The Donation Button Some People Asked For

If anyone wants to donate to this venture and me posting about it, they can do so here

Saturday, May 31, 2014


What is this ground? Neither rising or falling sharply, but something else, something I knew back in Nebraska. Is this...flat? Well, it wasn't entirely flat, but these are the sort of hills I would see in Nebraska, the sort that I no longer consider actually hills. If you don't feel like crying on the way up and screaming on the way down, it's not a real hill. I came nearly 80 miles today, and it was easier than 30 in the Black Hills. No round and round, up and down, up and down, just straight, gradual slopes. It was great. I felt like superman again.
The storm I knew was coming arrived right as I reached Gillette. I was so close to where I needed to be, and the winds were growing fierce and the rain was picking up. I biked harder than I think I ever have trying to beat the storm. And luckily, I just barely made it before the worst of it started.
Joe wasn't so lucky. Joe, by the way, is my bunk mate for the night. He's another cross country bicyclist, from Gaylord, Michigan, biking from Portland to back home, who is being accommodated by the same wonderful hosts as me. He's a very interesting older gentleman in great shape who is doing this as his 60th birthday present to himself. He's been putting me to shame averaging 70 miles a day. Though he does have better equipment and through superior planning has come over a thousand miles only needing to camp thrice, using Couchsurfing and Warmshowers most the time. My hosts too are great. They have a wonderful home and they fed both Joe and I exceptionally well. I'm showered, laundries, and happy as can be.
Oh, yeah, I saw wildlife today. Living wildlife! I see lots of dead stuff, but rarely anything alive. There was an antelope that bounded away from me along the side of the highway, a rabbit, and a deer. It was nice. Other than that, didn't see much today. I passed through the audacious little town of Upton (refer to pictures) and saw its reconstructed "Old Town". But it was nothing terribly impressive. Today was a day about people rather than places. And I met some truly spectacular ones.
I could rest here another day if I wanted. I think I'll leave that decision for the morning.
This post brought to you by AT&T LTE coverage in Gillette.

Friday, May 30, 2014

And the Rain Fell...

My tent pole held through the night, thank goodness. Though it looks like another section is strained toward the point of being ready to break. ...Likely only a matter of time. But I don't have to set up my tent tonight! Which is a real relief after the day this has been.
It kept drizzling on me as I tried to get things dry in the morning, which was a bit of a hassle. But little did I know then how bad the rain was going to get. I ate my breakfast in the cafe and then said my farewell to Wheels West and its fine people. I knew then by the clouds and the forecast I was bound to get rained on, but I thought it would be a light shower, no more. It really wasn't that heavy, but it just kept on coming. After foolishly passing up a generous offer of shelter from someone I was passing by before I thought it was going to be too bad, I ended up stranded out in nowhere with no shelter to take. Eventually, soaked, shaking, and with my back sand splashed from my tires and passing cars, I found cover in the bathroom at Comanche Park, where I dried off with toilet paper best I could (yep...) and waited for the weather to abate.
It was only temporary relief though, of course. The rain would return, and worse, I would find myself needing to go through an area of heavy duty construction. I mean, really heavy. The very nice lady stopping the cars to wait for the pilot trucks to guide them through, who I got to chat with while waiting, told me they'd been advising motorcycles to turn around. ...And there I was on my bike. It was terrible going. At the behest of a worker, I pulled over at "the shithouse" and let the other traffic pass me. I then soon ended up with a guide truck all of my own. I made it damn near all the way through, when the mud became just too thick for me to move. Thankfully, my very nice guide saw my problem, and loaded my bike up to take it and me the last mile of the four mile construction stretch. He was then even generous enough that he had me sit in the toasty warm truck with him and wait out the worst of the storm. At this time he warned me there was yet more construction another ten or so miles ahead...
Thankfully, that construction was far more complete, and far less muddy and horrible. It really wasn't too bad. I eventually reached Newcastle...not sure where to go, soaked, mud stained, and with my bike and trailer a tremendous muddy mess. I got myself and my stuff clean...ish...a the city park, with the the use of a copious number of paper towels. I changed out of my nasty clothes.
It was then rather late and I sought somewhere to stay, hopefully free. I was offered a church parking lot, directly near a train track and made of rocks and weeds. ...I left it as a backup if all else failed. And I started asking people to crash on their porch. It only took two tries. And now, thanks to a really nice elderly couple, I am in my sleeping bag on a porch, sheltered for when it inevitably storms more tonight. I went to a restaurant, filled my belly, and perhaps more importantly, charged my phone. And thus, after a tough, wet, cold, muddy day, all my needs have been met.
Sadly, while I passed some neat things, like the decorated bison in Custer (similar to Lincoln's bike sculptures), or the (I'm sure crazy expensive) Bedrock themed camping locale, or all the magnificent misty mountainous scenery, I took few pictures on account of the rain, and the critical need to not get my phone wet.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


First of all, I just have to begin this post by thanking the two incredibly generous people who have donated a lot to help me out on this venture (you wonderful folks know who you are). I am incredibly grateful, and I will worry less about when I have to eat something that isn't dry food or actually pay to camp when there's no alternative. Thank you so much.
Today was my first day camping in the same spot twice. I decided to see Mount Rushmore. And I didn't want to carry on north afterwards. Not to mention, I was dead tired from yesterday, so the idea of leaving my trailer here locked up and just biking with only my bike for once really appealed to me. ...I never would have made it with the trailer. It was liberating to be free of it, to be sure, but it also made me nervous to be separated from everything in it. It's not far from here to Rushmore, but that distance is deceptive. The hills are something fierce. This is also the first time my elevation was a zero sum game, going back where I started and thus not having a net elevation gain. ...So much up and down, that hardly seemed to matter.
And the reward for it all? ...I know people may hate me for this, but it wasn't that great. Oh sure, it's an incredibly impressive bit of engineering to carve faces like that into a mountain. ...But they're still just faces carved into a mountain. The surrounding scenery was way more beautiful and marveling I felt. I think honestly, I'll remember the incredibly steep 10% grade up and down way more than seeing the monument itself. And Keystone is one hell of a tourist trap little town. ...Though strangely cool at the same time. I think I enjoyed the Borglum Museum and learning about the man behind the monument and seeing his other artwork (sadly they allowed no pictures) more than Mount Rushmore itself.
Of course, the day wouldn't be complete without some mishaps. I had a minor fall on some damn gravel...actually, more like tricking rocks...going downhill. I braked hard, probably too hard, and had minimal momentum as I fell off right onto my ass. It still hurts, but it will be fine. At least no cuts or scrapes this time. Gravel is my bane. ...Okay, along with wind, and hills, and thorns, and...yeah. And speaking of wind... It blew like crazy for awhile today. And after my hard trip to Rushmore and back, I returned to find my tent, which I left standing since there seemed little reason not to, to not actually be quite so much standing as it should. Quick inspection discovered the end of a section of one of my tent poles was broken. ...Yeah, not good. I asked my friendly neighbor in his RV whom I  had met the night before in the diner (happens to hail from Columbus) for some duct tape. I tried very hard to solve the problem that way, but it just wasn't working. So eventually I decided to follow what is either an ancient adage or something I just made up: If you can't fix it, break it more. There was only half an inch or so of broken pole disconnected from the main piece, preventing it from properly curving. So, I decided to just break that broken section off completely. The pole forms just a slightly smaller arc now, but at least appears to be holding. ...For now, before the winds and the rain start tonight. Here's hoping.
I head west out of the Black Hills tomorrow, into Wyoming. It's been rough going here, but I would never say it wasn't worth it. I recommend to anyone and everyone that they should come out here, especially if they haven't been. Don't come for the Hot Springs and Keystone tourist traps or even for Mount Rushmore, come to see the natural beauty of the land a dispossessed people considered sacred which those sites are exploiting, come to experience the wonder and terror of having bison cross the road right in front of you, and come for all the neat people that are here. It's well worth the difficult hills (especially if you're doing them the easy way by dead dinosaur power).

By the way, not wanting to pay the $11 to be positioned a fraction closer to the monument, I saw it from the road just fine. And I contend that I was not stopped, and certainly not "parked" where I wasn't meant to be, but inching forward on my bike when I took pictures of it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Black Hills

Today was an incredibly hard day. Oh, it was beautiful and magnificent too. But it was not at all easy. At day's end now, I'm a couple thousand feet higher up than I started. And there was a lot more up and down in between. I chose the "scenic route", which meant a whole lot of hill climbing. And it was made all the worse by being nearly 90 today. Turns out The Black Hills have some serious hills. Who knew?
Late in the afternoon as I neared Custer and saw the cafe at this " Wheels West RV Park", I decided I was just done right then and there. I accepted the $20 cost for the night, set up tent, revelled in my shower, was damn grateful my phone battery wasn't going to die, and then paid out for a really filling meal. It costs money to be in this part of the world, and I've simply come to accept that's how it is. I won't be here in the Black Hills much longer.
Damn though, it is pretty. I can see why it was considered hallowed ground...and equally why it's been turned into a tourist trap (funny, funny sad, how those tend to go hand in hand). The wondrously shaped cliffs, the seas of trees...
And the bison... My goodness is it something else to see them roaming free. I saw plenty in the morning at a comfortable distance. ...Then I came to a herd of about thirty crossing the road in front of me, and with a half a dozen calves no less. I waited, and waited, as they slowly meandered across. And I approached on foot with utmost caution behind the procession of cars also trying to get through. I took some pictures (and even video) when I was some ways back, but as I got close all effort was on looking as nonthreatening as possible and trying to get safely through. Even in a car, giant horned beasts that way a literal ton are intimidating, imagine without that protection (or illusion of it) of having that metal and glass between you and them. It was an experience I will never forget.

Now, to see some faces of dead presidents carved onto sacred land those same men had a hand in defiling, because it's impressive looking and an engineering wonder, or skipping it because it's not really the right way?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Crossing the Border

Once again I experienced that strange sensation of waking up in a strange bed this morning. Somehow it's so much more surreal and "not home" than waking up in my tent in some random park in some random town. I'm not really sure why. My two wonderful hostesses took me out to MacDonald's and treated me to breakfast and coffee and pleasant conversation before I set on my way. They were both truly interesting people, one filled with marvelous history and tales of days gone by and the other with adventuresome spirit and tales of her many travels. I am better for meeting them.

I crossed into South Dakota in the early afternoon, at last leaving my home state behind. It was only my second time leaving the state on bike (and the first was just going to Iowa, so it was no big deal). ...There was sadly nothing ceremonious about it. There wasn't even a sign! Or at least if there was I missed it. My passage over the border was marked only by a state line casino, some construction, and the shoulder worsening (it would later improve again). ...Oh yes, and by data. I can't forget that. How wonderful it is to have data again.

After that, most of what I saw for some time was just vast stretches of grassland, nothing more or less. But then I came to The Black Hills, and I felt South Dakota truly greet me. It's astoundingly, breathtakingly, beautiful up here. I've never seen anything like it. On my way into and around Hot Springs, I just couldn't stop stopping in order to stare and take pictures. Now, after finding a police officer to ask about camping in the city park, I discovered there is a little cost to all that beauty. They changed their laws not long ago to deny free camping in the city park in order to not infringe on the tourist places making money. I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise.

Then at the advice of said police officer, I rushed to take cover under a bridge from the coming storm. It was rather severe, but thankfully short lived. I think I"m steadily becoming calmer and less stressed about dealing with that sort of thing. I'm learning to weather storms, of all different sorts. I had to pay $10 for the campsite I'm in now (actually, $10.55 with tax, expecting you to put two quarters and a nickel in the self pay envelope apparently), which is a little disappointing after going so long sleeping for free. But I have to remind myself, that really isn't that much money, most wouldn't bat an eye at, and it is worth it to be up here. Going a 10 day streak without paying to camp is a pretty good run I think, and I've been doing rather well staying in a tight budget all in all.

Actually posting this when I write it, how revolutionary is that?

Full Day

Today, Monday, which I've perpetually forgotten to be Memorial Day, has been a good, full day. After waking up under my gazebo this morning, while preparing to head out, two very nice Coloradans visiting family in Gordon brought me a plate of food. They called it a "snack", but it was really more substantive than that ( cantaloupe, grapes, muffin, breads). My faith in the kindness of strangers is continually renewed out here.
I took more pictures today than I can possibly post or probably had any right or reason to take. At my dad's behest, I paid the $5 to see the fur trading museum. It was money well spent. There's a lot of history to that profession, and though most of it is, well, terribly sad (overhunting, terrible treatment of the Native Americans...), it's still interesting, and probably important, to learn about. I probably photo documented the whole damn museum for my dad.
Then, quite unexpectedly, I visited another museum in town. I came to the home of the woman I'm staying with tonight (through a complicated means of a third party couch surfing arrangement), and after an amazing shower and putting my clothes in the washer (oh yes, clean laundry!), she offered to show me the county museum. It's closed right now, but she just happens to have a key, because she just happens to give tours (not to mention have plenty if her own family history in the museum). She drove me out there and showed me all around the museum and I took a ton more pictures.
She's 93 by the way. You'd never guess it. She took me out there, told me lots of interesting history, much of which she'd lived herself, and walked all the grounds of that museum, and only got slightly winded in the process. She told me she hopes to have another decade in her. I hope so too. I've never seen a person her age so alive. She also lives in a gorgeous, historic house that she rents rooms to college kids in. She's really remarkable. I feel privileged not only to have this bed for the night (that's right, guest bed, not couch), but to have gotten to meet its owner.
So hard to choose the right pictures to highlight... I was really reminded that as rough it's been biking miles on miles a day and going a full week without sleeping indoors until tonight, that it was so much harder just to simply live at all 100 years ago. We have it so easy these days. I have it so easy.
I should reach South Dakota tomorrow. I've crossed most of a whole state, diagonally. I don't think it can be said anymore that I haven't seen Nebraska. After these 450ish miles, I have definitely explored my home state. And I'm really excited to be moving on.
This post brought to you by a cell tower somewhere in South Dakota.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Home For The Night

Since I have WIFI right here in the park where I'm sleeping tonight, I thought I'd make just a little update. The storm was a little ugly, but has died out now. And according to weather reports it should actually be an alright night. It will probably rain more, but no wild wind or hail.

I got specific permission from the police officer I ran into to sleep under this gazebo so I didn't have to set up my tent and get it wet tonight. It was funny, when I saw him I told him he was just who I was looking for, and he responded that folks rarely say that. He told me not to throw any wild parties and we'd be good.

So here's some shots of home for the night. Also a selfie. Because...well, there ought to be just one picture actually of me on this blog.