Jul 13

Yin & Yang: Badlands & bad roads

by in Week 4

  • Interior to Philip, SD
  • 30 miles scenic Badlands
  • 30 miles hot chip seal
  • 66 miles total

After yesterday’s lack of scenic beauty, today was filled with it. But let’s back up and first mention that we camped out last night as there was no indoor option. There was even an outdoor pool to cool off by. That was necessary since the temperatures have jumped an octave, now reaching into the 100s in the afternoon/evenings.

 

The light on Badlands was lovely at dinnertime. It gave us a hint of what today’s ride would be like. As we were leaving this morning we ran into Ben & Caroline, who are riding self-supported from Portland, OR to Portland, ME. We first saw them in Idaho, again at Devils Tower and now here. It’s amazing that they can do this with all that gear!

Badlands National Park is truly “other worldly”. Riding through the maze of rock formations we imagined sci-fi plot lines that could be filmed there. As with any national park there were many pullouts to admire the assorted views so we leapfrogged with friends who took these photos of us. And we were blessed to see our first bighorn sheep. Our photos didn’t come out great but this one was taken by a fellow rider, Jeff. We saw a whole community of prairie dogs. Hopefully without the plague! Since road crews get all their work done in the summer, it wasn’t surprising we went past teams patching and resealing the asphalt. Did you know they use toilet paper to cover the tar laid over seams and cracks?

It was another 8 miles from Badlands to picnic in Wall. Sheila has NO memory of our having been there 20 years ago and stopping at the much-publicized Wall Drug did not jog her memory. Most odd. We bought an iced soy chai and some sunscreen and sat on their covered veranda. The highlight was chatting with this family of 5 from North Carolina. Mom grew up near Seattle. They had driven to Seattle in 4 days (!) to visit family and now were heading back. The kids were adorable.

Leaving Wall, we faced the balance for the morning’s beauty. We had been warned there would be 20 miles of fresh chip seal. But of course they’re working on it so you don’t know exactly what it will be. It turned out to be 30 miles. It started out fairly well-packed, but got worse as we continued. By the end, it was pretty gravelly and the workers told us to ride on the left side shoulder. “Just watch out for traffic.” Given our fat tires and fenders we fared significantly better than some others. There were 4  bikes with major issues including broken derailleurs and cracked carbon-fiber frames. And one of the Cycle America vans has a shattered passenger window as well. There was NO shade along  most of 30 miles. We stopped once when we saw a tiny bit of shade. The temperatures were above 100 all afternoon. The water in the bottles was very warm as well making it less appealing, though more necessary than ever.

The next to last water stop was in Cottonwood, pop. 12. We saw a trailer marked, “BAR Now Open” and tried to get some ice. Turns out the “bar” was a trailer filled with “antiques” with no attendant. Another mirage on the road.

We made it to Philip High School. I have one question. Did the City Fathers of America misinterpret what “high” meant in “high school”? It’s supposed to be a place of higher education. Why then are they all located on the highest plot of land in the town? It makes for a tough end to a wonderfully mixed day.

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3 Responses to “Yin & Yang: Badlands & bad roads”

  1. From Russ:

    How about another sequel to “Planet of the Apes”?

    Posted on Jul 13, 2012 at 8:47 pm #
  2. From Dale Dell'Ario:

    Go S2 Cycle! Thanks for this string of great pics. How could you not remember kitschy Wall Drug? This whole area is pretty amazing and very nice of you to take us all there.

    Posted on Jul 14, 2012 at 6:53 am #
  3. From Sheila Bender:

    Hi Sheila and Spence,
    The photos are beautiful and calm–no sign of the hot sizzle. I like how you take in the evenings and cooler air.
    SB

    Posted on Jul 14, 2012 at 7:06 am #