South Dakota 2014 – Day 31 – Pactola Reservoir – Hill City: Saying goodbye

Thursday June 19, 2014, 15 miles (25 km) – Total so far: 1,359 miles (2,187 km)

Wayne and I rise early. So do all the other people at the Hart Ranch Resort. We go down to the office so he can book another night, and there are so many people around and everyone is so cheery, you’d never know it was only 7.30 am.

We head off to pick up Brendt. While I wait on Wayne at Brendt’s house, I start looking at the maps. From trip planning stages, I knew there was the possibility of seeing Wayne or another friend in the Black Hills. I had planned a route from Hell Canyon on Forest Service roads up toward Savoy in the event that no one could meet me. But I didn’t plan an alternative route since I didn’t know any plans. Consequently, now I’m in Rapid City and don’t really know how I want to head north.

Wayne and Brendt are heading up to Pactola Reservoir today to go scuba diving. I really don’t want to ride in or out of Rapid City, so I decide I’ll head with them up there. Maybe I can just take Hwy 385 north from the reservoir up toward Deadwood and Lead.

By the time they’ve picked up supplies and gear from the scuba shop, and we’ve gotten to the reservoir it’s around noon. Hwy 385 was busy and didn’t appear to have a shoulder heading north from where we joined on Hwy 44. I’m anxious to head off, because I feel like I’m imposing on brother bonding time. Plus, Wayne has seemed nervous and preoccupied all morning for his first dive after his scuba certification. So I just feel in the way. But now that I’ve seen 385, I don’t really want to ride that. I’m not sure what I want to do. So I take pictures of the guys getting ready to dive, and then I go for a swim in the cold water.

I catch a ride with Wayne and Brendt to Pactola Reservoir where they are scuba diving for the day. I go for a swim in the lake, watch them dive and then take off for Hill City in the afternoon.

While they are off exploring the underwater realms of the reservoir, I decide I will just ride 385 south to Hill City, and then just head up on the Mickelson Trail like last year. I’m ready to go but feel like it’d be rude to just take off while they are out there diving, so I wait for the guys to return. I go for another swim, doing laps between the swimming area buoys, but stay in too long and have a hard time getting warm again on shore.

The dive was a success and Wayne seems happy with how things went. The water wasn’t very clear, but it was a good experience. Shortly after, it’s time to say goodbye. I always find them hard. When you live so far away from friends and family, you never quite know when you might see them again. Hugs all around, and then I go spastically shifting up the hill (my shifting has gone to shit again).

There is a decent climb coming out of the reservoir, but the deep valleys and dark green trees are a pleasant backdrop. There is no shoulder until you get past Sheridan Lake, so it’s not the most fun riding to be had. But most people aren’t passing too closely, and from time to time I can look up to see the meadows that intermingle with the forest and the large granite rocks that stand like gateway sentinels at the side of the road.

As I’m cruising down one hill, I see a touring cyclist slowly churning up with full panniers and a full trailer. He sees me and stops. I cross over to chat. And here I meet Jack Day. He is riding from Des Moines to San Luis Obispo to see his daughter. He’ll do the return ride next summer. He is trudging his way up the hill to stay with a warmshowers host. We chat for a bit, before heading on. Poor guy has a lot more climbing to do, and it’s getting late in the day.

Meet Jack Day. He is from Des Moines and is doing a long route to San Luis Obispo where his daughter lives. Next year he will ride from there back to Des Moines. You can follow him on facebook at “Call to Adventure – Follow the Ride”. We keep in touch through facebook through the rest of the summer. We miss each other by hours in Missoula in July, and in September, he provides me with valuable information for crossing Beartooth Pass.

I roll into Hill City, grab some food at the supermarket, and am sad to note that the great little deli I ate at last year is no longer there. I head down to a campground just off the Mickelson Trail. The tent sites have no shade or privacy, but it doesn’t matter today. The bathrooms are very nice though and even feature little bottles of shampoo and lotion for use on the sink counters. Very nice!

The grass is soft beneath the tent and I’m glad I made the decision to do this short jaunt rather than heading north on 385. I don’t know it now, but this will be my last visit with friends and family until I get to Fort Collins in mid-September. Time is always too short with loved ones! I know there have been as many hellos as goodbyes, but I always seem to remember the departures most vividly.

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