Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bike America Day 30: The Badlands- Not so bad after all

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day's distance: 54.66
Overall distance: 1,531

We set our alarms for 5am Friday morning to be up in time for sunrise at 5:18 in the campground whose reviews said "best view of stars and sunrise you'll see on your west coast trip." I had a pretty view out the door of my tent but wanted to get the full effect by driving out of the grassy hills we were surrounded by in camp.

My dad and I hopped in the car and drove up to a ridge where we could see the high, sharp badlands in the distance. The sun was coming up to the right of them, over what looked like farmland but it was still below the horizon. The sky all around was pink and blue as it waited for the sun to fully rise.

We stared in the direction of the sun for too long, waiting to see it peek up and my dad advised we stop before we blind ourselves. One of my dad's favorite sayings is, "if god wasn't a tar heel then why'd he make the sky Carolina blue" so that morning, I said "if god wasn't a gator then why is the sky blue and orange?!"

Many buffalo were roaming and feeding as they had the night before and we marveled at them for a while. It was still very surreal to be in this beautifully deserted place. We stayed about 30 minutes then drove back to our site

My mom had taken down the tents and gotten everything ready to go so we packed up the car and left our little wonderland in the hills. On our drive away, we saw a flock of wild turkeys, a pack of deer and an elk running beside the road.

We were dropped off where we'd finished on Thursday and my dad and I rode the first 30 miles together. We thought these miles would be through the badlands but we were actually in Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, just south of Badlands Natuonal Park, with views of it to our left. We cruised trough this ride, pedaling into the KOA in Interior, SD by 10am. I had another 30 or so miles to go but it'd be another day of shuttling to lodging, with the campground located at the halfway point for the days ride.

My dad stayed behind to check in and shower while my mom and I continued on. Leaving Interior, the terrain changed significantly. It became incredibly hilly and my mom was not a happy camper. As the temperature rose and my legs began breaking out in their same old rash, I joined her in frustration. When we got to Wanblee, a little town in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, we ditched the last six miles and called it quits for the day. We stocked up on yummy food in their one store and I made myself a tomato, avacado and Swiss Sandwich on the drive back to camp.

My mom and I showered and I almost stayed behind to blog while my parents took another drive through the badlands. My dad wanted me to come but I was totally in the mood to do nothing. Eventually I was convinced and we began the trek. It turns out that we had barely been in the badlands the day before because on our drive, in the heart of the unusual formations, everything was beautiful and I didn't get that same bad feeling that I had on Thursday. My dad described it perfectly: it was as if a giant hand had come through with wet sand and let it drip into pointy little hills everywhere the same way you do when making a sand castle. Most of my pictures are from the window of a moving car so please excuse any blurriness.

We stopped at one pull off to touch the stone. It looked like sand that would crumble to the touch. But it was a more solid, light feeling stone that supported me when I climbed up one of the formations. In my flip flops, I almost slipped and got antsy when my dad pointed out the familiar "beware of rattlesnakes" sign. But I survived through several jumping pictures and slid my way down in one piece.

On the way back we stopped in a touristy visitor center and restaurant for dinner to go. I ordered an Indian Taco, listed under the "Badlands Favorites" section. It was Indian Fry Bread, a thick deep fried bread topped with beans, lettuce, cheese and ground buffalo. I knew in my heart when I heard it was fried bread that this wasn't my kind of meal. But I wanted to appreciate the culture and try the local cuisine so I went for it. It turned out my instinct was right and I did not enjoy this meal at all. It left me feeling grossly oily and full but kind of mal-nourished at the same time. My dad (who had the same dinner) and I downed a bunch of carrots and broccoli afterward to cleanse our palettes and our intestines. The Indian Taco was worth trying but not something I ever care to order again.

Our $27/night campground only allowed one tent per site so instead of forking over twice as much money, we decided to all three sleep in our largest tent. It was a cozy little slumber party with my parents and I fell right to sleep.

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