Day 46: Minnesota!!! — Brookings, SD to Springfield, MN. June 23.

Daily miles – 100. Total miles – 2831.
We woke up to threateningly gray skies but by the time I got the coffee and breakfast going, the clouds lifted to reveal the sun and we looked forward to a day of light headwind and hopefully not too hot riding. We got out of Huron at 9am and, after 20 miles, we entered Minnesota!!

We stopped for an obligatory border sign photograph and then just kept on trucking, marveling along the way that we were actually here. I think South Dakota served as a transition from the adventure journey to concepts of “home.” It seemed like every mile through South Dakota the changes in climate and landscape started to feel more and more like home – familiar in a visceral, old and familiar way.

A huge wind farm greeted us at the border, but other than that, I could have been in the car as a kid or on some school trip – the gently rolling hills, the green everywhere, stands of trees demarking not just streams or mountains, but farms and unfarmed ravines. It all is the landscape that bored me as a child, but now it totally welcomes me. Seeing it in this way, we could somehow really feel the miles that have passed beneath our wheels and legs. We’ve transitioned from one world to another.

We found a slow leak in the rear tube at lunch and could not find a hole to patch, so we changed out to one of our two remaining new tubes. A few miles later, in the very hot sun and 100 meters short of a gas station where we intended to get some Gatorade, we flatted out. Chandra made a perfect patch and, in topping it off, I broke YET another valve!! So aggrivating. I try to be so careful, but these things pop off constantly. I must be doing something wrong because my attempts at vigilance are failing ! So, we changed out to our final spare (save for the slow leaker…). I managed to get this one up to pressure and we are just hoping we make it to St. Peter tomorrow without another flat!

We stopped for pie in Walnut Grove and Chandra called my mom to tell her we are in the same area code! Nutty… After Walnut Grove, the sun started to be blocked out by some clouds and gradually we thought some rain might be developing. We targetted the small town of Springfield as our destination for the night, and pulled into a grocery store to get a few things for dinner. Right as we were about to pull out of the store to find the campground, it started to rain. Then it started to REALLY rain. Then the lightning and wind picked up. We parked back under the store’s awning and the storm got down to business. The wind was shifting all over the place ad huge sheets of rain were pounding. I looked around the corner to the south and could not even open my eyes in the wind and driving rain. The tornado siren started sounding and we huddle behind pallets of water-softener salt by the wall of the store to sit it out. The manager of the store asked us to come inside and said everyone was going to shelter in the produce cooler if a tornado was sighted, so we stood with 20 or 30 local folks in an aisle waiting forthe word. It finally lightened up in 45 minutes or so without a tornado being formed. As we left, we saw a carnival on the main street that had been blown around pretty badly in the wind. It turns out, this weekend is the 125th year of Springfield and they are having a big bash! All cool, but we worried the campground might be full…

We rode a few blocks to the campground and found it full of campers and, in many places, standing water from the storm. Amazingly, there was one spot open right near the entrance. We went for it and promptly started setting up the tent in case it rained again. A car pulled up to the adjacent site and a woman appeared saying “I hate ta tell ya y’know but this spot…well, it’s kinda taken. We’ve reserved it.” Taking one look around at the full campground, I took a sort of stern approach noting that there was nothing like a permit, possesions, or anything else making the spot. There was, however, a pretty big grassy area behind the spots with room for plenty of tents. Just as I was about to start packing up again, she told us she was having a family reunion and that we could just be Simmonses for the night and join them. She even offered us s’mores later arond the fire! We faced the tent door away from them and cooked at the tent, just to be as unobtrusive as possible. It’s all cool – she also said since she had already paid, there was no need for us to pay another $20 to stay – score!

All through dinner, we could hear screaming – I think itwas bull-riding – from down the way. So, after cleaning up from dinner, we took off to check out the celebration of Springfield-ness for a bit. There was the typical travelling carnival stuff, and we finally parked ourselves near the live band and bought a round of Bud Light. Hmmmm. To hydrate, I suppose. Looking around, we felt like perhaps we had descended from a spaceship. Instantly plopped into the middle of a huge smalltown midwest party. Amazing. At 10, we called it a night, went back to the tent, and within 5 minutes it started to rain with tons of lightning again! I don’t know how the timing has kep working for us, but we were dry and sassy in the tent before the first drop fell. So, now to sleep, and inthe morning, we go home to St. Peter!

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