7/10/12 Keystone (Mt. Rushmore) to Hot Springs, S.D. – 58 miles
Awoke to yet another beautiful day – blue, cloudless skies and pleasant temperatures.
We ran into a local who bikes frequently, and she discouraged us from biking through the wildlife loop route. Tourists drive too fast, all the while “gawking ” and “rubbernecking” at the animals. Not paying attention. Definitely not a biker friendly situation. So, we opted for a 13 mile connector to the main highway south to Hot Springs. We ran into the trashmanics and visited for a moment. They were headed for the same route.
These first 13 miles were awesome. There were multiple climbs, but the scenery was gorgeous and after each climb followed an exuberant downhill reward. I reached 40 mph on one downhill – the fastest I can remember ever on my bike. And I tend to be fairly conservative in the sense that I don’t like to go faster than I feel I can control. This was something!
Unfortunately, the remaining 40 miles or so were yet another of those challenging rides. Seemed like long, slow incline followed by long, slow incline followed by… You get the picture. There was a moderate headwind, which seemed to cancel out any joy of whatever downhill action you might get. The scenery was those endless grasslands again with little variation. And it got to be quite warm, probably in the 92 degree range. Which means you are drinking more water. However, the water is warm. No convenience stores with ice cold drinks and no rest stops. So, you just trudge along for several hours, stopping on the side of the road occasionally as needed, which in my case got to be more and more frequently as the day wore on. Not the worse biking day of the trip, but not much fun either. Finally, after 3-4 hours of this, we came upon a convenience store at the intersection of the road for Hot Springs – our destination for the night. I guzzled down a couple ice cold cokes and some cold water.
In Hot Springs, we once again searched out and found a very reasonably priced locally owned motel named Skyline Motel. Just the basics, but adequate. The owner was a character – a large ex-military looking man with a little dog named Cujo that he obviously adored. The little dog followed him everywhere. The owner told us that he got Cujo from the pound about 1 1/2 years ago. Around that dog, the owner was like a little boy. So gentle and kind. The bond was obvious. I told Randy that I liked this man merely on the basis of how he interacted with his dog. There were a number of interesting looking characters staying at the motel. None looked dangerous, just as if they may have had some interesting life stories. The motel is located near the VA center and hospital, so I got the sense people with family members in the VA hospital stay at the motel to save money.
We rode our bikes into “town” for dinner at a local pub, and the food was awesome. I had a grilled chicken salad with pineapples and feta cheese, and topped with oriental sesame dressing. Delicious. Randy had a good looking bacon cheeseburger. After dinner, we biked up the hill (ugh) to the motel, and walked across the street to the Dew Drop Inn for ice cream. A couple of the people there had ridden their horses and tied them up to a tree like you see in western movies.
Towns like Hot Springs and many of the little towns we have stayed in give you a sense of a simple life. People actually sit on their front porches or in the yard in the evening and visit. They wave at you as you ride by. They never seem to be in a hurry on the streets, and always have time to chat and ask all the obvious questions about the bike trip – they are very interested, and I noticed that they actually look you in the eye and listen. I mean, really listen. I have often found that lacking in recent years as folks are constantly plugged in to music, computers, TV, whatever. Some sort of constant distraction. Or, we are so busy thinking of what it is we have to say we don’t hear what the person we are talking with is saying. We just don’t take the time to really listen to each other and really HEAR. That has been one of the huge blessings of the trip – the opportunity to verbally communicate with my fellow travelers and folks we meet on the road.
On a trip like this, you also realize how little you really need. Our days are pretty much consumed with biking, finding food, finding a place to stay, and figuring out where we are going the next day. In monetary terms, it can cost as little or as much as you determine you want to spend. There is very little energy for pretense, and you get to know people and their core values fairly quickly. Because of the nature of the journey, you move on from those with whom you are not compatible and stay aligned with those with whom you are compatible. There is a freedom in relationships that you don’t often see – few expectations of one another and acceptance of each other’s right to make their own choices regarding their route and journey. We often remind each other that this journey is unique to each individual and their goals, and we don’t try to impose our choices on each other. You constantly meet new and interesting people, which is very stimulating. And you learn that people in general are good at heart and want to be helpful. It makes you want to be helpful.
We will be moving into a new phase of the trip as we head into Nebraska and head towards Iowa for RAGBRAI. I expect to see lots of cornfields and fairly flat roads. I am looking for those west to east tailwinds to take over!!