7/7/12 Lusk to Edgemont, SD – 71 miles
Beautiful morning for a ride. The first 47 miles to Mule Junction were over rolling hills. Nothing too dramatic, and no significant wind. Cloudy and overcast, but no rain. And the temperature was cool and in the 60’s – perfect for riding. For the most part, Frank, Randy and I rode alone and with our own thoughts. The terrain was pretty much the same brown grasslands for as far as you could see; however, I did begin seeing some subtle changes. Some rock formations and mesas occasionally, as well as some pine trees lining the road.
We caught up with Muhammed and Muntisar (the trashmaniacs) at the rest stop at Mule Junction. As usual, they cheerfully greeted us. I don’t know how they stay so positive with the amount of effort it must take to ride that tandem. It is hard. And whenever they come upon wind or steep inclines, they have to get off and push. Most days, they are on the road by 5 am or so, and don’t get done until 4 or 5 pm.
We turned east at Mule Junction towards South Dakota, and were immediately hit with a stiff headwind. I thought, “ugh, not again.” I felt myself mentally rebel again at the thought of another afternoon of headwinds. Plus, this is a rather desolate area and there are no convenience stores offering a cold drink or break, much less real cafes or restaurants. You are relegated to the snacks you have with you, in this case an apple, multi-grain sandwich thin, crackers and fig newtons. After 3-4 hours of riding, you start getting hungry again.
We crossed into South Dakota at the 57 mile mark and, thankfully, the headwinds had gone down somewhat. While we were there, a young family stopped and Randy took their picture. They had been teachers in the middle east for 6 years and were currently in Durham, NC. Brady was originally from Texas. They were interesting people, and their dog actually posed for the picture – it was so obviously not a fluke, because he did it for repeated takes. I got a kick out of that.
After crossing the state line, we had 15 miles left to Edgemont, our stopping place for the night. Frank surged ahead, obviously well recovered from the slip and fall in Douglas. By now we had learned that the “Redneck Rally” was taking place in Edgemont for the weekend. Given that there is only 1 small motel in Edgemont, aptly named the Cowboy Motel, and limited camping, this did not bode well. We all congregated at the convenience store in Edgemont as we arrived. I saw the motel and asked the lady outside about rooms – no luck. However, there were 6 rooms available about 8 miles north and camping in town. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be camping and re-joined the others. Not knowing there were better options in “town” and being really hungry, we chowed down at the convenience store. Pre-made sandwiches, chips and for me a chocolate shake. Could not get much unhealthier, but we were really hungry after 71 miles. The chocolate shake was more of an emotional thing for me, sort of a coping mechanism. Not to say it wasn’t good, just not what I really needed or wanted at that moment.
We headed toward town to check out the camping situation and found that it was essentially a dump. It smelled like a sewer, and the railroad tracks were right next to it, which conjured up visions of those coal trains running by all night. Really restful. 8 miles north to a room wasn’t sounding so bad any more. Only another hour on the bike and, besides, I was fueled by (or driven to guilt by) the earlier chocolate milkshake. I called the woman at the Cowboy Motel to confirm that “north” meant the direction we were headed and get more info. What I found was that the rooms were located 6 miles down a dirt/gravel road off the main highway. However, she offered to load me and anyone else in her truck and drive us there, then return to pick us up in the morning. I asked the price, then requested she call the owner and see if he would negotiate. When she called back, not only had the owner given us a nice break on the price, he was coming to pick us up from the park in his truck. Randy and I were the only ones to take this option. Roger rode on to “stealth camp,” and Frank and the Bangladesh riders decided to gut it out at the dump – uh, campground.
Another miraculous experience! What we thought was a room somewhere, turned out to be Sunrise Ranch Lodge, this fantastic rustic lodge with a panoramic view for miles. The owner, Mark, and his family were warm and welcoming. We had the whole place to ourselves. Mark’s 8 year old son, Hunter, took me for a tour of the place, starting with his pride and joy – two baby goats he had recently received for his birthday. Talk about too cute. There were also kittens, sheep, lambs, chickens, horses and even an orange “Morris” cat to complete the menagerie. The sunset was gorgeous and I got some great pictures. Such a totally unexpected pleasure at the end of a long day of biking, and coming at the heels of despair. I had a hot shower, warm comfortable bed, and Starbucks via to complete the day.
Tomorrow we head for Custer, SD. Along the way we plan to stop and see Crazy Horse. Should be fun.