Black Hills to Spearfish

I’ve now just about completed South Dakota – new state tomorrow. Coming out of the badlands I struggled along an ever-deteriorating dirt road out of the park, briefly watching prairie dogs scurry around their massive colonies and chirp alarm calls as I passed and waiting for a pair of bison to cross the road. The next day, just after it began to rain more steadily than it ever had even in Pennsylvania, I ran into bike tourists #12-16 – two groups who had just met each other and we’re heading east, separately but both coast to coast. I was able to share some route recommendations and learned of the next available shelter – a country store about 15 miles down the road. I ended up spending a good hour or more in there, eating pizza and drinking tea and waiting for the rain to pass. The owner told me about the Sturgis motorcycle rally, when 100,000 bikers from around the country congregate in the Black Hills to do whatever it is they do. She seemed to object morally to the fact that hoteliers double their prices during that week. 

My phone also made a miraculous recovery after getting a bit wet – it’s screen did freaky things I’d never seen before and I was already resigning myself of shelling out hundreds fora new one, but somehow it restored itself and seems to be working as well as ever now. 

I rode far too many miles around Rapid City to stock up things that are hard to find but that I’m sure I’ll start seeing all over the place now – mainly camping stove fuel. Then huffed up a major hill to a Warmshowers host with a fantastic view. When I first was riding to a Warmshowers back in PA, another tourist with me and with much more experience told me that the bigger the hill a host lives on, the more worth it it is.

The Black Hills are the first true mountains you’ll encounter heading west from the plains. A granite core was uplifted through limestone layers and has resulted in huge canyons, making the whole thing feel just a little like the Sinai, only with trees and water. It’s also conveniently traversed, north to south, by a very well-surfaced rail trail. This has the most extreme grades I’ve ever seen on a rail trail; I actually spent s lot of time coasting.  This is relative, of course. Once I left the trail I was immediately hit with a real climb. I’m certainly in the West now, even by Aunt Elizabeth’s standards. 

Last night I was hoping to find a good spot to camp in the national forest land along the trail, but there were literally no patches of flat ground not fenced off in private property. Then k ran into bike tourist #17. He turned out to be a guy whose Username I recognized from various internet bike touring forums. I think he may have given me route advice this spring. He was from a town in Wyoming I will be passing. I also received a 1995 map of Wyoming which between its battered condition and its beautiful relief drawings of the  mountains is so aesthetically pleasing that I will not be able to bring myself to throw it away once I reach Idaho. 

Camping being a near impossibility, I stopped in Rochford (population 9) for dinner at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon, est. 1990. I was invited to camp on a little rise behind the building where an ancient pickup truck and another tent were already waiting. The tent was to be occupied by the owners’s grandson, who was aiming for his first night sleeping in a tent alone. He has bailed out the previous night, either from the cold or from fears of mountain lions or something. I didn’t check in the morning to see if he’d made it through the challenge. I told him he was supposed to be on mountain lion duty. 

I wound up hanging out in the bar for the evning chatting with locals and visitors so regular they were almost locals. I may have been the only person in thre who hadn’t known The owners for years. I missed the opportunity to enter w raffle for a Garmin GPS (in case my old one ever actually dies) or several rifles. I also sadly missed a jam session which runs every Sunday afternoon since at least a decade ago. Your timing has to be quite lucky to take in every life experience on a trip like this. 

Today after leaving the rail trail, I had a true Western-style route, my first. I climbed hard for about an hour, then descended for 20+ miles down the incredible Spearfish Canyon. I’m looking forward to many more such descents, if not to the climbs that precede them. 

Tomorrow, Wyoming and Devil’s Tower!

No wifi so I will attempt to upload a very few photos. Now that the scenery is great, it’s going to get much harder to select a small number for this blog. I do plan, maybe this winter, in putting together a more complete trip write up with more photos, as I did for the Israel Trail. 

Finally, a blurb I once found on an Internet forum and just rediscovered in my email. I, at least, found it funny and pertinent. 

Honor and Keep thine journal up to date with Words and Tales, lest ye forget ye Small Deedes of ye day and later weep as all is lost in the shifting Mysts of Tyme.

Harken to my words, for yonder Dogge cannot be trusted, have thine pepper Spraye at the ready to halt foul miscreants.

Yea, Even though ye go to the Ends of the Earth itself for the Very Beste in Gear, yet still shall ye lust after ye Newest Gadget, and ye shall weep and moan and gnash thy teeth that it is not yet thine.

If thou dost encounter a Flat Tyre, then it is said that Always, this Shall occur on the busiest, dustiest part of Road imaginable.

Verily I say unto thee, Ye Shall Always stop and Hail thy fellow bicycle travelers as they approach ye from ye opposite direction, and trade Tales of Woe and Wonder about what is to come.

Even as thy Tour is like unto a Descent into Hell itself, yet still shall thee look back upon it with increasing fondness as Tyme passes ye by.

And it was said unto the crowd, “Ye shall Never share Pie while on ye Velocipede Odyssey, for it is an Abomination in mine Eye… also, Pass ye Ice Creame, and quick unto it now”.

Behold and mark my Words, for Locals shall always Mislead and Deceive thee with their tales of “it’s all flat” and “yea, verily it be only a couple of miles”.

Ye Wind Shall Always Blow Against Ye, No Matter Which Way Ye Be Pedaling – care ye not to Question this, for so it has been Written.

Thou shalt always visit ye Poste Office within Days of starting thy Trippe, for ye purpose of sending crappe that ye thought was Essential back Home.


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