07.01.11 – Only If You Really Need It

Before I begin this update, I’d like to say something about the importance of living in the moment. I have trouble with it but have definitely gotten better. How do I know this? Well I think the fact that it’s taken me this long to update you on what I did three states back is evidence enough. I realized that as I’m about to recall events that happened 3 weeks ago and that I’ve experienced so much since then, I vividly remember more than I ever have during other times in my life. Yes, I have brief notes for each day of my travels but I need not look at them to remember most of what happened. My point is that I hope when I return to a non-traveling lifestyle I will be able to spend more time in the moment and make it as memorable as my time while traveling. For those of you reading this and not traveling, perhaps you can remind me what it’s like and if this is even possible! Okay, onto telling you about South Dakota and W(ind)yoming!

I arrived in Brookings, SD very tired and very wet. Taylor and Scott were my hosts while there. Taylor is in school and sells awesome antiques. Once she gets her work up on Etsy, perhaps I can get you all a link to her great stuff. Scott is part owner of the company, Nine Clouds (9clouds), which helps businesses utilize social media websites to their advantage. They were very hospitable, gave me a room to myself and made an amazing dinner. It was some sort of thick egg tortilla/cake/casserole. The following day I explored Main Street and pretty much ate everything I could find including a buffet, a famous burger joint, ice cream and then in the evening, a large assortment of appetizers at a beer tasting and popcorn at a bar. You see at this point in the evening I had already decided to stay an extra day in Brookings upon hearing that three other touring cyclists would be coming into town and a charity ride for Parkinson’s would also be making a stop to give a presentation.

Robb Rasmussen at the Sioux River Bike shop told me about the charity and encouraged me to stay. He was also a great resource for learning about cycling in South Dakota. He advised me not to travel along Route 14 as I had originally planned. Instead he told me of a much safer route that started in Sioux Falls (where I had originally planned on crossing via bus). He has crossed SD several times and made me feel much better about doing it myself. Robb and his wife, Sherry, were even kind enough to offer me a place to stay if Taylor and Scott couldn’t accommodate me another night (SD = so delightful).

So I decided to stay another day and little did I know that I would have stayed even if I hadn’t wanted to. I had eaten everything in Brookings my first day and then, on the second day, regurgitated it into Scott’s lovely Minnesota Twins trash can (sorry Scott, I promise I cleaned it well). I felt much better after getting the bad food out of my system and met up with the other cyclists to check out the Parkinson’s presentation. Brian and Rachel are a couple traveling west and have since stopped on an Indian reservation to do some volunteer work. They really seem to be doing well (see for yourself! MadWard). Brian was the other touring cyclist. He owns a tattoo business in Binghampton, NY, and needed some time off so as not to lose his mind from working so hard. Brian decided to ride a full suspension XC bike with a trailer so he could mountain bike along the way. NUTS!

We all visited the presentation, which took place at the Sioux River Bike Shop. Larry Smith is retired from the police force and has since been making famous bread in Vermillion, SD. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s 19 years ago, he began to lose the ability to drive and ride an upright bicycle. His good friend, Steve, introduced him to recumbent tadpole tricycles. It doesn’t require balance, which is what made riding an upright bicycle so difficult. For those of you who don’t quite understand what Parkinson’s does to you, imagine constantly having strong and uncontrollable muscle contractions over most of your body. Larry wanted to ride across the entire country but his amazing wife convinced him to tackle South Dakota first. They started in Aberdeen (northern SD) and decided to make 5 or so stops
before reaching Vermillion. We were the third to last stop in Brookings. Larry and the entire team of people riding with and suporting him were so amazing and welcoming that Brian and I decided to travel south for two days in the name of Parkinson’s. Though we asked for nothing, we were taken in as if we had been on the ride the entire time. While we still carried our own gear and camped in our tents, they shared their food, water and even gave us Ride With Larry jerseys! In addition to being an awareness ride, the ride was also being filmed and a documentary will soon be made. I don’t know if I’ll be in it but that doesn’t matter. Food and jersey aside, Larry and his band of FOOLS (friends of oustanding Larry Smith) gave me the greatest welcome to South Dakota that anyone could ever ask for. I am proud to say I wear the jersey often and with the utmost pride. For more information about the documentary, visit Ride With Larry.

Upon reaching Vermillion, there were hundreds of people to join in the final mile of the ride and even more people waiting at the finish line where a large party awaited with live music and a speech from the former Mayor. Mojo, the ride’s amazing cook, even busted out some great lyrics on the mic! My time with the FOOLS ended at Kevin Brady’s house. He invited Brian and I to stay for the night so we wouldn’t have to set up our tents again. As it turns out, Kevin is president of the South Dakota Bicycle Coalition and is the person I was considering contacting in Minneapolis regarding the best way to cross South Dakota. So without even trying, I ended up in the company of the most perfect people along the eastern part of SD. Thank you Larry, Beth, Rich, Jen, Maxi, Jess, Rick, Mojo, Anthea, Steve, Chris, Laney, Kevin, Laura and everyone for making those two days unforgettable.

The following day, Brian and I finally headed west in South Dakota. Never though it would take me 6 days of being in SD to finally start putting some of it behind me. No regrets here, though! We followed the Lewis and Clark trail (now roads) to Tyndall where an impending storm stopped us from making it to Avon, 10 miles further. The only interesting thing that happened was meeting an older couple touring the entire trail. He biked mostly while she drove the car and did a little biking herself. Think I should screen potential wives based on their willingness to tour with me when we’re old? High winds made it difficult to cook my favorite meal, Chili Mac ‘n’ Cheese, but I succeeded and enjoyed the feast.

10 extra miles aren’t a big deal unless you add in headwinds and hills, which is what we had the next day. We really wanted to stay in the town of Bonesteel simply because of the awesome name! Headwinds and crosswinds really made me doubt our ability to reach Bonesteel. We would also be crossing the Missouri River, which meant descending to the river, crossing the Fort Randall Dam, and then getting back out of the river valley. We finally reached Bonesteel exhausted and sweaty, but found a great diner where we ended up eating dinner that night and breakfast the
following morning. Sometimes you’re just too tired to cook and too hungry to cook that much food! We camped behind the school where the town seems to have a makeshift gun range of sorts. The night was cool and clear and the stars were simply amazing. It was dark enough to see the bands of the Milky Way, something I never saw before. I also saw several shooting stars and identified satellites for the first time. The following morning we biked a short distance to Winner.

At this point in our ride we were pretty much in the center of the state and traveling through two big Indian reservations, Pine Ridge and Rosebud. I must say for all of the warning we were given, we witnessed no concerning behavior. People on the reservations were just like anyone else and were it not for the signs, we would not have known that we were entering or exiting them. In Winner, Brian and I did laundry and camped just outside of town on a dying bridge along a dirt road between fields of corn. While getting to this secluded spot, I spotted a buck with large antlers in the middle of the corn field. The sun was low enough to cast a long shadow over part of the field and turn the green corn stalks a pleasant shade of greenish-orange. Upon spotting us, the buck began to leap away through the field. I simply had to just stop and enjoy this beautiful site for which my words are doing a poor job of describing. Look at the sunset picture and imagine a leaping buck, there you go.

Winner to White River was my first experience with triple digit heat. It hit 102 upon getting to White River but we wanted to go 20 miles further. We thought it’d be a good idea to get food and take a swim in the White River, which several people said was clean enough. the food was great but the water was dirtier than we were! Having not showered in several days, I thought it might clean me off a bit or at least cool me down — it did neither. I only got dirtier and the area by the river was just as hot and even more humid. Now dirtier and just as hot, we set off for Norris, about 20 miles away. This was possibly the worst 20 miles in all of South Dakota but the best part about the worst parts is it can only get better, and get better it finally did. We rolled paset these beautiful buttes and saw a road going up to the back of one of them. Exchanging glances that held the same thoughts, Brian and I took this dirt road up and round to the back of Cross Butte where we found the most beautiful view of the entire area. We were finally upon the most epic camping spot of South Dakota. A short hike to the top provided us with a 360 view 30 miles in all directions. The stars were again out in full, without a dark spot in the sky. I have never used my tent so much until South Dakota and I now see what I’ve been missing.

This is long enough and the coffee shop is closing. Before I forget, the title of the update is from something someone told me after hearing how nervous I was about crossing South Dakota. They said, “If you think you cannot do something on your own and want help, help will arrive but only if you really need it.” This help came to me in the form of Robb, Brian and everyone involved with Ride With Larry. Thank you all.

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