Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 6 - Sioux Falls, SD to Pierre, SD

Today was entertaining in so many ways it's hard to find the appropriate place to begin. I suppose we could start at the beginning. Overnight thunderstorms in Sioux Falls awakened me several times and gave me a few disconcerting moments thinking about another possible all day rain ride. Now worries however. By the time the alarm went off it had stopped raining and a quick look to the West looked promising. On the road at 8, I made good progress westward to a fuel stop in Mitchell, SD in about an hour and a half. Now, if you know anything about touristy destinations in the American West then you may have heard of the "World Famous" Mitchell Corn Palace. Built in 1921 as a tribute to South Dakota's agricultural heritage, supposedly it attracts half a million guests a year to take a look. As I did.

Wombat at the Corn Palace.

I also met "Mr Corn" , my new BFF.

My new BFF.

I neatly resisted the temptation to take a tour, checked the Corn Palace off my bucket list (I had been to that other South Dakota tourist icon, Wall Drug, years ago. Are there others?), and headed out westbound. As I rolled along the sky got brighter, the temperature went up and I began to revel in what I thought was an absolutely great day.

The view from my office.

South Dakota. What's not to like?

As I moved West of the air mass that provoked those overnight thunderstorms, I moved into a blue sky area that had one other unfortunate characteristic. Wind. For most of the afternoon I battled 25-30 mph headwinds (with gusts to 40, so says the TV weatherman tonight.) Now, on a larger bike such headwinds are a nuisance but on my 125cc tiddler they are a pretty major deal. First of all, it was no longer possible to cruise in 5th gear - just not enough power! So I shifted to 4th, lowered my expectations and cruised along at a paltry 40-45 mph. Oh yeah, I'd also get down in a racer's tuck when heading uphill in order to keep up at even that speed. Secondly, and perhaps more ominous, is the fact that the tailwind just absolutely slaughters the fuel economy. Mileage while hammering along at 45 in 4th gear is just 40 mpg! This means that, as fueling opportunities become further and further apart I've got to very carefully manage how often I stop. I also have determined that it would be very prudent to carry an auxiliary gas container along for the next few days and I bought just such a gas can earlier this evening! Now to figure out how to carry it. Always a challenge!

I got to my overnight in Pierre, SD at about 4PM and got another interesting surprise. Now, I'm not so oblivious to the world news that I didn't realize that there were flooding issues throughout the plains states. Nonetheless it was a little shocking to arrive at my hotel and find it totally surrounded by a sandbag "levee".

Pierre Hotel only about 500 yards from the Missouri River at flood stage.

And when I went downtown to buy my little gas can I found the same thing.

Downtown Pierre fully sandbagged.

But a quick trip over to the river made it perfectly clear what was going on. Missouri River well out of it's banks!

Glad I didn't store anything here!

MIssouri River well out of it's banks.

The flood prognosis for the next 24 hours is quite good so I'll probably get out of town safely in the morning. However, I do understand that the hotel is not assigning any first floor rooms to guests. I'm on the second floor!

Once again I've been reminded that my issues with gas mileage and headwinds pale in comparison to the problems in a community whose very existence is threatened by natural disaster. We ride, we learn.

Tomorrow it's a short day over to the Sturgis(!)/Deadwood/Spearfish area. Then the next couple of days after that look like long ones. I'm just short of 2/3 of the way there and have allowed myself the luxury of considering the possibility that I just might complete this trip. But it's hardly a done deal yet. Stay tuned and thanks for riding along!

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