We woke up with the birds at 4:30 this morning, and the sun was already coming up. We walked down the street to Denny’s for breakfast because it was the only option. By the time we ate and got back to the hotel and loaded up the bikes, it was about 5:30 and 68 degrees.
We made the 45 minute ride to the Badlands National Park, and the temperature had risen to 70, but when we got off the exit at Wall to head to the park, it dropped to 66 degrees and felt amazing. As is the case with a lot of the parks in that area, there were tons of prairie dogs living on either side of the road leading into the park. They are so cute and funny to watch.
As always, we stopped for a picture of the park welcome sign before entering.
Once inside the park, you are immediately greeted by beautiful, dramatic landscapes. We pulled off on a gravel road to snap some pictures, and there was a path where you could walk out into the canyon, which rewarded you with an even better view, and a cool photo op.
I’m pretty sure we stopped at least 5 times for pictures within the first few miles, there was just so much to see and photograph.
A little less than halfway through the park we were cruising along when we spotted a Bighorn Sheep Ram grazing on the side of the road. I was a bit afraid we would spook him or make him mad with the bikes as we rode past him, but he didn’t even seem to notice, so we whipped into the gravel road across from him and parked the bikes a safe distance away so we could hop off and get pictures. He noticed us, but he never seemed to mind, and just continued about his business. We of course were careful not to invade his space too much, and zoomed in a bit to take our pictures. That was our first time seeing one in person, so we were super excited about it. He was still standing there grazing when we pulled off and left him to enjoy his morning in peace (until the next excited tourist came along, I’m sure).
We continued on through the park, stopping a few more times for pictures and to take in the scenery, and as we came around a corner there was a Bighorn Sheep Ewe climbing the side of one of the rock formations as a minivan scared her out of the road. We stopped to photograph her as well, but she seemed much less disinterested in us than the Ram had. She stood for a moment where she had climbed, but then climbed higher and a bit closer and stared down at us, kicking her hooves a bit. We were far enough away we could have hit the throttle on the bikes and been gone before she could have gotten to us, but we took her warnings to heart and continued on before she decided she’d had enough of us. She was still watching us as we rounded a corner and I lost sight of her. Leave it to the female to have the attitude, hahaha!
Other than some pronghorns and prairie dogs, we didn’t see any other wildlife while we were there. I’ve read that there are Bison and Bobcats in the park as well, but there were no signs of them today. I’ve been up close and personal with Bison while on the bike in the Custer State Park and in Yellowstone three years ago, so I really didn’t need to relive that anyways, but it would have been cool to see a Bobcat (from a distance).
In the end, we were super happy that we decided to detour down through the park, even if it meant spending more time in the heat later in the day.
Soon after we left the park, we hit high winds, which made the middle portion of our ride today much less enjoyable than it otherwise would have been. Not that interstate riding is ever really fun, but when you’re getting blown back and forth every time you pass a semi or an RV, which there are TONS of on I-90, it makes things a little unsettling, and can result in a pain in the neck as well. Of course, it was NO WHERE near as bad as our trip through Southwest Idaho on the way to Utah from Oregon last summer, thank goodness, but it still wasn’t much fun.
Luckily after lunch the winds had died down significantly, and we were able to continue on without feeling quite so fatigued. It honestly didn’t feel too bad out until right before we hit Sioux Falls. It was hot, but not uncomfortably so, but after Sioux Falls, it got up over 90 degrees, and I was ready to get the last hour of the day over with at that point.
Tomorrow is supposed to be much cooler, as the high for our destination is only 82, so I think we will take our time a bit in the morning instead of rushing out before 6am, and we are going to take the interstate to Des Moines, and then take highways to Galesburg, Illinois. We rode 450 miles today, and tomorow will be just over 400. That will leave us with about 340 miles til home on Tuesday. Our total mileage so far for the 13 days is 4491 (according to Rever, which is actually missing about 15-20 miles that I forgot to record, ooops!).