This year I’m going to do it.
I have been participating in this incredible journey for the past five years. While I’ve had the privilege to ride a day or two here and there, I’ve mostly been around to support the efforts of my favorite South Dakota bike shop, Harlan’s Bike and Tour.
Along the way, I’ve met dozens of ordinary people with extraordinary will. These intrepid individuals will ride all day, shower, eat, camp, and repeat. I’ve watched them rise at the crack of dawn and head out into each day’s physical challenge undaunted. Bone chilling cold. Rain storms. 30 mph headwinds. Blazing heat. Brutal hills. Some of the above. All of the above. But I have never had the opportunity to join them on the road for a full week’s sojourn.
This year I’ve cleared my calendar and stocked up on chamois cream.
While many people have heard of Iowa’s RAGBRAI ride, not many outside of the Mount Rushmore State have heard of Tour de Kota. While RAGBRAI is the full-on Broadway production complete with colorful costumes and a cast of over-the-top characters, TDK is more community theater. Less Lollapalooza and more Ravinia. It’s supported cycle touring distilled down to only the essential ingredients; a challenging, but safe route with comfortable accommodations.
Much has been written about physically and mentally preparing one’s self for a week of back-to-back bicycling. Popular bicycling magazines will have you believe that the average cyclist requires a rigid ten-week training schedule just to complete a century ride (a single, 100-mile day). While the advice is well-intentioned, I’ve met people who have completed the entire week of TDK or RAGBRAI with no more than 10-miles of total riding logged prior to the event. I’ve witnessed firsthand many individuals who don’t even consider themselves to be cyclists complete challenges like this. And they’ve done it on bikes that I wouldn’t want to ride around the block on…
Back when I was a kid, my dad and two of my uncles liked to take fishing trips. These three fishing buddies would load up the station wagon with bait and beer and head north to Canada for a week at a lake lodge. They would rise with the sun, fish all day, drink and play cards all night, and drag their sunburned, unshaven, hung-over selves out of their cabin and do it all over again the next day. This was their idea of a vacation.
TDK is a vacation for me and 600 or so of my biking buddies.
With 1,200 miles on my legs this cycling season, I may or may not be ready to ride all seven back to back days next week. I may make it or I may choose to drive the van and pull the trailer with the fleet of Bianchi demo bikes. I may breeze into town with the wind at my back or inside the air-conditioned SAG wagon with my bike on the back.
But I’m not going to miss a minute of this adventure…
Keep riding and be safe!
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