Up at 7. The Super 8 had a serve-yourself breakfast and I fixed one of those malt batter waffles, plus some toast, a hard-boiled egg, a donut, and some coffee. Randy soon joined me. Winds this morning were coming directly out of the south, but the Weather Channel forecast them to shift later in the afternoon from the WSW. We figured that might help us later if we were lucky. We weren’t.
We hit the food market in Pierre, a place called Lynn’s Dakotamart. I picked up some candy, trail mix, and Snickers bars. I’d already made some PB&J sandwiches for the road. The map told us our first town outside Pierre would be in 48 miles, so I also bought 2 extra liters of water and tucked them on top of my rear panniers. This gave me a starting amount of about 150 oz., a little more than a gallon.
Rolling through the backroads of Pierre, I noticed the temperature & humidity combination already in the “sweltering” range. We headed out on SD34 and for about 20 miles, got nothing but beautiful road, beautiful vistas of the river, wide shoulder, and thin traffic. I was sweating a lot already – it was going to be hot!
We eventually climbed up out of the river valley on a fairly steep hill. For the next 20 miles, it just kept getting hotter. Miles and miles of hayfields. I found myself stopping often for any excuse, a group of horses, a herd of cattle, a pond. I consumed my water regularly, reasoning that it was better in me than outside me. But soon enough I found myself rationing the last bottle, and, what was left of my sanity. Did I mention that it was hot?
As my exhaustion grew, my speed decreased. Winds continued to be steady between 10 and 15 mph out of the south. I knew we needed to pull over for a mini-lunch break, but nowhere along this route provided any shade to speak of. Finally a farm driveway appeared on our left with a row of 6 or 8 cottonwood trees. Shade! We detoured down the road, then just quietly sat on the ground and tried to recuperate. The PB&J sandwiches tasted good to us both. I drank most of the remainder of my water, and Randy shared some of his with me.
Only 8 or 10 more miles to the first town, but in our baked condition, these were slow miles. Difficult miles. All my water was gone by mile 5. No more shade in sight. You start counting the tenths of miles, you start counting the hundredths…
SD47 finally came into view. A very small town named Mac’s Corner was supposed to be there, but we didn’t know what to expect. To our great relief, it turned out to be a Sinclair gas station, complete with convenience store.
I walked in to find a lady maybe in her 60s behind the counter. “I’m glad you’re here!” I said. She immediately quipped, “So am I.” My first 2 liters of Gatorade tasted like heaven, and Randy and I practically passed out just leaning back on the bench in the shade on the front porch. I went in and purchased another Gatorade, and the lady told me that some 50 cyclists were expected through here in a few days. She said they were with 2 different outfits, one called Bikers Across America and the other called American Cyclists.
She told me that one of the hills we’d climbed about 28 miles earlier (probably that steep one out of the river valley), represents the mid-way point for some cyclists who ride across the country, starting out in Astoria, OR.
Randy and I rested and waited, hoping the winds would change direction as forecast. They didn’t. I bet we waited 45 minutes, but the wind just kept steady around 12-18 mph from the south, which unfortunately was the direction of our last 12-mile leg today. We finally felt recuperated enough, jumped back into the saddle, and headed south down SD47.
Slog, slog, slog. Headwind speed seemed to pick up, but that notion was probably proportional to our fatigue. My filled water bottles got so hot so quick that I didn’t even want to drink them. I passed these two signs that just made me laugh. They said “Why Die?” Yeah, why die?
The winds finally did swing around, coming from the west at over 20 mph. We did a final short descent into Fort Thompson and hit the Dakotamart there for a cold liter of water. Randy immediately headed over to the Lode Star Hotel, which is run by the Crow Creek Indian tribe. He returned with news that they had vacancy and he’d already booked a room, rate of $65. He and I readily agreed there was no way we were going to swelter inside a tent tonight.
The rooms at the Lode Star were nice and big, and I finally got to spread out my tent for some drying in the air conditioning. Man, it felt good to be inside. Randy called me down to his room for some Coronas and salty snacks, and we really enjoyed an hour or so just sitting and talking and reflecting on today’s tough ride and other life issues.
The Weather Underground website stated today’s official temperature was 106°F, which occurred at 2pm. We had probably arrived in Fort Thompson around 3pm, just as the winds changed direction.
I returned to my room and felt like holing up for a 12-hour sleep. Instead, I watched the British Open 3rd round, and then finally took a nap.
I woke up at 10pm hungry, put on my shoes, and strolled to the front desk. I asked about restaurants but the clerk told me there was nothing in town, except a small kitchen at the casino. Outside, it was nearly dark already, and I walked the 1/3 mile to the Lode Star Casino.
While I did so, I passed by a wrecked old house that had no lights burning. In the front, however, was what appeared to be a table and eight or ten guys all huddled around it. Honestly, it sort of gave me the creeps. Brenda’s family had actually given this town a less-than-stellar rating, as one with too many thieves. I felt like a real target, heading over to go into the casino – it only made sense I was carrying money, right?
I made it over there, and found a nice but dinky casino with maybe 20 players. I ordered up a cheeseburger, fries, and Coke to go. At first, the waitress brought out my Coke in a glass. I reminded her that I wanted it to go, but she just shrugged – go ahead and drink it. She then came by and informed me that a salad comes with my burger, if I want it. Sure! I headed over to the salad bar and created a 1000-island masterpiece, complete with bacon bits and croutons, then sat back down at the table to wait.
The wait was long, and in the meanwhile I annihilated my salad. Wow, I was hungry. She finally brought out the burger and fries, plus a big Styrofoam cup of Coke. Out of the casino, then back down the highway in front of the creepy dark house. I bristled, increased my gait, and wondered, in case of an ambush, would it be best to protect myself, my wallet, or my food?
|Miles ridden today: 64|
|Cumulative miles: 620|