DAY 39 (7/19/05): Oakwood Lakes to De Smet, SD 42.2mi.  After a series of
several long days in a row, it was a great relief to have such a short day
today.  This was particularly true as the wind was very strong and coming
directly out of the south, making steering a west-bound touring bike very
difficult.  After setting up camp at "The Spot," I walked into De Smet to check
out the historic sites.  As many of you undoubtedly know, Laura Ingalls Wilder
wrote a famous series of books about pioneer life, and De Smet is the setting
for six of them, beginning with "Little Town on the Prairie."  A large portion
of De Smet's economy seems to revolve around this fact.  I walked around
outside the Surveyor's House and "the house that Pa built" but declined to pay
for the tour lead by a disgruntled high school student in period calico garb. 
It is interesting to note, though, that the first book in the series, "Little
House in the Big Woods" describes the life of the Ingalls family in the North
Woods of Wisconsin, so I have traveled on my bike what that family traveled in
a covered wagon.  Instead of taking the tours, I bought some postcards and then
went to the public library to check my email.  While there I encountered a grou
of cross-country cyclists heading to Gloucester, MA as a supported fund-raising
ride.  It was nice to talk to them, although it was funny to hear them going on
and on about how smart I was to be riding east to west because of the winds. 
Maybe they have a different impression about the direction of prevailing winds
in this country?  When I returned to the Spot, the campground host warned me
that some thunderstorms were predicted for the evening.  I took the added
precautions of securing all of the little velcro ties that secure my rainfly to
the tent (which are usually not necessary) and put in a few extra stakes.  Good
thing, too, because at around 3am one of the most exciting thunderstorms that I
have ever camped through blew into town.  The wind was so strong that the poles
of my tent were bowing inwards, and the sound of the rain was almost deafening.
Having just read a piece in the New Yorker about techniques used to get
unlawful combatants to talk, I found a large number of similarities between
being in a small tent in a big thunderstorm and some of the techniques that the
Army has investigated for its purposes.  Fortunately, the storm didn't last too
long and I went right back to sleep once the wind died down.

DAY 40 (7/20/05): De Smet to Miller, SD 97.6 mi.  This morning I got off to a
somewhat delayed start since I had to spend some time recovering from last
night's storm.  My tent and panniers were all coated with a thick layer of wet
grass fragments, and everything was somewhere between damp and wet (except for
the Brooks saddle on Dagny, which I cover every night with a shower cap to
protect it from the elements).  I took down the tent, and spread it to dry
while I had breakfast at a cafe across the street from the Spot.  By the time I
came back, things had dried out in the hot SD sun and I was ready to roll.  And
roll I did, with a 10mph tail wind the whole way.  I certainly felt like I had
earned it after a few hard days in Minnesota.  I happened upon a convenience
store with a serious road bike leaned up against the outside, so of course I
had to go in and investigate.  I'm glad I did, because it turns out that I had
stumbled upon the 2005 edition of the American Lung Association Big Ride Across
America (the same ride that I did in 1998).  There are only about 30 riders thi
year instead of 700 the year that I did it, but it seems like they're taking th
exact same route as in past so I could give this years riders some idea of what
to expect.  After chatting with them for a while, I got back on the bike, and
waving to the occassional big rider headed the opposite direction, I made my
way to Lake Louise, just north of the city of Miller.  It's another beautiful
prairie oasis, similar to Oakwood Lakes but not quite as beautiful, that no one
who lives here seems to know about.  There were only three other people in the
campground, which suited me fine.  Thankfully, there were also no more

DAY 41 (7/21/05): Miller to Pierre, SD 76.3 mi.  The tail wind that I had
yesterday followed me into today, so I had another day of high-speed cruising
on US-14.  The traffic on this road is in general quite light even though it is
a major artery here, because there are so few people in the state (about 700,00
total).  I did get passed today by a variety of interesting oversized loads,
though.  And when they say oversized load here, they aren't kidding.  The
occassional double-wide trailer goes without saying, and it is really funny to
see a full sized house all wrapped up in Tyvek moving down the highway at
60mph.  Then, there are semis with enormous pieces of farm equipment on the
trailer.  Some of these harvestors have a chassis that totally dwarfs that of
the Kenworth pulling them, along with wheels about 10ft in diameter with
tremendous wide tires on them.  Finally, today I saw some trucks pulling
absurdly huge pieces of pipe, large enough for a train of 3 or 4 Hummer H2's to
park inside comfortably.  Upon arrival in Pierre, I rode around a bit looking
for a laundromat and stumbled upon a bike shop.  I went inside and asked the
guy if he had a bike map for SD.  He made a valient attempt not to laugh at me
and then informed me that I was in the "geographic center of nowhere."  He did,
however, know where to find a laundromat and so I escaped the 98F temperature b
hanging out in the airconditioned Maytag emporium decontaminating my gear. 
Because there was a threat of additional thunderstorms, I decided to stay at
the Super 8 motel, which was very inexpensive and very dry.

DAY 42 (7/22/05): Pierre to Midland, SD 63.6 mi.  I crossed yet another pair of
milestones today as I entered the Mountain timezone and completed the 3000th
mile of my journey.  The timezone boundary is the Missouri River, which
seperates Pierre (pronounced 'peer') from Ft. Pierre.  Since these cities are
located in a river valley, the first thing one does after entering the mountain
timezone is to climb out, a nice ascent of several hundred feet.  The prairie i
this part of the state is not nearly as flat as in the eastern part, so I was
going up and down long, shallow hills most of the day.  It is also drier and
hotter here, so the land is mostly ranchland and looks very empty, with the
occassional herd of beef on the hoof off roaming around.  The town of Midland
does not have much to recommend itself as a tourist destination.  There are
some natural mineral hot springs here that you can bathe in for a fee.  If they
had been natural mineral ice showers I might have been interested but immersing
myself in hot liquid was about the last thing that I wanted to do.  Instead, I
sat in the shade at the campground and waited for the sun to go down.