We rejoin the story as the three weary tourers are being glared at through the crack in the door of a Native American's residence as they beg for water.....
"What do you want?"
Although our answer was swift and in unison, the moment the words came disdainfully from the lips of the old woman that memory was etched in my brain forever. For a fleeting moment, the thought of being turned down entered my mind. I saw in a flash we three wanderers going from house to house, begging for water, getting turned down, and wandering around stuck in Wanblee as Native Americans laughed at us behind closed doors. It was a weird sensation, but in a flash, it was gone......
"Can we get some water?", we three chimed at once as we held out our bottles.
"There's a hose around back!"..........BANG!
She slammed the door. We stood there dumbfounded for a second or two, trying to digest just what it was she had said, and what it meant. We were desperate, so we assumed that it was okay to go around the back of the house to find "the hose".
What we found there was not unlike what you would see behind anyone's home. Well, with the exception of the double row of thirty automobiles parked in the weeds. But that wasn't our focus. We found the typical garden hose, and the tap it was attached to. Troy ran back for the rest of our bottles as Ryan and I began the process of filling them as quickly and efficiently as possible. We didn't want to get cut short if some other resident within the home decided to over rule the elderly lady, or take the chance that she would reverse her decision. I dared to look out of the corner of my eye up at the window, half expecting to see a pair of glaring brown eyes staring at me, but all I saw were closed curtains.
We completed our task, and without hesitation moved as quickly as could be from the shadow of that home. Down the street through Wanblee, we never saw another soul, but the feelings of heaviness and darkness were palpable there. I am sure I wasn't the only one of us that was glad to take that gravel road out of town and get back onto the pavement again.
Now we were on into the afternoon, the heat was relentless, and the hills never stopped. One or two other things that were constants were steadily annoying us as we went further up the highway. One was a big bluff that actually came into view the day before. It seemed as if we would never pass. It was huge, grassy, and far off, but we could see it to our left always. It seemed to us to be a mocking presence. Then there were the grassy hills themselves. Devoid of trees, or even any weeds taller than grass. They seemed to be the willing minions of the larger bluff. Playing against our mental mindsets, they seemed to be beating us down. We toiled under their eternal gaze wishing for it to end, or at least show signs of letting up.
Finally, we saw those signs. Rocky outcroppings at the heads of some of the grassy hills. Like bony skeletal parts that were jutting through the brownish-green grass. We were elated to see this. Even to the point of rejoicing. Well, I suppose after all that toil in the sunlight, and lack of much of anything else of interest to look at, it might not be so surprising that we were so happy about a few piles of rock. At any rate, we sensed a change was coming, not only in the landscape, but in terms of the lack of civilization as well.
Then the road made a sudden right hander and started down hill. Troy was feeling it and was gone. I wasn't so sure of myself at this speed with a load on, so I used the brakes a bit more than he and Ryan, but I managed to keep Ryan in sight. We finally came down to a flatter section of country with many rocks now showing all over. The beginnings of the Badlands. Signs alongside the road let us know we were not far from Interior, South Dakota, and more importantly, a real convenience store!
We gathered up again to make our plans for the evening. Based upon what we knew from our maps and the signage along the road, we were going to be obliged to make a slight detour to a convenience store before heading towards the west again and a campground we saw signs for that featured showers. We were hot, dusty, out of water, and very, very tired. The convenience store sounded too good to pass up though, so we made the slight detour to get to it. What we saw there made it all worthwhile.
Next Week: The Sideshow.
RAGBRAI Overnight Towns Announced
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