Bastille Day

Today is Bastille Day, a turning point in the French Revolution of 1789. If you’re in Madison, WI, it also marks Le Fete de Marquette, which is already in progress.

Some days I forget this is a bike blog and not a music blog, but Bastille Day calls for some French music. Here is Jacques Brel, in a performance that inspired my son to sing this with the the UW Black Music Ensemble, under the direction of the incomparable Richard Davis.

More specific to Bastille Day, from the play Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss, a medley by Judy Collins, which was my introduction to the work.

On a more personal level, it is my 25th wedding anniversary. More of you know my anniversary as September 11, but I got married twice (in the same year, to the same person – it’s a long story that has to do with the US healthcare system [if you can call it a system, but that’s a topic for another blog]).

As I mentioned on her birthday, our first date was to see Los Lobos at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. I was impressed by how urbane she was when she said we should take a cab home, not something a small-town boy like me did very often. I was impressed again when she put two fingers in her mouth and let out an ear-splitting whistle to hail a cab. It worked.

La Fete de Marquette inexplicably features Los Lobos this year, so I have another excuse to link to them:

At our wedding, my friend Keith sang my favorite wedding song, by one of my favorite singer/songwriters (along with Keith himself), Kate Wolf.

And today my niece is getting married, so this song is for Abby and Dustin, too. Mazel Tov! Since I’m about 500 miles short and in an earlier time zone, I probably won’t make it to the wedding. Maybe they can Facetime me so I can be there.

I forgot I had this post cued up, so today’s ride notes are separate. Due to the weaknesses of the phone version of this software, I can’t seem to combine the two posts – and connection problems make me fear I’d lose it all trying. So you will see two posts today. The other one coming in 5 minutes.

Jekyll and Hyde

It was another Jekyll and Hyde day. Fast and easy in the morning, a slog in the afternoon.

We spent the night at the Rapid City Fairgrounds (camped outside the Fine Arts Building). They turn their dead trees into sculptures. Here are two of them and a candidate for future work.

There was a Rotary Club picnic nestled between the two halves of our campsite. I chatted with some Rotarians – the first group were fascinated and amazed by us – then I found the storytellers.

I talked with two divers – one headed for Palau, and another who may not still be diving but was full of stories. He has lived all over the country and in Australia (Navy) and told of his near-death experience diving at the wrong time of year in Haunama Bay on Oahu.

This gives me a handy excuse to link to Jake Shimabukuro:

Since the ukulele is currently popular, you owe it to yourself to hear someone really play it. Jake will be on the West Coast this month, then the East Coast. On September 24 he’ll be at the Overture Center in Madison, WI (per the Overture Center) or at the Capitol Theatre in Davenport, Iowa (per his website).

We left Rapid City on an expressway with fast commuter (?) traffic. I wasted no time getting out of town, riding at a steady 24 mph until I was past the airport, then backed off a bit.

We rode through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland (the name appears ironic, as it was mostly barren) and skirted the Badlands. We’ll see more of the Badlands tomorrow.

The first photo is sort of a “mini-badland”. That flat-topped area in the foreground is less than 10 feet tall. The second photo is up close and personal with a wall next to the highway.

It was a fast morning, cool and cloudy, with favorable winds. After our picnic (they don’t like to call it lunch – today it was at 9:30 AM) stop in Scenic, SD, everything changed.

We faced a 20 mph headwind and blazing sun for the next 30 miles into Interior, SD. We’re now ensconced in a campground at the edge of town – with a population of 67, pretty much everything is the “edge of town”.

The campground has a store, so I had a bottled (Dunkin’ Donuts) latte on arrival and a “Knuckle Head Red” (from the Knuckle Brewing Company in Sturgis) after setting up camp and taking a shower. (Truth be told, I’m drinking it now.)

It rained overnight in Rapid City, so I had to dry stuff out before setting up camp – being windy has its benefits.46A99579-FF42-43AB-AC0C-6D28D6877EDC

This last photo will probably be appreciated only by plumbers. It is the urinal in the campground. In the space of a few inches it includes iron pipe, copper tubing, and a brass fitting. The flush valve is a valve from a bubbler (drinking fountain to you foreigners). It is not particularly straight. I chose not to replumb it;)81CD5A62-BDC8-4A73-A26B-BC209FFEE4A0

The sky is slowly filling with clouds. More rain may be on the way.

I take it back – rain isn’t “on the way”. While proofreading this, rain appeared suddenly. I ran to put the rainfly on the tent and stash everything that was out to dry inside before it got wetter. I took my laundry down and then realized that the tin-roofed shelter I’m under is full of holes.

Just as suddenly, the rain has stopped. I’ll rehang the laundry, but I think everything else will stay in the tent.

What planet are we on?

We started today with a gentle climb through mixed aspen, birch, and pine forest.

It doesn’t look like we’re climbing, but I need to look to make sure my tires aren’t flat and I’m not dragging a sea anchor. As our elevation approaches 6000 feet I see on the cue sheet we are about to climb 1.1 miles. I’m not sure what he thinks we’ve been doing for the last 5 1/2 miles. A half mile later it becomes clear. Before this we’ve just been going up, now we’re actually climbing. When I run out of gears, it’s obvious. (Dictated at the time; that’s why it’s in present tense.)

We rode up Needles Highway, where I overheard, “What planet are we on?” It was an otherworldly landscape. Rocky  spires rose everywhere, coming right to the edge of the road. The road itself was possibly the most beautiful pavement I have ever seen, a narrow, barely 2 lane ribbon of flawless asphalt, too narrow for trucks or RVs, just big enough for regular cars. 

I could have spent the whole day there. Someday it would be great fun to take that entire road at speed, were it closed to all other traffic. I would first want to ride it slowly at least 10 more times to enjoy the scenery.

We had to share a narrow tunnel with a family of mountain goats.8E0B6FD6-EE56-459F-BA36-1A1969357EA5EA878547-4F03-4202-AC81-A28018A9C3F8

This could have been a day trip – ride up to the Needles Highway, ride it a couple of times, get out and walk around, go back to where we started.08EA9391-C169-43B1-9CC9-6105D448E3390DA0BF2E-8EA9-42E1-A72D-56C3922F81AB

But it was only the beginning. Next up was Iron Mountain Highway. A small sign announced how may switchbacks were to come. I didn’t bother to take a picture, nor to count them.

Iron Mountain Highway also boasts “pigtail bridges”, wooden bridges that create a helix, so you ride over the bridge, then curl around and ride under it – like a freeway off ramp in miniature, and built of logs. (Difficult to see in the image below, but the road curls back under the bridge.)5FC514C7-6436-41B3-94A7-E285FE90B8A505898052-B182-437B-B3C9-22A10513209E

We climbed the mountain and had a view of Mt Rushmore. It was an up and down day, over 5000 feet of climbing, but way too much fun to be of any concern. This may have been our last foray over 6000 feet.

In Keystone we saw a rare sight – a telephone booth. Also bison grazing by the roadside.

Food deserves a mention – last night’s dinner in Custer was from a caterer in Rapid City. It included a spinach/artichoke lasagne and focaccia bread. Lunch today (from our staff) featured risotto and pesto bread. We’ll have the same caterer for the next two nights. This also gives me an excuse to show you the catering truck from Gillette; as you can see, it is rather large.F244C46B-8BBB-4AA8-B17E-84DC82C90E0C

The route into Rapid City was bad enough that the boss apologized for it. It was miserable (long climb, headwind, busy highway) but not enough to ruin the day.

Do gravel miles count double?

 

Monday night I drifted off to sleep to the soft patter of raindrops on the tent, punctuated occasionally by thunder and lightning in the distance. We were sleeping at the “top of the world” as it’s known in Lead, SD.

Lead-Deadwood High School is on a hilltop overlooking the town and the field is 88 iron steps above that. We were told the stars would be fabulous up there, but the clouds never parted.

The day started by retracing our steps from the day before – a screaming descent through town followed by a 2.5 mile climb. I barely touched the pedals before the climb began, so there wasn’t much warmup.

At mile nine there was a beautiful alpine meadow on the right @6000 feet – the kind that makes you want to kick off your shoes and run barefoot – made even better by the gentle descent and sweeping curves, making for an effortless glide.

The meadow was followed by rolling hills through mixed pine and birch forest.

We headed into the hamlet of Rochford, highlighted by the “Small of America” and  the “Moonshine Gulch Saloon”.

We then left the pavement for 10+ miles of gravel National Forest road. Someone with a sense of humor posted a sign reading “Rough Road Next 2.2 Miles”. I couldn’t discern a difference between those 2.2 miles and those before and after.

10+% grades are harder (both up and down) on gravel, but the scenery was great!

It was eerily quiet when we returned to pavement without the crunching of gravel under the tires.

Lunch was at a trailhead at the base of a steep descent (stopping for lunch ruining the momentum) and was followed by  steep climb.

We rolled into the town of Hill City, full of tourists. After a stop for ice cream we were back on the road. The weather had been perfect all day – mixed sun and clouds keeping it cool, wind not an issue.

Everything changed after Hill City. The final 15 miles were brutal.

We were back on a high speed highway, which was under construction. There were lane closures and areas with no shoulder. The new pavement featured transverse grooving, which gave car tires a high-pitched whine as they rolled along inches from us.

The wind was 15-20 mph and a headwind.  The sun was out in full with the temperature around 90. There were multiple climbs as I crawled along at 6 mph with traffic at 10 times my speed.

I didn’t stop at the Crazy Horse Memorial – I wanted to be off the road and not have to get back on it. (The monument is in the distance in the photo at the right. On the left is the view when I just had to pull off the road for a minute when I needed a break from the traffic.)

I considered a stop for a beer in Custer before heading to the school on the edge of town, but didn’t have a lock and didn’t feel safe leaving my bike unattended there.

Tomorrow has been described as “epic” and “classic”. Today I’d describe as “the best of times, the worst of times.”

Question: Why are the Black Hills, rising to over 7000 feet, “hills” and not “mountains”?

Since uploading appears to be much smoother today, I’ll end with some of the photos I couldn’t  upload yesterday.