Springfield SD: Bob and Diane

Rain in the early morning. As usual, it was a pleasing sound inside my tent, and, as usual, it stopped early on, around 7am.

I got up before Randy and decided to again take advantage of the beautiful swimming cove we had, this time with towel, soap and shampoo. Wading out into the water, then up to my neck, it just felt so great. The water temps were around 77F, maybe 78F, very comfortable. A nice breeze flew in across the lake surface. Three bright yellow goldfinches flew past. No one else around at all. What a simple joy.

While I was bathing, Randy awoke and started packing up. It took me a while to finish up, get toweled off, and once I got back to the tent Randy was ready to head off to Abby’s for coffee. He’d wait on ordering breakfast until I got there.

Alone, I quickly packed my bags and started loading up my bike. As the second front pannier went on, I noticed I was missing the short black strap that secured its top. Where was it? I opened the bag and emptied its contents. Nope. Opened the other front pannier. No strap. It’s one of those things you really want to have or else the pannier will sit up and open all day, to get rained into or flap in the wind or flop into your whirring spokes.

I opened a rear pannier and dug through it without success. Finally I explored the last rear pannier – still no strap. I then quickly examined every Ziploc baggie for signs of it – still nothing. Only a few more places it could be. Reluctantly, I pulled out my tent and unrolled it on the grass, unzipped the front, and crawled inside on my stomach, searching with my hands. There it was, in the back corner of the floor, of course. Just where I’d left it.

I hated that Randy had already waited so long on me, and rushed to pack everything back up (which, in hindsight, was probably the root cause of this delay in the first place). I vigorously rode the 3 miles back across Randall Dam, and really started sweating in the process.

Just before reaching Abby’s, I saw 2 cyclists readying their bikes up on a landing parking lot, and I just had to roll around to say hi. We talked for a minute and I learned they were going on a prayer ride, on a looping route in the Sioux reservation area east of here.

I found Randy sitting at Abby’s working on a coffee and the newspaper. What is new in the world? Nothing, we both decided with a grin. We haven’t missed a thing. We ordered up breakfast and I enjoyed ham, eggs, and a huge pancake.

Meeting Bob at Abby's Cafe

As we readied to leave around 9am, two cyclists rolled in on a tandem. Diane was a very fit-looking lady who was just covered in sweat and road dirt. Bob was a tall lanky guy with silver hair and a smooth Nashville accent. We learned they’re from Atlanta, and we immediately learned that they’re both very friendly and talkative. They were rolling across country on the tandem, supported by a friend in a truck, and they were even headed to Ragbrai! They’d already ridden 22 miles from Geddes this morning (must be earlier risers than we are).

Before we left Abby’s, I borrowed Randy’s phone to call Linda. The family was in Nebraska and headed my way, so we discussed the options. By our original plan, we had agreed to meet on the 21st somewhere in northern Nebraska or southern South Dakota. I was torn whether to continue onward to Sioux City with Randy until the 23rd. It almost felt like we’d set that goal out for ourselves as a team. But in the end, it would be unfair to let the family idle around in Nebraska while I rode, and Randy was going to continue east with or without me for many more days. Linda and I agreed on a pick-up in Yankton, SD on the 21st, at the Ice House Bar.

I learned a bike touring lesson. Having set dates (like a flight date or a pick-up date or the start of Ragbrai) as part of a self-contained cycling tour is less than ideal. Part of the joy of touring is traveling how your mind and body and companions and the elements want and allow, living in the present. The introduction of timetables is, of course, sometimes necessary, but they do hinder the free nature of the experience. Sadly, the end of my tour was now defined.

Out east from Abby’s, we assaulted a couple of long hills climbing up and away from the river. We turned right onto 388th Avenue and within a few miles were flying downhill on a great stretch into the small town of Marty.

Randy and I collected ourselves in a parking lot. The ‘prayer’ riders I’d met earlier in Pickstown were already here and in the parking lot as well. From them, I heard that Bob and Diane had also arrived, but had continued to roll through town without stopping. We slowly wheeled our bikes toward a stunning nearby cathedral. I then ran into a Catholic sister who began talking about the church and offering us a tour inside.

Front door to St. Paul's Catholic Church, Marty SD
Spire of St. Paul's Catholic Church, Marty SD

The church, St. Paul’s Catholic Parish, is a Catholic mission of the Yankton Sioux people, and wow it is a real stunner. Gorgeous smooth stonework outside, material from Indiana. The nun led us indoors, discussing historical items and leading us into the sanctuary. The stone columns were breathtaking, formed in the same vein as the finest European cathedrals you can see. The stain-glass windows were fascinating to me, dominated by Christian imagery of Jesus, Mary, and the devil, but accented throughout with native American cultural artwork and symbols. I’d never seen anything quite like it.

Conversing with prayer riders at St. Paul's

Outside, the sister showed me evidence of a serious flood in this area in June. Eight inches of rain had fallen in just a couple of hours and it had forced evacuations. She soon had to depart for lunch, so Randy and I regrouped with the prayer riders for a while. They were planning a tour later, and sat eating snacks on a peaceful garden bench out front, so we joined them in conversations for a half hour. One of them, a minister, described how this church had a rocky history in Marty. Apparently, the Church had a heavy-handed history of imposing Catholicism onto Native American residents, while perhaps ignoring their own culture. The reins of the church were eventually handed over to the Sioux people.

Finally time to move onward. As we rolled south of town, I saw some direct evidence of the serious recent flooding here and stopped for photos. Our route stairstepped us south and east following the river, mostly down in the river valley. Cool tail breezes continued from the northwest, and we passed miles and miles of corn fields and soybean fields. Idyllic is the right word to describe this part of the country, just gorgeous vibrant views.

Some serious flooding caused this
Serious recent erosion near Marty SD

The 35 miles from Marty to Springfield went easily, and we ended our ride in the early afternoon, stopping at a Casey’s General Store for cold beverages. I laughed at the pricing of the 1 liter Gatorade there: $2.43 for one or $2.50 for two. I bought 2 of course but could hardly drink them.

Beautiful skies between Marty and Springfield
Great riding between Marty and Springfield

The AC maps directed us to a recreation area and we followed the local town roads down several short hills to the riverfront. We rolled around the rec area paths and suddenly found Bob and Diane already in camp. Their support truck was driven by Joe and was hauling a sleek Airstream trailer behind it. They called us over and we again joined them in conversations.

Soon, they invited us to set up our tents within their RV site, thus to save us the permit fees. Great! We all needed beer, and Joe and Diane soon jumped into their truck to get some, and wouldn’t take a dime for it.

Fuzzy pic of Bob and Diane's Airstream

The site was right next to a tall corn field and had tall trees for shade. We relaxed in lawn chairs and started talking with Bob. I immediately liked his Airstream RV trailer, and I learned that it is a Bambi LS model, 19 feet long. When Bob gave me a tour of its inside I was even more impressed – a very thoughtfully designed interior and built for quality.

Joe and Diane returned with Budweiser American Ales, clearly the tastiest Budweiser beers I’d ever had. We learned that Bob is a race car builder and that Diane is a dietician for state-run entities. Joe, from Pittsburgh, is also a cyclist and was planning an upcoming ride from Sioux City to Minnesota after the start of this year’s Ragbrai.

Campsite with Bob and Diane

We sat for a couple of hours and emptied the beer. The five of us then piled into the truck, headed into town, and found a small steak house tavern on the main street. It appeared to me that most of the patrons at the bar were either employees or family, and that maybe we were the only paying customers in the place. Nevertheless, the beer was cold, the service very friendly, and the table conversations lively.

I really enjoyed my small filet, baked potato, salad, and what turned out to be a huge draft Amberbock. We talked of many other things and for a long time, of rides we’d done, cycling accidents, Lance Armstrong and doping, European locations, the Northern Tier route, the Lewis & Clark route. Diane was a real ultra-cyclist, into competitive racing and into just about anything related to cycling and training. She told tales of racing with many other riders on each day of previous Ragbrais and beating most of the males in to camp. They were great dinner company!

Back in camp, we set up our tents, then joined the circle on the lawn chairs again. Diane brought out cups of chocolate fudge ice cream. Wow – the lap of luxury. Their generosity was really sweet.

In the tent by 10pm. Except for a park employee’s RV, I think our party was the only one in the entire camp.

Around 11pm, a big garish mercury vapor light came on above my tent. Great, a nightlight! And immediately beneath my sleeping pad was a lump in the ground I could feel even through the sleeping pad. I guess I did not choose this tent site very well, but was too comfortable on my back to get up and move it.

Miles ridden today: 52
Cumulative miles: 809