Beaver Creek Recreation Area, Linton, ND→ McIntosh, SD
Net Elevation gain: 594 ft. (1706 ft. to 2300 ft.)
Average Speed: 10.2 mph
Top Speed: 42 mph
Time spent biking: 7 hours 15 minutes
Total time for the day's travels: 11 hours 30 minutes
Miles biked today: 74.2
Total for trip: 2166.4 miles
As usual, we woke up pretty early (around 7:30), but were slow to get out of the tent. Jenny was actually feeling a little sick. She had a head ache and her body felt tired and achy. She rested inside the tent for a long time, getting up once around 9:00, but then going back to bed. Brett joined her in the tent to write for a while until the computer battery ran low, then he rested more, too. It was raining a little outside most of the morning, contributing to our lack of eagerness to start the day.
Around 11:00, we finally got up. The priority was to fix the ailing tire. We were so thankful we were carrying the extra tire! Brett put on the new tire, with a new tube inside it, and inflated it to the maximum listed on the tire. Brett was disappointed that it was only rated to 65 p.s.i. (pounds per square inch), but it seemed to work fine. It was strange to put the new tire on, after having carried it so many miles without needing it.
The courtesy pontoon boat from the casino across the water arrived about 11:45, and we haphazardly packed up, hoping we'd be able to make it down to the boat launch in time, and hoping they would allow us to board. We walked the bike down the quarter mile and approached the boat with only a few minutes to spare.
The drivers looked at us a little warily, but it ended up working out beautifully and they were really nice. Brett strapped the bike to the front of the boat, and we carried our bags into the seating area with us. Also on board were about four or five older ladies, and they welcomed us aboard with eager questions. We chatted with the ladies for the length of the twenty minute boat ride across the Missouri River/Lake Oahe/Oahe Reservoir.
Brett secures our bike to the front of the pontoon boat that takes people across the river to the casino on the Indian reservation.
We thanked the boat drivers and as the ladies climbed into the waiting van ready to whisk them to the casino, we loaded up our bike again. The drivers had told us we'd have a big hill on a gravel/clay road, and although we were hungry, we were eager to make it to the next intersection. Because we had left so little time for packing up, we were still in our campsite attire: long pants, long-sleeve shirts, etc. It was a cool and cloudy morning, but as we set out, so did the sun. In a few moments, between the hill and the heat we were too hot, and we had to stop to roll up sleeves and shed a layer.
The hill wasn't that bad, and neither was the gravel, but it was a little longer to the main paved road than we expected. A few miles later, we did finally make it, and we turned south. The roads weren't particularly well marked, and the markings didn't match what we saw on our maps, but we knew we were headed in the right direction and there are very few roads in that area of the reservation.
Excited to be on the reservation for a while, we pedaled on, and then down a big hill before we finally decided we MUST stop for food. We found an entry to a field, sat down on the grass/gravel and cooked a yummy meal while the rain clouds closed in on us. We were getting a little wet from the light rain, but we feared more of the storm would hit.
After eating and repacking the gear a bit so that important stuff would stay dry, we kept going. It always feels better to have food in your stomach when you are riding long distances. We were constantly looking at the sky, though, as massive black clouds were hovering closer. We found the road that turned west, and we were pretty sure it was the one, but as we mentioned, the roads weren't marked the same as on our state map.
As we were stopped at the intersection, we heard what sounded like a cat. Brett thought it was a catbird's call, but he was focused on the map. Jenny looked where the sound was coming from and saw a kitten. The poor thing was wet from the rain, and shivering. We couldn't just leave it, but we weren't really sure what we could do for it. We weren't looking for a mascot. Jenny crossed the street and scooped up the tiny wet cat, tucking him under her coat. We sat on the bike by the side of the road for a while trying to figure out what to do. The cat was really squirmy and cold and snuggled up to us lovingly. We wanted to keep him, but knew we really couldn't. Jenny suggested we go knock on a door of the first house we came to and see if they could keep the kitten.
Pedaling with the cat wasn't too hard; he stayed under Jenny's coat and started to settle down just as we came to a house. It also started raining harder. We were greeted at the house by two overly friendly dogs, who were very interested in the kitten, but not mean. Knocking on the door finally produced a gruff man, who said it was okay to leave the kitten there and that he thought there was another cat around someplace. It was so hard to leave. The kitten eventually went under the shelter of the porch, but kept coming out and standing under our bike and mewing longingly, looking up at us with his big eyes. As we pedaled off into the hard rain, we knew it was the right decision to leave the cat, and we were pretty sure it would be safe and get fed. For a long time though, as we biked on, the kitten was on our minds.
We wish we had a better photo of the kitten to remember him by, but it was raining and we didn't get a good shot because we were so flustered and for fear of getting the camera wet.The rain storm was the worst we've been in yet. We considered seeking shelter somewhere, but besides knocking at the very few houses we came to, there wasn't any shelter to be found, so we just pushed through, hoping it would let up. And that we wouldn't get struck by lightning. The lightning was awesome. Several times it went across half the sky! So pretty, but a little scary.
Eventually, the storm dissipated, but it was still overcast. We saw some cactus plants along the sides of the road, which surprised us, but also delighted us. We continued west, now on BIA 7, having crossed Route 6 and looking to get to Route 31. We were in pretty desolate country, and we would go miles and miles without seeing a house, and sometimes miles without seeing even a car. The terrain was fascinating, though, and so beautiful.
We passed through the town of Porcupine, ND. It was really quiet and a little creepy. It was situated on one side of the road, and consisted of about two or three little streets with mostly prefabricated homes. As we biked through to see if there was anything there, or a place to fill our water bottles, a few dogs barked and chased us, but we didn't see much else. As we were turning back onto the main road to continue on, three kids chased us down yelling for us to wait up. We stopped and they came riding up on bikes of their own. Two of them peppered us with questions about the bike, our trip, and WHY we would do something like this. They were really cute.
Over the river just past Porcupine we passed into the Mountain Time Zone, according to our map. Our mobile phones weren't as accurate, however, and we were confused for hours afterwards until they finally caught up on the switch. Perhaps they were getting signals still from Central Time Zone towers?
The other little town on the map in this area was Shields, just outside the Reservation. We hoped they had more than Porcupine, becasue we were getting a bit low on water. They had a bar. It was a crazy little place, very relaxed for locals, but we were very unrelaxed in there. We did get some water, though, and impressed the locals hanging out there with our bike.
In Shields the road also turned to dirt. After the hard rain, it was a bit muddy in spots, but it wasn't as fun to ride on. We also made a wrong turn. Well, actually, it was a missed turn, but luckily we discovered it before we'd gone more than a mile. We did have to climb a muddy hill that we had just gone down. After that, we figured we had about eight more miles of dirt road to Route 31.
In retrospect, choosing this route might have been counterproductive. We chose it to be most direct and the fewest miles, but the dirt road really slowed us down and took a lot of energy out of us. It was, however, beautiful! Rolling hills as the sun was going down, pastures, and fields of sunflowers surrounded us as we trucked on as best we could. Just when we were really despairing, we sighted telephone poles running north-south, indicative of a north-south road.
Gratefully, we turned south on Route 31. Yay for pavement! There was almost no traffic at all, and we saw more deer than cars. We saw some of the whitetail deer we're familiar with, but also some "boingy" deer. Maybe they were antelope? They were really neat to watch, though! Our camera battery and the daylight both died before we could get a good picture.
Soon it was actually dark, but we were still a ways from McIntosh, SD, our goal. Our map indicated that there was some kind of camping there. We were tired. It was dark. It was so flat and seemed so far. Battling fatigue and hunger, we made it into McIntosh, turned west onto Route 12, and spotted three people talking in a parking lot just off the highway.
We pulled in to ask them about camping, and they were really nice. They said another touring cyclist had camped recently in the park in town, though it wasn't really set up for camping. They directed us there, and we made it the two or three blocks. There were lots of teenagers driving around, seemingly aimlessly, and that made us nervous, but we thought the park would be safe enough. Just as we were about to unload and set up the tent, two of the folks we talked to, Clifton and Jessie, pulled up and offered us their backyard to camp in instead, saying it was safe in the park but would be a lot quieter and darker in their yard.
We accepted and walked the one or two blocks up the street to Clifton's house. In the side yard it was way quieter and there wasn't much light pollution either, and we were so thankful! What kind people we get to meet along this trip!! We set up the tent, set out the wet things, and cooked a little dinner in the tent's vestibule before finally falling asleep exhausted.