Day 28 (10 miles)

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Aug 09, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Sunday, July 13, 2008

today was one of those days where nothing seemed to be going right. it started off with a 5 am alarm clock, which is never ever a good way to kick off the day. the annual turkey festival was going down in pelican falls, and vendors needed the space where we were camping to begin setting up their stalls at 6. when i stumbled out of my tent, i could already smell roast turkey wafting in on the wind. those of us late risers blearily packed up our stuff, and the first sign the day was going poorly was that one of my pairs of sunglasses had broken.

10 miles down the road, disaster struck... i had done some maintenance on my bike's shifting system the night before, but i didn't ride the bike after doing the adjustments because everything was shifting smoothly when i had the bike on the stand. however, putting the bike on the stand is more like laboratory conditions, and the bike can respond quite differently when on the road. for example... say you're pedaling up a hill. the chain might over shift and get stuck between the rear cogs and spokes, breaking one spoke and shearing a few others. just for example... and of course, there are other potential variables. you might find yourself having pulled apart your rear tire with cogs spread out on the shoulder of the road and your instruction book trying to fly away in the wind only to discover that a bike shop tech 2,000 miles ago had sold you the wrong length replacement spoke. and unfortunately, spokes are pretty important. if you're missing one, then the wheel will start bending, rubbing against the brakes, and in the worst case, become deformed to the extent that it's not usable anymore. and wheels (like all cycling components, but even more so) are super expensive, so you don't want to ride without a spoke. spokes are also extremely specific, so no one else in the group would have one i could use, and even though julie and i have the same bike, she had bought her spares from the same guy i did. so, into the van i would have to go.

when we were having really hot weather in montana, julie had made a speech to the group about how it's okay to get into the van if you were feeling too oppressed by the weather and how you could still say that you had ridden across the country. i (and others) had inwardly scoffed at that remark at the time, so it took quite a few moments to come to terms with the fact that i would be missing out on at least one day of riding. of course, getting in the van didn't prove to be so simple either. we have bike racks mounted on the top of the van, but for the most part, they haven't been used, so i ended up getting to troubleshoot them myself as, one by one, i found small problems with each. ultimately, i had to figure out how to do a quick repair on one of them before being able to strap my bike in. and of course, the wind hadn't died down, and it almost blew my bike down onto my head a couple of times.

so now i'm in the van, and i quickly realize that it's not so bad after all. it's amazing how quickly the van moves! the mile markers were flying by at an astounding rate... after catching up with them, brad, julie, and i had a pow wow in a gas station, and we decided that we could have velva drive me into st. cloud where we had located a bike shop via google, thanks to the only early-rising friend i know on the west coast. so, off we went! it was fun to get to hang out with velva for a while as we drove into the "big city" of 100,000 or so people. we had chosen st. cloud because it looked fairly close on the map, but it actually took quite a while to drive there. we had thought it would take about 45 minutes, but it actually took almost two hours. we arrived in town and found the bike shop with relative ease, and the guys there were really nice. they were able to replace the broken and breaking spokes within an hour, and they hardly charged me for it. they also gave me a really reduced rate on the spare spokes that i stocked up on, and i also bought the store out of tires. while they were doing the work, velva kindly treated me to lunch at a chinese buffet restaurant across the way, and then took me to mcdonald's where she bought me a cup of coffee at the senior rate. it was so kind of her! this is becoming a theme, but i really would have liked to see more of st. cloud. it had a really nice downtown center, and nearby there is a university and a couple of lakes. more than anything, though, i really like the name of the place.

after a long drive back, we finally arrived back in parker's prairie and met with julie and brad in town. we pulled my back off the top of the van so i could triumphantly ride back into camp. actually, i had to ride because another team member wanted to hop in the van, and all the baggage was still loaded, leaving only the passenger seat available. nonetheless, as soon as my bike was off the roof and the passenger seat occupied, rain started pouring down. fortunately, it let up after 10 minutes. the upside of rain is that when it cleared, i saw the most amazing rainbows...though of course, my camera was in the van, and i couldn't take a picture. i had never witnessed either of these phenomena before, but i saw two concentric rainbows and then one rainbow that was distorted in the middle such that there was a smaller rainbow bleeding into it. they were really amazing.

i wasn't looking forward to getting back into camp, because the arrival was much later than anticipated. when we created the game plan, we thought st. cloud was much closer, and we hadn't considered the various ways that time can be eaten up. the others (minus brad and julie who had camped out in a pizza parlor and had a fun time) were pretty upset about the van's unavailability. of course, while i was on the road, i had thought of better ways to handle the scenario, but of course by that time we were already committed to the game plan. unfortunately, the rest of the group decided to just stay at camp without food or luggage, even though they were getting updates about how long it would take to get back. it was pretty strange that they would choose to be cold and miserable and so upset when it was well within their power to go the 1.5 miles into town to find shelter and food. nonetheless, i offered to help everyone with their cleaning shifts for the rest of the week to try to help smooth things over.

throughout the evening, a handful of other things went wrong... the rearview mirror i had bought the day before in fargo got broken, the rain started any time i started thinking about biking back into town to hang out at the cafe, etc. nothing major, but it sure was a frustrating day. one cool surprise that the evening had in store was that dan we met in whitefish was camping at the same site. he only had a few more days before finishing his trip back to his home in minneapolis, so it was fun to bump into him again and hear about his adventure. we compared notes on how to get the attention of roadside cows, and he told us that he'd had far more luck by shouting, "hey cows!" than with mooing. who'd have thought?

in other news, we're half-way through the trip both in terms of mileage and time. we had a little celebration with a cake and everything.
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