Day 27: Rinky-dink City

September 29, 2002
Sturgis to Rapid City
32 Miles Google Map

Stayed up late last night watching Coach reruns on Nickelodeon. I found it hilarious in places and laughed long and hard.

I was in dire need of comic relief. Today’s Sturgis to Rapid City ride was supposed to be a milk run: thirty smooth, effortless miles into a small city with presumably plenty of motels. But it degenerated into a real pain in the derrière. 

The trouble began when the pavement all of a sudden vanished outside of Sturgis. Alkali Avenue, running east out of town, degrades into a gravel road after about ten miles. My infallible Rand McNally Map shows the transformation (a solid grey line versus two separate, tiny grey lines), but there is not anything in the legend explaining this. Making a confusing situation worse, I then continued to battle the gravel for some five more miles, becoming more and more bewildered, before finally conceding defeat and turning around. Not very bright. I should have closely examined the map the instant the pavement went away.

Thus, two and a half hours into my mini odyssey, I found myself back at the Sturgis McDonald’s about a quarter mile from the motel where I had spent the night. Senior Citizens make better progress.

Since Alkali Avenue went nowhere, I needed to find another route out of town. Though riding on the Interstate is, as I’ve mentioned, verboten in South Dakota, I decided to sneak on I-90 for five miles to a place called the Tilford Rest Area. Along the way I kept doing nervous glances in my mirror, half expecting to see flashing red lights storming up behind me. The shoulder of the road (that I dared not venture off of) was wide and accommodating, but had little ridges across it every ten yards or so. A none-too-subtle reminder that I was in no man’s land.

Exiting at Tilford (with no small sense of relief), I found a convenient service road and began an afternoon ride that proved less stressful. The day was so pleasantly warm I was able to wear my shorts for perhaps one final time. 

Getting into Rapid City seemed to take forever — the curse of having to use a meandering access road. I eventually worked my way through the downtown and found myself on Highway 44, which I plan on using to cross the state from here on. Following it towards the airport, I didn’t see any of the motels one might expect to find in the area. Ended up stopping at a Cenex Food Mart for directions, which forced me to backtrack two miles — the second reversal of the day.

After checking in at an inexpensive location not far from the downtown, the owner tried to help me decipher the maze of highways coming in and out of the town to determine which one I should use for tomorrow. She knew someone who had knowledge of the area’s roads and told me she would call my room once she got hold of him. I never heard back.

Rapid City is not sitting well with me. For dinner (at Pizza Hut, couldn’t find a KFC), the restaurant was a bit chilly and to insure I could see my breath for the entire meal, the waiter put me in the booth right next to the door. (The place was empty, by the way.) Then when I told him the order would be to go, after five minutes he had not returned to take it down.

I walked out. Maybe the waiter had pegged me as an out of towner whom he could treat as he pleased. Whatever the case, I wasn’t going to tolerate lackadaisical service. Once outside, I briefly considered returning and sharing my feelings on the matter, but decided I’d had more than enough aggravation for one day. 

At the nearby Burger King, a few people gave me second looks as I stood in line to order. Afraid I’m somewhat conspicuous in my canary-yellow cycling jacket. Haven’t felt this out-of-place since I lived in Asia. 

Think it will be best for all concerned if I depart early in the a.m.

    Today:          32 Miles 
    To Date:  1,309 Miles / 2,107 Kilometers

Bear Butte

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