"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Friday, July 30, 2010

Dirt roads, typhoons & buffalo stampedes

Thursday morning Terri and Ron had some errands to run so Niles,Deb, Rudee and I loaded up on the bikes and headed into Indian Territory.
Our goal was to try and find the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre which is on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Southwestern South Dakota.
We started out in almost perfect temperatures and not a cloud in the sky. Our route took us through Hot Springs South Dakota where Niles wisely suggested we have lunch and gas up the bikes.
With those chores done we rode on. The landscape changes from mountain to rolling prairie with only an occasional tree and very few homes and ranches. The traffic thinned out to almost nothing and it felt like we were the only one for miles and miles, it was turning out to be a really nice ride.
Off in the distance we could see a large business of some sort. I thought it might be a truck stop since we were on a state road and had not seen any gas stations for probably 30 miles or more. Once we got closer we figured out we had entered the Reservation when the business turned out to be a casino. The nearest decent size town was probably 50 miles away and we had not seen a house for probably 10 miles, yet here was this sprawling casino, it looked so out of place.
We finally made it to Oglala South Dakota and we knew our turn off was only 10 miles or so out of town. That's when the ride changed some. We ran into some road construction. Now this was not the type of road construction we are used to seeing in Indiana. Here when they repave a road they take out all the pavement leaving just a dirt road to drive/ride on. This road was mostly soft sand, and rutted mud. Not the kind of thing most "sane" people would be riding a motorcycle on :-).
We hoped the construction was only for the short stretch of highway through the tiny town but when we got stopped by a flagman Niles asked one of the local residents and they told him it was at least another 2 miles. Yikes!
We decided not to risk going any further and turned around, which was no easy feat in itself. Next to the road was a paved sidewalk. No one was using the sidewalk and we had not seen anyone outside except the road crew so we headed for it. Riding on the sidewalk we backtracked the 1/2 mile or so to get back to where the pavement ended. Whew made it. Rudee snapped a photo of us on the side walk. Yep that's the "road" on the left of us in the picture.
We decided to abandon our plan of seeing Wounded Knee and turned the bikes North at the first paved road we came to which turned out to be BIA-41 (Bureau of Indian Affairs?).
Riding North we could see the clouds building and the more we rode the worse they got. The nearest town with any kind of services was Hermosa but it was still about 60 miles away.

Here is a shot of the storm as we got closer.

I turned my radio onto the weather band and they were announcing that Hermosa was under a severe thunderstorm warning and this storm had already produced baseball size hail and high winds. Yuck!
The closer we got to town the more we realized we were not going to make it and started to look for someplace to take cover. The bad thing was there was no place to be found. We had not seen a house, barn, outhouse or chicken coupe for miles and miles. We were all getting a little nervous and by this time the storm was looking pretty fierce.
We finally spotted a house ahead and Niles headed for it. There was a car parked in the driveway but no answer at the door. We quickly covered up the bikes as the rain started and we took refuge on their covered patio behind the house.
We just made it to the patio when the storm hit and it was a doozy! The wind howled and it was bad enough that a limb, about 10" in diameter, was broken off of a tree in the back yard near us. I have to admit it was little scary there for awhile. The worst of the storm lasted about 20 minutes.
We waited for the rain to finally stop and then got our rain suits on and headed out once again.
We had about 30 more miles to go to get back to the campground and our route would take us through a section of Custer State Park. The storm had caused the temperatures to drop from the mid 90's back into the low 70's and we were glad we had our rainsuits on to cut the chill.
We arrived in the State Park and had only ridden a couple of miles when we came upon some buffalo running in the field beside us, pretty cool until we realized the rest of the herd was on the opposite side of the road and were crossing right in front of us! We got the bikes stopped and waited hoping these humongous beasts would not mistake a touring motorcycle for a hot looking buffalo cow :-)
We watched as about 20 more buffalo ran across the highway before we were able to move on.
While waiting on the patio Niles had called Ron and Terri to let them know we were in the storm but OK and had made arrangements to meet them in Hill City to eat supper since the weather was clear there. Well things change when Rudee and Phil are heading into town. The clouds started building again and we got into another downpour less than 5 miles from Hill City :-(. We made it though and had a nice meal and got the chance to dry out some before heading home.
This was one of those days we will talk about around the campfire for years to come. Remember that day in South Dakota when ...... :-).

I'm not sure what kind of mischief we will get into today, it will be hard to top yesterday. I'm not sure my heart can take that much excitement 2 days in a row but I'll keep you posted!

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