Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Great Bike Ride – Day 3

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

We started our day in Omaha, digging out of the rush hour traffic to head west. The skies were overcast, and the temperature cool enough that my leather jacket and gloves felt comfortable. The run across US20 was through rolling terrain that gradually shifted from flat Midwestern cornfields to the sandy soils and arid conditions of the rolling upper plains.

Today was the day that we had to start remembering that gas stations aren't always handy. Jeff and I ride older bikes, and therefore have only 5 gallon gas tanks, while the 2008 models ridden by John and Buss have six gallon tanks. But we all have about the same range since John and Buss are pulling trailers – about 150 miles. We were on fumes as we rolled into Valentine Nebraska, and were very glad to find a Shell station there. Another Harley rider pulled in for gas while we were there, and reported that the road north of Valentine to Murdo SD was being resurfaced.

The folks out here are particularly fond of a road surfacing technique called "chip and seal." What that means is that they put down a thin layer of tar and pour fingernail-sized chips of rock over the tar. The idea is that as cars drive over the rock chips and the chips are smashed into the tar, making a very tough road surface without the expense of paving machines and rollers. In practice, they pour way more chips on the road than they need. The effect is that the road behaves as is it were loose gravel, a nasty road surface for riding a heavyweight road bike. To make things worse, car and especially trucks coming the opposite way fling chips into the air, scratching our paint and whacking us in the legs.

Knowing all that, we decided to take an alternate route, staying on US20 Merriman NE, then north on SD 73 to I-90 and back east to Kadoka. At least that was the plan.

This stretch of US20 was empty except for us. That's the good news. The bad news was that a few miles of it had recently gotten the tar & chip treatment as well, although most of the loose gravel had been ground in. After all that extra riding, and a few leg dings, when we got to the leg of SD 18 north from US18, we found it also under construction. In this case the road surface had been removed down to the dirt, and was impassable to our bikes. The flagger there directed us to head further east, to SD63, then north to SD44, the west to SD73 into Kadoka. In the end, we went about 50 miles further than our original route, but it seemed like much longer – I'm sure because of the frustration and time lost. In the attached picture, the planned route is in yellow, and the one we actually took is in green. You can see why we got a little nuts.

But just to prove that sometimes the best things happen when plans have to be adjusted – the last few miles were through the eastern edge of the Badlands just before sunset. It was spectacular.

We pulled into the Best Western at about 8pm, got some rooms, had a nice dinner and crashed. Total of 489 miles today.


1 comment:

Catherine said...

Wow, you guys are covering a lot of ground. Hope you're having lots of fun. I'm glad you have time to write, all that motorcycling makes me nervous! (/end mom moment)

Studying is starting to get more mundane now (not as glamorous as I once though) but I still like it a lot. Today I had my first chance to interview a patient, it was definitely interesting! It's amazing how much teaching goes into just knowing how to talk to someone.

Love you!