We had a relatively straightforward 75 mile ride to Chamberlain, South Dakota today and got into town by about 2 P.M. Not long after arriving, we learned that both campgrounds in town are underwater. Flooding. We're on the banks of the Missouri, down in a river valley where I don't get much data signal for my phone. I'm typing to you from the public library, in a carrel right next to the very extensive "Western" section. The act of typing on a keyboard is making me realize that my hands are beginning to have a rough, calloused feel to them. Not sure I like that.
As it turns out, Aaron was the one to suggest we just spring for a motel here, rather than find a park picnic table or some such to camp next to. I was all for it, of course. There's a huge difference morale-wise when a motel is involved. The flip side of it is that I think I have an easier time getting up and ready in the morning when we're at a camp site, mainly because I have no desire to remain there. While riding down the long hill into the valley earlier, we could feel the temperature rise as we descended. I'm happy not to share a tent tonight. It's not that I don't want to sleep next to Aaron in the tight, muggy space. It's that I don't want to sleep next to his sleeping bag. It's gotten quite ripe in the last few weeks.
In the last 24 hours, we've come across two other pairs of cross-country cyclists. The first we met at the Corn Palace last night, a brother and sister from the UK who are actually doing much more than a cross-country trip: they began in Florida in late April, worked their way up the east coast, are now crossing to the west, then will proceed down the coast and (I think) back across, for a total of six months on the road. Better them than me. The brother will then continue biking around the world, I guess taking on one continent at a time. I asked him how long he thought it'd take and he just shrugged and said, "Until it's done." Attaway, sir. The other couple we met today at the Chamberlain McDonald's, where our UK pals said they'd be when they got into town (free wi-fi, no one cares if you smell or if you order anything, air conditioning). They began in Provincetown, MA, the tippity end of Cape Cod, and are working their way out to Burning Man (of course they are) and then to San Francisco - like us! But due to the stop at the fest, they'll be behind us, I believe.
While of course there's something cool about meeting other long-distance cyclists on the road, and the people we met are all very nice and seem to be good company, I'm the first to admit that Aaron and I have very different reactions to meeting them. It goes something like this:
Aaron: Awesome! Let's go hang out and talk to them about bikes!
Jamie-Lee: Ugh. Do we have to go hang out and talk to them about bikes?
This gets at several general differences between Aaron and me. First, he's way more into bikes and biking than I am. Even now when we talk to people in restaurants and convenience stores about our trip, I say, "Well, I'm not really much of a cyclist." Second, while I suppose both Aaron and I can be sociable people, he's much more inclined to be interested in talking to people he doesn't know. I can do it just fine, but for me, it's work. (Not coincidentally, part of my job at the Writers House involves talking to people I don't know and making them feel welcome.) Aaron's mom once told me about how when Aaron was a boy, he'd chatter away to any stranger who was listening. I remember my mom lamenting about how when I was young and she'd introduce me to a friend, I'd immediately look the other way, in attempt at some sort of if-I-don't-see-you-you-can't-see-me move. I think I've made a lot of progress. Some progress, at least.