July 8, 2005 – Friday – Day 13

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 217 – Total Miles: 3,333 – Daily Average: 256.8
11:30PM-6PM (MST) – 7.5 hours (time zone change!)
Pierre,SD to Rapid City, SD
(-stayed at a Rodeway Inn -) (SD – 16/48)

Since the Shadow passed 6,000 miles I knew it was time to get the oil changed. Peterson Motors was just a few blocks away from the motel, and the thoughtful owner, Russ, took me right in at 10:30am. They also checked the air in the tires.

Dode and the Days Inn front desk staff were helpful again as we plotted our way toward the Badlands and beyond, with helpful routing tips, and more suggestions of things to see that we couldn’t possibly do in a month!

Just out of Pierre there was road construction and I had to maneuver the motorcycle over dirt and gravel portions of “highway” for a few hundred yards. Not fun, and I had to be really careful. Got through it okay, though. It was very dusty, too. After that, as we traveled down the highway for a number of miles, small stones came up and whacked us on the fingers and legs.

Lots of cattle now can be seen dotting the pasture land. They were eating their grass oblivious to the fate that will befall them.

Followed a parallel road that was under construction for a long while – probably 15 to 20 miles. And it was interesting watching how the various stages of the road were constructed.

It was mostly all flat grassland again for the first part of the morning journey. But when I turned my head at one point this morning the land was all ripped and gouged and twisted and in disarray. It was the beginning of the Badlands, a geologic area of earth that is well known for looking strange.

Off Route 90 there is a 35-mile loop which takes one through the main part of the Badlands. We took that loop, entered the National Park (using our National Park pass for the first time!), and began a hot trek through that area of unusual formations and back through time itself. There were occasional pull-offs where the views were phenomenal up close or as far as one could see. But even while moving down the two lane roadway, it was hard to keep from looking at what appears as geologic oddities and weird formations.

Learned a lesson about leaving our helmets in the sun during stops. Almost scalding hot to the touch!

On one of the trails, a mom was liberally splashing suntan stuff on her shirtless 10 year old’s belly and arms. I shouted over to her good naturedly, “Is that a service of the park, ma’am?” She laughed and allowed to as she could make a lot of money on a day like today.

At the Badlands dining room just off the gift shop, we had delicious veggie burgers for lunch. I decided that I’d have a piece of cherry pie, and ordered it when Karen was out browsing in the spacious gift shop area. She came back as the pie was brought to the table, and I said to the waitress, “Who ordered this pie, I surely didn’t!” We all laughed then, but then the waitress said to Karen she would bring her a fork so the pie could be shared. I deadpanned, “Well there goes your tip!”

I sat and enjoyed that lunch looking at a ridge of the Badland mountains. Those mountains rise and fall irregularly and sometimes in indescribable twists and turns. It all appears rugged and is. It can appear at first glance all dirt-colored hue. But if the sun is just a little different, then other colors come out. We were there when the sun was high, and so our pictures won’t be variegated in colors or shadows. But the amazing array of rough-hewn earth was staggering. In parts it was moon-like alien.

Seventy-five million years ago the land was under water. The ground was pushed up by continental pressures, the water left, and the land became eroded. Lots of fossils are present in the layers of rock. I just love seeing those bands that represent millions of years.

As I paid the bill, I asked the heavy set fellow who took my money about what the temperature was. He said that it was 98º when he came to work about an hour ago. We went over to the visitor center then. A new building was being built for it, and it was now in just a big trailer. There were books and posters and things, of course.

It was the first time I had visited such a geologic wonder without bicycling through it. I had mixed feeling about whether I was actually ‘earning’ and being part of the place. Not to say we weren’t working at this today – it WAS hot out there on the highway, and I had to wrestle mightily with the bike and tiredness in the winds of the Badland mountain area. Oh, and with the temptation of looking longer over at the fantastical panoramas of twisted rock formation as we rode around the narrow roadways.

We picked up another hour when we moved into mountain standard time this afternoon.

Littering the landscape of the non-national park areas were hundreds of billboards for various tourist trap things. The Wall drugstore was the greatest culprit. One after another they poked up out of the earth. The blight is considerable. Since the driver is a captive audience really, the signs began to bother me.

When we got to that Wall Drug exit I checked out the place, mainly for the free ice water they offered. I didn’t buy anything. I found it the kitschiest place I’d been in for years. It was almost a city block or more of tourist-mania stuff beyond comprehension.

We got to the Mount Rushmore area and the distant sky was dark with rain tendrils falling to earth in the near distance. Although we had first thought of seeing Mount Rushmore this evening, we decided to put it off until morning since the rain was threatening (and huge multi-pronged lightning bolts could be seen), and because we were both very tired and somewhat grumpy.

We had a good long walk for dinner, and in search of a computer-phone data cord (which transfers data, and allows me to connect on-line) I must have left mine at the Days Inn this morning.

Author: Joel Perlish

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