Mileage: 74 miles
Weather: Upper 60s to start. Low 90s to end.
Highlights of the day:
Winds were variable - aka all over the place - but none terribly against us. There were strong crosswinds by the time the riders started descending into Rapid City. Several discussed how they were pushed around a bit on their way into town. Fortunately, all arrive safely and well before the late afternoon thunderstorm blasted through this area. I’m a little afraid to write this but we haven’t seen much rain at all. May that continue, pleeeeze???
Today was a day for pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. It started with Wind Cave National Park. In less than an hour we rode by a some buffalo, owls, rabbits (hares?), a coyote, a few prong horns, and lots & lots of prairie dogs, all free and unfenced. The bison were not out in great numbers today. Some riders took a very short detour past the prairie dog town to see a small heard grazing up the road. From there we climbed into the Black Hills, and made a short stop at the Crazy Horse monument.
A quick side bar… Is it bison or buffalo? Seems that using the term buffalo to refer to the animals we see roaming North America is wrong. According to several sites on the Internet (so it much be true?), we can blame early European settlers who mistook them for buffelo (that is the correct spelling) because of some similarities. They were wrong. Buffalo reside in Africa and Asia. Bison reside here in North America. So my high school and the town in which it resides was incorrectly named Buffalo Grove. I wonder if I should talk to them about that??
Our next turn, onto State Highway 244, took us onto one of my favorite stretches of this tour. It starts in a forested area and gradually heads into bare rock spires. There is something about experiencing this area by bicycle, outside the steel and glass enclosure of an automobile. The region holds spiritual significance for Native Americans and from this vantage point it makes sense. Unfortunately, pictures do not do it justice – so you’ll just have to join us sometime to experience it for yourself! :)
Mount Rushmore was our next feature. The mix of cyclists in lycra & “civilians” in touristy t-shirts was interesting. I’m not sure who thought who was stranger. :) Photos taken, we descended rapidly into Keystone, a mishmash of tourist attractions with amazing views of the surrounding hills.
A 3-mile climb was our exit out of Keystone and up to some serious rollers. This is where some notable crosswinds made their presence known. Descending into Rapid City, the vista opened wide up and we caught a glimpse in the far distance of what we’ll be seeing for most of the rest of our journey across South Dakota - grass plains, wheat & hay fields and cattle ranches for as far as the eye can see.