We were up early, but couldn’t go out as neither Moe nor her dog were at home. We wanted to say goodbyes so sat round until she turned up. Moe had been out for a walk. We had forgotten to mention our plan to leave early, so she was a little surprised by our necessity to leave.

Before leaving, Moe gave C a massage to help with her hand. I was eager to get out of the door and slightly frustrated that having hit the sack past midnight and got up at 6 we weren’t going to be out until around 8.

We set out without a clear goal for the next few days. The town of Chamberlain was the last ‘big’ place, population 2387, before we got to Rapid City and was by the banks of the Missouri. It was about 70 miles away and my idea was to reach it and then see how much further we could get.

Apparently this would be our last stretch of corn fields as the land after the Missouri would change a lot. I was happy to hear this as they always say, variety is the spice of life, and that’s definitely the case when cycling through what is not particularly affectionately known as flyover country.

Just before we got to Chamberlain, we decided it’d be fun to hit up the interstate. The highway we were going along would be about 12 miles whereas I90 would be about 8. Considering we were planning on a long ride, saving 4 miles sounded a good plan to me.

We pulled on to I90 and were glad to find a huge shoulder which had been recently re-surfaced. I actually found it nicer to ride along I90 for that stretch. I think it was a combination of it being a novel experience riding on it and the quality of the road, but time flew along and we were soon in Chamberlain.

We dropped by the grocery shop where I found some day-old muffins which were reduced from $3.99 to 99c, a veritable bargain! It would provide a good dessert to the tuna and crackers we were going to eat in McDonalds. You may be confused and think that I mean that McDonalds sell tuna and crackers, they do not. However, we have taken to eating our own food when we go there and have not had anything said to us.

While in McDonalds we had the really fun experience of meeting up with 2 other pairs of cycle tourists, including the pair that we had passed when driving to the lake with Travis a couple of days before. We spent a good while talking about routes, touring and experiences. There was a storm warning for the evening so both couples had decided to splurge and get motel rooms. I was very reluctant to do so, especially as I had lots of energy left and wanted to keep going past Chamberlain. We said our goodbyes and they went off to relax as they had somewhere other than McDonalds where they could chill.

After sitting in McDonalds for a couple of hours, the storm warning was changing from 9pm-12am to 11pm-12am. I was glad that we had decided to not pay the $50-60 for a motel room and we headed out across the Missouri. The bridge we were next to was being repainted so was closed to traffic. If we had been willing to take all our bags off, we could probably have got them through the holes in the plastic, but it seemed a lot of effort so we headed back to I90 to get over.

The contrast between the corn fields and the land by the Missouri was startling. Having spent so long going through flat corn fields I didn’t even mind the climb back out of the valley. The hills next to I90 looked like moguls and, especially with the clouds descending, it was fantastic. I felt full of energy and thought that Reliance would be easy and we might even make it to Kennebec and do our first century.

The clouds above us were quite dark, but it looked like we would be out of them soon, which I assumed would mean that we’d be past the rain. I was wrong. When we got to where the dark clouds were ending we were suddenly buffeted by strong side winds that made cycling a lot less fun. Our bags started to act as sails and it was difficult to go straight. The rain was going sideways and felt like small hail pinging us.

After a few more minutes of cycling, I realised the futility and got C to pull over. We laid our bikes down and got on the grass verge to the side. C assumed the foetal position and I sat between her and the wind acting as a wind block. I felt OK in my short-sleeved tshirt and shorts, whereas C was starting to get cold so I gave her both my waterproof jacket and buff. The eye of the storm must have passed us as the winds dropped to more manageable levels, so we got back on our bikes to do the mile that was left between us and Reliance.

Just down the road, a car was pulled over. It had been stopped about half a mile earlier and I’d waved at the driver but had been unable to hear what she said. When we went past again she got of the car and started to talk to us and offered us help. Her name was Martha and she was on a road trip across the country by herself. She had pulled over the first time as the storm made driving difficult and pulled over the second time to make sure we were OK. Kindness from random strangers like that leaves such a warm feeling and we were about to get more.

We pulled into Reliance, a town of 191, and rode around looking for a place to put our tents. We found a church and were about to knock on the door when a man called Kevin came over to talk to us. We explained what we were doing and he said that we could put our tents up outside his home. He also invited us in to have a shower, change our sodden clothing and warm up.

After our showers, we were allowed to use their stove to cook our dinner. We went outside to put our bikes in their garage to keep them dry and it still looked like storms might hit. Kevin, and his wife Jolene, invited us in to sleep. They had a spare room and, with storms possible, their daughter Mallory would end up running to sleep with them so C could sleep in her bed.

I run out of words to describe how wonderful the strangers we meet are. Our repeated meetings with people who are so willing to give us whatever they have, without asking for anything in return, is just breathtaking.

Exploring the bridge

Crossing the Missouri (Windy, might want to mute)

In the storm