Wednesday, September 27

Pierre, South Dakota

I loaded up in 45 degrees and pouring rain and headed south for the 88 miles to Pierre, SD. The radar on the Weather Channel showed the storm moving east, so I expected to pass through it. The rain covers on my saddlebags are held on only by elastic, and one on the side flew off. I noticed it missing after several miles, and with the dropoff mud shoulder, rain and wind there was no way I was going back looking for it. I'm not sure if it's really necessary anyway; the bag itself seems to be somewhat water-resistance, but if everything inside is soaked at the end of the day I'll see if I can get a replacement.
Around halfway, through the rain and gray sky I could make out a stretch of blue horizon off in the distance, promising some dryness, if not warmth. Several miles later, the rain stopped, so I pulled into a gas station to dry my gloves on the engine. I had barely taken the cover off my tank bag and put on my sunglasses, and it started pouring again. There was no food at the station, just a chemicals and fertilizer shop, so I got back on the road, this time with slightly warmer gloves.
My mix of Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield was playing in my ears the whole way, and I think I've decided it's the best music for riding. (Besides the music's mood, most music has to be played too loudly for comfort to hear it over the wind noise, but for some reason Floyd and Oldfield are heard at a much better volume.)

Like the dust kicked up by horses in the desert, you can spot an 18 wheeler coming at you from a mile away by the cloud of mist, wind and gravel it kicks up. Thankfully the blast hits you head on, not sideways as when passing a truck in the same direction, so it doesn't knock the bike around.
The bike is pretty dirty from all the mud and rain it's been through the last two days. If I see a car wash with a hose I'll give it a bath.
Now I'm eating a 2/3 lb Hardees cheeseburger with curly fries, good food for any weather. My gloves are on my tailpipes again and the rain seems to have stopped. The sky keeps going from blue to dark gray, so I don't know what weather to expect on the next leg, to Rapid City and Mt Rushmore.

Endurance Run

From Fargo, ND I went looking for a scenic route recommended online. About 25 miles north, then a few west, following county roads to the first waypoint on the route - a dot marked on my map as "KVLY TV Tower - 2,063 feet - World's Wallest Structure." From a distance I just saw a big broadcast tower, but then I got closer - an unmarked paved road to an unpaved gravel road to another gravel road where a big dog chased me - and finally reached the tower, and damn that this is tall. I couldn't frame the whole thing in the camera. Looking up at it you get a sense of vertigo, because it was swaying and the clouds were moving and the whole thing is eery. It's tied down by massive tethers going out hundreds of yards. There's no sign or anything telling you it's the world's tallest structure, just an ordinary little hut like at the base of every radio tower.
Back past the dog and onto tarmac, I headed west towards Lake Ashtabula. But first I needed gas, so I stopped at the only station around for miles, which had old fashioned pumps that took me a few seconds to figure out how to use. The old folks may laugh, but I learned to drive in the age of self-serve, credit card reading, computerized gas pumps. This one was all analog dials; you lift the pump handle, turn another handle 90 degrees, that spins the dials back to zero and starts a whirring pump motor. Then I think the attendant looked out the window to see the readout. Anyway, my bike just likes regular unleaded, it's not picky about the pump, so no reason for me to be either.
Then westward to the lake. Past cows, horses, farms, many trucks and tractors. (It occurs to me that farming is supposed to be old fashioned and "tied to the land" etc, yet it uses more exhaust-belching industrial machinery than anything else.) To the end of one westward road, turn right, turn left, and there was the lake. (A big photo of the lake is in a separate posting.)
From the lake I rode south to Valley City (photo elsewhere). I refueled again and got dinner at Roby's ("Family Dining").
All during this time the weather was pretty rough, with huge storm clouds coming and going, heavy rain on and off, and strong winds blowing constantly. At one point it started to pour, so I stopped to put all the rain gear on everything, and by the time everything was covered it had stopped raining. (I was glad the covers were on later, however.)

From Valley City I began my long endurance trek south. My next stop is Mount Rushmore (near Rapid City, so I set myself the goal of riding 200 miles towards Rapid City. I rode nonstop to Aberdeen, South Dakota, then west from there past Ipswitch on unlit route 12. At around mile 150 it started to pour sideways with very strong winds, and a combination of the darkness, the rain, the cold and ordinary fatigue started to make things rather difficult. At my next refueling I changed my socks and warmed my gloves on my tailpipes, so that improved things. By then the rain had stopped, but the road was under construction - one stretch of several miles had been torn up and was just gravel and mud. Finally, 230 miles and 2 refuelings from Valley City, I reached Selby, South Dakota, where I checked into a motel and took a hot bath.

Tomorrow I ride to Mount Rushmore.