RA42: Into the Fog

Pierre SD to Fort Thompson SD

I awoke early and went down to the continental breakfast.  As I ate, a lady motel clerk walked to me with this morning’s Pierre newspaper and asked if I’d seen it.  On the front page was a full color picture of Scot King, a bicyclist headed around the country on a two year mission to reach every state capitol, honoring military vets.  The clerk had seen a bicycle out front with the same kind of yellow panniers (Bill’s) and thought he might be staying here, but looked in the computer registry and couldn’t find his name.

She danced around the idea that maybe Jack and I had snuck him into our room, but that cyclists normally don’t do such things.  No ma’am, I do not know Scot, sorry.  Back in the room, I let Bill and Roger know that it might be better if they exited out side doors, rather than through the lobby in front of the desk.  Yikes, she might be on to us!

Jack and I packed up and rolled through the lobby quickly, and fortunately did not run into her again (Why were your bikes in your room?  I thought they were in the parking lot.)  Whew – apparently a clean getaway (until I see my credit card bill).

At a McDonalds we met Bill and Gary, and noted all the flood protection still in place around it.

Even Mickey D's is ready

We then stocked up on water.  Today’s ride was the single toughest one from my 2010 Dakotas tour, consisting of a 50 mile stretch of no services and no shade, and the potential for scorching heat.   As we pulled out of the grocery store,  we spied front-page-rider Scot King pulling into the BK across the street and so rolled over to say hi.  Very nice guy.  He was heading out to Fort Thompson today too and so we figured we might run into him again.

Within 5 miles east of town out SD34, we entered a fog bank.  It was WAY COOL!  Jack disappeared in front of me, enveloped in white.  The air was quite cool and of course over saturated with water.  Within a few minutes, big droplets had condensed on my sunglasses so I took them off.  Pretty soon my bike and even my arms were covered with droplets.

Jack disappears ahead of me
Not sweat

We rolled through areas full of tiny frogs.  Hundreds had been terminated on the road surface, with a few live ones still hopping around.  Some nearly jumped into my whirring spokes.     And I never knew quite so many spider webs existed in the range grasses until now, with every one of them illuminated by big dewy drops.  Hundreds and hundreds of pretty orb webs!

Lacy webs everywhere
Roadside flowers in the mist

Almost without noticing we rolled off the first 25 miles in the mist.  The fog bank was practically a bonus element in our ride today – interesting, cool temperatures, unusual.   Additionally, we met 3 other riders heading west from Bar Harbor, doing a version of the inverse of our route.

At the 40 mile mark, Jack and I stopped by the roadside and had lunch.  There were no trees and no wide spots, just endlesss range and the road’s edge.   You wouldn’t think that sitting on crab grasses by our propped up bikes on the road edge would offer much, but in the silence of only the breezes, gazing out at the flowing grasses, I think we both felt some wonder and peace at where we were.

Lunch spot
What are you lookin' at?

After 50 miles the team met up at Mac’s Corner, a convenience store.  As we sat and talked, a big white van pulled up and out popped Scot King.  He grinned and said hi, and explained that he’d been delayed with bike repairs in Pierre, didn’t want to face the fog and headwinds, and so had hitched a ride out to here.  He was with another rider, Randy, and his wife – I think they were associated with the Pierre bike shop.

Macs Corner SD

Randy, who was obviously a very fit guy, and on an unloaded cross road bike, took off like a bullet south down SD34/47 with Scot behind him (also without panniers or trailer), and Randy’s wife hauling their gear.  Bill’s eyes seemed to flash, and he announced, “I’m going to ride with them.”  Despite the headstart, he soon was on Scot’s tail and disappeared down the road.  I was thinking to myself, “Go, Bill, go!”

Gary, Roger, and Bill at Macs Corner

The remaining team eventually headed out.  Tailwinds were assisting us for a wonderful roll down into Fort Thompson.  My pace was unusually frisky because, well, I wanted to reach Bill and find out what happened.

I found him at the Dakotamart in Fort Thompson after 12 miles.  Bill had started with Scot, zipped by him on the first hill, then set his sights on Randy.  In short order, I guess he knew he would catch him and so slow played it, finally passing when Randy pulled up.   Team RA! Team RA!  Randy was quite impressed that Bill could overtake him on a 90 lb touring bike.  So am I.

We farted around in Fort Thompson for half an hour and grabbed some dinner provisions.  Fort Thompson is on the Crow Creek Reservation, and the place is, at first glance, well, sort of weird.  Beater cars, people who don’t look very happy, I dunno.   A drunk guy came over and shook my hand “for being a biker.”  Another friendly guy talked to us for awhile but seemed to have 2 or 3 screws loose.

Bill widely avoids the drunk guy

We headed west to seek out campgrounds, and found them at a Corps of Engineers North Shore recreation area.  It is a very pretty spot right on the Missouri River, primitive with no water and only a “dry hole” (as Roger puts it) outhouse.  Still, it’s real pretty and we enjoyed sitting around having dinner and cutting up.  A few biting flies, then a few mosquitos, and finally a dose of rain drove us into tents by 7:15PM for an early evening.

Great riverside campsite at the COE North Shore rec area in Fort Thompson
Camp at Fort Thompson

Good progress today, about 66 miles total.