Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26, 1931

My grandparents, 80 years ago today. Wow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 11)

After 11 days and somewhere along the lines of 900 miles, we made it to Minneapolis on July 11, 1981!

Check us out all twins-y in our BHS running t-shirts...

At this point in my life I remember expecting we'd see the Minneapolis skyline for miles and miles and miles before we got there. I think I envisioned the midwest as completely and totally flat, so I literally was looking for that skyline for most of the last 60-ish miles we rode that day. Not how it turned out of course!

There was some extended rain either this last day or the day before... we can't remember which. But both of us recall it was chilly, and Dave reminded me of our Plan to Keep Legs Warm. Somehow we had the idea that slathering Vaseline on the legs would do it. Maybe so. But then all road grime within 1/2 a mile was attracted like a magnet and stuck to those greased legs. Mmmmmm, mmm.

We made our way down town and relaxed in a park:

Dave digs the view of the IDS tower.

Couple more downtown shots.

Looking for a snack :)

After our downtown rest break we struck out northward for the suburbs to my Grandma's house, our final destination. We crossed the Mississippi River on the old Hennepin Avenue bridge. A part of the road surface was metal see-through grating, a bit scary! Dave felt convince that our tires were narrow enough that they could fall through some of the cracks. But we lived to tell our story.

My bike on the bridge over the Mississippi River.

There at last!
Dave & I arrive at my grandma's house on Forest Dale Road.

Over the next couple days we hung out in the Twin Cities with my relatives. Went up in the aforementioned IDS tower one night to check out the view... see photo above!

Swam in the little lake (above) behind my Grandma's house....

Took apart bikes....

Stuck 'em in boxes...

...and eventually went home on a Greyhound bus!

We had a terrific 11 days.

Big lesson: This trip taught me that 80+ miles per day is pretty exhausting. All subsequent trips I've been on were more like 50 per day... much more relaxing & enjoyable!

Unexpected surprise: I felt inspired by and grateful for the unexpected generosity we experienced.

I was hungry for more bike travel, for sure. Didn't get a chance again until 1985, and you can read all about that in a series of posts starting here. Stay tuned for some stories & photos from France & Hungary & all points between in a few weeks...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 10)

July 10, 1981 - Our 2nd to last day of riding. Neither of us remembers too much about this leg o' the journey. Again, I think we were a little fried from doing pretty high mileage.

I remember the day was really hot, and it was very humid too, especially in the valley of the Minnesota River after lunch.

Dave refilling water bottle near Vesta, Minnesota.

We were heading east on Highway 19. Little did I realize that I'd spend a lot of time running and cycling on this road as a college student soon after...

We only had three flat tires the whole trip. Here's Dave fixing one.

Refueled our bodies at this store in Redwood Falls, Minnesota.

Lunch break at a park in Redwood Falls. Of course we had to climb the tank.

No photos at all the rest of that day. Musta been a grind of an afternoon in the heat. I don't even know where we camped out that night. I believe we wanted to get well over half the remaining distance to our final destination, the Minneapolis area--so I think we stayed in Gaylord or Green Isle. This is pretty boring reading here, isn't it? Oh well, least there's a few pics to look at....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 9)

Great rural Minnesota scene to start our day on July 9th, 1981:

North of Luverne, Minnesota

We dropped in on Pipestone National Monument for lunch. Here there are large deposits of a gorgeous soft red rock, which indigenous tribes e.g. the Dakota Sioux have carved into pipes and other objects for centuries.

Coupla shots above show the pipestone formations. Growing up amongst geologists taught me to throw my shoe in there for a sense of scale.

A couple years ago Dave went back there on a trip with his family. Below are his kids in front of the Pipestone rock layers!

After lunch we cranked another 45 up to Marshall, Minnesota. There we had wonderful hosts to stay with. Dave's cousins, The Fedas, lived there and put us up for the night. Thanks, y'all. Here they are:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 8)

July 8th, 1981 was a three state day! We were in the far southeast corner of South Dakota at sun-up:

...then crossed into the northwest corner of Iowa (Dave above in requisite border picture)...

...and by afternoon had purchased celebratory PBRs and crossed into southwest Minnesota!

Ten miles north o' the border along US 75, we loaded up on food at Luverne, Minnesota. From there a short jaunt further north to the Blue Mounds State Park. Along the way we amused ourselves with a giant turkey.

(BHS runners of the '79-'81 era will note that I am pointing at the BEAK)
(Rest of y'all, don't ask... looong dull story amusing only to us)

Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota. July 8, 1981

Dave attempts to relax in the hammock, but is hounded constantly by the swarming Minnesota State Bird.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 7)

We were approaching the Missouri River valley, up in the northeast corner of Nebraska. It had been one fine experience crossing Nebraska. I would do it again.

30 miles into the day found us at the valley overlook where Intrepid Explorer Captain Dave surveyed the coming territory:

[As always, click a pic to get a larger version of it]

The Missouri River is pretty ginormous at this point (bigger still recently with all the flooding they had up there). Dave remembers being struck by the size of the valley--neither of us had ever seen anything like that.

We crossed the Missouri on a huge double-decker bridge at Yankton, South Dakota. Northbound traffic (that's us) went up a ramp to the upper level. Beautiful up there!

Mark at South Dakota line

Dave's turn!

Missouri River, Yankton, South Dakota. July 7, 1981.

A view up the bridge's upper deck.

I have flown over Yankton in the years since. Easy to spot with the huge river and bridge. Good memories along with the view.

After Yankton we picked our way mostly east over smaller roads. It was flatter now. I don't remember much except a lunch in which between us we ate a whole loaf of bread in the form of PBJ sandwiches, washed down with a half gallon of milk. 18 year old boys can pack in some food, dontcha know. 'Specially if it is also their fuel!

Mark contemplates a grain elevator.
Volin, South Dakota, July 7, 1981.

We ended the day somewhere in Beresford, South Dakota. That's just south o' Sioux Falls for those keeping track at home. Got us a cheap motel. Maybe we were still looking for a proper shower after the sprinkler incident??

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 6)

July 6th took us out of the sandhills and into somewhat flatter terrain. I think we had a tailwind, too, so the miles came easy this day.

We had a system of trading off the lead, every 3 miles I think. The other would tuck in behind the leader and draft--takes less energy. A couple times when we were tired, we had arguments like "That was only two miles!" "No, that was 3!" blah blah blah. Pretty funny to think about now... our first training for future roommate (and later spousal) relationship management, perhaps???

In the above photo you can see one of the giant irrigation sprinkler apparatus thingies that stretched beyond the horizon, yet was on wheels and could be moved! We evidently thought it would be good to have a photo of one of us with corn up to our neck. Therefore you can also see a head in the center of the photo--mine, I believe.

'Nother story about the sprinklers: They have bigger sprayers mounted on the ends of them like big antiaircraft gun turrets or something. One time we spotted a sprayer that was aimed all wrong, dousing the road with water instead of the field. Feeling hot & sweaty, we celebrated this pending opportunity to cool off without even dismounting the bikes. Straight ahead bonzai!!!!!!!!!! into the fountain we rode... and then promptly noticed that this was not pristine water we'd been doused with. It was sorta stinky. We tried not to think about where it'd come from. Don't think it ruined our day, but I'm sure we were ready for a real shower later.

We zigzagged north and east. 14 miles to Bartlett. Up 7 and over 24 more to Elgin. 11 miles into Neligh for lunch and a nap on the grass. Not sure of the route after that, but I think it took us through Creighton and eventually to Bloomfield, Nebraska.

We never goofed around ever.
Here is an example of Dave not goofing around.

We surfed that tailwind another 50+ miles after lunch, taking advantage of it while we had it. It made for the longest day of the trip, 110 miles. Camped out under the Bloomfield town water tower, if I remember right...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 5)

One good night's sleep later, we were back out in the sun and east bound again. We passed through Westerville, crossed the Middle Loup River at Arcadia, and by lunchtime had reached the valley of the North Loup at the town of Ord, Nebraska.

We ran into more cyclist there! Another pair of dudes, heading a different direction. But we enjoyed a nice lunch together on the steps of the Valley County Courthouse.

Lunch break!

The shade was receding... and so you can see in the photo how our stuff was strewn up the steps as we retreated one step at a time :)

After we ate, a report from the local paper (the Ord Quiz !) happened by, and interview us about our travels.

Lazy long lunch in Ord, plus 46 miles under our belts already on the day. Wish I could remember back to what the plan was... guessing from the maps that we were heading for the Pibel Lake State Recreation Area, described today on their website as "a hidden, secluded oasis on the edge of the Sandhills where large cottonwood trees lean over a quiet, spring-fed lake. " But we never made it there. Got close though. From Ord, we made our way 17 miles north and then 7 miles east to the town of Ericson, Nebraska. This would have been the logical place to (attempt to) buy food for the night... though hopefully we had learned our lesson by now and bought it back in the "big city" of Ord...

Near Ericson, Nebraska. July 5, 1981.

Dave riding along near Ericson, Nebraska.

Me, smack dab in the middle of Ericson, Nebraska.

Well, you guessed it. No stores were open in Ericson, which had a population of just over 100 people. Hey, but guess what was open?!? YES, brothers and sisters, the bar! The Hungry Horse Saloon was open for business, yes it was. Having been down this road before, us 18-year-old veterans of the road marched right on in.

The bartender (who was also possibly the owner???) struck up conversation with us. He was interested in knowing about Dave's t-shirt, which you can see in the photo above. It was a running t-shirt, from Frank Shorter Sports back home in Boulder. Turns out, you see, that the bartender was a runner! He had to be the only one for a hundred miles in any direction. Dave & I were runners and ran track and all that in high school. So we talked running with this guy!

(Some readers may know that Boulder is a bit of a distance running Mecca. World-class athletes move there to train. That guy Frank Shorter? Local attorney. Didn't exactly suck as a distance runner... check out his resumé!)

I wish so much that I could remember the bartender's first name. Can't. I do know his last name was Erickson. Reading on the web now I see that the town was named for an Erickson, so I'll guess our guy was a descendent. Anyhoooo, he insisted that we would be staying at his place that night. It must've been just about closing time, because before long we were following him to his house where we met his wife and several kids. There were 7 kids, at least a couple grown'n'gone if I remember right.

First thing we did was: Go for a run! Um, wow, I think we musta been a little sore and a little tired from all the riding. But how could we turn him down? He probably hadn't run with other people in forever. Great time, actually... I remember dirt paths & roads -- nice running territory. Surely we only did 2 or 3 miles but I don't recall exactly.

Next: Toured the family farm. There were some cattle, I think... but the thing I remember best was wading amongst 50 or so pigs in the pig barn. That was a highlight moment! Terrific fun despite their smell! (Wish I could link you to their smell...!)

We were given our own room for the night, and took a showers in A Real Bathroom. Welcome indeed after all the time on the road.

And then: Dinner! Holy heck did we have dinner. Surely it was the best meal of the trip. I'm pretty sure it was porkchops and green beans and mashed potatos, and a lot of it. Lucky were we. Again, such utter kindness. Wish I could say thank you to them again today.

Erickson Family (minus the 6 older kids).
Ericson, Nebraska on the morning of July 6, 1981.

See that Frank Shorter Sports t-shirt Mr. Erickson is wearing? He and Dave worked out a blockbuster trade :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Go East, Young Men (part 4)

On the 4th of July we said Auf Wiedersehen to Wolfgang, who was headed east. Dave & I saddled up and went north into the Nebraska sandhills.

That there, yep, it's the sandhills.

Cool morning departure from North Platte, Nebraska.

North o' North Platte. July 4, 1981.

We rode 25 miles north-northeast on US 83, then hung a right on Nebraska Hwy 92, toward the town of Arnold.

Above two photos: Rest break & view west of Arnold, Nebraska.

17 miles further along, we'd crossed into Custer County and arrived in Arnold, a town of about 700 people and at least one Really Great Café. Arnold looks a little greener on satellite photos than some of the surrounding country, I suspect because it lies in the valley of the South Loup River. This is one of the few drainages coming out of the sandhills.

So, that Really Great Café: We decided to take a break and went on in and found table by the window. There we sat for a nice long while, writing postcards to send home and to Grandmothers and such. We ordered delicious cinnamon rolls and orange juice. Refreshed, we got up to pay at the counter. "There'll be no charge," I remember the person saying. I don't remember now if it was a woman or a man, but I will always remember the words. We were stunned. Such generosity! They would not take our money. Many thanks, Arnold Nebraska!

Sitting in the café in Arnold.
I guess we got the waitress to take the photo?

If I ever see bicycle travelers in the same restaurant as me, their food is on me, dig? Feel the love. Can I get an amen?

We got off the "main road" and followed the smaller River Road southeast along the the South Loup River. At the small town of Calloway we turned northeast, over the sandhills to the Custer County seat, Broken Bow. On the way, we stopped so I could photograph the local fauna:

Suspicious yet curious, these cows inched toward us...
til ol' Dave banged on the fence and they took off running!

Dave gives further analysis: "As I recall we played the cows-inching-toward-us and then bang-on-the-fence game several times. It was at that point and several along the way afterwards that we realized just how “slow” cows really are. I remember you pointing out to me that if you watch a cow looking at you as you ride by, it will not watch you in one continuous motion. Rather its head moves in a start-and-stop motion as you pass by. I’m watching bull riding right now so there is kind of a disconnect, but I think we decided that start stop motion was again a sign of cow “slowness”."

In other fauna news, Dave recalls being chased by a really big dog somewhere in through here.

Somewhere near Broken Bow, Nebraska.

Think Nebraska's just all flat? See that hill? That mess'll keeya if you're already parched 'n' tired. I recall one climb nearly a mile long.

We camped out that night in a park in Broken Bow, Nebraska. I have no pics from the place. I presume this is because we were dog tired and not caring about much. We were finding out what happens if you ride too many miles. It was the 4th of July and there we were in the American heartland with festivities galore around us in this park. There were softball games goin' on, and of course fireworks. Both of us recall being annoyed by the fireworks. I think we just wanted. To. Go. To. Sleep.

A shame! Wish I could head back to Broken Bow for fireworks tonight!