Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When Life Gives you Lemmon... Lemmon, South Dakota That Is

You ever notice how sometimes things don't quite work out the way you plan? Like, that darn car tax bill that takes all of your spending money for the month of July. Or, the woman checking you out at the grocery store takes a million years and makes you late. Or, the campsite you were going to camp in was underwater. No? Did I lose you there? Well, the point is, that sometimes, life might give you a lemon, but you still have to make the best of it all, right?

Lemon #1 was just outside of Chamberlain, SD. We rode into Fort Thomson hoping for a free campground, but found out it was actually underwater. The heavy spring rains accompanied by the fast snow melt in the mountains have made for some fairly high levels of water in the Missouri River. After a conversation with a young woman who warned us about snakes, we chose to feel safe in the motel that night. We may have been a little bummed about spending the money, but the sign on the door made it all worth it.

The next morning, we got out early and rode 15 miles when we passed the one and only pit stop until Pierre, filled up on water, then used the wind to help us with the last 47 miles. We had basically come to terms with the fact that we'd have headwinds for the next 4 months, but we've been lucky with a few days of the wind helping push us and we are appreciating every moment!

Lemon #2 again happened to be a free campsite underwater. We were not about to spend the money on another night in a hotel, but we weren't sure what to do. Along with the park being closed, there were houses with red X's indicating the family had evacuated, and all the businesses in town had sandbags around the foundation hoping to keep the water out. It looked like a war zone.

Mary found us wandering around looking for a place in the shade for lunch, and she invited us into her office. She and the rest of the staff racked their brains to help us find a place to camp, and they found a couple 13 miles outside of town who were willing to take us in for the night. It ended up being another night inside as Sharon and Dan showed us to the back of their garage, complete with a kitchen and shower.

It's been tough to get good sleep at night because the sun doesn't go down until 10:00 and we've been loving the cool early morning riding and getting up at 4 or 5. Even with the late night, we managed to get ourselves up early again the next day and started what happened to be one of our longest days of riding since CT.

The first 30 miles was cake. The next 20 were manageable. But the last 36 were brutal. Thank goodness for Wayne and our air conditioned lunch inside his store. When we saw his store, the only store on the road for 20 miles, we went to ask if we could find a spot in the shade for lunch but he invited us right on in. We enjoyed our tuna wraps as Wayne ate a Spam and mustard sandwich and shared stories of Buffalo and Rattlesnakes... neither of which I'd be too excited to see while on a bike.

Little did we know that when we left this little haven, we were in for a rough afternoon. Lemon #3. The wind shifted so we were pushing against it, the sun was hot, beating down on us. We felt drained and ready for a nap but there was nowhere in sight. And about half way through, Adam looked at me and I knew something was wrong. Having stomach problems while on a bike in the middle of nowhere was interesting, to say the least.

The first time we had to stop, we managed to find a tree for him to hide behind to do his business. The second time there was nothing but a hay field. Oh well, you use what you've got, right? The huge bales of hay were enough of a shield to cover him for the duration. We did, however, completely run out of anything useable as a wipe after this episode but still had about 10 miles until the next town. Miraculously, Adam was healed after this second stop and by the time we passed the ice cream shop in town, he was ready to indulge in the treat with me.

No more lemons that day. There was free camping in a park that was not underwater! Instead of the park being submerged in water, there was a pool where we were able to get a free dip along with a shower. The price? Everyone seeing my remarkable tan lines and Adam's white butt as his shorts fell down to his ankles after diving in. Pretty embarrassing.

Our only other obstacle for the day was having a stove with no fuel(couldn't find a place in South Dakota that sold the correct fuel for our stove). Luckily, we had stayed with Paul months earlier who showed us how to make a stove out of soda cans that uses an antifreeze found at any gas station. Adam went to work and in a few minutes we had a working stove to cook dinner.

The nice part of waking up early is the sunrise pictures that Adam can get.

We had our sights set on McLaughlin for the next night. I asked a grocery store clerk if it was a decent town and she looked at me and said, "you see Dan over there? He's 280 pounds and he wouldn't camp in McLaughlin." After having 3 people in a matter of 3 minutes tell us to steer clear of that town, we thought we'd better head one town further, 30 more miles away.

In all honesty, though, McLaughlin seemed like a nice town as we passed through, made friendly conversation with a few locals, ate lunch, and met Nathaniel, a solo bike tourist. Because we had an amazing tail wind that day we all decided to head the extra 30 miles to McIntosh and make it an 80 mile day.

We spent that night and the next day with Nathaniel before he turned south. It's always nice sharing the road with another traveler. Nathaniel was on his 2nd bike tour, living off of Ramen Noodles and rice. He said the less he spent on food the longer he could tour. I guess that made sense except I didn't want him totally wasting away so we had to treat him a little and shared some jerky, strawberries, Cheez-It's and a candy bar.

The next day was the biggest Lemmon. Lemmon, South Dakota. Even though there were only 1,200 people living there, it still was the biggest town around and there just so happened to be a big festival that weekend. No lemons for us in Lemmon, that's for sure. We missed the parade and the mud volleyball, but made it in time for lunch in the park and the big rodeo at the end of the day. Nathaniel continued on that day but we decided to enjoy what we happened to stumble upon.

We got an offer from Steve and Susan to camp in their yard for the night, and they gave us a ride to our first rodeo. Adam and I weren't even really sure what to expect but we got it all! Bareback Riding, Bull Riding, Barrel Racing, Steer Wrestling, and more. Within our first few minutes we were already seeing people flying off horses. It was a night to remember. Lemmon, South Dakota.

After Steve gave Adam a present of Jerky made from one of his kills, we were on our way to North Dakota where we spent only one night. Bowman was a small town, but had some great ice cream! We met a few locals who pointed us to some free camping.

The last lemon we've encountered was a big one. 3 miles of road construction. The road was completely torn out and was dirt and gumbo (apparently stuff that sticks to your tires and cakes all up) and the ornery sign lady wouldn't let us through on our bikes. There was no option for a detour so for the first time in 8,100 miles, we had to take a ride forward. We didn't like it (ok, maybe we did just a little), but it was the only option.

After the 3 mile ride in a pick-up truck, we were back on our bikes riding the wind to Plevna, Montana where we spent a quiet night at the city park.

Finally, after weeks of straight roads that seemed to go on forever, we hit some hills today and did a little climbing. It was so good to see hills and trees that the climb didn't even feel so bad. We finished the day with a nice downhill into Miles City where we're hoping for an invite inside and a warm shower. We'll see what happens. Whatever does, though, I'm sure we'll find a way to enjoy it.


  1. Great stuff. Thanks for the updates.. it is fun to read them.

    Keep up the great work and have fun in Big Sky Country!

    Jeremy and Kim

  2. The photograghy is vibrant and the script with the pictures joins the mind as to simulate our presents with your journey. Keep the enthusiam for your journey is on the downhill side.
    Love it!!!!


    Keep on Truckin

  3. Love your pictures and you stories!!! Nicely done! Thanks so much for sharing...

    From Lemmon, SD


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