The three "Race Against Death Tour" riders wait for a convenience store worker to end her shift in Niobrara, Nebraska....
With our plans up in the air, and the day wasting away, we weren't too comfortable with just waiting it out to see what would happen. We fidgeted, we paced, and basically clock watched for 12:00 noon to happen, and have Jo assess whether we were in for some much needed assistance, or chasing smoke.
When noon arrived, we still had about a ten minute wait on our hands since Jo had to close out her register, talk to the next employee on shift, and get out of her work garb. After what seemed like an eternity, she walked out, asked to see our rigs, and we went outside. Well, as it turned out, our fears were all for naught. Jo had a truck! Not just any old pick'em up truck, mind you, but an honest ranchers truck. A three quarter ton Ford 4X4 with a crew cab and a full box. Yeah......our bikes fit fine. It was another thing to lift them six feet into the bed of that rig though!
So with that done, and our minds at ease, we piled into the cab, settled in, and Jo took us on an incredible 20 mile ride through the Niobrara River back country. It was really cool, and Jo filled us with a ton of information about the area, the struggles the ranchers were having with the Feds, and how we were lucky that we met her since this was the only road around the construction. It was lucky! These roads were crushed rock, steep, and finding our way without a detailed map would have been really hard. Jo basically saved us from losing at least a day on this tour. Not to mention the rest our tired bodies got riding in an air conditioned truck!
Well, we finally came to the end of that ride at the highway west of Niobrara. Jo pointed us in the right direction as we unloaded our rigs slowly and carefully. We were super grateful, and a little bit sad to have to part ways. Jo was an incredibly gracious help, and we wouldn't soon forget her and her big truck. But that's the way it goes sometimes. You meet for just a little bit, and life sweeps you down the road again, far away.
So we turned our faces westward. It was hilly, hot, and we had a long way to go before we got anywhere we could find a proper overnight. Troy wanted to get out of Nebraska, and we all did, really. But that would be a big effort on our route. It was time to go to work.
Our maps showed us we weren't far from a town called Verdel, but there wasn't much of anything there, and the next town was much the same. Finally we pulled into a town that had a convenience store that was called Lynch. We sat for a bit, got the tent out to dry in the southwesterly wind, and tried to cool off from the intense heat of the day. We sat for about a half an hour, then we saddled back up and headed westwards again. The road bent northwards a hair, then we joined another highway. About this time, we started seeing riders headed to Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally. Things were getting a bit more interesting after a long afternoon of dreary heat and brutal hills.
We went straight north into Spencer, and the after passing through that town we went directly west again for a spell. South Dakota was nearing, it was within reach. I think we all got a bit of a boost from that thought as the pace began to pick up a bit now. It was late afternoon, and we were rolling together at a really good rate.
Now the highway turned due north again, and we were going through a little town called Butte when just by an old closed up lumberyard, a dog came out and gave chase. It was mean and meant business. Ryan whipped out his pump, and Troy was yelling. I did what I normally do when dogs come out after me. I barked back! Well......that and I rode faster! We were a bit scared and shook up by that, but we were okay. We stopped up the road to regroup, then we forged ahead to the border.
Five more miles and we made it. We didn't stop though, and we didn't really mark the occasion. We forged ahead another mile to the meeting of Highways 12 and U.S.18. There was nothing special about this intersection. It was in the middle of nowhere really. But we needed to figure out a plan for crashing for the night. The maps came out, and our noses went into them! As we were pouring over our options, we saw a few motor bikers stop and don silly plastic helmets. It seemed that it was a way to skirt the helmet law and not wear a "real" helmet. I thought it was weird, but whatever. We were not wearing helmets, and I suppose the bikers were jealous of that, judging by the looks we got.
Troy had a plan. He wanted to see just how far we could push it. We were already at nearly a hundred miles of riding for the day, not including Jo's ride. Bonesteel looked appealing to me, but Troy thought it wasn't far enough out. He was thinking we could swing Burke if we tried real hard. That was about 20 more miles in, and the sun was westering fast. I was rather dubious of the plan, but once again, Ryan was game, so I fell in.
As we went by Bonesteel, I wistfully looked, wishing we would pull over, but Troy was up front and was hammering out an incessant pace, so I knew we were in for more miles before this day would end. The little spot in the road of St. Charles passed by, and then Herrick, just off the road to the south. Still we went on. I noticed lots of dump truck traffic and heavy equipment. I would soon find out why.
We hadn't passed Herrick by when we saw the construction signs. Road Closed. We rolled up where a construction worker told us that if we stayed to the right, we'd be okay. At first, it was. Then the hammers that bust up old pavement had crushed the surface of the road to bits, which made riding slow and difficult. Then we were obliged to walk around the very machine doing the crushing. It was loud and we were not wanted there, that was plain. We quickly moved around the machine, and the deafening din, we got on the left side for a bit, and rode onwards. Soon we had to jump back over, and the blacktop paving machine was busy laying down new blacktop. Dump trucks with full loads of the hot, sticky substance then came roaring by to meet us on their way to refill the paver. As each one went by, a hot shower of mini-meteorites came down upon us. Hot black top stings when it hits you, and sticks to frames and bags alike. This went on all the rest of the way into Burke. A fine welcome to South Dakota! I thought I was in Hell.
Once off the road, we quickly found a shelter in a park that allowed camping. There were showers- that was a welcome site! We each got cleaned up in succession so the bikes wouldn't be left alone. Then we were trying to figure out where to set up the tent. We had it erected under the shelter when Troy said, "Let's just leave it under here!" We all agreed to that, and started making dinner while the sun sank in the west.
Just about the time I got back from cleaning up, a local police officer pulled up. It was the Chief of Police of The City of Burke, South Dakota, no less. He tried sticking us with a $15.00 fee for camping. I politely explained that we were all in one tent, and that the sign, not more than three feet away, indicated that it was $5.00 per tent. Reluctantly, he agreed to the $5.00. I handed it to him, and he slipped it into his shirt pocket. As The Chief pulled away in his squad car, I told the other two, "Well, we just bought his beer for the night!" Troy and Ryan laughed, we crawled into our sleeping bags, and fell asleep without further adieu.
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