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Pierre to Miller

Today’s ride (July 16) had several of the same issues as Saturday’s-no place to hide from the sun and intense heat. This afternoon, the reader board at the bank in Miller said the temperature was 105 degrees. But, thankfully, there was no head wind. I did the whole ride, but I started this morning at about 5:20 am to try to get in some riding time before things really heated up. The ride was 88.3 miles.

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This picture is a train along the banks of the Missouri River in the early morning light, taken just as I was leaving Pierre.

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This (above) is another shot of the river a little later.

Here is a shot of one of only two groups of trees to which we has access along the way. This was about 15 miles out of Miller. I took it from the vantage point of resting in its shade.

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Lastly, here was a wonderful display of childrens’ pedal cars and tractors arrayed on the back of an old Chevy truck. I came upon it while walking in Miller.

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Philip to Pierre

On Saturday July 14, we rode from Philip, SD, to the South Dakota capitol of Pierre. It was over 100 degrees, there were no trees or structures for respite from the sun, and there was a head wind of 20 mph. I estimate that I rode about 58 miles of a total 88 mile ride.  I was feeling clammy, which can be an early warning of heat exhaustion, so I opted to ride part of the way in the sag wagon, as did many others.

Here’s a picture of the area we rode in. I took this particular shot because it showed one of the few dwellings we passed but it also shows how there was no escape from the blazing sun.

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Once we reached Pierre, we spent Sunday, July 15, our day off, there. On Sunday morning, I spent some time on foot exploring. I saw the capitol building.

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I also saw a man-made lake behind the building that is fed by ground water that maintains a constant 92 degree temperature. The lake does not freeze in winter. On the shore of the lake was this memorial to veterans.

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I also walked along the shore of the Missouri River on the Lewis and Clark Trail. It’s amazing to think the Corp of Discovery trod this same path 208 years ago on the way to over-winter in the Mandan villages in 1804.

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The Badlands and Wall Drug

Today (July 13), we rode through Badlands National Park. The early morning light on the rocky formations softened their starkness somewhat.

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As we rode deeper into the Badlands, I think the heat got to some of the riders! Here is Ineke from Holland standing out at the end of a rock outcropping.

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As we rode on, we saw these cute little prairie dogs. Signs along the rode said they carry plague but they were fun to watch scampering about and calling to each other.  They seemed to be having such a good time. I guess they hadn’t read the signs!

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At about mid-ride today, we came to Wall, South Dakota, named, of course, after my dear Hampden Malarkey Wall. Here I am in front of one of the multitude of signs announcing that one should not, under any circumstances, pass by Wall Drug without stopping.

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So Carol Rutter from California and I stopped in. The place was packed! We got some of their trademark free ice water (a LOT of it, in fact, as it was over 100 degrees out). We also each bought a lip balm. (A person who must carry all of her purchases in a small bike bag is not an ideal Wall Drug customer!).

We finished up the ride with a stretch of about 20 miles on a newly “chip sealed” road. That’s gravel placed over gooey tar in the hopes that the weight of the cars traveling on it will pack the gravel into the tar. Well, the rocks were flying! Cycle America had two windshields and one side window broken on its support vans and 4 of the cyclists had derailleurs broken. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Wish I’d Had a Car

Today (July 12), we would not have missed much had we made the trip from Rapid City to Interior, SD, in a car.

The 80.3 mile ride in the 100 degree heat was a bit of a challenge.

The only thing I found worth photographing were these cacti along the side of the road.

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How in the world do cacti survive through the freezing, snowy South Dakota winters?

I think the purpose of today’s trek was to set us up for an early start through Badlands National Park the following day.

A Spectacular Scorcher

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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Lead to Custer, South Dakota

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This is a shot of a lush valley we rode through about 10 miles after we left Lead this morning (July 10).

Shortly after that, in the small rural crossroad of Rochford, Linda from St. Louis (on the left) and I posed with a giant flamingo on the porch of the store. (Note the flamingo’s Hawaiian get up).

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Beyond Rochford, we began riding on a packed gravel road for 10+ miles. This is what the road looked like.

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It was a rough and difficult ride, but I enjoyed the first portion because there was a riot of colorful wildflowers. Here are some of them. This one is called Bee Balm.

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This spectacular neon blue one is a penstemon. I collected some seeds in the hopes of propagating it.

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After leaving the flowers behind, I just ground out the miles until I reached the high school in Custer where we are sleeping tonight.

Tomorrow, we ride by Mt. Rushmore, so be sure to check back.

Moving on to South Dakota

On Monday morning, July 9, we struck out heading northeast from Devil’s Tower on our way to South Dakota. I took this shot of a ranch being irrigated soon after we left.

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It was lush and beautiful. I have been truly impressed with the beauty of the back country in Wyoming. It’s not at all like what you see speeding through the state on Highway 80, my usual auto route.

After riding for about 31 miles, we reached the South Dakota border. Here are a bunch of us under the welcome sign. That’s me on the left.

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The first town of any size we reached in South Dakota was Belle Fourche. About 10 miles further on, we came to Spearfish. It was an interesting town that has preserved a lot of the old buildings in its downtown core, including an opera house. Here’s a shot of part of the downtown.

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A couple of miles beyond Spearfish, we turned in to Spearfish Canyon. We rode for many miles in the canyon and it was gorgeous. Here’s a shot of the rimrock above the greenery on the canyon floor.

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Soon, we began to see evidence of the heavy influence Homestake Mining has had in the area. Here’s a Homestake power plant.

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Here’s the lobby of a lodge in the small mountain town of Savoy.

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The sign outside showed the lodge was also owned by Homestake.

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When I reached Lead, pronounced as in to lead a horse to water, a local told me that the beautiful 1940 era high school that we slept in had also been heavily supported by Homestake.

Our next ride will be from Lead to Custer.

Gillette to Devil’s Tower

I’ve been having a little trouble getting my new shoes with the toe clips to release from the pedals. When they fail to release, I simply fall over sideways. A couple on the tour, Dennis and Holly, have become my toe clip gurus. Here is Dennis,wearing my bike shoe, which is 2 or 3 sizes too small, working on making it easier to clip out. I thought it was a riot to see him in my shoes!

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Today (July 7), we rode from Gillette to Devil’s Tower. It was a beautiful ride. Just outside Gillette, a bunch of us posed for this group shot.

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Left to right, that’s me, Carol Rutter from South Lake Tahoe, CA, Jerry from Huntington Beach, CA, Avi from Israel, Bruce from Connecticut, and Linda from St. Louis, MO.

From about 20 miles away, this was how Devil’s Tower looked. Look closely. It’s just a faint shape.

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Then, we rode closer.

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Finally, we reached the official Wyoming State photo op site right near the camp ground where a lot of the cyclists stayed. Here’s the view from there.

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Yesterday, for the first time, I opted for the motel choice offered by Cycle America for our one day off per week. This entitled me to ride an additional almost 10 miles, to Hulett, WY, for a total of 77.3 miles. Don’t worry, I’ll get paid back on Monday morn, when I’ll start out 10 miles ahead of those who stayed at the camp ground and, in the meanwhile, I’ve had the use of a BATHTUB. For this bicyclist’s aching backside, it’s been a huge help-the first tub since we departed Seattle three weeks ago. AAAAHHHH!

One Word Best Describes Today’s Ride

BORING! Most of the ride today (July 6) was on Interstate 90. Instead of high peaks or fascinating rock formations or tumbling waters, this is what we saw most of the day.

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That rumble strip was all that separated us from vehicles going 80 mph. Some of the other riders liked it. I did not.

The city of Gillette where we are camping tonight is quite impressive, however. It has lots of public art placed outdoors all around the city. There were several sculptures made of scrap metal that I loved. Here’s a buffalo head.

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And here’s a cowboy.

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Tomorrow, we’re off to Devil’s Tower.

Highest Point on the Whole Tour

Today (July 5), we climbed from about 4000 feet at Worland to Powder River Pass at 9666 feet.  Here’s a photo looking down from one of the switch backs at the road we just rode up.

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Here I am, the happy little climber, along the way.

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Notice how sunny it was? Well, just before I reached the summit, it began to pour, complete with thunder and lightning. Here I am at the pass.

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Just before I reached Buffalo, the destination for tonight, the sky opened up again. It was a beautiful ride, but a soggy one!