Crossing the Divide

Current Location: Missoula, Montana

I’ve crossed the divide, the continental that is.  The elevation gain on it is just over 2300 ft in a shade over 6 miles.  To put this into perspective that is like riding from Kahului to my house in Kula except int Maui you get 14 miles to do the same gain meaning the slope of the MacDonald pass is something fierce at times.  Once I got to the top I considered camping at 6000 ft or barrel to the bottom as the sun was setting anyway.  It’s hard to pass up a long downhill like that after spending a few hours churning up the hill so I figured it was worth it to go down for a while.  I think I would have made my Uncle Bill proud by passing a Winnabego on the way down.

Getting out of South Dakota wasn’t easy, the road was busy and the winds didn’t want to let go but I was definitely glad to have the end of the plains.  As many a tourer has said they prefer mountains over wind, at least mountains end while the wind will grind away at you all day.  I know I’ve said I wouldn’t complain about the wind after Denmark but the distances I’m having to grind out against the wind here is extreme.

My impression of Sturgis is that the place is a little to commercialized for it to be as roughneck as it’s made out to be.  I do hear that 600,000 bikes attended this years bike rally taking over the town and the outlying area.  South Dakotans tell me that it’s really just lawyers and bankers who get to play dress up for a week and pretend to be bikers.  Not exactly what I would consider hard core.  Thanks goes to my aunt Carol for putting me up for the night.

Making it into Billings was a welcome sight, mostly because I would have a bed to sleep in and knowledgeable advice on bike maintenance.  My uncle Bill managed to have the bike stripped down within hours of me making it there and a cleaner bike hours later I tested going up the bluff they live below.  We squeezed in a ride the next day and I managed to keep up with my uncle who is a pretty serious rider and all around bike guy.  Good food and a comfortable bed is always welcome.

By my estimate I have 2 days to Washington and then it’s all downhill from there, I wish this were true.  But in the grand scheme of things one state doesn’t seem to compare to much anymore.

Vale la Pena

Current Location: Sturgis, South Dakota

Getting to visit the Minnesota state fair for a second time was just as much fun as the first time around.  I’ll try and recount what was consumed over and 8 hr period.  We started with a chocolate malt with raspberries, and then moved over to the corn booth and each had a corn.  After that I had read about the grilled chocolate banana and marshmallow sandwiches (probably the most unhealthy thing I tried this year.)  After that I had a polish sausage wrapped in a dough and baked (called a Twisted Sister) and had a frozen mocha for dessert.  I split a order of fries with Aunt Patty and had some Tom Thumb mini doughnuts.  To top it all off I finished the night with some roasted cinnamon almonds.  I’m probably forgetting some things in this list but that is only a small sample of whats to be had at the fair, good times and good food.

Minnesota, like Michigan, for me is good for the soul and the stomach.  Good family there who roll out welcome mats when I get there is more than I can ask for.  I did try to get up on water skiis again this time around but the results were the same as last time, except I pulled a muscle in my leg and decided that was enough tries this time around.  I hope that third time is a charm, it just means I’ll have to make it back to the lake again someday to try again.  Thanks to all the Minnesota gang for the hospitality and what seems to be an endless supply of ice cream.

I broke down one night and paid for camping on my first night in South Dakota at a small state park next to Watertown.  As it turns out I’ve found my new favorite greeting.  “Want some steak?”  After I had setup camp for the night and just as I was about to break out the bagels and peanut butter for dinner a little kid about 7 years old walks up to me from across the road and asked me the question.  I looked him dead in the eyes and replied, “yes.”  He said he would fix me a plate but instead I followed him across the way to where his family was set up, there was about 10 of them camped at a few sites and had just finished dinner with a couple spare steaks on the grill along with potatoes and salads and desserts.  I gave my story of where I started and where I was going and got the usual responses.  I’m glad I stopped there, it was worth the camping fee that night.

The rest of South Dakota was plain, and just rolling hills most of the time.  I rode through another thunder storm and watched lightning crash a few miles off in the distance.  Super cool.  The wind on the other hand was reminiscent of Denmark, the only major difference here is I had another 350 miles to go against the wind.  That thought almost crushed me.  Fortunately the day after I got passed Pierre the wind turned in my direction and I churned out a 130 miles to try and gain back some of that lost mileage.  The road less traveled is what I chose to do in South Dakota meeting only a few cars every couple of miles after passing Pierre.  It also means there is not much to see either, plains on either side of me occasionally punctuated with some cows.  Towns are probably populated by no more than 20 people and I’m constantly worried about my water supply.  I’m kinda glad that I almost have this state behind me, only one more long state to go and it’s a doozy.