No Flats, No Fireworks - Black Hills RideKathy VanDerWege
As recorded by our statistician, Bob, we ended with 16,331 feet of ascent and 16,115 of descent. The ride was a good test of our “glass half empty or half full” mentality, because every 7% grade climb was followed by a thrilling downhill. Anne and Bob’s tandem speeds were recorded as 42.2 - 48.9 mph max, with an average speed of 10-12 mph at the end of trip. We soon realized that there were to be No Flats planned by Liz!
The Black Hills, despite their “hilliness,” made the sweat of the 90+ degrees days well worth the effort. Having just experienced one of the wettest springs in several years, the countryside was emerald green with undulating waves of grass. Miles of lush high altitude pastures, spectacular granite cliffs that provide the inspiration for Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, thick pine forests from which the Black Hills get their name, rushing creeks and waterfalls of Spearfish Canyon provided daily photo opportunities as we rested, regrouped, and rejuvenated our resolve.
The wonders of the road were the reward we expected, but the fun with our riding companions truly made this tour a joy to remember. On the road, everyone was supported through meltdown moments of “tandem divorce threats,” toe clip trauma, severe need for a CHOCOLATE MALT, and that heat and those hills. At the end of the day, we knew we could share our stories, laugh about a squirrel hitching a ride on Diane’s Camelback the whole trip, and discuss the insights that Vic, our historian, provided us into the gold mining, the Native American perspective, and Teddy Roosevelt’s part in preserving the wonders of this area, such as Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park. We raved about the beauty and thrill of the waterfalls, meadows, wildlife, and downhills with friends who had experienced the day in their own unique ways. Two birthdays were celebrated, Ed and Liz, with cake for all. Bob won the goofiest tan line competition, Kathy and Dave ate the most buffalo meat meals (sorry bison, “get in my belly”), and there was an ongoing calculation of the largest number of mosquito bites per leg, foot, arm, etc. The end of the day flags of Anne’s laundry attested to the wonder of her expertise in multi-day lightweight touring skill (ask her for advice). The debate about the next day’s route was always lively, but Kerry wisely convinced us not to “follow the advice of bikers (all wearing their Sturgis ready costumes and tattoos), because a great road to them often challenged our pedal power. We knew we would always have support route finding and ”flag downs” at our motel (you saved MOST of us extra miles at the end of a long day, Suzi). And of course, there were always lots of back and shoulder massages; thank you Chrissy!
Our only disappointment, minor at the most, was that, due to the pine beetle kill in the forest surrounding Mount Rushmore, there was no fireworks display this year. But as we cyclists can attest, a greater thrill of the trip awaited us in the end. As we pedaled back into Palmer Gulch, we tried not to jinx the last few miles past the Red Ass winery (several photos were taken) with the realization that we had all experienced the beauty of the Black Hills cycling with great riding companions with NO flats!