Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Badlands

Three days ago, if you had asked me, I would have told you bicycling across the USA is nuts.

To be specific, the weather was breaking my spirit. My first day, crossing the Big Sioux River into South Dakota, it was 98 degrees with a heat index of 118. The next day I ran into a direct headwind, at least twenty miles per hour and constant.

I'd be lying if I didn't say I gave thought to quitting. "Maybe I could rent a car and drive a few hundred miles and say I biked all the way," I pondered.  "Who'd ever know?"  I passed an old 1970s Oldsmobile for sale. It was primer gray mostly but looked like it might run. Or that used tractor.  It might get me back to Ohio.  I was feeling desperate. I could commandeer a harvester.  I could knock that old lady off her riding mower. I could harness up those cows to my bike.

Anything to end this pedaling!!

But I couldn't see quitting. So I kept going and the weather began to break my way. August 3 was much cooler and I easily did 99 miles. Then the next day I got a nice tailwind and did 80, including about 20 riding along I-90 which is legal in South Dakota.

This is wide-open country, if you don't know.  South Dakota is nearly twice the size of Ohio but with a population somewhere around 700,000, there are only 9 people per square mile.  The state has a "state fish" (the Walleye) and also a "state animal," the coyote.

I'm a little surprised they selected such a sneaky creature.  But I think it would be cool if politicians got together someday, somewhere, and named the weasal as "state animal" or poison ivy as the "state plant."

That would boost tourism.

Anyway, the riding has been good the last three days. I've had grasshoppers ricocheting off my helmet and one hitched a ride on my saddle bag and kept me company for ten miles, but he wasn't much of a conversationalist.  It's still better than my experience back in Illinois where, in one bug-infested state park, I had a mosquito fly up my nose.

Today I pedaled my way through the Badlands and at bicycle speed I was truly able to appreciate the grand beauty of that harsh land. Tomorrow, it's on to the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore.

Tonight I am happily ensconced at Welsh's Motel in Wall, South Dakota.

I think I'm already at least 20 pounds lighter.

Lexi, Eric and Gala Woitte gave me the royal treatment
when I spent the night at their house in Tea. South Dakota.

Entryway to Mt. Rushmore.

Storm over the Badlands.

South Dakota Homestead Museum.
The structure was originally a sod house.

Western South Dakota is a land of hay and livestock.

Riding for JDRF does get you to some cool places.
The Badlands.

Climbing a ridge in the Badlands.
It was nice to be on foot for a change.

Humiliating even for a dummy:
Posed in the outhouse at the
South Dakota Homestead Museum.

At Mt. Rushmore:
and definitely thinner than when I started.

The Badlands.

Mt. Rushmore.
It's a real climb up from Rapid City, South Dakota to get here.

Tourist kids dressed up as pioneer children.
Inside the sod house.

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1 comment:

  1. John: Good to see your most recent "Badlands post" and to hear it has cooled and you are making better time. And, lovely pictures, too.
    Any newer thoughts as to when you might hope to make the Sierra crest at Tioga Pass? Love, and ride safe! Tim V.