Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride

Monday, August 11, 2008
Vermillion, SD to Sloan, IA
62 miles (7405 total miles)

Another day of headwinds, this time already pretty strong right from the start. And today was even flatter than yesterday, so it should have been a thoroughly enjoyable ride, but instead we spent it pushing against the wind. Aggravating. We started off at 7:30 under cloudy skies, our stuff all wrapped up since we had a good chance of rain this morning. It didn't rain and it looked like it was clearing up by noon, but it got cloudy again just as we were getting close to our motel for the night. Sure enough, we made the last turn with one mile to go and we ran smack into the rain. We pulled off into a gas station to take shelter under its canopy and saw our motel right across the street! We waited for the rain to ease up and then scooted across the street just as a busload of elderly folks arrived and went into the motel too. We managed to slip in before they got organized so we got settled in pretty quickly.

We had a number of interesting sights today. We found out that the University of South Dakota is in Vermillion and went by its campus on our way out this morning. Our morning road was a quiet county road down the southeastern tip of South Dakota, sandwiched in between Iowa and Nebraska. We were able to see the Nebraska hills to our right, across the Missouri River, and the Iowa hills ahead to our left, across the Big Sioux River. We went through a number of small towns, Burbank, Elk Point, Jefferson, and North Sioux City; the first ones were fairly rural but they became more urban as we got closer to Iowa. We rode next to a train track most of the morning and saw what looked like a truck pulling a train on the tracks near North Sioux City. It turned out it was being pushed by 2 train engines at the back, but its load was 2 train tracks that were each about a half-mile long! The gizmo at the front behind the truck cab was designed to grab one end of the track to unload it. Very interesting way to haul track. A short while later, we saw a familiar logo painted on a group of buildings - this was Gateway Business Park, the headquarters for Gateway Computers.

We reached the Big Sioux River which we would cross into Iowa around lunch time. We stopped for lunch at a casino that promised burgers. Outside the casino was a plaque saying we were entering/leaving South Dakota (depending on which side you read). I thought it had very nice words to say about Iowa. It's a good thing we took that picture because it was the only welcome we had to Iowa, our 22nd state. No welcome sign greeted us on the bridge or after it. We first rode through a pleasant residential area of Sioux City, followed by a bike trail through Riverside Park, a nice large park along the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers. The Big Sioux converges with the Missouri along this stretch. The bike trail and park were lovely and covered about 4 miles along the rivers. We continued on a park road open to traffic which went by an Iowa welcome center, a river museum, a Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and a memorial to a plane that crashed nearby in 1989. It was a United Flight 232 going from Denver to Chicago when it had some mechanical failure. Apparently the pilots did an incredible job of landing the plane in almost impossible conditions, which resulted in a number of the passengers and crew surviving.

After the park we climbed into a section of the Loess Hills, These hills line the Missouri Valley in Iowa and were created during glacier movements in an ice age. They are apparently composed of fine-grained loam and they cover about 200 miles from just north of Sioux City to the northwest corner of Missouri. We ran into more road construction here and detoured through another nice residential section of Sioux City before coming back down to a flat area again. We continued on a flat, straight county road all the way to Sloan, where our motel was. The road had no shoulder and a fair bit of traffic, but the Iowa drivers were immensely courteous, slowing down behind us when they couldn't pass easily. When we stopped for a break, a gentleman coming out of a side road asked if we were ok, then asked about where we were staying and gave us all sorts of information about the area for a few minutes before pulling off. We arrived at our motel at 4:15, having gone almost 62 miles in nearly 6-1/2 bike hours, a pitiful average for such a flat day.

We included a couple of pictures taken by our friendly couple from Chicago whom we met in Burke, SD. As promised, they emailed us the 2 pictures they took of us on our bike, one facing the sun and the other loooking the other way.

The University of South Dakota in Vermillion

Like all colleges, USD had a new building going up

Quiet Burbank Road, coming out of Vermillion

Wide fields stretching to the horizon...

And corn so close you could see the ears clearly

Coming into the town of Elk Point

A house with a rather inconveniently placed tree in the front yard

Downtown Elk Point...

with a building dated 1900 (we don't know what 100F stood for, though)

A flock of very cute sheep sitting very close to the road

Our first glimpse of the Iowa hills

A train waits near a large grain silo in North Jefferson

Close up of the concrete grain silos near Jefferson

An interesting historic marker

The house discussed in the marker

A barn being restored behind the house

A beautiful, old, brick church in Jefferson, with road contruction in front

The Iowa hills, across a field of soybeans

And the Nebraska hills, across another field fo soybeans

A truck with a load of 2 very long train tracks towed behind

The cars carrying just the 2 train tracks

Trying to give a sense of how long this train track was

Gateway Computers buildings have a familiar look to them

South Dakota's tribute to Iowa

Crossing the Big Sioux River

Our welcome into Iowa

Nice residential streets...

with pretty gardens...

and a large city park

Our bike path through the park

Riding along the Big Sioux River

The Big Sioux converges with the Missouri River

One mile away from the welcome center

Still following the Missouri

The path goes through a woody area

A steamboat was part of the river museum

The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center

The bridge over to Nebraska - it had a welcome sign!

Another view of the bridge to Nebraska

The memorial to Flight 232

An impressive park pavilion

The Iowa Loess Hills

The Missouri Valley behind them

The expensive housing development built near them...

with a horse in a corral

Back on flat roads...

with corn on one side...

and soybeans on the other - yep, this is Iowa!

A farm tractor on the road

A long, straight stretch of road

Grain silos, water tower, and stormy skies await us in Sloan

Our Burke, SD pictures by Dan & Ruth from Chicago