Grassland.

Shortly after a cheery breakfast of Mini Spooners our team said goodbye to Chamberlain, SD and rolled over the Missouri River and into the great American West. The miles that followed were marked by small towns, few people, scant wildlife, and even fewer plants — spare the incomprehensibly wide-expanses of grass that stretch to the horizon in all directions.  This is a landscape that is difficult for many of us to ride through; many of us actually prefer a landscape of concrete, steel, and glass to this “nothingness.”  Others, however, find solace in the openness, admire the shades of green grass running up and down the hillsides, or enjoy the sight of a mother deer bounding across the road with her two fawns. Whether or not one falls in love with this place, one must respect its subtle beauty and place in American life.
Upon arrival at our destination, Messiah Lutheran Church of Murdo, SD (pop. 600*), several members of our team made a pilgrimage to the hippest place in Jones County, the Dairy Bar, for a refreshing post-ride recovery snack.  Illini 4000 riders, it should be noted, have a remarkable penchant for homing in on the nearest ice cream shop and even more remarkable ability to consume large quantities of ice cream.  For better or for worse, several members of our team consumed 2 or 3 different ice cream concoctions from the Dairy Bar today!  (Parents: rest assured, the team is eating very well.  Our resident chef, Connie Ger, prepared a delicious and nutritious meal of lentils and fried rice for dinner tonight).
Here’s a quick look at what’s in store tomorrow:  95 miles to Wall, SD; a stop at the world famous Wall Drug; an extra hour – the beginning of Mountain Time!  It should be a great ride!

***The Illini 4000 would like to send out a special thank you to Betty and Dean of Murdo for opening up their home to several members of our team.  We can’t tell you how great it felt to take a shower and sip a cold glass of homemade lemonade. We wouldn’t be able to do this ride if it wasn’t for people like you!

*Don’t trust the population sign at the entrance to town – it hasn’t been updated since the last Census.  That said, the population would probably exceed 641 – as the sign indicates – if the Census takers had included all of the friendly cats and dogs that live here.

F.Y.I:

“The grassland of the American West are created by the Rocky Mountains and by the costal mountain ranges of California and the Pacific Northwest.  The mountains impose rain shadows downstream of the prevailing westerlies, because the warm air along the wind-ward side of the mountains wrings moisture out of the passing weather systems.  This makes the aridity that makes the treeless plains.”
~ Grassland: The History, Biology, Politics, and Promise of the American Prairie by Bruce Manning.

(The author of this journal receives no commission for the sales of this book.)

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