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!
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,