As some of you may know, I recently embarked on a trek across (half of ) the USA with my trusty mountain bike, "Slick Chainey". Much thanks to fellow BIKE GOD Air Mapster for logging the journey. Although looking at that little Google map the whole thing seems rather pathetic. I'm telling you, each pixel represents a whole lotta pedaling!

For the first time on one of these extended trips, I had the discipline to maintain a daily journal. I am in the process of transcribing this in what will surely be an award-winning travel-log, or at least a tale of underpreparation and overpacking. However, I wanted to write something here-- a sampling of the forbidden fruit, if you will-- mainly because I'm worried that my blog might die of neglect.

I deliver a rant from South Dakota. This particular incident occurred near the end of the trip. The previous week, my buddy and I had scaled the Big Horn mountain range, an abominable monstrosity in the middle of Wyoming. They should pave it and put a Walmart there, like they do in California. But that's a different rant!

I'm going to lobby to get this sign on the Big Horn route

We were in the Black Hills, a beautiful canyon on the western side of the state (the eastern side is an extended plain so flat that you can see your dog run away from home for three days). On this day, we had pleasant weather and perfect scenery. But what had us in the best spirits was the knowledge that we were done with the climbing for the trip. Sure, there were some little bumps here and there (it ain't called the Black "Hills" for nothing), but nothing sizeable on the map and that was good news!

So it came to our surprise when, starting at the entrance of Spearfish Canyon, we found ourselves on an extended hill. It wasn't steep, like the #^%$#& 12% grade on the Big Horns, but it was enough to at least be a workout. At what appeared to be the top, we took a break for lunch. There I had a conversation with the waitress.

Me: What's the deal with this hill?
Waitress: What hill?
Me: Points
Waitress: Oh, that goes on for, um, two miles? Maybe? I don't bike.
Me: Thanks. Damn women don't know how to give directions...
Waitress: Get out of my restaurant.

Well, it went something like that.

Six miles later...

And we were still climbing! I found myself getting a a tad grumpy, which was a shame because like I said the conditions were otherwise splendid. Suddenly the hill leveled off-- could this be the top? There we saw a general store so I decided to talk to a REAL MAN to find out what was going on here. Lo and behold, I found one, a bandanna-wearin', Harley ridin', behometh of a MAN sitting on a bench next to his MANLY motorcycle and his MANLY girlfriend (er, that didn't come across right). This guy would know the gameplan.

Where all the REAL MEN hang out

Me: What's the deal with this hill?
REAL MAN: No worries, you're almost done.
Me: How much more?
REAL MAN: A mile and an eighth.
Me: Did you say "an eighth"? Hot damn, I've hit the gold mine of direction givers!
REAL MAN: Yeah, a mile and an eighth. Might be a mile and a quarter. Somewhere between a mile and an eighth and a mile and a quarter.
Me: Thanks!
REAL MAN: This last part is kind of steep. 8.5% grade. But it's only a mile and an eighth.

I didn't like that grade, but over just a mile (and an eighth), I could buckle down and grind it out. More than that, and it'd be trouble.

A mile and an eighth later...

I saw my friend up ahead of me, frantically pointing up in the air. I took this to mean "Summit! We're at the summit!" So I did a little celebration jig in my head, kind of like when I bluff someone out of a huge pot in nofoldem holdem (not that I would ever gamble). I rode up to where my friend was and... no summit. Apparantly he was pointing to say "Up! More up! Go up we must!" When you have been climbing for a while proper grammar is the first thing to go.

At a mile and a quarter...

By now I was pretty tired. Remember, I'd been busting my balls in a middle gear to try to plow up this thing. But the guy was awfully confident. So it must be that my odometer was off?

Another mile later...

WTF. No way was my odometer this off. I'd dropped to my lowest gear. Any lower and I'd be on footpower. I cursed stupid REAL MAN. I swore to knock him off his bike if he rode by here. I'd forgotton how huge and mean-looking he was. When you have been climbing for a while, proper judgement is the next thing to go.

#^$&#;@ miles later...

And I was on foot. This hill had beaten me down, what with it's 8.5% (feels more like 10%) grade over an endless climb. I was dripping with sweat, ready to collapse, when suddenly I saw my friend napping under a a tree up ahead. Beyond the tree was all downhill, glorious downhill. Finally. The climb came to an end at three miles. Actually, three miles and an eighth. God was laughing at me.

My friend didn't have an odometer. "That seemed like more than a mile to me", he said. "I mean a mile and an eighth." I told him the facts and he laughed. I went off on a rant about how at least the waitress didn't profess to be some sort of direction guru. "A mile and an eighth!" I yelled, "I mean, if he had said, a mile or two, that would be one thing, but a mile and an eighth? That implies accuracy!"

Expletives followed.

So let this be a lesson on significant figures for all you kids out there. If you're going to claim to know something to 1/8th precision, please be sure before spouting it out. Your misinformation could kill someone!
good story, haha. so what happened after though? You were done?
You know you use to many computers when you wrote WTF in a written journal ;)
I was just on a long vacation in Europe this past month and had a similar experience. Thanks to directions from the locals, my girlfriend and I ended up lugging our heavy hiking backpacks around Paris for about two hours looking for our hostel. Funnnnn.

BTW- I saw that your trip took you through Yellowstone. How was biking through it? I spent a few days there last summer driving around and I was blown away.
Yellowstone was definitely the highlight of the whole trip. Places like that make even hard-core agnostics like me think there might be some higher power at work here. It's a pretty tough ride on a bike (traffic + lots of climbing), but totally worth it.

In Yellowstone we ran into a group of 20 college kids biking from Texas to Alaska (4500 miles, now that's a workout!) They were pretty impressed we were doing this on mountain bikes (they had foofy road bikes and a truck for their gear). I was more impressed that they rode through Texas in the summer. Sounds like a death wish.
It's a pretty tough ride on a bike (traffic + lots of climbing), but totally worth it.

Somehow I get the feeling that a "pretty tough ride" for you would be suicide for me! I can't believe the distance that you covered, especially since you had all of your gear on you.

I've always wanted to give biking a try, and hopefully I'll whip my lazy butt in gear in the coming year or two and get in shape. Biking around Yellowstone would certainly be a fun goal to shoot for.

Sounds like you had a great trip!
It probably felt like a 1 1/8 mile on his MANLY motorcycle.
Trust me, I'm nothing special on a bike. About a month before the trip I did one of these "50 miles for charity" rides and it almost killed me. I got passed by a grandmother riding an old Schwinn! The key is just to go slow and have a good time. You'll get into shape naturally, and you don't have to worry about what you eat!

I met a 70-year old couple on the last trip, and they'd biked from Virginia to Seattle! Spending a week on a bike in Yellowstone would be a great vacation for just about anyone. Don't forget to take your wife :)
So like, did you guys go to a hotel, or even shower along this huge trip? Where did you guys hang out? Any "interesting" stories to tell us from where you guys went?

Run into any BYONDies?
I just thought this was totally relevant:

:-) Anyways, nice to hear that your back.
I know about you, Tom. I know...

Glad you're back <_<
I've been a real man for 18 months, and I am HIGHLY offended by this blog post.
Welcome back, sir Tom!

Quick question, you stop by in Sturgis before you hit Spearfish Canyon? Stop in any supermarkets? :P Trying to figure out if I saw you or not. Saw some actual bikers (besides the crappy motorcycle wannabees) and got to wondering :P
it is because of stories like Tom's (and a few of my own, here in Europe) that made me switch from this: Oldenburg_DE-to-Nottingham_UK%20August%202003/packedup.jpg (i'm the one second from the left in the dark shirt, and the bike is an Aprilia Mountain bike- that was my August 2003 trip from Germany to Nottingham England - 1,380 kilometers (~857 miles) and here is a rear view of the loaded bike when crossing the Germany/Netherlands border: Oldenburg_DE-to-Nottingham_UK%20August%202003/crossover1.jpg)

to this: 2006/4474ed54.jpg (me on the left on the recumbent trike an Anthrotech

the trike is the best investment i have ever made during my bike-touring career (only the last 6 years).

no more butt-ache or butt rash! yay!

sure, hill climbing is a bit slower, but immensely more comfortable. and flying downhill sitting formula-one-style is a wonderful experience, not to mention the fun of drifting 'Fast-n-Furious'-style down curvy mountain trails!

thanks for the story Tom. it's inspired me to write up my touring experiences too!
I remember Telling a tourist Who asked me about the mall, which he is next to, i told him he needs to drive 5 miles, then go right then left then right, then stop by come back here and look at the left...