Communication is becoming much harder at this stage of the trip. Much of last week was spent in South Dakota, and the Badlands and Black Hills have directed me eventually into Wyoming where I am now.
Just over a week has passed since the last post, and as is becoming a pattern recently, it's been a rollercoaster. A great rest day in Sioux Falls with Jason and Paul was followed by possibly the lowest point of my journey so far. As to why it was quite such an emotional crash, I can't truely say. However, in part it was probably due to unwinding a little too much with the guys in Sioux Falls, and perhaps letting myself think of home a little. Despite resting and eating better than I had in over a week, as soon as I hit the road on Monday morning things just didn't feel good. The wind was strong, the road empty and scenery bland. It reminded me of those old platform videogames which only had a couple of seconds of backdrop that kept regenerating every few frames. Cycling out Highway 42 wasn't much different - corn, corn, beans, house, corn, corn, beans, house....cow....corn, corn etc.
After stopping 3 times in the first 20 miles I finally motivated myself to push on and at least make a half decent distance for the day. Straight along the highway seemed to make most sense, but I felt drawn up a north eastern road towards the city of Mitchell. I had no real need to go there, and it was a little out of the way, but my brain wasn't quite working as it should, and it seemed like the option to go for. I pedalled into the headwind cursing everything and everyone. The road, the drivers, the wind, the fields. It was everyone's fault but mine that I was stuck in the middle of South Dakota with nothing but a sore butt for company.
Now we enter into the familiar story where my rubbish day turns good, and I feel foolish for getting in such a bad mood. But this one seems even more special and unprecedented. About 10 miles out from Mitchell, on a highway I really didn't need to be on in the first place, I hear someone call my name. My contacts in South Dakota are limited at best (I know 2 people, and I'd already seen them both back east) so this situation threw me a little. Turning round I was met with three cheery cyclists, all around my age and riding fully loaded tourers. Matt, Andy and Morgan are doing the 'Ride for Marale' - a cross country tour from New Jersey to Seattle raising money and awareness for the water shortage in Uganda. Bizarrely they had read about me in a newspaper in Iowa, and had been trying to catch me for a few days (we later identified this as the fortuitous front page article.) Their ride and cause is pretty great, and I'd recommend checking out their blog at http://ridemarale.blogspot.com/
Immediately we hit it off, which I guess isn't that strange considering we are all putting ourselves through a similar experience, but it was great to have likeminded company nonetheless. I was able to stay with a host they had organised that night, and since then we have been riding together. I figure we'll probably split in Yellowstone Park, me heading north and the lads south, but the companionship this week has been not only a real pleasure for me, but I think also a necessity. Make of it what you will, but the chances of them coming across me on that road at that time are pretty slim, and with lonliness setting in I can't help but feel it was pretty special encounter.
So together the four of us have travesered South Dakota, taking in the Mitchell Corn Palace, the barren Prairie, The Badlands, the Black hills, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer National Park...and now we begin our Wyoming adventure. There are plenty of stories to tell from the last week, but they can wait till I have a real chance to upload photos and do the tales justice. Right now its a freezing cold day in Gilette, WY and I'm regretting sending the majority of my cold weather gear onto Seattle. C'est la vie, I'm sure hiting Yellowstone National Park in around 4 or 5 days will make me forget the weather.