76.2 miles today – 972.6 total miles
We started today with a 400 foot climb out of the river valley and then climbed another 250 feet over the next 40 miles. We had a light of a tailwind which didn’t help much. We originally planned to stop at a park in Burke which is up on the prairie. Doing so would give us a 70 mile day into Chamberlain tomorrow. We decided to push on another 25 miles today back down to Francis Case Lake’s Snake Creek Recreation Area. Keith was really concerned about going the extra distance as he was already pretty tired by the time we reached Burke but neither one of us really wanted to stay in Burke. We decided to go for the extra 25 miles with the option of stealth camping if really necessary.
As we got started on the last leg of today’s ride, the light tailwind started to pick up. The only problem was that now we had changed direction of travel so the tailwind was now a strong crosswind or headwind. This made the riding more difficult, but we kept going. At the top of one hill, I pulled into a driveway for a break in some shade. We were about out of water, so I decided to ask for water at the farm house. We went down the driveway, but there was no longer a farmhouse, just some barns. But there was a spigot, so we helped ourselves to some cool water and headed on the way.
We finally reached a point where we where just 3 miles from where it looked like we would start descending into the valley, but the farmland seem to continue a slight rise in front of us as far as we could see. After a bit though, we crested a hill to a grand view of the valley and lake, now 700 feet below us. It was a steep descent and we were concerned with the speed getting away from us. As it turned out, we didn’t need to worry. The headwind had picked up and we didn’t need our brakes much but still had a fun downhill run.
Earlier in the day, Keith had looked at the map and commented that the lake was small and that they shouldn’t call it a lake. Scale can sometimes be deceiving though. At this point the lake is over 1 mile wide! The bridge, called the West Bridge, is long and strait. I think that this was the longest 1 mile ride I have ever taken. We battled across the bridge with a 20-25 mph headwind struggling to keep our speed around 9 mph. We were glad to pull into a very nice park (Snake Creek) just the other side of the bridge.
As we set up camp, we got a weather report of possible thunderstorms during the night, so we prepared our camp for the coming rain. After dark, we went down to a little gazebo just beyond our campsite where we could look over across the lake. Miles away to the South on the highlands across the lake a thunderstorm was raging. We heard nothing and there were stars covering the sky, but the lightning display was awesome.
Another neat thing happened during the middle of the day. I noticed a car stopped up ahead at the top of a small hill. As I approached, a lady, Nona Christensen, got out just to say Hi. We have never met her before but she saw us riding and wanted to meet us. Thanks, Nona, for brightening our day!
The last part of the ride, with the descent and grand views, and a great campsite made the day’s ride all worthwhile!