Day 24 Rapid City to Wall SD
I lost all the photos for today in a Win95 crash on my laptop - there were some good ones!
I decided to try the backroads route from Rapid City to Wall. This turned out to be a mistake since some of the roads I needed to use turned out to be gravel and I ended up adding ten extra miles of hard cranking to my day and only was able to avoid eighteen miles of I-90.
After Walt and I had breakfast (good pancakes at the Parkway Restaurant in Rapid City), we somewhat sadly parted company. I think we both wished that we had met sooner and could have ridden together more. I hope we can arrange to tour together again. I headed southeast on SD 44.
SD 44 is nice riding, especially after it gets past the regional airport. It runs down a wide valley following Rapid Creek. When the wind was from the northwest and the road goes southeast, life is good. I averaged 17.5 mph for over an hour before the road direction shifted and I had to climb a small hill. Fun. I arrived in Farmingdale in just over and hour.
Farmingdale is only a few farms, so I rode on to where the road to New Underwood heads north from 44. A that point I decided to go north to Baseline Rd and then east. I figured, correctly it turned out, that if I stayed on 44 I would be riding gravel roads for twenty or more miles. I can handle dirt roads, as long a they aren't too sandy, but gravel roads are a pain.
Heading north turned out to be a pain as well. The climb out of that 'shallow' valley was steep and I had to do it into a pretty strong, and pretty cold north wind. Ah well, I only had to make it a few miles, then the road would turn east and it would be much easier riding. It was, for a mile or two, but then the paved road headed north to New Underwood and a gravel road continued east. I tried the gravel road, but it was hard to ride, especially on the hills, and it was very hilly. I turned around and rode back to where the paved road headed north. Hmm, those look like a bunch of beehives near that intersection - ooh, that is why all these relatively large bugs are flying around me! I'm glad I'm not allergic to bee stings!
After the bees, I ground on northward, uphill and into a cold wind. Even though I was wearing knee warmers, my bad knee started hurting (and still hurts a bit tonight). The wind chill was probably in the 30s. I finally had enough sense to put a plastic bag under my kneewarmer and over the front of my bad knee. I'll do that sooner in the future!
Eventually - OK, after about half an hour of climbing into the wind - I reached the top of the ridge that formed the north side of the valley. Then I zoomed, as much as one zooms into a stiff headwind, down into New Underwood. This is a small prairie town, but it does have, on the I-90 side of town, a samll motel, a restaurant, and a convenience store. I stopped a bit before that to have a bagel and a coke at a service station. Then I rode uphill into the wind till I reached I-90.
There were no prohibition signs and riding on the I-90 shoulder was initially just very noisy and pretty bumpy. I stopped after five miles or so to drink the rest of my coke, eat some trail mix, and put an ear plug in my left ear. That made the riding much less noisy, but didn't help the cracked bumpy shoulder. I rode on till, about four miles before Wasa, the construction started. They are repaving the road, but that meant removing the old top layers and replacing them. Well, the bumpy shoulder now had a rough surface with great longitudinal grooves and many potholes.
Wasa is on the Cheyenne River and in the bottom of the river valley, so there is a great downhill run into town. It wasn't so great with that shoulder and a single lane for the traffic. My bike took a good beating: I even lost one of my water bottles to one of the bigger bumps. When I go to bottom, I exited to Wasa to get a break from the lousy riding conditions.
Wasa has one restaurant, the Packard Cafe, which has a Packard (classy US automobile that died in the 50s) theme and even a '49 Packard on display. There were no cars in front, but there were two mountain bikes leaning against the building. I went in and had a very friendly reception from the two 'dude' bikers that were running the place. It was nice talking with them, and lunch was good.
Heading out of the valley on I-90, it wasn't too long till I got to the section of road with the new improved shoulder. That was nice, but not long after that, I almost got smunched by a cattle truck who, I think deliberately, 'cut me off' at a bridge where the construction forced me to go into the lane slightly. He could easily have switched to the other lane (no other traffic was near), but instead he came over to the white line as I was forced towards it by construction barrels on the approach to the bridge. I slammed on my brakes as he passed a few inches from my panniers. If I hadn't he would probably have killed me. South Dakota seems to have a higher percentage of nasty truck drivers than any place I've ridden except Quebec. It still isn't really high, but, in combination with all the oversized RVs, it does make this a dangerous place to ride.
After arriving in Wall, I checked various motels - high price, low service seems to be the norm here - before checking into Ann's Motel. Here price was a good as any ($60, some were $100) and her attitude was the best. My room is really two rooms with a deck, dining area, refrigerator and microwave in one and two beds in the other. I don't think it normally goes for $60, but she gave it to me for her basic rate. It is nice to have all the room.
When I was riding into town I saw a fellow who offered plane ride over the Badlands for $20. Ann said he did a good tour, so I went back on my bike after I cleaned up. He gave me a great ride for my money - I think he lost money on the plane running costs alone - and then we sat an visited for two hours. A good guy. He has been doing this for three years, but he doesn't plan to do it again after this year because he spend too much time just sitting. A small plane is an excellent was to see the Badlands, but too many people are afraid to fly in one. A shame. After that I visited Wall Drug (an American icon) and ate supper at a Subway.
I've decided to ride through the Badlands tomorrow. That will mean another short day and I'll probably camp (for the first time on this tour) in Phillip, a small town between Wall (named that because it is at the end of the Wall in the Badlands) and Pierre.