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Local Rider's Journal 7-6-98


Hi friends and family -

I'm still here in room 814 of the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City nursing my terrible case of the flu and thinking of all of the riding I missed today and will miss tomorrow, and all of the pictures. Tomorrow I'm going to catch up with the Big Ride as they move from Kadoka to Fort Pierre, South Dakota. I'm getting a ride with a local Rapid City woman who offers an excursion service in conjunction with a cab company. There is no bus, boat, train or plane between here and there. Nor is it possible to rent a car one way for this trip. At least with a car and driver I might be able to retrace the bike route and take some pictures as we pass through the Badlands. My body tells me that I should spend another day or two in bed recovering from this flu but by then the ride would be so far away - they're doing a hundred miles every day now - that driving would become prohibitive and I would have to wait until they get near a city with an airport and fly to catch up. I refuse to be away from the ride that long or to miss that much of the US of A.

I was just now called to the window by a train's whistle as it passed by only a block away - right through the heart of downtown Rapid City. Many of the little towns in our odyssey are bisected by railroad tracks. Billings, Montana was notably such a town, a perfect setting for a William S. Burroughs piece with its old hotels, freight yards and blocks of warehouses stretching for miles between surrounding bluffs. Our cycling routes often follow the "old roads" next to the train tracks. Hundred-car trains pass every few minutes. What memories they evoke, taking me back to some of the fondest times of my childhood such as visits to the tiny burg of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, also a railroad town, home of my mom's parents, my Grandma and Grandpa Kistler. They lived in a three story brick row house with a large front porch painted in the cream and dark green German style - almost identical to one on the Warner Bros. back lot. I often slept in a room on the front of the third floor overlooking the street. At night as I drifted off to sleep I could hear trains many miles distant lumbering toward Lebanon with their cargos of coal to feed smoky furnaces still used by most homes in that area . Whistles howled as the trains slowed through town, then massive diesel engines whined in unison as they accelerated off into the distance, dispersing behind them a mighty rumble persisting for many minutes until it gave way to sounds of the night air. There was a curvy wooden table radio by the bed - one which received only AM and did not hold a station very well. Its sound was muffled in a most pleasant way, as if covered by carpet. As it drifted from station to station it pulsed a syncopated rhythm of program and static - like muddy chords and thunks from a toothless old player piano. Car headlights from the street below cast bold, fantastic patterns on the ceiling. They moved slowly at first, then swept across the room in a flash, projecting objects in giant black perspective like a sci-fi comic book. I would lie there for hours in a dream state, cozy and comfortable yet hyperalert - the air in the room crackling with the energy of the night's huge distortion of daytime's everyday sights and sounds.

The attached file gte7-6.jpg is the second story and sign of the Elks Theatre across the street from the Hotel Alex Johnson.



(Updated 07/29/98)

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