Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Touring Series: Not So Scenic

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

This entry is again a re-edited and combined post from the original entries from 2009. 

We rejoin the three cyclists as they get going on the road from Interior, South Dakota.

Day Seven: August 13th, 1995, Interior, South Dakota: One whole week! We had been out on this tour now for an entire week, and already I had had enough experiences to last a lifetime. However; perhaps the most pivotal experiences lay before me. The relief and "normalcy" we experienced in Interior was something we were hoping would continue as we got up that day in the campground.

Interior was pretty quiet that morning as we awoke and packed up to go. Before we bugged out, we had to stop at a small grocery/general store on the edge of town. It wasn't a very big place, and it really looked like a house more than a store proper, but that is all we had access to out there, so we gladly availed ourselves of the opportunity.

The watch of the bikes fell to me, and Troy and Ryan stepped inside to get more bread and peanut butter for the road. The door hadn't closed yet when I spied a Native American and it wasn't long before he approached me.

He was another young man that spoke like a hippie and was panhandling me for money. He said something about having to get a bus ticket to see his ill sister in a town far away. He wanted five dollars. I said I didn't have any money to spare him, but I wished him well.

He retorted with the following, "Hey man, that's cool. I understand. Well........could you give me. like say, $4.78?"

I did a double take. What? This guy was bartering for a hand out? I declined his offer.

Well, that's cool man. How about $4.32? , he returns.

No. Can't do it. Sorry dude!

"Well, okay man, how about $4.20?", and on and on. It seemed as though Troy and Ryan were never coming out, and they probably were in there awhile, because the guy made it all the way down under two bucks and was still bargaining with me when they did finally emerge from the store.

I bade him a final farewell, mounted my bike, and took off as fast as I could go. Troy and Ryan were laughing at my experience as I recounted it to them. I was just tired of dealing with the "V.I.P" folks on this trip.

The road out of Interior was pretty flat and was skirting the badlands to the North. Too far away to really see much, but we would see a "pile" of weird soil, or strange rocks occasionally. Traffic was almost non-existant, and Troy was wanting to hit the mileage hard in the morning due to the favorable conditions. So, he got out front and lit it up once again. We were strung out behind him as he set out a furious pace to Scenic, South Dakota, the next town up the road, where we hoped we would find some refueling opportunities.

A view of Scenic, circa 2012. This is likely the store we were at in 1995 (Google Images)
 After a blazing run into Scenic, we searched around for a place to get something to eat. The thing was that we had gotten such an early start, nothing was open yet. We were flabbergasted at that, and the lack of any visible signs of life here. The place was obviously a hackneyed tourist trap in its past, but it was weathered, run down, and anything but "scenic" when we arrived. I looked around and observed the decaying buildings, mostly wooden structures. Faded advertisements, meant to entice passing tourists, could faintly be discerned on the dry rotted wooden siding. Finally we were obliged to wait until the local general store opened for business in about a half an hours time.

We finally got in, purchased food and drink, and settled down outside, as usual, and started in to chowing down. The long opening salvo to the day left me starving, as we generally just had two packets of instant oatmeal a piece before riding each day. That wasn't nearly enough after that fast ride into Scenic on this warm, calm morning.

As I munched my food, I was blankly staring across the street to an empty lot of tall brown grass that looked as though it hadn't been mowed in months, if ever. As I looked, I saw the torso of a man rise straight up out of the grass in the middle of the field. I choked back a gasp of surprise, and Troy and Ryan both saw what it was I was looking at. A Native American slowly stumbled to his feet, empty paper wrapped bottle in his hand, and on shaky legs, he stumbled out of the lot away down the street.

"What the f#@k!", exclaimed Troy. And we were dumbfounded to find any other words for several minutes beyond that. We did get the rest of the food gulped down in a hurry, as our nerves were on edge now. We wanted to escape this weird, living nightmare of a town as soon as possible. Saddled up and ready to move on, Troy again at the front, we moved on down the sun drenched blacktop.

Hopes shattered for a "smooth" tour from Interior, and right out of the gate, it seemed. That encounter with the young man outside the shack of a store in Interior was frustrating. There was a bit of relief on the way to Scenic. The road was interesting, the scenery was the best it had been in days, but Troy's infernal pace setting required full attention to matters at hand. Traffic, while not heavy by any stretch of the imagination, was alien to us after three days of non-existent car traffic. So that was a bit of a new thing as well to have to deal with. We had been lulled to sleep as far as dealing with traffic. Even just a few cars was "heavy" traffic since we had to be aware of that now again.

All combined to have us plopped on our butts outside a long, low building in Scenic, South Dakota. We had Gatorade bottles now, since the store sold that, but no where to fill the bottles up. We did stash the empties this time though, with hopes that we'd find water further up the road. As we all sat, quietly munching and drinking, I recall that the silence was odd for us three. It was as if we'd all needed a rest and didn't have the energy to talk. I cannot really say now.

Then the "rising of the dead". Wow! I still can see that in my mind. The guy literally sat straight up! He appeared out of that tall prairie grass as if he was some apparition, a ghost of days past, but he was real enough. And with that shocking view, we were all sprung into high gear to get the heck outta Scenic.

I do have to say that with all these years to reflect, a couple of things were obvious. one- While we were all fairly young, liberal, and open minded at the time, were were definitely uninformed and this social culture and economy was far outside of our comfort zones. To say Western South Dakota was an eye-opener would be a huge understatement. Second- This trip, especially this part of this trip, has left a deep impression upon me which has been with me ever since.

Next: A Quick Recap So Far


teamdarb said...

Ha ha. I had a similar dead rising incident in Louisanna. I was the coast west of New Orleans, mid summer. At a certain hour of day these flies come out the ground and can be annoying. I had figured out the time frame well enough to seek shelter under a net daily. One day I was enjoying the time under the net staring at some tall weeds on the beach. The flies were swarming about. I was talking out loud letting them know I was not their play thing today. Then I noticed they ascended directly over the tall grass. They were so thick, you would have thought it a person standing there. Just as I thought that- a fellow lazily sits up. The guy was sunburned and leathered. I jumped. The distance was not the far between us. He asked me what time it was. He then slumberly got up and walked off towards the roadway. All of this as if no flies existed or explaination to what he was laying in the grass.

Guitar Ted said...

@teamdarb- I've heard a story similarly from a Trans Iowa competitor that took a nap roadside only to be awakened a while later by another competitor he didn't see in the dark that was within a dozen feet from him. I think, if I recall correctly, neither was aware of the other at the same time. The guy that related the story to me said it scared the crap out of him to the point that he left not many minutes afterward, since he was wide awake.