Sunday June 22, 2014, 5 miles (8 km) – Total so far: 1,453 miles (2,338 km)
The rain is light and steady. It pools on the top of the tent and runs down the sides in intermittent streams. It is a day to stay in the sleeping bag as long as the bladder will allow.
I pack up the wet tent in drizzle around 10am. We’re not leaving Belle Fourche today, so there is no hurry. My parents have mailed my Montana maps and geology book for me to pick up here at the post office. Since it’s Sunday, it means we need to wait around town until tomorrow to pick them up.
Belle Fourche was founded as an agricultural town. The farms and ranches supplied the miners in the goldfields. Once the railroad came through, it became an important shipping point for cattle – at one time it was the world’s largest. It’s still an agricultural town with not a whole lot going on. There are big grain silos, but all of the other buildings downtown are older and mostly one or two-story. It is a gritty sort of place that still feels like a western frontier town – just not one done up for tourists. The population here is increasing, though, because of the bentonite mines and all of the shale gas development further north.
I hang out under the picnic shelter at the park most of the day – writing postcards and letters. Yesterday I was told that the road I had planned to use out of town is still closed and would not be ride-able. They had severe flash flooding some days ago that even washed out Federal Highway 85 and swept some people away (one person is still missing and presumed dead). So my dirt Camp Crook Rd is a no-go. I look for alternatives, but nothing looks appealing. I think I’m going to have to suck it up and ride Federal Highway 212 with all of the trucks. The road doesn’t have any or much of a shoulder until it hits Wyoming but it has been ridden before.
Later in the afternoon, I head over for another DQ Smores Blizzard. The franchise here in Belle Fourche is very clean, the staff is very friendly and efficient, and the manager is actively engaging with customers. Then I find out that he is a cyclist. He comes over to talk to me and asks where I’m going. He confirms that the roads north are no good at the moment, and that 212 would be no fun. He says it’s a terrible slog if there is any sort of wind at all. His suggestion is to head toward Hulett on SD34/WY24 and then go north. “It’s a much more pleasant ride – alot more scenic and a better shoulder and fewer trucks. It’s longer and got more climbing, but I ride it all of the time for training”. Good stuff – he’s just solved my problems! Thanks!
I head over to the Motel 6 to see about prices. I need to call Nigel – I’m overdue. I text him every other day, but because he is working hard on getting better at the moment, I’m trying to call him once a week to be supportive and enthusiastic. He does not have a computer or email. It would cost about $50 for a one hour call on my mobile phone. So I’ve found the cheapest way to do this is to buy a phone card from Walgreens (about 2 cents a minute) and stay at a motel and use the landline phone. If the motel is $50 or less, I figure I even out my costs of just using the mobile phone, but I also get a bed, shower and wifi. Motel 6 is going to be $68 after tax, so I get a room. There are only certain times and days of the week that work for me to get ahold of Nigel in Oz, so phoning home usually requires a bit of planning ahead.
The good news is that he sounds really good. It doesn’t matter what he says, I’ve known him long enough, I can tell how he is doing simply by the way he sounds. After so many years of one step forward and ten steps back, he actually seems to be moving forward. It’s a huge turn-around from last year when he was the lowest he’d been since 2006. He’s got some funny stories about driving over-sized loads and racing daylight to get the loads back to Albury. He’s excited for me that I’m about to hit Montana – he’d been worrying about me since I hadn’t called in 14 days. He likes the text messages but wants to hear my voice. He can tell how I’m doing just by the sound of my voice, too. As always, he ends the conversation telling me he loves me, to stay safe and to stay out of the way of the trucks.