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Riding through South Dakota…

This morning I woke up when my alarms went off at first 6:30 and then 7:30AM. I’m supposed to be on vacation, I thought blearily, but I knew that I was also running behind on time and needed to get an early start. I packed quickly and brought my luggage downstairs to load up the bike.

Stephen and Ruth made a fabulous breakfast of eggs, toast and fresh fruit, which was just what I needed to start the day. I did feel a little guilty though about them having to wake up so early on a Sunday morning for my sake.

I got a picture taken with my bike to mark the halfway point of my journey. Yes, I was halfway across the continent and ready to begin the latter half of my ride! I got on the road at 9:30 and started tracing my way towards South Dakota.

Many people had advised me to take I-90 to make good on time, but there was no way I would take the freeway if I could help it. I got on 212 and aimed at reaching Watertown – about 200 miles away. I got there around 2:00PM, got a quick bite to eat at McDonalds (*sigh*) and then headed southwest to Pierre.

I had been bracing myself for a day of being bored out of mind going by what most other people had told me about riding in the Great Plains. To my great surpise though, I wasn’t bored for a single minute. I found the endless miles of riding through cornfields extremely calming and serene and felt completely relaxed. It was almost like an antidote to all the freeway riding I had had to do in the earlier part of my ride. The fields were bright green and gold and the sky was blue with big white puffy clouds. There was barely anyone out on the roads, just the kind of remoteness I crave. The sky was big, vast, immense.

I had completely dodged the bad weather by staying north, but at one point, about 50 miles north of Pierre, I saw big thunderclouds looming in the distance. It is difficult to describe exactly how threatening and ominous it looked. Storm clouds look bad enough when you are in a city, but they look especially spectacular and scary when about three quarters of an immense sky is full of them. In the far distance, I could see a glimmer of light, but here it had gotten really dark and starting to sprinkle a little. As I rode closer and closer to it, it took on a mushroom like appearance to the southwest. Now I could see clear skies about 20 miles down the road, and I picked up speed and rode flat out towards it. It started raining as I passed directly under the black clouds, but I kept going and riding for all I was worth until suddenly I broke through into clearer skies again. The  sunlight was blinding and I had to squint to be able to see clearly. I could see the angry black clouds in my mirrors.

I thought to myself that that had been pretty dramatic. It brought to mind another Sunday evening a year ago when I had been trying to outride a thunderstorm in the remote wilderness of the Yukon, the evening I had crossed the border into Alaska. I had succeeded then as I had succeeded now. How strange to be playing games with the weather! But then you have to when you are so exposed to the elements and in completely unfamiliar territory.

I made it to Pierre before 7PM, after riding almost 430 miles – the most I have ridden on any day on this ride. I got a good deal on a room at the Days Inn and checked in for the evening. I am tired now… but tomorrow promises to be an exciting day as I head into the Badlands of South Dakota.