Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dennis and Kiki
To the Rescue

The morning had started out so promisingly. It was chill - there was frost on the ground, on the autumn leaves. It was still dark when I set out for my run, and the stars were stark and bright, gleefully disregarding the sliver of moon's eager but diminished glow.

Anyway nevermind all that. Before long I pulled a muscle in my calf and walked home.

After work I decided to go for a road ride to make up for the morning's unsuccessful workout.

I realized I'd forgotten my saddle bag with my road tools in my friend's car on my last road ride. I didn't want to take the time to go to the bike shop, as light fades fast these days, and I thought I could chance it because probably I wouldn't get a flat, right? But then I decided hope for the best but plan for the worst, I'd rather take 10 minutes to swing by the bike shop than have to walk-a-bike ten miles.

As it turns out it didn't matter because when I got the flat I looked at my CO2 cartridge only to discover in my haste I'd grabbed one with the wrong head - it wouldn't fit on my valve. Turns out that's an important detail. Who knew.

So there I was. On a beautiful Black Hills back road on a golden autumn evening with a broke down bike being scolded by a squirrel for loitering beneath his tree can it, squirrel, it's not like I stopped here on purpose. As you seem more mobile than I at the moment, why don't YOU move or come down here and help. Then he was all no YOU move and I was like YOU and so it went until someone pulled over and was like "Um can I help you?" and I was all I'M TALKING TO THIS RIGID SELFISH SQUIRREL DO YOU MIND and the guy looked concerned and mildly frightened as he pealed away. The squirrel snickered and I threw my tire lever at him and he sniffed, affronted, and finally scampered on.

Jaralei 1, Selfish Squirrel 0. Boo ya.

Then I realized I'd have to buy another tire lever and also maybe I'm not getting enough sleep and how long has it been since I've had a day off, again? Too long. Also evidenced when earlier in the day a customer had said "Have a great weekend!" and I was like "HEY F*CK YOU, BUDDY!"

OK none of that happened but I was stranded alongside the road with the starburst sun setting and an evening breeze cooling the sweat on my skin when a couple stopped and rolled down the windows of their beat up SUV and asked if I needed assistance. "As it turns out, I do. I have the wrong air" I said, which wasn't really what I meant to say and the guy was like "Really? What kind of air d'you need?"

They had a big dirty dog in the back but said if I'd wait they lived just up the road they'd unload the dog and the groceries and come back for me. "I'll be here", I said. "We'll come back," they said, "we will."

They were plain, scruffy, homely, simple backwoods true blue South Dakotans.
You know the type.

I put on my jacket and sat aside the bike and occasionally cars went by and most of them stopped to ask if I were OK because it is, after all, South Dakota. For a moment I thought I could hop in with anyone but then the first two might worry. Because I knew they'd come back, like they said.

For a moment I thought about being upset, about my trying hard to get into shape and being thwarted on my run that morning and thwarted now on my ride this evening but then discarded that as a useless line of thinking and besides the evening was lovely.

When they did come back we loaded up my bike and I climbed into the back and we chatted about the nice fall weather for a minute or two and this or that and how much we all loved the Black Hills, in any season. And then the man said he'd lived in Hill City all his life and how he'd hiked everywhere. Dennis his name was, Dennis and Kiki, was her name.

When Dennis talked he sometimes turned all the way around to look full at me, for much longer than I was comfortable with him taking his eyes off the road. But I suppose when you've driven that road for your entire life you just know the way, taking the turns by feel.

In his enthusiasm, which was a great thing to behold, Dennis didn't just nod his head, he nodded with his head and his shoulders and his entire torso, up and down up and down he bobbed "Absolutely! Absolutely!" he'd say.

We got to talking about the mines when I said I enjoyed hiking and finding the old mines and he bobbed up and down and up and down and said "Absolutely!" and Kiki agreed and for every mine I mentioned that I knew, they knew two or three I'd never even heard of, or called by name ones I'd come across that I'd always wondered about. And when I said I liked Ingersol, that it was one of my favorites, Dennis bobbed and said "Oh yeah, I used to visit my Dad when he worked at that mine."

(this one, the Ingersol:)

"What?!" I exclaimed. "What?! You were at the Ingersol when it was operational?!" I couldn't believe mine ears. "What...what was it like?" "Big," Dennis said, "big and loud."

And when I asked about Lou, the last gold panner in the Hills, they said yes they knew him and that all that stuff Lou had had, the old mining stuff he'd "acquired", they had now. "You mean...Lou's dead?" I asked. "Yes," they said. "He died a month ago. Very sad."

(This one - Lou, the last gold panning miner in the Hills):

RIP, Lou, I regret not going back to gold pan with you, as invited
And they talked about the local calenders and coins they had from 1923, and the mining equipment and rocks all around their property, and how much the Hills have changed over the years.

By the end of the twelve mile drive back to Keystone we were fast friends and exchanging phone numbers and promises that as soon as I get a day off I can call them up and they'll show me all their old treasures and take me exploring.

All in all it was a great break down. I texted Tim while I was sitting there by the road and later told him it had all worked out for the best because I'd met some great people and he said "You always seem to do that" and at first I wondered what he meant and then I remembered Lusk and smiled to think how my "disappointing" break downs do seem to have such refreshing endings.

I can't help but think how fortunate I was to break down on Old Hill City Road today, and that of all people at all times these two happened by. I can't wait to hang out with Dennis and Kiki and hear more of their stories of these Hills I love and the way things used to be.

Stay tuned, I'm sure there will be further posts in the Dennis and Kiki adventure series.
I hope.

Maybe I should break down even more often.

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