Saturday June 21, 2014, 34 miles (54 km) – Total so far: 1,448 miles (2,330 km)
The camping families ply me with food this morning. The two families are from Minnesota and Denver and have met for a week of camping together. This is their last morning and they are cooking up the last of their food. I can’t eat within an hour of taking my thyroid pill, so they wrap up two huge breakfast burritos for me in foil.
One of the guys is a mountain biker. He’s checking out my bike and asking all about touring – it’s something he’s interested in doing in the future. He is so enthusiastic about my trip and our conversation that his wife comes over to intervene after giving me the evil eye for a few minutes. She was giving me the evil eye last night, too, when we were playing with the kids. Oh lady, I’m not attracted to your hubby whatsoever – children are an immediate and total turn-off! He excuses himself with a roll of his eyes.
I head down the canyon in full sun, trying to pick out the rock types that dip steeply north as I go. I take a ride-by photo of Bridal Veil Falls – it was more impressive last year – and then push the pedals hard. I can breathe normally today, so I want to feel my lungs heave and my heart pump with a fast ride down the canyon. Hammer it down!
Down at the bottom, as the canyon opens to the hills that surround Spearfish, I see several cyclists heading up. They all wave. I take the main road in and commandeer a lane. At the bottom of the hill, I hit the brakes and head to the bike shop that the racing cyclist told me about last year.
The mechanic tells me he is very jealous of my tour – he’s just done a week across South Dakota but would love to do a longer ride. He asks me how I like certain bits of my gear and then throws my bike up on the stand to have a look. He can feel (and hear) the shifting problem, too. He doesn’t think the chainrings or cassette look too worn, but thinks replacing the cassette is the way to go. He can do it for me right now if I want to hang out for a bit. I also ask if he can replace and lube the rear derailleur cable while he’s working, just in case that is part of the problem. He goes to work while I go find a nice spot to consume my massive breakfast burritos.
I hit up the library for wifi. I check out email, facebook, the weather forecast… you know, the usual. The weather isn’t looking good for the next couple days. The whole town is booked out for a couple of events, and the campground looks quite full, so I decide I’ll head up to Belle Fourche instead.
I get the bike back from the mechanic. He has a higher degree in the Fine Arts and teaches part-time at the local college. In a couple days, he is going for an interview at a college back east. We talk about the politics and difficulties of finding secure work in academia. We are in totally different fields, but the issues are very similar. He’s a super nice guy, so I wish him well and good luck with his upcoming interview. He again tells me he wishes he were out on the road, too.
Long valleys are interspersed with long ridges and we climb and fall heading north. There are stormy clouds building to the northwest. The shifting is better, but not great. I slowly climb a long hill that curves up and away through several layers of rock. We travel through time. Slowly. I finally hit the crest and get a nice downhill in a nice shoulder.
Belle Fourche is booked out, too. The state high school rodeo finals are being held this weekend. The woman at the information centre thinks I should attend the evening events. Um, no. I’ve attended a couple rodeos before – it is really not my thing. So I go check out the centre of the nation monument. Big compass pointy thing and a bunch of flags. You can tell I was impressed.
The campground in town is nothing to write home about either. It is overrun with rodeo people. I call and talk to my mom for a long time. She is tremendously stressed about the delays with the house she and my dad are purchasing. I listen to her woes and worries as the storms build and the thunder rumbles. The storms all miss the town this evening, but the pitter-patter of rain wakes me early in the morning.