Brianís Cross-USA Bicycle Tour


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© 2001,

Day 33 - Friday, July 20, 2001
Custer to Oelrichs, SD
63 miles

Last night's van tour of Mount Rushmore went well. It was a scenic drive up to a lodge nearby, where we had dinner. Then we went over to the mountain, where we got to see the sculpture in daylight, then went to the amphitheater area at dusk to hear a short talk and see a short film, after which they lit the faces.

Yesterday's ride was tougher than expected, since Custer is at elevation 5300 or so, while the start at Newcastle was about 4200. I wish the AAA maps showed elevations for the cities.

Today's ride was a lot easier, as it was a nice gradual drop for the first 30 miles into Hot Springs - a neat town, and a good place to stop for lunch. The waitress thought my trip was neat, and one of the customers (from out of town) said that he rode from Las Vegas to Florida in 1973.

Just south of Hot Springs I bumped into a man and a woman cycling in the opposite direction. These were the first touring cyclists I'd seen since leaving the east entrance of Yellowstone about ten days ago. They were going east to west - having just gone through the Badlands, then to Rapid City, and then were headed west on US 18 through Wyoming to avoid the Big Horn Mountains.  They only had three weeks to get to Portland, so they were trying to take the fastest way possible. At the time I was wondering how we crossed paths without any backtracking on their part, but looking at the map it seems like they took 79 south from Rapid City to US 18 west, skipping the Black Hills. I was headed south on US 385 out of Hot Springs. US 385 and US 18 share the same route just south of Hot Springs, so now all is clear.

After leaving Hot Springs the terrain quickly turns from trees to prairie, although with small rolling hills. I heard the familiar ping of a spoke breaking - luckily I was about 100 feet from a bar/casino that had three shaded picnic tables in the back yard, a perfect place (given the circumstances) to do the repair. The spoke break was on the right rear side - which was comforting because that's the side that you'd expect the breakage, but annoying because that's the harder side to replace the spoke. The "Hypercracker" tool worked as promised, removing the gears to allow access to replace the spoke. Still, roadside repairs like this are frustrating, partly because you don't have the workstand and other stuff that you have at home, so the repair took about an hour when you add up all the activities involved.

At mile 54 I reached the small town of Oelrichs, the only service was a gas station that couldn't sell gas because of an underground storage tank problem, but they still offered their other services. I could have looked into camping at the school's baseball field, but it was only 32 more miles to Chadron, Nebraska, so I continued on.

Then all of the rolling hills turned into uphills and a headwind came from the south. Plus there was no hurry to get to Chadron because I would need to wait around in the morning for the bike shop to open up to borrow their pump. So I'm here at a rest stop near the Nebraska border. There's no camping facilities, but there's no sign saying "no camping", so... The "developed" part of the rest area leads up to a pond. Behind the pond there's an "undeveloped" grassy area between the pond and a fence, so that's a good spot to set up. A trucker got here at the same time I did (around 5 PM) - it's 7:30 PM now and it looks like he's sleeping in there...

I dropped my Palm Pilot about a half hour ago and lost most of its data.  Fortunately, I have the key programs (including the e-mail program, but not the old messages) in flash ROM, so I was able to restore most of the important stuff. Whew! The only thing I lost forever was a database of how much I paid for lodging/camping every night...

Although quasi-legal activites are best done around sundown, I wheeled around to the back of the pond around 7:45. As I set up my tent, I found that the tall grass on the edge of the pond wasn't as tall as it needed to be to hide the tall front part of the tent from view from the highway. So I just set up the short rear part and let the front hang down like a bivy sack - not a problem, since the sky was clear, it looked like it would be a good night. I was proud of myself for coming up with that setup!

The trucker finally drove off around 8 PM. Around that same time I realized I had set up my tent on a three inch high mound of dirt - I'll have to sleep around it. In the meantime I was figuring out how to set an alarm on my watch for 5 AM to get an early start tomorrow.

Then around 8:30 it started getting dark. Yeah, the sun was going down, but - oh shoot, thunderstorms moving in fast! Staying dry won out over total invisibility, so it was a quick dash outside to raise the front of the tent and throw the rainfly on. Luckily it was getting dark, offering some more invisibility. Then I almost mistook a couple of bright lightning flashes for car headlights, they were so bright...

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