Our ferry ride across Lake Michigan came to a rather rough ending. We arrived in Manitowoc, MI at 2am in the morning with some light rain in the air so jumping back onto the bikes to search for our hotel in the dark wasn’t much fun but the lure of a bed and a good-night’s rest was much needed and we fell asleep immediately. The next day we were, as usual, the last to leave the motel and with plenty of miles to ride.
The next three days were pretty epic – not so much in terms of landscapes, events or exciting stuff, but for the sheer distance we covered – approximately 1,500km!!! This was not by choice but rather by necessity since this is truly a long haul in anyone’s book. A look at a map of the mid-west’s quickly reveals flat topography, long straight roads interrupted by the occasional stop sign or wee village. Driving along the byways we soon noted that we were very much in the corn belt of the United States. Miles and miles and miles of endless corn fields.
What seemed like an endless day of riding we stopped for the night in Decorah, Iowa – a neat little town, however our destination was Sioux Falls, Iowa. Sioux Falls (pronounced “Sue-Falls”) is an interesting city mainly due to its Native American, history (Sioux is French for “enemy” and the word used to describe the Native American Lakota, Nakota and Dakota tribes in the area) museums and waterfall – the main reason we visited this city. However we must have had ‘motorbiker’s-brain’ (where you forget the reason why you visit a town other than to get some food, fuel or sleep) because the next day we were already on the Interstate geared up for more long-distance yakka when DB remembered that we hadn’t seen the falls yet. A funky u-turn later we headed back in Sioux Falls. Native Americans consider water features such as waterfalls spiritual sites which are also often deemed sacred. Sioux Falls, sadly, was used by early settlers as a prison quarry and now turned in a tourist attraction – all rather disrespectful. With a bitter after taste we left.
The South Dakota landscape afterwards dramatically changed from corn and wheat monoculture farming to the dry golden grasses of the endlessly expanding great American prairies. It was a humbling experience. You could almost image how large bison/buffalo herds must have roamed this vast land, grazing and providing a vital food source to the Native Americans. The ecology of the prairies is interesting – the land is too dry for trees to grow but too wet for anything else to grow hence the endless grass with sporadic sunflower farms. But the best thing was still to come – the Badlands of South Dakota. http://www.nps.gov/badl/index.htm .
The Badlands is a dramatic and foreboding landscape shaped by the forces of deposition and erosion making it almost moonscape like. The park apparently contains one of the largest mixed-grass prairie ecosystems in North America but the eroded hills was what takes your breath away. While driving through the Badlands we saw a massive storm-cell pass through which added to the dramatic landscape. It is really hard to explain or describe the Badlands so we hope the pictures do it some justice.
Next we head out to the Native American tribe, the Lakota’s spiritual homeland of the Black Hills in South Dakota as well as Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse and hope to see bison in Custer State Park.