical garden hose and the tap it was attached to. Troy ran back for the rest of our bottles as Ryan and I began the process of filling them as quickly and efficiently as possible. We didn't want to get cut short if some other resident within the home decided to over rule the elderly lady, or take the chance that she would reverse her decision. I dared to look out of the corner of my eye up at the window, half expecting to see a pair of glaring brown eyes staring at me, but all I saw were closed curtains.

We completed our task, and without hesitation moved as quickly as could be from the shadow of that home. Down the street through Wanblee, we never saw another soul, but the feelings of heaviness and darkness were palpable there. I am sure I wasn't the only one of us that was glad to take that gravel road out of town and get back onto the pavement again.

The hint of bluffs in the distance seemed to mock us as we toiled up and down endless hills

Now we were on into the afternoon, the heat was relentless, and the hills never stopped. Having run out of water and having ridden without it so many times now, well, it affected us and our speed. It affected our moods. The short outbursts of comedy that Ryan had provided now were sparse, or had faded altogether, as the afternoon wore on. We all fell into a silent suffering as we plodded along under the unceasing heat of the Sun. Another day in triple digits, and we were just about done for.

 One or two other things that were constants were steadily annoying us as we went further up the highway. One was a big bluff that actually came into view the day before. It seemed as if we would never pass. It was huge, grassy, and far off, but we could see it to our left always. It seemed to us to be a mocking presence. Then there were the grassy hills themselves. Devoid of trees, or even any weeds taller than grass. They seemed to be the willing minions of the larger bluff. Playing against our mental mindsets, they seemed to be beating us down. We toiled under their eternal gaze wishing for it to end, or at least show signs of letting up.

Finally, we saw those signs. Rocky outcroppings at the heads of some of the grassy hills. Like bony skeletal parts that were jutting through the brownish-green grass. We were elated to see this. Even to the point of rejoicing. Well, I suppose after all that toil in the sunlight, and lack of much of anything else of interest to look at, it might not be so surprising that we were so happy about a few piles of rock. At any rate, we sensed a change was coming, not only in the landscape, but in terms of the lack of civilization as well.

Then the road made a sudden right hand turn and started down hill. Troy was feeling it and was gone. I wasn't so sure of myself at this speed with a load on, so I used the brakes a bit more than he and Ryan, but I managed to keep Ryan in sight. We finally came down to a flatter section of country with many rocks now showing all over. The beginnings of the Badlands. Signs alongside the road let us know we were not far from Interior, South Dakota, and more importantly, a real convenience store!

We gathered up again to make our plans for the evening. Based upon what we knew from our maps and the signage along the road, we were going to be obliged to make a slight detour to a convenience store before heading towards the West again and a campground we saw signs for that featured showers. We were hot, dusty, out of water, and very, very tired. The convenience store sounded too good to pass up though, so we made the slight detour to get to it. It would be our oasis in the grassy desert. What we saw there made it all worthwhile.
We very nearly came undone in Wanblee. It was about as low and helpless as I'd felt in a while. It was another chink in the armor of my life I had been seeing get torn down bit by bit. The divorce previous to the tour, then nearly ending the tour on day two with my heat exhaustion. The nearly daily bonking from running out of water and food. The seemingly endless hills of grass. The life on the road. It was wearing me down. Funny thing was, I thought once we escaped Wanblee with our water that we were on okay ground. Or at least I was. I was a fool......

We all were worn down. Like wrestlers in the third period that hadn't trained enough for their matches. We were weary, slumping, dull..... Interior was a sign. A promise of respite. Real food! Showers! People that weren't looking down on us or trying to panhandle us for what little we had. Would this be the start of a new portion of the tour? Would we be enjoying ourselves again? Interior held promise for that. We were uplifted as we searched for the convenience store.......

Next Week: The Sideshow.