It’s cool and very windy this morning in Chamberlain. My plan is to get Sheridan, WY today, a distance of 450 miles. First things first, amble on down to a cafe and get some breakfast. After a walking passed it twice I realize the nondescript storefront hiding in plain sight is the cafe and I retreat from the blustery chill into the deeply local, knick-knack strewn, restaurant. A few blank stares from the regulars escort me to my seat and soon I’ve got my hands warming on a cup of the finest watery coffee a dollar can buy. It really hits the spot. New surroundings and old company, the septuagenarians in the place have settled down and it feels like any other small town from my past, like Lakefield, MN, or Galesburg, ND. I have a history in places like these and part of me feels very much at home.
A brisk walk after breakfast to take in the Missouri River in its blustery splendor and I’m heading back to the hotel to pack up and get on the road. Today feels like one of those days. The bloom of the first days is behind me and today feels like business. I’ve got to get some miles done and put Yellowstone in my sights.
I gas up the bike and head across the bridge and out of town. South Dakota is more beautiful than people give it credit for but it does have its moments of tedium. After a long stretch of highway I finally cross the 100 mile mark for the day and it feels like the next 350 will be hard fought. The the wind is keeping me on my toes on this stick-straight, monotonous 80 mph interstate slog. Luckily there is the ever present, myopic, ahistorical settler narrative to raise my ire and keep me awake.
Here’s my facebook status update from this portion of South Dakota.
“In the rolling hills west of a tourist trap 1800s style town along I90 are two sculptures. One depicts the settlers on their horse-drawn wagon hightailing it back to the town. The other, three native Americans on horseback, weapons drawn, in full pursuit. The fact that indigenous people can be historically and repeatedly portrayed as the aggressors in some fanciful celebration of this nation's sordid origin story troubles me to no end. There is no reflection, no sense of the injustices of this occupation, no memory of the cultural and actual genocide, just blind trust in the inherent God given infallibility of the U.S. I'm looking for a sign of some moral and historical perspective but it must be hidden behind (likely under) all the colonial settler bullshit billboards.”
Nothing like noticing the calculated inversion of historical atrocities to keep your energy up on a long trip.
I finally cross the line that signifies Wyoming and the landscape begins to change accordingly. However, the thing I notice most are the harrowing crosswind gusts trying to suddenly turn my helmet 90 degrees, giving me a serious neck workout. Miles and miles of this are sapping my strength and Sheridan seems a long way off when I look up and see a Red-tailed Hawk flying past me carrying a snake in its talons. I am totally reenergized!
I pull off the interstate to gas up I realize I’m in some pain. My helmet has always made an impression on me, literally. It leaves an inverted triangle shaped dent on my forehead but it was never an issue on shorter rides. Now with the incessant winds and pressures at highway speeds it was actually beginning to do harm and driving me crazy.
I took out my multi-tool and proceeded to operate on my fancy helmet. This was to be the first of many issues I’d have with it in the coming days but at least, for now, I had some relief!
The rolling green of Wyoming rolled more and more and the landscape began to get expressive as the light started to fade. Clouds had moved in and the gray was muting the colors as I finally rolled into Sheridan and found a place for the night.
I went to a local sports bar for dinner and a beer and the older fellow next to me at the bar began to talk about this country having some serious problems. I agreed but was pretty sure we differed on what we considered problematic. This went on until he started outlining his plans for Jesus’ imminent return. I guess my response wasn’t what he was looking for and we continued our meals in silence. Nice enough fellow but reading the room wasn’t his strength.
Now I was within a day’s ride of Yellowstone. Sheridan was a waypoint in route to a place I’d always wanted to visit. I stayed in an unglamorous part of town, close to the highway so I could get moving as soon as I was motivated. My time spent in Sheridan was utilitarian. Sometimes that’s how it has to be.