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Photos


Like I said when I mentioned how we got lost *leaving* Minneapolis – when you’re biking in a big city, get yourself a detailed map. Our map for the way in was Bjorn. And Bjorn is an example of why Twitter is not as useless as I thought it was going to be when I signed up.

Minneapolis was the first city we were coming across since Portland. There are buildings there over 10 stories tall! A bunch of ‘em! And there’s a metropolitan area of the Twin Cities that takes up a huge chunk of the state. According to our host, Katie Behrens (an ex-courier from Philadelphia), Minnesota is a traditionally democratic state in the middle of red country. They even voted for Mondale back in 1984, when no one voted for Mondale. I tweeted a plea for someone to ride us into this metropolis. Within an hour, Rick Reinhart called me up (always lookin’ out, Rick) and said he knew someone who could guide us in by motorcycle but not until 6pm. A bit too late for us. Within the next few hours, I got calls from some Minneapolis Bike Polo heads who hooked us up with Bjorn, who gave us directions and met us in the fancy suburb of Wayzata. Getting there was some of our first extended times on dedicated bike trails, and Minnesota & Wisconsin are full of ‘em. The rail system here was sprawling at one point, and with the advent of other methods of freight, a lot of these tracks were left abandoned. Many of them have been converted to a web of bike trails.

Our rest day in the city took root at Katie’s place. Bjorn from Portland (a completely different Bjorn) was in town for a wedding, so we all met up, barhopped, and ended up at a place called “Dusty’s Dagos”. It took me a minute to get comfortable saying that. Turns out a “Dago” is a delicious sandwich that we’d be remiss if we didn’t try. Unfortunately, Andy and I had *just * had burgers before we were told this. Fortunately, we can eat just about whatever we want, so we ordered Dagos. And you know what? They were amazing. Molten explosions of sausage patty with greasy sauteed veggies and greasy grease bomb. Good thing we work all this horrible food off within a day.

We got a few more examples of “Minnesota Nice” when we were there. The owner of Grumpy’s, our first bar hop, approached our table and pointed out the buffet he’d cooked up a few tables over. Our insatiable appetites must’ve been slightly satiated by the pot pie Katie had just cooked for us though, and we ignored the buffet until all that was left was banana chips and mango salsa. Still delicious. Then on Sunday morning as we were caffienating ourselves & trying to figure out how to get out of town, a stranger came up with some suggestions. After his advice, he said “would you be terribly offended if I gave you guys $20 for a decent breakfast?” We kinda stared blankly…not offended, but not entirely comfortable taking handouts like that. “Tell you what. I’ll just leave the $20 on the table, and if you want to do something else with it, feel free.” I asked the baristas who that guy was, and as far as they knew, he was just a regular.

It’s important to note that we went bowling again.

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Andy must’ve been thinking about his form since South Dakota, because he was throwing rocks out there. But not as many as the boy on the teenage date in the next lane. He started his game with 5 strikes in a row! He had a 143 in the 6th frame! And his date wasn’t too bad either. She may have been showing a bit too much skin through her torn black jeans than her mother would’ve approved of, but she probably left the house with a tank top on underneath. Katie could’ve sworn she saw the same boy a few days ago on his bmx, riding down the street with the same girl on the pegs in the back, drinking a huge Slurpee.

Before we left, we made sure to watch Revenge of the Nerds and have a pizza party. Words cannot describe this.

Oh, I also played polo. Minneapolis’s court was huge! I played on my touring bike until I started knocking things loose, then realized that was a horrible idea. Sven loaned me his bike (too big, freewheel) for a few matches. It was good to know I’ve still got the polo legs, since it’s only a few short days until the COG tournament in Milwaukee.

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shooting clay pigeons in pierre, SD

shooting clay pigeons in pierre, SD

shooting clay pigeons in pierre, SD

shooting clay pigeons in pierre, SD

largest ball of twine made by one man

largest ball of twine made by one man

looking up from the bottom of a windmill

looking up from the bottom of a windmill

Katie Behrens delicious blueberry coffee cake turned muffins

Katie Behrens delicious blueberry coffee cake turned muffins

thanks to dorothy hansen my game is improving...notice the turkey

thanks to dorothy hansen my game is improving...notice the turkey

Makin it quick…  yesterday we rode about 75 miles to Springfield, MN…  we were sick of the headwinds that keeps following us, so we decided to stop halfway to Spicer and camp for the night.  We went to the library to check the weather and then got some dinner at the Outlaw Bar and Grill where we met a wonderful woman, Brittany (also our waitress) and her fiance.  They helped us find a place to sleep, told us about the cheap campsite but also pointed us towards a local named Gary who let us sleep in his backyard.  He wasnt living in the house, but he owned the property and it was across from a gas station so we had a bathroom and a nice, FREE private place to camp.  This morning we got on the road bright and early (riding by 7:30) in hopes of staying out of the mid day headwinds and getting to SPICER, MN at a reasonable hour.  So, here we are, on another beautiful lake (Green lake) in Minnesota.  The state of 10,0000000000 (okay, just 10, 000) lakes. with my very good friend Arone’s mom, Sue.  Arone is a mechanic at Bike Works in NYC.  Sue is fantastic, she just put the lasagna in the oven, had THREE showers for us to monopolize and a washing machine that’s been running since we arrived.  She has put us up for the night and we all get our own room.  Sweet!  no snoring to listen to.  Thanks Arone for having such an awesome mom!  and thanks, Sue for putting us up for the night and being so generous!

So after a big dinner, Sue took us for a Dairy Queen, then drinks at the local bar, and then..to top it all off, we relaxed in her hot tub, looking out on the lake and up at the stars.  It was perfect.

We had planned to take two days to get to Minneapolis and then after doing more research, we realized its only about 95-100 miles from here.  This could easily be done in one day, but we decided to take the morning to relax in Spicer and head out around noon for two short, easy 50 mile days.  Sue rides as well and so she’s going to join us for a bit this afternoon.  The second time that someone has joined us now!  Awesome.

Thank you again, Sue and Arone for having such and awesome mom!

Ken and Sue out on her dock on Green Lake

Ken and Sue out on her dock on Green Lake

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I really want Ken to write about this, but I just wanted to write quickly from my perspective and put up some photos from today.

we left sioux falls yesterday..a beautiful day, feeling great after resting and headed into Iowa.  We were given directions to stay off one of the more major roads and so we took them, extending our trip 5 or 10 miles but making for a nicer ride.  it was beautiful.. so many pig farms, beautiful trees.  so nice.  well, my left knee has been bothering me for some reason and i felt great until about noon when it started to hurt.  i took 4 advil and it didnt help.  by 2pm, i was in so much pain.  no stopping tho, i mean not more than a few minutes here and there.  we had a long way to go, so i just used my right leg a lot and tried not to think about it.

well, it turned out not to be an 85 or 95 mile ride – no fault of anyones, it was just longer than expected.  but it was 109 miles INTO the wind, with my knee in so much pain.  my god, pretty or not, it was a looong day.  and we were headed for a lake.  a lake, in iowa… ummmm all we’ve seen are farms.  Ken, are you sure there’s a lake??  okay, i believed him, but could barely see straight by the time we got a mile from our destination and actually saw the trees surrounding the lake.  we arrive and the wonderful people that we stay with have an entire house for us to stay in!  holy crap.  and they’ve cooked us dinner and have a fully stocked fridge with beer.  i felt much better about the long day now.

they took us across the lake,  to the bars where we all stayed out till 2am, dancing and well, drinking more with the locals.   the next day we slept in the latest yet on this trip and had an awesome day on the lake.  i fell asleep on the dock. andy went out kayaking and later in the day, more of the family came and we ate enough food for 12 people.  thank you!!!

ken will write about who this amazing family is and how he knows them..

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a good life out here.

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this was the house that we had to ourselves

this was the house that we had to ourselves

ahem... distracting

ahem... distracting

Caroline, Sean's wife, joined us for the first 20 miles of our ride into Minnesota.

Caroline, Sean's wife, joined us for the first 20 miles of our ride into Minnesota.

We woke on the side of Ron Dyvig’s homemade Badlands observatory, half-expecting another day of troll-blown headwinds in South Dakota. Luckily, so far, those eastern winds were a one day anomaly for us. On our way to Quinn, we had regrettably passed WallDrug – arguably South Dakota’s largest unnatural attraction. Signs advertised their 5 cent coffee and “donuts for truckers/veterans/cross country cyclists” for miles, the same way South of the Border advertises their fireworks. Except that WallDrug has their signs thousands of miles away, and on asteroids, as Ron claims. Also, they don’t advertise free donuts for cross country cyclists, but we convinced them to toss us each a delicious maple donut at the $7.99 breakfast buffet. That’s right, buffet. As if there was any question we were going to visit WallDrug on our way back to the Badlands loop, the breakfast buffet made certain of that. I piled on so much food, my styrofoam plate almost snapped in half.

Stuffed and fueled up, we finished up the 6 mile backtrack to Wall, and headed south towards the Badlands, one of South Dakota’s top natural attractions. It’s weird and inhospitable there. The road twists around mounds and spires of rock and dirt that shimmer in spectacular color shifts, prairie dogs popping up and chirping by the dozen, like a oversized version of whack-a-mole without the stuffed animal prizes and acne-ridden, teenage barker hustling you into the game. Cycling through these dry desert canyons is a trip.

The Badlands.

The Badlands.

Then there was this guy…we have no idea what that’s all about.

Our destination for the day was Philip, South Dakota – a spot on the map chosen at random because it was about 80 miles or so of a ride. From the Badlands, there wasn’t much along the way, and when we got there, the only thing open was the bowling alley. It was a Sunday. We had no idea. But hey, bowling alley! And they serve burgers! Let’s go bowling!

Rock & Roll lanes was empty except for a few cowboys having dinner and a few rock-crushing contractors relaxing after a long day of … golfing. Fred & Paul were their names and I’m not kidding about them being rock-crushers. “We pound rocks into gravel” Like the kind of stuff you do in jail. Or…South Dakota. After watching us roll a game (Quinn: 78; Andy: 104; Ken: 132), we convinced them to roll another one with us. Fred had a natural bowler’s posture in spite of his claim not to have bowled for 15 years. He sidled up to the lane with a lean to the side like his leg was broken, his fist clutching the ball, tucked down by his waist as if these rock crushing arms were about to give you an uppercut that would break your jaw in half. He hurled the ball effortlessly and it arced fast, right across the face of the triangle of pins and into the gutter. The lady working the grill sighed, shook her head, came out and rattled off something about “if you’re going to try & roll like that, you need to stand over here and aim over there,” then put down a few post-it notes on the lane to direct his throw. With a few tweaks to the markings, he was rolling strikes like he was playing Wii bowling at home. The grill lady walked back behind the counter, satisfied, as her husband (who owns the place with her) grinned broadly. Final results – Paul: 46; Quinn: 48 (way to show ‘em, Quinn!!!); Andy: 95; Fred: 105; Ken: 173. Ok, yes, I was keeping score, and yes, I used to be in a bowling league as a kid, and yes, I used to read a lot of Dragon books, went to band camp, and listened to Weird Al a lot, so what? It was a genuine game (one of my best ever), and I had a Turkey in the 10th frame! (A turkey is three strikes in a row – awesome in bowling, bad in baseball unless you’re the pitcher).

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This had been one of our most enjoyable nights of the trip. With nothing to do in a town of 800 picked at random, we spent four hours laughing with these guys. We packed up & headed for the lot down the street where Paul said we could probably set up our tent behind his RV. Just as we’re about to mount our bikes, the grill lady comes out & encourages us not to go to the RV park, but to set up camp behind her bowling alley. “You’d be sleeping on rocks over there. At least there’s grass back here.” Just the night before, she had told us, they had been robbed for the second time in just a few months. This clearly didn’t daunt their good nature, and she made sure we were comfortable & had everything we needed. It was off the road, quieter, and there was far less a chance of us getting run over by something in the middle of the night.

Everything was set up and we were making ourselves comfortable. Quinn thought she heard a raccoon or a rattlesnake going after her beef jerky, but it was just the wind. Probably. After an hour or so, we were well on our way to snoring our way through the night when the lady comes out again and scares the living bejeezus out of us, trying to get our attention. I don’t think she tried to open our tent herself, but she was definitely trying to wake us up. Andy recalls getting woken up by me grogging “What the?!!? There’s someone there!!! Who the f*** is that?!?!?!?” All I remember, after the cognizance that it wasn’t a bear or drunk outside our tent was “excuse me…excuse me… miss?” Quinn unzipped her side of the tent. The lady was nervous and worried-sounding, probably a little regretful that she almost made us pee our pants. “I think…if you don’t want…if anything happens out here tonight…and you need…if the weather gets bad or something…you can…here are the keys…you can sleep inside the lanes if you want…this key is for the kitchen just go through those two doors – we don’t keep them locked…really, it could get cold out, I don’t know…just…i’m going to leave clean towels and dial soap…if you need to get inside, please, go ahead…there are towels, some soap if you want to wash up in the morning, I know how girls like to keep clean…and…and…that’s all…I just want to make sure you guys are ok…this key is for the kitchen – just go through those two doors, we don’t keep them locked.”

It was so adorable that Andy and I started giggling in our sleeping bags. “Ok, ok,” Quinn nodded, looking up at her, “Thank you so much!”.

“I just want to make sure you guys are ok. I worry.” Then she added, almost as an afterthought, “My name’s Dorothy Hansen, I’m from Philip, South Dakota.”

OK, this post was going to end here, because that was just amazing, but then we had to go sleep, wake up, make our way into the bowling alley that had just been robbed the night before, and watch things just get more amazing. Dorothy had left towels & soap out for us, but on top of the towels was a note: “If you didn’t see my note, go back into the kitchen.” Back in the kitchen was a lengthy, vertical note scrawled on the back of a scoresheet:

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We really couldn’t believe this. South Dakota, seriously…we had no idea you were going to be so awesome. Ever since we crossed into the state, people here have been amazing.

So, we left all the guys at Pactola – very sad to say goodbye …it was so nice to meet them all. to roll up after a loooooong day of lots of climbing (beautiful, but exhausting), it was so nice to drink some beer and meet a load of great new people with all sorts of good stories. no women are allowed on this “fishing” tradition weekend thing, but they all seemed happy to have me around and occasionally even said things like – hey, not with the lady around.

after leaving the lake, we rode through rapid city, a hilly but really nice ride. had some good buffalo in rapid and ken finally finished typing the story. and then we headed out to the town of Quinn. This was the most grooooooling, painful, frustrating 60ish miles. holy crap. the wind was pushing us backwards and sideways the entire time and we were on some f**cking service road that had constant steep up and down hills. every time i’d look over at the highway, id see nice flat road or really gradual climbs. agh. finally, we found a way to get to the highway and had a slightly easier ride from there. but not much really, the wind was no help at all.

we saw countless signs for the wall drug store, but at the rate we were going – we werent going to make it there before it closed, so we just planned to go there the next day before heading to the badlands. quinn, 4 miles away. sweet! this was the first sign. there were signs for other towns miles ago, but quinn is basically a ghost town, with lots of empty houses and a few people in the town. and one great bar/restaurant (thank goodness) called the TWO BIT. i stopped and took photos at every single “quinn” sign that i could find.

the reason we went to the town of Quinn is obvious, but the reason i actually know that there IS a town of Quinn is through my former position as photo researcher at Discover Magazine. We did a story on a wonderful guy named Ron Dyvig. Ron is an astronomer, and a good, well recognized one too. He has a home in rapid city, but spends most of his time at his homemade observatory built in the old, abandoned Quinn Hospital. Aparently, the town of quinn used to be much larger than the town of Philip, but after they put the highway in, Quinn was much less accessable and thus much less popular. Lame. This story on Ron was one of the first that I produced at Discover, it was a bit of a challenge finding the best, cheapest way to get my photographer and his assistant out there (to the middle of nowhere in South Dakota). Well, Ron was nice enough to answer my emails and let us camp out in his backyard for the night. He gave us a tour and great lesson on his telescope and what exactly he does. you should check out his website here: and the story that discover did here: He has discovered several asteroids and when discovering an asteroid, we learned, the discoverer gets to suggest names (usually approved) and Ron named one after South Dakota. I would have too – love this state!

We woke up in the morning to a fresh pot of coffee and a giant screen showing the nasa station where some astronauts were fixing something in space. (this is a first for us.) then off to the badlands. Thanks again Ron!

this was the first sign we saw.  Quinn, 4 miles.  Phillip, more miles after that.

this was the first sign we saw. Quinn, 4 miles. Phillip, more miles after that.

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the observatory

the observatory

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with Ron and his TOP SECRET sign above our heads.  awesome.

with Ron and his TOP SECRET sign above our heads. awesome.

there were two of these signs.  wish i ahem took one, but noooo.  there was a quinn post office too!  but i didnt want to stop us for a 500th time to take a photo of it.

there were two of these signs. wish i ahem took one, but noooo, better not to i guess. there was a quinn post office too! but i didnt want to stop us for a 500th time to take a photo of it.

several people told me that there were maybe 5 people living in Quinn, and that we'd be lucky to find any kind of gas station or store, but there was a bar!  Doesn't get any better.

several people told me that there were maybe 5 people living in Quinn, and that we'd be lucky to find any kind of gas station or store, but there was a bar! Doesn't get any better.

There’s a real good reason we went so far but didn’t make it anywhere today. Actually, there are several good reasons. The least of which being that our quintessential awesomeness put us so far ahead of schedule that we have to find ways to kill time before meeting Johnny Hunter in Wisconsin on June 1st. Our path through South Dakota is designed for maximum inefficiency, zigzagging up & down, and taking the scenic route wherever possible. It was always part of our plan to set up camp somewhere near Rapid City, stroll down to the Crazy Horse & Mount Rushmore National Monuments, then set up camp again somewhere near Rapid City before heading east. Our plan was just thrown for a loop when our warmshowers contact ended up sounding like a total bummer.

We headed down to Pactola Reservoir, seven or eight miles south of the Sugar Shack. We took the first sign that we saw, a downhill road that led lakeside, to a marina that does nothing but rent boats and posts “no camping”. Confused and slightly distraught by the fact that we might be stranded on some false advice, we inquired about camping from the lady in the trailer next to the office. “Oh, the camping’s on the other side of the lake. You’ve got to go back up the road, over the dam, and it’s a few miles down.” Back up the road is something you never want to hear, particularly at the end of the day.

Back up the road and a few miles down, we found the entrance to Pactola’s actual campsites. Again, it sloped downhill, twisting & turning around the shores of a deep turquoise lake, the setting sun reflecting the pine covered shores off it’s a golden shimmering surface. The road went on & on, sometimes climbing back up, until we finally found Circle A, where camping was free for some reason tonight. A few RVs were set up, and a few fires were already going. As we got closer, there were actually a *lot* of RVs set up – at least a dozen – and a little bit of music, too. Free camping is always a great thing, but it seemed odd that this many people were out so early in the season. The unofficial start of summer wasn’t until next weekend, and it was still a little chilly, to be honest.

We slowly and silently rolled up to an available campsite, inevitably catching the eyes of a few from this early group of campers. They drew themselves out to the road like the dwellers of a forgotten land rarely drawing the attention of the outside world, wondering why these odd travelers with no campers were coming up at this dusk hour. Our presence was known, but our silence and scale was mysterious. They ambled towards us in groups of one or two, around our age. They held beers in their hands as they asked what we were up to. They seemed happy. Before we could stop our bikes, they were dragging out coolers, offering us beers of our own. They were friendly.They were here by the dozen. And apparently, they’ve been here this weekend for 22 years.

The Pactola Lake Annual Fishing Tradition Weekend Unofficial Camping Something Thing had been going on for over two decades. Trailers full of beer, meat, and potatoes filled up Circle A, and lifelong friends brought their sons once their sons were of age. Every year you were there, you’d get a fish pin to put in your Pactola cap. After 10 years, you got a bigger, gold pin. After 20, you got a gold & diamond pin, and you had to get a tattoo. Only one person there, Kenny, had the tattoo. His son, Kenny, was going to have to get the tattoo in two years. These guys didn’t seem as dedicated to casting line as they did to throwing back beers and singing unsolicited acapella Karaoke by the fire in the middle of the night. That part made it hard to sleep, but the fact that either of our hands always had a beer in them, courtesy of them, made passing out quite a bit easier. We told them all about our trip and the generosity we’d already seen, including Dana buying us Sugar Shack burgers. “Wait a second… did the guy walk like this,” one asked as he plodded one leg forward, dragging the other, and swirling the rest of his torso to meet up with his legs. “Yes. Yes. That’s totally the guy!” I said. “Yeah. Mr. West.” He gestured to the rest of his group, “did any of you guys go to Central? He’s a Math teacher there.” “Oh yeah! Mr. West! He’s a great guy. A really great teacher.” These guys were incredible. I wanted to come back to the Black Hills sometime in the future from the minute we rode into them. Now I know the exact date I want to come back in a year from now.

We stayed up later than usual with them, seeing far more stars than any night before. Andy & I thought we were seeing the Milky Way or the Northern Lights, but it turned out just to be clouds. Still, it was great to sit by the lake & stare at the sky. There were too many guys for us to remember all of their names, but they did all sorts of things. Cop, FBI agent, Hiking Archaologist, Nuclear Physicist, Pharmacist, Printer, Gun Engraver, Buffalo Wrangler, Miltary Radar Specialist…. And that’s barely half of them. A good half dozen of the rest worked for the guy who engraves guns (rendering them useless, but heirlooms. Any hunting magazine will have an ad for his business). They all were excited to have a bunch of New Yorkers there – and New Yorkers who showed up on bikes and meant “bicycles”, not “motorcycles”.

As the night wore on, we developed our plan for the next day. The Pactola guys were so cool, we knew we were coming back to this exact spot after the day’s ride because we wanted to hang out more. There was breakfast to be cooked in the morning, and a huge dinner to be had at night. They also said they’d let us set up camp on one of their sites to avoid the next night’s fee. A round trip back to Pactola was perfect. It was beautiful, and we had a bunch of destinations in the Black Hills (Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore are there). To sweeten and seal the deal, they convinced us to drop all of our bags at our site so we could ride through the hills without the extra 60 pounds of luggage. The routes they’d advised us to take were a bunch of squiggly lines on our maps. Whenever there are squiggly lines, it means there’s a lot of climbing to do. Not doing it with our panniers full was going to make a world of difference. “If anyone messes with your stuff, we’ll… we’ll… we’ll shoot ‘em!” Perfect.

After a day of riding, we ran into them taking their group photo in front of a bar 5 miles from the campsite.

After a day of riding, we ran into them taking their group photo in front of a bar 5 miles from the campsite.

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I took a whole bunch of photos of the musty old mason lodge we stayed in a week ago. Instead of posting them all here, I’ve put them up on flickr, where it’s a bit easier to navigate through them.

I can't remember the last time I saw a full rainbow, but it was probably around the same time I roasted marshmallows & hot dogs over an open fire, like tonight.

I can't remember the last time I saw a full rainbow, but it was probably around the same time I roasted marshmallows & hot dogs over an open fire, like tonight.

And in the other direction...

And in the other direction...

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