Rachel Pilley
yahoo-geocities1999 American Lung Association Big Ride Across America

THE BIG RIDE ACROSS AMERICA 1999

Rachel Pilley - Rider #82


JOURNAL - PART 5
JULY 5-JULY 11
KADOKA, SD - NEW ULM, MN


DAY 22 - JULY 5/99
RAPID CITY - KADOKA, SD

Well, Scott came back to camp bright and early this morning after spending the last 2 nights in a hotel with his girlfriend. According to him most of the time was spent hugging the toilet... poor guy. Anyway, after saying some good-byes we were off once again. There had been a hell of a wind blowing all night so we were eager to get out onto the road and to have the wind working with us rather than against us.

The miles whizzed by as we made our way out of town and back into the rolling hills. I am always struck by how quickly we make it out of town and how little traffic there is. Mind you, there are very few cities that have more traffic than Vancouver.

As with every other day the scenery is fantastic. The hills roll one onto the next and if we're lucky we can gain enough speed coming down the one to make the upward grade a little easier. Unfortunately, or maybe not, the hills are flattening out and becoming noticeably more gradual thus coasting up the hills is not so easy because they are longer but more gentle.

Like I said, the wind was howling last night and it tucked in behind us today while we were on the road. We reached the checkpoint at about mile 45 within two hours or so. The early hour of the day did not stop us riders from refilling our tanks on the ever increasing amount of dinner leftovers put out for us. After a twenty minute break or so we were back on the road again, still anxious to make the most of the wind and also to move on into the Badlands.

I was soon rewarded. Within 20 minutes of leaving the checkpoint we were enjoying some spectacular scenery with the open plains coming to an abrupt halt at the base of the Badlands. Almost as quickly as they appeared, however, they were gone. It turns out that the highway goes through a couple mile stretch of the park and then does not enter into them again for 20 or more miles. It was in this first stretch of Badlands that we encountered a group of cyclists going in the opposite direction. We stopped and spoke to them and found out that they were on a week long tour from the Badlands to Devil's Tower. One look at their tired faces reassured us that we were having a great day with the strong winds at our backs rather than in our faces. One look at our faces reconfirmed for the Cycle America tour group that they were having a rough day with the wind at their front.

Sometime further on we pulled over on the side of the road to have a quick stretch and as is so often the case, upcoming riders took the opportunity to stop and socialize as well. Within 5 minutes there was a group of about 8 or so of us all stretched out on a side road. Traffic, which was sparse, moved around us as they waved hello.

At last we were entering the main portion of the Badlands. We moved through the gates and then flocked into the gift shop to buy postcards or trinkets. Back out on the road again we left the gate and store behind to begin a 400 ft ascent into the hills. The anticipation of the hill was worse than the climb itself, but when I looked over my shoulder and realized how quickly we had gained elevation in a short period of time I came to the conclusion that I am getting well conditioned.

With Scott still not feeling too great after his flu and the wind no longer being directly behind us, but more of a cross wind we took our time through the Badlands, taking in all the scenery as we went. I was soon disappointed as we left them behind. Even the longer stretch through the park had only been 9 miles.

The remaining 23 miles of the ride were long and tiresome. Even with the wind somewhat at our backs again the sheer amount of mileage was catching up on us. The hills were rolling again and were seemingly endless. At last the Kadoka water tower was in sight on the horizon, but even so, it was still a long 8 mile push to the finish.

As we moved into town and found our way towards the campsite we rode past a steak house. We looked at each other and pondered whether or not to treat ourselves to a nice steak dinner. Well, to our surprise that is exactly what the citizens of Kadoka had in mind for us: fat, juicy steaks, BBQ-ed to taste. Some riders managed to get donations from other riders and would end up having two or even three steaks. I kept to my allotment of one, perfect steak and enjoyed it thoroughly.

After dinner we wandered into the small town to get a soft serve ice cream at the local restaurant. The only two visible employees were two kids, a girl of 13 and a boy of 11 or 12. I was struck at how different things are out here on the plains, they even drive at 14. Now that the ice cream has been devoured we are back in camp hoping for a good rest tonight.

DAY 23 - JULY 6/99
KADOKA - PIERRE, SD.

Last night was a somewhat restless night sleep. I know now that in the future I will need to pick my sleeping spot a little more carefully. There were bumps and clumps of grass underneath me which caused me to wake up with back ache.

After a mean breakfast with pancakes fresh off the griddle and porridge which was arguably the best that we have had to date I was back on the road. Like the ending of yesterdays ride, today's was a lot of long rolling hills. On either side of us were endless fields of wheat that dipped and peaked over the rollers. I was feeling good right from the start. The hills were nothing, hardly even slowing me down at all. My riding partner, on the other hand, was still not back to normal after his bout with the flu; he was taking things a little slower.

Checkpoint came upon us at mile 33. We had the usual array of leftovers and lounged in a nice shady park, something that at times feels like a rare commodity around these parts. But, as with all checkpoints, they are only part of the way along (in today's case about 1/3) and we must proceed. As with the earlier part of the day, the afternoon held long roller after roller in store for us, and as with the morning I was whizzing up as Scott steadily made his way up. Unlike the morning, however, there were twice as many of them and the temperature of the day was climbing.

There were very few services (towns) that we passed through. In the last 66 miles or so we only passed through a couple of towns, one of which was called Hayes and had a official population of 10. What in lacked in people it made up for in popsicles. The riders pulled up out front of the store, disappeared inside and emerged with popsicles and cold water. We were quite the sight to see, after all, there were more cyclists sitting on the curb of the store than there were in citizens in the whole town.

As we approached Pierre and Ft. Pierre (the other side of the river) we were graced with at least 3 Sheriffs who were patrolling the road ticketing speeders. One officer stopped and spoke to us, asked questions and expressed his admiration as well as frustration with the speeders who were not necessarily showing us a great deal of respect.

At last we pulled into Ft. Pierre, made our way through town and then across the bridge that divides Mountain Time Zone from Central Time Zone. We were camping along the river in a park two blocks away from the main drag. There were trees everywhere which provided much needed shade.

As we didn't get into camp until 3:30 which translated to 4:30 with the time change, we just had enough time to set up our tents before dinner was served. We had spaghetti which was a real treat. I expected that they would be serving us spaghetti every other night, but they haven't so the two times we have had it, it has been a real treat. For desert there were brownies of which I had to have three. All in all, it is a great campsite and a great dinner.

After we had finished stuffing ourselves we looked over at he Mighty Missouri and contemplated going for a dip before showering. The longer I sat there and thought about it the further away from getting changed and going for that swim I got, so all of a sudden I jumped up and ran across the park to the river. When I got to the edge I contemplated for a brief moment before diving in fully clothed. While the river looked relatively placid it had a current strong enough to enable me to swim upstream and stay stationary. It was cold enough to be refreshing but not so cold that it took my breath away.

This evening has been consumed, as are all of them, with poor attempts at journal writing while we sit around and talk. The time change has made it so it is still light but later than usual. I think we might go off in search of ice cream before retiring to bed.

DAY 24 - JULY 7/99
PIERRE - MILLER, SD

What a day! I think today is what we all dreamed about when we signed up for this ride. When we thought about riding into small town America we dreamed about a reception of warmth with music and laughter. That is what we got when we arrived in Miller, SD.

The day started off a little darker than what we are used to. With the time change yesterday we have lost an hour. It was light later last night so we stayed up, but 5:30 am came early this morning when we had to get up. After the morning routine of packing up our gear and a tasty french toast breakfast served in the park, we were off for the day. We said good-bye to the Mighty Missouri as we climbed out of the river basin and onto the great plains.

The ride started off with Scott feeling better and it was evident in the speed of his cycling. He warned me in the morning that he wasnít going to let me ďkick his buttĒ three days in a row, well, it was clear that he was serious about that. Right from the start he set a pace that was hard to keep up. Pride kept me from asking him to slow down a bit and eventually my body began to settle into the rhythm as it warmed up. I watched Scott pull ahead and each time he passed another rider I could see him handing out Jolly Rancher candies. While I longed for a candy so that I could even taste them, they werenít enough to help me find the strength to catch up. I pushed into the head wind searching my soul for the perseverance needed to carry on and prayed for a change in the wind.

Thank God today was a relatively short day because the winds were strong and the scenery didnít change much. On either side of us as we rode along were fields upon fields of soya been, alfalfa, wheat or corn. The crops changed periodically, but the wind did not. At last we pulled into checkpoint at mile 35 where I devoured some food in the hopes of refueling before being back on the road facing the wind. Whatever I ate, it must have been effective. Maybe it was the combination of potato salad and rice that gave me an extra kick, because as soon as we left checkpoint my speed was up and I was feeling good. The head wind hadnít died down, it had in fact increased in strength, but so had I; my speed was up by about 4-5 mph.

Two miles later Scott pulled up beside me and inquired about what had stoked my fire. He added that he was having a hard time keeping up. I informed him that I didnít know why, but for the first time today I was feeling good and had a little extra to give, despite the head wind. That was the last I saw of Scott for the next 15-20 miles. At one point, a few miles after we had last spoken, I looked back but when I didnít see him rather than stop, I just slowed to about 13 mph. When he hadnít come into sight within a few minutes I decided that I had to make the most of the energy I had while it lasted because itís not often I have that much to give, especially into a strong head wind.

I started to go with it again, into the wind, and I passed one tired cyclist after another. At last, 15 miles after the last stop I pulled into a water stop. I had no idea how far behind Scott would be but I decided to stop and wait for him. About 10 minutes later Stan (a rider from Oregon) pulled into the stop. He commented that he would like his shorts back that I had ripped off his body as I ďwhizzedĒ by. He also told me that Scott had passed him a few miles back and that if he hadnít come into the pit yet he must have just gone on by. I jumped on my bike again and went off in pursuit of Scott, trying to catch up. Next thing I knew I was pulling into camp 11 miles later only to find that Scott was not in yet. He was obviously still behind me somewhere.

Camp was in a park with plenty of trees to shelter us from the sun, and provide partial relief from the wind. I selected a spot and set up my tent. When Scott still wasnít in I set up his too. Eventually, about 30 minutes after I arrived he pulled in to tell me that when he had passed Stan he had been informed that I was traveling at such a speed that there would be no catching me. Scott then figured that rather than trying to catch me he would pull off the road for a bit to relax.

Like I already mentioned, the reception in Miller was great. They greeted us with cookies and lemonade and then briefed us on all the activities they had available for us to enjoy. The swimming pool was free to Big Riders and Crew; the high school was being kept open to provide us with access to the internet; dinner would consist of ribs, chicken, and all the works; a shuttle bus would drop us anywhere in town; the local chiropractor even offered his services free of charge to riders. We pondered on which order we wanted to address our chores and finally agreed that suds and duds were high priorities. Off to the laundry we went.

With our clothes in the wash we headed over to the grocery store to buy some coolers. Back at the laundromat, with a drink consumed, we were joined by Lisa (a fellow BC rider) and a couple of others. The look of the refreshing beverages started a trend and pretty soon there were 4 of us enjoying a nice cold cooler while doing our laundry.

With the suds and duds taken care of we caught the shuttle to the high school to use the computers. We got there at 4:50 only to be told by the shuttle driver that they were closing the school at 5. Well, as with everything else in this town, the citizens are so helpful and accommodating that they were prepared to keep the school open for us as long as necessary. At about 5:30, however, the shuttle buss driver came in and asked how long we were going to be so that she didnít need to keep coming back. At that point we felt like we had inconvenience the locals long enough so we caught the shuttle back to camp.

In camp we were just in time to catch the tail end of Act Two and all of Act Three. The locals had seen fit to entertain us with live acts while dinner was served and devoured. Unfortunately we had missed the local high school jazz band and most of the girls tap dancing, but throughout dinner we listened to a duo of brothers on the guitar and fiddle singing an assortment of country songs. Dinner was unbelievable!!! We feasted on ribs, chicken and a whole mess load of fixings. When I had finally had my fill I rolled away from the table over towards my tent.

We had been informed that the local pool would be open again from 7-9 pm and as we had missed it in the earlier part of the afternoon we decided to take advantage of it. It seemed as thought the Big Riders comprised about ľ of the pool patrons. We had just as much fun racing down the slide and trying all kinds of jumps and dives off the board as any young kid in there. Alas, however, all good things must come to an end. The pool closed and we sat outside waiting for the shuttle to take us back to camp.

The night was not ending there, however; the shuttle driver (who had been ferrying us all over town for 10 hours) had one more stop in mind. Dairy Queen. Who could resist a nice cold ice cream cone on a hot, muggy summerís night.

DAY 25 - JULY 8/99
MILLER - DE SMET, SD

This morning I awoke to the sound of something different. It wasnít the unzipping of tent flaps or the clicking of poles as they were dismantled, but it was the tremendous boom of thunder crashing nearby. It was 4:30 am and I was certain that the storm was breaking right over my tent, or at least the grove of trees in which we camped. I lay in bed listening to the storm brew above and the sound of the other riders beginning their morning routines. Many got up with the first few claps of thunder, hoping to get packed up before the rain hit. I wasnít one of them. I lounged in bed, relishing the warmth of my sleeping bag for as long as I could. Finally, there were too many tent poles being clicked around me as more and more riders began to dismantle their tents so I had to get up; while Iíve never considered myself an early rider, I hate being the last one out of camp. When I finally got up, the storm had ended, but the rain had begun and packing up wet gear is anything but a delight.

It was one of those mornings when we had to ride out of camp a little ways to breakfast. It was also one of those mornings that I was so hungry that I was feeling somewhat nauseous. Although the ride wasnít far, I couldnít get there quick enough. As we were riding through town I saw some cyclists approaching us from down the road, even though the route map indicated that we were to turn right. I mentioned to Scott that I thought breakfast was up ahead, but he had already rounded the corner and wasnít turning back. With my stomach grumbling I ventured straight on and found our breakfast spot but a couple of blocks away. The breakfast was equal to the dinner which we were fed last night, it included pancakes, hot and cold cereal, bacon, sausages, etc etc, all in quantities enough to fuel even the hungriest of cyclists.

After filling up my tanks with good wholesome cooking it was time to hit the road. The crew had informed us the night before that the road route (as opposed to that on the daily maps) would take us on a minor detour a couple of miles out of town, and that it was something worth visiting. The detour took us by the home of an metal work artist whose whole yard was filled with metal sculptures. They varied in color, size and description, but each and every one of them was wonderful in itís own way. I hung out for a while and rode a giant rocking horse, climbed up the inside of a 30 foot bullís head, and marveled at the other creations before moving along.

A couple of miles later there was another attraction at the side of the road: Winnie and Tom (Big Ride Staff) were marking the half-way point, waving pom-poms and cheering the riders on. I stopped to take a picture, and appreciate what I have accomplished to this point: Iím half way across the continent; 1625 miles (give or take a few). Along with the sense of satisfaction has come a sadness that this great adventure is already half over.

About 15 miles into the days ride I came into a small town and found Scott sitting on the side of the road waiting for me. I gather that he had blown past the sculptures and the half way mark in anticipation of finding breakfast around the every turn. Fifteen miles in, he decided to stop at a tiny store to get something to snack on. Too bad, he missed a great breakfast.

I was glad to find Scott again because I was having a hard morning on the bike. Once again we had a headwind which succeeded in bringing down both my speed and my spirits. Reuniting with my cycling companion was a good thing to help get me through the miles. As the wind was dragging me down we pulled over after a few more miles to take a break in a field behind a wall of hay-bales and examined a nearby tractor. Not long after, a farmer came by to determine why we were on his tractor, which then led into an interesting conversation about local farming practices. We then put in another exhausting five miles or so before stopping at a cafť so Scott could get a substantial bite to eat and I could rest up again. This time when we finally got going, we were delighted that the direction of the wind had changed slightly, and so had our direction of travel. What had been a horrible head/cross wind earlier was now a delightful tailwind.

As we passed through Huron Dave, George, Scott and I stopped to do a live interview on the local radio station. They were interested in hearing about our Ride and our experiences, and were feeding us delicious watermelon while we waited. It was fun to be interviewed. Itís not everyday that kind of thing happens.

The remaining 35 miles of the day passed with amazing ease considering the morningís battle against the winds. Itís not the first time that I have appreciated the benefits that come with a later start as the winds are inclined to change as the day progresses. We enjoyed a long gradual downhill stretch into DeSmet, which is the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I will admit that I was a little disappointed to see that her house is nothing like The Little House on the Prairie. By the time we made it into town we had seen so many signs saying ďLaura Ingalls Wilder this,Ē and ďLaura Ingalls Wilder thatĒ that there is no mistaking that she is what put DeSmet on the map. Anyway, we are camped in Washington Park with lush grass and trees to provide us with shade, both of which make for a great camp.

After setting up my tent I proceeded to the packing station set up by some of the town-folk. They were providing us with boxes, packing tape and a postage drop-off so that we could send unwanted belongings home. After spending a great deal of time sorting through my belongings, figuring out which items I no longer needed and then packing them up, I was horrified to discover that it would cost me $35 or more to send my parcel home to Canada. At that price, I decided to store my box in the back of the gear truck where it could stay untouched until Washington.

While the camp is great, dinner was not. We walked down to the local school a couple of blocks away and were served a baked potato. The spud came with all the fixings, including cheese and such and was very tasty, but it just wasnít nearly substantial enough to tide over a hoard of hungry cyclists. We had to have 3 mini ice creams to compensate.

DAY 26 - JULY 9/99
DE SMET, SD - TYLER, MN

Last night was quite the night. After dinner a bunch of us headed into town in search of a pub. It was Georgeís (from Hawaii) 40th birthday, which gave us something to celebrate. We started at a little bar called ďthe Hitchin PostĒ with about 8 of us until Eric (from Florida) came running in beckoning us to join a bunch of other cyclists across the way at another bar. Off we went. By the time the two groups of cyclists merged we made a group of about 20 and we set about signing our names on a ceiling tile. The celebration had been turned up a few notches and the beer was beginning to flow. An hour or so later it was time to move on again; there was one more bar in town, and by God, why stop now. The third bar had a pool table and a bunch of us riders set about having a mini pool tournament. It was good fun to play Dr. Richard from Virginia as he seemed to have his own idea of what the rules are and was adamant that the rest of us were all mistaken. Three bars in town and we toasted George in every one, it was a good night.

As a consequence of our late night last night, I was a little later getting up and moving this morning. Not surprisingly, however, George was even slower still. I was packed up and on my way to breakfast and George still hadnít emerged from his tent.

Breakfast was in the gym of the school in which we had dinner last night. Fortunately for the town folk, this second meal went over a little better than the first. We were served eggs with salsa. I think it was the salsa that kept people satisfied, because I know for myself I have seen enough batches of scrambled eggs to last me the rest of the ride.

While it was a chilly morning, it was a good one because we had great tail winds that enabled us to travel with relative ease at speeds of 20-25 mph. A tail wind like that makes the days 77.5 miles feel like half that.

Despite the help of the tailwinds I was having a rough morning. About 35 miles into the day I had to pull in at a truck stop/gas station to caffeinate myself; although many riders try to avoid caffeine because it is a diuretic, I need it in order to stay awake. It is the strangest sensation, but I can literally start to nod off while riding my bike. It can be such a problem that one time I almost ran off the road because I couldnít keep my eyes open. This time I didnít want to take any chances.

We crossed into Minnesota today, which I gather is referred to as the State of 10,000 Lakes, but Minnesota is apparently not the only state that has an abundance of them. While we were still in South Dakota I marveled at how many lakes we passed that literally came right up to the side of the highway. They werenít big lakes, but they sure were plentiful. At times, the lakes were on either side of the highway, one after another, tempting me to dive in and cool off. If it hadnít been for the reeds and marshy banks, I might have considered it more seriously.

Forty miles in, we arrived in Brookings, SD. We stopped for lunch and talked to a few locals about the ride and what we were doing. We asked them about what the terrain would be like approaching the Minnesota border, and we were informed that there would be a ďbig hillĒ up to the wind farms. Later, as Scott and I were riding, we found it amusing at how the perceptions of car drivers differ from those of cyclists; usually the drivers will tell you that a road is flat when in fact, to a cyclist it is very hilly, but in this case Scott and I never found the ďbig hillĒ.

Brookings is the home town of one of this years riders, so many of us cyclists made a point of stopping by a local bike store that had sponsored him. While I didnít need any parts or repairs to my ride, I did purchase a mascot to adorn my handlebars, like a hood ornament. I found a squeaky toy pig head. While I thought it was great, Iím not so sure now because every time I go over a bump in the road, Piggy lets out a little squeak/grunt. One of three things are sure to happen soon: Iíll get used to it; it will stop; or Piggy will find a new home in a garbage can.

We entered our sixth state of the ride, Minnesota, at mile 60. We arrived to a great party put on by some of 1998ís Big Riders and the Minnesota Lung Association. The sounds of Polka music blaring gave the whole scene a carnival like atmosphere. They had brought pizza, hotdogs, chips, snacks and a variety of funny bikes for people to play around on. There was one little BMX bike, which had been equipped with a roll cage. Some daring folks rode along, slammed on their front brakes, went into a head over heels roll, and then attempted to keep riding again after making the 360-degree roll. Others peddled back and forth on an old penny-farthing bike (the kind that has the huge front wheel and small back one. Although both bikes looked like a lot of fun, the fear of injury with half of the ride still ahead of us meant that I satisfied myself with a double-hinged bike (there were hinges behind the headset, and then more at the back of the frame so that every time you tried to pedal, the bike would bend). That in itself was a lot of fun, and not so easy to ride.

Shortly after leaving the Minnesota border we started to make our way through a wind farm. Scott had previously worked at a wind farm in Tehachapi, California and was able to inform me about the workings of these gigantic windmills. We passed by the farm office so Scott and I went in so Scott could talk to them about the machines. While he was doing that, I marveled at the size of one of the turbine blades that was lying in the parking lot; it was as wide as I am tall!!! I never would have guessed that they were THAT big from seeing them in the distance. Scott asked the employees if there was a turbine nearby where he could get me up close, but they said that for liability reasons they didnít allow the public access.

A couple of miles after leaving the site office we were climbing out of a river valley and were approaching a few turbines off on the crest. Scott and I looked at each other and decided to break away from the rest of the group and venture off the route and attempt to get underneath one of them. We took a side street and then had to cycle down a dirt path in a farmerís field. Finally we reached the base of the turbine after reaching the end of the path and pushing our bikes through a couple of cornfields. I must say, however, that the trek was well worth it. These turbines are HUGE. I lay on the foundation with my head up against the base, looking up at the blades spinning in the wind. The noise that they generated was incredibly loud as they sliced through the air. Being underneath those turbines was an experience I shall never forget.

After following the service road out rather than retracing out steps through the cornfields we made our way into the town of Tyler and onto the Lincoln County Fairgrounds where we are camped. Itís a nice spot with the locals baseball league playing in a park abutting the grounds, the high school library open to us for internet access, and best of all, the 4H club selling pie and ice cream for $2 a pop. So far tonight we have had piece of pie and are likely going to have seconds before the night it through.

Tomorrow we have a 88.7 mile ride into New Ulm. Apparently there is a German Heritage festival being held in town and donít you know, we get to enjoy it to itís fullest as we have a day off afterwards to recover.

DAY 27 - JULY 10/99
TYLER - NEW ULM, MN

We started out the day riding with Todd and Tracey (two of last years Minnesota Big Riders) as well as Lisa, and Laurie and Dave (on the tandem). I didnít manage to stay with them too long as they are faster riders. Scott and I tried to draft off the tandem for a while, but even then I found that I was taxing myself a little harder than I should at the beginning of an 89-mile day. After about 8 miles or so Scott and I dropped back to enjoy a slower, more leisurely pace.

It wasnít a very good day for riders as three cyclists were injured today. We spent much of the day riding along Route 14, which had narrow shoulders and a lot of traffic. To add to the problem, the shoulders were sometimes at a different height from the roadway with a crack dividing the two. One of the riders who were injured got her front tire caught in one of these cracks which caused her to wipe out. Another rider following behind went colliding into her and also went down. The third rider who was injured today (Stan Kehl) was struck by a car as the driver wasnít paying close enough attention. All three riders visited the emergency room to get check out, and fortunately nobody was seriously injured other than a few scraps and bruises. Stanís 16-year-old daughter is on the Big Ride crew and Scott and I saw her at a rest stop as she was informed about her dadís accident. The poor girl was understandably concerned for her father and was very tearful until one of the other crew members pulled up with Stan in the car; she was evidently relieved to see for herself that he was okay.

Aside from the poor road conditions, the day was relatively unremarkable. Laura Ingles Wilder is obviously still the most important thing in the area as there is still and abundance of references to her as we ride along. The winds seemed to come from every which way, and the crops are still largely wheat, although we are starting to see some Soya and more corn. We have moved from the extensive range lands of Montana and South Dakota and are encountering smaller, more plentiful farms. As we move further east the country is getting more densly populated and the towns are closer together which makes for more regular access to services but less wide open wilderness.

About half way through the day, Scott and I took a side trip about 1 mile out of the way to see a ďSod HouseĒ. A local farmer had built two Sod houses and restored a couple of surrounding acres of his land back to the original prairie grasses and flowers that would have been present when the first settlers came through this area. Of the two houses, one was larger than the other, consisting of the main room and a loft. The second of the two houses was more like what a bachelor would have lived in (one room about 6 x 10). Not surprisingly, the literature informed us that Laura Ingles Wilder lived in a sod house very much like the larger of the two.

After we reached the New Ulm city limits we still had a 4 mile ride through the busy, populated streets until we finally pulled into camp at New Ulm High. The high school and middle school were right beside each other, but we were instructed that we were only allowed to camp in the unshaded high school grounds. I am sure that all of us riders longed for the shade of the trees that were present on the middle school grounds, especially as we were going to be having a day off in this location. Oh well, at least we have access to the school cafeteria to get out of the sun.

Most of us riders are looking forward to going to the German Heritage festival that is being held in town this weekend. I understand that the entrance fee is $10 which is a little steep, but last years Big Riders have assured us that a good time will be had by all, and that it is worth the price. A shuttle bus service has been set up for us and we will be provided with transport between camp, the festival, and pretty much anywhere else we want to go in town for a buck. Yet another example of the hospitality that we Big Riders have been shown.

DAY 28 - JULY 11/99
REST DAY - NEW ULM, MN

Itís a good thing that today is a rest day otherwise there would be a lot of hurting cyclist on the road to Owatonna. Last years Big Riders were right; the German Heritage Festival was a good time, but on my tight budget the $10 entrance fee was still a little steep. A group of us headed over to the fair grounds and found the beer hall within minutes of entering the festival, and we were obviously not the only ones who were enjoying the liquid ambers. With beer in hand we proceeded to meander from tent to tent to listen to the different bands performing in each. We met up with a bunch of other Riders who were dancing a lively polka and having a real blast. At one point I left the group to relieve myself, and while en-route I stopped to talk to some of the other people enjoying the festival. It seems that people travel from all over the mid-west to attend this festival, year after year. Some time later I returned to the group to find that Scott was not around. I then spent the next hour or so running from tent to tent looking for him amongst the throngs of people. At last I gave up and joined the ever-increasing group of Big Riders under the main tent for a beer slinging sing-a-long and a few polkas on the dance floor.

The festival closed up for the evening around midnight, but the Big Riders werenít ready to call it quits. We all filled out to the gate, hopped onto the shuttle bus, and asked to driver to drop us off somewhere happening so we could continue on with our festivities. He gladly drove us downtown and dropped us off at a night bar where we partied and socialized for another couple of hours. I started talking to a table of locals seated beside us. After I told them what we were all doing they gave me $20 and told me to buy myself a couple of drinks on them and to have a good time. They also dared me to pour a beer on one of their buddiesí heads, and I was just buzzed enough to try. Fortunately for him, he was a little faster than I and my beer completely missed him and landed on the floor to the tune of laugher all around. Thinking back on it now, we must have been feeling no pain!! Other Big Riders attended the festival again today and apparently ran into some people in the same group I had been talking to and asked the riders to say ďhiĒ. Cool!!!

When I finally got back to camp last night, shortly after 2am, I was relieved to hear Scottís restful breathing in his tent as I crawled into my own. Apparently he had been worried about me too as he awoke later and unzipped my tent to ensure that I had gotten back safely.

This morning I slept in as long as the heat would let me (which wasnít long enough). I stumbled to the school cafeteria to find that breakfast consisted of a few muffins, and there wasnít near enough to feed a crew of hung-over cyclists. Scott and I had made plans last night to meet up with Laurie and Dave for breakfast, but something else had come up for them so we had to go it alone. I felt a little dejected as I had been looking forward to spending some time with them as we donít cycle together anymore. Nonetheless, Scott and I decided to cycle into town and find somewhere to eat and wound up having a great breakfast of sausage and eggs.

After breakfast I wanted to shop for a pair of jeans (something I neglected to bring with me), but the mall didnít open until 11am so we hung out in the local park with an amphitheater type place. Feeling kid-like I rolled down the hill on my side and laughed because that is something that I havenít done for close to 20 years. At last when the mall opened up we went shopping; I didnít find any suitable jeans, but I did buy a kite at the dollar store and a bottle of bubbles. I think that Scott thinks Iím mad, but thatís all right because I was having a lot of fun blowing bubbles as I rode my bike back around town. (Have you ever noticed that bubbles have a way of making people smile?)

After our little shopping spree we stopped in at a local pub to get out of the sun, have a beer, and catch up on our journals. We didnít stay too long because some of the locals at the bar were playing a game called ďLiarís DiceĒ and they were slamming the dice down onto the bar and yelling with each roll which made it very difficult to concentrate. After a while another group of Riders came into the pub to catch up on their journals, and they told us that they had just been to a matinee so Scott and I decided to do the same. We saw ďThe Generalís DaughterĒ which was a little heavy for my frame of mind, but to spend a couple of hours in a dark, air-conditioned room was worth the $4 by itself.

After the movie we rushed back to camp to meet up with Laurie and Dave for dinner, but once again things didnít work out and Scott and I were left to dine alone. We ventured off for a buffet dinner on the outskirts of town and ate until our stomachs bulged before taking a gentle ride back to camp through the residential streets. Once back in camp we met up with George who had been out visiting with a friend of his for the day. George had received a birthday package from his sister, which consisted of a nice bottle of red wine so he shared it with us while we discussed the happenings of our days.

After George left to retire to his own tent, Scott and I hung out some more in mine. Scott vegged out while I fussed around with my gear until finally there was no more fussing to be done and I too kicked back and relaxed. Today has been a good day; we made a conscious decision to enjoy todayís day off as a day off. We didnít want to get bogged down with doing laundry, cleaning bikes and water bottles, or doing any number of other chores that can so easily monopolize days off. The chores will have to wait until another day, as we took it easy and enjoyed the day.