Up fairly early, around 7:30am. Randy justifiably groused about the girls not respecting his tent area, but he felt better this morning after getting some sleep. I reminded him that it was their city park and they probably had that game planned for a while.
The restrooms at the park were decent enough for a shave and a quick paper towel bath. Otherwise, I could tell I was getting pretty seriously grungy. Randy rule was that if you can actually smell yourself, you definitely need a shower.
We rolled out of the park by 8:15am and visited the food market on Main Street. Picked up some bananas, candy, etc. As I was checking out, the grocer asked me, “Are you one of those cyclists? Is your name Selby?” I got a really big grin out of this – the word sure does get around in a small town.
We then rolled back out to US83, found a place called Dakota Maid, and took a table for breakfast. A very good spot, with wi-fi for Randy, and I thoroughly enjoyed my eggs, bacon, pancakes and coffee. Our waitress soon approached us and asked, “Are you those two cycling guys? You have to sign our guest book!” How cool is that?
Onward south on US83. I remember that it took me a long time to get out of town, stopping 2 or 3 times to change clothing, apply chamois butter, etc. etc., so Randy and I started out quite separated. The winds were 10 mph out of the due west and increasing as we rode, so we again had that annoying crosswind to fight. The shoulder was better here (compared to north of Selby), maybe 12-15 inches.
It was a long slog, about 48 miles before the first town. I continued to munch pre-made PB&J sandwiches as I went and shared with Randy as we met up with each other. Likewise he carried Fig Newtons and would share as well. The westerly winds picked up to a steady 20 mph – ouch.
I stopped repeatedly on the way, once at the intersection of SD144 (the AC route from Akaska), but most often at watering holes, ponds and bridges, looking for critters, or wherever else the fancy struck me. I started to notice that corn was a much more common crop the further south we went. Randy and I met up and enjoyed a roadside lunch together.
In time, we both got pretty baked by the sun, and the crosswinds continued to be hard work. Temperatures were around 90F with 35% rh, and we both ran out of water. Weary, we finally caught sight of the tower in Agar, and were glad to be approaching the town.
Unfortunately, we found Agar to be an ultra-tiny town. So tiny that it didn’t even have a convenience store, just a few houses, a water tower, some grain storage, and a fire department. We rolled up the short main street and found a small park with a grassy play area and rest room. The rest room had a hose spigot on its side, and with relief we filled up our water bottles and started to re-hydrate.
I started shooting some hoops on the playground with a half-flat basketball that was lying around. A couple of kids came by, maybe 8 or 9 years old. They checked us over but didn’t say too much. One of them finally went up to the rest room spigot and proclaimed, “That’s pee water you know.” Young roughneck, for sure. I just laughed at him and he recanted the statement – just kidding. Randy and I rested and ate PB&J sandwiches for at least ½ hour. I had fun with the basketball but my shot was pitifully off line.
Reluctantly, we saddled up again and finished out the remaining 9 miles to Onida, back into the heat and stiff crosswinds heading south on US83.
In Onida, at the Corner Store I bought a rare Coca-Cola and man did it ever taste good. Randy and I headed up Ash Avenue and were presented with a long line of semi-trucks idling on the right shoulder of the road. Soon we passed 2 sheriff’s deputies directing traffic at the front of the line. In the opposite direction was another long line of semi’s. We soon learned it was wheat harvest time here, and all of them were converged at the Oahe Grain Corporation to unload.
We found the pretty Onida court house and a small city park off Ash Avenue, but the park was close to the grain silos and liable to be experiencing jake brakes all night. We eventually found Main Street, and Randy made a beeline to the city office to learn of camping sites. I instead headed to hardware store, and asked them where the best place for cold beer was. They replied, “Gotta go to the Blue Goose.” I inquired about camping as well, and they suggested I try out the park around the community pool. I kinda figured that folks in the hardware store would know where things were in a small town. Emerging, I found Randy. The city office was closed, but he’d come up with the same information about the pool park.
We checked it out. The pool was closed but the adult supervisors appeared to all be in the pool, probably anticipating evening hours. No signs indicated that camping was permitted or prohibited, so we examined it for a few minutes. Aggressive mosquitoes, for sure, and another possible Kiddy City.
Oh well, guess we’ll wait for the evening pool hours and see what happens. Randy and I were in lock step for our next destination – the Blue Goose. A few locals were in the back, and the friendly bartender found us some icy cold bottles. We sat up front, spread out our maps, and were soon involved in route planning for the next few days. Felt really good to be off the bike, in some A/C, and with cold beers.
I came outside to grab a map from my handlebar bag, ran across a pretty lady and said hi. She asked me where I was from, what I was doing in Onida, why I was riding a bike. I asked where she was from (Onida), about the town, etc., and learned her name was Brenda. She hopped in her car and left but I was thinking, wow – what a nice lady.
We finished multiple rounds of beer and the bartender came out and chatted with us about our cycling for a while. We asked about food. The bartender said he could serve us some pizza, and quoted us a price for it. He then said, “It’s good stuff, it’s Papa John’s.” Oh… so you don’t actually make it here? He read our faces, and suggested we walk across the street to Brewster’s Tavern & Grill for a fuller menu.
We headed over there and took two seats at the bar. The menu looked good and once again the steak appeared to be the thing to get. I ordered up a sirloin with mushrooms, potato, and salad, and another beer. We sat a short while, and the bartender suddenly appeared before me with a cordless phone, “There’s a phone call for you.” What? A phone call? “Hello?”
“Hi, this is Brenda, I met you out front of the Blue Goose.”
“Wow, hi, how did you find me here?”
“I just called and asked at the Blue Goose. Remember, this is a small town.”
Brenda proceeded to ask Randy and me to dinner and to spend the night at her hunting lodge. I told her that the Brewster’s kitchen was already cooking our dinner and that we would have to pass on that. But coming over for the evening sounded really good. After conferring with Randy, it was all set. Brenda told us her place was some miles out of town down gravel roads, and that she would send her son out to pick us up. Cool!
Randy and I could not believe how nice people were here in Onida, and in our good fortune, since we clearly didn’t yet have a defined place to stay tonight. Soon after our dinner was served, a good-looking guy and girl walked in and sat down at the bar. They didn’t say anything to us, but I finally offered, “ You must be Brenda’s son,” and he nodded. We then shared some conversation and learned his name was Devon and his girlfriend’s name Chelsea. Unfortunately, he was forced to wait about ½ hour while we finished dinner, especially since I am a notoriously slow eater.
I asked Devon if Brenda had a favorite beverage or beer, and he mentioned that she likes Blue Moon. I picked up a cold six-pack of it at the bar and the four of us then headed out to Devon’s pick-up truck, tossed on the bikes, and off we went. We headed west of town on Ash Avenue, then turned south onto dirt roads for something like 8 or 9 miles, finally arriving at their farm.
Brenda, two others, and a dog came out to greet us. It really felt like we were being welcomed in as family! We stashed our bikes in the garage and headed inside (and thankfully out of the mosquitoes). We were introduced to Brenda’s brother Gordy, to his wife Shirley, and their dog Lucky. Gordy and Brenda then gave us a tour of the house and showed us to our own separate guest rooms that Gordy had expertly built onto the rear of the house. During hunting season, these rooms were used to support pheasant hunting parties, and were nicely equipped with full bath and shower. How sweet is this?
The seven of us then adjourned to the dining room and the conversations started. This was truly a fun-loving family. They wanted to find out about us and asked lots of questions. But they also wanted to show us the fun they have in their lives, and talk about life in small town, South Dakota. Brenda had actually traveled quite a bit, but when it came time to raise her children, she had moved back to Onida and Pierre.
She explained that she had pulled away in her car from the Blue Goose, then thought about what we were doing. She had read about touring cyclists before, and that sometimes people would take them in. She then thought, “Gee, why didn’t I invite them over?” And then, it was obvious to me that her good heart caused her to call and retrieve us. A very kind soul.
The whiskey and watermelon came out, and the conversations turned into long laughing affairs. Gordy was just a riot, hilarious even, and could expertly tell a tale. Shirley, probably the sanest of the lot, was a crack-up as well. Brenda summed South Dakota up as: Pheasants, Walleye and Booze (amid plenty of laughs). They all told funny stories of issues on the farm, the character of South Dakota, tales of hunting and fishing, the personalities of horses. Around 11:30pm, all laughed out, I finally had to cry uncle and request that I hit the room. It was getting late, I was stinky, and the shower in my room was beckoning.
First, we adjourned to the garage where Brenda, Devon, and Chelsea said their goodbyes. All had some business in the morning, Brenda’s in Pierre. A few photos were snapped between the laughter. What a great family.
The shower was divine! I probably spent ½ hour in there and wasn’t even embarrassed about it. Then a wonderful quiet sleep. I did not know what the morning would bring, I did not care. Good Samaritanism reigns in Onida, South Dakota.