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08/02/2007 Entry: "Alzada, MT to Nisland, SD"

Karen, MinWah and I woke up in the beer garden at 4:30 to beat some heat, while Seager stayed in his tent, still sickish and pathetic. Riding early in the morning was lovely, mostly cool, and the sun wasn't in our eyes for two hours. We were out of Montana within 2 miles. As we rode into Wyoming, all of about 100 cows in a roadside pasture started running alongside Karen in front of me, then with me. When Karen stopped to readjust her panniers for shimmy, every single cow that had been in that field crowded up to the fence next across the road and mooed. At first, Karen wanted to go visit them, then she realized that the fence was awefully low and there were 100 curious cows on the other she decided to keep riding instead. Other highlights of the early morning ride included riding alongside running groups of antelope and passing the "Bentonite Capital of the World." It seemed like the 20 mile section of Wyoming we rode in had more stuff in it than the last four days of Montana put together. We soon arrived in South Dakota, stocked up on post cards and groceries and had only 10 miles to our destination town by 9 AM. MinWah and I decided to make a 2 mile detour to the resevoir for a swim, and we met Seager and Karen at the "Nisland Mall and Cafe," which was really just a cafe, around 11:00. Seager had hitched another ride to protect his health, and in the time he and Karen were waiting for us, he had struck up a conversation with a nice woman who decided to donate $20 to our trip. We spent it on wonderful pie, ice cream, frenc fries, and other good breakfast items. As we ate, some local ranchers came in for lunch and sat at the table next to us. They were talking about haying, and I got interested and started asking them about the details. Later, they overheard us asking some other patrons about camping in the fairgrounds and pitched in, "You can stay at our place, it's air conditioned and there are no mosquitos!" Air conditioning sounded nice, as it was about 115 degrees in the sun. Paul and Judy told us that they lived 10 miles away down a gravel road, but would be happy to drive us in their pickup to and from the paved road and their Ranch. We gratefully accepted the offer, and as we waited for them to go get their pickup, we were treated to watermelon by the owners of the cafe. They also gave us a ziplock of cookies as we left to load our bikes into the truck.
Judy and Paul made us feel extremely at home in their home on the range. We hauled our stuff into the two guest bedrooms and then piled into their Tahoe for a tour of the ranch. I now know why Tahoes exist. Air conditioning was necessary in the blazing heat, and we certainly used four wheel drive to traverse the pasture. They showed us the "dead hole" where they throw any dead cattle and bury them when the hole is full, the mommies and babies that where in the nearest pasture, and the flume where the water used for irrigation poured into the lower canal. During our tour, we passed a neighbor who said he needed a hay bail (the big round ones) moved, so we went back and waited as Paul hitched the bail-mover-attachment to his tractor, then followed him to the neighbor's house. This particular neighbor was a dog breeder, and shared most of the space in her tiny home with about 40 border collies. We got to see the tiny little puppies, but all of the dogs there were definitely very subdued due to the heat, which a small air conditioner was doing nothing to subdue. Then we went by another neighbor's house to see his horses...enormous horses. I'm not sure what breed they were, but their hooves were as big as dinner plates, and they were 18 hands high. Wow. Then we went to check on the irrigation dams that Paul had set earlier that morning. A few of us with him on his four wheeler, and the others in the Tahoe, we learned about how ditch irrigation works, and concluded that the dams would have to be switched around 9 that evening. Then we all got to try driving the ATV, which Paul claims is not for fun, but for work. It was definitely fun. We spent some time lazing around the air conditioned house, writing and chatting with our gracious, hilarious hosts. Karen and I went swimming in the irrigation canal, and then we had a good old fashioned dinner of beef roast (their cows), potatoes, peas and bread. I've never enjoyed beef so much. After dinner we watched videos of branding and castrating calves, and another of the old house on Paul and Judy's new land being burned down. Paul said out there they didn't even need a permit, they just called the sheriff in advance and told them that if someone called about a house fire, it was nothing to worry about. We learned all about branding, and got a detailed description of how to castrate calves, and how ranchers set their cattle out to pasture for the summer, and how to tell if a cow is pregnant...and many other wonderful tidbits of rancher knowledge. Around 9 we went out and helped change the irrigation dams, and Seager and I got lost on the fourwheeler in the middle of a flooded alfalfa field trying to find our way back home. It was one of those moments where you step back and look at the situation, and wonder how the heck you ever ended up where you are, and doing what you are doing. It made us laugh uncontrollably, and then fall asleep with permanent grins on our faces. Paul and Judy opened up their home to us, taught us about their work and their lives and their family, told us wonderful stories, fed us well, and helped us realize again that we are very, very lucky people to be able to travel like this. Our good bikema came through once again.

All for now. I hope you all are very well.


Replies: Leave us a note! (1)

Ah, Ariel, Karen, MinWah and Seager, Grandpa Bill would have loved the all-beef stories and meal (except for those little round green thingies - they don't belong!). I imagine you may be getting a little leathery yourselves. Take care in this heat (global warming), watch out for dangerous underwater seives and tunnels in the irrigation canals (as well as farm run-off chemicals). When I first saw irrigation canals in Colorado, I thought it would be great to tube on them, but was told about the dangers. Kathryn (Colin's honey) lost her dog recently to an underwater box and seive - she would have gone in after it if Colin hadn't been there.

I'll be heading to St. Louis about the time you finish RAGBRAI, since my plans have changed, again. I believe you are in excellent shape to make it without my assistance. BUT, have you worked on your act? A video would be good...

with love, Auntie Anne

Posted by Auntie Anne @ 07/10/2007 05:30 PM CST




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