Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 19 - July 21 - Racing the thunderstorm to Lemmon, SD (I won)

Day 19 - July 21 - Bowman, ND to Lemmon, SD- 67.2miles (108.2 kms) - total so far 1423.3 miles  (2290.6 kms)

Distance: 67.2 miles (108.2 kms)
Total time: 5hrs50mins (including  lunch) 
Average Moving Speed: 13.6mph ( 21.9kph)
Maximum Speed: 27.8 mph (44.7 kph) 
Calories burned: 3032
Elevation gained: 1125 ft (342.9 meters)
Weather:  Foggy and cool in Bowman in the morning. The fog lifted about 9am and when I left about 9:30am, temperatures were about 60 degF (15C).  Hot and humid in Lemmon when  I arrived with the temperature at 95F (35C). Moderate wind from the south in the morning, a crosswind, but turning more to the southwest in the afternoon, thus helping me. 

Powered by:  Breakfast - 1  banana, 1 waffle, 1 bowl of Raisin Bran, yogurt and a lot of orange juice; Lunch at a diner of a fried egg sandwich, a baked potato, roasted wedge potatoes and a huge glass of chocolate milk; 4 liters of water and 2 liters of Gatorade.  

The wind had shifted overnight from easterly to southerly but remained moderate enough. When I woke at 7am, the fog was dense and visibility was only about 30 meters.  The forecast was not good for late afternoon with severe thunderstorms expected as a strong cold front moved east across the Dakotas.  This possibility strongly suggested that I needed to get to Lemmon, SD by about 3pm, a distance of about 66 miles.  But I had to wait till the fog lifted enough and that took a couple of hours.  While the howling of the wind was annoying, it did not hinder my progress.  The road was empty except for the church-going traffic and I wore my rain jacket for the first time on this trip for about 20 miles.   I made good progress on the rolling ridges and was in Hettinger, ND by just after noon at a speed of about 14.5mph (23kph).  The road east of Bowman showed more evidence of the oil boom in the form of trucks carrying half-houses, oil pipelines stacked for shipment, and billboards offering jobs at $18.33/hour.

Another half a modular home on the way to the oil boom towns

One of the many signs I've seen offering employment in the SW corner of North Dakota and the eastern corner of Montana

Pipes at a facility near Bowman, ND designed for the oil fields

Feeling quite hungry, I stopped at what appeared to be the only cafe open in Hettinger.  It was packed with church-goers after attending their services.  My appearance at the doorway caused a simultaneous turning of heads to see who had arrived. In my gaudy bicycle clothes and with sweat pouring off me, I felt a little like Woody Allen in "Annie Hall" at his girlfriend's family dinner table.  The contrast with the properly-dressed diners could hardly have been more dramatic.  I was most impressed by the server - who took orders, delivered food, cleaned tables, and worked the cash register for a busy and crowded restaurant.  I complimented her for her efficiency as I left.  Specials of the day were roast turkey and gravy, and chicken drummers (I think parts of chicken legs) - and the few children were enjoying their corn dogs.  It was a slice of Americana that I thought had disappeared - both the clientele and the cuisine, but that shows how sheltered a life I have had in college towns in the US, the only places I've lived here.  The options for vegetarians were quite limited but I devoured a fried egg sandwich (exactly as it sounds), a baked potato and some nice roasted potato wedges, with an enormous glass of chocolate milk.

Not only is the scenery becoming more Midwestern but so is the weather (more humid), crops (now more corn than wheat),  insects (lots of locusts on the road and trying to avoid squishing them is pointless), and asphalt (popping tar patches is now again familiar after my years biking on Central Illinois roads decades ago).  I heard a clap of thunder and looked around to see thunderhead clouds forming to the west-northwest, exactly as the forecast predicted.  Not knowing the speed of the storm, I did not mess around and headed quickly for Lemmon.  As I crossed into South Dakota, the road quality deteriorated noticeably and the nice clean wide shoulder (margin) that I had enjoyed for 75 miles in North Dakota evaporated.  Thankfully, the few drivers on the road gave me a wide berth and a surprising number, a thumbs-up or wave.  

Welcome to South Dakota

Thunderhead clouds forming behind me so the race is on

Gentle rolling ridges all day

Having arrived in Lemmon before the storm, I decided to roll around town on the bike  before checking in at the hotel and before the storm arrived.  It appears much poorer than similar small towns further west with lots of trailer homes and small houses in poor condition.  A bizarre features is the Petrified Wood park in the middle of town, a collection denoted by a local eccentric who put it together.  It looked like something out of a Grimm Brothers' tale to my perspective.  Like many other small towns that I have passed through, dining options are severely limited after lunchtime and the downtown was deserted.

Very bizarre castle, reminded me of something out of Grimm brothers fairy tale

Lots of strange wood pieces at this weird petrified wood park

Downtown Lemmon just before the storm hit; strange cloud formation

The storm came through town on schedule at about 4:45pm and while it was brief and not too torrential in town,  the wider area saw golf-sized and baseball-sized hail, and a tornado was also reported. If I had been caught out in it, hail that size would have given me quite a headache even with a bike helmet. I suspect it's not the last encounter I'll have with thunderstorms before this trip is over.

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