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.

4th of July

Notice how this is the only holiday we refer to specifically by its date? Why is that? 5 de Mayo is also referred to that way, but not in English.

So here I am, in the great and sprawling west. 4th of July out here makes me think of US history, westward expansion, and manifest destiny. If you have 10 minutes to spare (9:15 to be exact), here is a better history lesson than I had in school – more accurate and more entertaining to boot. “Temporarily Humboldt County” by the Firesign Theater. Listen to it. I’ll wait.

 

Some years ago I spent the 4th at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. I took some great pictures but, due to software incompatibility, I may not see them again. (Don’t ya like how we were sold the idea of digital photography so we could keep our pictures forever with no need for restoration? I have 100 year old photos of my house but can’t recover 12 year old digital photos.

The memorial was begun in 1948. There is no estimated completion date. It is all privately funded. For comparison, Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve and Crazy Horse’s face is 50% larger than the Mt Rushmore faces.

from crazyhorsememorial.org
from Atlas Obscura – model of finished sculpture (foreground), actual sculpture (background)

On the porch of our lodge in Deadwood, the evening of July 3, 2006, my son improvised a mournful viola solo which became the basis for the adagio movement of his “String Trio in G”. He completed the movement for a summer composition project. It was dedicated to one of his academic mentors, Ted Widerski, who died while we were on that trip. That project moved him to alter his career plan from composition to orchestral conducting. Next month I’ll have a link to a live performance of his orchestra, so you can see where that led. If you can’t wait that long, here is a performance from a few years ago of Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”.

Aside to the conductor: Did you know you were born on the anniversary of Samuel Barber’s death?

In July of 1976 (the US Bicentennial) I rode the Sparta to Elroy bike trail. I saw a sight that seemed to embody the spirit of the US to me. There, in the trail, side-by-side, were two vending machines – one for Coke and one for Pepsi. I took a picture that was to be the start of a photo essay called “Freedom is…”. I never completed the project because satire became superfluous the day I saw a two page centerspread ad in the daily paper. There were red, white, and blue bunting across the top of the page, stars sprinkled (liberally?) about, and the giant header “The Great American Buycentennial“. I don’t remember what they were selling. For those who were around in 1976 you likely remember the grotesque attempts to cash in.

I’ll leave you with one last bit of Americana. While I may have quibbles with the tempo, who am I to question the New York Philharmonic?

They don’t call it Wind River for nothin’

We spent the day crossing and recording the Wind River, riding through its valley. Here is my friend Keith’s song “Wind River Crossing”

We rode out of Dubois with the same 25 mph tailwind with which we entered. At our first water stop the wind shifted and we spent the middle half of the ride pushing through a strong headwind.

We entered Riverton to darkening skies and increasing winds. It is blowing about 40 mph now. Pitching tents has been fun. The sun is out but the wind shows no sign of abating.

This was supposed to be a recovery ride between yesterday’s 17 mile climb and Thursday’s steep climb to over 9600 feet and 94 total miles. We were supposed to be riding downhill with a tailwind. C’est la vie.

Early on we rode through beautiful red rock canyons.

We spent a few hours riding toward an isolated butte. I kept wondering when I should stop for a picture. Shortly after I did so, I came upon a historical marker.

The butte is Crowheart Butte, so called because, after defeating the Crow in a battle for the surrounding land, the Shoshone chief is said to have displayed the heart of one of the Crow warriors on the point of his lance. The town of Crowheart is nearby.

For an alternative view of this ride, see Terrysspokereport.blogspot.com. While we are all on the same route, we each have our own ride.