Hoping For A Close Encounter
Belle Fourche, SD to Devils Tower, WY
My plan of waiting it out worked and by 7:00 AM I was out of my tent and packing things up. I was more than a little happy to have camped next to covered picnic tables as it made packing up infinitely easier. Did I mention how great the Riverside Campground was? Well, it was. Great.
By 8:00 AM I was on the road. My load was a bit heavier given how wet my tent was but I hoped to be able to dry it out when I arrived at the day’s destination. As for that destination, well … I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more than a little excited about today’s goal. When I first set out 34 days ago I pretty much had two specific targets. Obviously, the Grand Canyon being one of them. The other? Devils Tower in Wyoming. I’m not really sure why but I’ve wanted to see Devils Tower for a LOOOOONG time. Well, if all went well today, I would finally get to see it. Plus, it’s a movie site which extends the unexpected “movie location” theme that this trip has unofficially taken on.In the process of getting to Devils Tower, I would obviously need to cross another state line. Goodbye South Dakota. Hello Wyoming. Wyoming would become state number ten on this tour and also another state to which I’d never been.
The ride to Devils Tower was to be about 90 km with only two real places to stop along the way. Fortunately, they were spaced out well. The first was about 30 km away. The second about 70 km. Oh, and did I mention the winds were being favourable again. Seriously, I’m SO going to pay for this somewhere along the line. But while the winds were being kind, the clouds were still very much present. However, the darkest of those clouds were in front of me and so I hoped my tailwind would keep them there.
Cue the meteorology lesson. Actually, I’m not going to give such a lesson since clearly I don’t know anything about it. All I DO know is that the tailwinds that were helping me pedal west were somehow blowing the clouds east. A confrontation was inevitable.On the upside, I managed to make it to Aladdin (the town, not the movie) by 9:30 AM without encountering any rain. As planned, I stopped for some lunch and also checked out the 125-year-old general store in this town of 15 people. No, that’s not a typo. Fifteen.
The store was a pretty interesting place. It had the usual items you’d expect to find including plenty of touristy souvenirs. But there was also an antique store on the upper level which had some pretty great stuff. Of course, none of which would fit on my bike so I left it all behind.
As I was descending the stairs back to the main floor, the distinctive sound of rain pelting the roof was beginning. I was officially in a holding pattern. I mean, if I left at that moment I was definitely going to get soaked. If I delayed there was a slim hope that I might not get soaked. And if I have to pedal in the rain, I’d rather be in the process of pedalling when the rain starts rather than start pedalling while it’s already raining. At least in the former situation my legs have been moving for a while and have generated some body heat. That was certainly a factor in my decision as it wasn’t a particularly warm morning.Eventually my stalling tactic paid off and the rain passed on by. I was under no illusion though that I would enjoy a dry ride the rest of the way. Admittedly, I was hoping the dry ride would last longer than 30 minutes. But it didn’t. And once the rain started again, it only stopped briefly over the next 40 km to the next town. Not surprisingly, those were far from the most enjoyable 40 km of this tour.
When I reached Hulett I was pretty chilled and completely soaked. On the upside I only had 20 km to go. On the downside, well … as I said, I was pretty chilled and completely soaked. I took shelter for about 20 minutes outside the local grocery store. Not ideal but there were benches and I was out of the wind. Yes the wind was helping my ride but it also contributed to my chills as I stood there.
The rain eventually stopped and blue sky actually started to make an appearance. Not like earlier in the day. The blue sky was starting to win out. I figured that was my opening to get back on the road. And what a difference a few hours makes. After a rather unpleasant morning in the rain, the sun actually won the afternoon and I actually started to dry off as I pedalled the final 15 km. I even took time to pull out the drone for a very quick shot of Devils Tower before I reached the park. Drones aren’t permitted in state parks so I figured this would be the best chance I’d have. Sadly, it was a short flight as I hadn’t had a chance to recharge the batteries since my ride along the Enchanted Highway.
With the drone shot being mildly successful at best, I returned to the bike to finish out the day’s ride. There was a bit of a moral victory as I entered the state park and cruised by the long lineup of cars waiting to get in. I SO didn’t want to have to wait in that line. And I didn’t.
My final destination for the day was the Devils Tower Lodge. It’s a B&B that also runs a climbing operation that guides experienced climbers to the summit of Devils Tower. It also happens to be on Warm Showers. The owner of said B&B, Frank, is in California at the moment but Gabriel and his wife, Rachel, manage the site and they offered to host me for the night. Actually, they said it wasn’t a problem to stay two nights so I could spend some time tomorrow exploring the area.
Devils Tower Lodge is a pretty interesting place. It’s actually not in the state park but right on the border such that you have to go through the park to get to it. And even though there’s a pretty rough gravel road for the final kilometre, it was definitely worth it. And that’s how I met Gabriel and Rachel. They have been super welcoming and generous hosts. Gabriel showed me around the property and where I could set up my tent. There’s even an outdoor shower with views of Devils Tower. As places to camp go, this one is simply amazing.
I was invited to join them and the other B&B guests for dinner which was also fantastic. The other guests were from all over including Missouri, New York, Nevada, and Utah. Some were climbers. Some weren’t. The three guys from Utah (well, actually two were from Utah, the other from Nevada but they were travelling together) are planning on summiting tomorrow afternoon which is more than a little cool. And there’s a chance I might meet up with them again in Nevada and Utah but that’s still a few weeks away to know for sure.
With dinner over, everyone eventually went their own way to their respective rooms or, in my case, tent, to bring an end to a great day. Okay, well … maybe the riding in the rain wasn’t so good but it was fun in the “Type 2” fun sort of way.
Distance: 90.99 km
Ride time: 4:38:30
Average speed: 19.60 km/h
Maximum speed: 61.18 km/h (this would’ve been more fun had it not been pouring and my visibility somewhat hindered by the rain on my glasses)