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.