Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Touring Series: An Oasis In The Prairie- Part 1

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. 

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.

The hint of bluffs in the distance seemed to mock us as we toiled up and down endless hills

Now we were on into the afternoon, the heat was relentless, and the hills never stopped. Having run out of water and having ridden without it so many times now, well, it affected us and our speed. It affected our moods. The short outbursts of comedy that Ryan had provided now were sparse, or had faded altogether, as the afternoon wore on. We all fell into a silent suffering as we plodded along under the unceasing heat of the Sun. Another day in triple digits, and we were just about done for.

 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 hand turn 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. It would be our oasis in the grassy desert. What we saw there made it all worthwhile.
We very nearly came undone in Wanblee. It was about as low and helpless as I'd felt in a while. It was another chink in the armor of my life I had been seeing get torn down bit by bit. The divorce previous to the tour, then nearly ending the tour on day two with my heat exhaustion. The nearly daily bonking from running out of water and food. The seemingly endless hills of grass. The life on the road. It was wearing me down. Funny thing was, I thought once we escaped Wanblee with our water that we were on okay ground. Or at least I was. I was a fool......

We all were worn down. Like wrestlers in the third period that hadn't trained enough for their matches. We were weary, slumping, dull..... Interior was a sign. A promise of respite. Real food! Showers! People that weren't looking down on us or trying to panhandle us for what little we had. Would this be the start of a new portion of the tour? Would we be enjoying ourselves again? Interior held promise for that. We were uplifted as we searched for the convenience store.......

Next Week: The Sideshow.

No comments: