We left Rapid City on August 2 and arrived in Sioux Falls August 7, the five day journey between was nearly a straight line, and some of our hardest riding yet.
We had been talking about crossing South Dakota since the start of the trip. It frequently came up over dinner and was brought up by strangers. Everyone we met told us to be prepared for flat hot roads and a tailwind. They convinced us we were going in the right direction and the trade winds would carry us across. We were planning on a few days of easy riding and a lot of miles. Of course, as we have seen time and time again, you can't plan nature.
We road 55 mile from Rapid City to Wall, home of Wall Drug. Wall Drug is a famous tourist stop with an unbelievable amount of billboards along the highway. The ride was straight into the wind with rolling hills. This was not the South Dakota we expected. A friend from home had given us some money to spend specifically at Wall Drug, so after getting some fudge we found a church and set up camp. We just assumed we could stay there.
We awoke on the 3rd knowing we had a difficult day ahead of us; we were going through the Badlands. We had hoped the wind would be with us, it wasn't. The Badlands were hard to grasp. I had never seen anything like it. Such a dramatic change in landscape in the middle of serene grasslands. Most people we talked to described it as riding across the surface of the moon, so I guess I will too. It was like riding across the surface of the moon! The wind was a constant, as was the constant hum of motorcycles. Sturgis seems to have taken over the whole state. We ended our day in the town of Katoka and slept behind a Presbyterian Church without asking, it worked out. A storm passed through that night, we thought it might change the wind. It didn't.
After two days of getting into camp late, we decided to ride only 53 miles and end our day in the town of Draper. Draper had dirt roads and seemed to be populated by only a few people. We camped between two churches and enjoyed being out of the wind for a bit. After dark, Kyle returned from charging his phone, behind what we later found out was a bank, and announced that "the cops are coming!" We hid are beer cans and tried to look as non-threatening as possible. Our Crocs made that pretty easy. The officer ran our I.D.'s called the church and let us stay. We listened to a little NPR in our tents to settle down from all the excitement.
We woke up knowing we had to ride at least 65 miles to get to the town of Chamberlain. We rode into the wind for 67 miles, up hills and across the Missouri River. The Golden Arches of McDonald's greeted our tired bodies and comforted us with air-conditioning and cheap food. It was one of our hardest days yet. The town of Chamberlain was beautiful though. I am sure it's on a postcard somewhere, it's that nice! We slept, with permission, behind a Catholic Church on a luscious green lawn. At 4 a.m. the sprinklers came on for an hour and we learned first hand why the grass was so green.
I woke up in a wet tent and saw that the wind was still blowing from the east. I told myself there is a lesson here about persevering even when you can see the obstacle in front of you. I'll probably use that in a job interview one day. I've also learned to appreciate new days for they bring hope of no wind. There's probably a lesson there too.
The wind showed us mercy as we left Chamberlain. The wind had started blowing slightly to our sides, and we took full advantage. After 50 miles it turned into a tailwind, and we road another joyous 37 miles. Our longest day yet. We camped next to a gas station in Alexandria, SD and made pancakes in the parking lot.
On the 7th, after meeting a band from Seattle at the gas station, we rode an easy 55 miles into Sioux Falls for a much needed rest day. Along the way we met an old man riding a moped in the shoulder. He said that he road it all the way to Wisconsin once. Everyone has a story to tell.