Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Riding in the Sewer.

Most cyclists, especially mountain bikers, have places they dream about riding, yet it doesn't happen very often, or at least as often as we'd like. I've got two friends that lined up for the Colorado Trail Race this weekend (which is a whole different level of bat-shit crazy), taking them from Durango to Denver via the Colorado Trail (duh) and through some of the most picturesque places in the United States. Lucky bastards. And I meant lucky bastards in the respect of they are getting to go to Colorado to ride their bikes, NOT that they are doing the CTR.

And, while I DO get to go to places I dream about to ride (Fruita, Moab, Colorado, right here in the Black Hills, Curt Gowdy, etc.) I don't really want to go to the land of rolling prairie, corn fields and oppressively high humidity; Sioux Falls, and yet this is where I found myself this last weekend. Yep, that's right, I was in the cycling Mecca of Sewer Falls. Now, before you SF residents get all twisted up and start ranting and raving about there's this spot or that spot to ride, let me ask you, do you take a cycling "stay-cation" for the rad riding in SF? No? Didn't think so.

The reason for our journey east was two fold; we were going to visit my Lovely's father and wife, but more importantly we had to get the Boy, who had spent a week in N.E. SD with his Grammy.  So, being ever the optimist, I brought not just my road bike, but also mountain bikes for the Boy and I. The hope is to hit the one bastion sanity, the singletrack at Leader's Park. When life gives you lemons, squirt 'em in the eyes of your enemies, make lemonade, give a slice to a baby to make a funny face for a Youtube video or something like that.

On our first day we had to make a short journey north to my Lovely's old stomping grounds of Dell Rapids to meet my mother-in-law to pick up the Boy.  I thought I'd ride my road bike to meet all of them and catch a ride back in the car, which meant finding an interesting route that took me a bit further than the 25 or so miles it would normally be.

This is kind of a corny picture...
I rolled west of SF on 41st Street which after just a few rolling miles gives way to farm land.  Corn field, soy bean field, corn field, groomed yard with a couple silos, a barn and a farm house...corn field, soy bean field, corn field, groomed yard with a couple silos, a barn and farm house, this kept repeating basically my whole way.  As I mindlessly rolled through the farmland I couldn't help but think that this is America's backbone.  This is about as honest of a living that anyone can make, getting your hands dirty, working your ass off from sun up to sun down and feeding Sioux Falls, South Dakota, America and even the world.  Anyone that has had the whole corn/GMO/Ethanol discussion with me knows where I stand on that, but it doesn't change the work and effort that these farmers are putting into their land and crops.  I understand that we want a better life for our children and we (including many of these farmers) have paid for college for our/their kids with the thought that they don't want them to work like this (farming/ranching/getting your hands dirty/manual labor), but maybe doing this kind of work might just be what gets us back to our roots of what made this country great, to value work that every person does, to see that the farmer's work is just as important (if not more) as being a doctor or lawyer or being some famous douche bag on America's Got the Desperate Housewives of the Jersey Shore (that's a bad ass show by the way).  Being on a road bike in the heartland of America gives me WAY too much time to think...cue John Mellencamp's Small Town, fade to black...

Sooo, back to my ride, I rolled west for as far as I could on 41st Street (or whatever it is called once out of the city limits) until the road turned to gravel, then turned north to a pretty substantial headwind which I'd have to buck for 25 miles or so.  Just a bit of advice, if you're using a smart phone (iPhone in my case) with a Google Maps App, the bike route option will do its damnedest to keep you off of any highway it can, so in my case it kept trying to send me down any and every gravel road it could.  I wound my way through 50 miles of small towns and farm land and finally to Dell Rapids to find my wife and son waiting for me in a beautiful park along the Sioux River.

Our plan was to get up early Saturday to go ride the singletrack at Leaders Park.  As I lay in bed that morning, I heard a sound I couldn't quite comprehend.  You know how when you're in that state between sleep and awake when you hear a common sound and it doesn't register with you, you can't quite figure out what it is for a minute or two?  That was what was going on.  It sounded like really, really creaky floors, but as my brain came online, I realized it was raining out.  Shit.  It seems like it is perpetually damp at Leaders so any rain will make things unrideable, or at least not a good idea to screw the trails up by riding when wet.  This put our ride on hold for a day and took us to the Farmer's Market at Falls Park, which also lead us to do some scrambling on the rocks at the Falls, which is a must do for the Boy whenever we're in Sioux Falls.

The Boy saying, "Take me to your Leader(s)."
Repeat the Saturday plan on Sunday, which was a sunny day and the weather was not an issue.  The Boy and I rolled over to Leaders Park and hit the "Expert" loop.  A fun little loop of singletrack that winds up and down a ravine, through some tunnels of vegetation, over some man-made and natural features and across a couple bridges.  As we were in the open, exposed areas of the loop on the return, east side of the trail, the Boy was walking his bike down a steep hill, he was starting to get frustrated.  As I was talking to him about why he was getting frustrated, he said he wanted to ride it so I would be proud of him.  And even though I was being totally supportive the whole ride, I felt like a total dick.  After assuring him I was proud of him for just riding and it didn't matter if he rode a tough section or not, he was happy and we were riding again.  A couple miles later, we were done and we BOTH had a fun time.

Sioux Falls, while I won't choose to take a bike vacation with you, just know I'll be back again.  And know I'll be bringing my bikes and damn it, as much as I don't want to, I'll have a good time yet again.

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