Monthly Archives: June 2015


Saved by Michael Jackson 8

I ‘ve had a heck of a time forgetting things places. I left my wallet in Virginia City, I left my favorite and irreplaceable hat in a field outside of Pierre, I left my phone in Aberdeen, I left my favorite sunglasses somewhere in New Prague, my oatmeal bowl in the sink at the Rochester People’s Co-op, and I left the new chain I bought at the counter at Honest Bikes. Fortunately I was able to walk back and reclaim the chain I purchased while Lizzy worked on last week’s blog update at the Rochester Public Library.

Traveling on a bicycle is strange–that’s not to say that I don’t like it. It is also strange to spend 24 hours a day with your friend when I am used to spending at least a quarter of my day in relative solitude (thankfully Lizzy is bearing with me in grace). And it is also strange to be in a city after spending the better part of two months in either wilderness, or towns no larger than 800 people. So while in Rochester I decided to take a walk. For someone like me who is a homebody and an outskirter, it is exhausting to be a constant spectacle so it was kind of nice to be anonymous for a while. I found a fabulous little food co-op that reminded me so much of home I had to run back to the library and get Liz. Literally, when I went through the front doors I was assaulted by the smell of curry, B.O., pine oil, and whole grains. In other words, it smelled like we were back in Oregon!

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In our haste and excitement Lizzy’s rear wheel slipped. I will skip the technical and boring explanation of the problem because it’s annoying to listen to, and even more annoying for me to remember–but long story short, the rear quick release snapped into a million pieces right in the middle of an intersection. Everyone was OK, even little Beefy.

At that point the bike shop was closed and we were completely out of commission with no place to stay. And I was hungry. We were going to lock the bikes up and get something to eat and contemplate our next course of action when we were approached by a very clean and professional looking man. He went out of his way to try to call a friend and find housing for us that night. It didn’t work out, but in my book his efforts have earned him trail angel status.

About that time, we remembered that the bike mechanic who had helped us out earlier that day had given us a business card with his personal phone number on it. We called him and explained the situation, he just so happened to have a replacement quick release and agreed to meet us at the co-op within a couple of hours. And so, what could have been a frustrating problem was quickly averted. We walked down to the co-op and abused their community appliances to create a bundle of hearty and delicious vegan hamburgers to eat while we waited for out mechanic in shining armor.

His name, as fate would have it, is Michael Jackson. A four-star mechanic, gunsmith and fellow cyclotourist; he was quite a character. Mr Jackson allowed us to set up camp behind the shop, and gave me a hatchet for both protection and the chopping if combustibles. He also took us for a night ride around the city, bought me two cokes (!), and entertained us with stories about life in the Midwest and his friends/fellow craftsmen and boomerang master craftsman/gunsmith/bike mechanic coworker. Around midnight our uncontrollable yawning called the night ramble to a close, and we meandered back to the tent.

The bike shop is right across the street from the Police station, and the place our tent was in was very well lit, and Michael Jackson left his car parked next to our tent and unlocked it so we could use it as a safe refuge if needed. Fortunately we didn’t. While we felt safe, sleep was fleeting.

At about three o’clock we were awakened by a friendly voice asking us about our travels and insisting we accept couch pillows. The voice came from a tenant who lived above the bike shop and who worked as a bar tender and was just getting off work. It was a nice gesture, but neither of us was quite awake, and the mix of the disorienting hum of city traffic, the glare of the streetlight, the confusion of such a bright and cheery voice at 3 am brought upon me a inability to sleep and a short bout of paranoia. After we refused offers to watch Netflix, he assured us that we would be safe and that he wouldn’t let anyone bother us (hmmmmm) and bid us “beautiful women” sweet dreams and safe travels.

My dreams were not sweet because they didn’t exist. I forced myself to stay in the tent until 4:45, and then I went for a walk. The sun was coming up and I found a nice little spot to journal and do my daily devotion, and watch a healthy flock of ducks prepare for the coming morning. I eventually packed up what I could and left Lizzy (who was snoozing deep) to get coffee at the co-op. What an improbable night. This is where I deeply want to make some Michael Jackson puns like: I’m glad the bike shop didn’t make us ‘beat it’, or, that night sure was a ‘thriller’.

So, with 4 cups of coffee and 2 hours of sleep in me, we rode out of Rochester toward the hills of the Driftless region. The running theory is that this part of the Midwest was never glaciated, and is thus very hilly. Whatever the case, there are hills here, and ‘Driftless’ sounds cool. We made 60 miles out to Canton. We, or at least I, really wanted to make it to Decorah, IA that night because I am a ridiculously goal oriented person, and I knew that momma had granola waiting for us at the Post Office there, but I was literally falling asleep on my bike–something that is not impossible. I was startled back to reality by the yells of some Amish children, and knew it was time to pull over for the night. We went to bed before the sun went down.


The next morning we made it out to Decorah, IA, and received our package, did laundry, showered at the pool, did an interview, loitered at a second People’s Co-op and did some sight seeing. I bought a new cassette for my bike and the mechanic told us that we should take a different route to Wisconsin than I had planned. Since everyone seems to want to tell us route information, I generally smile and ignore route advise, but this time I didn’t. The mechanic, Deek, was a genuinely decent fellow though I can tell he tries to hide it. He was extremely respectful of us and our mechanical abilities (and inabilities) and offered to let us stay at his house. We declined lodging, but accepted his geographical expertise and rode off into the hills.

I’ve been in Iowa before, but never in the northeast. It is fantastic. The route Deek showed us, though longer, was my favorite stretch of road ridden thus far. It started out with a legendary dumpster dive: 2 cantaloupes, 4 bags of lettuce, 2 bunches of bananas each, 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, 2 pears, 1 sack of onions, and best for last: 4 bags of cherries! There was more in the dumpster, but we couldn’t carry it. I was ecstatic about the cherries, we picked the mushy ones out and feasted on nature’s candy as we peddled the gentle slope out of town and into the Iowan jungle.

And jungle it is out here. There are long patches of sandstone formations, overgrown with lush flora, housing small, trickling waterfalls. Frogs were serenading the coming night in chorus by the thousands. Curious deer watched us timidly in the slowly rising mist. Some leaped away, albeit lazily; some decided we weren’t worth the effort. Bats flurried above us, darting about in search of invisible prey. Crickets harmonized the amphibious melody until the song of night reached out beyond our ears and called the finale: fireflies. As the moon rose, the stars brightened, and the twilight deepened, fireflies rose from blackening silluhettes of the hills until the entire landscape shimmered like the skin of a middle school girl after a visit to Claire’s Accessories at the mall. We rode in this manor, awed by the beauty, moved by the sheer inability to explain exactly what we were feeling or experiencing. Before we knew it, we were in a town and the shimmering form of a baseball dugout called us home.

I carried those cantaloupes about 100 miles. Just a side note.

The next morning we awoke ready to cross the Mississippi River and get a goofy picture in front of the Welcome to Wisconsin sign. Such are our goals these days. Life is good. The Wisconsin visitor’s center had free, ice cold, chocolate milk on tap. Needless to say, I abused that privilege. We also abused the free coffee refills at the Prarie du Chein McDonald’s, but in due time were on the road again.


Also, this is for you Tessa, we saw our first Piggily Wiggily. I’m sorry to say I wasn’t impressed.

We passed through some neat old towns. I’ve been taking note of township foundation dates, and we have officially crossed into some pre 1865 towns, which I think is pretty neat. One town, the name I can’t remember, as founded in 1863, which is interesting. I like to think about the fact that those people, whoever they were, founded a town in the midst of a terrible Civil War. Grandma took Heather and me out to Washington DC one year and we spent a good deal of time walking old town cemeteries and Civil War cemeteries. We had a game where we would try to find the oldest tombstone, I hope to be engaging in that activity fairly soon.


Platteville is a fairly large town, or at least there is a Walmart there, so we got another good wifi break. Google tried its darnedest to get Lizzy and me to take the Cheesemaker Trail through Wisconsin, but we found out that it is a bonified ATV trail. We rode through some older county roads and popped up at a gas station town/Cheesemaker Trailhead/campground and got ourselves some high class, free (!!) showers. There were hundreds of ATVs zipping around. I’ve never seen anything like it. We left our rest spot there, and made it as far as Monroe where I made the executive decision to take a zero day–and not a 10 mile day, but a real zero.

We found a great grocery store that had wonderful samples everywhere (again, we abused the privilege), and then rode to a McDonald’s so we could Skype home. At about 11 yesterday night, we rode out to the park and created a delicious meal and waited to the cops to show up. This seemed like too nice of a town to let two grimy kids with a rat bed down in a high class pavilion. Sure enough, we drew the attention of the law. Two officers–who were extremely respectful, considerate, and more than understandably concerned about our presence in the city park–kicked us out and directed us to a way, way better camp spot at the town fairgrounds (complete with showers, though we haven’t found them yet).

We slept in, attended church this morning and kind of celebrated an anniversary party, and then for the past however many hours have been lounging around town doing absolutely as little as possible. I maybe even watched the 1976 Robin Hood cartoon at the McDonald’s. And maybe maybe I got more free samples from that grocery store. We have justified our 12 hour presence by the fact that we have been out loitered at this McDonald’s by a World of Warcrafter, who was also here last night and out loitered us then. . .

Much love to you all, and Beef says hi.

–Haley


Just ride 6

Okay, let’s see, so, we got super soaked last Tuesday and some nice folks at the bar took us home for the night… wait, that doesn’t sounds right.

Anyways, we woke up in the morning, feeling great, having slept on full size air-mattresses rather than our dinky little camping mats. Our gracious host, Rita, got a hold of a lady she knew at the newspaper and soon enough, we were all gathered around the kitchen table, talkin’ tour like we do.

I’ve been more on the ball as far as arranging interviews as of late, so we’ve been a bit busier spreading the word about Watsi. It also helps that we’re passing though tons of small towns, and news of a two-wheeled excursion though the whole wide United State travels fast. Add a rat in there and you’ve got yourself a story.

So, we chatted, had our photos taken (though we’re still super awkward when it comes to this; I seem to look everywhere but at the camera and close my eyes 80% of the time), thanked our host, and climbed aboard the bikes. In contrast to the day before, the sun was shining, and we did NOT have a brazen head-wind to struggle through.

Soon enough, we found ourselves in Wahpeton, North Dakota, where we knew that just on the other side of the Red River would lie our 9th state, Minnesota! We spent a good deal of time loitering in the McDonald’s, with Stink putting the finishing touches on the last post, and me doing who knows what. Probably eating.

There was table-side service at that fine establishment, and the gal kept coming around asking if I wanted a refill of my coffee… Why, yes… I would love another refill ma’am. I think I guzzled my body weight in liquid caffeine while we took over a booth for hours.

Finally, we actually left the zone of free wifi and coffee refills, and set out to find a North Dakota postcard before heading over the river. Stopping at two different gas stations, we found that they had none in stock (turns out Wahpeton, ND isn’t much of a tourist destination). We rode on a few more blocks, went over a small bridge, and much to our surprise/horror, we had accidentally crossed into Minnesota! A quick U-ie and we were back over the non-descript bridge and into North Dakota again. There hadn’t even been a “Welcome to Minnesota!” sign for us to pose awkwardly in front of! There nerve of them!

We back tracked through Wahpeton to one last convenience store to check for postcards (Stink is under strict requirements to send a postcard from each state and no man, woman, or unmarked state border is going to stop her from completing this task). Lo and behold, the cashier lady at the gas station was able to find, underneath a basket of tacky key chains, a small stack of North Dakota post cards. A quick purchase later, and we were out the door, when we spotted an Econo Foods grocery store just across the road. Now, that’s two words I like to see together, so I of course zipped over there to check out the dumpster situation, and to browse the aisles of delicious foods.

The dumpster was compactor style, so defeated, I walked into the actual entrance of the store, where what sight might have greeted mine eyes? JJ’s Bakery boxed pies; all flavors present, and at the low, low price of 3 for $2! So, I grabbed some pies and began my browsing. We picked up a bag of cold, plain bagels for 99 cents and Stink found a bag of chocolate chips for 50 cents. We asked the gal at the cash register if the other bridge in town that crossed into Minnesota had a welcome sign or if we were out of luck. She couldn’t remember if it had the sign or not, but was able to tell us there’d be a gigantic catfish statue… Needless to say, we we’re intrigued and headed that way.

One quickly scarfed pie later, and we were heading across town towards the other bridge. Right before we got there, we spotted the giant catfish sculpture. It was… a giant catfish sculpture. I think Stink took a picture in the falling dusk.

Across the bridge and much to our pleasure was a Minnesota sign. We wheeled around the barrier and Stink stood in the grass below while I went & set up the camera. As expected, a cloud of mosquitoes started swarming around us, determined to make this process as miserable as possible. We swatted away while the picture snapped, then quickly hopped back on the bikes to high-tail it outta there.

We stopped a mile or so into Breckenridge, Minnesota and set up camp in a church parking lot. I let Beef run rampant in the area while we cooked dinner and called home. At one point, he started heading towards our little camp stove so I ran his way to try to snatch him up before he singed his little whiskers, and, probably because of the crazy giant stomping right towards him, he headed straight to the wind shield sitting around the flame and, of course, singed his little whiskers.

My poor little boy. He got much treats and cuddles for his actions, and will probably attempt to do it again in the future. After dinner, we hopped into the tent (the presence of approximately 10 million mosquitoes in Minnesota requires that we set the tent up each night), and zonked out.

We woke in the morning and rushed to pack up and find a gas station to go pee at. Once there and bladders safely deflated, I got ahold of the Wahpeton/Breckenridge newspaper, and they sent a fella from the sports department our way. We sat at a little both inside the convenience store and stuffed our faces with breakfast while he conducted the interview. By now, we know what sorts of things people want to know, and can rattle off the stats in our sleep. Two gals, one rat, 48 states, 10,000 miles, and seven jars of peanut butter. You get the idea.

We ended up talking with a few different people while we were outside the store packing up as well. Something about a couple of kids cramming water bottles and jackets and who knows what else into the already bulging bags on their bikes strikes up people’s curiosity. We talked with some folks who make custom engraved rings and necklaces and later got an email from them asking if we’d like something to commemorate the trip. We thought about it, then decided, sure, why not? Stink was pretty set on getting “home to home” on a necklace, when I suggested “there and back again” to better appeal to her Tolkien roots. It was a winner. After spending much cycling time trying to think of something stupid involving farts or something for my quote, I gave up and decided to get “just.ride” stamped on mine. Anyways, you can check out there site here: www.namerings.com

After finally leaving the gas station, we rode on to Fergus Falls, MN. Now, I have to admit here that I have no idea what we did in Fergus Falls…. I am a bad person and did not journal at all last week, because I am dumb/lazy. Anything could have happened. We could have accidentally rode out into the middle of a parade. We could have gone to get haircuts only for them to end up comically horrible. We could have adopted a stray puppy from the roadside and named him Porkchop. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and neglect your journaling duties for a week.

Actually, looking at a map now, I don’t even think we went to Fergus Falls… That’s relieving, because I seriously didn’t remember anything about it. What we actually did was cruise out to Elbow Lake and eat lunch in the convenience store parking lot. While preparing our bbpb&jb’s (banana bagels with peanut butter and jelly and sliced bananas on top), we found that we were nearly out of the most crucial of ingredients; peanut butter! I despondently sat on the curb and used the official PBTS (peanut butter transfer spoon, for transferring the last of the peanut butter into the next jar. Works best when you actually have a next jar already on hand to transfer in to… The PBTS is a small, plastic, white soup-spoon that I filched from some deli condiment station states ago. Stink tried to convert us to a Dairy Queen spoon, but it wasn’t tough enough to handle the job and promptly snapped in half upon first attempt) to scrape the remnants onto my waiting bagel. A man who had stopped to chat must have thought me pitiful as I scrapped and scrapped and scrapped. He ended up insisting I take some monies so that we could go get drinks in Hoffman, our destination for the evening. Thanks man!

After lunch, we headed to the newspaper office just down the road and did a quick interview with the editor of the Grant County Herald, Kris. He even took us out back and showed us his ol’ bike that he scoots around town on assignments with. What a life! After that, we went to the grocery store and got more peanut butter. We couldn’t stand to be without it any longer. We also stopped in a thrift store because we like to torture ourselves by finding great deals on cool things and not having any room on our bikes to bring them along. Buuuut, we did end up getting a couple books because we couldn’t say no, and Stink had already read the free one we picked up in Portland (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and wasn’t into the book I’d brought along from home (The Winds Twelve Quarters by Ursula Le Guin). She ended up purchasing a book about Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand and I got John Muir’s memoir ‘The Story of My Boyhood and Youth’. With the right terrain and traffic, you can read while cycling and be entertained for miles upon miles (Note: this activity is not approved for beginning cyclists!)

After strapping on the additional weight, we left for Hoffman and the miles flew by indeed. When we got there, we scoped out a convenience store/restaurant for coffee in the morning, and then a park to camp at that night. Then we headed to the bar for those drinks! Except that Stink doesn’t drink, so she ended up deciding to go chill at the park for some peace and quiet and some friggen’ alone time for once. So, I took it upon myself to do the drinking for two, and got a couple beers and some fries with the bar money provided by Elbow Lake dude. I hung out by myself, doodled a bit, and then, as I was getting ready to go “home” for the night, ended up chatting with a couple folks who were sitting around the table outside. This ended up being the owner, Frog (whose real name is Jeremiah, and had named the bar, Bullfrogs, and you can probably see where he got his nickname from), Barb, who has worked with him at the bar for years, and Mark, just a cool gay dude who had moved to the area from Minneapolis to take care of his mother. I entertained with stories from the road and let Beef meet some other patrons who came outside for smoke breaks. (Beef proved to be great at getting drunk straight dudes to stop coming onto me). Frog kept the drinks coming, and brought out a container of strawberries for me to snack on. We ended up chatting late into the night and, eventually, with many a yawn from me, and a promise to call Barb in the morning before we left to shower and eat breakfast (if it wasn’t too early), we all headed out.

I rode the three blocks to our home for the night, a park gazebo, and sleepily climbed into bed. In the morning, I looked out the front door of the tent and saw a big paper bag with a note on it from Mark. He had snuck by at some point and left us a bag of goodies; grapes, bananas, cookies, and so on, that were greatly appreciated and soon eaten. It was too early to go to Barb’s, so we just went to the convenience store and cooked some oatmeal and added leftover strawberries and fruits from Mark. Once again, we proved to be a curiosity and ended up talking with quite a few people. The owner of the station brought out some cookies and energy bars and even offered to have us eat at the restaurant free of charge (but since we were already halfway through making our oats, regretfully declined). I am not quite sure exactly why people want to feed us all the time, but I’m certainly not complaining!

Soon, we headed out, aiming to get to Paynesville that day. Once again, I admit that I did not jounal during the week, so I am leaving this day up to your imaginations. Go nuts.

We got to Paynesville, and parked our bums on the curb outside the Casey’s convenience store. We could hear really loud off key singing coming from somewhere nearby, and curiosity drove us to find the source. We scooted around town till we found a Relay for Life event with some sort of karaoke set up as entertainment for the walkers. Good for them. We quickly moved on.

We found a grocery mart, where I browsed every single aisle, till Stink finally dragged me outta there, hungry and half asleep as I was. We had seen a minor league baseball game going on on our way to the mart, so we were determined to go sit and watch as we cooked and ate our dinner. Just as we arrived to the park, we saw a player catch a fly ball, an out was called, and the game was over. People started streaming out past us, and once again, we had to answer the age old question; “What is in the mailbox??” We chatted with folks about our trip and about Watsi, and soon one of the ladies (who ran the concession stand) came back with half a pepperoni pizza and two hamburgers piled up for the two of us. I smiled graciously and said my thanks, then had to watch Stink eat it right in front of me as we chatted with the other gals in the concession stand. When we found a moment to break free, we ran off to a dark area where I could sneakily cook up my vegan dinner and finally abate my hunger.

That night, a storm was scheduled to roll in, so the folks at the park told us about the storm shelter located right there. We rolled the bikes in and made ourselves at home for the night, thankful to not have to worry about mosquitoes for once. Around two in the morning, we both woke up, and peeked outside at the storm. It wasn’t raining yet, but you could see the sky lighting up with flashes of lightening and hear the roaring booms of thunder. We went and sat on the swings nearby and watched in silent awe for some time. Soon it began to sprinkle, then outright rain and we ran for cover under the grandstand. I was all sticky from the cumulative layers of sunscreen and bug spray, and grime from life on the road and the rain felt so nice & clean! I decided I was going to take a little rain shower, so went back to the shelter, stripped down to my birthday suit and stood buck naked outside at three in the morning in a strange town. Life is weird, but it sure is nice to get clean sometimes. Stink ended up taking a sponge bath in the shelter bathroom and soon we were back to bed.

At seven in the morning, someone came to check in on the shelter, so we woke up and packed up all our gear. We rode out to the McDonald’s and of course loitered for hours, drinking coffee and working on Within Biking Distance stuff. Out the door we eventually went, annnnnd yet again, I’m drawing a big blank on the activities of that day. It’s okay though, because I take forever to tell you about the things I do remember anyways.

Seriously, like, we went garage saling at some point? Man, my memory is whack.

…So we rolled into Hutchinson. It was wonderful. There were trees, and shade (what I do remember of the ride that day was that it was sunny and HOT), and nice wide streets to bike through. We got to the downtown main street area, locked the bikes up, and walked to Dairy Queen where Stink got a gigantic blizzard (her eyes were bigger than her belly though, and she has since decided that the large is way, way too large). We strolled around town while she ate and soon came across a Mexican restaurant. We’ve kind of realized that this is the perfect place for us if we want to eat out for dinner. They usually have vegetarian/vegan options, taste great, and most importantly, offer free chips and salsa. There was half a basket of chips and salsa left out on one of the outdoor tables, so I nabbed some chips and stuffed them in my pocket to munch on as we continued our walk and debated going out to eat that night. Waste not, want not. Also, they were good chips.

While walking, we found a cool old movie theater that reminded us of the 3rd Street Pizza theater at home, and combined with nostalgia, the low price of $3.50 per ticket definitely put that on the radar for the evening activities. We eventually decided to just do it all, and walked our bikes over to the Mexican restraunt for dinner, which was faaaaantastic, and then to the movies where we saw Tomorrowland, which was… pretty cool. It had some really creative ideas and inventions, and cool props, costumes, and effects. After the movie, we rolled to a park, set up the house, and zonked.

That morning was Sunday, so Stink wanted to go to church, but not before we ran to Wal-Mart to get something for breakfast. At Walmart, I will admit that I bought an entire discount full-size blueberry pie… I had been keeping an eye out for one ever since finding out they were vegan back at the Whittecar’s house in Nebraska. We quickly breakfasted and scooted to the church, where we found out the service didn’t actually start for another hour. So we breakfasted some more… and I ate like half that pie. By myself. Stink wouldn’t take more than one bite. I was okay with all of this.

When service was about to start we went inside and talked with folks, then took our seats. To my credit, I didn’t immediately fall asleep, but soon enough the comfy chairs, warm environment, and even voices had me lolling off. At one point, Stink woke me up and told me it was time to leave. Apparently the pastor had been getting a bit too political in his sermon and she was worried where he might be going. We rolled out and hit up the WalMart again for more necessary items like vitamins and such. We also stopped at a different grocery store (for fun and variety!) where we found discounted 40 cent cans of chili beans and took the risk on a few of them. Once more, I know that we did ride all day, it’s just that I don’t remember much of what happened while we rode. Use that lovely imagination of yours!

We stayed that night in New Prague, in a nice city park. We cooked up some of that chili with rice, and a bag of frozen veggies and it was bomb. As in good. Bomb is really hip lingo for yummy. We set up the tent behind the library and zonked (it was late). At one point in the night, we heard a cop’s walkie-talkie not many feet off from us, but they must have realised we were no threat, as no blinding lights we’re shown into the tent to wake us up. We rose at six the next morning, to the sound of thunder. Again. We saw lightening as we packed up, and got the first few drops of rain as we searched out a mart to hole up in for a bit. We found a McDonald’s (also, again) and got coffees and prepared to wait out the storm. We could see it was a big one, looking at radar maps on our phone, and sure enough, there was soon a torrential downpour going on outside. I had to run out there to batten down the hatches on Beef’s mailbox as the intense wind was getting everything wet, under cover or not. We wrote, and drew, and drank coffees, and stealthily made oatmeals and PB&J’s till 10, when it had finally blown over.

While packing up the bikes, we talked with this guy, Mark St. de Hubert, who had had 48 strokes since one of his horses had trampled him “to death”. I think he might have been serious about that part too. He was really interesting, and we chatted for awhile about all sorts of stuff. When I asked for his name, he took a moment to remember his last name, and couldn’t spell it for me (I thought he had said Saindy Cuber or something like that), but all the same he pulled a credit card out of his wallet so I could read it. Cool dude; we’re lucky to meet interesting folks like him.

That day we rode. Obviously. One of these mystery days we were along a train track, and I kept getting the conductors to honk for us with the universal sign language for “HONK HONK”. I redubbed trains as “moving murals” because checking out all the graffiti as they pass also proves quite entertaining. We stopped in Faribault (pronounced Fairbull) for lunch, and to do an interview with the paper there. We met at the library, and went through the ropes, surprising the guy at the end of interview when we remembered to tell him we had brought a pet rat along. When we were finished, we noticed that the community center next door was a YMCA, and went inside to inquire about the cost of a shower. They looked it up and said it was $2, and as we headed back to the bikes to deliberate, they offered to just let us shower for free. Was it generosity for us, or for the rest of the world so that no one would have to put up with our stench any longer? Either way, we scrambled at the opportunity.

One quick shower later and we were ready to put on sunscreen and get sweaty and dirty again. Off we went to West Concord, which was the tiny town that was our destination for the evening. We pulled into town and were met by the smells of a delicious looking little local burger joint. I called up the paper and went off to order fries. Can’t be helped. The editor came and we sat around and had a pleasant chat while I stuffed fries and three full containers of condiments (BBQ, ketchup, and mustard) down my gullet.

We had her direct us to the town park, but were also warned that there had been vandalism issues lately, and also for Beef to watch out for stray cats. I guess the stray cats were a sore issue for the town council. While feasting on a really amazingly delicious dinner of chili beans, rice, refried beans, discount buns, and a variety of condiment packets (it was like some sort of heavenly sloppy joe- beanie- burger), the town’s two cops stopped to have a chat with us. They didn’t often have people brazenly setting up tents in the pavilion, and had come to tell us that camping wasn’t allowed there, and that the park closed at ten. But they were friendly fellas, and as Beef was running around the bench and on my lap, they asked if he was a ferret (for not the last time, no, he is not a ferret), and gave him some nice scritches. They directed us to an empty lot by the baseball park that we could camp at for the night, and said their goodbyes.

We finished up dinner, packed the tent back up, and relocated. In fifteen more minutes, we were cozy in bed and falling asleep. In the morning, we headed out to do just 25 or so miles to Rochester, MN. We’ve been aiming for here for ages, as we needed to hit up a bike shop in town for a new freewheel for my bike and new chains for the both of us. When we got into town (er, city, I should say. This place has a population of 106,000! Biggest place we’ve been to since we left Portland) we stopped at a gas station, and a lady from the local TV gave me a call back and wanted to do an interview. She drove out, set up the camera and mics, and interviewed us about the trip so far. This was a lot of fun as she was real easy to talk to, even though we were on camera. She even wanted to hold Beefy afterwards, him being the first rat she’d ever met. She filmed as we rode off into the city, where we eventually found our way to the bike shop, Honest Bikes. One of the dudes working there, Mike, hooked us up good, and even gave up a couple of popsicles to munch on while he worked on my bike. We used money given to us by family/friends/strangers to pay for the new equipment, so thanks everyone! The bikes are now up for doing another 8,000 miles!

After that, it was just two short blocks to the public library, where I parked my butt and began writing this gigantic rambling tale many hours ago. (Big shout out to the Rochester Public Library for renewing my computer time fifty zillion times while I worked on this!)

Hope you’ve all enjoyed. Much love from all of us,

Super sincerely,

Lizzy


An Idiot is Born Every Minute 6

(sorry, this is going to be a long one!)

Well, we’re in North Dakota. It is raining. It is chilly. But it’s another state! After our interview in Pierre (which is pronounced Pier in these parts), we rode out to the local bike shop to get some advice concerning Lizzy’s freewheel—a long explanation is needed here so I’ll just say its about time to replace it and we have to wait to Minneapolis to do so. And finally, after the bike shop. . . we rode to the Post Office! It was a silly experience as the newspaper wanted a photographer to be there when we got our eagerly anticipated maps/goodie boxes from mom and a surprise box from Lizzy’s aunt Mary and co. in Oklahoma. I can only guess what the photographer was thinking when we opened up boxes of granola and jelly, but we were in a state of complete joy. Momma made us the BEST granola I have ever had, and Lizzy’s fam sent us cookies, crackers, and even hand sanitizer. It was like they’d been on tour themselves. We rode to a nearby park to further inspect our goodies, and unpack everything that we have in order to sort out what winter gear we wanted to send back home.

It was stunning to step back and see the massive pile of junk that we’d been carrying with us—and over the mountains. We happened to be next door to the Pierre American Legion, and since we were quite a spectacle, ended up drawing a small crowd of onlookers. One by one they’d look at us, look at the massive heap we were sorting through, and shake their heads. “How far are you going?” “Is that a rat?” “What’s the point of this?” We answered their questions and were reciprocated with Snickers bars and Cajon peanut/Chex mix. Shortly after we finally managed to pack everything away, Bruce, our host for the night, and his friend Jim stopped by with the pickup to drive us home. There was a feast waiting for us, along with dogs to play with, chickens to chase, horse to treat, and the cutest set of ginger piglets I have ever seen to pet. Bruce happens to work for the South Dakota Highway Department at some capacity, so we had a lengthy chat about the route ahead, and to my joy, former president Eisenhower came up (as he was responsible for America’s fantastic highway system). The next morning we rode into town to finally mail off our winter gear. As we walked into the Post Office we were somewhat startled to see ourselves on the front page of the newspaper kiosk. I guess news travels fast in South Dakota. While we were looking at ourselves in the paper, not one but two people came up to us, recognizing us as the crazy biker gals from Orygone. We corrected some facts, and then continued about our business. One woman was kind enough to buy us a copy of the newspaper and give us money for “steak dinner and pie” once we get to Wahpeton. Many thanks Pierre! We then rode to Wal-Mart to restock on bananas and bagels when we happened to run into Bruce. It was fairly late in the evening by that time. When he saw us he shook his head laughing and offered us another night at the Hunt home, but we assured him we would actually leave town within the hour.

We did however make a quick stop at the Good Will, which in our defense was on the way out of town. I remember once talking to a friend who did a lot of international travel. She said that whenever she was feeling homesick she would head to a Pizza Hut because that is where all the other homesick American expats go to eat dinner in Europe. To us—Goodwill is our Pizza Hut. I might add, the Pierre Goodwill has very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, Lizzy found a large bag of cookies marked “broken discount” and “sugar free”. Oddly, the second listed ingredient was sugar. Never one to pass up a bargain, she bought them. And then ate them. I will put it this way: don’t buy Goodwill brand cookies. We each ate a handful trying to decide whether they were good or not, and then another handful to decide if we were hungry or not. Flatulence ensued. Though we were aware of the adverse side effects, we just aren’t at a place in life where throwing away purchased food is morally justifiable. Needless to say, they are gone now—but they are ever instilled in our memories. That evening we rode out to Onida, SD, and for the first time experienced true flatness. And I mean flat. We are in a part of the world where it is possible to see the next town from 15 miles away, and then have the wonderful experience of riding toward that town in a headwind, water tower in view, for a full hour. I took to listening to NPR and reading my book while riding. No cars, no turns. It’s pretty great.

We finally started seeing trees again near Gettysburg, “Where the Battle Didn’t Happen” and where I purchased a world class nutty cinnamon roll. Town after town we rode, until we landed in Aberdeen. We were shocked by the number of people in town and even had the gumption to ask the gal running the deli at the local grocery store if there were a vegan or vegetarian restaurant. She said “not in Aberdeen, but we do have a gluten free isle.” Not quite the same, but helpful nonetheless. We decided that we should celebrate the existence of so many humans in one place by eating Mexican food. We happened upon a great little burrito restaurant near the Wal-Mart and left with full bellies and happy faces. Free chips and salsa! I wanted to skype my family that night as it was my big sister’s graduation and I happened to know her boyfriend was going to propose to her, but everything in Aberdeen except the Wal-Mart closes after 9:00 PM (7:00 home time). So, to the Wal-Mart we went in order to skype home. Congrats Heather, I’m so proud. Also, good choice Cody! While we were at the store, Lizzy ran into a couple that were real USPS mail people! That was fun. They noticed the mailbox on the bikes and were intrigued. We slept in a really great, but also really sticky muddy camp spot behind Wal-Mart that night, and in the morning I decided to splurge and get myself a good cup of coffee at the St. Arbucks. It’s no Coffee Cottage, but will do in a pinch. I plugged my phone in to charge while we were there, and then rode off to Groton, a town about 20 miles away, before I realized it. The phone number we got for the St. Arbucks was not working, so I didn’t know if my phone was even there or not any more. We deliberated. Would it be better to ride back 20 miles into the wind, and then back to Groton 20 miles for a phone that might not even be there any more? Or should I try to find a ride to town and back? Sorry mom–I decided to hitch. I took Lizzy’s phone and left her with the bikes and hit the road. A really wonderful farmer lady picked me up and drove me back to Aberdeen. Though she wasn’t planning on driving back to Groton that day, she said that after her errands were done she’d see if I’d been picked up and if I was on the road, she’d drive me back to Groton. My phone was in the St. Arbucks, exactly where I had left it, completely untouched! That was a miracle in itself. That morning I had left it with my coffee cup on a table in the middle of the store, and when I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I just walked right past it. I was excited to have my phone back, and also excited at the prospect of the farmer lady driving me back to Groton, but I didn’t know when her errands would be done, and since I had my phone and Lizzy’s phone and no way to contact Lizzy, I decided to start walking. As I walked, I halfheartedly thumbed for a ride and prayed that God would send just the right people to pick me up. About 10 minutes later a gigantic Expedition type vehicle pulled over. I ran up to it, and a woman hopped out “OK, What’s your story and are you carrying any weapons?” I explained my situation and she opened up the back saying she could drop me off at Groton if I didn’t mind riding along as she dropped off kids. She also said that she hadn’t wanted to pick me up as she was on a tight schedule, but she felt God had asked her to stop. Lo and behold—God answered my prayer via a homeschool bus! Now, it may seem strange, but few things are more comforting to me than being surrounded by a gigantic homeschool family and doing menial errands–so I eagerly hopped in the back seat. It felt amazing to be in a car. We dropped of kiddos, and then drove back to Groton where Louise offered to treat Lizz and me to Dairy Queen. I’ve never said no to a Blizzard! But even more than that, I just really wanted to hang around these people for a little while longer. So, I found Lizzy and we rode across the street to the DQ for fries and ice cream. I really was blessed by the kindness and generosity of that wonderful family. The kiddos also received a lesson in rat ownership thanks to Lizzy.

By the time we left it was 3:00 and we had nearly 50 miles to go with a headwind. Many hours, much gravel, four sore knees, and two achy rears later we rolled into Britton, SD. Quick research showed a park in town, but upon our arrival a monsoon of mosquitoes swirled up from who knows where and attacked us—so we went to the elementary school to make a meager dinner of beans, rice, onions and potatoes. I must interject here: we do eat well. It is fun to write about all of the treats and goodies we get along the way, but that really just compliments our normal fare of bananas, beans and bagels. To those who have written us concerned: we really do eat a lot of veggies! At this point, we were accosted by a local BMX club. That is—a small gang of local children biked up to where we were trying to prepare our meal and bombarded us with questions. . . about everything. To our concern, they were quite eager to know exactly how much money we had on us, where we were planning to sleep that night, and if we’d ever been robbed. . . They proved to be quite harmless. I’m certain now that they wanted us to take them out to Kreemees, a local ice cream and hamburger shop. They really like Kreemees. After a long conversation that ranged everything from how often we shower, could they come with us, and what we eat—two of the kiddos called their mom. “Mom, we met some hobos and they need to shower. Come to the park!” I felt bad for this poor mother because that is a phone call no mom wants to hear! Their mom Karista, who is a really cool lady, did come and she did let us come home to shower. We tried to patch the kiddo’s bicycle inner tubes (since they all rolled up with near flat tires), but one tube proved unfixable. So, around 11:00 yesterday night we left their home and popped up the tent at the school, exhausted and laughing. What an improbable day. We really, really love South Dakota, and really enjoyed hangin around with inquisitive kids–so fun! This morning, we rode out to the Britton Cennex gas station for coffee and bathrooms and met a whole new host of wonderful people. A lady at the station gave me two (yes two!) of the BEST brownie-whatever-they-are bars and I ate them with gusto. We also got an interview with the local paper and advice on the weather. After hearing our situation, one old farmer smiled at us and said, “An idiot is born every minute, maybe two.” He meant it well, and we all had a good chuckle. We then took off to North Dakota quoting all the Chris Farley sketches I could think of. And so, here we are, at a great little library in Forman, ND, sipping complementary coffee and waiting out the rain. Only 40 states to go!

Not so fast!

I finished writing that bit and the library closed. It takes a really long time to write and put pictures on these things so we decided that we would finish when we got to Wahpeton. So it was that Lizzy, Beef, and I hit the road at 5 pm with a strong headwind and a driving rain. I was not pleased. Well, truthfully I had a really bad attitude about it. An agonizing 21 miles later we rolled into Milnor completely soaked and with no place to stay. A nice lady in a car told us that we could find a gazebo down the street. We parked the bikes there and looked for a business that might be open so that we could change our clothes. The only open indoors was a bar and grill called Ode’s (I might have spelled it right). It’s is a jolly good place I’ll tell you! We ordered dinner and got in some conversation with the locals. The bar owner Michelle said our dinners were on the house. We met a great couple, Rita and Charlie, and their friends. They entertained us with stories about horses, leafy spurge, and fencing, and together put up 39 dollars for Watsi. We also met a woman named Rachael who gave 20 dollars to Watsi. We were moved by the overwhelming generosity and kindness we experienced in Milnor, and will never forget it. I really wish I had taken pictures of everyone. That night, Rita and Charlie took us home and let us dry our clothes (thank God!), drink some Tang, and sleep in real beds!!!! There are many great places in America, and Milnor, North Dakota is one of them. Thank you everyone.

Rachael’s donation was put toward Phyllis, a mother from Kenya who needs $740 for a mastectomy to stop the spread of breast cancer.

Rita, Charlie, Jessie, Jerry and Rich’s donation we put toward Neath, a man from Cambodia who needs treatment for a broken leg.


The calm after the storm, complete with even more storms 7

So, we survived the thunderstorm, and yes everyone, Beefy was saved too. As Jim pulled his car over in the sideways rain, and Stink ran up to secure our escape, I was busy un-bungeeing his mailbox, and grabbing his food. When I ran to the waiting car & jumped in, I made no explanation of the mailbox… sometimes there just isn’t a good way to bring up the fact that you’ve got a smelly ol’ rodent tagging along with you.

The morning after the storm, I was feeling a bit dazed. In spite of the very real danger we had been in, no lasting damage was made (besides a gnarly scratch in the paint on Stink’s bike from loading it up into the truck in a still raging storm). It was just like any other morning, which I found kind of disconcerting. To combat this slight uneasiness I drank two large cups of surprisingly good gas station coffee, and self-medicated with a boxed cherry pie. After chowing down and chatting with a tour-bus tourist from down under (who I couldn’t always understand and who ended many a sentence with a echoing, “hey?”), I was feeling better. The storm was over, the sky was blue, and life goes on.

We road out to a little town called Sundance, and sat out in front of the grocery mart, eating saltines with ketchup as an appetizer, moving on to the main dish of lunch, banana bagels with peanut butter and jelly and sliced bananas on top (bbpb&jb’s for short). This has pretty much been the staple since we started riding a month ago. Still not tired of it!

After going inside the mart, with me getting two boxed pies, a cliff bar, and tub of discounted strawberry frosting (I tried to get Stink to convince me to not get the frosting, but she only said, “You could put in on those unfrosted poptarts…” Extremely unhelpful. Very delicious), and Stink getting a tub of quick-sale somewhat gross “humus”, and a tiny precious miniature jug of milk, we went back outside and gorged on cookies…

Okay, folks, I’m sorry that this is 90% about food. This has got to be the weirdest foodblog out there. I’d try to refrain from food stories, but who am I kidding?

We rolled over to the local tennis court/basketball court/skatepark and immediately fell into a food coma nap on the quarter pipe. I was awoken by Stink standing over me saying that there was a severe storm warning for the area. I thought it was a joke at first, considering that the night previous was DeathStorm ’15, but once I realized that she wasn’t kidding, I hopped & prepared to leave with a bit more speed than usual… I wasn’t ready for a repeat.

We biked out, and soon reached the Wyoming/South Dakota border. Even with the threat of storm, we stopped to take our obligatory new state photo. We got a gal to take our photo for us, and she steadfastly refused to acknowledge the presence of a rat in my arms. During the impromptu photoshoot, I noticed that my back tire was going flat, so I located the wire still protruding from the sidewall of the tire & Stink did a quick patchjob. As soon as we got back on the road, it was flat again. Another hole was located & patched, and we went on, hoping the series of bad luck was a farewell from Wyoming and not a greeting from South Dakota…

Unfortunately, just as we were getting to the South Dakota Visitors Center, it went flat again. We pulled in, I did an exhaustive check & patch, and we continued.

Ten more miles down the road, it was going flat again… As it was a slow leak, I pumped it up & hoped to limp on in to Spearfish where I could easier deal with the situation. We made it to town and I had to pump it up again before we could find a park to camp out in. Everlasting flats like these are a drain. I put in my spare tube & in the fading light, thoroughly checked for any thorns or wires that still might be lurking in the tire. No luck, but there wasn’t much more I could do. One final inflation of the new tube, and I was dog tired & ready for dinner & bed. We watched the lightning flare up around us as we ate in the relative safety of the park pavilion, and soon crawled to bed underneath the centermost picnic tables in attempt to avoid wind blown rain from the coming storm. I wanted to stay up & watch as it crashed around us, but quickly fell asleep.

In the morning, we went to a coffee shop… then literally loitered there for like 6 hours, writing, blogging, and refilling our coffees. Leaving Spearfish we headed to Deadwood so that we could get on the George Mickelson Trail. This is 108 miles of old railway converted to gravel bike path that was on the list of must do’s for the tour. We stopped at a Family Dollar on our way to the trailhead, and I got a bag of extremely orange, extremely off brand BBQ flavored fritos. The guy who was checking out in front of me gave me his coins (much appreciated) and when I got outside, we all started chatting as he devoured three cheese sticks. Stink & I both agreed later that the manner in which he did so was bad ass. He was one of the first people to ride the trail, and as a mountain biker, he said it was boring and that we’d love it. Too true.

As we got onto the trail, it was packed gravel but the uphill was discouraging. We went about five miles that evening before stopping, cooking dinner, and zonking out. In the morning we woke to the sounds of cyclists crunching by on the path. We packed up and as we were eating breakfast, met a mom & her two kids who had been biking the whole trail, from south to north. The mom was a rat person too and had spied Beefy running around on the picnic tables. He’s always making new friends…

We starting biking and were quite impressed with the trail. The lady at the visitor’s center in Deadwood had tried to convince us to skip the first part of the trail & take the highway… We wondered about her sanity as the miles rolled by, beautiful & free of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. There were cows though, and at one point a herd was blocking our path. Another group of cyclists had stopped to wait it out, but I opted to slowly make my way through the cattle, and after a brief standoff with a young bull, us cyclists had secured our rightful place on the path.

At one point, my back tire started going low again. Stink pulled the tire off the rim and turned it completely inside out to find the tiny hidden wire that was repeat offender while I patched the tube. Finally, flat free!

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As we neared Hill City, we began to see people’s backyards, and then in what seemed like seconds, we were in a bustling tourist town, with throngs of people everywhere. We were in shock, having just been alone in the woods for hours. We found a bench at the dinky end of town and snacked & people watched for a bit. Most folks were there to see Mount Rushmore or go to Sturgis, so it was quite a mixed crowd.

We went to a grocerymart on the way out of town, were we met some folks who were from Gillette and had read the article in the paper about us, though mis-remembered Beef as being an iguana… Understandable, I suppose.

We camped that night at a picnic table/shelter on the trail, a definite no-no for camping, but a total yes-yes for staying out of any storms heading our way, and for not having to put the tent up.

In the morning, we rode out to Pringle then got off the trail, somewhat reluctantly getting back on the highway so that we could head towards Nebraska. We rode out to Hot Springs, lunched in the shade under a tree in the park, and Beef ran around, tunneling in the grass. We went to Dairy Queen afterwards for loitering and for Stink to get a blizzard… and eat it… right there in front of me… Blizzards may or may not be one of the things i still miss from before going vegan.

We rode on in the heat to Oelrichs, South Dakota, just miles from the Nebraska border. As we turned off the highway and onto the gravel roads of the town, I noticed a few mosquitoes biting at my leg, and swatted them away. This was just a taste of things to come. We found some picnic tables at the town school and sat down to cook dinner, and more and more mosquitoes swarmed around, making dinner of us. There would be five or six landing on you at a time… It was miserable; I think I really hate mosquitoes.

As we endured the torture and attempted to eat dinner, a local lady came by to chat with us, and after hearing our intentions or traveling across the border and to Chadron in the morning, informed us that both the bridge four miles out of town, and the one 24 miles away in Nebraska, were probably going to flood overnight. The heavy rains had swollen the rivers… and created large pools of standing water, hence all the mosquitoes.

So, with a little bit of glee about having a good reason for needing to leave the mosquito infested town, we decided to head out after dinner, to make it across the bridges so that we weren’t stranded in South Dakota the next day. With storms once again on the horizon, we set out.

There was a magnificent sunset behind us, but also, massive cloud systems and flashes of lightning. As we were riding, we could outrun the mosquitoes on the straight aways and downhills, but they would keep pace with us struggling to speed uphill. We were getting bitten through clothes, unable to do anything but swat, swat, swat, and ride on. We got to the border in the growing dusk, snapped a quick picture, the mosquitoes delighted at having stationary hosts.

We knew there was just 12 more miles to get to the bridge, so we sped on in the growing dark (yes to all concerned readers, we put our lights on & were being careful). As the storm crept up behind us, we finally reached the flooded White River, which thankfully hadn’t yet covered the bridge. Still not sure if it ever did get over, but glad we got past it all the same.

There were about 10 miles from the bridge to Chadron, and we hoped to reach it before the storm reached us, but it was to no avail. With just four miles to go, the lightning starting getting a bit too close for comfort, and we pulled off the road, leaned the bikes against a fence and hastily threw up the tent in the ditch, grabbed Beefy, and hopped in.

I also managed to grab a clif bar and chicostick, so we lay in the soggy tent, illuminated at intervals by bright lightning flashes, munching treats, listening to the rain soak the tent and thunder booming in our chests, and letting Beef scamper around. We were debating whether to wait out the storm and push on to Chadron after it abetted, or to just crash for the night. Once it settled down, I asked Stink if she was still up for going on, but she’d already zonked. Don’t blame her, I was nearly there myself, having had a long 90-plus mile day behind us, and soon also fell asleep.

In the morning I was sleepy, soggy, and hungry. We rolled the remaining four miles into town and stopped at the Wal-Mart at seven in the morning. I roamed the aisles, knowing I should just go outside and eat a bagel for breakfast, but my hunger-addled mind convinced me to get $1 bag of off brand coco roos. I had a discount chocolate almond milk in my pack that I figured I could pair with chocolatey cereal. I sat on the bench outside and ate the entire bag. Soon, I realized my mistake, as my stomach churned. I barely held off barfing as I slowly peddled the two miles to a church in town that Stink was wanting to attend.

Heading inside, I looked like hell, felt like it too. I slunk down in a chair next to Stink, and fought nausea and exhaustion (didn’t sleep too well that night either). As soon as service began, I zonked out, chin on my chest, hopefully not snoring. After service finished up, I was feeling a bit better; at least good good enough to get some coffee from the foyer. But, as I grabbed a cup and attempted to pump some liquid energy from one of the carafes, I found it empty. The man rinsing some other empty catafes out at the sink suggested getting some hot water for tea. I took his advice and sat down with a hot cup of chamomile tea, and started chatting with his wife. They handled all the refreshments, and after a bit of small talk, it came out that we were biking through town.

She told her husband what we were up to, then invited us out to lunch at the local diner. Such an offer we couldn’t refuse, and somewhat bashfully accepted. They let us park the bikes inside, met Beef, and then drove us down the road to the restaurant. Their names were Juanita and Donny Whittecar (whit-e-car, mind you), and lived just 10 miles out of town. Over an excellent lunch, we talked about all sorts of things; family, hometowns, and our bike trip. We entertained with tales from the road and we gobbled, me eating slower than usual with my still somewhat churning stomach. Juanita then offered to let us stay at their place, and after a bit of thought, we jumped at the opportunity of a night inside (and mosquito free).

They took us back to church, and they headed on home, while we rode to a closed storefront to make calls home and wait out a small rain cloud that was passing overhead. Soon we hopped on the bikes and after a brief ride, arrived at the Whittecars, a cozy paradise. We laid tent and tarps out to dry, and took some much needed showers, and talked with our gracious hosts. That evening Juanita whipped up some veggies and baked potatoes, while Donny manned the grill and brought out a couple steaks. For our part, we ate with gusto, then munched on half a package of cookies and had a (surprisingly vegan!) pie for dessert. We stayed up late talking with these folks who felt like our new adopted grandparents. The bed in the guest bedroom was unbelievably comfy, and like falling into a cloud, I slipped into a deep sleep.

The morning brought breakfast of cheerios, (no more coco puffs for me, thank you very much), ripe (not overripe like I always buy on discount) bananas, and coffee. I may or may not have snuck a few more cookies and a piece of pie in there as well…

We slowly and a bit reluctantly packed up, and Donny & Juanita supplied us with a can of bug repellent (thank you! thank you!) and the air compressor to make sure both us and our trusty wheels were ready to hit the road. Some pictures, some hugs, some thank yous, and then some waves as we rolled down the driveway and back onto the road. Meeting such friendly folks like that leaves you feeling refreshed and renewed, and we rolled along just fine.

We stoped for lunch, and perhaps a couple of little boxed pies in Gordon, then continued on to our planned destination of Merriman. It was still a bit early in afternoon when we arrived, and when we found a somewhat defunct little town, we weren’t really feeling it. We decided to head on an extra 18 miles up into Martin, South Dakota for the night. The road was good, and so was the weather, and we soon found ourselves at a Dairy Queen sharing fries and cooking dinner on our portable stove in the outside seating area. We ate, and wrote, and relaxed, eventually pitching the tent out back by the dumpster that night.

In the morning we rose early, and trekked over to the gas station to eat cliff bars for breakfast and get a start before the heat settled in. Miles on, we found a shady church to stop and lunch at, and watched our own version of Animal Planet (we get good tv on the road…) as a cute little she-chipmunk-critter skittered around and ate the bits of lunch Stink tossed out for her. Beef could have made a good impression on the little lady, but was too lazy and stayed in bed and ate his lunch alone. Not much of a ladies man.

We continued on as the heat intensified, and gulped water as the miles flew by, the wind being in our favor for once. Kadoka eventually appeared on the horizon, and finally we arrived. Stink was about ready to pass out, and Beef wasn’t feeling to hot either (er, well, the opposite of that actually… oh, you know what I mean). We got water from the gas station and I put my head under the cool faucet in the bathroom. We were hungry and in need of a good loiter, so we voted to eat Subway sandwiches and chill out (literally. thank you air conditioning!).

A couple of hours in and Stink started getting a bit antsy as she spotted a large storm system on the horizon. We packed out and got a dose of headwind as we rode 11 miles on to Belvidere. Upon arrival, we wanted to leave. Another defunct little town, complete with mosquitoes and a closed down gas station. We opted to rather just ride on and camp out in a ditch alongside the highway.

Soon we began to see billboards advertising an “1880 Town!” complete with gas station. Sounded like our kind of joint. We slowly headed on and arrived and treated ourselves to a Twix bar for Stink, and (you guessed it) a tiny pie for me. Headwinds make you desire rewards such as these. We sat out at some picnic tables edging the tourist trap western themed compound and quickly cooked up some dinner before they locked the gates at 9 o’clock. We located some old hay bales to sneaky camp behind, and as the mosquitoes relentlessly attacked, quickly set up the tent and crawled inside.

I woke early as I could hear ranchers down the road, and not wanting a lecture (or gunshot), started packing up. Back to the ‘authentic’ 1880 town for bathrooms and water, and off we went, battling headwinds and 12 miles of roadwork to reach Mordo, where we knew there would be a truck stop(!) to loiter at. Sometimes you just need something to work towards.

When we got there, the decision was made that french fries and refillable diner coffee was sorely needed, so we stopped in at one and got our fill. The waitress was so sweet and brought out carafe after carafe, and we chatted with other patrons about our trip. After a good loiter, we visited the gas stations for entertainment and candy browsing (we don’t always buy, but we do always look). Finally we rode out, deciding to take the old highway paralleling the freeway, which was a fantastic choice, and it was nearly completely automobile free, and side by side riding & chatting was a viable option. Rain clouds threatened, then delivered their load, completely soaking us, but since the headwind was gone, the miles rolled by with us being soggy but content. We knew that another 20 miles would bring us to a new truck stop, which meant a dry place to sit for a bit & recoup.

We arrived, ate lunch, and debated riding the 33 more miles to Pierre that evening, or to wait for morning to head out. We opted to leave the dry haven in a moment of excitement for our so called Christmas in June (Stink’s mom had sent us our next set of maps, and maybe even some jelly beans and other unknown goodies to the Pierre post office. We’ve been eagerly awaiting our arrival ever since we left, I think). We went outside, and as we were packing up in the drizzling rain, a burly old motorcycle dude expressed his awe at what we are attempting here. He was seriously shocked and impressed, and told us we were incredible. Talk about an ego boost. He took a picture of us in front of our loaded bikes with a disposable camera, surely to end up in some sort of bad ass biker dude scrapbook.

We finally mounted the bikes, and rode out into the rain, excited at the prospect of reaching Pierre, and maybe putting on some dry socks. We got 22 miles in before we stopped, with achey knees, to sit and cook dinner on a spit of gravel next to the highway. As we prepared to eat, a car stopped, then backed up, with us thinking, “oh boy, what’s this to be?” but it was just a couple of fellas from the diner earlier that day. We were happy to see them again, and one reached in a bag and pulled out a couple energy bars for us. We said our thanks and they wished us luck as they rolled back onto the road.

After dinner, with just 11 miles to go, we opted to save our knees, and popped up the tent in the wet tall grass. I had a chance to call family and catch up, before heading to snoozetown. In the morning, we woke up to continuing rain, but it abetted around 7, so we packed up in the reprise, and perkily headed out to Pierre! The miles went quickly, and soon we were in town and stopping at the Visitor’s Center for a potential free coffee and to map out our destinations (post office for the package, McDonald’s for the wifi, bike shop for new chains and a freewheel for my cycle, and to get the number of the local paper so we can continue to spread the word about Watsi).

We did an interview in the children’s play room of the McDonald’s right down the street, and had our pictures taken while sitting on hamburger shaped stools. Now, I believe you’re all caught up with our adventures, as I finish writing this and prepare to add pictures before we go pick up our package! So excited!

Continued love to you all, and hugs & kisses from Stink, Beef, and I.

So very sincerely,
Liz-bits