Monday, August 5, 2013
DUSK IN THE WESTERN DAKOTAS
impressions of a trip through our northern plains
…third in a series…
After two days wandering across the high plains’ rise and fall, we arrived at the ranch house outside of Custer, SD about 4:00 PM. Our immediate goal was to freshen up, catch a quick nap, then venture into town to secure supplies. Just as a century and a half ago, on the list were flour, salt, bacon, raw meat, and whiskey. In short: grub.
I had ridden north and east from the Sacramento area. My riding partner hailed from Seattle. Our spouses flew into Denver, rented a car and were expected at any time. Our mission would not be postponed.
Under a slightly ominous sky we remounted riding through a cloudburst, which might have been refreshing had it not been for the previous hours of saddle time and the fatigue associated therewith.
The mercantile had everything we needed and, perhaps, more than we could cram into the panniers without some deft engineering.
Fortunately, with our saddlebags laden with supplies for four for a couple of days, the clouds had scurried south and our ride back was over dampened pavement and dirt, but under clear skies. With degrees of relief, and after a 300-plus-mile day, we parked the bikes in the “stable,” set not to re-employ them for several days.
An evening storm gathered – bigger than the last – as I worked the grill outside. I harbored grave misgivings about tending to a marinated tri-tip with a sixteen-inch set of metal tongs as lightening fired up in the area, but I’d drawn the short straw this evening, and my life insurance, set to lapse this coming November, was paid up.
While setting the expanded metal table on the porch for al fresco dining, the storm snarled and spat prompting us to retreat indoors. A stray from the neighboring property, who’d been hanging about close to the grill and the beef, divining our change of heart, asked to be invited in from the impending fury. He wasn’t.
Upon finish our indoor evening meal along with a bottle or two of serviceable red, we dispatched a scout to the porch to reconnoiter the weather and report back. The fury, it seems, dissipated just as quickly as it had formed. We would take advantage of the cool evening to enjoy some fresh air perfumed by the moistened hay stacked in the field a few yards away. Nothing smells so sweet as after-the-storm.
To the chagrin of our spouses – who by now have come to expect nothing different from their men – we cracked open a bottle of Jefferson’s Reserve (in honor of Thom, whose face graces the mountainside only 16 miles to the north) and lit up a pair of Flor de las Antillas purchased at Stogies, a day’s ride back in Billings, MT.
With the men downwind – the men always seem to be downwind, with or without cigars. Why is that? – the four of us watched the storm retreat and the sky evolve.
As the angry behemoth subsided, the sun dipped through the Ponderosa Pines and behind the hills immediately to our west.
A full moon rose illuminating those receding clouds from behind; within their midst lightning coursed in greater or lesser flashes. The Big Dipper was revealed, as was Alpha Centauri. Soon, everything faded to black.
Or perhaps it was the whiskey.
Church of the Open Road Press