After a night of sleeping through a classic mid-western thunderstorm, we woke to the evidence of its passing. Trees, already damaged by bug infestations, had toppled during the night with a few crossing the driveway. Nobody was going anywhere for a while. Large branches, like so much straw, were strewn about the open yard and gardens. It had that disaster look about it but no damage to the home or out buildings. It could have been worse.
These types of storms do little to alleviate the drought conditions. Though everyone is grateful for the water, the drop in ambient temperature and temporary fire hazard reduction, most of the water just runs off. The ground is just too dry to accept it when dumped all at once. There is generally more damage than benefit as evidenced by the work crews hard at it to clear the roads and high wires.
The work of cleaning up was one of those chores that give gratification at the cost of a little elbow grease. Good neighbors making the rounds of checking on their neighbors after the storm lent a hand in the effort. You gotta admire those young strong farm boys and the work ethic that comes along with them.
We took an extra day to put things in order before answering the call of the road. Kale’s mom and dad helped once again with the loading of the bikes with love and the best of lunches. This is one of my favorite places on the mainland and hope to have done it some wee small justice for its beauty and the people who live there.
US 30 got us across Indiana, Illinois and the Mississippi. Across central Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska. Falling barns that were remembered from previous tours were gone. Not due to development, but time. Others are taking their places, yet there was always something peculiar about the old ones. The wheel turns. Iowa was an oven on preheat.
A cool night at the Cobbler Inn, we always stop at the Cobbler when in the hood, helped to prepare us for the extreme temps that waited in South Dakota. Well rested, hydrated – though personally I could go for another six cups of coffee – we seized the day early, heading north along the Missouri River. Today would be a Sioux – Sioux run. Get to Sioux City, Iowa; keep going until Sioux Falls, South Dakota, keep going some more!
We had ridden far enough, reaching the surface of the sun. The term ‘hot’ no longer applied. One small mom and pop gas station asked that I pay for the ice that was put in water bottles and bandana. The bill was gladly paid. Ice doesn’t just appear. From then on I asked at each stop whether there was a charge for the ice. That’s how thankful you can be for something we take for granted. Without the cooling, hard can easily be turned into miserable and I knew that going there wouldn’t serve. There was too just much mindful enjoyment to be had in the miles ahead. The intense heat was taking its toll. How much longer it could be tolerated was a good question. Kale asked often, ‘How ya doing?’ There were times I wasn’t sure. As long as the riding skills aren’t compromised, there is a good chance you have a few more miles in you, if you want it. Then again there is no shame in calling it a day.
The word ‘spectacular’ doesn’t go far enough for the sites and sounds of the country. The high plains of South Dakota are no exception. The expansive ‘barren’ landscape stretches the imagination to grasp its size. ‘Barren’ is a relative term. Let’s say it was barren of concrete, man-made stuff. The plains themselves are quite alive, if you look. It was an endless undulating dun brown landscape strewn with tumbleweeds and sage. A place where a run to a big box store is an all day affair. Abandoned wrecks and vehicles dot the hills, their patina of rust a few shades different than the surroundings. They look more like art than garbage and serve as a pleasant distraction to the endless road.
After hours of being mesmerized by the high plains, they suddenly start to break up into an unnavigable riot of small canyons and steep peaks more barren than the plains. We reached the Badlands. Flashes of Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen from the movie ’Badlands’ reel across the brain. The film catches some of it, but until you are standing in the middle of the eroded landscape do you really get a feel for the land.
Like the Arikaree Breaks in western Kansas, no doubt the Indians used the Badlands to elude their enemies. It was also sacred ground for the Sioux. For them this place was the heart of their heartland. We respected the beliefs and tread lightly on hallowed ground, leaving no trace. Do believe the underside of my chin had road rash from hanging my mouth open in awe of the scenery.
The campgrounds for the Badlands National Park is situated in a valley surrounded by the ragged peaks of eroded sedimentary rock. Perfect, keeping the people impact limited to a couple of low outcroppings. There are trails for hiking. Due to the fragile environment and dangerous slippery slopes it’s best advised to stay to the trails. Quiet, clean, potable water, bikers and bathrooms, what more could you want?
At midnight the roadway was still dumping its heat and over 100 degrees. It would not cool much before dawn.
Next: Cool mountain riding, molten roads.