Thursday, July 30, 2015

Know When to Walk Away. Know When to Run.

On Saturday we had to be out of our cabin in Custer State Park by 10. We figured we'd have time to ride our mountain bikes on the part of the Centennial Trail closest to us before that, but when John went to put the mountain bikes together, he noticed there was something wrong with my brakes. I couldn't ride it until we got to a bike shop, so I told John to drive us to the trail head. He could ride and I'd hang-out and read my book and I'd know what part of the trail he was riding, if he had a bad crash and didn't come back. As it turned out, my legs were quads were just screaming from the trail running the day before, so I was pretty happy to get some alone time, sitting and reading my book.

My new best friend...As long as there's food in the car.

Luckily, John didn't have any mishaps and we got back to the cabin, packed-up our crap and were on the road by 9:30. We decided to use the moving day to do a few touristy things. We drove toward Spearfish on the wildlife highway,  in hopes of seeing some buffalo.

We came across the donkey's right away. There were a ton of them walking around, and panhandling the tourists for food.

If you look behind those donkeys, you will see a a young,  male pronghorn behind them. He got separated from the lady pronghorns who were already on the other side of the road, and you could tell he was nervous about meeting them and was afraid to cross the road with all of the car and motorcycle traffic.

He finally looked both ways and crossed the road to get to the ladies and the story had a happy ending.

The end.

We drove the entire wildlife loop without spotting any buffalo. We ran into a guy who told us some rangers said there were plenty of buffalo on Iron Mountain Road. Luckily, we had to go that way to get to Mt Rushmore anyway. We saw the buffalo almost immediately. All over the place, babies, big old guys, it was awesome.

On the way to Mr Rushmore we had so many cool tunnels to drive through.

The thing about MT Rushmore, is that it looks in person, pretty much like it does in photos. Don't get me wrong, it is impressive, but after having seen it 10 years ago, there wasn't much more to see.

I did like the artist's studio, though and mostly, I was looking for the mountain goats we saw last time we were there. As you can see but the startling lack of goats in my photos, we weren't graced with their presence this time around. Sigh.

 We made it to our cottage in Spearfish in the late afternoon. We unpacked and then headed for Deadwood. We thought it would be more fun to be there on a Saturday night, then to wait until Sunday.

Immediately we were greeted by a big 3 Wheeler rally.

Because I'm a huge nerd, this was my favorite one.

  Almost everything in South Dakota exceeded my expectations, that is, except, Deadwood. I was hoping it would be more of a historical old Western town, but it seemed more like a giant casino. Every building we stepped into was jam packed full of slot machines. I know a lot of people love to gamble, it's just not my thing. I guess I imagined there would be some casinos there, but that most bars or restaurants would be machine free. I was wrong.

The one place I wanted to go to see where Wild Bill was shot, was closed too. Wah.

I did love the beautiful old buildings, but I'm glad that we went there on Saturday night and I'm REALLY glad we were going to be staying in Spearfish instead.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fantasy Could Never be so Giving.

Fair warning: There are a lot of photos in this post. I'll try to keep the word count down, so it's not ridiculously long, though.

We woke up a little later on Friday and planned to take a day off from the bikes. Like I said yesterday, I thought the Mickelson Trail would be the highlight of the trip. Not that it was disappointing, but so many other things were so much more amazing than I imagined, that Mickelson Trail had so much competition and I would say Friday was one of my favorite days of our vacation, but definitely my favorite in Custer State Park.

First we went to Cathedral Spires and wandered around there. It's an easy, but beautiful hike. You can actually crawl around on the cool rock formations.

From there we headed to Sylvan Lake to access the best trail systems. The drive there was jaw dropping in itself.

We originally planned to swim in Sylvan Lake, but it was too cold outside for that to be comfortable. Weird. Especially since it was over a 105 in Iowa with the heat index that same day.

 We had a wonderful hike/trail run. We would run for a while and then stop when we either saw something cool, were going up a hill that was too steep, or the terrain was too treacherous.

There was a threat of rain most of the day. By the time we got to the top of Harney Peak, it got windy and started raining. Luckily, we had eaten our lunch by the watering hole first, and then were able to take refuge in the look-out castle thing for a bit before heading to the next trail system.

We took the Little Devil's Tower trail after we checked out a tributary trail and I FINALLY found a place where I could get on the internet. Yeah. All that majestic beauty all around me and I'm squinting at  my phone. Lame-ass.

 The Little Devil's Tower Trail was a little more technical than Harney Peak.

 We were both so happy we brought decent hiking boots. We really needed comfortable and non-slip shoes.

I love it when your trail is basically a crevice in a rock.

We came out in a little different area than where we thought we should be, but we found the right trail and followed it back to Sylvan Lake. All-in-all, we were out hiking, running and playing on the trails for 5 or 6  hours. We saw rain and sun and some lightning and had a really lovely adventure.

Of course, by the time we got to our car, tried once more to swim, before we realized it was still way too cold, and changed clothes, we were starving.

We headed to the town of Custer and wandered around the street, before we found a great brew pub. We ate good food, drank good South Dakota craft beer and otherwise had a wonderful Friday night.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good Times Never Seemed so Good.

The second day of vacation, Thursday, was my 50th birthday. I woke up early, because I was so excited. John asked me if I wanted some tea and to open gifts.That was exactly what I wanted. He is the best at giving me perfect gifts. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that we have the same passions and it's fun for him to buy me the stuff I want. He already gave me my big gift - those new bike shoes, but he still got me a Red Shamrock jersey (I'm wearing it in the photos), a rain jacket for the bike, and wireless headphones to wear while I'm running. So wonderful. His mom bought me 3 new books and some bee lotion. I can't wait to get my hands on all of it.

Before my vacation, I was most excited about riding the Mickelson Trail. It is 109 miles of crushed gravel rails to trails in the Black Hills. At one point, I thought we'd try to ride the whole thing, but we kept finding other cool things to do. So, since we were only going to ride part of them, we searched for the best part of it. We heard that from Hill City to Mystic Road was the best part of the trail. So we headed to the trail head in the town of Custer and rode to the town of Rocheford and back.
We rode road bikes, and had to let a little pressure out of tires to help with speed and comfort. The trail is basically a gradual ascent on the way out and a gradual descent on the way back.

We rode past incredible scenery and even rode very close to the Crazy Horse monument. In the picture above you can see John getting photo bombed by Crazy Horse.

When we got to Hill City, we decided to stop and fuel-up. It was my birthday after all. We had a beer and an appetizer and then headed back to the trail.

 We got to the coolest part of the trail shortly after Hill City. So many cool tunnels to ride through and and bridges to ride our bikes over. It made me so very happy.

We made it to the halfway point and it turned out to be basically a saloon and a gas station. We had a late lunch there. They had no veggie or seafood options, so we both ordered reubens and hand-cut fries. They must of cooked and cut the corned beef in-house, because it was definitely the best reuben I've ever had.

Since there was a descent and we weren't taking so many photos, we went back so much faster than we went out. We did stop again in Hill City and had a beer on the rooftop deck at the Bumpin' Buffalo.

Once we got back to the cabin, I started a fire and made black beans and quesadillas with guacamole, salsa and lettuce. We ate and drank a night cap and sat by the fire talking, until it died-out. Perfect birthday achieved.

Monday, July 27, 2015

You Can't Conceive of the Pleasure in my Smile.

Well, we're finally back, kids. It was an amazingly fun ride the last week and a half.

We left after work on Tuesday night and drove to Sioux Falls. After stopping to eat in the Des Moines area, we didn't get to our hotel until around midnight.

We woke up on Wednesday, had breakfast at the hotel and headed for the Black Hills. Driving is always the worst part of vacation. John and I took turns and it split it up between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and it still took longer than I thought it would.

I suggested we go to Wall Drug for lunch. It's super cheesy, but since we were in the area, you might as well check it out, right?

After Wall Drug, we drove to The Badlands. I had heard there was  a decent road to check it out on our bikes. We were warned that it could be 100 degrees or more there and that cars could be a problem. Luckily, had nothing to worry about. It was about 80 degrees the whole day and the cars were very respectful. One Harley rider even flashed us the peace sign. So cool.

Since we've done this kind of thing before, we knew that we wouldn't worry about riding hard and fast. Running, hiking or riding through an area, is so much better than driving through it. You can see things better, feel the wind on your skin, smell the smells (both good and bad) and hear whatever there is to hear. When we do these kinds of rides or runs or hikes, we go slowly, and stop and take photos where we feel compelled. It makes for such a great experience.

At one point as we were riding, I heard these weird barking sounds. I looked over and saw a prairie dog village, with the dogs, popping up and down out of their holes. I showed John and he almost crashed his bike gawking at the cuteness.

Originally, since we got there so late, we weren't planning on doing the full 49 mile ride, but toward the end of the halfway point, I asked John if he wanted to finish it or go back. He told me there were only about 3 miles left. Of course, as it turned out, it was all climbing miles. About halfway through that, John said, "Yeah. I guess when I said we should ride the rest, we didn't think it would be all uphill, but I suppose that's what you get for going on vacation with me." I only partly facetiously replied, "I'm a lucky girl."

I would climb a lot of damn hills to ride in this kind of awesomeness.

On the way back, there was a large group of people congregated at one spot. We stopped to see what the buzz was, and realized there were big horn sheep on the hill in front of us. We felt so lucky to see them.

After we finished out ride, we went to Rapid City to stock up on groceries and then to our cabin in Custer State Park, just as it was getting dark. About 5 miles into the park, we saw what looked to be a tall, shaggy looking homeless guy lumbering down the road ahead of us. As we got closer, we realized it was a buffalo, hanging out ahead of us. Wow.

That was all the day before my birthday. We had so much to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Look! My cone flowers bloomed for the first time in a couple of years. It must be all of this rain. I love them and best of all, so do the bees and butterflies.

Tonight we leave for South Dakota. I can't tell you how excited I am. I got all of the camping stuff aired out and made sure there were batteries for the air mattress and we had all the tent poles we meed. We will be staying in a cabin in Custer State Park, a motel in Speafish and tent camping for a couple of days of RAGBRAI in Iowa. So many bike riding, so much wow.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to blog or not while I'm gone, but I will try if there is any way possible.

The cats know we're leaving, because of all the bags in the kitchen. Archie is consoling himself by lying all over our pile of athletic shoes we're taking and dreaming of free feeding with dry food.

Of course, he'll be happy as a clam with Stinky and her boyfriend staying over and watching him and Heidi. He probably won't even miss us...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Now, I'll be Bold as Well as Strong. And Use My Head Alongside my Heart

Me in a gigantic chair on the corner of Big Bopper Ave. and Ritchie Valens Dr.

We had a great weekend in Clear Lake. Iowa. We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel, across the street from the Surf Ballroom.  It was such a great place and we loved hanging out at that side of town.

We got the rock and roll room. It was so kitschy cool!

We got into town on Friday evening. John did some messing around with the bikes, making sure they were ready to race for the weekend. We also wandered around the motel grounds and that area of town and checked-out the restaurants in the neighborhood.

  After we went down to the registration area to pick-up our numbers and say hi to the officials that were heading over to eat, we went to a place called Sips for some good food.

We got back to the motel and decided to go for a swim. It was a bit chilly for me, so we went to the game room/screened-in porch area. John kicked my butt in foosball, so we went out and played corn hole, where I handily kicked his butt. We decided to call it a draw and played ping pong without keeping score. It was a perfect evening.

The next morning, I woke-up to a migraine and couldn't race my time trial. I took my meds and went back to bed, while John went to his race. When he came home, I was feeling a little better, just tired and weak. We went to lunch and then he took a nap and I sat out in the courtyard reading my book. It was so pleasant. There were a few older gentleman smoking cigars and talking about sports and politics out in the center and kids running around and a family on the patio making lunch and playing a board game. It seemed like the best part of Summer..Until it got even better.

John woke up from his nap and got ready for his next race. I walked downtown and checked out the crit course and sat right by the lake and read some more of my book, while John warmed-up.  I walked over to the start to get his extra water bottle and see if there was anything else he needed before the race and ran into some women racers there.

John had a good, strong race. He got 6th, which I think is great for not training or racing much road this year.

We watched the rest of the races and then had a couple of appetizers and a drink on the outdoor patio at the Anchor Inn, across the street before going to bed.

I didn't have a migraine on Sunday when I awoke. Yea! John and I both got to do the 5.78 mile road race. It was a hot one. I still race the beginner category, since there are only 2 categories for women. There were a few first time racers, and the bonus for me with that, is that I get to try to help and make the new racers feel welcome. Bike racing can be pretty daunting. I got the riders form a paceline and tried to explain to the new racer why she didn't want to ride next to the paceline, and would use less energy drafting off another racer.

There was an extreme heat warning, so I was trying hard to make sure I took turns drinking from my water and my Gatorade bottle. Also, riding 50'ish miles that hard, means that I was burning about 1,000 calories an hour and needed to make up for some of that if I didn't want to bonk. I was doing pretty good at all of that, while trying not to get dropped, when one of the girls attacked, right as we were turning. It happened so fast, I didn't catch the jump, she slowed down and we all started to catch-up when she jumped again even faster and I was having a hard time catching on again. A girl came from behind me and I tried to jump on her wheel to see if she would bring me up to the pack, but I couldn't keep that pace long enough. I fell off and ended up riding the last half of the race by myself. It was just fine with me. I love riding my bike, and I still tried to go as hard as I could. I ended up riding that 50.78 miles in 2 hours and 43 minutes with an average pace of 18.6 MPH. I think that's the fastest I've gone that distance...And I did a good job of fueling and hydrating in that crazy hot weather.

We had a lovely weekend and the frosting on my pre birthday cake is that John found me a pair of bike shoes that are finally wide enough for my troll feet. They felt great!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Barefoot on a Summer Night.

 Just a quick overview of our homefront this week. John put the rack I bought on my commuter bike. I'm getting closer to touring and bike camping. Yipee!

 John is trying to shame Archie, but like every hour out of every other day, Archie doesn't care.

 Last night I made one of my favorite Summer meals - a huge salad with mixed greens, feta cheese, red onions, pine nuts, kalamata olives and red raspberries, we also had good bread from the Co-op, smoked trout, baked brie, roasted garlic and avocado. Food makes me so happy...Probably a little TOO happy.

This is the latest lily in my garden. I can't wait until a few more years when my entire yard is full of gorgeous lilies.

I hope your weekend is full of good food, beautiful flowers, fun, new toys and fat orange cats...Wait. I wouldn't wish them on anyone.