Last week we tried to accomplish a mini-tour that could have gone a little more smoothly, but I suppose we learned some valuable lessons (you know, those lessons that life likes to smugly rub your nose in from time to time). Brenton, our friend Brock, and I left on Memorial Day to ride about 50 miles to a campsite on the Platte River. We didn't get going until about 3:00 and were a little bit wary of the absurd slap in the face with which the wind was relentlessly blasting us, but with the gusts coming from the south and our destination being northeast, we pushed on.
The first good stretch was pretty much flat and we were headed east on the shoulder of the highway. Every so often the persistent blowing from my right had me struggling to stay on the straight and narrow, but I was feeling strong and was keeping up a pretty quick yet effortless pace. The shoulder was sandy and littered with random items that made their way out of travelers' windows. I am always amazed when touring along a highway, how many gloves, shoes, and dead birds are laying on the side of the road. Really, a lot of gloves! More importantly, I make an effort to notice and avoid all the broken glass and sharp looking metal objects. As the day progressed we became slightly lost and decided that the best route required the tedious, yet scenic and tranquil use of gravel roads.
The dogs are trained, or in training, to jump out of their trailers and run along the right side of the road on command, and so they had a great time running in the ditch along the gravel road. The three of us were also grateful to have relief from the nagging sound of traffic whizzing passed us on the highway. After several miles on gravel, the hills began to roll under our wheels and the wind began to pick up to the point that we were nearly being knocked over. We were all struggling with the extra effort of riding on gravel in general, and were ready to be at the campsite and dive face first into a pot of steaming pasta. However, we were grimacingly aware that the last two miles into the campsite were back to the south, straight into the wind whose howling was quickly becoming less annoying and more foreboding with each stroke of the pedal.
We pulled into the campsite well after dark, and payed for a campsite after a brief and pleasant conversation with the park ranger on duty. As we were setting up camp and throwing a can of chili into the pan of pasta, (we neglected to bring pasta sauce and the closest thing that we found at the gas station was some Hormel's), Brock was on the phone with a friend who promptly briefed him on the circumstances surrounding the lightning that we could see in the distance. Grapefruit sized hail, 100 mile an hour winds, and tornadoes touching down; headed our way! After a thoughtful pause in which we each envisioned what a grapefruit sized piece of hail would do to our tents, and then to our heads, we tore our campsite down and headed for cover until Brock's friend could get there to pick us up. We pulled away from the campsite just as the torrential raining began.
We slept at home, safe in our beds that night with a new plan and destination for the next day. By the way, chili in lieu of pasta sauce is even worse than it sounds.