Monday, June 29, 2009

Trouble in the heartland

Tuesday, June 16th

Okay, so who the hell thought this driving thing was a good idea? This road is endless. Just a vast stretch of bumpy pavement and construction as far as the eye can eye. Fine, so it is beautiful here, with the massive storm clouds on the horizon hovering over the endless plains dotted with cattle and haystacks, but in a stark and unforgiving way. I feel a kinship with Tom Joad and his own epic journey, because that’s what this is about after all, the journey, the striving for one’s dreams and….no, wait, what the hell am I talking about? That’s bullshit. It’s about the fucking race, dammit. And the Timbits. And not necessarily in that order. I don’t even know what day it is. Days on the road, I can’t even remember the last time I worked out – not sure I even remember how. It’s been weeks, hasn’t it? Oh, wait, I rode this morning. Never mind. It just feels like weeks.

I also understand the suffering the pioneers and pilgrims and other settlers went through on their way out here, because I’m feeling it too, the same despair they must have felt as they searched in vain for just one – ONE – station on the radio. Anything, anything at all! Instead, I push the scan button, and it keeps scrolling through, on and on....and on.....

And I now know everything there is to know about protecting yourself in case of a tornado, because there are some out there, very close, so that’s all they’re talking about on the radio:

In a house – go to basement, or shelter yourself with a heavy object like a table or door, or go to an inner room
In a car – don’t think you can outrun the storm. Get to shelter, or lie down in a ditch.
Trailer home – leave or die.

Feel free to thank me the next time you’re caught in a tornado.

* * * * * *

You know you’re in the middle of nowhere when the billboards say things like “Days Inn – 128 miles ahead!” 128 miles to the next sign of civilization? Apparently so.

* * * * * *
Suddenly, however, none of that matters, as I’m in the Badlands. I have no idea what Badlands are, technically, but they sound hardcore. And appropriate. Okay, even if they’re just really cool rock formations, they still make me feel like I’m one with The Boss. Good place to hunker down for the night.

In the morning, I have a difficult decision to make – I only have time for one attraction, so I have to make a choice: Mt. Rushmore or Wall Drug. Hmm. Okay, so that’s not really a tough decision after all. I’ll make it quick though – Spud awaits!

(2 hours later)

Well, so much for my quick stop at Wall Drug – that place is fascinating! I expected the extreme shlock, and there it didn’t disappoint, but instead of the monolithic sterile drugstore I envisioned, WD was pretty interesting, especially the picture and photo galleries with old black and white photos of Indians and settlers. Very cool. And EVEN BETTER – when this place says “Homemade Donuts” – they’re actually made right there in front of you. Wow, will wonders never cease? This helps me keep up with my strict tapering regimen, being able to feast on donuts. Well, with difficulty, naturally, seeing as how I normally embrace All Things Healthy. I think I’ve gotten cynical because of the disappointment of Midwestern attractions, that promise innumerable charms and kitsch galore, and always wind up offering far less. Not out here, no sirree. I wonder if that’s because they realize a simple truth, that they don’t want to be stuck with the angry mob that might ensue if they don’t deliver to people who’ve just spent hours upon hours driving through barren lands with nothing to do but look at hundreds of billboards promising really cool stuff?

* * * * * *
Wednesday, June 17th

Another day of driving, another day of near-insanity. Wyoming – flat and dusty. Montana – same. Though once I get closer to Idaho, still on 90 as I approach Missoula, the scenery changes and becomes, well, rather breathtaking. Mountains, hills covered with pine trees, a river running alongside the’s absolutely gorgeous. Almost makes driving out here worth it, though I still think this is one of the most asinine things I’ve ever done. Not sure if I’m talking about Ironman or the drive, but take your pick. I stop in Missoula for the night, find a hotel that’s actually along the river, and I have a little balcony with a view of said river. Ah, so peaceful and quiet, I’ll finally get a good night’s sleep before I head into Idaho tomorrow. Perfect.

(half an hour later)


What the hell? That was the loudest, longest train horn I’ve ever heard in my life. Okay, so apparently I’m now living out a scene from My Cousin Vinnie, where they wind up in a hotel that’s 15 feet from a train track, that VERY LOUDLY sounds its horn at frequent intervals. This, I have to laugh at. It figures. I better make sure I don’t stop at any convenience stores tomorrow, and then wind up in bizarre conversations with small-town police officers. “I shot the clerk!?” Because then IronSpud could be the least of my problems.

Thursday, June 18th

Finally, (!), Idaho! Of course, as soon as you enter the state of Idaho, it tries to kill you. Yep, there’s the “IDAHO” state sign, and immediately you find yourself on a steep, twisty road hurtling down a mountainside, blind curves and “runaway truck” strips galore. I’m so mentally exhausted by this that as I’m later driving past the town of Wallace, which purports to be some kind of historic town, I decide what the hell, I’ll stop there. So I do, and discover 2 things:

- Forgot about that next time change – packet pickup has barely begun. Oops. Or more likely, I didn’t notice the sign for the time change when I had the death grip on my steering wheel.

- Surprise surprise – this is a cool little old mining town. And lo and behold, they’re all set up for a fun fair/carnival they’re having this weekend. I pick up some pamphlets and a local paper, and read about both the Coeur D’Alene Bike Trail – 72 miles of paved trails through the area – AND about the merry band of Shriners from the local Elks Lodge who lead a parade “from tavern to tavern”, to kick off the carnival. Hmm again. IronSpud who??

I eventually make it to the town of CDA, pick up my packet, and suddenly realize this: why oh why the hell didn’t I do any training for this? I am so screwed.....


Missy said...

Endless days waiting for a race report and this is what you give me? I hate soap operas for this very reason!!

t-odd said...

Don't listen to Missy (I am sure she is a very nice person) This is precisely why I like soap operas - nothing really happens so I don't really miss anything if I don't pay attention. They certainly refer to this area as fly-over land for a reason.

QRgirl (erin) said...

One fact about Wallace that I find interesting is that prostitution was legal there until fairly recently.