Wheatfield Near Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Biking Around Belle, Turtle Sundaes, and Mammatus Clouds
Mammatus Clouds Over Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Photograph by Robert Clements
Biking around Belle Fourche reminds me of the freedom I drank in as as an eleven-year old tomboy with braids and cut-up knees, banging along on my one-speed blue bicycle. I had no helmet, I rode anywhere by myself, and the uglification known as Spandex was but a stretch away in someone's imagination somewhere. If anyone was to ask me what my favorite gift of all time was, I would have to say that bike. My father wheeled it into the house as a complete surprise on my birthday and I can still recall my speechless state of wonder at its introduction into my life.
Now I ride a Schwinn crossover with about 24 speeds and I am, as I keep telling myself, in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. (A side note: Trying to make Betty in India, who was helping me with student loan changes, understand the spelling of Fourche versus the pronounciation [Foosh] was a trip in itself. We worked it out, but it wasn't pretty.) Anyway, Belle has several concrete connecting walking and biking paths known as the River Walk, so called because some of the paths parallel the Belle Fourche River.
Thursday night, I took the Schwinn out onto the streets. Noticed the thunderheads hovering over the town and took note. (Last blog - know your wind direction and act accordingly). I took off anyway, on a thigh-calf pumping exercise that turned into sheer joy, ears stopped up with Randy Newman's Dixie Flyer sandwiched between Diesel's Sausalito Summer Nights and Patti Scialfa's Spanish Dancer. I rode for about 45 minutes, and managed to avoid getting doused. I parked the bike and checked with Bob re: the weather. Coming our way or not? Not sure. I clipped a leash onto the dog's collar and stepped out, went down an alley, and watched the Christmas tree in Christmas Tree Park bend in half as a cold, possibly hail-laden wind plowed into the town. Rua and I hurried back into the gallery, to find Bob gathering his photographic equipment with a gleam in his eye.
"Truck? Storm?" Yes. Out we went, into the wind, with the dog and the camera equipment, and we drove to the top of a hill, and parked between radio towers and transformer stations, to watch the storm, which wasn't as bad as it could have been, at least where we were. Somewhere Else was pounded, but not Right Here. Again, that symphony of a sky, playing Night on Bald Mountain with lightning as cymbals crashing behind blackberry clouds, and occasionally snaking out to strike some unfortunate place at ground. We sat and watched and wowed for a while, and Bob took some shots, then I suggested that perhaps ice cream might be a great addition. The Dairy Queen was two blocks away - every place is two blocks away in Belle - and so we drove to the drive through and ordered turtle sundaes.
This always amuses us, because there is little else going on in tiny little Belle Fourche. Tearing it up at the Dairy Queen keeps us off the streets. Evidently, at least here in Belle, turtle sundaes come in a waffle-dish, and do not exist outside of those parameters. (Turtle sundaes are vanilla ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauce, with pecans.) We seem to confuse the drive-in clerk every time we order one. "In a waffle dish?" the voice crackled. "No, in a plastic dish", Bob said. Pause. "Chocolate or Hot Fudge?" Bob looked to me as the key decision maker in our duo. "Hot fudge," I said with a shrug. Many of my decisions are made with a shrug. Bob ordered hot fudge. The sundaes were made, without the waffle dish - hopefully the corporate angst was minimal - and we drove away from the window and parked near the Dairy Queen.
Dangling directly over the truck were several groupings of Mammatus clouds. Mammatus clouds, so called because they are shaped like breasts, are indicators that something wicked this way may be coming, probably in about a half hour or any second. But we sat and ate our turtle sundaes and shot photos of these beauties and Bob commented on how he'd never seen them so well-developed and ponderous. As time went on, they began to double up, looking more like Rocky Mountain oysters. They paraded across the sky like a rowdy Mardi-Gras parade and headed for Hoover. We finished our sundaes and drove home, pumped up with sugar and sauce and electricity, warmly alive in a Thursday night small-town summer night kind of way.
"What would have happened," Bob said later, "If we had ordered both chocolate and hot fudge?"