Day 9 – Vermillion, SD to Salem, SD

Av – 12.1 mph
Dis – 88.3 miles
Tm – 07:17 hrs
Asc – 928 ft.

Day 09 – 24 September 2005

Rain, rain, go away

When I stepped outside the door at 0630, the air was warm and humid. It was still dark and I couldn’t see any stars. I suspected rain, but hoped otherwise. I wasn’t disappointed. The sky opened up in a thunderous din less than thirty minutes later. I took my time packing, knowing today was scheduled only to be sixty-seven miles and I could afford to wait it out. But by 0845 I was restless as all hell, so I broke out my heavy duty rain gear and made a dash west.

It pissed on me almost the entire twenty-three miles to Yankon, SD, but when I arrived for a rest and a snack, the sun poked through the heavy clouds and things started drying out. My route called for west Hwy 80, north a couple of miles on Hwy 81, then west again on Hwy 50. When I came to my second turn onto Hwy 50 from the 81, a southern wind had picked up. I decided to take advantage of the push, deviate from my original route, and continue north on 81. The decision was a good one, for about fifteen miles, and then the wind shifted right into my face. I debated turning west again on Hwy 18 but decided against it. I was almost ahead of schedule on my mileage, was feeling good, and I knew I could push through it.

The sky threatened to close in on me from the west and north. I was riding into an immense electrical storm with lightening striking the ground every few seconds, but I heard no thunder and knew it was many miles north. I was in a corner of light, hoping I wouldn’t catch up to the storm ahead. Even though the clouds finally circled round, enveloped the sun, and changed the wind again, it didn’t start raining again until I hit I-90, just a few miles south of Salem.

I stopped for a bite to eat in Freeman, SD and the strangest thing happened. Two vehicles pulled up next to the air hose next to the picnic table I was sitting at. A man in black slacks and a dark blue dress shirt walked past me and paused at my bike. He asked if I was a Marine and had been in Iraq. I said yes and that I was going back in March, so he said he’d pray for me. Alright, I thought. A lot of people pray for service members overseas. But quite unexpectedly, he walked right up to me, put his hand on my shoulder, bowed his head, and began praying out loud. I was shocked, but didn’t jump. I had a piece of pizza in my right hand and a used napkin in my left and didn’t quite know what to do. So I stopped eating, bowed my own head, and let the man pray for a minute or so. When he was done, he finished with an Amen and I even answered back.

Having a complete stranger lay his hand on me was something I hadn’t prepared myself for. Violently, yes, peacefully, no. And to have it done in a religious context completely weirded me out. The last time I tried to let religion work for me, sincerely, was almost fifteen years ago. I’ve thought a lot about religion on this trip though. Every small town has about two or three churches, not including the really strange denominations outside the city limits.

I think the real lure of religion is the support group the community provides. Where else can one find a group of people so willing to help with anything? I’ve looked at organized religion from a logistical standpoint and it all makes sense. It’s the element of faith I have issues with, but I won’t get into that.

I left Freeman with renewed energy. I maintained a solid 12-14 mph the next twenty-three miles and pulled into the first motel I saw. The man who runs it, Steve by the embroidered tag on his shirt, sacrificed time with his visiting sister-in-law to bullshit with me about twenty minutes. Now I’m eating strawberry-rhubarb pie a la mode at a café across the street and loving life.

I’ll see if tomorrow I can gain a day.

Avoiding the winds

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