It’s been so long since we were in Pierre, South Dakota that I don’t remember much about the ride in.  We went through Hayes, a town of about 40 or less.  For lunch, we sat in the shade of the local church and made sandwiches.  The next building over we filled our water bottles and I found out it was the school house but they were closing it down that year.  I guess they’re going to bus the kids to Pierre? That is the closest town but it is still about 40 miles away.  Or maybe Hayes just decided they don’t need to educate their children.  Whichever, it is still a sad situation.

We rode into Pierre and stopped by a Perkins for some soda.  Then we were like “It’s Perkins!  Forever Breakfast!” so we got a Belgian waffle with fruit and whipped cream and a selection of 3 different syrups.  We chowed down on that for a bit then called our contact, Sol.  He said he had to work a bit longer so we just killed some time sipping soda at Perkins.  I felt bad for the waitress because her boss kept getting on her case about our glasses being empty.  But by the time she turned her back after setting down the refreshed glasses they were pretty much gone.  I should have just asked for a pitcher.  Not too much time passed and Sol unexpectedly showed up at the Perkins to meet us.  This is the first time anyone has ridden their bike to meet us.  In fact, it’s the first time anyone has met us.  We usually just ride to their home.  So, we made our acquaintances and crossed the Missouri River to Sol’s house.  He had already made a menu for dinner and started right in on it while we got cleaned up.  We have had some pretty unique meat while on this trip but Sol’s meal was up there with the best.  It was made up of venison steaks (which he and his friends hunt and split up to freeze), battered and fried walleye (which is the fish of choice in Pierre and he had caught it earlier in the week), red beans and rice and corn.  He was afraid he might have to eat alone after meeting us in a restaurant but we made short work of his delicious offerings.  Afterwards, we went to the local ice cream stand for dessert but the line was out to the street.  literally.  The ice cream stand is the local hang out for all the kids and adults.  We didn’t have time to wait in line because X-Men Origins: Wolverine started in 15 minutes.  It was a good movie.  Definitely cheesy but entertaining and kept fairly well with the comic storyline.  Afterwards we just walked back and went to sleep in preparation for the following rest day.

Sol's dinner

Sol's dinner

Our afternoon in Pierre was spent in the company of Sol, his uncle Randy and Randy’s wife Michelle (Mick for short).  Mick is the sister of the South Dakota governor and is the one sister of 10 children.  They took us kayaking on the mighty Missouri River.  Kayaking is a very relaxing thing to do on rest days.  You just sit on top of the water and paddle occassionally but mostly you just let the current take you at it’s own pace.  Kayakers do look funny, though, because all you see is their top half and it looks like they should be standing up.  Like if they were to get out of the water they would have the kayak around their waist like an intertube.  That’s besides the point, we saw pelicans and shorebirds and gulls making thier nests for the coming season.  A bit further up I saw a big concrete structure in the middle of the river.  I asked what it is and it turns out that the bridge we were about to wade under is a drawbridge.  But instead of the bridge separating in the center and being pulled upwards, it pivots and turns and is tethered to the concrete structure.  I notice a rope ladder is attached to the structure and point it out.  Randy yells at me “Hey Andy! Why don’t you climb that thing!”  without having to think about it at all I shimmy up the ladder and am standing on top of the drawbridge tether thing.  Randy looks worriedly at Quinn and said “I didn’t know he takes dares!”  I don’t know the appropriate term for the structure but it’s about 25 feet high and is still decorated with Christmas decorations in May.  The current was pretty strong but the structure was blocking it on the southside.  I had Sol hold on to my kayak and directed myself towards the lee.  I think it’s called the lee.  Sol kept saying to aim for the lee or league but league is a depth measurement so I don’t think it was that.  He meant the area where the current is blocked.  After making sure my kayak didn’t drift away and that there wasn’t anything lurking just below the surface of the water waiting to break me, I tossed my sunglasses to Ken, took a deep breath, gave praises to the river so it wouldn’t turn on me, and leapt.  The sun was shining that day but not enough to warm the water.  It was probably about 40 or 50 degrees, which doesn’t sound too bad but damn is it cold.  Not as cold as the river of mountain runoff Ken and I jumped into while at the hot springs in Boise, Idaho but it will still wake you up in the morning.  Trying not to spend too much time in the water, I jumped back in the kayak fairly quickly and went on my way.  Now that Randy found out I’m pretty much up for anything he said I should try and paddle between the pillars of the bridge, where the current is at it’s strongest.  I said to myself, “what the hell.  i like challenges.”  So I began paddling as hard as I could to fight the current and barrel between the pillars.  Then I heard Randy say something and I stopped to hear him.  Bad idea.  As soon as I stopped paddling the current took me for a spin and capsized the kayak.  I must say, for never having kayaked before I learned quickly how to get in the boat from the water.  Usually people enter from the back and sort of crawl over the top.  I’m pretty sure my legs just forged themselves into a flipper and I propelled myself out of the water directly into the seat.  It didn’t take very long to bail the water out, and thankfully we were right by the dock.  I had had enough boating and sitting in cold water for a day.  We got cleaned up and were invited to Randy and Mick’s for dinner.

Kayaking on the Missouri

Kayaking on the Missouri

my crash course in entering the boat from the water

my crash course in entering the boat from the water

They live about 10 miles outside of town on a lake that is about 200 miles long.  We get there and are looking around a bit and someone says something like, “the only thing we haven’t done on this trip is shot guns” and Randy’s immediate response is “let’s go out back and shoot some pigeons!”  Living in New York you tend to harbor a certain hatred for pigeons.  At Trackstar (the bike shop I work at) every year the pigeons decide to make a nest in our back window.  They just sit there and coo and flap around and make babies and lay eggs and disturb the arduous work that is always at hand in our tiny little shop.  So when Randy said we could shoot them I was all for it.  Then I sadly realized he meant clay pigeons.  But shooting a gun is shooting a gun and I jumped at the opportunity.  We got everything set up and got a box of ammo and Randy was giving us some lessons on how to shoot.  Mostly he said it was instinct and when you bring the butt of the gun into your shoulder to click the safety off at the same time, with a snap.  We definitely do not have that instinct.  It only took Ken a couple shots before he hit one.  We were all amazed.  Including Ken.  Then it was my turn.  Randy loads the clay pigeon shooter, I yell “Pull!”, Randy yanks the cord and the spring breaks on the shooter.  He can’t fix it without tools but has a quick solution, “I’ll toss ‘em up.  Just yell ‘pull’ when you’re ready.  Oh, and if it goes towards that house over there…don’t shoot.”  So I ready myself again, yell “pull!”, he throws it up in the air, I am blinded by the sun but still see the pigeon, and just pull the trigger in the general direction of the pigeon’s trajectory.  I didn’t see it, but they say I hit it.  Now it’s Quinn’s turn.  Randy goes over the same stuff again about it being instinct and all that while Quinn has the rifle lowered to her side on her hip.  That is the position you want to start in, but you also want to bring it up into your shoulder to aim then shoot.  I think Quinn may have seen Scarface too many times as a child because she held the rifle just like Tony Montoya’s little friend with it dangling at her side and not really aiming at all.

After we were done shooting, the fajitas were ready to eat.  The fajitas were made up of the leftover venison we had from the night before and antelope.  Another bush meat for us.  They were nothing but spectacular with sauteed peppers and onions.  After we all ate it was obvious there wasn’t much else to do but eat ice cream with german chocolate brownies and sleep.  We bid our farewells to Randy and Mick, thanked them for the meal and such a great rest day and headed back to Sol’s.  The next morning Sol had to work so he couldn’t ride out with us like he wanted, but he still made a huge pot of oatmeal with raisins for us.  We loaded up and rode away.

Pierre (pronounced pier, or peer) is the capitol of South Dakota.  A lot of the capitols we’ve been to haven’t been too great and we wonder how they become the capitol.  Sacramento, for example.  That is a terrible city but it’s the capitol city of California.  I don’t get it sometimes, but Pierre gets six thumbs up from the two arm party.  Mostly due to such gracious hosting but the city itself wasn’t too bad either.  It’s also at the 100th meridian, which means it is the geographic center of the country.  There was some monument celebrating that fact but we couldn’t find it.

Ken would also like everyone to know his comic genius so he asked me to mention this.  The night before we were talking about all the wildlife we had seen except buffalo.  Randy said there was a buffalo farm on the way out on the highway we were going to take so we wouldn’t have to backtrack or go out of our way.  We rode by and had to stop to make sure they were buffalo and not cattle.  They were pretty far away.  Once we had established they were buffalo Ken says, “Look, those buffalo are roaming.  Their cell phone bills must be expensive.”  Budum pum!

more photos when we’re not in the middle of nowhere