This week we crossed from South Dakota to Minnesota and we passed the halfway point of the trip in St. Lawrence, 2100 miles! We’ve had a total of 12 flat tires to date and we’ve done 10 rides that were close to a century (100 miles). We’ve gone from extremely hot temperatures to thunderstorms. As Spencer put it, we’re in our the third quarter of trip and it feels a little like the doldrums. Nothing a day off in Northfield, MN won’t cure.
This week’s op-ed from Sheila
I think instead I’ll just do a little stream of consciousness on seeing the country by bike vs car, being a woman on a tour of mostly men, and answer a few questions that have come up during the week. For the photos, I’ve just included shots of some of the riders.
There are just over 30 of us “going all the way”, ie: coast to coast, not counting the staff. I wonder if that phrase is still in use with today’s teens or if it’s no longer a relevant term?! We gain and lose different numbers each week. This past week there were about 8 non-coast-to-coasters. In the base group there are only 7 women, so about 25% and of those seven, four came without a male partner. The crew of 14 is nearly half women though.
The advantage of fewer women is no shortage of hot water in the shower room and no wait for the toilets while in camp. Very nice. The down side is that there aren’t any portable toilets on the route. After all, the men simply turn around, take the stance and pee. No one sees a thing or thinks twice about it. Of course, in populated areas there are a few gas stations and cafes, etc. And our daily cue sheet does indicate any indoor plumbing opportunities. But some days we go with only one and sometimes even none available. If you know me you know I’m not modest and I’m just fine squatting outdoors in what we fondly call “the green room”. But ever since I squatted on a ride in Clark County and had a trucker stop and yell angrily at me for baring my butt I’ve become a little more cautious. Not everyone shares my immodesty. And as we’ve been crossing through gun country I’ve felt like I need to find places to be more discreet. That isn’t always possible as you know if you’ve been reading along. We’ve had many days with no cover at all, therefore nothing to hide behind. And of course there’s the issue of the bugs. Bug bites are no fun, especially on the butt. And now we’re in deer tick country. So one must be careful. The other issue is that with the vast quantities of food we’re consuming, our food processor (bowels) needs to be evacuated more frequently. It’s one thing peeing in the grass and quite another doing number 2! OK, I’ve wandered back into TMI! Sorry.
There is an advantage of using the green room and of cycling vs driving across the country. We have a much closer relationship to our environment. For example if you were driving you’d probably not be down in the grass with thousands of little grass hoppers, or see a small garden snake slither near your feet. And you likely also wouldn’t have time to look up and notice the ribbon after ribbon of large birds in vee formations. Not sure what they were other than beautiful. One of the advantages of being the stoker (in the back) is that I can look around and take photos while Spencer’s eyes are mostly on the road. I see a lot of Mourning Doves, Goldfinch, Golden Eagles, Red Winged Blackbirds and Tree Swallows. Last week on that day we rode 10 miles of gravel a lot of the fences had wooden bird houses on the posts. So we saw a lot of birds including one that I’m pretty sure was a Blue Grosbeak. We’re also seeing Milkweed and Sumac both of which I remember growing up and don’t see are Seattle.
We’re simply cruising more slowly so we’re able to notice more, to smell the smells and hear the sounds, all of which you may tend to miss when in a car. We are thoroughly enjoying our adventure. Thank you again for your continuing participation in our adventure. One dear friend mentioned the tour is a metaphor for life and another a metaphor for marriage. Both so true. Be well.