We left Custer in the early morning chill and climbed Sylvan Lake Road through mixed pine and birch forest, headed for Custer State Park and Needles Highway. My YouTube uplink is not working so still pictures may have to suffice until I can upload video.Words alone do not suffice.
Once out of The Needles, it was a beautiful and swift descent back to earth on perfect asphalt and banked curves. From there it was on to Iron Mountain Road and views of Mt Rushmore. There were not a lot of opportunities to stop and take pictures, as this sign may explain:
It was a slow but beautiful climb (900 vertical feet) to the Norbeck Overlook, where I met two families from Wisconsin. I followed one of them down the other side and they were kind enough to pull over and let me pass when they realized they were slowing me down. I had earned that descent and didn’t really want to ride the brakes all the way down.
I had stopped for snacks a few times on the way, as our picnic was not until mile 48. We sat in rockers on the porch of a store just uphill from Cripple Creek Ranch.
As usual, the ride changed after picnic. We rode on fresh chipseal. Climbing on fresh chipseal is not fun; descending is worse. You pick your line, avoiding the loose gravel. generally there are two lines available, where car tires have beaten the gravel into the surface. Sometimes only one works, so there is some moving back and forth through the danger zone of loose gravel between the lines. Our cue sheet said we would turn onto “fresh blacktop”. A number of people let the router know that freshly-oiled chipseal is not the same as fresh blacktop. I decided I did not need to add my voice to the chorus – especially since the Trail Boss was one of those voices.
While we ended the day 1700 feet lower than we started, we climbed 5600 feet in the process. The day ended with an ugly ride into Rapid City – first a steep climb on a busy freeway, then a long ride into town through sprawl, followed by a busy multi-lane urban street with no shoulder. With a tailwind I was almost able to keep to the 30 mph speed limit to feel safe. Once the limit dropped to 25 I held the speed limit into camp. Riding at 25-30 mph in urban traffic after riding through paradise and climbing 5600 feet was one way to cap off the day.
in honor of Bastille Day and Mt Rushmore, a word from our sponsor.
Every year about this time we round up the usual suspects and head for the hills (Baraboo, that is).
The usual breakfast spot closed early in the pandemic. Last year we ate at home. This year Our Fearless Leader went one better. He has a friend on the route, on a tiny road off of a town road. We gathered there for a breakfast that couldn’t be beat (3 kinds of quiche [“quickie” to GW Bush, if you know that old joke], bacon, bagels, coffee, and mimosas) and waited until the sun warmed things a bit. We rode the usual route (the ferryless variant), just from a different spot. It’s a circle, so we could theoretically start anywhere.
Our usual lunch spot is now closed Mondays (probably another pandemic casualty), so we went for choice #2, which we’d always rejected as too expensive. It is a distillery with a great patio overlooking the Baraboo River. Alas, the bar still opens at 11 AM on Monday, but the kitchen is closed. (If you’re not from around here you might wonder why the bar has to open that early if there’s no food. If you’re from around here, that doesn’t need an answer.) Choice #3 was a diner with outside seating. It was a beautiful day to eat outside. The diner, due to staff shortages, was not serving outside and there was a 30 minute wait for a table inside – both the wait and the table inside were no-gos, so we ended up at a supermarket deli and ate on the lawn of the Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce. (Baraboo is home to the Circus World Museum and former home of the Ringling Brothers.)
We added a new rider this year – Cowboy Bob. Below is his steed.
In the morning we rode through Sauk Prairie – the former Badger Army Ordnance Works now being restored by 4 owners – the Ho-Chunk Nation, WI Dept of Natural Resources, USDA Dairy Forage Research Center, and Bluffview Sanitary District. Less than half of the land is open to the public, but that leaves >3000 acres to explore via rustic roads and trails. The land formerly produced ammunition for WW II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. That left a lot to clean up when it was decommissioned. Part of the Badger Army Ordnance Works’ claim to infamy is that at the turn of the new year 1969-70, the New Year’s Gang “borrowed” a plane from a nearby airfield and attempted to bomb the site to stop them from building munitions for the war in Vietnam. While the bombing failed, it is alleged that the same group bombed the Army Mathematics Research Center later in 1970. (excerpt from “Half-fast Fall Ride”, October 7, 2020.)
From the prairie we headed to Devil’s Lake. “At the time when white trappers, then settlers were moving into the area, they learned from the local Ho-Chunk people that their name of the lake was Tewakącąk whichroughly translated, meant “Sacred lake”. Sometimes this was also interpreted as “spirit” or “holy” lake. So you can see how with a little misunderstanding, and most likely some prejudice as well, the name “Devil’s Lake” came to be. While the Ho-Chunk considered the lake sacred space, those early European turned toward something more sinister.” (Devil’s Lake State Park Area Visitor Guide) I would take that a step further to say that anything sacred that was not christian was deemed the work of the devil.
We stopped to wade in the lake before tackling the switchbacks up through the quartzite bluffs – favored by many rock climbers in the area. My jacket went to a jersey pocket for the climb and stayed there the rest of the day.
The route back after lunch was shorter. Our usual route is 30 morning miles and 25 afternoon miles. The afternoon makes up for the lack of distance by adding a lot more hills. After 44 miles, TM told us he had an extra loop that would add three miles. Most of us joined him. Three turned into six. The long 40 mph downhill made it worthwhile – but we paid for it with a 300 foot climb on gravel (fresh chipseal of the sort that is just pea gravel spread on the road in hopes that vehicle tires will grind it into the pavement before it washes away – no oil, no tar) to get back up to the road we had been on. After 51 miles we were back where we started with time for wine and hors d’oeuvres before the sun sank behind the hills.