July 10th, Day 22: Hot Springs, SD to Rapid City, SD: 75 miles, 6,680ft. ascent

This is a question I have been musing about over the past 3 weeks, prompted by the massive generosity of many people, both in terms of their donations and their words.

My ultimate conclusion is that it isn’t actually any harder, it’s just differently hard.

There’s an obvious initial logistical/management challenge of signing up one or more co-riders who will not just take responsibility on the bike, but also help with all the frustrating little things like buffet breakfasts, finding the hotel room, maintaining the bike, guiding to adult beverage emporia, etc. But after entrapping appropriate co-riders, which I seem to have managed miraculously well, things suddenly become pretty easy.

Having said that I do have to entrust my life to Alastair for 7 hours a day, but actually that’s totally passive and not nearly as hard as taking that responsibility, not to mention successfully discharging said responsibility, despite innumerable booby traps in the form of tar snakes, parallel grates, brutal potholes and decaying roadkill the size of a small pony.

But today’s ride through the Black Hills to Mount Rushmore and then on to Rapid City wonderfully illustrated the biggest challenge for me – the total lack of any visual stimulus.

Today’s ride was on roads that were too busy, with shoulders that were too shitty including ascents that were too hard and descents that were too steep to be enjoyable. The sun was too hot and the main attraction of the day felt like a theme park without any rides. So WTF was everyone in such good spirits when they arrived at the hotel?

The answer is of course obvious. They had successfully climbed to one of America’s visual icons and in the process had enjoyed some great scenery and more wildlife than we have seen on most of the tour.

Personally, I’m just glad that the US is so big and predominantly empty that we don’t have to go sight seeing every day.