Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wrath of God

Friday, July 11th. I remarkably woke up early today. Early enough to get a head start on Josh. I grabbed the water bottles and headed about 3 miles in the wrong direction through the Badlands. According to everyone we've talked to there was a gas station there, and it was the only place to get food and water. I grabbed some muffins and filled our water for the day.

When I arrived at our campground I went over some gravel and took a nasty spill. I was fine but I was furious to see my rear rack had been mangled. I flipped the fuck OUT. By this point in the trip I've had what must had been a dozen flat tires, a broke spoke or two, and two moderate falls off my bike. I shook my fists at the heavens and cursed God! If I can't use my rack I can't carry any of my gear and realistically the trip is over. We had come so far, I didn't want to have to give up. But if we couldn't fix this, we'd have no choice.

Thankfully, Josh is a far better handyman than myself. It took us about a half hour and a full roll of duct/electrical tape but the rack held together... barely. Even worse, the muffins were terrible.

We still had a few miles to ride back out of Badlands. Josh seemed to enjoy the park as much as I was, so we decided to stop at a few places take in the sights.

Again, they really do it no justice.

And hey! On the way out we hit another milestone!

Milestone 16 of 35ish!

Again, right as we exit the park is going from like.. prehistoric geological rock formations back to grassy flatland. Like immediately. No transition just boom, over, done. Welcome back to uneventful SD.

In case today hadn't been off to a terrible enough God seemed determined to really smite the crap outta me. The wind was horrendous! It was coming from a kinda side/front direction but regardless it was so damn hard we could barely move! Josh wasn't thrilled with it either but it was definitely getting to me a lot more so than him. You can take a look for yourself, but a video of wind can only be so helpful...


We trekked on. For what seemed to be hours (cause it was). We moved at a snail's pace. I figured eventually the wind would have to shift or lessen but nope. Just constant aggressive wind. We eventually found another auxiliary road which paralleled I-90 again. Josh was convinced it would have less wind/be quicker but I saw a lot more rolling hills on it. For the first time all trip we split up. And raced!

The roads were about a 1/4 mile apart so we could easily see each other but it was about the only thing that made today bearable. Fighting wind and anger to try to put my physically-perfected partner in his place. Pretty boy bested me though (but it was close!)

We had already gone a solid 50 miles today. Frankly a respectable day especially given our shitty conditions. I saw a sign for a KOA (Kampground of America) and thought it'd be a reasonable place to stop. Josh wanted to go further but I was about ready to throw myself in front of a truck and put myself out of my misery. Josh reluctantly agreed to the KOA.

Five miles down the road and still no camp. Ten. Fifteen. Are you effing kidding me?! We were already to the next town (Murdo) and it became clear this campground was no where to be had. Have your fun God! Enjoy playing your games with us mere mortals.

We finally arrived at Murdo and Josh seemed pleased with our distance for the day and I was an angry, sour man from the experience. By far the worst day we've had since we biked down the Rockies. We found a cute little Motel and pulled up. The sweetest old lady on Earth greeted us and gave a 30 dollar rate which we immediately took. Turns out she was 96 years old and still ran this motel by herself after the passing of her husband. She had a cute little cart and would drive around changing linens and letting guests into their rooms. I mean how can you stay mad after seeing a lady like that? My heart melted. Although if I had the chance I woulda stole that hat in a heart beat!

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 74.8
Total mileage- 1665.8

Beauty in the Badlands

Thursday, July 10th. So it turned out the one night we didn't put the fly on it rained. We quickly got up and tossed the fly on and covered the bikes before getting what sleep we could. But like always, we awoke to the sauna. At least the mosquitoes were leaving us alone this morning. We broke camp and started up the auxiliary road. The road wasn't in bad shape initially but about a mile up the road it simply got HORRIBLE. It really got so bad I didn't know how much longer we'd last. We were going at least half speed it was just so shitty.

About three miles up shit-road we came to a dead end. Literally. The road just ended. We could see the highway about a half mile away, but walking through tall grass and fields seemed like more work than simply back tracking. So we biked all 3 miles back along the gravely POS. A total of 6 miles of wasted work which is not a good way to start the day.

Right before we got to the highway we came to a cute little church. I really need to find a bathroom and it appeared no one was there. We knocked a few times with no answer. The door was unlocked so we kinda just walked right in. That's right. We broke into a church. Josh is a man of God so I figured he could make some prayers and clear up our indiscretion. But c'mon, when ya gotta go ya gotta go. We filled up some water, apologized to the Big Guy for our B+E and hit the road.

There was no denying it. It was straight up hot today. By the time we got a move on I-90 it was the heat of the day and it was definitely taking it's toll. On top of that remember that whole "flat geography" thing I have been talking about? I was entirely wrong. There are no major hills or mountains. But the entire area was just a bunch of tiny rolling hills. Just enough to piss me off. I fueled myself with rage and took the lead over Josh.

A few miles outside Wasta I looked back to see Josh biking with someone else which was clearly perplexing. I waited up for them to catch up and learned he was a fellow Transcontinental biker who went by Smilin' Joe. A trucker from Pennsylvania. Really nice guy with one helluva laugh. We welcomed the company, discussed our routes and decided to bike together for a while.

Around 4pm the three of us made it to a town called Wall, SD. It's a weird place. You'll see signs for Wall for hundreds of miles in every direction. It's this little tourist trap in literally the middle of nowhere. We stopped at their main attraction Wall Drugstore which was had everything but pharmaceuticals there. Things such as this-


As you can see, all clearly important things.

Afterwards we went across the street and grabbed a pizza with Smilin' Joe. It was a really damn good pie. The whole town seemed to have a atypically large amount of young foreign employees. We grabbed our waitress (who turned out to be Ukrainian) and asked her how on earth she ended up in Wall, SD. Turns out she's part of a "work in America" programs where college students sign up to spend a summer working in the good ol' US of A. This poor chick probably thought she was gunna be in the Big Apple or LA or something and ends up in one of the smallest cities on Earth. I felt bad for her but hey- welcome to America babe.

We finished our food and Josh and I decided to rest a bit. Smilin' Joe on the other hand was determined to make it further today. We said our goodbyes and wished him luck. He was a nice dude, but I feel better running this operation with 2 men. I'm not sharing my Joshypants with anyone! While he left we decided to order a second pizza. It was just that good!

Around 6pm we were debating what to do with our day. It was hot. Like balls hot. 95 degrees hot. And I do not do well in the heat. I was concerned how far we would make it and where we'd refill our water if the heat continued tonight/tomorrow. Regardless, Josh convinced me to not be lazy and get moving.

On our way out of wall we saw a few signs for the Badlands National Park. I had always heard great things but wasn't really sure what to expect. It was hot, it'd tack an extra 20 miles on to the trip, and I was feeling lazy. On the other hand we had purchased a National Park Pass back in Yellowstone and felt inclined to get the most bang for our buck. I mean, when else would we ever be back here again? Might as well go take a peak. And God was I glad we did! Here's a comparison. The entrance to the park was a very gentle hill. Here's before the hill, then right after...

A shocking night and day difference!

It was just so amazing! So beautiful! For as far as the eye can see massive rock spires jutting up from nowhere! Gorgeous streaks of red and yellow and brown. You just can't describe it well enough. No photo here will do it justice. As the evening cooled we took our time and took in the gorgeous scenery.

We biked well into the night. There was a campground on the eastern edge of the Park we planned on stopping at. It was a real cool experience seeing the park at night. I must admit, the Badlands really impressed me. To date it is without a doubt my favorite sight on this trip.

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 59.9
Total mileage- 1591.0

Finally Flat!

Wednesday, July 7th. I slept like a baby in the cabin. I have to admit, Josh makes an excellent big spoon. We were up fairly early (well, early for me) and had plenty of time a nice long shower. Really we just didn't want to miss the all you can eat pancake breakfast. The night prior our campground neighbors showed interest in joining us for breakfast. They had a car so we figured a 1 minute drive is nicer than a 5 minute walk. Why not? He's a picture of them at the ol' moose lodge.

They tied up their dog (we didn't think they'd let it in the restaurant) and piled in their car. Six people in a four seater was interesting, but it was also literally like 51 seconds to the restaurant. The place was indeed all you can eat pancakes for 1 dollar. But that was it. JUST pancakes. Nothing else included. Not drinks or sides or anything. Hell I don't even think syrup was included. In the interest of Josh-level-frugality we spent a grand total of 2 dollars. Tax included. Booyah. We ate comparatively quick but hung around and enjoyed the company of our new friends. After about an hour we all piled back into the car and made our way to the cabins.

When we arrived the office manager was waiting at our cabins. She immediately told the family that it was cruel to leave their dog tied up for so long with no water, handed them their money back and DEMANDED they leave. Immediately. She then turned to myself and Josh, clearly pissed told us check out was in 30 minutes and we needed to be gone. Josh was confused why such a nice lady would act out like that. I figured she was a dog lady, she did treat her Boston Terrier more like a child than dog. We were guilty by proxy. Certainly a bit of an awkward start to the morning.

It didn't take us long to pack, said our goodbyes and hit the road. We were theoretically exiting the black hills today and I was excited for the prospect of downhills. We were only a few miles outside Rapid City which is a larger city by South Dakota standards. On the way though, one of Josh's front racks broke. Who'd of guessed! For once a bike issue didn't happen to me! I could tell it was clearly stressing Josh out, so we stopped and evaluated. If we couldn't get it fixed Josh's whole front end would be off balance and difficult to steer. We called a bunch of local bike shops and no one had a replacement. Bad news. Josh even went so far as to call a welder. In the long run we just duct taped the mofo up. Seems to be holding fine. And just a few miles outside Rapid City look at what happened!

Milestone 15 of 35ish!

After Rapid City the terrain changed quickly. It always seems to do that, maybe it's just that were on bikes and have time to notice but literally like 10-20 miles and it's practically a whole new world. For the first time the entire trip I could see nothing but flat. No risk of mountains ahead. No concerns for hundreds of miles. I was truly elated. It was finally flat...


As we followed I-90 we noticed an axillary road running parallel to the highway. We both agreed it might be wise to get off the highway for a bit. And frankly it should be equidistant since it appeared to run parallel for quite some time. Along the way we came across some super weird humpbacked cows. Craziness.

I tried to make friends with that cow but he was being a dick.

We ran into a couple farmers while harassing the local bovines. They told us of a quaint park up ahead with a lake we could camp near. We decided it was probably a wise idea to make that the goal for the evening. The farmers made the directions seem real easy but I'm not gunna lie- we got lost like 3 times trying to find this damn pond! The sun was setting rapidly and I was getting concerned if we'd find it before dark. I'm still not 100% sure where the freaking farmers were trying to send us, but we did finally make it right as the Sun sinking low into a beautiful sunset.

We got most of camp set up before it was completely dark. And lucky for us being next to the lake provided plenty of mosquitoes to keep us company. It was a bit humid out and I elected to keep the fly off the tent for the night. Every freaking night we put it on and it never rained. I also blamed it for most of the sauna-like mornings we had. We laid there, talking about how we couldn't believe how far we've made it. The sky was crystal clear and the stars were beautiful. We made up sexual explicit constellations until we drifted off to sleep.

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 48.2
Total mileage- 1531.1

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Tuesday, June 8th. No pumas. No bears. The only injuries I received was Josh smacking me with his arm in his sleep as he sometimes tends to do. I was real excited! Today was a big day- we were scheduled to reach Mount Rushmore today!

First things first though, we needed to get my broken spoke fixed. We heard rumors of a bike store in a small town called Hill City. Right on the way to Keystone (where Rushmore is at). It's real pretty around here! Nothing particularly special. Rather typical forest area but I guess I just kinda dig that. I bet it's absolute hell in winter with this terrain and a bunch of snow.

Couldn't had been much more than an hour to town. It was a cute little town. More importantly it had an all you can eat buffet! We do NOT turn down all you can eat. I'd be surprised if we didn't get kicked out. We made our way to the bike shop first where a very knowledgeable gentleman worked on my bike. In the mean time we gorged.

Mmmm. Bacon.

Bellies full, we returned to my fixed bike. Josh decided last minute to get his bike tuned up as well. Probably a good idea, it has been nearly 1500 miles.

The closer you get to Rushmore the more the geology changes. Rapidly. In the 5ish miles before you get there you begin seeing large rock spires jutting out of the ground. They were pretty neat. I think this one was Josh's favorite.

Once Josh calmed down after witnessing cock-rock we continued on. Overall the biking was uphill (its a mountain, duh). But the peaks were comparatively short and steep and frankly I was handling them pretty well.

Rushmore was quite different than I expected. It was, well, small. Maybe not small but way smaller than I expected. If I hadn't known it was going to be there I could had easily biked right past it unknowingly. Also there's this big like entrance gate for lack of a better term. I kinda thought it'd just be mountain + heads but nope. Big long entrance area which was kinda cool. We put our bikes off the beaten path behind a building but clearly in view of the fellow tourist. We didn't even bother to lock them up, we kinda figured if someone really wanted to steal a bike laden down with all this gear then I suppose they deserved it. And we'd have a great excuse to go home.

While it wasn't exactly what we'd expected it was still a really cool sight to see. I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance. We waited around checking out the displays and caught a guided tour. What a weird tour though! First of all, the tour was held by a Native American. Which is totally fine, don't get me wrong, but ALL he did was talk about Indians! I'm at an American monument all this guy just blabbed on and on "George Washington's head is up there. The bla bla clan of Indian has a leader who just like him etc." I mean literally, that all it was the whole time. I was a bit dissatisfied but we did get to see some close ups of the monument.

Overall, pretty cool.

After spending a few hours there we made our way back to our bikes which sadly had not been stolen. Have I mentioned yet a pet peeve of mine being how it takes Josh FOREVER to get ready when going through his bags? The S.O.B. literally reopens his bags like 200 times and needs every fold and place perfect. Maddening.

Biking out of the area went smoothly. It was majority down hill all the way to Keystone. Sadly afterwards it was a moderate uphill to get out of town. I managed well enough. We got out of the hills and the sun was already getting low. We biked past a large restaurant advertising 1 dollar all you can eat pancakes. Yes please! Turns out it was for breakfast only, but we weren't going to let that stop us! Conveniently there was a campground right next door so we went to check it out.

We went to the office and rented a tent plot for 14 bucks. Pretty reasonable. The office had a boatload of food as well so we ended up chit-chatting with the nice lady and buying mac and cheese, frozen pizza and some other snacks. And she had a super cute Boston Terrier and we spent quite the bit of time playing the pup. She definitely seemed to like us after that. My guess is she was kind of a dog lady. Either way she was kind enough to let us into her house to cook some of the food before heading to our camp site. We walked toward our plot when we noticed some small cabins and were real curious if they were up for grabs. Running back and catching the lady before she went to bed we found out the cabins were a mere 6 dollars more. Sure I'd be sharing a bed with Joshypants but it's still way more roomy then my tent!

We also had access to showers and a laundry room which is always lovely. While washing ourselves and our clothes we met our cabin neighbors. They were a rather kind family although perhaps a tad rough around the edges. From Minnesota I believe? Anyway more importantly they gave us a few hotdogs and it made for a delightful night all around!

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 37.0
Total mileage- 1482.9