7/13/12 Gordon to Valentine – 90 miles
We left Gordon under clear skies and a slight breeze which was of little/no significance. More rolling hills up and down through the never-ending brown grasslands and occasional cornfields. Most of the time the road was black asphalt with broad, smooth shoulders. Perfect biking roads. We cruised the first 30 miles to Merriman in good time, and caught up with Frank at a convenience store. Roger soon rolled in behind us. After getting a cold drink and filling our water bottles, we headed out for the 24 miles to Cody, which was the destination for the day.
Along the way to Cody, we began to run into some slight headwinds. Nothing like the debilitating headwinds we have seen in the past, but enough to notice and make you work harder. Also, it was quite warm, and I was drinking a lot of water. The roads continued to roll up and down, some inclines more challenging than others. But, all in all doable. Along the way, we caught up with the trashmaniacs, who were taking a break. I asked about their visit with the other Bangladesh folks in Chadron, and got the scoop. Also asked about the camping at the city park in Gordon. “M” sort of rolled his eyes and said he had about had enough of the city park camping. Apparently, they had to sneak around or find some place to smoke. As strange as it may sound, the Bangaldesh bikers are close to, if not actually, near chain smokers. It will be close to 100 degrees on the road and you will ride up to them taking a cigarette break. I can’t imagine. Anyway, “M” was not too excited about yet another night camping in a city park. He likes the KOA’s, with all their amenities. Kind of like I prefer a motel with a hot shower and comfortable bed. Given the bleak prospects in Cody, including the fact that with an early arrival there would be an entire afternoon to kill and not much there, the trashmaniacs were considering riding on.
We reached Cody at approx. 1:30 pm. Frank and Roger were at an auto parts store/gas station chatting with the owner and thoroughly enjoying themselves. I was totally out of water at that point and hot, so my priority was getting something to drink. No ice or fountain drinks, so I settled for Powerade to tie me over until I could find a real convenience store. Admittedly, socializing was about the last thing on my mind at that moment. I noticed that Randy also looked like I felt – hot, thirsty, and somewhat dreading the prospect of staying in Cody for the night. Next thing I knew, Randy looked at me said “let’s go” and purposefully strode towards the door. He had decided trudging on another 40 miles to a real town, i.e. Valentine, pop 3000, was preferable to the city park where Frank and Roger planned to camp. I told Randy I was all for that plan, but that I needed 15-20 minutes to re-group and get something to eat. My feet were killing me at that point and I was really hot and tired. But, one thing I have learned is that if I just take 15-20 minutes off the bike, it is amazing how quickly I can recover for another 20 mile stint. We located the one pub/restaurant next to the city park and had a grilled cheese and fries that were very good. The waitress was really nice and filled our water bottles with ice and water for the next leg. We agreed that we would just take it 1 mile at a time and would get to Valentine eventually that day.
As we were leaving the pub, the trashmaniacs arrived, looking hot & tired. However, they had seen the little city park as well and seemed inclined to head on out towards to Valentine as well. Randy pointed out that if worse came to worse, there were at least a couple of small towns along the way where they could probably pitch their tent.
The first 15 miles went better than I expected. Luckily, we had those nicely asphalted roads for much of this part of the ride. However, occasionally the non-asphalted roads would come into play. These are exhausting to ride because they have “breaks” in the pavement every 10 yards or so that jolt you every time you cross the break. There is no escaping these. We stopped every few miles to drink water and occasionally snack on a fig newton or something to keep the fuel going. Another thing I have definitely learned on this trip is to eat something – even a cracker, apple or fig newton – at least every 10 – 20 miles, whether I am hungry or not. It really does give a little energy boost.
15 miles out of Cody, we were already ready going through the water fast. We came upon a little town called Kilgore, with no obvious convenience store or facilities. But Randy was determined to go down 1 of the 2 roads and see if he could find water. I followed along. We went down this dirt road and found a bar that welcomed bikers – from the picture hawking beer they meant motorcycle bikers riding Harley’s. But, we didn’t let that discourage us. We entered this rather dark little bar, and found 2 couples sitting there drinking beer. Randy asked the waitress if we might get some water for our water bottles. She amiably agreed, and took the bottles. The people at the bar started asking us all the usual questions regarding the bike ride, and enthusiastically responded to our mini-stories of some of the adventures we had experienced. They were genuinely friendly and likeable people. As we were leaving, one lady got up and came over to shake our hands, and another gentleman came over and put one hand on each of our shoulders, and wished us a safe trip. I later told Randy that he obviously wanted to physically touch us and, though he didn’t say anything overt, it felt as if he were giving a blessing. Randy agreed. Again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. I never would have believed going into a run-down looking pub in the middle of nowhere would give me the kind of emotional lift I felt. People really are essentially kind and want to do things for others.
Back on the road for another 22 miles. We took our time and listened to music. I would say half of the time the road was of the bumpy variety, and half of the time it was the pretty asphalt. About 5 miles from Kilgore, we crossed over into The Central Time Zone – my time zone. For some reason I can’t explain, I had a rather emotional action to re-entering the CST zone for the first time since starting the trip. It was significant somehow.
Fortunately, when we needed it most, it was asphalt road the final miles into Valentine. Approx. 5 miles out of Valentine, this woman on a road bike overtook us and stopped to chat. She gave us some suggestions of places to stay and things to do in Valentine, and even offered a bed if we wanted. We thanked her and headed on in to town. We scoped out yet another of those reasonable locally owned motels, and checked in about 8 pm. The total mileage for the day: 90 miles. Hot bath and clean clothes. We had dinner at the motel, which was prepared by Tim, the owner. He and his wife made us feel like we were family, and visited with us. We had dinner on the porch where they grill the BBQ themselves, and had a lovely view of a grassy park-like area. Randy and I joked that it would have provided a lovely spot for Roger and Frank to have pitched their tents.
Life is good.