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Black Hills Badlands Medley—Day Three

533 miles

The alarm was set for 6 am, and I only hit snooze once. By the time I had repacked, made coffee and oatmeal, redressed, and got back on the bike it was probably 7:30.

I recalled trying to find the Shak the first time on my trip out to the Rockies and failing. I had to return to the main highway and get a motel room, as daylight was dying and deer were out, making me inclined not to return to where I assumed the Shak was now that I had a good signal on my phone so I could find it online. When I had been looking for it, I had followed the GPS, which had put me on the right road, Old Highway 7, but on the wrong end where it connected to new Highway 7. I had followed it, but when I saw I had “arrived” there was nothing but a gravel road and forest. Later, I figured out what had gone wrong, and next time I had found it easily by getting onto the other end that connected with AR 164. Old Highway 7 connected to paved roads, with AR 7 in the northeast end and AR 164 in the southwest. If I had continued on the first time, I would have eventually found the Shak. So, this time, knowing if I turned right out of the Shak, instead of left to return to 164, the road would eventually spit me out northward on the paved new Highway 7, the route I was to take north most of the way out of Arkansas. It was partly gravel, as I had found out before, and part of the TAT, so I thought it would be a good time to practice off-tarmac riding, knowing it would be decently graded stuff.

I made a little mistake at first, not taking the gravel turnoff I thought might be the Old Highway 7 and ended up at a state campground dead end. Two pair of deer had crossed in front of me as I came in, but I was watching for them, so no harm done. I turned around and started back to the turnoff and more pairs of deer ran across the road ahead of me, but eventually I found myself back onto gravel and soon back on pavement on Highway 7. Off I roared, heading for the Missouri state line. Highway 7 is well-known as a bikers’ road, and it was curvy and quite scenic, but it was nothing like the challenging roads I had ridden in North Georgia and North Carolina. But still, it was a nice ride before getting on the major highways to get me through Missouri in decent time. There some of the US highways were like little interstates, and I kept my speedo pegged on 65 virtually the entire ride, in fact, most of the entire trip. 65 on the Bonnie is the result of an optimistic speedometer, and I was probably only doing about 62 or so. But that was the bike’s most fuel-efficient speed, so perfect.

About midway through Missouri, the Ozarks gave way to rolling countryside. I was passing close to a tiny town called Chilhowee, where some of my relatives were from, my dad’s uncle and his family. I detoured from a direct route north to check out the town, just in case I could hunt my cousin, Cindy, down, who was the daughter of my dad’s Uncle Cleo. She was in another town nearby I was told, but everyone at the little combination diner and convenience store knew both her and Cleo. An old timer there knew him well and said he was an upstanding guy, which others affirmed. It was a nice encounter, but family research had to wait, as I had to get to western Iowa before late afternoon.

I tore along many little state and county roads, which were like straightened out roller coasters, climbing and dropping off hills all the way to Iowa.

By the time I got to Iowa, I was tired and sore, but I kept heading north and west until I got within twenty miles of Atlantic, where the VJMC rally would take place the next day. I camped cheap for eleven dollars at Lake Anita State Park, which a kind motorist had suggested when he had seen me stopped at the side of the road looking over my maps, thinking perhaps something was wrong. I ran into town to finally find a dinner of stuffed jalapeños and a brat and beer before heading back to camp, just a couple miles away.

One thing I had noted all over the countryside along the way were reelection signs, By the looks of things in all the little run down and disintegrating towns, things were not looking up there. I wondered what they thought that the current administration had done to improve their lot to justify their fervor. I found it quite discouraging, yet they still believed in him heart and soul. It didn’t make sense to me. But the more I thought about it, what had ANY administration or government action done to help keep these small villages alive and well? In fact, what had any of us Americans done to help them? We did just the opposite. We traded convenience and price for the loss of these small businesses. Our government and economic system had encouraged the conglomeration of small into large and approved virtually every merger with glee until now, in each segment of our economy there are only a handful of players, the small and independent shut out. We traded time spent going from small store to small store collecting the things we needed and getting to know our neighbors for cheaper things made in China for a few pennies less and so we could buy everything at one place and ignore our neighbors. And now that the new system is in place there is no return. Now the store is a five or ten or more mile drive away and it is the only choice, and no one there know or cares about you.

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