Miles Today: 84
Miles to Date: 3,365
States to Date: 15
Buffalo, SD was hopping at 6 a.m. with guys wanting to play in dirt. When I came down early for breakfast at the Tipperary Motel, two Mexican-American laborers were having breakfast before heading out to dig the foundation for a carport and three paleontologists from Toronto were packing a pick-up with supplies to drive ten miles outside of town and scrape at fossils all day. On the way out of town I passed the five dirt bikers I met at lunch yesterday, rousing from their night of sleep in the park and preparing to ride their bikes in mud again all day. I strive to stay vertical on pavement, but maybe I’m missing something.
Still, I was happy to avoid dirt in the longest unsupported ride of my trip – seventy miles without a soul through a gorgeous Western landscape under still, sweltering skies. Folks in Buffalo told me there was a gas station twenty miles out. When I came to Reding I found a collection of three-dozen abandoned vehicles, two mobile home shells, and a small building with the words ‘Pop and snacks’ painted on the side. I propped my bike in the structure’s shade and entered. No one. Just the remnants of a Post Office and a well-stocked refrigerator with water, pop, and tea. I drank a tea and left a buck and my card on the counter.
Then I pedaled for fifty miles; spinning, singing, and enjoying the amazing countryside; free-grazing herds of cattle and sheep, narrow creeks, and broad plains. Not a cloud in the sky except for the bed toupee poofs above distant buttes. At one point I stopped to absorb the silence. Beyond a distant butte I heard a chorus of cattle, their bellows like ancestral vibrations.
The shoulder was rough, so I kept to the road as much as possible, which meant a lot of ‘defensive friendliness’ in the form of waving to everyone in both directions. It’s easier to hear oncoming vehicles, especially after they pass, than the ones approaching from behind. Ever so slowly, the buttes were replaced by the outline of distant mountains.
I rolled into Belle Fourche before two, which was good time. I pedaled along Main Street looking for a cafe, but instead found the Green Bean Coffeehouse, which made a pleasant stop for a few hours. I left about five to cycle the fifteen miles to Spearfish.
Belle Fourche is the demarcation between barren plains and the Black Hills. Suddenly there was topography, trees, and many more signs of life. Spearfish is a cool ranching turned college and tourist town. My warmshowers host, Chad, lives in a century old house that has had dozens of additions large and small. I had the entire basement, complete with real pine paneling and a stone fireplace, to myself. We walked down the hill to a bar where that served great microbrew drafts; my first beer in week. I slept like a log in my cool basement with the windows open and gentle breeze all night.