- Custer to Rapid City, SD
- 66.5 miles (1742 total)
- 4732′ gain
- 3 tire changes before 1 mile out
- HOT! It broke 100°
Have you ever had a day when you can tell from the start that things are going to be challenging? My cold was making me hack up parts of my lungs, I spilled my oatmeal, and things just didn’t seem right. The last thing we do every day before we leave is to check the air pressure in the tires. It’s supposed to be 100, but it usually drops to 90-95 overnight. Front tire, just perfect. Rear tire, 20 psi. Ouch. I was having that kind of a day.
Better to change it where I have a floor pump to finish the job, so while all the other riders left, I swapped out the rear tube. Once again I couldn’t find the leak, but I put in a new tube anyway. Better to be safe. We were the last ones (except for the Smith-Osbornes) out of the parking lot at 7:30. We rode 1 mile when the rear tire popped and went flat. It had a 3″ slit where the seam failed. OK. Change the tire. Pump it with my little tiny bike pump. Breathe deeply. Reinstall tire. Put pannier and trunk back on. Get ready to take bike off kickstand. Pop. Ssssssssss. It’s flat again. Arrgggghh.
The tube had exactly the same failure as the last tube. Another tube change. This time our friends from England showed up and helped me pump it up. Thanks, Alex! It was after 8 when we actually started riding again. Reminding ourselves that the road was nice, the day was nice, the breeze was nice, we let go of the morning’s consternations. It was easy to get sucked up in nature’s beauty there in Custer State Park. Our first miles took us on the Old Needles Highway. It is a narrow winding road through forests and granite outcroppings. Every time we came around a corner, there was something wonderful to see. Rock spires crowned ridges and beckoned climbers. The road twisted through tiny tunnels to open onto spectacular panoramas. We caught many people from our group because everyone was taking pictures and being awe-struck.
The road dropped sharply, twisting snake-like through the countryside. This was a great payback for all the climbing we’d already done. A water stop, some more visiting. One rider was awaiting a sag because her bike wasn’t working properly. Two others were discussing buying food at the general store for lunch, since they wanted to visit Rushmore and the lunch stop would be closed by the time they got there. Still the road wound down.
The expected climb finally arrived. But it wasn’t unending. It would level out, then maybe descend, before turning back up. Cars were all in tourist mode, gawking at the scenery or occasional antelope. So they were passing slowly and giving us plenty of space. The roads were very narrow, so that was nice.
We came over a rise and spied Mt. Rushmore in the distance. Now we could see the subject of all our efforts. It was about then the road turned up steadily. The sun bore down on us when we left the shades of the trees. then the road was so steep we had 5 switchbacks to take us to the top. One more glance at the monument and then it was lunch time. Only 7 miles away, mostly downhill.
There were 3 “pig-tail” turns where the road turned in a circle, crossing under itself to descend. There were so many motorcycles going so slowly, that we caught them and had to brake most of the way down. Oh the horrors of traveling down at a mere 25 mph.
After our picnic in Keystone it was a short ride home. Even though the roads wound up and through the hills, they were lovely to ride. After a full day of challenges and climbs that rivaled yesterday’s toughest, we were more than ready to settle in at the gym.
Who knew that part of the country is so scenic? Wonderful pictures.
Sheila gets the photo credits. She can make anything look good.
I love that area, I’m happy that you 2 are enjoying it.
Love the blog and pictures!
Charlie is frustrated because he tried to write to you but both of us are without email and awaiting a repairman.
I can use my iPhone, thank heavens!
So we’re sending our love and best wishes as you continue your marvelous adventure!
Charlie and Roxie
Spencer, Your writing makes me feel like I am in your shoes–I know those kind of days. I loved your ending–the lovely place you’d ridden to, both physically and emotionally.
You seem to have found the beauty in your trip that I know is there. I was raised in Billings and Sarpy Creek (east of Hardin, MT). Your trip through Jackson Hole reminds me of the summer I spent in West Yellowstone building a warehouse in the park before my junior year at UW. This was the year of the the earthquake (1959). What a wonderful time for me. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as I am enjoying your reporting it!!
Note from 2013 – That evening we had a serious thunder and lightning storm roll through. Rain fell in buckets and the noise was tremendous. After it passed, it was no time at all before everything had dried out. We were glad to be in the school that night!