From Cheyenne, Gabby and I headed for South Dakota. From our experience, I can tell you straight up that the east side of Wyoming is incredibly boring. Medowie grasslands for as far as the eye can see in every direction. When you’re travelling at 50 mph (90 km/h) the distance is interminable. Thankfully Gabby and I had our Sena headsets and were able to chat and joke about the things we were seeing. From time to time looking for a potential campsite or looking at derelict buildings along the way.
As we rode in the heat to South Dakota I started getting itchy, in the worst way. I asked Gabby if she thought she got bitten by mosquitoes in the flea-bag motel we stayed in the night before. She said she hadn’t. Before long this itch became a little more serious and I had to pull over and scratch. My armpits, my scalp my feet, and all other warm areas on my body were now uncontrollably itchy. I was coming up in hives with pimples. I assumed it was an allergic reaction to something I had been exposed to.
When we arrived in Newcastle, we went straight for a pharmacist where I bought a tube of cortisone cream and covered myself in, in the parking lot. Stood half-naked rubbing cream into my hair, crotch, armpits, you name it! I then went back into the store to buy another 2 tubes of the stuff. I wasn’t comfortable!
We found somewhere near Custer to camp. I had a rough night, that night. I scratched myself until I bled in my sleep, and had a fever.
The next morning, Gabby and I went to find a pharmacy in Custer. The pharmacist who told us that she couldn’t sell me anything stronger than what I already had. She also urged us to go to hospital. This put a little spin on our plan to head to the Badlands that day.
Into Custer Regional Hospital We Go
Thankfully, the small hospital in Custer was not busy and I was soon attended to. After basically stripping off in-front of a couple of female doctors, feeling stinky and gross, very self-conscious of myself. Then having a few parts of my body examined thoroughly; I was informed that I had a rare and yet fatal illness!
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is a somewhat uncommon disease contracted by tick bites or contact with their excrement in open wounds. I had contracted RMSF when I had hiked up to the mountain in Grant a few days before. The doctor prescribed a bunch of drugs: steroids, antibiotics (Doxycycline, I had taken these in Africa for Malaria prevention) and 2 types of allergy medicines. I was lucky I caught it at this stage!
That day, we took ourselves to Mount Rushmore and then set up an early camp nearby. My joints had started to hurt and I wasn’t feeling so great. Maybe something to do with not having slept that well the night before.
The medication didn’t kick in for another few days, so I will spare you the moaning of the pain I was in.
Gabby and I the next day headed up to Badlands National Park, the heat was quite unbearable and the ride was rather flat and uneventful with the exception of seeing a bison, and posing on a bridge. I’m not sure what her expectations of the Badlands was to be, I had none.
We arrived at the national park and I was hoping than round the bends and and round the slopes something amazing would unfold. Alas, it was a mix of driving through a quarry or a scaled down grand canyon. I’m not sure if it was the heat, my crankiness from the medication or the lack of sleep but it was the most under whelming national park experience to date.
We had thought to do some hiking, maybe camp the night and do more hiking the next day. However, it was utterly underwhelming! We got half way through the park and turned off and headed back to Custer. I was feeling rather sick from the heat at this point. We found a lake on a map and camped in a picnic area that night.
That evening, I got in touch with Brian and Michelle who had presented at the Horizons Unlimited event and they invited us for breakfast the next morning. Michelle had to go to work but Brian could afford to spend a few hours with us and take us for a ride round Mt. Rushmore. The Iron Mountain road (Highway 16A) which is like a roller coaster with corkscrew bridges and tunnels that framed Mt. Rushmore was spectacular! If it were not for Brian, we would have never known about this road. Thanks Brian!
…And Back We Go
I had got in touch with yet another friend I had met at the Horizons Unlimited event: Tom. Tom, lived in Cheyenne and offered us a shower (it had been now a few days since we last washed). We met his huge rottweiler who was as soppy as she was big, and she pretty much wanted to wrestle us both to the ground with love. Tom then spoilt us to a steakhouse dinner before taking us to a camping spot he recommended for us. We could not have had a nicer host!
The ride to the campsite has to be the most awe-inspiring sunset I have ever seen! In fact, I questioned whether I had taken psychedelic drugs in the restaurant. Literally, my brain was exploding all over the place. Sadly, Tom was riding far too fast for me to tell him to slow down or stop. Gabby and I later reminisced about how epic that sunset was as a subtle consolation. I guess in a way, I’m glad I didn’t get to photograph it. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as impressive as the real thing!