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Day 22
Great weather to see America's Greats chiseled into a SD mountainside 

ROUTE:  Hot Springs to Rapid City SD DISTANCE: 73 Miles WINDS: Nice tailwinds after Custer...sometimes 20 MPH
WEATHER: Wet at start, sunny and mild the rest of the day...high 88. TERRAIN:  Hilly TOTAL CLIMBING:  6970 Feet

DAILY REPORT: 

We woke to wet pavement.  I'm sure the locals were pleased with all the grass fires that were raging nearby.  Hopefully they got enough rain last night to quell those fires.  For us, it was just wet pavement and cool temperatures.  It didn't take long for the clouds to clear away and present us with a perfect day weather wise...and the winds were agreeable too.

The weather wasn't the only thing that was perfect today...the scenery was fantastic!  Today we left the the rolling grasslands with its endless waves of greenish brown grass and began climbing up into areas of pine and prairie, with buffalo grazing in the cool morning temperatures.  Before we got to the tree level, we rode through open range territory in Wind Cave National Park, a sanctuary for 350 bison--of which we probably saw almost all of them today...and some, up close and personal.

As I said, the morning was cool and wet...perfect conditions for critter watching.  As we entered Wind Cave National Park, we started to see wild life everywhere.  Just as we entered the park we saw a mule dear watching us ride by virtually unfazed by our presence. These creatures are used to pesky tourists by now I'm sure.  Bet they go home every evening and tell their significant other that they saw 70 tourists wearing tight lycra and riding a funny contraption that wouldn't eat grass. 

We also passed an enormous prairie dog colony before exiting the park.  There were thousands of these appealing rodents (no, they're not canines; got the "dog" name simply because of their bark) standing tall over their dens and barking at us as we passed by.  Bison, prairie dogs, deer, elk, Black hills, trees, wide smooth shoulders, Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore memorials . . . sensory overload all day.  All in all this day was high on the scale of tough riding day due to the climbing, but this has been one of the most pleasurable days we've had on the trip, simply because of all the wildlife and the scenery...right up there with the Tetons, just different.

As I said above, our route went by the Crazy Horse Memorial.  Most of the riders just went to the entrance gate and took photos but a couple went in to see the museum and read about the progress of finishing the monument.  The gate guard said they were about 3 feet from the part of the mountain that will look like a horse when they cut all the material away that doesn't look like a horse. 

From Crazy Horse, we descended before turning on to SR 244 to the back of Mt Rushmore.  This route is not nearly as strenuous as coming in from the south on hwy 16 and then climbing up the 10% grade to get to the park.  The road also goes right by the side of the faces and you can see the side of George Washington's profile just before getting to the visitor's center.  It was pretty crowded as you can well imagine, but the riders enjoyed the break in the riding and a chance to visit one of our famous national landmarks. 

After the visit to Rushmore, we screamed down a 10% slope into Keystone, a tourist trap of the highest order complete with a wild west gun fight on the main drag as we went through.  The only problem with the descent was the 35 MPH speed limit posted on the road...shucks, it was a great descent to let it go...but alas, the town at the bottom required us to keep it under control all the way down.  Several riders did the tourist thing in Keystone.  They got to ride to the top of a mountain on a ski lift and then slide down a concrete chute to the bottom.  Looked like fun, but I never have time to do that sort of thing. 

The final 20 miles to the motel start off with a big climb out of Keystone...and after everyone had let their legs atrophy for a couple hours visiting Rushmore and then descending into town, the shock of strenuous climbing was a real pain.  After the 3 mile climb to hwy 16, the remaining miles were mostly downhill and a couple great descents that top out around 50.  You don't need fresh legs to enjoy that kind of descent. Those who were already at the motel, were gathered in the lobby watching the Tour de France stage that was on Versus. This is the first motel that's had Versus since we left Astoria. 

Tomorrow we have a short day . . . only 57 miles.  The weather is supposed to be great so we may sleep in.   We'll need a little time to recover from today's climbing and rest for our two long days into Pierre and Chamberlain, 115 and 95 respectively.  Most of the hard climbing is behind us for a couple days, but we'll still go up and down for the next couple days.  The riders will be thankful; they need a break from the tough days.  See you tomorrow if we survive Wall. 

 

DID I REALLY SAY THAT?:

"If I don't see any buffalo today, I'll just blow up a photo of a prairie dog and tell my kids it's a buffalo...they won't know the difference."

"Daco, why did you buy a Nutter Butter Bar?"
"Because it was cheap...now I know why."

Cindy thinks every state stacks up all the good visuals at the start of the state...then ugh.  "Yep, OR had Mt Hood...then desert, ID had the Snake River...then desert, WY had the Tetons...then Casper, and now SD has Wind Cave...I'm not thinking I want to ride any farther."

"Why do all the good scenes come on uphills?"
"Because then you get to look at it longer."

"There's a bison!  Oh, sorry, that's just a rock."  
"Now, that's what I'd call premature exclamation!"

"Ohhhh, you can't roller skate through a buffalo herd.
You can't roller skate through a buffalo herd.
Probably because of the buffalo txxxx.
But you can be happy if you've a mind to."

DID I REALLY DO THAT?:

I came into a pull out and jumped off to take a photo of a prairie dog...must have been a buffalo standing in the same place recently.  My bad!

DID I REALLY SEE THAT?

I've been away from the farm for a long time, but I've never seen anything like this...and I saw right away that this was no ordinary chicken.

Where else would you park your Budget truck?

Team Potluck demonstrated their buffalo imitation.  Just in case they ever got caught up in a herd of buffalo, they thought their imitation would help them blend in...maybe the buffalo wouldn't notice.

After perfecting their buffalo imitation, they thought they should probably practice fooling the prairie dogs too.

We were excited when we got the the second SAG and found where all the fun was supposed start...but alas, there was no room for us.

I always stress the importance of bike fit...and that's the truthe.

A new face on Mt Rushmore?  "What do you think Teddy," asked Abe?  "I think he should stow the shades," Teddy replied.

Need to pick that booger there George?

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