As this will likely be the last day of interesting riding on this tour I'm going to stretch it as much as I can, exploring the Black Hills area, Mount Rushmore and Badlands NP.
Apart from the crime of (de)facing a perfectly good mountain to boost their national ego and naming a beautiful area after a common butcher (Custer State Park), south Dacotans have nothing to be ashamed of. This whole area is beautiful on so many levels and they seem to take good care of it.
The ride started hot, temperature climbing over 30 very soon, so I took off the helmet and heated vest and rode like a boss all day. The pace was as tame as it gets. I just soaked up the scenery listening to the gentle, deep buzz of the engine (the exhaust sound is practically inaudible to the rider at these speeds, even without the helmet and earplugs) and smelled the intoxicating aroma of Ponderosa pines Black Hills are covered with. I could have cruised like that all day, occasionally stopping to let the bus go through a tunnel a hair bigger than it is or look at amazement at those wooden bridges made on a road so curvy that it resembles a corkscrew. However, it's time to point the wheel East.
Having had my fill and encountering another big-ass Bison in the middle of the road, I moved on towards Badlands NP. Riding through the prairie as fast as I was comfortable without a helmet (i.e. way above the speed limit) I saw a police cruiser coming my way, to late to slow down as usual. He didn't even blink, even though I was going at least 40km/h over the limit. South Dakota rules again :).
I visited the local store in Caputa that Jessie run out of gas at in 2011. Ricky has moved on to another job but the store is alive, well and expanding. I told them I want a motel next time I come by.
A ride through Badlands was a hoot as I remember it. No park rangers there and little traffic to interfere with my antics. It's fascinating how the green and apparently fertile prairie coincides with a totally barren landscape here. It's like having a mini Death Valley in the middle of Saskatchewan. Road variably twisty and straight, going up, down and level, very well paved and maintained. A joy to ride and look at.
A short and fast highway ride and I'm Sleeping in Murdo, SD after skipping dinner and opting for vodka-juice instead.
Well, that' pretty much it. I've been living a most wonderful dream for the past 18 days. It's now time to wake up, but slowly and gently so most of the dream is retained in memory. I have the next 2,000km to think about it while eating up the highway to home.