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 p 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 s year instead of 700 the year that I did it, but it seems like they're taking th e 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 thunderstorms. 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 0 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 y 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 n 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.