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A Spectacular Scorcher

July 12, 2012

Today, (July 11), we rode from Custer to Rapid City. Late in the day, the temperature climbed to 98. A lot of the ride was along what’s known as “The Needles Highway.” I had never heard of it before, but it is not to be believed! It was the brain child of Peter Norbeck, who was Senator and Governor for South Dakota in the early 1900’s. It’s also called the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Norbeck wanted people to be able to get up into the black hills to enjoy the spectacular rock formations and the views. He did a lot of the laying out of the highway himself.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story. In the morning, we had a long climb to get to the first of a number of tunnels. Here I am just outside the tunnel opening after doing the climb.

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Here’s a member of our group riding through the tunnel.

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These were some rock formations near the tunnel mouth.

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When we came out the other side of the first tunnel, we were staring at this massive rock formation known as Cathedral Rocks–note the 5 mph switchback.

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After about 40 miles of riding, we went through another tunnel. This time, as we emerged from the tunnel, we could see Mt. Rushmore. Here’s the view.

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In some places, the terrain was too steep for traditional roads, so the engineer who worked with Norbeck designed a special system, called a “pigtail bridge,” to move cars up or down quickly. The car enters a tunnel, then drives across a bridge, then drives around in a spiral and doubles back under the bridge. Here’s a photo of one.

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After we completed the scenic byway ride, there was still about 20 miles to go to reach Rapid City. During that part of the ride I saw a wild turkey. Here’s a photo. It’s fuzzy, similar to the moose I posted the photo of during the Idaho part of the trip, but, it is there! See if you can find it.

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