Tailwind!

I been thinking about the wind so much I might as well be sailing.

After a posh stay at the Pierre Indian Education Center (my own room with bed and bedding, semi-private bath), we started our fifth week headed mostly east for a change.

Winds were light, the air was cool. We hit a construction zone with a flagger. After about a 15 minute wait she let us through and we had the road to ourselves – like our own critical mass ride.D58AEDC3-25AE-4CED-92DF-3C8952E67664

We rode a few miles before we could see why the road was a single lane in one direction. A little farther and we started facing construction traffic coming toward us in the single lane. That made things interesting.

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Lunch was fish tacos featuring walleye caught by some of the riders Sunday. Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace may be facing some competition!

After lunch the wind picked up and we headed north with a tailwind – 25 mph riding with no work.

We turned east again into a crosswind that varied, sometimes hitting our right shoulder, sometimes straight across, sometimes giving us a little help. After 89 miles we pulled into Miller, SD. Midweek we will be halfway on this journey.

Great Plains

Internet service is completely down here in the Pierre Indian Education Center. I’m writing this post in “Notes” in hopes that service will come back on.

A last look at the Badlands. The color of the soil suddenly changed here.

After 96 degrees yesterday (Saturday), it is 66 and drizzly today.

We have a day off to recuperate in Pierre. We spent the morning in a coffee shop downtown, eating breakfast and watching the World Cup final, won by France over Croatia, 4-2.

Anders, one of our mechanics, was approached by a couple he knows from Northfield, MN. One of them thought they had found the coffee shop frequented by locals and was impressed by the cosmopolitan nature of the local crowd – watching soccer and speaking with British accents. We disabused her of that notion.

The Pierre Indian Education Center (formerly Pierre Indian School) is not unlike the “Custer Memorial Indian School” satirized by the Firesign Theatre (in “Temporarily Humboldt County”) and linked in my July 4 post.

According to a local historian quoted in the local paper, the school was founded in the 1880s as part of Pierre’s bid to become the state capital. They wanted to show that their Indians were “civilized” (just like Soaring Eagle AKA Eddie in the Firesign piece).

We will spend the next few days continuing across South Dakota, entering Minnesota on Thursday. We will end the week in Northfield, home of “Defeat of Jesse James Days”. Northfield was once home to a major bank. Jesse James and his gang decided to rob it. The locals responded quickly and shot it out with the gang. 

The story was memorialized in films including “The Long Riders” and “The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid”. While Jesse James has been canonized as a latter-day Robin Hood, he was actually a Confederate sympathizer who robbed and killed northerners to avenge the south’s loss in the war.

And so we begin a week headed more or less easterly. Less north and south wandering. The road flattens considerably.

Sober in Nebraska

Sunday being a rest day, and this week being the closest we will get to Nebraska, this seems like the time for another musical plug. One of my favorite bands is Free Hot Lunch. (Even their website seems to have retired, or at least be on hiatus.) While they broke up years ago, they periodically show up for a reunion concert. Back  in the day, driving from Wisconsin to Colorado seemed like The Thing To Do. Some people did it to buy Coors beer back when it was not available outside of the west. Scarcity seems to equal desirability to some.

(True confession: the trip which resulted in my ankle injury was one such trip, though the injury didn’t occur until we headed south to New Mexico to escape the cold in Colorado. We dashed to our tent in a storm, leaving our dinner dishes out. When we awoke in the morning to find the dishes full of ice, we decided it was time to move on.)

Anyway, the drive was a long one and Free Hot Lunch commemorated it in song:

While we won’t ride across Nebraska, and everything looks different at 20 mph than at 70 mph, and I am crossing the plains not just to get somewhere else, I still offer this.

The song was written by John Corning, who also taught me that, while a pregnant woman is eating for two, her partner is drinking for three. If you like Dan Hicks, you’ll like Free Hot Lunch. If you like his sense of humor, you’ll like John Corning.

Next week will probably look a lot like Nebraska. Today (Saturday) was a precursor. It is now 96 degrees in Pierre, SD. We rode 91 miles today and the winds are still out of the southeast at 15-20 mph. We had one blessed interlude of tailwind when we turned north, but it was mostly a headwind or crosswind from the right.

Crosswinds take a lot out of you. They require concentration as at times you have to lean into the wind to stay upright, and then it will slack off and you have to stop leaning.

The wind seems to suck the moisture out of you – I probably drank more today than any day so far. My skin was coated in salt; I could have been a salt lick.

We also frequently ride in the space between the rumble strips and the edge of the shoulder – that space is maybe 18 inches wide at best and shrinks without warning.

The last 30 miles were on brand-new asphalt – so new the lines hadn’t yet been painted. It almost made up for the wind.

Mile 77 – refilled my water bottle with ice water.

Mile 80 – ice is just a memory.

Mile 83 – neither cold nor hot.

Mile 86 – ready to make tea.

Before the trip, people called me crazy for doing this; maybe they were right.

We surpassed 2000 miles today, entered our third time zone, and crossed the Missouri River for the last time. It is much wider than the last time we crossed it. This is the end of week four. We will start week six by crossing the Mississippi.

 

…not in Kansas anymore

The first 20 seconds contain the essence.

We awoke at the edge of the Badlands and rode into the park for breakfast at the park cafe. We were on the road by 7, but earlier would have been even better. I’d love to ride through here at dawn and dusk to watch the light change. A day off so we could just spend the day here and do some hiking would be great.

Once the sun is high in the sky, the Badlands tend to look stark and desolate. In the right light, it is a magic land.BB07480F-88D1-4DCF-818B-1A35389F60777EB9E035-7D9F-4FEB-8C86-B38E1DC7DBE3597B7AB4-882F-4BDE-8BB9-69C0BDDA8A85A30E7BCE-D138-4230-850D-07E3D7C9566Dl

I’m having connection issues, so apologize if things look weird. Pictures that appeared a few minutes ago and were saved are now invisible to me. I hope that doesn’t mean you get two copies

The light changed quickly. Lunch was in Wall, home of the (in)famous Wall Drug. The lesson is driven home daily that “prevailing winds” are not the same as “today’s winds”. I thought we were crossing the country the “easy way”, coming gradually downhill across the plains to the Mississippi, propelled by the westerly winds.

Instead, mornings are quiet and afternoons are into 15-20 mph easterly/southeasterly gusty winds. Below is the original jail in the town of Cottonwood (pop 9).AB7EBB6A-5089-4CA9-A14E-958FBBC7061D

That photo took minutes to upload, so I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead. Tonight we’re in Philip, SD. To Pierre tomorrow and then a day of rest.