Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Oregon HPV Association members supplemented the ride's own SAG capacity into Montana. When they left for home, they wrote that ROAM's own support vehicles would be overtaxed by any additional route, equipment or physical problems. The South Dakota Department of Transportation website showed Highway 12 closed down and detoured. We had rented a Penske truck to take ourselves and some friends to the Midwest Recumbent Rally and had kept it for some extra days to support ROAM in Minneapolis, so it was easy to throw in a tent, some First Aid equipment, and a folding bike and set off along Highway 12 toward Mobridge.
ROAM's routing along Highway 12 through Montana, North and South Dakota, and Minnesota has puzzled observers. It looks good on the map, but cyclists normally avoid it because of its narrow or non-existent shoulders, poor surface, and often heavy traffic. We had checked it in June and found areas that were in very bad condition, but fortunately the potholes had been patched since then. I posted the road conditions on Bentrideronline after pulling into a motel in Aberdeen on Tuesday night, August 9. (For cyclists considering a bike tour via Highway 12, here are the postings: Aberdeen to Minnesota state line, Ortonville to Benson, Benson to Willmar, then a gap where I never finished posting, and Delano to Lake Independence. ROAM's schedule allowed no time for the much nicer northern route, where cyclists can enjoy 104 miles on the paved Central Lakes and Lake Wobegon trails parallel to Interstate 94. More than 50 riders originally planned to ride ROAM; large numbers of riders are hard to accommodate away from major automotive routes.)
I met up with ROAM near the Missouri River on Wednesday, August 10 after scouting the available detours. Flooding has closed roads all over North Dakota (what luck that ROAM didn't choose a more northern route!), and water laps the edges of low-lying roads in South Dakota and Minnesota as well. One promising gravel road ended in a lake, but a somewhat longer detour turned out to be mostly asphalt, with only three or four miles of gravel. The official detour would have added too many miles and too much heavy traffic. Further toward Mobridge, I started seeing velomobiles, so many that I decided not to proceed to the campground. I turned around and passed several of the riders, then stopped for a pair who had pulled off the road, along with a support vehicle. It turned out that the riders had been hailed by a curious local driver and weren't in any trouble. In the pick-up truck that was accompanying them was Texas velomobile builder David Eggleston of VelomobileUSA , and rider Machiel Spruit's father, who came on the tour to support his son.
(to be continued)