Day 27 Pierre to Miller
This was a long day, but a short day. Long on struggle, short on distance. I knew my plans for riding to Huron (120 miles) were in trouble as soon as I started riding this morning. The wind was strong from the north and I was riding first north (a few miles), then northeast (a dozen miles) and then east (55 miles or so) and then south and east (the last 45 miles). The forecast was for winds, 10 - 20 mph, from the south east changing to south west. Reality was 20 - 30 mph winds from the north, which gradually came around to the north east, weakened and were replaced by winds from the south east which later strengthened and came from the south. I had horrible head winds for the first few hours of my ride, bearable cross winds for the next few hours and strong cross winds for the last few hours. If I had continued on to Huron, I would have been riding into (from the weather channel) 21 to 28 mph winds with gusts to 35. Believe it or not, that is a gentler wind than I rode into this morning. I did make some good discoveries and have some good riding today, but the wind, combined with an effective temperature of about 100 F, wore me out early.
Leaving Pierre, US 83/14 climbs north and then north east out of the river valley. Once out of the City it is a divided four lane with good shoulders for a few miles and then it becomes a two lane with rideable, but quite variable shoulders till it reaches Miller. Traffic was light, but there were a lot of folks pulling trailers, especially boat trailers. The owner of the Pierre bike shop warned me to be careful about them since they are often not aware when their trailers are fishtailing onto the shoulder. I recall that a member of the touring list was hit by just such a trailer a few years ago.
Sometimes the shoulder on US 14 (83 leaves heading north twelve miles from Pierre) is narrow and you are forced to bike where you might be hit by a trailer and some of the time it is wide enough to avoid that problem. There was always a good bailout area on or beyond the shoulder.
Riding on the relatively narrow shoulder into a stiff headwind (25 mph+) was dangerous because I was forced to ride head down (into the wind) and the wind was so strong that I could not hear vehicles as they approached from the rear. I tried to get my head up and scan (with my helmet mounted mirror) to the rear as often as possible, but many vehicles snuck up on me. I could only manage about 8 or 9 mph into the wind while earlier on this tour I was able to average 11 mph into a 15 to 20 mph headwind riding to Enid OK. About 10:15 I passed a small lake. The wind had lessened a bit by then and there were only a few whitecaps on the lake. I bet it was covered with them two hours earlier.
Riding became an exercise in endurance, something I'm pretty good at. I was tempted to turn around, but who knows if it would be better tomorrow, or hitch a ride, but I have too much pride for that. I figured I could make Miller late in the day even if the situation didn't improve. I would be totally exhausted, but I could do it. I knew the Habitat riders had stayed there (at a church) and I figured, worse case, I could find something similar. I wasn't a happy camper, but I was moving on down the road, albeit slowly. My spirits were lifted considerably when I was cheered and given thumbs up signs by folks in several passing cars. At least they though it was cool to be out there struggling into that ~@$!!@$! wind. Oh yeah, it was also hot, even in the morning, and muggy. That wind did not cool me very much - drops of sweat were falling from my chin even as I cranked into it. At least when I was cranking toward Enid OK, the wind was cooling and I was comfortable.
When I got to the first town, of which several folks in Pierre had said "there is nothing there!", I discovered that there were two service stations and what appeared to be a convenience store. It was Sunday morning and the Fourth of July, but one service station was open. I stopped to get a coke from a coke machine at the other station. This was promising since I found more services than expected in Blunt. Maybe things would be better on down the road.
I stopped several times in the four and a half hours it took me to get to Harrold, 35 miles from Pierre. At Harrold, there was only a service station and it was closed, but I stopped to make a meal from my supplies. I was carrying three big bagels (well, close to bagels and good stuff) from Pier 361, the place I ate last night in Pierre. A good place. I also had five little pudding cups and some trail mix. I finished the trailmix before I got to Harrolds. I was carrying five water bottles, three of which contained diluted powerade. By the time I reached Harrold I had emptied three water bottles (and one 20 oz pepsi bottle in Blunt).
As I was sitting on the stoop eating my bagel and a coke from his machine, the owner and a visiting relative came by to pick something up. He said he normally would have been open, but he had relatives visiting. He asked if there was anything I needed in his store and I said water, so he invited me in to fill two water bottles. We talked a bit, then some other customers showed up and I went back to my 'meal.' Shortly after he finally got away, the phone rang. I bet it was his wife wondering why he wasn't home!
By this time, about 1 PM, the wind had dropped quite a bit. I was actually able to cruise at a decent speed for a while, but doing so reminded me that my legs were now tired from my several hours of 'upwind riding.' Getting to Huron seemed in the realm of possibility, but 80 miles in eight hours on tired legs was pushing the limits of what I could do. The fellow at the service station had suggested that I stop in Highmore and go swimming in the public pool because of the heat. That made me wonder what other services Highmore had to offer. It was less than twenty miles to Highmore and I was able to get there in well less than two hours - a big improvement over my morning performance.
Highmore has several places to eat, a Tastee Freeze, and two motels! My sources in Pierre didn't know about any of this. If I had known, I might have gone on to Highmore instead of stopping in Pierre. However, even with this mornings ride into the wind, I'm glad I stopped in Pierre. The great thing today was that I could eat a regular meal. I ate at a bowling alley which had a good window for watching my bike. They had a, almost all eaten, smorgasbord (a word I haven't seen used in a while) with a salad bar for $5.45. The waitress said they had had a church related group of bicycle tourists in there the week before. That group left Seattle on May 28th, were in Highmore on June 28th, and were riding to Washington DC.
Ree Heights, a small town between Highmore and Miller
I left Highmore in good spirits, cranking on down the road pretty well. Then the wind started getting stronger. I couldn't crank as well and, since the wind was gusty, I had to work to keep the bike under control. It was also very hot. Without the wind I would have had an even harder time avoiding heat exhaustion. With it, I was more comfortable (but still hot!) and working harder. It is twenty two miles from Highmore to Miller. After about ten miles I realized that I had better stop in Miller. I actually stopped at a rest area a few miles before Miller (pottys, picnic tables) and rested under a tree for half an hour in order to be able to ride into Miller.
As I approached Miller I saw that it had not one, but two motels and a Dairy Queen. The dairy Queen sign said welcome cyclists! I had a large milkshake. That was good! Then I rode into town (south - not good) and back out to the motels (north - good). Miller is a rather nice little town, but it is mostly closed for the Fourth of July.
Flag in Miller pointing north
I'm staying at the Dew Drop Inn (!) and, other than some noisy motorcylists in the next room, it is quite nice. Tomorrow's forecast is for north west winds at ten to twenty miles per hour. If that works out, I'll have a good chance of making Brookings, 120 miles down the road.