Friday, October 17, 2008

DAY ONE - or "Pheasants? Seriously?!?"

Friday, 17 October 2008.

When I started out this morning, I did not expect to have much to write about at the end of the day. My intent was only to put as many miles under the bike as possible and maybe meet up with a geocacher in Iowa. Looking back, that brings to mind a quote about Interstate 80 being paved with good intentions, or something like that.

*note to self* - when this trip is over, hunt down the guy who writes the forecasts for and smack him. Hard.
I checked the forecast and saw that it was expected to get up around 60 degrees today. I was glad to see that because when I left home, it was in the high 30s. I was pretty cold but figured if I could tough it out a few hours until the sun came up I would be okay. The ride across Indiana and Illinois was rough. But the sun was starting to come up as I approached the Iowa state line. Unfortunately, approaching from the west at the same time was a wall of cloud cover. I spent the entire rest of the day under thick clouds. No sun was visible to warm anything up and the high for the day never got to 50 degrees. I wound up stopping ever hour to two hours just to get the feeling back in my toes.
As I was passing through Des Moines, well into my day by that point, I spotted a huge Harley dealership that looked like a big barn. In fact, that's what the place was called - Since I was stopping for gas anyway, I figured I would stop in there and have a look around. I wound up spending the best $40 I have shelled out in a long time. If you look closely in the following picture, you'll see that there are now "pleather" shin-guards attached to the engine guards. These things did a fabulous job of keeping a lot of the wind off my lower body. I HIGHLY recommend them for cold-weather riding.

After leaving Des Moines, the terrain of Iowa started to change. It had been flat like all of central Indiana and central Illinois up to that point. Soon, though, I began to encounter rolling, undulating hills. They were fairly small and compact, giving the countryside almost a roller coaster feel to it. It was beautiful to drive through. I attempted to get a good photo, but none of them do justice to the landscape. Part of the beauty of it was the way it just kept going. Every time you left a valley full of this rolling countryside, you topped a hill and found even more of the same.

Apparently, these rolling hills do a great job of funneling winds because I wound up driving through a huge wind farm. The most modern of these windmills had blades approaching 80 feet in length. I DID get a couple of good pictures of these.

Around this time I got in contact with a local geocacher I've known through discussion forums for a year or two now but never met. After a bit of schedule wrangling, we were able to meet in Sioux City. We spent nearly an hour talking as I was having dinner and it was a lot like we were continuing conversations that we had already been having. It's nice when you meet someone in person and find out they are just as nice as they seem to be online.

Just before taking that picture, a group from the local adult special-needs home came out of the restaurant. One of the guys stared at me and the bike as he walked by. Apparently even the special needs kids think I'm retarded for being out riding in this weather!

After leaving Sioux City, I rode to Sioux Falls. I made an interesting observation on the way there. Iowa just isn't very creative in naming things. On my way across the state, I passed through Iowa (the state), as well as Iowa City and Iowa county. I passed near Iowa Lake, which was near the Iowa Speedway. South Dakota has more interesting names for things. Sioux Falls is in the county of Minnehaha. It is incredibly difficult for me to say that name out loud without chuckling. All I can imagine is some pale-face explorer getting his scalp handed to him right after he busts out laughing when the serious-as-a-heart-attack chief proudly tells him the name of his tribe.

I stopped for gas in Sioux Falls. The cashier asked where I was headed, and I told her I was trying to get close to Sturgis. I asked her if there were any decent towns about an hour away in which I could get a cheap room for the night. She told me the name of a town, but said I needed to call ahead or I might not get a room. When I asked why not, she said "tommorow is opening day!"

"Opening day of what?" I asked.

"It's pheasant season," she explained to me, speaking slowly like I might be a bit retarded (to her credit, I WAS on a motorcycle and the temps had dropped back into the 30s at that point). She went on to tell me that South Dakota is the pheasant capitol of the world. Tomorrow morning approximately 17,000 hunters will fly into the local regional airport. This is besides the tens of thousands who drive in. They come from as far away as Australia and Germany every year. I have no idea why. Maybe they're genetically engineered pheasants or something. The local Cabella's store releases a specially-tagged pheasant every year with a one million dollar prize to anyone who shoots it and brings it back to the store. No one has brought one back in the three years they have done so. Makes me want to buy a shotgun, though.

Anyway, after a few frantic calls to local hotels and motels, I found a room nearby for a good price. It turned out to be the oldest run-down motel/RV park I've ever personally stayed in. But the room was clean. And after I helped the manager reset his wireless router, I even had wireless internet free in my room. I had covered 760 miles today and it was time to rest.

A couple of simple observations here. Although the cold-weather riding was tough, it didn't kill me. I realized that until your body actually fails you, you have no idea what you can endure. It's all a matter of talking yourself into achieving intermediate goals. If I had tried to do this ride with the end as my goal, I would have given up and gotten a room for the day. Instead, I told myself I could survive an hour and then stop. And I did. I hate to admit that it is a metaphor for the larger problems in my life right now. I can probably talk myself into surviving today. Then tomorrow I will try to tell myself I can get through "just today." And so on. Sometimes I hate when I have these "deep thoughts" but they really do help when you get down to it. Maybe they'll go away if I get some sleep. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun if I don't get blasted with bird shot.

Pheasants? Seriously?!?


Bob said...

Speaking of hunting season - Deer (Firearms) Season started in Georgia this morning. About sunrise, nearby hunters were shooting!

Jay, hope you have a warmer day on Saturday! Regardless, enjoy and we will be waiting for your next installment!

NevaP said...

Way to go Jay. Glad you found a room.

Many years ago the PikaDad and I, traveling through, tried to find a room in North Dakota on a weekend during pheasant season. We ended up in a private home that was temporarily making rooms available to the overflow from motels.

I think they all go to the Dakotas for pheasants just because that's where most of the pheasants are.

Stay warm.

Queen Ladybug said...

One hour at a time, followed by half a day at a time, a day at a time, it eventually gets easier. Keep riding my friend and see the wonderful things your journey brings.

Tee said...

I rode my bike 15 miles one day, in 1/3 mile increments. I'd go as far as "that" bridge before I'd turn around. Wait, I can make it to "that" silo. Eventually, I came to the end of the road...heck I came to the end of the valley. Then I turned around and had no choice but to keep going to be where I needed to be, back home.

Yes, it's a metaphor for life...the next moment will appear when this one has passed. Try not to worry about any of those moments except for the one you're in right now. But don't forget, too, to see the wonder of this moment. It's easy enough to focus on the nagging things, a bit harder, sometimes, to see the beauty. Sounds like you're doing just that, though...a clean room, free internet, finding unexpected treasure stops along the way...I'm looking forward to enjoying the ride vicariously. Stay safe, and when you need to, think of Minnehaha. :)

< /recruitment >

Kylee said...

Jay, it was like that while I was training for the half-marathon this summer. The days I was supposed to do my long runs (like 5 or 7 miles), when I started out, I thought, "I can't do this." And then I told myself I'd keep going until I'd done a mile and then I'd see how I felt. When I got that mile done, I'd tell myself "just one more," and then I'd see... By the time I'd done half the distance, then I figured I could do another of what I'd just done and before I knew it, I was in my last mile. It was truly the ONLY way I ever made it through those runs.

You can do it, and whether it becomes easier or harder, just take it a little bit at a time. When you are finished with this fabulous adventure and look back on it, you will do it with a sense of pride, accomplishment, and a big ol' smile on your face. :-)

Kylee said...

Oh, by the way...pheasant hunting is done here and people used to come from all over, until they killed too many. :-(

Now, it's rather unusual to see one, though they're still around. I've seen quite a few here in my lifetime, some of them in our front yard. Very cool.

Karleen said...

Jay, I love that you didn't think driving 80 across Iowa was boring. Although, I do think you maybe weren't paying attention to the rolling hills BEFORE Des Moines, too. ;-) Anyway, it's fun to hear other peoples' impressions of my beloved state when they actually admit that it's beautiful.

And yes, pheasants. Eric should have warned you about pheasant season. I'm surprised he didn't. He is (was?) afterall, the president (I think, or something) of his chapter of Pheasants Forever...preceded by my grandparents' pastor! hehe

Glad to hear you're doing well...on to read day two for me..