Lucky 13

A 'Lucky 13' update: There’s no appeasing Aeolus in the wild west

Raleigh News & ObserverJuly 30, 2013 

Editor’s Note: This is one in an irregular series of updates from the ‘Lucky 13’ cyclists of Boy Scout Troop 845 who have been biking their way this summer from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay to the Pacific Coast of Oregon, led by assistant scoutmaster Biran Burnham.

So I have 2 gigs of data a month out here on my iPhone and near the end of every billing period I go over my allotment. I’m not listening to Pandora or participating in the all-the-rage Snapchat trend. I use a bit of data checking our maps for the day, but otherwise I am constantly refreshing the weather apps on the phone and scrutinizing the daily temps, radar, and most importantly, the hourly wind shifts. Wind out here rules supreme.

We left Minneapolis well rested and in high spirits.

As we approached the long straight shot west, our attention was constantly on tree tops and flags looking for some indication of how the day would fair. Luckily, our sacrifices of Mike and Ikes and Mountain Dew to Aeolus were well received, and our passage to Silver Lake was relaxing. Flashing back yet again, the 2010 ride to Clara City was one of the toughest with blasting winds in the face on a 65 mile exposed stretch of road due west. But this year we woke to a comfortable 10mph direct tail wind and rode giddily at 18 into Clara City for an early lunch followed by pool time, bball, spades, and some napping.

The following day we were greeted by a storm in the morning and then an every increasing head wind throughout the day. Our path took us dead west, trending uphill, into the wind all day. We cranked at an arduous 9 mph for every mile, with no coasting, gliding, or relief from the grind in any way. The sun bore down for the last 9 miles. At supper, many of the riders quietly scarfed their food down and barely set their tents up before collapsing for the evening with the sun still a few hours off the horizon.

With wind always on our mind, we got to the long remote stretches of South Dakota and had a 102 mile day coming up. We anxiously watched the wind reports as the day approached. The weather was calling for a breezy day, which in South Dakota translates to winds at around 25 with gusts up to 40 We battled through the day, 15 miles at a time, and eventually rolled into Gettysburg to catch the last few innings of a legion baseball game.

The next day was promising 70 miles, with no shade or shelter of any kind for the last 50, hills, 94 degree heat, and a 15 mile an hour wind in the face to boot. The following day promised cooler temps and an easterly wind so we opted to pull short at an RV park after 19 and wait out the heat and the wind in the shade of some trees reading and overlooking the Missouri River.

The morning started off as innocuous as any … and then we crossed the border in Wyoming.

The hills started immediately, the sun ramped it up quite a few degrees, and the wind bore down in our face as we labored up hills at 5 mph. We arrived in Sundance,hoping that this wasn’t an indicator of times to come in Wyoming.

From here we head a bit further off the grid than we have in the past. We scrutinized the maps for the week to come and found eight spots that we think have water and/or food.

Little Bighorn looms in front of us and promises at least 4000 vertical and is then followed by a 133 mile stretch of no towns into Yellowstone.

We are taking a day off in Sundance right now, tuning the bikes for the impending climbs, lots of riders are sending home large boxes of creature comforts to free up space for needed provisions, and doing whatever we can to appease Aeolus for this coming week.

– Brian Burnham


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