From Rapid City I decided to visit Wall Drugs, which is an institution along I-90 and only 50 miles east of Rapid City, SD. It began, in 1931, as a local drug store and has grown into an icon. You may have seen bumper stickers stating, “Where the heck is Wall Drugs”? Wall Drugs has signage every 1/2 mile, for 50-60 miles in each direction along I-90. It is literally the only signage you will see as you drive thru this area of the country.
After walking the two block town of Wall, I headed over to the 240,000 acre, 27 mile scenic loop through The Badlands. If you have never been there, The Badlands is one of those physical locations you will never forget, like the Grand Canyon. I have never seen anything like it in my travels. I’ve attached a number of pictures, because they’ll tell the story much better than my words.
Because of my previous experience on the deserted backroads of Montana the other day, I decided that it would probably be safest to travel the Interstate today. I was told that it was going to be in the mid to upper 90’s and I didn’t want to be by myself on a backroad in this heat.
The best way I can describe the ride today is to relay a joke that I heard many years ago. A basketball coach was being interviewed by a sports reporter who asked the coach to describe his team to him. The coach said, “my players can’t jump but we’re slow too”. Today’s ride had excessive heat, but at least I had 20-30 MPH crosswinds to keep things interesting. So, as I was focused on not becoming dehydrated, I also had to contend with keeping the bike going in a straight line. For those of you who have never ridden a motorcycle, you generally try keep it at a 90 degree angle to the road, basically straight up and down. However, with 20-30 MPH crosswinds, you need to create a lean into the wind in order not to be pushed out of your lane. Things become real tricky when you are given a choice of staying behind a semi, that is creating a virtual wind wake and is bouncing you all over the lane, or passing him. Once you decide to pass the semi you’re now on the side of his wake. The truck creates a wind suction, so you need to stay as far away from semi as possible. The real dangerous part is when you finally pass his cab and you get whacked with the backdraft of the wind. If you survive the first couple of these experiences you pretty much understand the drill and plan accordingly.
I woke up, figuring I could make it from Sioux Falls, SD to the Prairie du Chein area in Northwest Wisconsin, which would be about a 400 mile day-long, but manageable. The winds didn’t let up from yesterday and after 50 miles or so on the interstate, I gave up and headed to Rt. 9, a two lane back road. I decided that it was better to be on a lonely backroad than to deal with the truckers, etc. I rode through northern Iowa, which contrary to popular belief, is fairly hilly and quite beautiful. There was something quite peaceful about riding in a familiar farm type setting. The architecture of the buildings and the terrain of the land lulled me into thinking I was rolling along on a Wisconsin backroad.
I am glad to be able to give you a farm report (I’m full service). Unlike last year, when I rode out to Colorado to see my son, this year’s crops are doing very well. Last year, I rode for over 5 hours through Iowa and Nebraska and did not see one corn crop that wasn’t totally devastated by last years drought.
As I crossed into Wisconsin, I began looking for a camping site, to no success. I then quickly turned my GPS towards Madison, WI thinking I would find a mom and pop motel along the way. Little did I realize that on a Friday night in the height of summer they were all booked solid. After some consultation with Judi and the promise to be careful, I decided to head for home, another 3 hours. I had already ridden 425 miles and it was now 7PM. I stopped for dinner and a few cups of coffee and turned toward home. As a friend of mine who owns horses once said, “You could smell the barn”. I rolled into Deerfield at 11PM having put 585 miles on the bike today, from Sioux Falls, SD to Deerfield, IL. Not a bad days ride!
PS. I just surpassed 10,000 miles on this trip and I still have to go to Maine!!
What a nice feeling, to be sleeping in your own bed and not having to listen to a window air conditioner all night, it’s the little things in life. This is the first dinner in many days that I am not going to dinner wearing my riding pants with knee pads.
I thought I would stay home through the weekend, do laundry, change the engine oil, do some maintenance around the house and head out on Monday morning in the heart of rush hour, just for fun.
The town of Wall, SD
Pictures from The Badlands