Badlands – bad news/good news

The bad news is that it was already 80 degrees at 8 AM. The good news is that we were cruising through the Badlands. The bad news is that we were headed west to Wall, and everyone knows the Atlantic Ocean is to the east. The good news is that, after picnic in Wall we turned east. The bad news is that it was getting hotter. The good news is that there was a fresh breeze. The bad news is that it was from the east, so it was a stiff headwind for the second half of the ride.

Sunrise over the Badlands

The Badlands at midday are a washed-out grey/brown. In the early morning light they come alive with reds and yellows. The road meanders through short grass prairie (home of many prairie dogs), sometimes skirting badlands with prairie on the other side, sometimes engulfed in the badlands and climbing through passes. The road is in excellent shape throughout.

Note tiny cyclist (center right) descending pass

Leaving the Badlands we crossed three cattleguards in close succession. The shaking brought to mind the first line of this song:

I know it’s a cover, but it’s a great one.
Cottonwood, SD, pop 9. This was the jail. (I may have run a similar photo 4 years ago.)
Curious longhorn steer, Interior, SD

Many riders took a shortcut, bypassing Wall and much of the Badlands. One was talking about the dangerous road as a reason. Another rider asked me what I remembered of it. I said I only really remembered the Badlands. The road out of Wall was US 14. It parallels I-90 and had almost no traffic and a wide, well-paved shoulder. No danger there. About 10 miles out of Philip, my memory came crashing back. Traffic picked up and the shoulder deteriorated at irregular intervals, sometimes turning to gravel, sometimes piles of rubble, and sometimes craters. It was one such area that was my undoing 4 years ago, when semis approached from both directions simultaneously. I tried to escape to the shoulder and found myself in an untenable situation. A stop at the drug store in Philip for a cold drink and some extra first aid supplies was necessary and I tried not to bleed on their floor. (Really, it was just oozing a bit by then.) Daily debridements in the shower and dressing changes were the story of my next week. I decided I would not give up my lane unless I could see far down the shoulder. I was uneasy for those last miles but the drug store was only necessary for a cold ginger ale.

The forecast for tonight is to stay hot until thunderstorms roll in. When I arrived there were a lot of bikes but only two tents and not much space for tents. Many of the tenters said they were sleeping inside tonight so I decided to join them – and tomorrow for our rest day it is a motel in Pierre. I’ll be sleeping indoors for three nights. I may be getting soft. Addendum: We are on the edge of town. They must have been spreading manure on the fields. The area reeks. Nearly everyone has moved inside.