Thursday, 30 May 2013

Montevideo to Hutchinson

A few nice revelations today

Tom looks like Bruce Campbell

New Clif Bar flavours
Apricot Clif
There was apricot, blueberry crunch.  I'm nowhere near bored of clif bars, but they keep on helping by adding new flavours.

Finding off road trails into town
Train into Hutchinson
About 8 miles out Nic noticed a trail over to the side.  Gravel and traffic free, nice little blast into town.

Being met by the Mayor
No rain
2000 Miles
Heinz at 2000 miles
This was Heinz at the spot his milometer ticked over 2000 miles.  As i said yesterday I surprise myself at the lack of interest in stats and milestones on this trip.  But when you go and look at a map of where we've got to by pedal power, it's quite something.

Lunch stops
Lunch stop
Rarely mention them.. our packed lunches are quite nice.  Tom always does a grand job of finding a nice secluded spot.  Been nice the last few days managing to grab a few z's after lunch.  Feels like the old fairy tales where the hero would eat a chunk of bread and some juice and fall asleep in the grass, only to be woke in a strange world where he has to continue to cycle another 30 miles to 'home'.

Also must note that Brad at the Sportsmen Inn in Montevideo is a star and his hospitality (driving me to the beer shop and lending me a phone to order pizza) is massively appreciated.

Sportsman Inn, Montevideo, MN

Hutchinson is a lovely little town, so nice to have a 'official' greeting and some nice public realm and cycling infrastructure.  Again with the predictions  but hopefully the places in between rural and cities will continue to throw up nice surprises like this.  Though it's going to be hard to continue to pass through so quickly.

Oh and finally, until I sort out my video capabilities again, will be using you tube.  I intended to put this up in relation to my western talk.  But as we move from the wild west to the mid west, I am slightly tired.

It's a good day to be riding across America.  Minneapolis tomorrow.  And just been told a late start too.  Luxury.  Maybe a quick late night spa to unwind?

Watertown to Montevideo

OK, so South Dakota gave us it's last before we left.  I shouldn't have taunted. We left early to avoid the storm.  We didn't.  Departing in the morning was beautiful though.  As any early morning ride, peaceful and still with some amazing colours on the horizon.  But there was a malevolent force brewing behind.

Dawn Ride
Ridin' Forward

  • The rain came in
  • We continued to ride (Mike & I that is)
  • It got rainier
  • Lightning
  • Still not capturing lightning on film.
  • Capturing rain on film
  • camera doesn't like rain
  • Camera stopped shortly after this:

Riding in the Rain

Weird huh?

Come Rain, Come Shine

It was certainly a rush, I loved the excitement of the lightning and rain.  And for that first bit was a sweet tailwind pushing us along at 20 m.p.h. After a short stop I felt bad about not stopping back more to offer help, but then we're close, with a support vehicle on a straight road (OK, 2 bends... all day) and if it's any conciliation  which i imagine it's not after a day riding in the rain, I was really enjoying myself!  At one point befoire that first bend there was a lightning strike to the ground ahead right in line with the yellow lines, pretty incredible.

But shortly after we made it into Minnesota.  Though without the greeting sign or band I was hoping for  My first instincts are I prefer it to SD.  And I must impress that I'm fully aware of not putting down a whole state because I'm tired.  It's just a joke. But it's strange being a traveller through a place, knowing that you're probably never going to come back, you made a snap judgement on the way in because it was raining... and decided not to change that decision because of fatigue.  Just to add a little perspective I probably had my best day of the trip so far riding into the badlands out of Keystone.  But still happy to be out of SD and moving forwards.

The conditions didn't get much better into Minnesota.  The storms eased off, but then the headwind came.  A nice coffee stop with longjohns and a bacon sarnie after about 50 miles was welcome before the last push into Montevideo.

There is certainly strain in the journey at the moment.  But I like to keep in mind that there are a few key characteristics.

  • We chose to come...
  • on a bike ride...
  • across America (and Ireland, Wales and England)
  • with a collection of people.

  • There will be weather
  • which includes wind (and rain and sun and storms)
  • If it rains you get wet
  • Once you're wet enough you can't get any wetter
  • There will be differences of opinion
  • There will be lots of red meat
  • Long way between championship winning baristas
  • but it's a trip we are only going to make once in this way
  • As tough as some aspects are I for one feel blessed to be able to be a part of it.

A new phase of the trip starts in Minneapolis.  For me the whole cycling research side of things was one of the biggest draws (of many) and am very excited to see what we see as a group, and how that can be synthesised and disseminated to be put to good use for London and other cities.  It's not going to stop the daily strains... in fact it will likely add to them, but it brings a new focus, as well as a more rapidly changing land and city scape.  Bring it on.

Oh and finally, I realised that I never mention distances or stats in these blogs. I'd normally be slightly obsessed by that and consider it the defining point of the ride.  But even though these are all long rides, stats seem to melt into the background against the geography, geology, political and sociological factors.  Maybe one say I'll just look at the stats!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Huron to Watertown

Left Motel 6 after wishing Nic a brief Happy Birthday.

Toured through to see the Pheasant again as a whole group.  I think they enjoyed it.  Nice leafy roads to start with, then on the way out of town roadworks and back to old SD's standard hard shoulder of changeable quality.

Spent the morning riding.  As we do.  Still straight. Stopped off for a clif bar.
Carried on riding, turned right.
Carried on riding.
Had lunch.
Carried on riding
Got to Watertown.

I remember flying over this part of the country from Minneapolis on my way out to portland.  Looking at the satellite image of our route gives an idea of what the terrain and outlook is like

View P2P Progress in a larger map

One point of note from the day is the amount of roadkill.  Countless different birds.  Skunks, Racoons, Ducks, Deer, terrapins.  Loads of dead stuff.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Huron today Gone tomorrow

Ahem, yep, we keep zipping through America.  Still in South Dakota.  Huron is a town 'famous' for it's giant pheasant.  Well worth the visit, however, now I've seen it I'm concerned as to whether it's worth continuing the journey any further.  But I'll persevere.

Huron: Home to the worlds largest pheasant

We left Highmore after a hearty breakfast over the road from the Prairie Inn Motel at around 8 am under the cover of mist.  Was quiet a chilled ride, still some pretty ropey hard shoulders, but cycling in the mist was quite nice.  Not being able to see a few hundred meters means you can just ride forward without thinking about anything beyond that.  But quite a gentle ride all together, a little bit of headwind, but nothing to worry about too much.  Still a flat landscape mostly.  But still with those poor shoulders there was a fair amount of traffic compared so some of the roads we've ridden.  Though it being memorial day mostly leisurely drivers towing mobile homes and boats and whatnot.

Cycling into the mist
Misty Morning

  • There was a terrapin massacre down one section of road where the poor critters didn't have much of a chance.  
  • Stopped and looked at a train
  • ate some lunch
  • Cycled into Huron
  • Checked into the motel 6
  • had a swim
  • Walked into Huron for dinner
  • not much open so had a Mexican

DHL on the Horizon
P2P Cycling the 14

So; a list of small town America Movies

.... o goodness, I've become devoid of movie knowledge... must've been on the road too long.  Come to think of it, I've only watched 2 movies in the last month.  Maybe soon I'll make a blog of all the things i'm looking forward to when I get home.  But onward to Watertown tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

South Dakota - So far

Another rest day, in Pierre, the state capital of South Dakota.  It's felt like a very short week.  But there have been some massive challenges.  No surprises there really, but happy to have a rest.  At the risk of summing up a whole state without spending too much time here, I still stick by my initial comments crossing the state boundary on the way out of Sundance a week ago in the rain "Not a big fan".

How dare someone who aspires to work in place making put down a whole state so easily.  But that's my opinion for now.  I think it's the general lethargy from all the riding and rolling on a continual basis, the plastic breakfasts and plentiful briefings   But for me there is a strange emptiness about the parts of SD we've seen so far.  Only being in the centre the more built up and more established parts of the state are still to come.  But from experiences in Deadwood and Mount Rushmore which both seem to exist now only to draw people into South Dakota (Great Faces, Great Places).

Leaving The Budget Inn
Badlands National Park

Interior to Murdo

Leaving Interior, after my lush Cheeseburger Pizza the night before there was a heavy mist to start off.  But it cleared very quickly.  There was a bit of a pause at the entrance to the Badlands National Park trying to negotiate a 'charity rate' discount off the entrance fee.  This caused a liitle morning excitment and dalayed us long enough to get to the Cedar Pass Lodge after 8 when it opened for breakfast.  Luckily we were ahead of the school bus which then pretty much filled the whole place as the waitresses scurried around like rabbits in the headlights trying to re-fill coffees and plate up eggs n bacon.  Albeit shockingly blue eyes rabbits.

P2P Conquer the Badlands
P2P Conquer the Badlands

We rode through the rest of the park taking loads of pictures and rode out past the site of the Minuteman Missile then took a left into headwinds which required a fair bit of teamwork to ease the pain of the energy sapping wind.

Minute Man
P2P Peloton

It was tough work, and took a few miles for the six of us (Rob, Bron, Tom, Nic, Sarah & I) to figure out a system to draft effectively and manage the changeovers to help reduce the effort.  But the more we rode together the better we rode together, adapting to the angle of the wind and it became quite an enjoyable experience.

Ben, Sarah, Nic, Rob, Tom & Bron.  Picture by Bob West

There was an extended coffee stop in Kadoka from a fella from Oregon that had just set up a coffee cart running off solar.  Great Idea, but takes and age to brew 13 coffees.  But they did have an incredibly cute dog called harper who'd just turned 3.  Not normally a small dog fan, but I was very taken and I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual.  Tom VM did a fantastic job of finding a perfect lunch stop sheltered from the wind with a derelict railway to rest up on.  I got a bit snoozy but after lunch we carried on the riding of the day and working as a tight little group made the most of what we had,

Resting on the tracks
Rail Crossing

Towards the end of the long day the groups combines and we rode into Murdo almost as one.  It was a bit disconcerting to find out that once we were in town it was actually an hour ahead, so it was even later than hoped.  We sloped off for some dinner, pretty uninspiring really, but the whole dietary conversation has been covered elsewhere and will continue to, eating is a pretty big issue after all.

The magnificent 7

Murdo to Pierre

Next morning was the haul to Pierre.  it would be 20 miles then turn left and 40 miles into town, or so.  The first 20 was a pretty severe side wind, as the road bended it could work to our slight advantage, or disadvantage.  I'm pretty fortunate in these conditions having enough weight to keep me pretty planted and steady, so can just plough through, and happily take the wind for whoever I can help.  There was a short section where I pulled away however and regrouped at the services.  Had a strangely sweet toffee coffee and bought a map.  Looked at some LED's to pimp my ride, but thought better of it and headed on.

South Dakota
Dolly Shot

The road into Pierre was all tailwind, nice wide hard shoulders and lightly undulating.  Bliss.  Just stormed along trying to max out the speedo as much as possible   Managed a top of 53 m.p.h. on the final long hill, happy happy.  If only my tyres were fully pumped and I'd sheared the chops in the morning.  Coming in through Fort Pierre and over the Missouri River was a little less spacious for the cyclist than the previous generous shoulder.  As I came in to the twon I stopped off at the CVhamber of Commerce/Information centre to pick up some maps and get some info.  Felt pretty good about the place after a good ride in. But as soon as I turned back onto Sioux Ave was greeted by more lots of burgers and gas.  Boo.

Pierre, SD
South Dakota Cultural Heritage Centre

I went off for a mooch about, grabbed a shave and trim (of my hair) and took a trip up towards the Cultural Heritage Centre. I was on foot, and it was a bit hot, and taking a little longer than I'd hoped to locate the place, as of course I'd left the annotated local map back at the motel.  I checked out the memorial fountain and then had a look in the State Capitol Building.

Pierre Capitol Rotunda

The Capitol Building really left an impression on me.  Not so much for the architectural merits - as far as I understand it's an updated version of the Montana State Capitol building in Helena; neo-classical changing the 'u' to a 'v' on the front as a reminder of the Grecian style of the architecture - but the openness of the building. You can just walk in, and the whole place is free to walk around as you wish.  The tiled floors were quite something, laid by artisan Italians.  But the thing about the floors that made the biggest impression on me was how much my shoes were squeaking as I walked around.

So i looked in the governors office, walked around the gallery for the senate and house of representatives, took a crapitol in the capitol, and strolled back down to the Legion deck to sit in the sun with a beer upon the advice of a helpful woman in the governors office.  Then the evening passed with food, and drinks and probably a few more drinks in the legion and onto Bob's the Irish bar as Irish as green budweiser. 

On Saturday I had a late breakfast.  Tom and I headed up to the Cultural Heritage centre and took a look at the museum.  Usual stuff... idylic start, white men explore and pass through, white men strike a deal with the indigenous people, white men lie, steal and kill everything going, then find gold and step it up a bit.  More white men and women try and tame a vast land.  Tough times all round.  And there was a fun interactive game where you could beat the milking machine, when almost immediately there was a ten year old boy popped his head around the corner after not a sole apart from Tom and I being there for the whole visit and he beat me!

Probably the highlight of the museum was the view over the town form the observation area.  They had worked it so all you could see was a few state administration buildings, the capitol, lots of trees and the hills in the distance.  Foolishly I didn't get a picture of this.  But somebody else did.

But rest of the afternoon I spent out on the deck of the legion, not writing this, drinking bud light and watching the comings and goings of memorial weekend.  I was surprised at how quiet it was for a sunny day by the water.  We returned to the same restaurant for dinner after our pow-wow and an early night ws had.

Pierre to Highmore

It was an early start out of Pierre, some bleary eyes at breakfast and a little pensive about bad weather   We were chased out by some very nasty looking clouds, but they didn't come to much.  There qere attempts to maximise drafting, but it wasn't coming together as smoothly as last week when it was more vital, which gave the morning a slightly dour feel.  But the weather was clearing slightly, and though we were going quite slowly the early start meant that there was only 20 miles left after lunch and there was a tail wind.

Scary Weather Behind
Missouri River

I had a bit of a snooze on the grass and was woken to the team being on their bikes and departing, so rubbed my eyes, replenished my water an chased along.  I learnt in the museum yesterday that L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz stories spent some time around these parts, and I may not have read the books, but can see where the imagery for the film would be inspired by these Dakota grasslands.

Another Moody Highway
Clear afternoon

There were some wind farms which are always pleasing, and some cavorting cows.  Then the arrival into Highmore (Gooo Pirates) wasn't too auspicious. Population of about 832, but there were a few derelict houses and signs of wear and tear.  Another place to pass through and pass judgement without getting to know too well.  Would I want too?  Dunno, but there's gotta be a few stories around.  

I always thought I had small town fever coming from a village in Hampshire, always moving to bigger and bigger places, but the fact that I was only ever an hour form London, with so many connections to that world city, it doesn't really compare to the small town feel here.  Chatting to some guys in teh bar in Pierre on Friday I was trying to, but it really is a whole different mind set.  Also partly to do with being in a country that is so huge, and so new, that it's going to be insular.  South Dakota has only been a place, legally, officially, politically, whatever for a little over 100 years.  Sure it's been peopled and farmed and hunted on for millenia, but it's current incarnation is very young.  Maybe it's the youth/immaturity of the place or the vast distances that haven't quite clicked with me.  Maybe it is the lethargy and desire to get into the cities.  Maybe it's too much time to think on the bike of past and future.  Or maybe it's the sucky roads of changeable quality and weird rumble strips.  Hmm yes, I think that's what it is.  Those flippin rumble strips.  Screw you South Dakota highway engineers,  I'm going to Minnesota...

Welcome to Highmore
Derelict House on the Prarie

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Keystone to Interior: The Badlands

There were a few milestones today,
It's a year today since I smashed my final assessment at UWE
It's a year today since The Old Police Cottage was no longer our home in any way

These gave me plenty to think about on the long ride.

It's also a month today since I flew from Heathrow to Portland
And at some point today we passed the 1500 mile mark for the ride.


We left the Keystone Holiday Inn express around 8am.  The first 20 or so miles to Rapid City was great, small steep ups and downs, winding roads to manage the undulations and nicely wooded, the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Storming up some of the hills made me feel parts of my lungs other hills couldn't touch, but then I was reminded we are still above 4000ft in altitude, so maybe that had an effect.

Riding through the Black Hills of South Dakota
Riding through the Black Hills of South Dakota

As we got within 6 or 7 miles of Rapid City the route got less scenic, but there was a good gradient in our favour, even if roadworks and a crappy hard shoulder were not.  We collected ourselves at a Starbucks on the corner of something and St Patrick.  Having never been a Starbucks customer I refrained, apart from a refill of my water.  Not sure if it's really that important witholding my custoim, I've been to McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, used Amazon and more alcohol companies than I care to mention.  But i missed one coffee... hooray me!

Hello Surly
Rapid City

So Rapid City, in my brief encounter, not very happy with it, we may have missed the interesting centre with it's many statues of presidents, but the outer parts are as uninviting, soulless and sprawling as any other city we've ridden through thus far.  Given the time for reflection in the future I will look more into the reasons for this, state planning, federal planning  market forces, constitution, The American Way?  but for now I will continue my ride.
[After writing I read this article imagining the future of land use, it re-hashes a lot of the same old predictions around, density, urbanisation, climate change dealing with population growth, and is mostly from an American perspective.  But there's a whole bit about "urbanism 2.0, or Heartland Villages" yeah I thought this kind of stuff sounded vaguely possible, from my study in Bristol when studying planning, but having seen and ridden through the all pervasive sprawl in the slice of the states we've covered so far, I just can't see it happening in the majority of places.  Dense urban living isn't the American dream in the wide open spaces of the West.}

Straight Ahead
Highway 44

Once out of the city limits we had a sweet 5 or so mile section of highway that was dead straight.  The hard shoulder was ridable and there was a tailwind.  Dreamy.  There were four of us out front and though not caning it we made good time.  A stop off at the corner shop (no corners anywhere near) to re-group again and grab some supplies from rubber ducky and the next meet up was in Scenic in another 20 or so miles (62 for the day).  Apart from a brief stop to get the van outta some muck I was in the mood to storm the highway.  And I did, bashing the pedals and still soaking it up.

Country Corner
25 m.p.h.

As I went over the crest of a small gentle hill the badlands appeared.  I 'had a moment'.  Bloomin' awesome. We stopped to get some scram at Scenic, A cool little ghost town in the Badlands.

Peter Murray riding into Scenic, SD.
Portland to Portland in The Badlands of South Dakota

I've been looking forward to this part of the trip: the long straight roads, the scenery, the openness  the skies, probably since I'd even signed up for this adventure.  It's awesome.  I dunno where I got my love of these open roads from, except the movies.  But with the views and the exertion I'd put in earlier was good to have that space to let my mind wander when I gave it a chance.

Portland to Portland in The Badlands of South Dakota

Another example of trying to take too many pictures of something I should just be watching.  But i watched a fair bit too.  It seems the EPS (Excitable Puppy Syndrome) may have returned.

Portland to Portland in The Badlands of South Dakota

And finally:

There's been some chat of top ten Westerns.  So in order to get back to the original intent of this blog... here's a list of ten Westerns:

  • Blazing Saddles
  • The Good, The bad, The Ugly, (also representing the whole dollars trilogy for the benefit of brevity)
  • True Grit
  • Ravenous
  • Dead Man
  • Back to the Future III
  • The Three Amigo's
  • Once Upon a time in the West
  • High Plains Drifter
  • 3.10 to Yuma, take either one.