Day 40: Rapid City Rest Day

Rest day in Rapid City. Since we are staying at the local YMCA we had to be out in the morning by 7 AM and could not come back until 8 at night, we had to find ways to entertain ourselves for the whole day. Most of the team went out for breakfast to treat ourselves to pancakes, omelets, and French toast. After breakfast we ended up splitting into smaller and smaller groups as we walked around the two blocks that made up the main area in Rapid City. Since the town was so small most of us made our way to just about every store there was. Other activities included seeing a movie, walking around to vintage stores, going out to lunch, and spending time at the street fair with live music.

While browsing through a bookstore Schuchen and I encountered a book called Haunted Hotels of the West. We noticed that one of the haunted hotels, The Alex Johnson, happened to be two blocks away from us. We walked up to the guest counter to find a journal where guests left stories of haunted happenings. For example, a flight attendant reported getting a voiceless phone call in the middle of the night and hearing children’s voices from the corner of the room. The 8th floor was also supposedly haunted because a young bride had committed suicide by throwing herself from room 812 back in the day. To investigate this we snuck past hotel security and took the elevator to that very room. We did hear a strange faint noise as we stood in front of the room…

Overall a nice day



Day 38/39: The Badlands

Day 38 marked the official halfway point of our trip! Progress IS being made. We checked the first national park off our list yesterday: the Badlands. Since most of you are wondering “why is it called that” we learned that the name is a translation of the Lakota naming. It was titled this for its rugged and dry terrain.

Yesterday was probably one of the best riding days. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and being able to witness the beauty of it all from a bike gave the experience a certain level of intimacy that merely seeing it from a car window just couldn’t offer. Our group made sure to take as much time to stop and experience the park. This entailed stopping at a gift shop to feed ground hogs, then stopping at every scenic point to climb the rocks and take pictures, and riding at a slower pace to take it all in.  We even got to see mountain goats up close once the sun started to set. Once we were on our last leg of the 60-mile day at the top of the hill we got caught in a lightning storm and had to be rescued by the van. Right before the storm got really bad the mountains looked so beautiful with muted tones of blue and pink, better than any of the pictures in the postcards.  Being in our uniform gave us the opportunity to chat up with many tourists passing through, and they were very generous with giving us water and congratulations.


Today we rode another 60 miles to Rapid City where we will have a rest day tomorrow. We saw glimpses of mountains in the distance as we biked up the rolling hills. Since most of the towns we have visited in SD have been extremely small I had low expectations for Rapid City. I was surprised by all the cute shops and unique restaurants in the ‘downtown’ area. Most of us are looking forward to being able to do laundry and chill out tomorrow.

The West just keeps getting better



Day 37: You Don’t Know Small Town Until You Know South Dakota

This morning Jay offered up the dedication who spoke of Doug and Brick friends of his who also battled prostate cancer.

We could not have asked for better conditions for today’s almost-century (96 miles).  For the first time in a while the scenery seemed to change and we swapped the usual cornfields for…mostly nothing but rolling hills and cows. According to Mack, “today finally felt like we are making progress.”  We spent the whole day on a road off the side of the highway (one panel of cues, woo!).  There was a slight tailwind, around 70 degree weather, and nicely paved roads. Our last rest stop took us to a literal one horse town where we befriended a white pony tied to a sign post and spent some time at the only storefront in town, a gas station with about four shelves of goods.

Kadoka, where we are spending the night tonight has a population of 654 people. If you went to an average Chicagoland high school picture your graduating class starting their own civilization, and that is the size of the town we are staying in. Unfortunately, we had to break our amazing no-team pasta and lentils streak, which was still pretty good, especially after a long day.

After seeing no less than ten ‘Wall Drug’ advertisements today on our ride I am excited to finally see what all the hype is about tomorrow.

Home of the Free Ice Water




Day 36: Still Zero Pheasants

Today we rode for Joe and Doug who we recently completed portraits with. Both of them are prostate cancer survivors. And also Pastor’s Matt from Miller whose step children whose father passed away.

The 20mph headwinds finally let up today making today’s 73 miles so so much better (even though we still had 10mph winds). The scenery we’ve ridden past has remained pretty much the same in recent days, except the sky has been noticeably bigger and the few cars that we do see passing on the interstate seem to vanish into the never-ending horizon.

As we pulled off for ice cream across the street from First Methodist Church, where we are spending the night tonight, we encountered a cancer survivor. Although our interaction with him was brief, he thanked us for our commitment and summed up a cancer survivor perspective better than anyone else with “it scares the sh*t out of you” as he walked off.

Later in the evening Jay, an exceedingly interesting man and church member of First Methodist, took it upon himself to entertain us for the night. He set up a backyard bonfire and provided us of-agers with some cold ones as he impressed us with his extensive knowledge from everything to famous architects to obscure Romanian dictators. As a veteran teacher with 49 years experience under his belt, he was well rehearsed in public speaking, and we all listened intently as he outlined his life for us, from his years teaching Latin in Germany, to students he still keeps in touch with. We were all starry eyed during his somber, yet lighthearted portrait documenting his experience with prostate cancer. To cap the night Jay  served the 21+ people his finest selection of tequila in his ‘That So 70’s Show-esque’ basement. As we were all leaving his place we exchanged knowing looks with each other that this was one of those ‘I4K’ moments that we will never forget.

South Dakota you continue to surprise me



Day 35: Wind and Pheasants, That’s What South Dakota Does

Dylan dedicated the ride to his uncle David (dad’s brother) that passed away from bladder cancer 5 years ago.

Another day of heavy headwinds. Luckily we had a shorter ride today of only 45 miles. To treat ourselves as we pulled into Miller, a few teams treated themselves to broasted chicken and ice cream at the local hot spot. After arriving at the United Methodist Church, pretty much everyone took a nap. Later on we gave a presentation about our organization to some church members and then indulged in a feast of a plethora of salads and some fresh burgers and a top notch dessert table.

One thing that I noticed about South Dakota is that there seems to be a subtle obsession with pheasants, as both of the past two towns we have stayed at have had pheasants on their town sign, with Redfield claiming to be “the pheasant capital of the world”. For some reason I question this…

We were informed by a congregation member that “The west begins in Miller” so it is official. We OUT HERE! So far South Dakota has been treating us pretty well (except for the headwind) and the people we have interacted with have been very gracious and welcoming.

The weather channel app informs us that the headwinds will be slowing down tomorrow as we roll into the capital city of Pierre.

Haven’t seen a single pheasant



Day 34: More South Dakota Wonders

Today I wanted to dedicate the ride to Pat McNamara. Today was the annual ‘Pat Mac Pack’ ride from the south side of Chicago to Long Beach Indiana. Pat got a brain tumor when he was two years old and passed away when he was 13. I knew Pat from growing up as the energetic kid I would see on fourth of July, since our families were close. He always had a good sense of humor, and even when he was balding from his chemo treatments he dressed up as the old six flags man for Halloween to keep things light hearted.

Two words: HEAD WIND. For a total of 73 miles today we battled 22 mph headwind on our way from Watertown to Redfield. To put things in perspective for you, Watertown has a total population of 22,000, which makes it the 5th largest city in the whole state. The entire state itself has less than a million people total. As a few of us walked around Redfield after dinner we noticed that it seemed to be a town stuck in the past. Many of the signs were hand painted and the main street looked like it had remained static since the 50’s. Since time is not our priority while on the ride we were shocked when the gas station clerk informed us that coming up is fourth of July weekend. It is really crazy how fast yet slow this trip is moving.

Today we stayed on route 212 for 70 miles today and only passed four gas stations the whole way. Morale started pretty low this morning as we faced rain for the first twenty miles. Luckily for us the sun eventually came out for the last 15 miles. It felt so freeing to be able to shed our layers of coats and feel the wind on our skin at the end.  Once the sun eventually came it it really changed our whole mood. Although South Dakota is not technically the Midwest, it is nice to know that we only have a few days until we start hitting the real scenes like the badlands and Mount Rushmore, and from there, the rest of the west should also be beautiful.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s short 50 mile day.

Where them president heads at