Steady rains in Fort Thompson SD for most of last night. Soothing at first, then, as they continued and intensified, it became a little worrisome that they were going to interfere with our riding day. Almost on cue, though, the rains stopped around 6AM and allowed us to pack up and move out. The night was very peaceful by the river – this was a good site. Full of crickets, though, that seemed to like the dry conditions beneath the tent floor. When we packed up our tents all of us found dozens of them beneath.
Today will be a departure day for Roger, whose mom died a couple days ago. He will ride ½ day with us, then head east to Mitchell SD in order to head back home to attend the funeral. Then, he’ll rejoin the group within a couple of days, starting out of Omaha and riding north to meet us. One of the interesting aspects of his plan is to ditch his current bike (in Mitchell), then put together an entirely new bike when he reaches Omaha. All within a day. Roger is one extremely resourceful man. And perhaps I’ve never met someone who loves cycling so much.
The guys hit the supermarket for snacks and then hit the road, but Jack and I headed over to the Lode Star Casino for a light breakfast. This of course turned into a full blown omelet, pancakes, eggs and toast affair, which was good and really cheap. Our server was extremely pleasant and helped us with advice about the local roads we wanted to travel.
As we lingered at the table, a fellow named Sid sat down and joined us, was very friendly and talkative, and suddenly launched into a diatribe about doomsday, Planet X, and the ignorance of people who wouldn’t listen. The very last thing I’d ever ask him was, “What is Planet X?” [OK, so what IS Planet X?] Even so, it took a while to work up an exit and close out our check.
Out BIA 4. We encountered a big ROAD CLOSED barricade and rolled around it on advice from Gary. We later learned that Roger had had a hard time doing that (“What is going on?!”) We found a beautiful new road surface, only closed due to some water-induced damage and possibly a dam rupture, and the traffic-free riding was great.
At one point, though, a pick-up pulled up beside me. At first I thought, uh-oh, we’re going to get scolded. He rolls down the window and says, “Are you Richard?” I almost answered back, “Are you an orthopedic surgeon?” Instead, I nod, and he waves an envelope at me which I see says RICHARD on it. What the. He stops and hands me…my credit card. Our server at the casino had forgotten to give it back, and I’d forgotten to ask for it. Minor calamity averted. How nice it was for our server to take such effort to return it, and how lucky that we’d discussed our route with her. The amazingly nice people you meet…
30 miles total and two big hills south on SD50 had us breathing deeply, but the downhills on the other sides were breathtaking. The second one took us into the neat little town of Chamberlain SD, and we easily found the guys by finding the McDonalds. We then rolled down the Main Street to the Anchor Grille for lunch.
We started out about 1:30PM for the remainder of our ride, about 45 miles east and south. Winds did not favor us, coming from the ESE about 10 mph, but, whatcha gonna do? On the eastward segments, I fought the winds at first, powering through and lowering my profile. But I grew tired of that – it’s a difficult pose to maintain. This is a tour, to be enjoyed mile by mile. So, particularly for those eastbound segments, I found a nice peaceful pace I wanted to ride and spent the time looking at things. Clouds. Trees. Plant varieties. An occasional deer. And especially birds. Lots of red-wing blackbirds, robins, and meadowlarks. Buzzards. A group of turkeys. Bright yellow goldfinches. And several I had to look up later (red headed woodpecker, tree swallow)
Maybe it’s the long hours of riding we’re doing, but the scenery here seems not to get duller, but actually prettier. Oftentimes it’s impossible to capture in a photo, but simply the positioning of certain fields of color, whether crop or weed, is often quite beautiful. Finding and appreciating and occasionally photographing these things seems to help melt the long riding hours away.
Around 5:30PM we made a nice long descent west on SD44 into Snake Creek Recreation Area. It’s a real pretty place right on the river bank, and I could hardly wait for a cold beer and dinner at the restaurant I knew was there. What’s that you say? The restaurant is closed? What? They closed early (supposed to be open until 8:30PM)? Jack and I looked at each other. Unfortunately, neither of us had brought provisions.
Oh well. Whatcha gonna do? Dinner tonight: Coke, leftover Chex Mix, part of a “Salted Nut Log” candy bar, peanuts, water. To “punish” the restaurant owner, we’ll skip our plan to have breakfast there tomorrow and instead ride 14 miles to Platte for one. So there.
76 miles today. This is the last “long” day before we reach Ragbrai, although the guys are kidding me that every day seems to be a 70-miler no matter what I say. We now have 327 miles to Glenwood and 9 riding days to do it (plus 3 rest/margin days).
Incidentally, I read Jesse’s blog during lunch. He and Frank had another half-day delay due to some missing equipment they had to go back for. I suggest you check out Jesse’s blog – he has a way with words.