First Time Experiences on the Teddy Tour
by Ian McIntosh
My name is Ian McIntosh. 2010 marked the 25th Teddy Tour for the Freewheelers, also my first. Having checked the Freewheelers website in advance, I had a reasonable idea on what to expect. There was some weird reference that the Easter Bunny would visit all participants. Not sure what that meant. Weather would be an issue. And from the forecasts, it looked as though we would have reasonably good weather. I packed up the camping gear, two heavy sleeping bags (had a third ready to go, but considered that overkill), bike, and all the related necessaries, and hit the road at 6:15 AM on Friday morning. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, here I come!
For those who haven’t driven south from Weyburn to the border for some time, it was amazing to see all of the oil development along the way, many pump jacks at work, both sides of the border. Recent discoveries and newer technologies have very much added life to this industry and this area.
Made it to the border without incident, and crossing into the US was the usual question and answer. Such friendly folks! After the mandatory car search for contraband citrus and beef products, I was on my way.
The drive to Williston was interesting. The countryside was changing to rolling hills. Of interest along the way was the number of ring necked pheasants. They were quite plentiful, and very beautiful to see in flight. Apparently they are the state bird for South Dakota. Arriving at Williston, it was time to stock up on some groceries. Made what I thought would be a quick stop at an enormous WalMart superstore. Did manage to find most of what I was looking for, but that is not a store for quick searching for specifics. You need hours for that.
On to the north end of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Again, the drive was interesting, lots of truck traffic hauling every type of oil equipment imaginable. Driving down into the north side of the park is like going back in time many millions of years. Very rough rugged amazing terrain, looking like something out of Jurassic Park. The signs in the park made it easy to find the campsite from which our first ride was to start. A happy sight ahead, other cyclists, and they all look familiar! I was at the right place!!
You learn very quickly to watch where you are walking in this park. Bison droppings are not an item that you want to walk through, cycle through, or God forbid, slip and fall into! And they are everywhere. The bison roam freely in this park, and they have left their calling cards everywhere.
By about 2:00PM, we had all arrived, prepared our bikes, and were ready to set out cycling the north end. The roads were excellent for cycling. They had recently been resurfaced, and there was virtually no local vehicle traffic to deal with. The hills were challenging and the scenery spectacular.
We stopped along the way at a number of viewpoints, which were amazing. The Little Missouri River runs through the valley, and that combined with the very rugged terrain made for views that a person will ever forget. Not being too fond of heights, there are a number of views that I wish I could forget!
Lots of bison roaming the park close to the roadway, not a problem for the most part, but really, watch where you are cycling. The bison have left their droppings everywhere!
On conclusion of the ride, we all packed up and drove to the south end of the park to set up camp. You are soon out of the Jurassic scenery of the north end and driving across rolling hills to the south. The camp site is just a few miles immediately north of Medora, alongside a river bank.
As you approach Medora, the surroundings are again transformed into a very rough prehistoric landscape. Lots of bison along the road to the campsite. It was getting late, and made for a quick set up at the campsite. Choosing a campsite was not as easy as first thought. Lots of animal tracks and calling cards. Would be nice to have a site not on a bison pathway. Success! Tent set up, camp stove and lantern ready for the evening, it was time to make dinner. Brought along an old radio with me. Could only pick up two radio stations. One was a station out of Denver. A call in talk show. Listened for several hours to callers bad mouthing everything known to mankind, mostly their President. There are some truly scary people out there!! Then on to visit with the other riders beside a campfire. Fine company!
Stars! I have never seen the stars more clearly than that evening. Absolutely impressive!! It was worth the trip just to see that! I could easily pick out a number of the major constellations. My early morning start was catching up with me, so time to call it an evening. It was incredibly dark and getting quite cool.
I had two heavy sleeping bags along, and had made a very comfortable bed for the night. I very quickly found that it was going to get a lot cooler than I had anticipated. 2:00AM, and my feet are freezing!! Can I feel my toes anymore?? Can I move my toes anymore?? Time to put on a second pair of heavy socks. Damn! Now I have leg cramps. I am lying in the middle of nowhere, freezing to death, and have leg cramps. I can hardly move! I finally get back under the sleeping bags, fearful that if I do nod off, that I will never wake up. Remember that third heavy sleeping bag I left at home??? Mercifully, daylight arrived soon. I have never been that cold! I am so tired!! I am so happy to be alive!!!
I was soon up, leg cramps and all. My camp stove was covered with a heavy layer of frost. Everything was covered with a layer of heavy frost! I set up my stove and prepared to make coffee. My fingers were so cold that I had difficulty striking a match to light the stove. God was clearly watching over me! Robert arrived about that time with hot coffee!! Thank you God! Thank you Robert!! Was able to get my stove going and make a pot of coffee of my own. Ron stopped by to remind me that he was preparing breakfast for the group, to drop over about 8:00AM. Alright! Found my second radio station. A rock music station, and it was actually playing some decent tunes. A little early for it, but hell, time to relax and unwind, celebrate surviving the night, so I turned up the volume and shared with the rest of the campsite!!
Ron’s breakfast was something else. He really put a lot of work, a lot of effort into that meal. Lots of ham slices, French toast, maple syrup, a feast! Delicious! Also a good time to visit with everyone in advance of the days cycling.
By around 10:00AM, we were ready to set out on our adventure. The first few miles were easy going. Amazing scenery! There were a few bison along the roadside, not a problem though. Cycled through a number of prairie dog towns. A few were out, and chirping their warnings to others as we approached, then scampering to the top of their burrows for safety. These were really big prairie dogs! We soon approached our first hill, and a major lengthy climb it was. Found that I could get off my bike and jog up the hill pushing my bike, faster than I could peddle up. At this part of the ride, going downhill was a breeze! Lots of deer along the way. Stopped to see some deep gorges! Enough with the heights!! No, just the start!
The balance of the morning and the early afternoon was a challenge of many steep uphill climbs, followed by many equally steep downhill runs. Some absolutely amazing scenery! I stopped every now and then to appreciate the world around me! Never before has having good brakes been so important!! Nothing quite like the sensation of total terror as you fly down the hillsides! Miss a turn, and you will need a parachute! It’s a long way down!
Lunch time found us at Buck Hill. A herd of bison blocking our way, but Ron drove up in his car and they quickly moved on. As for Buck Hill, some hill! A very steep climb for about a mile. A very demanding cycle up. I am very impressed with the group, many did cycle all or the better part of the hill. I walked my bike down, brakes were clearly an issue, and in an effort to prevent the other type of breaks, walking seemed to be a very reasonable approach to me.
As the cycling continued, we faced a lengthy series of steep hills, tough climbs, and many steep descents. Add light rain into the mix. That was enough for me on the descents. Mediocre wet brakes, wet rims, slick roads, bison droppings everywhere, sharp turns, and steep cliffs if you miss the turn; total terror! I walked my bike up and down a few of those hills.
I was really having difficulty with the heights and steep drop offs, talk about having rubber legs! I was tired from not sleeping the night before, cold, sort of wet from the drizzle, and wondering if this tour would ever end. About then, a yellow flash on a bicycle went by me. It was Velda, shouting something to me in– Spanish??? Damn. I’m hallucinating!! Before I could reply in an equally unexpected foreign language, she had disappeared out of sight.
The last four or five miles of the tour were more relaxed, and fun. The hills were gentler, easier climbs and descents. Soon we were back on the valley floor, back into the prairie dog towns, and fast approaching our campsite. It was good to get back to the campsite, sit down and relax. I remembered the lessons from the day before. Hydration! Someone told me that to avoid leg cramps, maintaining proper hydration was very important!! After a number of cans of cold hydration, I really did feel a lot better. The rubber legs were gone.
Actually, wasn’t feeling too much of anything! I plan on focusing on hydration a lot more in future cycling tours! Wandered over to the group campsite. Ron was in the process of amazing us with his sushi creations. Ron, that was truly impressive! The sushi was delicious, excellent appetizers before dinner.
Dinner was held at a local hunting lodge just west of Medora, well off the road. They offered a varied menu featuring game, bison, and the like. A good time to reminisce about the day’s events with an incredibly good bunch of people! Also time to keep working on the hydration!
Back to the campsite. The enjoyment of a campfire! Again, the stars were absolutely stellar. All the day’s events and hydration were catching up with me, so it was time to call it an evening. Many thanks to Marion and Kathy who lent me a couple of blankets to add to the sleeping bags. I soon had a really warm bed prepared, and I also wore nearly every piece of clothing I had along on this trip. I was determined to survive!
I was getting really drowsy about the time that another couple showed up and started unpacking to set up their campsite right across from me. It was around midnight when this happened. By about 2:00AM, they had finished with all their noise in setting up camp, and total silence filled the campsite. I was now wide awake! Not even slightly tired! I lay there wide awake for some time.
Suddenly, I could hear someone walking down the camp roadway. Next they were in my campsite. My initial thoughts were that someone was trying to make off with my camp lantern and gear. I looked out the mesh of my tent and could make out a dark figure moving beside my picnic table. With one hand on the tent zipper, preparing to move outside very quickly, I challenged with a “What are you doing???”
A startled response came back “It’s the Easter Bunny.”
I still laugh thinking about that! Came very close to really mixing it up with the Easter Bunny! I don’t think that would have made me too popular. Anyway, I did find a nice package of Easter treats just outside my tent on Easter Sunday morning!
After a relaxing breakfast, it was time to start packing up to head back. Had a brief visit with the rest of the group, said good byes, and hit the road. The trip back was just as interesting as the trip down. There was a bit of a hiccup at the border. On this one occasion, the US customs was stopping everyone heading out of the US and quizzing them just as they do when you enter the country. I hope they weren’t doing that because the traffic going the other way was virtually non-existent and they were bored, looking for something to do. Who knows! When they finished, Canada Customs put me through the same routine, did a search of the car looking for any hydration you may be trying to smuggle back, and then sent you on your way.
Not that long after, I was back in Regina. Opened the door to my home and there staring me in the face, was my third sleeping bag, as if to chide me, “I told you so!!!”
I can hardly wait for next years ride!!!
by Velda Back
Back in 1992, when I first headed to Teddy, Ron very clearly stated there was “only one hill in the north unit, a couple more in the south unit.”
I quickly came to the realization that Ron is prone to understatement. It was couple years before I bought the topo maps. For the curious, here are some of the elevations. Hopefully they are correct, some of the little lines are very close together.
In the north unit, we start at the campground at 1958 ft. the first mile is inconsequentia; however, the next 2 put us up at 2400 ft. We then roll along the upper plains where it rolls quite nicely with a high point at 2460 and the oxbow lookout at 2409. You know it, rolling up and down all the way back.
The south unit is a little different. We begin at the cottonwood campground, 2283 ft, 4 miles later we are up at 2490 ft, roll down to the Wind Canyon parking lot. 2349 ft. not sure if that is the parking lot, or the ridge over the canyon. Yes it is a long way down to the bottom of the canyon (2240). Back on the pavement we roll down to 2280 and then start climbing again to the Boicourt Overlook. That is were all the snow was, and on a nice day it can be a great place to stop and eat cookies (forgot which trip that was). Either way, it was 4-5 miles to climb back up to 2700 ft. not too bad, lots of great scenery while cranking away in the teeny tiny gears.
We then had a nice roll (okay, I remember the hill and went ripping down it.) and then a screaching stop near the base of Buck Hill (lots of buffalo standing right at the base). The base of Buck Hill is 2600ft, it is 1 mile up, gaining another 200 ft, with a little hike of 40 ft which brings it to the highest point in the park, 2840 ft.
Back down Buck Hill, and onto the main loop dropping to 2360 ft then climbing up to the Badlands Overlook at 2640 ft, back down to 2460ft and back up to Scoria Point at 2560. Watch the decent, it is a really nice hairpin followed by another left. Nice trees, especially the one with the indent of Adam (2009). Beautiful run down the valley (saw the wild horses in this area, they possed nicely for photos, and lots of deer).
Back to camp at 2283 ft.
Not counting the total elevation climbed. I’ll let someone with gps do that, i just remeber the awesome scenery, knowing it was a great ride!
Teddy 2010 Summary
Number of participants: 14 – Arleene Arnold, Velda Back, Colette Forbes, Grant & Janet Gibson, Ron Keall, Lana Klein, Perry, Shelley & Meryn Kerney, Ian McIntosh, Marion Perry, Kathy & Robert Stedwill
Thursday Night in the North Unit – the warmest ever – 4 campers
Friday:WINDY, cool spring day
Route: North Unit, Theodore Roosevelt Park. Distance cycled: 32 km
Route: South Unit, Theodore Roosevelt Park. Weather: sunny in the morning, cloudy by Buck Hill, occassional very light freezing rain on the home stretch. Distance cycled: 43 km
Saturday, kites soared above Buck Hill. Robert’s yellow and blue kite was from very first Teddy.