Sunday, July 8 Hot Springs, SD to Rapid City, SD 70 miles 9,200 feet of climb
It’s a good thing today’s ride came three weeks into the journey! I’ve had twenty one days of preparation for the hills we had to do today. I was shocked when it was announced at route rap that we did 9,200 feet of climbing total today.
Yesterday took a lot out of me and I started out this morning with low energy. I just couldn’t get up to speed for a long time. I really struggled for the first 39 miles. I wasn’t the only one feeling sluggish this morning. Someone said we didn’t have enough carbohydrates in last night’s meal. Too much protein, not enough carbs. At the first SAG stop, I ate bananas and fig bars. I was drinking a lot of water. Sure could tell we were in South Dakota. The Humidity. We have not had a single day that we could feel the humidity level was higher. We’ve been going through weeks now with humidity at 10 – 13%. So welcome to heat + humidity from here on out. As sluggish as I was feeling and every stroke of the pedal an effort, I was wondering if I would be able to continue with the ride. Soon after the SAG stop and entering Custer National Park, I saw Legion Lake Resort. Some bikers jumped in the lake for a swim. I saw the sign over the restaurant that said “bakery”. I had to see if they had any pie. Oh, thank God they did – and it all looked delicious too. I was dragging, but I sat down with a piece of peach pie and big glass of water and relaxed a few minutes. Honestly that pie saved the day! Within 20 minutes, I was a new person.
The climbs were beginning to get steeper and longer. We were following 16A, Iron Mountain Road. It was a two lane road with absolutely zero shoulder. The speed limit ranged from 15 to 30 mph. It was so winding and had so many switch-backs with hairpin turns that the traffic was going very slow. No RV’s or trucks allowed, that was a relief for there was hardly room for 2 cars side by side. We climbed upward over a route of 25 miles.
Then there was a fabulous reward at mile 60 when we got to the first single lane tunnel. Through the very short and narrow tunnel we got the first view of Mt. Rushmore. Was that ever a grand sight. The beautiful carved faces were glistening in the sunlight.
Not far off in the other direction, the sky was pitch black. It wasn’t a question of if we would get rained on but when. The view from the highest point on this road was awesome. But then the descent. It is called Pigtail Bridges up in his area. The road goes sharply down in a swirling downward descent. I stopped a few times at some spots where there was a short pull-off. I kept checking my wheel rims to make sure my brakes weren’t getting them over heated. Then the rain came. The sky let loose. I didn’t get hit with hail like some on up ahead of me but the rain really pelted me. For as hot as it was the rain was a welcome change. It continued raining all the way into Keystone, SD.
By the time we arrived in Rapid City it had stopped and the sky was looking like it was ready to let loose again. ( It rained later this evening). Everyone was wiping and cleaning their bikes outside the motel after getting here. The motel even provided us with all the rags we wanted to do the job. Several of the hotels have provided cleaning rags for us to use. That sure has been nice.
I didn’t sleep well last night and I was really scared this morning when I started out. I was so afraid of riding through the “open ranges” where the buffalo are often right in the middle of the road. We had been told at route rap last night that a tourist had been killed by a buffalo yesterday, in this area, while trying to take it’s photo. I was petrified I would come around some bend in the road and see a huge Bison staring at me. Just outside Hot Springs, we entered Wind Cave National Park. The signs of Warning were at the entrance: “CAUTION DO NOT APPROACH THE WILDLIFE” and other signs: “WILDLIFE AT LARGE” and I was shaking in my boots when I would see this one: “BUFFALO ARE DANGEROUS”. I rode right behind Mike. I told him he better protect me if we see any buffalo. Well, I got through that area alright without seeing any. In Custer National Park I saw lots of huge “pies” that the buffalo had left on the road. Oh, was I scared! I came around a curve and some cars were stopped and they were taking pictures of four animals. I didn’t slow down to take a good long look, but I think they were elk. A short way from there one crossed the road in front of me. It had horns and looked really scruffy. I couldn’t get out of there soon enough. This all would have been fine if I were in a car – all protected, but on my bike I felt so vulnerable.
Today was so green everywhere. What a welcome change to be riding in all the trees and seeing wildflowers here and there. It reminded me some of when we were riding in Oregon. Lots of evergreen trees.
We were advised at route rap to use tomorrow as a recovery day. Take our time, the mileage is only 58 so not to rush. We have some difficult days to follow after tomorrow.
God is good and I thank him for this day and for bringing me safely through another adventure.