We rolled into South Dakota early in the morning, day 171 and it had just been pounded by a thunderstorm that had dropped nearly golf ball sized hail.

I have a very special relationship with the town of Custer SD from days gone by (spitting distance from Mt Rushmore and home of the Black Hills climbing apex) and even though we were trying to keep moving east, I couldn’t drive right through town without saying hi to an old friend who I met there on my first cross country trip in 2008.

I was psyched for Rob to meet my friend “Rock” who runs the best RV park and campground west of the Mississippi because as two wild men with precocious senses of humor they were sure to hit it off.

They did.

Rock added his name to the Dragon Wagon and we headed out. We debated stopping to climb in the black hills but we wanted to keep moving. We were looking for easier climbing right on the way, having gone harder the previous two days.

We found it. Say what you will about the aesthetics of “buildering” but it was way fun traversing back and forth on the building facade, making up different challenges and sequences. It stimulates my creativity because I have to “see” routes where there are none. In urban areas there are some who pursue this sub-genre of climbing more frequently.
In non-mountainous areas it has proven to be a fun way to get some climbing in and change things up a bit!

Fast forward a few hours. It’s 90 degrees out and we have been a bit hypnotized by miles and miles of grasslands. We are making good time considering we are in a car that can barely approach the speed limit, let alone break it.

Sioux Falls is just ahead of us and we are discussing where to stop for the night. I suggest Devils Lake Wisconsin which is one of the premier climbing areas of the Midwest. Moments later the car completely loses power. I heard a pop sound followed by a harsh vibration.

Initially I thought it was a blown tire. Rob eased the car over onto the shoulder where it rolled to a stop at mile marker 368 as the sun was setting on fields of grass as far as the eye could see.