• De Smet to Watertown, SD
  • 59 miles/2200 total
  • 65 degrees at start! Wet roads!
  • Overcast!

Today was essentially a rolling rest day. After days of riding in headwinds and heat, we rode in cool, cloudy weather, no wind to speak of, and only 59 miles. It was lovely. We even finished riding by noon. Wow-zah!

It was like we had opened the doors and stepped into a new dimension. A thunderstorm had dumped 3″ of rain on the area during the night. Everything was cooled down and washed off. And instead of riding interminable flats, we had wonderfully rolling roads. Let me try to express what a joy rolling roads can be. We’ve had a lot of flat lately. Fields stretching endlessly to either side of our patch of pavement. Even when I wrote the other day about getting to the top of the hill with the windmills and water towers, there wasn’t a view. It was just flat all around. Big, wide open, flat spaces.

Today the road dipped and rose. We sped fast enough on the downs to carry us up the other side. What new sight would appear? More dips? Back to flats? Just the uncertainty of what was coming was refreshing. The countryside cooperated with the illusion, also. Trees clustered near the road, on the ridges, off in the distance. Low fields of soy beans were interrupted by copses of trees. Ponds were no longer unusual sights. It was a cornucopia of visual delights. Everything smelled wet and clean. That’s a fragrance we haven’t smelled since we left Washington, western Washington, at that. It was a great ride.

About 18 miles into it, we had a water stop at the Bryant Senior Citizens home. We visited with elders and shared juice and cookies. Most were very interested in our journey. One woman recounted how much her son liked his bike trip from San Diego to Florida 3 years ago. The staff was very accommodating. There was a neat aviary there filled with little birds, including these two which people thought looked like us in our biking duds.

We rolled in to the picnic spot at 9:15 to another surprise. We were in Hayti and the park seemed filled with young kids hanging out. They were intrigued by the tandem (which they’d never seen before) and fun to talk to. But the best part came while we were eating and, a school bus rolled up. Suddenly, every child was in wild, care-free flight. They streamed toward the bus with a joyousness which was palpable. It turns out the bus was taking them all to the next town over to go swimming. Now that’s a field trip!

Along the next section of the route we kept seeing these salamanders crossing the road. We didn’t believe they could be salamanders because they were so big. Sheila hopped off and stood in the road to snap this guy as he waddled across the white line. Our experts confirmed their identities. This one was named Horace. We also saw pelicans whirling information overhead. And lots of red-winged blackbirds in the cat-o-nine-tails in the marshy areas.

We rode strongly the last 20 miles. We charged up hills, gapping the singles following us. It felt wonderful. This is particularly a good feeling given where we are in our journey. You see, we have started the third quarter of our trip. When I used to run the mile, the first lap was easy, powered by adrenaline. The second lap also was smooth because I still felt fresh. The last lap brought relief, so I could push very hard to complete it. But the third lap was the challenge. There’s no novelty to the race anymore. The adrenaline has long worn off. The finish is too far away to be meaningful. It’s this third quarter that sets the tone for how you feel about the whole experience. Right now, we’re headed into the third quarter and feeling good.

Sheila thought this quote in the gym locker room is timely: “Take pride in what you’ve accomplished and have faith in how far you can go.”

Half way