Mileage: 57 miles
Weather: Upper 60s to start. Upper 80s to end. Winds out of the WNW.
Highlights of the day:
We woke today to thunderstorms rolling through the Wall area but by 6:15, all that remained was wet pavement. Some of the riders, including me, were slightly confused at all the water in the parking lot. Evidently, we slept through it. Dark clouds lingered but didn’t do much of anything except disappear over the horizon. There was cloud cover for most of the day which kept the temperatures lower and much more pleasant. The sun popped out a couple of times and we definitely felt the difference. If we have any say in the matter, we’d like to have Mother Nature continue with the partly cloudy motif, please…
Today’s route is one of the most unique and stunning on the entire tour. I’ll explain the Badlands in the next paragraph but for now, suffice it to say that it brought may colorful superlatives to mind and out of the mouths of many of the riders. It is awesome in the true sense of the word, in that it inspires awe. I hope the pictures do it justice. Now for the explanation…
Badlands National Park is a 244,000-acre area comprised of softer rocks & clays that have been eroded by wind and water. The remaining hills, buttes, mesas, rocky spires, canyons and other geological formations are striped with sedimentary layers. These layers contain one of the world’s (yes world’s) richest fossil beds of rhino, horse, and sabre-toothed cat that once populated the area. Now you find big horn sheep, pronghorn, mule deer, bison and prairie dog roaming (or digging holes) in the extensive mixed-grass prairie. I’m sure there are other fossilized or currently roaming creatures but these are what I found specified on the Badlands National Park website & I think you get the general picture.
What all this provided was a day of relatively short mileage where the riders could (and did) stop at just about every pull off along the road through the park. Lots of pictures were taken. Lots of questions were asked. The Cedar Pass Lodge was found and blueberry pie was eaten. It is highly recommended by those riders who stopped there. I think they also bought a souvenir or two. We do try to support the local economy.
About a mile off route, some riders visited the Minute Man Missile National Historic Site. The museum offered a history of the Cold War, the use of nuclear deterrence and the subsequent Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The site offers tours of the silos, however, they require a reservation and perhaps a car, as they add about 30 miles to the day. A couple riders said they would put this on their list of things to do the next time they visited South Dakota.
The day ended with a 20-mile ride along the frontage road of I-90. We were back to South Dakota rollers and a horizon that goes on forever. We will see more of this all the way into Sioux Falls. We had a front quartering wind pushing against us into the metropolis of Kadoka SD, population 654, but I don’t think I heard too many complaints. It gave a little more time for riders to talk about what they just saw. Mechanics, rap, and group dinner will wrap up the day. Sleep will be needed for tomorrow we ride much longer.