Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 44: Miller, South Dakota

Today was my first day of solo riding and a long haul. I rode from South Dakota's capital, Pierre, to Miller, SD, which, after I meandered around Pierre in the morning to try to get photo vantage points on the Capitol building, and accidentally doubled back, became a 76 mile ride. Not counting the two times I rode into the town of Miller from my lodgings on the outskirts of town (The Dew Drop Inn, no relation to the Greenwich Street bastion), which probably added another 2 or 3 miles. This is going to be an endurance challenge to get into Minneapolis by Saturday. Still about 350 miles to go over the next 6 days.

But it was a good biking day. Unlike Bob's yeoman effort yesterday getting to the same place, but against 18 mph winds, I had fairly benign cross-winds more in the 5 mph category (the forecasted difference was one of the reasons I took a rest day). I had also been a bit nervous about my various aches, pains and irritations beforehand, but with some help from Aleve, they were mostly a non-issue and I made good time.

I also did two things while riding that were new to me. And I mostly liked both. First, I used a mirror -- one of those small ones that attach to your glasses. It arrived in a care package from my wife yesterday and, after a bit of a struggle figuring out how to attach and adjust it, I tried it out. One of our riding necessities on this trip, given the numerous roads with chewed up or non-existent shoulders, has been to ride at the right edge of the car lane. I've been pretty comfortable using my ears to detect upcoming passing cars/trucks and, if cresting a hill or taking a sharp curve, or if traffic is simultaneously coming in the opposite direction (making it harder for the passing car to pull out sufficiently), diving back into the shoulder, even at the cost of a bumpy few seconds. The sad truth is that only a small minority of cars wait for the oncoming lane to be clear (or visible) before passing a bicyclist (which category are you in?). And don't get me started about the drivers who pass other cars at the same time that the other cars are passing me (both the overtaking and oncoming traffic -- I'm not sure which is worse!). But, I must admit, the mirror made the whole dance much easier and relaxing. The only downside, at least so far, is that it sits there constantly in my left peripheral vision and, let's confess, looks kind of dorky.

The second new thing I didn't try until about 40 miles into the ride. The scenery wasn't changing a lot, I was trying to chew up miles before it got too hot, and I kind of got bored. Notwithstanding what people think, biking long distances isn't particularly contemplative (writing a blog post is typically more so). A lot of time, I tend to repeat songs, ad nauseum, in my head. Rocky Racoon got a lot of play from my internal memory banks in the Black Hills.

But there's only so much of hearing yourself mangle Barbara Ann and Hanky Panky that you can take (yes, my selections might have been better earlier in the ride). Why not listen to real music, and real artists, on my iPhone? Now, before you all press comment to berate me, no, I did not use earphones. Mirror or not, you've still got to be able to hear -- and hear well. No, I simply put the iPhone on speaker and slipped it into my jersey back pocket. No, I couldn't always hear it well, if at all, and the acoustics left something to be desired, but it succeeded in drowning out my internal singing voice, so to speak. Which was a good thing. It almost felt like being back on a treadmill in a gym, the parallel of which to riding a bike more than 70 miles across South Dakota flatness/sameness is a bit frightening.

Here are today's route and metrics:


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