Two hundred miles. That’s the total of our first-ever—but not last—bicycle touring trip. We completed and a four-day, out-and-back trip that started in Edgemont, South Dakota, on the southwestern “edge” of the Black Hills and traveled through Pringle, Custer and Hill City to Lead and back.
The couple we traveled with are preparing for a cross-country tour beginning in September. They plan to ride from southern California to Florida, and considered this a shakedown cruise.
It was a shakedown cruise for Clay also, as he was taking his new Surly Trucker Deluxe on its first real ride. A couple months ago, he built the bike from the frame up. He chose this frame because “…it splits into front and rear halves, and is joined by brazed-in stainless steel threaded sleeves…” meaning it folds in half and fits into a traveling bag—the perfect bike for taking on Sundown with us.
And me? I was just shaking with pure joy. The only thing on my to-do list for four solid days was ride my bike, Thelma, for hours. Since I commute by bicycle almost every day of the year, the weight of my panniers wasn’t noticeable. As a matter of fact, the gear with which I traveled was lighter than some of the loads I haul around town. Laptops, LCD projectors and meeting materials are heavy; thankfully I needed none of those on our tour.
One night we stayed in Hill City at my Dad’s old place with his wife, Carol. (Dad died last fall.) We had a nice visit…even with the dog.
Still there were lessons learned, including:
1) Underestimate the number of miles you want to complete the first day to allow people to get accustomed to riding with the weight of full panniers, especially if they haven’t logged many miles in their saddle before the trip.
2) Do not make hotel reservations in specific towns, but rather stop when it seems right and find a room for the night. And if you don’t heed this advice and go ahead and make advance reservations but can’t make it quite as far as the reserved room, call and ask the hotel management for a lift. They just might accommodate your need for motorized transportation rather than losing a reservation. It may cost you a few extra bucks, but will save morale. Or you can take a tent and crash wherever you land. Clay and I will try this last option next time.
3) Pack way more food or plan to pay for more than you ever think you can eat, and do not worry about calories or carbs. The more the better! (Also, pie for breakfast multiple days in a row is perfectly acceptable. I’m sorry there are no photos of the pie; I gobbled it up too fast!)
5) Stop to smell the flowers and check out the amazing scenery along the way. A bike tour is not meant to be a race and you shouldn’t be on a tight schedule.
4) There are undercover or perhaps wannabe sailors in South Dakota (show all three photos). We have evidence.
Now it’s back to the boat for us where a bottom-paint removal adventure awaits us.