Today as we rode across the plains of South Dakota from Rapid City to Sioux Falls, our tangle with the west came to an end. From the minute we entered into Montana more than a week ago, it has been a wild ride. We’ve ridden over numerous mountain passes, winded along lakes, swam in rivers, took dirt roads, crossed over the continental divide seven times, dealt with mechanical issues, been caught in thunder and hail storms, dodged buffalo crossing the road, and had our fair share of sleeping closer to bears and moose than to other humans. Despite the years since the Wild West, we found that parts of this country remain just as wild and untamed.
It can only be assumed that something about the nature of this land attracts the folks who inhabit it. Nearly all the great American folk heroes have wound up in this place one way or another across the years. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill Cody, Wyatt Earp, and Chief Joseph, whose retreat from the U.S. Army we followed up from Washington to Wyoming. His story, and that of the Nez Perce and their war, is one we will never forget. These are the true Americans – from the Lakota to the Cheyenne, from outlaws to lawmen. They rode across these lands on horses more than a hundred years ago, similarly to how we now traverse it on motorcycles.
But these people, the cowboys and outlaws, still exist today. We’ve even met a few in our time out West, from Road Dog and Brother Bill, to our hippie/biker friend Bob who we met in the woods, to Michael and Mick in Rapid City, to Emmazen, the goggle wearing dog who traverses the country in a Harley Davidson side car. And though they do inhabit this wide open land sparsely, their full, rich personalities seem to give such an empty space a sense of warmth and togetherness that isn’t often found in more densely populated places.
Tomorrow our journey East continues. We leave South Dakota and continue across Minnesota and Iowa aiming for Wisconsin and, eventually, the great American city of Chicago. The West was awe inspiring, but we look forward to exploring the breadbasket’s rich farmlands and varied political landscapes next.