Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Touring Tuesdays: The Race Against Death Tour: White River Weirdness

The "Race Against Death Tour" stops at the end of Day Five at White River, South Dakota after a tough 92.14 miles of heat and climbs.

White River was an odd town not only for the dirt street in the main business area, but for its retail environment as well. We had some things we needed to do, and laundry was at the top of the list. So we asked about a laundromat, got pointed in the right direction, and headed over to an old wooden business front. At first, we thought there must have been some misunderstanding. This was a joke....right?

What we found was a building with broken out windows, lined along three sides and down the middle with washing machines and dryers, and filthy beyond imagination. The dirt and litter was actually drifted up in the corners and against the machines, in some places a foot deep! The watch of the bikes fell to Ryan and Troy and I set about finding a clean enough machine to use for washing. We found two that didn't take much to clean out after looking at about twenty absolutely filth ridden machines. We got change at the hair dressers next door and away we went. About this time, Ryan leans his head in through the open window and says, "I need one of you guys to come out here. NOW!" He had an odd tone to his voice. I asked what the deal was, why did I need to come out? Ryan just motioned his head sideways as if to indicate he couldn't speak in the presence of someone and whispered loudly, "NOW!"

I went out through the opening where a door should have been, and here was Ryan with wild, open eyes staring into the face of a Native American who seemed to be pressing him for something. I said, "Hey! What's up?", and the man wheeled around to his surprise to see me standing there. The tone of the conversation on his part suddenly became much more pleasant.

It turned out that he was trying to pan handle us for money, although if I hadn't have come out, he may have just tried taking something from Ryan. He seemed to be drunk, or under the influence of something, and wasn't too coherent. I deftly made the correct answers and statements that directed him on down the street without further confrontation, but not before he managed to hurl an insult at a passing girl, which about made her cry. Nice guy!

Well, not wanting to have Ryan have to face that guy if he came back, I took the duty of being the watcher for the remainder of laundry time. As I sat there, I heard the wailing of a woman from across the street, I discerned some of the words she wailed. Apparently, she was pleading with someone to "not go and do it again." Not many seconds later, a stumbling Native American came out and weaved his way to a bar a couple of doors down. The woman's crying could be heard plainly across the street.

After the laundry had been done, we wandered up the street and I noticed a well dressed man approaching us. He hailed us and asked the usual, "what are you guys up to" questions. We politely told him what our trip was about, and of course, the lions share of the conversation from our part was relegated to me. So, I engaged this man in some conversation about this strange town. He told me he was a Korean War veteran, and had lived there all his life. The street had been torn up three years previous to our visit to fix the underlying infrastructure. The city couldn't afford to get the street repaved, so there it was. Dirt! We took our leave of him and went to get some groceries, but not until he had given us an idea of where we could spend the evening.

After the groceries were purchased, we headed over to the race track/park the man had told us about. We took our spot as far back from the road as we could. Cars were circling through the park on a fairly regular basis, which made us uneasy. While setting up the tent, I decided to check out the bathroom facility there. When I turned the corner in the cinder block building to enter, I stopped short. Glass was busted up everywhere. And to make matters worse, there was excrement smeared all over the walls and floor. Yeah.....great! I ended up squatting along the fence line instead.

The war vet had told us that even as a child the Native Americans and whites were not on the best of terms, but that now it was worse than ever. We went to sleep very uneasily that night. Car lights would make us tense up, and thoughts of violence were on all our minds. Morning, and the escape from White River, couldn't come soon enough for us.

Next Week: High Plains Ghetto

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