I left Rapid City and headed towards Wall. Cities are difficult to escape on a bicycle, doesn’t matter if they’re rapid or not. So I didn’t make it to Wall that day. I biked into the boondocks and camped on a church lawn. They didn’t have service in the morning because it was Monday. They, also, didn’t have a breakfast potluck in the morning. That was a kick in the pants. I would have brought trail mix, but the Lutherans wouldn’t have liked it. It was a bad batch. That, too, is a kick in the pants because, when you’re on a small budget and buy poor trail mix ingredients, you still gotta eat the ungodly mixture for the next three days. Stay away from salted peanuts.
Wall was wonderful. The town is famous for Wall Drug, a drug store that has placed signs all over the world. Something like, “Come to Wall Drug. 5 Cent Coffee,” or, “Free Ice Water at Wall Drug.” Some soldier brought a sign to Germany during WWII. Now, the signs are all over the place, I guess. I didn’t see one till I was twenty miles from Wall.
Wall Drug is a huge tourist attraction, now. They have singing cowboy manikins and post cards and fountains. I bought a Louis L’Amour book at the bookstore, and I bought a giant, tin coffee cup for my camp stove. Yass, I have a camp stove. I’ve just been waiting to buy a cheap pot. Stuie and I bought propone before we left San Diego, and I bought spaghetti before I left Wall. So I had all the ingredients I needed for a delicious, warm meal.
After Wall in the morning, I biked to Murdo. As I biked into town, a rainbow appeared on the horizon, the remnants of a passing storm. It was welcoming. The sign on the way into town said, “Murdo, We have nice people here.” It was encouraging. I thought, “Finding a place to stay should be easy in this place.”
But, then, I entered the town. I asked three people about an inexpensive place to tent, one guy was watering the lawn, one lady was raking her lawn, and another lady was walking her dog. All of them were a little crabby. The first two people didn’t have any ideas. They were too busy with their lawns to think about any acceptable grassy areas for tenting. Dog Lady told me to try the hotel across the street. She told me that they have tent sites.
That hotel didn’t have tent sites. The lady at the desk was the nicest person that I had encountered, however. She told me that I had the wrong hotel. I wanted the hotel down the road. The hotel down the road wanted to charge me twenty-three dollars for a tent sight. Ridiculous. I explained to this new desk lady that I was on a budget of ten dollars a day, that I wasn’t trying to hustle her, that all I needed was a small plot of grassy land. She clucked and pursed her lips and looked upset that I was interrupting her reality show that was playing on the TV behind her.
“That’s how much we charge,” she said. “I don’t have the authority to change the price.”
“Oh, that’s understandable,” I said. “If there is someone available that does have the authority, I’d like to talk with that person, please.”
“Well, I could get him on the phone.”
She picked up the phone and punched some numbers. I doubt there was ever a real person on the other end. She said a few things into the receiver in an angry grandmother tone.
“There’s a gentleman here on a bike trip. He would like to pay ten dollars for a tent site.” (Actually, I’d like to pay less than that. I have to eat, lady.)
“Hello, hello?” She hung up. “Well, I seemed to have lost him. But he said, ‘no.’ Try the city park.”
I asked a walker at the city park if he had ever seen someone camp at the park. He said that he hadn’t, but I could go to the police station and ask if it was alright. He gave me directions.
The police station in Murdo is a plain, square, brick building with no signs that indicate it’s occupation of stationing police. I spent half an hour looking for that place. No one was there.
So I went back to the nice lady at the desk at the previous hotel. I asked her for ideas about tenting and told her about the rainbow. She told me that I could pitch a tent on her lawn for free.
After Murdo, I biked all day and ended up in Dixon. Dixon isn’t really a town. It’s a bar at an intersection with some houses around it. It looked sizeable on the map, though. I mean, the Dixon dot was the same size as the Murdo dot.
Ann, the owner of the bar, let me pitch my tent in the backyard. I had a few hours of daylight, so I thought it was the perfect time to boil me some spaghetti. And I was excited. I gathered my ingredients, went into the parking lot, filled my giant, tin cup with water, and attempted to screw the propane onto the burner. Propane didn’t fit. I lugged that thing of propane all the way from San Diego.
Ann boiled my spaghetti for me. I sat at the bar and drank Coors and watched Modern Family. She boiled the shit out of that spaghetti. While eating my mushy spaghetti with watery hot sauce, people eating bacon cheeseburgers and French fries around me, I decided that I’d had enough eating on a budget. So I ordered a burger and another Coors and I felt good.
Felt good the next day, too. Since then, I’ve been getting down with food, and I’ve had more energy than I’ve had all trip. This was nice to learn. The other day, I ate three bagels, two doughnuts, and two muffins in one sitting. And I didn’t think, “Man, this is expensive.” I thought, “I need this fuel to survive out there. This custard is delicious.”
I tented at the city park in Parkston, attempted to wash myself in the public bathroom sink.
The next day, I biked out of South Dakota and arrived in Rock Valley, Iowa. The first man I asked about a cheap place to tent gave me ten dollars and told me to go to the campground. He had a nice mustache.
I broke my showerless streak at that campground, biked to Emmetsburg the next day, and here I am at this Emmetsburg campground. Took a shower, today, too.