I had been thinking in the back of my mind for a while that the first chance I get I would like to try a long distance bike ride. I did this about a year ago but it was only about 50 miles from our house to a relatives house. And even though that took quite an effort against the wind I knew that I should go for something more substantial. The reason I thought that I should is because I was starting to do more biking with my running and with getting in better shape I figured I should be able to accomplish a larger goal. So I set my sites on a trip we were planning to South Dakota for a nephew’s graduation. The total distance is about 320 miles and my plan was to probably bike at least half way the first day, stay over night and then bike the remainder the second day. I tossed around the idea of making it a 3 day trip also because reality is that without doing a long distance like this in the past it would probably take a lot longer than expected. The other idea I was open to was depending on how I felt and of course the wind direction and temps, I may bike the whole thing without stopping which meant I would be biking through the night at some point. Google maps said it would take 26 hours of nonstop biking. But of course I knew I would be stopping and probably stopping often, so I figured possibly 30 hours unless I could keep my speed up.
I had to do a little prep work in case of problems that might arise, so I bought an extra tire tube, a small high psi pump for my tires, a headlight, and a small lightweight backpack. I filled the backpack with 3 bottles of water (in addition to the 2 in the bike holders, a few snickers bars, a sandwich, change of clothes, band aids, vaseline, credit cards, toilet paper, plastic bags, phone and charger. I checked the weather and it was supposed to be cooler with a storms during the night into the morning. I wasn’t sure I was going to go because the weather was so up in the air.
I got up about 4 am and had my coffee and a bowl of cereal and checked the weather and read a few articles on the computer. It was raining lightly and it looked like the storm system was moving out, but who really ever knows how long these things are going to take, so I decided I would go and if I got wet it wasn’t the end of the world, my clothes would dry as I went. I should have had a good set of rain gear but hadn’t gotten around to that yet as I wasn’t planning on a long ride in the rain. I left about 5:15 and really only needed my headlamp for about half an hour because the town street lights were so bright and the sun was coming. But unfortunately it did start raining and the wind was in my face but I was committed at that point and was feeling pretty good. The rain was off and on for the first 3 1/2 hours and the direction I was heading was pretty much into the wind which was blowing about 15 mph. Even with stopping for a couple of nature calls and a bite to eat, I still made good time for the first 50 miles and then my route took a turn and the wind was then hitting my side so it wasn’t as bad but the temp was dropping and my feet were getting cold. Otherwise I felt great, so on I went. From there it was a straight west ride on a good road through many small towns. The fun thing about riding cross country is that everything looks different on a bike. You get more time to take in the small details of your surroundings. If it would have been sunny I would have been in my glory but it was still pretty good. I stopped at about 80 miles and noticed I was pretty stiff but considering I was still a little wet and my feet were cold, I wasn’t surprised. I restocked my water and got a cup of coffee and a roll at a convenience store and headed on through town. You probably think its hard to drink coffee and ride a bike but you would be surprised at how capable you get after a while.
As I road out of town the sign said 70 miles to the next large town which would put me close to half way. Funny how your mind works but I thought oh, 70 miles, no problem, even though up until then the furthest I had ever ridden was 50 miles. For that next 70 miles I really found out a lot about my body and its limitations which was part of why I was doing this. My speed was dropping some and I don’t think I drank enough water because it was cold and I didn’t think I needed it. You really need to just drink and drink regardless. The traffic was really decent and 99.9 percent of the cars and trucks were very considerate.
I had a nice shoulder to ride on most of the time except for about 15-20 miles where the shoulder was gravel. With the gravel shoulder I would ride on the white line on the road and when a car would come I would move onto the gravel until they passed. It did require more work but you just have to deal with conditions and stay safe. As time went on I noticed my left knee joint was hurting along with my hands getting numb and some pain in my shoulders. In the end it was my knee that caused me to stop for the day at that next large town. In total I did about 145 miles in 12 hours but was having a hard time walking when I got there. I should have stopped maybe at 100-120 miles and the knee might have been okay for the next day. I got a hotel room (there is no way my wife would stay at this hotel), but I’m frugal and just needed a place to sleep and it was clean. I took a shower and went and got some supper at the Pizza Ranch next door.
At this point I was having a hard time even getting out of my chair and realized I was probably not going to be able to continue tomorrow. I might have been able to go a little ways but at what price. After being injured for 2 1/2 months during the winter, I certainly did not want to take that chance. In the morning my knee was a little better but I was still limping quite a bit. With my wife and daughter coming through town later in the day, it made for a good back up plan. So I had them bring the truck for my bike and I waited around town for them to get there. All in all it was a good trip and a great learning experience. Of course I want to try it again and probably will later this summer. I need to make a few adjustments, raise my handlebars, drink a lot more water, and I really want to try to go during nicer weather. So that is the plan and I am looking forward to it.