Thursday July 2: Sheridan to Gillette

112.9 miles, lots and lots of rolling hills, many of them steep. And hail!

Ro's Phrase Of The Day:
Bad Road -- *bonk* Ow!

This was a long day, hot, and over roads that haven't been fixed in a very long time. There were cracks and tar lines everywhere, random bumps, and every few feet you'd hit a crack that would shock your back, knees, shoulders, whatever was bothering you at the time. It wasn't all bad, mostly just after we crossed into campbell county.

We followed 14E, to just after the Ucross artists colony (population 25), where pit 1 was situated just after a field that had two ostriches in it. We then made an impromptu Pit 1.5 about 12 miles later in Clearmont, a nice little town with an awesome market/deli which many of us cleaned out of ice cream/frozen treats and lots of snack food. The owners were really nice, too, and had set out a bunch of chairs for people to use outside. Ro ordered tires from Nashbar (to be delivered to the Rapid City main post office) using their phone, and I had 2 strawberry popsicles. yummmm....

The road immediately deteriorated (worse than the bumps that came later), and the buildings near the road continued to deteriorate as well, but we eventually made it to Leiter, where all of us were fed at the Leiterville Cafe and Country Club -- a single building which we must have rented out. They had a buffet of sandwich makings and salads, drinks, and watermelon, and we fed heartily. After all, we still had about 60 miles to go. And eventually, we did mosey along.

Then the land got really really sparsely populated. There was not a lot of stuff around, although there were some farms. The road was starting to roll more (which really sucks when the road hurts to much to go fast over and build up much speed to make the uphill easier), and more rocks ledges were showing up in the hills. A fantastic break was given to us when we met the Barton Family, offering everyone free lemonade and ice water. They were all really wonderful, and told us that next time, we could just stay on their land -- they farm 2000 acres for barley, sunflowers, and hay (we think -- it may have been wheat). Eventually after a couple of long climbs we made it to Pit 3, at the Spotted Horse Cafe. This was a neat little place -- a cool building withlots of old knick-knacks inside (signs, antiques, etc), a pool table and a small kitchen. It was really hot by now, and it was extremely hard to leave facing 40 miles to camp. However, after the first long climb we turned and managed to avoid the worst of the headwind. We also started seeing really weirdly shaped hills -- we were later told that the sandstone left from the glaciers just eroded into these shapes.

Finally, at mile 107, entering gillette, it started to rain, at first soft but then hard, but we ride out of it -- and back into it. However we'd not ridden back into the rain, but into the hail!! It was small hail at first, then it worsened to large, PAINFUL hail. I took about 5 hits and made a quick u-turn into the next driveway, aiming for a carport i'd seen -- as it turns out, it was attached to a Quality Inn. Two men (operators?) were outside watching the hail -- the car in the carport had been hit, and the windshield had cracked. we decided to stay, at Ro's very very welcome suggestion. The really nice guy at front desk drove us (in his car!) to the camp to pick up our bags. Lots of people were huddled in our gear truck, but we eventually found 2 of our bags in the truck, and 2 bags under the plastic outside (but easy to find/get). He then drove us back to the motel, where we ate, then showered and slept! Judging from the stories we heard later, it was much better than sleeping with everyone else inside the livestock building they'd used to get the riders who'd gotten into camp already out of the hail!

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