Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Touring Series: A Big Announcement

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. There probably is about three weeks left to go. 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 join the trio after a bizarre day in a motel room in Rapid City. 


August 14th, 1995: We awake early in the motel in downtown Rapid City. It was time to pack up our stuff for our first foray into the Black Hills of South Dakota. However; we weren't very happy. Things were kind of glum as we made ready since Troy made an announcement right outta the sack that his knee was pretty iffy. Apparently, the previous days efforts in that insane wind were too much, and one of his knees was giving him fits. Even during the previous day, he knew of it, but didn't want to admit it. I thought back to how Troy was off the back a couple of times, which was very uncharacteristic of him. The time we stopped and he stretched out on the ground as well. Hmm. I guess I was too wrapped up in my own emotions that day to have noticed then.

This wasn't setting well with Troy. He was very disappointed in himself. The year before, on the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour", Troy was the guy who most rued the day we had to call it quits in Manistique, Michigan. Troy was the one that wasn't going to be the reason we didn't make it this time when we set out. In fact, he wasn't going to let any of us "not make it". And here he was, admitting that he had an injury that would, as he said,  "possibly slow us down".

Well, I think Ryan and I both saw through his pride. We said "the right things", encouraging Troy. Saying it wouldn't be a big deal if we had to stop. So we kind of danced around the problem that we both knew was going to close out this trip. It was now just a matter of when Troy would say he was done. It was a difficult time in the motel room that day. Very uncomfortable.

So it was that we set out with a quiet, brooding mood about us. It should have been an exciting day, the sun was out, it was cool, it wasn't windy at all. By all appearances it was a great day to be on the bike. The nicest one we had experienced on tour so far. However; we set off as if we were headed into a drizzling rain on a gray morning.

The way the road was laid out didn't help. The climb started right at the door of the motel. Straight up into the Black Hills on busy Highway 16 West. At least there was a paved shoulder wide enough to insulate us from the heavy morning traffic. Troy was up the road, Ryan in second, and I followed. We were all separated by about a hundred yards. Granny gear climb all the way into the Black Hills. Probably about a five mile slog without any relief.

The Keystone WYE Bridge near where we stopped to look at maps. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Oddly enough, I felt great. I found a rhythm and was able to stick to it all the way up. At the top the road entered the pines and the scenery was fantastic. We stopped near a laminated, arched wooden bridge to check the maps. We decided on a course and set off. Troy was soldiering on, and it seemed now after the huge climb was behind us that he may recover enough to keep going. However; his pace wasn't the fiery, aggressive one we were used to. His speed was about what it was going up, whether the road was flat or tilted up. Soon I found myself off the front, with Ryan hanging back with Troy. I don't really know what Ryan was doing, maybe trying to talk Troy into stopping. Maybe encouraging him to go on. Whichever it was, I never did find out. I had to wait for them several times. Finally it was obvious that Troy couldn't go on. We had to put a stop to the madness before he really destroyed his knee.

Basically Troy knew he was done for. However; he was going to keep going, until he let us talk him out of it.  I suppose to assuage himself somewhat of his guilty feelings for being the reason we had to quit. At any rate, we decided that the next campground we saw we were going to stop at for the day. I rode on ahead a bit, checking all the signs. Looking at all the "post card" scenery. I was a bit excited because I knew we were in the same area I had been in when I was much younger on a family vacation. My family and I stayed at a really cool campground/dude ranch back then called Rafter J-Bar Ranch. I was curious if I would see any signs of it again on this road, if this even was the right road.

Once again I had to stop because Ryan and Troy were no where in sight. . Ryan came up not soon after. He was worried about Troy. Ryan told me that Troy was really hurting, basically riding one legged now. He said we needed to find a place pronto. Well, Troy rolled up about then, and Ryan said, "What's up this driveway?" I said I didn't know, but not a second after the words came out of my mouth, Ryan found a sign that said "Rafter J-Bar Ranch" and an arrow pointing up the road. It was still here! The very same joint I had stayed at years ago when I was a child.

It was a nice place too. We found a camping spot right near the showers that had a laundry attached. It was time to set up camp, relax, and just goof off. We were all resigned to being done with the tour now, but what we would do with the remaining days, we had no idea just yet.

The end of touring. Well, it was not really hitting me just yet that day. I recall after we reached the Keystone WYE Bridge that I spent much of those last miles alone, off the front, just taking in one beautiful scene after another. I can still vividly see the man fly fishing in a roadside creek, or the majestic pines along the hillsides as we twisted our way further toward Hill City, South Dakota.

Troy was hanging his head low the entire ride that day. He must have felt just awful. I was on another level though, since I had memories flooding back of when I was about 11 or so and we had been to Rafter J Bar Ranch on a family vacation. I guess I wasn't very tuned in to what was happening, so the sadness of "the end" of the tour wasn't reaching me. I wasn't done with this deal, and stopping to stay at the campground sounded like a lot of fun to me then. We had fully a half a day to just chill now. I was looking forward to some down time.

But, in effect, it was the end. We weren't going to ride into Wyoming, and eventually into Colorado. We wouldn't get to see the Rocky Mountains. But somehow, for me, it didn't matter anymore. I had let a lot of stuff go the day before, and now I was just living. Enjoying Life.

Next Week- "A Game Of Hacky-Sack"

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