The Magic Kingdom AKA Needles Highway
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.
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