Subject: Wanderlust 4 - Wagner, South Dakota
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 1997 23:39:27 -0700
Wanderlust 4 - Wagner, South Dakota
On the Yankton Sioux Indian Reservation
In general, state lines were established along political boundaries with natural features only loose guides. Sometimes it is surprising how marked the difference is between the natural features, and sometimes the boundaries are visually indecipherable. Both experiences were at hand at the beginning of this day. Lusk Wyoming is very near a three state boundary, which is invisible if you look at the land the way the Indians did. Yet it is also at a three nature point, which is impossible to miss. Here, within the space of a mile from the west to the east, the treeless arid sage scrub gives way to the rolling grassland. Here within a couple of miles from south to north, the rolling flatland becomes the pine covered rugged rock outcroppings that are the beginning of the Black Hills. It is easy to see why this wide area was sacred to the Plains Indians.
There isn't much left to the way the original plains were before the settlers took over. I remember reading a newspaper item a couple of years ago that 'archaeologists' had discovered a square mile of untouched prairie somewhere in Indiana. But that sod was nothing like the Montana/Wyoming plains. Parts of the Thunder Basin National Grassland, just west of Lusk, are being allowed to grow as they used to be. The Indians called it the 'greasy grass'. It grew over six feet tall and thick as a cornfield.
Probably wouldn't make good motorcycling.
Rolling east ... let's talk small town again. Node, Wyoming. No population sign, just a horizontal arrow pointing to a building - the Node Post Office. The *only* building. It is a small almost shack, with nothing else in sight for miles. I suspect some civil servant just didn't want to give up the post (so to speak) when the town vanished?
More self appointed humor is apparent in the town of Harrison, Nebraska. Remember how when you are approaching a metropolis on the Interstate there is usually a sign "Metropolis next 17 exits". By the way, what good is this ... are we supposed to count them? What if one is missing? Anyway, on tiny, undivided, uncontrolled access, two lane Route 20, in the extreme northwest nearly uninhabited corner of Nebraska, there is a sign "Harrison, next 4 exits". So I counted. Yup. Two driveways on the left, one driveway and one T intersection on the right. I am reassured. :)
So far during this trip the usual banes of travel have been remarkably absent, hence the remark. Only one more LEO (law enforcement officer) sighting today. He waved. And today saw the first construction zone encounter. It wasn't bad. Only 20 miles of 'milled pavement' waiting to be resurfaced. Milled pavement is like rain grooves, except that the ridges are about two inches deep. It is very wobbly to ride a motorcycle on. The bad part was the pilot truck going 55 mph. Way to fast for my concentration on the surface - so I dropped back in the caravan and started riding on the unmilled shoulder. More specifically, on the 3 inch wide white line that marks the 6 inch shoulder. At 55 it still required as much concentration, but it was much easier on the shock absorber nerves.
Speaking of waves, I am now in the land of the one finger wave. No, you nasty nasty. I don't mean that finger. Hereabouts, almost everyone drives with a hand on the top of the steering wheel. Almost everyone "waves" as they approach by raising the index finger. So, I started doing the same. I wonder if they knew where to look on a motorcycle?
Now that I'm out of the high country, the heat is back, although it is not too bad. I have to say this Camelback is tremendous wonderful. If you plan on hot or just long trips, get one! It is a no-taste poly.something.or.other plastic bag in an insulated thermolite carrier. It has shoulder straps like a backpack (which I looped over my seat packs) and a long plastic tube with a bite-valve. You squeeze with your teeth and the water flows easily. It is so refreshing to be able to safely drink while riding. I have the 2 liter size, and there is still a bit of the San Francisco water in the bag from 4 days ago - it doesn't taste 'plastic' yet. Also, for those who like cold drinks, the filler neck is big enough to take ice cubes. Fill it with cubes and it will stay cold all day. Best Christmas present in years!
Ok you farmboys. Answer this. That it is mating season among the ungulates is obvious. But today I saw a _cow_ (no bull, it was udderly apparent it was a _cow_) attempt to mount another cow. Too much testosterone in the enhanced growth feed? Or is this something that happens on the farm? Well, I've never seen it. Being from San Francisco, I am used to seeing, shall we say, alternative attractions. So what's this called? Bovinism? (P.S. I was on the mooove, so I didn't witness the conclusion. :)
This has been one of my longer trips taken on heavily trucked two lane roads. I realize I have automatically developed a safety habit to adjust. These roads are posted at 65 or 70. Trucks do that uphill. The approaching trucks throw such a blast wave of air that my ears actually hurt from the pressure if I am too close. So I found myself doing the 'truck weave'. Normally I ride just left of center in a lane (that's where the least tire damage is to the pavement, and it is smoother across joints). As trucks approach, I drift to the far right of the lane, then swoop into the vortex as the truck passes. I don't remember this being taught in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation classes, but it should.
Lots of Indian country today, various Sioux nations. Through Fort Robinson, where Crazy Horse was murdered by one of his own people. Through Pine Ride and the Rosebud Indian Reservations ... many easterners (like myself, from another Indian-named state: Connecticut) think of reservations as the dusty, isolated hovels seen on arid windswept plateaus. There probably are still some, but many reservations today are active, involved communities (and I don't mean casinos). The Rosebud, for example is very lush farmland. Although if you do travel through a res, don't believe any signs you see ...
A story. In 1979 I visited Pine Ridge for the first time. It appeared on the map as a relatively big dot, so there 'must be a city there'. Wrong. A town-dot on the res includes all the people who live half way between the next dot. Can be very misleading. Also, there were prominent signs advertising the Slow Dog Cafe. I was hungry, so I tried to find it. Back and forth. Eventually a local 'lowed as how the Dog closed 'bout 5 years. His quote still rings true to life on the res: "We just haven't gotten around to changing the sign."
Today's story. I stopped at an Indian store to browse. At 3:10 pm the cashier said (the Lakota language is very 'direct', but done politely) "You have to leave now. We closed 10 minutes ago." But the sign on the door said they were open until 4:00? "We are. It is 4." Huh? Ok, so the Central Time Zone begins only 25 miles to the east, but this is Mountain Time, no? No. Why? Because, she said "We use central time so we can leave earlier. We just haven't changed the sign." !!!!
Well, since I am now leaving the West, I'll leave you with this quote from Louis L'Amour: Too often I would hear men boast only of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.
FuelPlus statistics: 375 miles, 7:00 engine run, 54 mph average
Sam Lepore, San Francisco, 1988 R100RT and 1995 K75RTA