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.

4th of July

Notice how this is the only holiday we refer to specifically by its date? Why is that? 5 de Mayo is also referred to that way, but not in English.

So here I am, in the great and sprawling west. 4th of July out here makes me think of US history, westward expansion, and manifest destiny. If you have 10 minutes to spare (9:15 to be exact), here is a better history lesson than I had in school – more accurate and more entertaining to boot. “Temporarily Humboldt County” by the Firesign Theater. Listen to it. I’ll wait.

 

Some years ago I spent the 4th at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. I took some great pictures but, due to software incompatibility, I may not see them again. (Don’t ya like how we were sold the idea of digital photography so we could keep our pictures forever with no need for restoration? I have 100 year old photos of my house but can’t recover 12 year old digital photos.

The memorial was begun in 1948. There is no estimated completion date. It is all privately funded. For comparison, Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve and Crazy Horse’s face is 50% larger than the Mt Rushmore faces.

from crazyhorsememorial.org
from Atlas Obscura – model of finished sculpture (foreground), actual sculpture (background)

On the porch of our lodge in Deadwood, the evening of July 3, 2006, my son improvised a mournful viola solo which became the basis for the adagio movement of his “String Trio in G”. He completed the movement for a summer composition project. It was dedicated to one of his academic mentors, Ted Widerski, who died while we were on that trip. That project moved him to alter his career plan from composition to orchestral conducting. Next month I’ll have a link to a live performance of his orchestra, so you can see where that led. If you can’t wait that long, here is a performance from a few years ago of Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”.

Aside to the conductor: Did you know you were born on the anniversary of Samuel Barber’s death?

In July of 1976 (the US Bicentennial) I rode the Sparta to Elroy bike trail. I saw a sight that seemed to embody the spirit of the US to me. There, in the trail, side-by-side, were two vending machines – one for Coke and one for Pepsi. I took a picture that was to be the start of a photo essay called “Freedom is…”. I never completed the project because satire became superfluous the day I saw a two page centerspread ad in the daily paper. There were red, white, and blue bunting across the top of the page, stars sprinkled (liberally?) about, and the giant header “The Great American Buycentennial“. I don’t remember what they were selling. For those who were around in 1976 you likely remember the grotesque attempts to cash in.

I’ll leave you with one last bit of Americana. While I may have quibbles with the tempo, who am I to question the New York Philharmonic?

They don’t call it Wind River for nothin’

We spent the day crossing and recording the Wind River, riding through its valley. Here is my friend Keith’s song “Wind River Crossing”

We rode out of Dubois with the same 25 mph tailwind with which we entered. At our first water stop the wind shifted and we spent the middle half of the ride pushing through a strong headwind.

We entered Riverton to darkening skies and increasing winds. It is blowing about 40 mph now. Pitching tents has been fun. The sun is out but the wind shows no sign of abating.

This was supposed to be a recovery ride between yesterday’s 17 mile climb and Thursday’s steep climb to over 9600 feet and 94 total miles. We were supposed to be riding downhill with a tailwind. C’est la vie.

Early on we rode through beautiful red rock canyons.

We spent a few hours riding toward an isolated butte. I kept wondering when I should stop for a picture. Shortly after I did so, I came upon a historical marker.

The butte is Crowheart Butte, so called because, after defeating the Crow in a battle for the surrounding land, the Shoshone chief is said to have displayed the heart of one of the Crow warriors on the point of his lance. The town of Crowheart is nearby.

For an alternative view of this ride, see Terrysspokereport.blogspot.com. While we are all on the same route, we each have our own ride.