Wednesday, June 29, 2016

66: You must do this ride!

The next stop on our Excellent Adventure took us to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where the Gobles had secured a campsite at the lovely Sylvan Lake.

Heading for the campsite
Along the way there, we drove past some great forests and pined at the descents we were missing - but did not regret the many, many miles of not-so-interesting scrub and shapeless land that we were passing at high speed. I did make note how very little I observed about the landscape we were passing. At 60 mph, you just don't see, hear or smell what you're passing like you do when you travel by bike. BUT - we were again very pleased to have the chance to visit this gem that we wanted to see, without the struggle to get there we had anticipated.

We had a walk-in campsite, so we got things out of the car, carried them up the hill, and put up one of the tents. Our stuff went into it until later, as we had decided that we had enough time to ride one of the loops that Joanne had found on line.

This turned out to be the cycling highlight of our trip to date! The Needles Highway, connecting to the Iron Highway, is the single most scenic and jaw-droppingly amazing road I have ridden.
Needles Highway
 It winds through the rock spires and pinnacles near the campground, then descends through forests and through tunnels carved in the rock.
Gary and Joanne en route
One lane tunnel
 Many are aligned so that you see Mt. Rushmore as you come through the tunnel, framed by the (carefully trimmed) trees. There are several bridges that wind around over on top of each other, like corkscrews.
One of the corkscrew sections

It's absolutely an engineering marvel, and a delight.
You can just see the road cutting though there

It was hard, too - 4500' of climbing in 42 miles. Some very steep bits - up to 11 and 12% many places. And we had showers off and on for most of the ride. But hey - otherwise we would have been sitting in our tents, trying to stay dry. Better to be on the bike!

The last stretch up to the Memorial is a bear!
Along the Iron Highway, you catch glimpses of the Memorial through the trees. At one point, the loop goes right past Mt Rushmore, so we got a great view of the Memorial. What a marvel it is! Tomorrow we will stop in at the visitor center. Today, it's on to the campground before the next rainstorm hits!

Gary and Joanne headed for home

The day's report:  Custer State Park loop - Needles Highway and Iron Highway, 42 miles/3202 to date

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