“After completing the Burleigh County Cup with no knee or bike issues, I was ready for the Royal 162. I headed down that Friday, took care of registration and found the city campground two miles out of town. I set up my tent and ate at the Dairy Queen in town. Two days prior, out of nowhere my knee was a bit sore. It was enough to make me cautious, because I knew the hills and distance would be a workout for it. I thought “I’ll just see what happens”. Hope for the best!!
It was windy on Friday and that night it felt like my tent was going to lift off the ground. I was thinking about the people in the Alexander 380 riding in this wind and they also had rain on top of it. The wind was not going to let up. I woke up at 4am and tried to get another hour of sleep, but decided to just get up and change quickly in my tent. I drove into town, found a parking spot close to the start area, and ate breakfast in the van. The temp was maybe around freezing. As the 7am start time drew closer, I did some last minute packing and was ready to go.
There were over 50 registered for the Royal, but it looked to be around 30 at the start line. We were led to the gravel and off we went. For the first 30 miles, my knee felt a little tight and after that I had no issues the rest of the ride.(Yay!!) We worked our way northeast and you could really feel the crosswind. There were only a few stretches where it was into the headwind at this point. The first option to stop was the town of Preston at mile 39. I had enough fuel to make it to the town of Harmony, which was at mile 63. That was the last C store option on the route. I ate and drank too much too fast and about three miles out, I thought I was going to puke. I cursed myself and knew in about 10 miles everything would settle down and it did. We had been heading south pretty much for most of this time and I knew things were about to change.
At some point we crossed into Iowa and started heading west. I could really feel the crosswind now. It was a beautiful area with some nice rolling hills. We rode through some Amish communities also. At this point, I was riding by myself. There were a couple nice guys in a pick up who would stop along the side of the road every 20 miles or so with water available. This was great because there wasn’t a check point until mile 120. I was prepared to ration my liquids if need be, but I did take advantage of the opportunity. The temp was maybe around 40, so sweating wasn’t an issue. Then it was north into the wind. I knew it was coming and maybe was hoping it would have let up a bit. Nope. It had to be 25 to 30 mph. It was Fargo fierce winds with hills!! I trudged on and appreciated the east west directions of just dealing with the crosswind.
At mile 103, the Royal rejoined the same route as the Almanzo 100. I noticed that I wasn’t the only one suffering in the wind. There were some people walking their bikes and others on the phone, maybe calling for a ride. I was looking forward to the Forestville State Park at mile 120 for a water stop and some shelter from the wind. I was still by myself and getting a bit tired. I made it to Forestville, grabbed a granola bar and some fluids. The temp was probably in the mid 40’s now and I removed my shoe covers and removed the sleeves of my jacket. The next stop was the Riding Gravel checkpoint.
I was excited to hear that Ben Welnak and Guitar Ted were going to be manning this checkpoint.(Thanks guys!!) I had met Ben the previous year at the Badlands 120 and was also looking forward to meeting Guitar Ted. I was thinking this stop was 20 miles away from Forestville, but it was about 10. I made it there and grabbed a beer. I introduced myself to Guitar Ted and I took a selfie with him. I grabbed some food and headed out.
Originally, I had a time in my head that I wanted to finish. That was long gone and I really didn’t have anything to get back to that night except a cold tent. I trudged on through the wind and hills. There was a couple big hills towards the end. I just walked them. I thought “my knee is feeling great and why risk hurting it now”. Plus I was tired.
I made it to the finish and the course came up about 5 miles shy of 162. I knew if I did 162 I could get a century and a metric century for credit in the Cup O Dirt Challenge. I was tired and not really wanting to do five more miles, but Ben from Riding Gravel gave me some good advice. He told me to ride to the A&W, get some food and ride back to my van. That should give me some miles. I rode to A&W and ate some much needed calories. I headed back to the van and was a couple miles short. I rode around town, a park, and rode back to the van. I was about a half mile short. I rode around some more, did three big loops in the parking lot and hit 162. I was done!! I went back to the campground, had a beer with one of my camping neighbors Joe Pahr, had one more beer in my tent and went to bed. The next morning, I got up and went to the local ambulance service for a breakfast benefit they were serving. It hit the spot and I headed home. It was a damn good weekend!!”