What a night! Bright flashes of lightening and rolls of thunder woke me up about midnight. I quickly secured the rain flaps of my tent, then lay back to watch the light show and see what was in store.
The rains soon DUMPED on us. I lay semi-enjoying this, comfortable on my cushy mattress and in my dry sleeping bag and tent. Suddenly, though, I got real scared when it sounded like someone threw a softball onto the side of my tent. What? A tree dropping branches or watermelons or something? Then another and then another. Huge hits that threatened the tent fabric itself.
The assault was short-lived, much to my relief. I lay for some minutes longer and listened to the droning rain, but soon popped my earplugs back in and returned to dreamland. Slept the rest of the night.
In the morning, we both awoke and were out early. The hail storm had woken Randy last night, and he had picked up frozen spheres larger than golf balls outside his tent. Luckily, both the tents and bikes seemed to have survived intact. Sure was scary inside the tents, though!
We started in for breakfast, and I enjoyed the orange and a PB&J sandwich. I decided to make a stash of the sandwiches for the ride today, to provide a more steady caloric flow, and so I made 4 of them and wrapped them up inside my handlebar bag. As I did so, I noticed the two hawks still circling overhead.
No raingear required – the rains had fully stopped. What was left was a fantastic NW wind, perfect for our southeast route today. We enjoyed a gorgeous ride down ND1804 toward the state line. Both the eastern and southern legs were wind-assisted, which made the ever present hill climbing much more tolerable. Still, the road meandered a lot, and the constant 200-300 foot hills eventually began to wear on us.
At one point I passed a flat rock on the road surface, but within 500 yards spun my bike around when it dawned on me that it was a big turtle. I laid my camera flat on the roadside and took its picture, but later realized that I hadn’t bothered to focus it using the macro option. Of course, I nudged the turtle off into the grasses following its glamour shot.
After 25 miles or so, we finally reached the South Dakota state line, a symbolic achievement if nothing else. The opposing ND/SD state line signs were located out in a vast open area swept by the winds. A beautiful and stark place that just felt comfortable and peaceful to me.
We paralleled the border for a few miles, then headed south a bit into Pollock, SD, population 300. A pretty town with a water tower and a short main street. We stopped in a grocery store for some candy and referral for lunch. I was looking for a small can of WD-40 but they didn’t have one. The couple of guys up front learned we were from Arizona, and one said, “Well, I guess that John McCain is headed for a loss this November, eh?” To which I replied, “What? From Hayworth?” Then quickly shut my mouth. I’d almost said that buffoon Hayworth but caught myself quickly enough to realize that these guys were conservative supporters of one Rep. J. D. Hayworth. “Yeah, who knows?” I eventually stammered.
We crossed the street into Sharon’s Café, and took a table. We both ordered a cheeseburger, tater tots, coffee and water, because, well, there really wasn’t anything else on the menu to order. A very friendly oldtimer spontaneously sat down with us and started up a conversation to find out who we were, which I thought was great fun. He told us of the cold winters here and of some of the history of the area. Sharon’s Café was a good stop.
Studying the maps, we decided to leave the AC’s Lewis & Clark Trail map. The road was simply too meandering and too hilly over the river bluffs, in relation to our goal of making it to Ragbrai. From Pollock, we headed due east on SD route 10, a nice straight 11 mile stretch with little shoulder and almost no traffic. As we crossed Lake Pocasse, the winds were really starting to whip up from the WNW, in the 20-25 mph range, creating little white streaks across the water and wind-driven waves at the shore.
We turned south onto US83. Soon we entered the small town of Herreid and stopped on the main drag. It was a really nice looking town and we considered stopping for the night. Randy checked in at the city hall for a possible park, and tried also to pick up a decent South Dakota road map. We also met the former mayor of Herreid. We commented that US83 had been great to ride on so far, with a nice wide shoulder, and the mayor noted that he’d been thrown out of office for spending too much on improving the highway. Well, he gets our vote, that’s for sure.
US83 heading south continued to give us a great wide shoulder until about 3 miles before Mound City, where SD10 splits off from it. The shoulder then disappeared and the riding got fairly treacherous. As previously noted, US83 is a major trucking thruway that tracks all the way into Texas from here. Couple the endless truck traffic with severe crosswinds and, well, we had a trying situation on our hands. The gusting crosswinds especially made it difficult to steer our rigs in a narrow straight line along the road’s edge.
Still, I found almost every trucker up here to be courteous, moving into the opposite lane as much as possible when passing. The winds stayed strong crossing us from the west, but contained a tiny helping component that eased the ride. During a brief water stop, a South Dakota highway patrolman stopped beside me and asked if I needed any help, then smiled and waved as he pulled away. Talk about friendly!
Randy stopped at one point and proclaimed he was “out of gas.” I nodded in agreement, but we continued southward anyway, taking frequent brief rests, and plowing onward. We finally reached the junction of US83 with US12, nearing the town of Selby. Once on US12, the shoulder became blissfully wide and smooth, and even turned to the east for a while. Aided by the winds, the last 3 miles in to Selby were great!
For camping, I checked out a signed RV park just off the highway, but found it not very compelling. Randy soon met up with me while I waited at a convenience/bait store, and he agreed with my assessment. We rode east into town, roamed around the streets for a while, and eventually found a city park, complete with several ball fields, a pool, and play areas.
As we cruised the park perimeter, Randy noticed a resident working in his garage and asked about possible camping opportunities in the park. The friendly guy piped up, “Sure. I don’t see why not. I’m on the city council. If anyone says anything tell them Gene Perkins said it was OK.” Man, sweet! People are SO friendly up here.
We entered the park and found a pavilion with a picnic table. Rest rooms were nearby and there was even a water fountain, so it looked like a pretty good place. The wind continued to scream in from the west. The nearby pool was active with children, and other kids were playing on one of the diamonds. Only about 15 minutes went by when a couple of bored little kids, maybe 10 or 12, came over to find out who we were.
One of them had found a frog, and excitedly showed it to me. Pretty soon he was ready to get back into the pool, and asked me if I had a box for the frog. Unfortunately, I had nothing suitable, so he then asked me to watch it for him. I laughed, declined, and told him the frog would have to be his responsibility.
The other one was wearing an AC/DC shirt. I nodded to him, “Nice shirt, they’re a cool band, eh?”
Kid: “Well, I don’t really know any of their songs – I just have this tee shirt.” Honest answer. “I know Garth Brooks, though.”
Me: “Man, Garth Brooks – he’s great!”
Kid: “He’s dead you know.”
Me: “What? (pause) Did he die in the last 2 weeks or so?”
Kid: (now confused) “He is dead, you know.”
Me: Thinking for a second. Then, laughing “Garth Brooks isn’t dead! He’s younger than me!”
The kid looked perplexed, turned and walked off at this point. I could just see him now at the dinner table telling his family how this strange man at the park told him that Garth Brooks was really alive. [Note: The kid was probably referring to the fact that Garth is retired – or was, until last year.]
The kids were driving Randy a little bit nuts. I thought they were a tad clingy but innocent enough. Randy told them to get lost. One of the kids asked me why Randy was so grouchy – I just told them he was tired.
Randy brought up a good point that, in our situation, you had to be somewhat careful what you said to little kids, and that no interaction was sometimes the best course. This made sense to me, especially seeing how we could officially be classified as “those strangers in the park.”
At this point, Randy sort of shut off. Maybe the miles, the relentless winds, the sound of so many kids around – I’m actually not sure what happened. For about 20 minutes I tried to make conversation, discuss our route and progress, but got practically no response. I suggested that we go into town and explore the eats, but Randy said he wanted to sit and cook a can of tuna with some rice and would entertain no options. Cool – I guess I can understand – just out of gas and needed to chill.
I sat for a while trying to read, but the afternoon called for some adventure. In fact, the notion of a newspaper and a beer sounded just right to me. I invited Randy along, was declined, and jumped onto my unloaded bike for a spin up the Main Street of Selby, SD.
I soon found the Cloverleaf Bar & Grill, which to me appeared to be the former lobby of a nice old hotel. The bar was perfect, nicely lit, booths along the wall, and a well-stocked mirrored bar on the opposite side. The first thing I asked for was where to get a newspaper, and the friendly lady bartender sent me outside to a box down the street. I scored an Aberdeen newspaper, laid it down on my table, and ordered up a draft beer.
The beer hadn’t even arrived yet when two guys sitting at the bar called me over. I sat down next to them, started in to talking with them, was served my beer, and from there I never did return to either my booth or my paper.
Lee and Paul were motorcycle tourists visiting town. I learned that they had met each other in South Korea, both of them teaching English. I think they promised each other to some day do a motorcycle tour together, and this was it, using rented bikes out of California. Lee, from San Diego, used to be in the trucking business, but grew weary of the penny-pinching nature of it and chucked it. Paul, from Plymouth, UK, had a surname of Selby, and had thus steered the duo here to check out his namesake town in South Dakota.
Four beers later, our threesome had turned into a sixsome, with 3 local patrons joining the laughs, and occasionally the bartender as well. We talked of Selby and nearby towns and agriculture and especially of South Dakota weather and winters. One of the patrons turned out to be the editor of the local Selby newspaper, and her conversations eventually morphed into an interview, asking for spellings of our names, etc.
Lee and Paul dove in to the dinner menu, and I took a long look at it as well. Wow, sirloin, baked potato, it all looked really good. I waited to order, however, and gave Randy a call to get over here and join me. Unfortunately his phone was turned off. Not a problem – I asked the bartender to watch my latest beer while I would be gone for a few minutes, got outside, and jumped on my bicycle toward the park.
I found Randy still moody, still reading, still pretty uncommunicative. I told him of all the action and fun people at the bar, the ongoing interview, the steak, but he shook his head, no. I returned to the bar for my beer, and enjoyed one of the best steaks of the trip. Tender sirloin seasoned with a very tasty mixture of spices and cayenne pepper. The paper editor finished up her interview of the three of us, then posed us out in front of the Selby courthouse for a photograph, me with my bike and Lee and Paul with their machines.
Lee, Paul and I cruised back to the park. Lee and Paul wanted to meet Randy, and they also wanted to check out the park for camping possibilities. I think they said the hotel in Selby wanted $80+ for the night. We all sat around talking for another hour, Randy mostly with Lee, and me mostly with Paul. Paul and I discussed in much detail the many differences between UK/Euro culture and American culture.
Lee and Paul eventually decided to do the hotel for the evening. I think one of the things that tinged their decision was the large population of kids still roaming around the park, and an ongoing softball game in full swing on one of the fields. No telling when all this action would wind down. Randy had already set up his tent in front of the pavilion. A bit concerned about creating less of a profile, what with all these kids around, I told him I was thinking about setting up some 200 yards away, over at one edge of the park tucked into a row of pine trees.
I dragged my tent, gear, and bike over there and set up. There was no place to lock up my bike, so I just click-standed it up 12 feet from my tent behind one of the pine trees. I returned to the pavilion, and Randy and I chatted and waited a pretty long time for the softball game to finally end. When it did around 10:30pm, the park more or less emptied out. At last – time to snooze!
Just as I lay back in my tent, a couple groups of teenagers showed up on one of the ball fields and started howling at the moon. You know, just hooting and cursing and yelling and running around. I guess when you live in a really small town, and you’ve got the energy of a teenager, you’ve got to create your own dramas. It didn’t bother me much but I hoped they would end soon, and thankfully they did.
Around 11:30pm, a vanload of girls arrived at the park. From what I could tell, this was likely a church-run troop of brownies, all 8 year-olds or so, and they had scheduled a night-time game at the park. Hide and seek. Great! One of the girls ran out and hid, and within minutes a hoard of little flashlights emerged and began sweeping and combing through each square foot of the open areas.
The first thing I heard was an assault on Randy’s tent. “Look, a tent!” I peeked out my ventilation cuts to see 4 or 5 girls on tiptoe all shining flashlights into his tent windows. “Hey, there’s a guy in there!” Man, I bet Randy was loving this.
The swarm of lights disappeared for 5 minutes, then I heard them approaching my area. Finally another girl yelled out, “Look another tent!” I cringed. One of the adult supervisors calmly stated, “Yes, someone is camping here,” and they all mercifully turned away and let me alone. Wow – saved by the bell. I was actually more concerned about someone tripping over or otherwise playing with my bike, but they seemed to respect my space.
Some time around midnight, I again saw the group over near Randy’s tent, a chatter of girl’s voices, with the flashlights shining all over it again. I guess this just about put Randy over the edge, because I soon heard him trudging up behind the adjacent pine tree, dragging his tent behind him, and re-setting it up away from the action.
The girls played a couple more rounds of the game and left us alone after that, but I continued to be a bit concerned about my unlocked bicycle in this Romper Room zone. Not enough to interfere with my sleep, though. Once the Brownies left, I popped in my earplugs and enjoyed a nice peaceful night.
- Miles ridden today: 76
- Cumulative miles this tour: 445