Day 40: An Angel Named Mike — Devil’s Tower, WY to Bear Butte State Park, Sturgis, SD

Daily Miles: 97 Total Miles: 2,347

After a short day of riding followed by a long night of blissful sleep, Mike and I planned an early departure out of Devil’s Tower. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men . . . We were all set for an 8:00 AM departure–I had the trailer bag nearly packed and Mike was just checking the tire pressure, when I heard an all too familiar sound–FZZZZZZZZ. For those of you who don’t bike, this is the sound of a blown valve, essentially a flat before we even start biking. Nothing (or very little) frustrates Mike more than a blown valve, so I counted to ten before turning around to deal with the issue. Unfortunately, we have been blowing valves too often because our tire gauge is a little sticky. The bummer about blown valves is that you can’t patch them. A bummer, but not, as Matt would say, a “Disaster.”

But then when we looked at our remaining tubes, we discovered that we had accidently kept the tubes with blown valves and thrown out the ones with holes in Sheridan, rather than the other way around. Now we were approaching disaster territory. We had a single new tube and were facing three days without passing through any town of significance (i.e., any town with a prayer of having a bike shop). Not auspicious. I spent an hour trying to patch the most salvageable tube, but without success. So, an hour and a half later, we admitted defeat and put the new tube on and headed away from the cursed Devil’s Tower, hoping that we might find something in Hulett or Belle Fourche (pronounced belle foush to the horror of French people everywhere). Oh, and did I mention that we had a head wind and had to climb out of a canyon???

Some days you just have to laugh . . .

But then, there are the unexpected good things that also happen. Not more than a couple of miles before Hulett, as we were biking along heads down into the wind, I heard a cheery hello and looked up to see a road rider, light and fast with a Ride the Rockies jersey. Obviously a local. Just the kind of rider who would know where we could find a tube in these parts. Bad news was that there is nowhere to find a tube in these parts (at least not without a significant detour). Good news was that he was biking with his wife and friend and therefore, could spare to give his tube to us!!! We couldn’t believe it. Like manna from heaven.

Turns out that they were riding a loop that would take them up the same hills we were traveling, at least to Alladin, WY. So despite the fact that they could go much faster than we could, our angel (turns out his name is also Mike) rode along with us for a while. We couldn’t keep up on the last hill, but we ended up in Alladin together where there was an historic grocery store that was over 110 years old. Mike, Kat (sp?) and their friend Nancy not only provided us with a much needed tube, but it was also fun to have a little company–some one new to talk to–for a little while this morning. Sometimes I really believe that we live under a lucky star . . . or else it is all those prayers you all are saying for us.

After saying goodbye in Alladin (they headed south, while we headed east), another wish came true . . . we finally found our tailwind. And what a tailwind it was. It pushed us about sixty miles in less than four hours!!! Much nicer than the 104 miles in ten hours pace that we had two days before. Whew!!!

The plan was to stop at Bear Butte State Park, which is the only game around and about ten miles north of Sturgis. We arrived around 5:30. Imagine our surprise when it appeared that the campground did not have a potable water source. We were down to a little over one liter of water between us, not enough to camp and cook with and certainly not enough to head east with tomorrow where our route takes us past towns that probably do not exist. So after a little grumpy discussion, we decided to see if the Visitor’s Center had water and if not, ride into Sturgis. On the way to the Visitor’s Center, however, we ran into a ranger who told us that if we went another 1/4 mile past the first tent campsite, we would find a drive-in campground with water. Saved again. We turned around and soon found ourselves in a great little campground with funky Jetson shades over the picnic tables. Perfect.

So, to celebrate what turned out to be a great day, we had a fantastic dinner provided for by our many friends: noodles from Matt and Lori, dehydrated spaghetti sauce (that I made with the dehydrator that Keiko and Chance gave us), a huge chunk of smoked salmon that our new friend Colleen had sent from Alaska, some saute zucchini and onions that we found in Belle Fourche, and Miette’s Walnut Shortbread sent to us by Ross in San Francisco. I don’t usually eat this well at home. Luxurious.

So, despite being far from home–indeed, smack in the middle of selling our SF home and therefore, “homeless” in some sense of the word, we find ourselves again grateful for the generosity of those we know and those we didn’t know until today. I really do feel like someone–besides all of you who are reading this–is watching out for us out here. Tomorrow, we head out east of Sturgis along State Road 34 to Pierre. It will take two long days and no known campground along the way, so let us all hope that our guardian angel stays with us and we can find water and a place to sleep tomorrow night.

Leave a Reply