Play by Play: South Dakota


Hard to wake up the morning we left Sioux Falls. We'd been staying in a basement apartment and it never felt like the sun had really come up. Groggily we put our things together and said our goodbyes to our host, John, and left the city around 10am. Biking toward Mitchell, SD.

Discovered fairly quickly that we wouldn't be able to trust Google Maps for bikes on our phones as we crept out of Sioux Falls. Instead of following our phones on dirt roads-- and to flat tires-- we drew our own route into Mitchell on South Dakota Route 34. 90 Miles.

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In Mitchell we stayed with an older cyclist who made us soup, biscuits, and corn for dinner. Drank far too much beer. Slept pretty soundly.

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Hot hot hot hot day biking from Mitchell to Chamberlain, SD. Remember riding over the top of a hill about 15 miles outside of Chamberlain and catching a glimpse of the Missouri River. Asked Ben whether or not he thought that pioneers and wagon trains were excited to see the river the way that we were. Felt like there was cultural bias in my question there. Wasn't sure how to decipher it though.

That afternoon we went swimming in the Missouri River at American Creek Campground and then went to McDonalds to have McFlurries. While we were at the campground we were tipped off to a free camping spot just across the river in Oacoma, SD. We made a beeline there after McFlurries. Made some friends at the campsite that fed us corn and tried to find us a tattoo artist in Seattle. (Surprise, Mom!)

Camped on the river that night and practiced my constellations to the sound of water. Read The Stranger with my back against the tree trunk in the photo above until it was dark enough to do so.

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At four in the morning a thunderstorm swept through that swamped our tents and turned the river road into mud. Ben and I cuddled in my slightly drier tent for another hour or so before leaving for the day.

When we were biking out of our campsite the clay in the road clogged our gears. Ben's derailer broke. Luckily he had the parts to fix his bike. Moments of anxiousness eating oatmeal.

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Another long day's ride from Chamberlain to Pierre (pronounced peer, not pee-air). One of the most beautiful stretches of road that we've biked along the river. Grassy bluffs that overhung sand ledges. Several valleys that bottomed near the riverbed and then climbed up again for shocking views of the Missouri.

Land transitioned from agricultural to "Ranch Land" as we made our way north and through the Reservation around Fort Thompson. Felt like grass as far as the eye could see for quite a while once we'd made our distance from the river. Turned WEST and then we rode down into the Missouri River valley again and followed the river the rest of the way into Pierre.

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Host in Pierre was an incredibly kind family that shared dinner with us and let us sleep in their camper while it was parked in their backyard. They were growing peaches all over. Had a garden too. Ate fresh tomatoes and homemade Tepache (fermented pineapple juice) with dinner. Nice snap shot of the capital city through their eyes.

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Ride out of Pierre started with a brutal hill climbing out of the river valley. Rolling hills the rest of the way into Philip, SD. Stayed with the First Lutheran Church there. I finished Camus' "The Stranger" before rolling out my sleeping bag on the floor of the basement.

Won't forget the hospitality that the First Lutheran families showed us in Philip.

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Biked to Wall and then into the Badlands to camp the next day.

Watched a thunderstorm pass over us about a quarter of a mile down the road before we descended into the campground on a dirt road. Snapped this photo just shortly after the rain.

Made friends with a man camping and exploring the Badlands when we arrived at the campground. He told us stories his career as a pilot. He had to learn how to navigate by the stars. We tested each other on our knowledge of astronomy.

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Bike into Rapid City on Thursday was windy. Very windy. Took us longer than we'd originally budgeted to slip out the dirt roads around Scenic, SD and on to a paved road. Once on the paved road, we were beat down by constant 20 mph winds in our faces the whole way into the city.

Couchsurfing host, Ryan, opened up his room to us that afternoon. We ran several errands, did laundry, and made a late-night grocery run. Ate our groceries like monsters.

-----EMMA ARRIVES----

Emma Spett arrived in Rapid City yesterday around noon. We went for a quick lunch at an Italian Fast-Food joint downtown and then took her car into the Black Hills to go swimming at HorseThief Lake. Drive took us past Mt Rushmore and winding through the hills. Emma wanted to yell at the thousands of bikers we saw on the road who were not wearing helmets.

We went for dinner at the Firehouse and had an incredibly filling meal. Then turned to the streets looking for one last activity for the day. Ended up finding an especially cheap movie theater. Watched Independence Day: Resurgence. Laughed when I probably shouldn't have. Think Emma and I thought the film could have used some work. Not necessarily stimulating for anything other than the Alein shock factor.

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Drove into Custer with Emma this morning (which quickly turned into afternoon). Caught some excellent views of the hills and the buffalo. Promised Emma that I would do a better job keeping her and my family up-to-date on our travels. Will post these on FB more often now so that they're easier to see.

Would you be interested in reading road-inspired poems and short stories?


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