Day 41: There’s nothing then there’s NOTHING — Bear Butte State Park, Sturgis, SD to T-34 Truckstop, near Billsburg, SD. June 18.

Daily miles – 108. Total miles – 2455.

We got a good early start out of Bear Butte this morning, hoping for more strong westerlies/northwesterlies and flat terrain. We were told that Union Center, about 40 miles along, has a cafe or shop for water. Other than that, very little between Sturgis and Pierre – about 170 miles. We loaded up with plenty of water and figured we would hope to catch some water i the various tiny towns along the way and try to get to the Cheyenne River for a sneak camp possibility. Once there, the river is probably muddy but should have enough water for the night. We could likely even stretch our 5 liters or so for another day if we really had to.

Union Center did indeed have a little cafe and a convenience store. About a mile away, I started fantasizing about some nice pie alamode and coffee for a 40 mile break. No dice – Sunday so the town (hard to call it a town really) was all buttoned up. We spread out our usual picnic stuff in front of the convenience store, bought a soda from a vending machine just to drink something cool, and decided to try to keep going without yet resorting to knocking on doors to ask for water. I walked over to the cafe and the owners were around bringing crock pots of meatballs or sloppy joes or something to a church and I asked them about services along the road. They looked at me a little funny, and reminded me of the obvious “uh, it’s Sunday.” I should have known nothing would be open. The only option would be T-34 – a truck stop another 65 miles or so along. They said T-34 should be open, so we made that our target. We could at least get water and then find a place to camp.

As we got back on the bike, we realized that our legs, bums, and even arms were pretty worn down. We don’t think we really recovered from the mountains in Sheridan, had a few hard days with climbing and winds, and this all made it clear we really would need a rest day in Pierre. So, we were a little uncomfortable and squirmy in the saddles on this long day. We also decided it was likely that T-34 might close by 5, so we took few breaks and just blasted. All day. It was hard. We kept declaring our boredom to each other, insisting that the other provide intellectual stimulation, sing, initiate a word game, break wind to elicit a laugh. Anything. Several silent hours were part of the day though. The landscape was dry and empty. I mean, there are desolate stretches of road in Nevada and the Mojave too, but this area competes with them. The desolation sucked brain waves, leaving only pain receptors, vital functions, and an acute awareness of time passing as if looking at clock. Scanning the landscape for stimulation was like exploring the subtle flavors of mashed potatoes. A losing prospect at best. But we suffered together. I decided really that the desolation was quite beautiful. Like, in a snapshot sort of way. If I saw a picture, I would think “wow. The beautiful emptiness. A blank canvass for ideas.” Then I would get a new idea ad think of something else. Instead though, we stared at that picture for 8 long hours. The novelty expired and my thoughts returned to pie.

At about 5:30, we finally reached T-34. It was open, but not serving food because it was Father’s Day andal the cooks were gambling in Deadwood. But Tim,the proprietor was there. A friendly Minnesota transplant, he sold us Gatorade and I noticed a couple remaining slices of pie in a glass box. He served them up warm – blueberry and apple. Alamode, today, consisted of an ice lolly. We chatted a bit, heard his feelings about the Jack-booted thuggery of seat belt and helmet laws, and drink more Gatorade and water. He asked where we were going for the night and we said we were open to ideas. When he offered a spot in the grass behind the truck stop we didn’t hesitate to accept. We bought some PBRs to go with Chandra’s amazing black bean soup, and retired early to the sound of cows and wind.

This truck stop is interesting in that, like much of this region, it is almost totally economically dependent on the Sturgis biker rally. 500,000 Harley riders come from all over for a few days of debauchery in Sturgis. Tim bought T-34 a few days before the rally a few years ago – the old place called the Ridge had burned to the ground. They bought a refer-trailer, set up a shack to sell gas and beer, and served over 8,000 customers in a few days. People sign the trailer each year – it’s still there – and now they have people returning to find their signatures from the years before.

So tomorrow we head into Pierre for some much-needed rest.

One thought on “Day 41: There’s nothing then there’s NOTHING — Bear Butte State Park, Sturgis, SD to T-34 Truckstop, near Billsburg, SD. June 18.

  1. The novelty expired and my thoughts returned to pie.

    That line needs to go on a t-shirt or something. If you have a picture of the roadside near T-34. Perfect

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