Your Logo Here

"car free adventure"
self designed & self supported bicycle tour adventures



South Dakota


select & click

Big Sioux River to Yankton

Yankton to Pickstown

Pickstown to Burke

Stephan to Pierre

Pierre to Phillip

Phillip to Cheyenne River

Cheyenne River to Rapid City

Hermosa to Custer

Custer to the Wyoming Border

Trip Experiences





















 Ride Across South Dakota

car free adventure _________________________



 ...some mountain top in South Dakota...

The RAAOSTNPOD (Ride Across America One State at a Time in No Particular Order or Direction) continues.  We had ridden from the Pacific Coast to the western border of Kansas and from Lake Michigan to the eastern Kansas border.  It was time to connect Iowa and Colorado together.  We had never been in South Dakota. We decided we would ride across the state of South Dakota.     

I skied in January, February and March, it rained for three weeks in February and March, and I caught a bug in March.  My wife, a college professor, became deeply engrossed in teaching young people to think.  She joined the skiing and was prevented from training by the interruption in global warming as well.  Neither of us had ridden over 25 miles since coming home from our Vietnam adventure in November of 2008.  We were in bad shape.

We have adopted the philosophy that when the ride date approaches, pack and prepare to hit the road. Simply put, our philosophy is that if we have not trained adequately to ride across South Dakota then South Dakota will be used to get in shape to ride the remainder of the years schedule. 

We simply move our training rides from LA to a different part of the world.  We make these new training surroundings home.  We stay in a hotel each night, we eat what is convenient each day, we watch our favorite TV shows at night, take in a movie when possible and visit the sites of interest along the route and in the destination towns.  We have found it works. No excuses, South Dakota became a training site. 

We used the Adventure Cycling map that followed the Lewis and Clark trail to guide us from the Iowa border to Pierre South Dakota.  We turned west at Pierre and meandered down through the "Badlands," then through the Black Hills to the Wyoming border to complete our ride across South Dakota. 

We visited the Corn Palace in Mitchel, South Dakota on the way to the start of our ride in eastern South Dakota.  We drove through the Bad Lands.  We toured inside the Jewel Cave in western South Dakota.  We toured Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse sculpture. We visited Custer National Park and Yellowstone National Park in Montana As always, our bicycle adventure across South Dakota was awesome and I am in better shape to ride the rest of the years schedule!!


 ..June is the wettest month..


 ..buffalo can out run deer....


 ..Crazy Horse is in work... was a great ride...

 RIDE DAY 1 - Big Sioux River to Yankton



 ..our home on the road for the next few days... 

 ..the Big Sioux River, Iowa is on the other bank.. 

  ...the Iowa border, or close enough.. landscape, flat & rolling until the "black Hills"..


Plan for the day (June 4, 2009) – We would drive south from Sioux Falls where our hotel was located on the I-29 to State 50 and turn east toward the Iowa border.  We would drive about 10 miles to Richland on State 50 and continue to the Big Sioux River which marked the border between South Dakota and Iowa. We planned to start our ride from the river.


We had originally planned to start further south in Jefferson, South Dakota. The weather forecast for a week of rain had caused us to rethink our start point. We decided to start our ride at a more direct east-west route. We were trying to beat the rain and making route changes as we went. Lewis and Clark had started through South Dakota a few miles further South according to the Adventure Cycling Map we were using as a guide for the first half of our ride.  Lewis and Clark would understand the change.


Our room for the evening was in Vermillion but we planned to ride as many miles west as we could before we ran into bad weather, it got too dark to continue or we physically could not go on anymore.  We had driven in heavy rain leaving Rapid City in western South Dakota, our base of operations, and we knew it was headed east where we planned to start the ride. 


Start of the day - We got up and dressed in our bike clothes.  The temperature was in the high sixties and the sun was out.  I like temperatures around 70.  I can dress for cool.  After we dressed we went to the breakfast buffet provided by the hotel.  After stuffing ourselves and reading the USA Today we went back to the room, got our stuff, piled it into the car and headed south on the I-29.


Today’s ride - Today would be our first riding day.  We would attempt to capture as much time in the sun as we could.  Our poor training was a concern because we needed to ride as many miles as possible before we bonked!  At least it was flat or at least flat to a cyclist.  It was not Utah! 


When we arrived at the Big Sioux we discovered the bridge was being rebuilt.  In fact only the support structure for the bridge remained.  The thought crossed my mind, “was this the Iowa border?”  The construction crew was on the other side.  We knocked on the door of a house near the bridge to inquire about the location of the border.  No one was in the house they must have been farming.  


We discovered the South Dakota border sign as we started to leave and knew this must be the border!  We took a picture of the sign and the skeleton of the bridge to mark the start and began to ride.  My wife rode first and retraced our route from the I-29 and continued on to Vermillion.  We were riding on State 50 and it was busy after we passed under the I-29.  It was 4 lanes, the traffic was courteous but we had an alternative. 


It was time to move to the route that Adventure Cycling had mapped out.  It would be a route less traveled.  We packed up the bike in the car and located the Adventure Cycling route using the car.  We exited Vermillion on the Adventure Cycling route and continued on it the remainder of the day.  


We traded off riding until we reached Yankton.  My wife was on the bike and the Adventure Cycling map indicated there was a bike path.  We hunted for the bike path but it was not obvious at the intersection indicated.  We bailed and continued along the route riding on the street.  We did not see a bike path. 


When we were west of Yankton we had pretty much run out of gas so we decided to call it a day.  We had ridden much further than I thought we would be able to pull off on our cobbled together route change.  We were also a day ahead of our original ride plan so if the rain became impossible we could just bag it for a day. 


As we returned toward Yankton we saw someone on a bicycle on what was obviously a bike path.  It ran on the opposite side of the road and was obvious once we discovered it.  But when the road transitioned into a street  the bike path took on the appearance of a sidewalk as we drove toward the starting point indicated on the map.  I did not see a sign at the beginning of the bike path indicating the dual use of the sidewalk but there may have been one that I missed.


Today’s landscape - We began our ride from the Big Sioux River through an area of flat green farm land broken by a few trees here and there.  After we crossed the I-29 and began to ride on the Adventure Cycling route we were a short distance from the Missouri River.  We knew the river was on our left but could not see it.  Its banks were defined by a forest of trees that followed its banks.  The landscape remained green and flat with scattered trees for the remainder of the day's ride.   


Cycling notes – The Adventure Cycling mapped route was along paved back roads which were basically traffic free.  The wind which we had read about on the web would not be a factor today.  The wind did pick up during the day and was directly into our face which made the riding more difficult but it was not Utah.  Utah has become the "upper limit" for wind.  The sun had been out to support our ride all day.  The route was flat with mild rollers in places along the eastern part of the ride.


Post Ride Activity - Our hotel for the evening was at the Holiday Inn Express in Vermillion.  The room was reserved so we had paid.  We would have to drive back to Vermillion to spend the night and then return to Yankton to start the next day. 


We decided going out to dinner would be a chore so we stopped at a subway in Yankton to get a sandwich for dinner.  Subway had a foot long for $5 special in progress and this started the subway dinner special almost every night on the ride.  We ordered the “Spicy Italian.”  


We returned to Vermillion, checked in, watched TV and ate our subway.  It was a good start to the ride across South Dakota.  



RIDE DAY 2 - Yankton to Pickstown



 ..occassional low hills near the Missouri River..

 ..checking with the rider on the road... path along Lewis and Clark Lake...

 ...more typical landscape in eastern South Dakota...


 June 5, 2009 - 66 miles


plan for the dayWe had started a day ahead of our plan because of the weather forecast.  On our second day of riding we got up to sunshine but we were expecting rain soon.  


The early start had scrambled our hotel reservations and we decided not to cancel our night in Vermillion because we were not sure how far we could ride from the Iowa border on our first outing. We made it to Yankton where our second motel was located and we canceled the reservation as we drove back to Vermillion.  With a bit of effort we should be many miles down the road by the end of the day and the folks in Yankton told us they had vacancies if we needed a room.


The “new” plan was to ride at least to Pickstown for the night.  We did not have a reservation in Pickstown and actually did know if we could find a place to stay there but we had the car so our options were many.


We continued to follow the route proposed by the Adventure Cycling Map.   We would continue to bicycle on the bike path located south of State 52 out of Yankton.  The bike path moved further south of State 52 and followed along the Lewis and Clark Lake returning to State 52 at the west end of the park. 


From the park State 52 headed due north turning west again after a few miles.  We then turned onto country roads which have zero traffic and the advantage of using Adventure Cycling Maps.  They have ridden these roads and know they can be bicycled on.  When I planned my route across South Dakota I had stayed on State and US roads to insure they were paved!   


From State 52 we turned south onto Alternate 18 then south to State 37 then straight onto County 18 which became County 2 which turned north onto County 21 through Marty (population 421) then onto State 46 to Pickstown.  Buy the map!  


getting started - We had spent the night in Vermillion at the Holiday Inn Express.  They provide a great complimentary breakfast and I have convinced myself that when I am cycling I can eat as much of anything as I want.  Need those carbs to ride. 


We dressed in the bike clothes for the day and went to breakfast.  Afterward we collected our stuff from the room and took it to the car.  While we were loading our stuff the manager of the motel came out to say hi and talk about California.  She was from North Hollywood.  Her son was going to New Mexico for college.  He had been accepted to UCLA but he got a scholarship to New Mexico.  We talked briefly about our cycling and then we said our goodbye’s and we were off.


today’s adventure - We drove back to the bike path through the park along the Lewis and Clark Lake, (the Missouri River) where we had stopped the day before.  My wife rode the first leg.  The bike path ran along the road for about 4 or 5 miles and then disappeared into the park which ran along the Missouri River. 


I drove into the park ahead of my wife and stopped and waited.  It was obvious the support car would not be able to follow in the park because the bike path ran immediately along the river from the parking lot where I waited. 


When my wife arrived at the parking lot we looked at the Adventure Cycling map to find where car and bicycle could meet.  I would drive back to the main road where I had entered the park and turn west on State 52 and meet her at the west exit from the park.   


After exiting the park and saw an entrance a few miles further on and decided to see if I could intercept my rider as she rode through the park.  I had to buy a pass to get in and as I drove I saw my wife ride by on the bike path which was about 100 yards away along the river but she was cranking and there was no obvious way for me to intercept her.  


I again exited the park and drove to where I saw a road sign which had State 52 turning north.  I entered the park road at that point and descended to the park and river below.  I noted it would be about a mile and a half climb out of the park on a narrow road.  When I reached the bottom I saw my wife going in the opposite direction along the path.  There was a road along the path which I took to chase her down. 


She had not seen a sign with the name of the road on it and assumed she had passed it.  South Dakota does not provide signs every 50 yards which is what is wanted when insecure about directions.  It should be noted that no state provides enough directions for me. 


I directed her back to what I thought was the exit road but after about a half mile the road turned to gravel.  I knew this was wrong and drove up beside my bike buddy and told her so.  We loaded her bike and returned to where we had started.  We opted to stop guessing and continue in the car until we located a sign with explicit directions.  That did not happen until we had climbed the mile and half to State 52.  I had missed my chance to climb!  Oh darn!  


I started to ride.  The traffic on the road became a bit busy until we turned onto Alternate 18 a few miles further on.  During one long straightaway I saw a car parked in a driveway ahead surrounded by people.  When I got closer I realized it was the support car.  When I pulled along side my wife was discussing the route with a farmer and his two sons.  We had missed a turn.  My wife had stopped at the driveway to wait for me to ride past and the farmer came out to find out if she needed help.  There are a lot of friendly helpful folks in South Dakota. 


The farmer told us we could correct our mistake by taking a 2 mile gravel road just ahead of where we were stopped.  The other option was to continue on for 2 miles and then turn south.  I turned down the chance to ride in the gravel. 


The wind blew harder and harder during the day and by the afternoon the cycling was a push.  We had 9 miles to ride to reach our goal and I was cranking along at 5 miles an hour.  We decided to pack it in.  We drove to Pickstown our goal.


today’s landscape - The park was very pleasant.  There were places to camp along the river.  We were using the Adventure Cycling map which was attempting to keep us near the Missouri River.  This part of the trip using the map had been the prettiest thus far. 


The remainder of the day we rode through flat, green countryside.  Along the river was the typical tree and scrub growth a river bottom produces but away from the river the landscape consisted of green treeless fields. 


cycling notes - The Adventure cycling route took us onto roads that were relatively traffic free.  I was still a bit nonplussed about the gravel the day before, but it is impossible to keep up with what the locals are doing. 


On our ride across Illinois we had signed on with the Northern Illinois Touring Group and ran into tar and gravel.  They had rides scheduled almost every week and could not predict when the County would plan to work on the roads. 


We had read on the web to be prepared for swarms of “little flying bugs” when bicycling in South Dakota.  We were riding close to the Missouri River and the little flying bugs were swarming everywhere.  There were clouds of them. During our two days of riding in the sunshine they were present.  For some reason they did not bother me but they did my wife. 


During the wet or damp days that followed we did not have the bugs which may be a plus for bicycling in June.  If getting wet is not too ugly it may be a plus that the bugs are not around.  I am looking for a reason for selecting June as the month to ride in South Dakota.


I waved at all the farmers on tractors in their fields as I rode past and they all waved back.  I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time driving a tractor.  It is boring.  I encountered a couple of tractors on the road.  They turned onto the road behind me and then passed as I chugged along on my bicycle rate.


When my son Jack and I were riding in France we encountered tractors pulling large two-wheeled wagons.  My son told me we could draft behind them.  This was a new experience for me and on our first attempt I could not generate the speed necessary to settle into the wagon’s wake (shade of the wind).  I was successful on the second try drafting behind my son first before dropping behind the wagon. 


I thought I would try to draft on a tractor as we had in France.  When my turn came to ride a tractor pulled out behind me.  As it passed me I stood up and tried to latch on.  The driver must have taken this as a challenge and sped up and dropped me.  I was cranking and I did not know tractors could go that fast!  It must be a new generation of tractors.  The farmer pulled off into a field ahead of me and if I had had the time I would have stopped and let him in on my scam.  Dropped by a tractor!  What a bummer!  


post ride activity - Pickstown is a wide place in the road that serves the fishermen and the boating folks that use the Missouri river and the Lewis and Clark Lake for entertainment.  But there were places to stay along the highway, we found a motel and checked in.  The price was reasonable, the room was good and we were only 5 miles from the morning start.  We would not have to drive back to Yankton. 


We asked about food at check-in and were told the place down the road served prime rib for dinner which turned out to be very good.  And, ‘Abby’s” a half mile down the road offered biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  Everything a cyclist needs. 


We had reached the rain.  Two days of no moisture but that was about to change.  By the time we were in bed it had begun to rain.  The windows in our room opened so we were treated to the sound of rain all night.



 RIDE DAY 3 – Pickstown to Burke 



 ...want to avoid the white line!!

..the scenery was a bit damp but beautiful...

..dressed for wet and cold..we had reached the rain... shops are hard to find in South Dakota... 


 June 6, 2009 - 47 miles  


plan for the day – Today we continue to follow the Adventure Cycling Map along the Lewis and Clark Trail to Burke.  The distance is “about” 47 miles.  Our journey begins at the junction of County 21 and State 46 where we stopped the day before.  From our start point we ride back through Pickstown across the Fort Randall Dam to State 46.  The road becomes US 18 after the dam and we follow it to Burke.  In Burke we load our bikes into the car and head due north to Chamberlain located on Interstate 90 where we will stay the night. 


I proposed a modification to our route which I thought would allow us the best chance of completing our ride across South Dakota with the predicted weather conditions.  The original plan that I had proposed had been to ride straight across South Dakota.  The path would not have provided the scenes the Adventure Cycling Route had but it would satisfy our goal.  Following the Missouri River we had introduced a significant amount of north to south riding.  For example at the conclusion of the today’s ride we would turn north for two days of riding to Pierre. 


The rain was predicted to continue for the rest of the week and we had no information about the following week but “June is the wettest month of the year in South Dakota.”  Enjoying beautiful country while riding in the rain in the rain is an oxymoron and if we bonked in the rain the time lost could threaten completion of the ride.  By a vote of 2 to 0 we adopted the “bicycle east to west only” plan.  We decided to ride the east to west legs of our planned route and drive the north or south legs of the route.  The time we saved would be used to complesate for "off bike time" lost because of the rain.


getting started - We got up to poring rain.  I had thought often about how we should approach riding in the rain.  We could wait until it stopped.  We could ride until we had our fill of the experience.  Our goal was to bicycle across South Dakota and we did not have a lot of time to wait for the rain to stop.  Our quest could be in jeopardy if we had a few days of rain as had been forecast.    


We dressed in street clothes and drove to Abby’s for breakfast.  We ran through the pouring rain from the car to the restaurant.  It seemed to be raining harder.  We ordered the biscuits and gravy we had been told about the night before.  They were very good.         


We finished our breakfast and ran though the rain to the car to return to the motel.  When we got back to the hotel we dressed to ride in cold and wet.  We loaded our overnight clothes into the car and drove to our start point east of town.  By the time we got into the car the rain had stopped.  Thank you Jack.


today’s adventure - We retraced our route to junction of County Road 21 and State 46 where we had stopped the day before.  I began the days ride.  There was a quarter mile climb followed by a long down hill to Fort Randall Dam across the Missouri River.  There was a stiff cross wind on the down hill and I was cranking along at better than 20 plus miles an hour.  The traffic was very light. It was a bit dicey with the wet surfaces but I made it to the bottom ok and continued through Pickstown to the Dam across the Missouri River.


The wind was howling down the river and across the dam.  It was brutal.  I had to lean hard into it to stay up.  Staying up was compounded by a wide white line that had been painted on the road.  Paint on the road is very slick when wet and I had to lean sideways across the Dam.  I attempted to stay clear of the stripe. 


The cars that passed me would interrupt the hurricane and I would rotate on my bike toward the wind only to be pushed back abruptly after the car passed.  This went on for the two miles across the dam.  I exited the Dam and began the climb up from the river.  The climb was a grind and when I got to the top I handed off to rider number 2.


Rider number 2’s bike developed an ugly problem during the day.  She could not shift into a lower gear prior to a climb.  The physical stress of cycling magnifies any physical or mechanical problem and reduces the ride to stress.  We called our bike shop in California as we rode and after a discussion of the failure they said “you need a new derailleur.”


Luckily the climbing was at a minimum the remainder of the day and we made it to Burke.  When we reached Burke we activated the “bicycle east to west only” plan and loaded the bikes and drove to Chamberlain where we had a reservation at the Holiday Inn Express. 


today’s landscape - We continued to follow the Adventure Cycling route along the river and rode through the most beautiful country that we had seen in South Dakota so far.  It is only possible to see the River in a few places as would be expected because the shore is covered with trees and heavy under growth.  As we rode I took several pictures which I hoped would capture the scene.      


cycling notes – We found the behavior of the traffic toward cyclist in South Dakota was very courteous.  The traffic on the Dam and all across South Dakota was very kind to me.  They would pull across the road to pass if there was not another car approaching.  They would stop if they could not get by easily.  The pickup trucks pulling the wide trailers were especially courteous. 


We had read an article on the web about cycling in South Dakota complaining about pickups pulling trailers which did not leave sufficient room between the trailer and the bike as they passed.  We did not experience a problem with the traffic anywhere in South Dakota.


Other quick bike thoughts; never bicycle along a painted line when its wet.  The wind makes cycling difficult in South Dakota.  There are few bike shops in South Dakota outside Rapid City and Souix Falls.  Thank goodness for Performance!  I could not find South Dakota bike clubs on the web before leaving for the adventure!  They could have warned me about the weather in June!


post ride activity - When we arrived in Chamberlain we asked at the hotel about a bike shop.  We were told that a guy at the True Value Hardware store might be able to help.  Sounded strange but we went there and “he fixed flat tires.”  But, he told us there was a bike shop in Mitchell. 


The folks at the True Value called the bike shop in Mitchell and the guy at the shop said he would be there one more hour if we could make it.  Mitchell was 60 milers away.  We took off.


It took almost an hour to get there and we had to ask for directions.  We found “Ron’s Bike Shop” and pulled in.  The son of the owner was waiting.  He was great.  He tried all of the easy fixes but concluded that the derailleur was faulty.  We now had two opinions leading to the same conclusions.  Ron’s Bike Shop did not have a replacement.  We were thankful that South Dakota was basically flat.  Conclusion: my wife would complete the ride with what she had left.


We thanked our host and took a picture.  He gave my wife a tee shirt with the store’s name on it.  During our conversation he told us that his dad was the “lock smith” in Mitchell and that he was responsible for the bike shop.  He planned to ride in the next day’s leg of the Ride Across South Dakota.  Note the State Ride in scheduled for June!


We drove back to Chamberlain, ate another subway sandwich (spicy Italian), watched TV and crashed.  Tomorrow we would drive north to the next “east west leg” to Pierre the capitol of South Dakota.  



 RIDE DAY 4 – Stephan to Pierre - 47 miles


 ..the skies were threatening all day... bike buddy is coming and I am getting ready to roll..

 ..the road got a bit rough near the River...

 ..."right over there I think I can see a tree"...

 June 7, 2009 - 47 miles

plan for the day - With the new “route plan” to drive the north south legs of the route and ride the east west I cancelled the second night I had reserved at the hotel in Chamberlain.  We would drive north along the Missouri River which Lewis and Clark had used on our way north to Stephan.  It was a 47 miles straight shot west from Stephan on State 34 to Pierre the capitol of South Dakota. 


This would be the last day of simulating the Lewis and Clark adventure.  Tomorrow we would begin to follow my cobbled together plan to ride west and drive south until we reached the Wyoming border.  The route would take us through the Bad Lands and the Black Hills.  We would see Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse sculpture along the way.  


getting started Since I had crashed the night before after returning from Ron’s bike shop in Mitchell I had to shower and shave when I got up.  Never want to be caught on the road with a 12 o’clock shadow!


We dressed in our riding clothes and went to enjoy the great breakfast at the hotel.  I enjoyed several cups of coffee with my breakfast.  Afterward we spent time sending email and I worked on the rough for the journal before loading the car and heading north to Stephan.    


today’s adventure - We reached our starting point and I got my bike out to ride.  It would be a straight shot west from Stephan into Pierre but the sky was cloudy and dark.  Rain threatened all the way but the wind was at our backs which was a plus. 


The wind allowed me to maintain a good clip and I made good time.  When my bike buddy took her turn she did as well and it took us about 2 and half hours to make it to Pierre.


I rode the last leg into Pierre and the road surface was the worst we had been on in South Dakota.  I waved the car down and asked if we were on the right road.  My wife said she was sure we were on the correct route.  My question had been sparked by the fact that typically politicians take care of themselves first before thinking about the rest of the state?


It began to spit rain about 5 miles from Pierre and about 3 miles outside it began to rain.  Not hard but wet.  The rain continued and the traffic increased as I got closer to Pierre.  The road was getting a bit dicey as I rode into the outskirts and my bike buddy rode by to tell me that she voted we call it a day.  I turned into a large paved area where we took some pictures, loaded my bike into the car and started to look for our hotel.


today’s landscape – In the car on the drive to Stephan the terrain was interesting.  Chamberlain is located on the Missouri River on the north side of Interstate 90.  The road began to climb as we drove north out of town.  The countryside had been relatively flat south of the Interstate but here the Missouri River had cut through the higher plain.


The road would drop down to the level of the river and then climb back up again to the level plain producing several steep climbs of at least half a mile during our drive north.  We were driving on State 50 and a bike ride along this route would have been a challenge.  The rolling terrain continued until the road, State 34, turned north away from the River and headed toward Stephan. 


The ride along State 34 to Stephan was basically flat, very green and treeless.  The landscape consisted of small rolling very green hills to the horizon.  One tree would appear standing by itself in a ravine.  I assumed the ravines captured sufficient water during the wetter months to support the tree during the remainder of the year.  The lack of trees made me believe that summers must be very dry in South Dakota. The bare, low hills one tree landscape would remain with us until we reached the Black Hills. 


At one point on the way to Pierre I rode along the Missouri River.  The foliage along the road became dense with growth that is typically found along a water source.  The River with its supporting background of trees and plants made for a beautiful scene. 


cycling notes – Our plan to cheat the weather worked.  We made it to Pierre just before the skis opened and dumped buckets of water.  The nasty bugs stayed home no fools they!  The road surface was broken up a bit when it moved closer to the Missouri River.  There was not much traffic along the road until we were within a few miles of the city.  


The road to Pierre was basically flat. If we had bicycled the route north which had been the original plan it would have been a challenge because of the climbing.  Later on our adventure we would have a chance to experience similar rollers on the way into Rapid City and they left an impression.  


post ride activity – I had printed the directions to the motel from the web.  We located it, the Days Inn in a rather busy section of the city.  It was raining hard by this time.  We checked into the motel and began to look for dinner before we crashed. 


We discovered we were across the street from a Subway.  And to make things more wonderful there was a Dairy Queen across from the Subway.   It was the food of life.  We ran through the rain across the street and collected a “spicy Italian” foot long and returned to the room and crashed and watched TV.  After our delicious sandwich we went back across the street for Dairy Queen.  It was raining so hard we decided to drive across the street! 


We discussed the ride the next day.  We were concerned the rain would continue.  Our schedule required we ride a bit more than 50 miles the following day before the rain began.  We used the hotel computer to look for tomorrow’s hotel towns on the web and sent emails to friends.  We went to bed and hoped for a dry tomorrow!   



 RIDE DAY 5 - Pierre to Phillip


...a bit of wind in the morning..

..a peek at the central South Dakota landscape..

 ..another lonesome tree..I wonder if they have names?

..sunshine and no Gortex jacket in the afternoon..

 June 8, 2009 - 68 miles

plan for the day - The Adventure Cycling guided tour along the Lewis and Clark trail through South Dakota had concluded.  The Missouri River headed north and we were headed west. 


It is now the “route directors” plan.  Today we will ride for approximately 68 miles.  We begin west from Pierre on US 14 for 38 miles.  At that point US 14 turns due south.  At the intersection where US 14 turned south we will load our bikes and drive south to Midland where US 14 turns west. We will put a rider on the road to ride to Phillip our goal for the day. 


getting start - It had been raining when we bicycled into Pierre the day before and the weather forecast indicated a 30% chance of rain the following day.  We got up and looked out the window and were greeted by heavy overcast skies but it was not raining. 

We put on our bike clothes and packed our belongings.  We went to the Comfort Inn eating area and ate the complimentary breakfast.  We did not do the usual email and journal activity to allow an early start.  Our goal was to put in as many miles as we could before the rain began. 

today’s adventure Immediately west of our motel was the Missouri River and across the bridge is Fort Pierre.  The traffic was a bit busy so we decided to drive to the edge of Fort Pierre to start our ride. 


At the edge of Fort Pierre the road began to climb out of the Missouri Valley.  I was first to ride.  As route director I made a decision that the ride should start on the flat!  We drove to the top of the hill to start. 


I pulled my bike out of the car and began to ride.  After 3 miles of riding into a very stiff wind I made another route director decision.  Reading from rule 28 of “the cycling rules,” I had authored, it said: “One cannot afford to “butch” it out riding 6 miles and hour into a stiff wind and get caught in a down pour with the possibility of not completing the day's stage.  If such conditions exist then an alternative must be sought to insure or improve the ability of the riders to complete the day’s stage.” 


I notified my bike buddy that we would drive west 15 miles and ride back with the wind.  I loaded my bike into the car.  As we drove I explained my obligation to pile on as many miles as possible before the predicted down pour began further west.  We would drive west and cycle east.


We drove a little less than 15 miles and we were stopped by road construction.  We waited about 5 minutes and decided we should just turn around and start our return ride at that point.  The length of the wait was unknown and again we were concerned about how many miles we could get in before the rain started.  With the wind at my back we covered the mileage in good time.


After I completed the leg we loaded my bike returned to the construction, waited util we were allowed to pass at the construction and then drove to Hayes.  My wife rode back from Hayes again about 15 miles.  The total distance from Pierre to Hayes was 38 miles.  We still had 5 miles to ride from Hayes to US 14 where we would turn south.   After completing the second 15 mile leg we drove back to the junction of our route south and I rode the 5 miles back to Hayes and we were ready to head south to Midland.   


We drove to Midland where US 14 turns west again.  We decided to keep the wind at our back and drove to Phillip which was at the western end of our route.  The sky was clear by the time we got to Philip and we were now riding in sunshine for only the second time in South Dakota.


We decided to take the time to eat lunch in Philip.  Philip like most of the small towns along our route did not provide many selections for places to eat.  It was evident that the economic downturn had closed some businesses.  We found a restaurant and split a hamburger and we each had a salad.  After lunch we drove back to US 14 and I headed east.  I covered the distance quickly averaging better than 14 plus miles an hour.  My bike buddy did the same. 


today’s landscapeThe landscape on today’s ride continued to be small rolling hills, but I saw wild life tucked into the landscape as I rode.  There were many deer, some standing at the edge of the road.  I spooked several pheasants from nests along the road as I passed.  They would suddenly fly up from the roadside. They were huge and very colorful.  I saw many other species of birds as well. 


There was also a lot of road kill in South Dakota.  I saw snakes, skunks, deer and many other coyote type carcasses lying along the road.  A rabbit ran toward the car on one stretch of road while I was driving and I was terrorized.  The animal ran right by the car before leaving the road. 


I discussed the various carcasses I had seen on the road with a Park Ranger when we stopped at the Ranger Station in the Bad Lands National Park but some of the animals I thought I had seen were not local to the area.  Oops!! It’s that old reading thing again.


cycling notes - It looked like rain was guaranteed when we began to ride.  The wind was pushing the clouds to the east which meant we were facing an eastward standup wind but it cleared the skies as we moved west.  We were in sunshine by the end of the day.  The hill I had avoided when we exited Fort Pierre would not have been a difficult climb, probably 5%, and the rest of the ride was basically flat.  No bugs!  Traffic was light.  The prettiest areas to ride in South Dakota are along the Missouri River and in the Black Hills.  The rest of the countryside looks like the plains states but any bicycle ride is enjoyable.  


post ride activity - Since we had begun to modify our plans as we rode we did not have a hotel for the evening.  We selected the small town of Kodoka along the I-90 with the plan to finish another leg of our trek toward Rapid City the next morning from there. 


We used an Automobile Association (AAA) book we carried to locate places to stay.  The description in the AAA book indicated that our selection had a Jacuzzi.  We checked at the desk about the Jacuzzi and the answer was yes.  We checked in and found that the Jacuzzi was not functioning.  We were told that a call had been placed to the repairman.  We checked out.


We drove to Wall which is about an hour further along the I-90 and called a hotel as we drove again using the AAA book.  They told us they had a hot tub.  Got there and it was not working.  We cancelled our phone reservation.


At the Days Inn down the block the people at the desk said the motel’s Jacuzzi had been shutdown.  It was too expensive.  We now understood that it was the recession!  We appreciated their honesty and we checked in.


The Subway special “any foot long for $5” was still going on near by and the Dairy Queen was only a block away from the Subway.  Dinner was planned.  The Closer and “something” else I can’t recall was on the tube.  I took my hot shower to help reduce my Jacuzzi craving.  My bike buddy washed some clothes.  We sacked out.  Forecast for tomorrow, rain.  That’s different!  The sun broke out on today’s ride so we remain optimistic.   



 RIDE DAY 6  - Phillip to the Cheyenne River 



 ..getting ready for the road...

 ...bit of climbing...

...wind! The cyclist's friend... after cycling reward...


 June 9, 2009 - 61 miles


plan for the day – The ride director’s plan continues.  We plan to drive back to Philip, about 30 miles, and then complete the route back to Wall on US 14.  When we reach Wall we will pack up our gear and drive due south through Bad Lands National Park to State 44.  We will then begin to ride west until we are physically exhausted, load our bikes and drive into Rapid City for the evening.


getting started - We got up to fog!!!  We had stayed the night in Wall, South Dakota which was located on Interstate 90 about 75 miles from Rapid City. 


We dressed for cycling in a bit of cold and headed to participate in the motel’s complimentary breakfast.  Afterward we checked out, loaded our “stuff” from the room into the car and headed for Philip.


today’s adventure When we reached Philip it was still overcast and raining lightly.  The wind was mild and we had decided we could ride east to west today.  


I rode first. The terrain was basically flat with a few rollers.  Most of the rollers were closer to Philip and the road became flat the last few miles to the I-90.  At the I-90 we loaded our bikes into the car.  We drove a short distance on the I-90 to the intersection of State 240 which would take us through Bad Lands National Park.


We had to stop at the gate to purchase an “old person” park permit to continue our drive through the park.  Now legal, we drove south through the park and turned onto highway 44.  We located the start point (due south of Wall) and began to ride. 


I started and after a few miles ran into road repair.  The road had been grooved in preparation for resurfacing.  It went on for 15 miles.  It was brutal.  After reaching an area which was resurfaced I thought my torture was over, but no, after a short distance I rode onto a piece of the road that was covered with gravel.  I rode on the tire tracks generated by the traffic which had turned to packed mud.  It was not soft but “limber” and made me uncomfortable. 


The mud lasted for half a mile and then the road surface became paved again and stayed that way for the remainder of the ride.  My bike buddy took over and rode to the bridge over Cheyenne River a good marker for the start point for tomorrow’s ride.  We packed her bike in the car and headed for Rapid City. 


today’s landscape Badlands National Park deserves a day.  I was impressed by how unusual the landscape was.  We gave it an hour and a bit as we drove through with one stop at the conclusion of a ranger talk and to walk through the Ranger Station.  It was here that I asked about the animals I had seen along our South Dakota route.  


The landscape of the park was very interesting.  The road runs along the edge of an area which dropped off several thousand feet on one side of the road.  On the opposite side of the road was a very green, treeless area that ran to the horizon. 


Further along the Badlands reminded me of my Utah experience.  Very high walls of rock that formed the sea bottom were pushed up immediately at the edge of the road.  Again on the opposite side of the road were lust green fields to the horizon.


It is my understanding based on “no research” that the rock formations we saw in the badlands represent the sediment at the bottom of the sea that originally covered all of the central United States.  The sea was bordered on the east by the mountains in the eastern US and the Rockies in the west.  The volcano activity around Yellowstone began to push the land upward and created the Great Plains between the mountains.   


We stopped at the ranger station inside the park and walked through.  It was very impressive.  The videos that explained how the Bad Lands had been formed, the animals that lived in the park, the Indian tribes that inhabited the park and the settlers of the surrounding area were excellent and very informative.  The exhibits of the fossils found in the area were also interesting.


cycling notes - When we entered Bad Lands National Park the road dropped down sharply to the floor of the valley.  Bicycling was allowed and this would have been a difficult but beautiful climb out of the park.


No wind.  No bugs.  Accept for the sprinkles and fog in the morning the weather had been good to us, i.e. no rain.  The road repair was ugly but road work avoidance is impossible to predict.


post ride activityWe located the hotel in Rapid City, a Hollywood Inn Express.  We discovered that we did not have a reservation.  Our reservation was for the following day.  The hotel was booked.  The young woman at the desk told us to wait that her assistant who was busy at the moment could work miracles.


When she finished her task she came over and found a suite with a “Jacuzzi tub” in it!  It was $10 more than the cost of our regular room.  Oh gosh!! Should I spend a few hours looking for a way to save $10??  The route director quoted from our Bicycle Touring Manual; “save money at home, spend money on the road.”  The literal translation is “do not screw up a good day attempting to reduce the cost of a reasonable unexpected expense.”    


We made a Subway run for dinner to get the $5 foot long Italian which was in play all across South Dakota and returned to our room.  Before our meal we filled the Jacuzzi tub and jumped in.  It was very relaxing and needed. 


Later we made a desert run.  We also replenished the “energy food” stash for the support vehicle driver.  We had depleted our “junk food” supplies in the car.  No Dairy Queen for desert but we picked up some Ben & Jerry’s to consume while watching TV.


We returned to out suite, watched a bit of TV, ate Ben & Jerry’s and fell asleep.  We had cheated the weather another day and were getting in sight of our goal.




 RIDE DAY 7 – Cheyenne River to Rapid City



 ...quick morning soak before changing to the regular room..

 ..the time trial....

 ...supporting South Dakota industry...

 ...typical South Dakota dinner to enjoy with a bit of TV...


 June 10, 2009 - 32 miles


plan for the day We had three days left in our ride schedule to finish our ride into Rapid City and then ride through the Black Hills to the border.  Completing the ride into Rapid City today would consume one of our days and we planned not to ride further. 


Today we would drive back along State 44 to the bridge over the Cheyenne River where we had stopped the day before and start to ride.  The planned riding distance for the day was 32 miles.  We would split the distance into two short 16 mile turns.  Piece of cake!    


After reaching Rapid City we would have two days to ride the remaining 50 miles to the border.  We could ride the 50 miles in one day if we could catch a break with the weather and we did not find too many surprises in the Black Hills.  Custer’s Pass was listed at 5000 feet on the map but I believed we should be able to muddle through the Black Hills to the Wyoming border in two days.  We had climbed over the Rocky Mountains in two days and these ain’t the Rockies!!


getting startedThere was a steady rain when we got up.  We made ourselves presentable in a semi-pajamas/street clothes outfit.  We would delay dressing in bike clothes for the day's ride until after we moved our luggage to a regular room without a Jacuzzi.  We were hoping our delayed departure would allow time for the rain to stop.  We went down to enjoy the great free breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express.


It was still raining hard by the time we had completed all of our busy work and moved into a regular room.  We decided to ride in the rain.  We put our bike cloths on and headed out to finish the few miles from the Cheyenne River into Rapid City.  It continued to rain as we drove out of Rapid City but we hoped we would be lucky and the rain would stop by the time we reached the River.  


today’s adventure - It took about 45 minutes to get to the bridge.  My wife rode first.  The leg would be 16 miles.  The first 16 miles had most of the climbs for the day’s ride.  The temperature was in the 50’s and my bike buddy was very cold at the end of her ride.  Her rain jacket had not done its job and she was soaked.


I took over to ride the remaining 16 miles into Rapid City.   The rain intensity increased as I rode toward the city but my Gortex jacket kept me warm.  I did not get cold. 


I decided to play mind games to avoid thinking about the conditions.  There was a large, smooth shoulder and the traffic was moderate.  I rode my 16 miles as if it were a “time trial.”  I began my ride averaging between 15 to 20 miles an hour for the first 5 miles.  I began to loose it and my average dropped on the next 5.  I finished averaging 13.5 miles per hour for my 16 miles.  I failed to make the podium again this year. 


We completed the ride in less than three hours.  We were both soaked and cold.  When I got off my bike at the finish my Gortex jacket and riding clothes were covered with dirt from the road.  My bike buddy was covered with dirt as well. I took the seat and front tire off my bike and loaded all into the car.  I found a bit of plastic to put on the car seat and got in for the drive to the hotel.    


I being “tour director” had been given a poor mark for selecting June as the month to ride in South Dakota because of the rain recorded in the first month of summer.  It was a small miss step in my planning.  But note that today’s ride was the first day that we had been in the rain for the full ride.  On other days during the adventure we had experienced drizzle, or light rain or briefly heavy rain but this was the first full ride in the rain and it had been brief.  So maybe it rains every day in South Dakota in June but only for a couple of hours or so.  I’m just saying. 


today’s landscape - The enjoyment of our bicycling adventures is experiencing the environment at 15 miles an hour and interacting with the population along the route.  Rain eliminates that experience.  One has to be really in tune with moisture to enjoy riding in the rain.  The description of the landscape we passed today “escapes” me. 


cycling notes – Maybe the month of June should be considered for bicycle touring in South Dakota.   Note that the State sponsored “Ride Across South Dakota” started on the 4th day of our ‘June” ride.  The locals must know something.  And, the June ride fit our riding schedule for the year.


South Dakota is noted for having swarms of bugs that the cyclist who had ridden the state noted in their logs.  A cyclist rides into a swarm of these insects and they stay with the cyclist making them miserable.  We experienced one such swarm on the second day of our adventure.  With the rain we did not experience these bugs on other days of the ride. 


South Dakota is noted for high winds.  We never experienced wind like we have experienced on other rides accept outside Picksville.  I believe the reduced wind conditions were a result of the wet weather. 


Also note that the temperature was in the 50’s on our ride which could be controlled with proper clothing.  It was very hot when we returned to Spearfish after Yellowstone to prepare for our return to LA.  I like to ride in the 70’s which happens rarely and I can turn 50’s into 70’s with clothing.


I rest my case!


post ride activityWe decided as we drove to the hotel to find hot soup.  I drove into the hotel parking lot and went to the desk to ask where hot soup could be found.  The restaurant across the street from the hotel was suggested.  That would be convenient enough.  We had our hot soup followed by a full dinner and returned to the hotel.


We washed the dirt from our clothes in the bathroom sink.  After washing our clothes we went to the hotel’s Jacuzzi and talked about the day’s effort.  Now that it was over and we were warm again it did not seem as ugly.  This always happens in cycling. 


We returned to our room kicked back and watched TV.  It continued to rain.  We had 50 miles to ride to the Wyoming border and we had to climb.  Would we catch a break with the weather or would we have to slog all the way?                 




 RIDE DAY 9 – Hermosa to Custer



 ..the landscape changed as we approached Custer State Park.. passed me on a climb..

 ...little guy next to the road as my bike buddy rode by...

 ...the rain had caught up to us...


 June 11, 2009 – 26 miles


Plan for the day – Today we planned to complete our ride across South Dakota to the Wyoming border.  We were about 50 miles from the Wyoming border and 25 and change to Custer.


Continuing our “bicycle east/west drive north/south plan,” we would drive south from Rapid City to Hermosa and then bicycle west. The drive south from Rapid City to Hermosa would be on State 79 eliminating the vertical leg of the route.  The ride would begin just south of Hermosa on State 36.  State 36 heads southwest from State 79 and becomes US 16 as it enters Custer State Park. 


Getting started - We got up to sunshine.  Some clouds but still the sun was evident.  We went to the great complimentary breakfast provided at the Holiday Inn Express and read our complimentary copy of US Today. 


We decided to change our hotel to Custer which had been a thought in LA but now on the ground it made sense.  Custer is located in the middle of all the attractions in the Black Hills.  It was located 30 miles from Rapid City and 25 miles from the Wyoming border.  A good spot to be stuck in if the rain returned.  Also the climbing and possible wind could make for a slow day.


We packed our hotel garb in the car and checked out.  The sun was gone by the time we rolled out.  Dark clouds were rolling in.  We located State 79 and turned south. 


Today’s adventure – We reached State 36 and I pulled my bike out to ride first.  It was sprinkling a bit by the time we started but the conditions were much better than the day before.  The road was flat until we reached Custer State park.  It began to climb after that and the climbing lasted until we reached Custer.  The incline ranged from 1% to 8% but the road was basically up until we got to Custer. 


The distance to Custer was 26 miles.  I reached my 13 mile point at the park museum.  BW was parked waiting for me and said she wanted to see the museum.  I continued on toward Custer while BW toured the museum. 


The road was narrow and the army was on maneuvers and a number (8) trailer trucks came up behind me and I assumed because of the turn ahead they would try to squeeze by.  There was no shoulder.  But the guy driving the first truck in the column pulled into the left lane and passed followed by the other 7 trucks around the turn ahead!  I was pleased. 


When I reached the 16 mile point BW arrived in the van and started to ride.  The rain had increased.   I was cold but warmed up quickly from my cycling exposure in the car.


At one point on the road I was ahead of BW in the van looking for a place to wait and came upon two cars stopped in the road.  As I approached I saw a large buffalo on the side of the road grazing.  I stopped, jumped out of the car to get a picture as BW rode pass.  Now there were 5 cars stopped and the buffalo was not amused.  I could not take a picture of BW and the buffalo in the same frame so I took one photo of the buffalo and a second of the rider to put in the journal.


BW was wet and very cold by the time she reached Custer.  She was frozen.  We decided not to continue on the the border.  We had one more day to make it to the border before we were scheduled to leave for Yellowstone.  If the weather did not improve we could freeze on the way to the border tomorrow.


Today’s landscape – After entering Custer State Park the landscape changed dramatically. The landscape had basically been free of trees in the eastern part of South Dakota.  Now we were riding through a forest.  In various locations large “gray” rocks pushed hundreds of feet into the sky.  The rock formations were extensive and ran for miles behind the trees along the road. 


We learned listening to a presentation at the Crazy Horse sculpture complex that the rock formations reached several thousand feet up into the air.  Even with the climbing, rain, cold and riding in overcast the surroundings were beautiful.


Bicycling notes – State 36 from the junction of State 79 to the Park entrance has a shoulder and the traffic was light.  At the Park entrance US 16 begins and the road narrows and continues that way until a few miles east of Custer.  Cars and bikes must share the road.


The road is basically flat until the park entrance.  At the park entrance the road begins to climb. The road undulates but continues up until a few miles east of Custer.  I would estimate that the climbing was less than 5% for most of the way to Custer with a bit of 8%.  There was no wind.  It was June and it was raining and cold.       


Post ride activity - We located our hotel and checked in.  We decided we needed something warm so we asked at check-in about soup.  They recommended the Elk Canyon Café.  We went to our room so BW could change out of her wet clothes.  She was soaked.  I decided to leave my bike clothes on because I was not freezing and did not want to disturb the feeling. 


We located the Elk Canyon Café.  We had been on a diet of “Subway sandwiches” and the experiments we had taken with South Dakota food had displayed the German influence.  I am German and we over cook our food.  We had had some disappointments in South Dakota and I needed something that was good to help my recover from the cold.


Reading the menu we passed on the soup of the day which sounded unappealing, vegetable noodle.  A young man waited on us and we asked about the chili and the buffalo ribs.  He said they were popular.  The chili was made with elk!  What the hay, we were 30 miles from the Wyoming border.  I could survive bad food.  We ordered elk and bean chili for the soup with buffalo ribs on the side.


The food came and it was special.  The buffalo was especially good and the chili contained uncooked red peppers and stewed tomatoes that were very tasty.  We took along a rhubarb pie that was recommended back to the hotel. 


Before we left we asked about the Crazy Horse sculpture on the mountain.  The short riding day gave us time so we decided to take it in.  We were told the park was 6 miles from Custer.  We took the first street north after leaving the restaurant to the park.   


The woman at the entrance to the Crazy Horse Park was a crack up.  When she approached I asked if we could get to New York City along this road.  She replied Manhattan was straight ahead.  I asked if we could use our park pass and she said no.  I said how much does it cost to get into the park and she said “a hundred dollars.”  She said "look at it as a contribution to help buy dynamite for the construction of the site."  The entrance fee was $20. 


We took pictures of the Crazy Horse sculpture.  I was surprised to find that it was a private project started by the American Indians.  I assumed the government was involved but the Indians had turned them down or I should say turned us down. 


We visited the tourist complex at the bottom of the mountain.  BW bought jewelry from one of the native venues.  The woman who had made the necklace was Navaho.  She was from New Mexico.   


We returned to the hotel picking up our Subway sandwich on the way.  We cleaned up and went to the Jacuzzi to accelerate our recovery.  We ate our dinner while we watched TV.  Tomorrow rain or shine its on to the Wyoming border! 



 RIDE DAY 10  - Custer to the Wyoming Border – 27 miles



 ..the hotel landscape was beautiful and sunny skies

 ...the Black Hills landscape was unique for South Dakota...

...outside the Park the road was a bit more bike friendly...

 ...mission accomplished...


June 12, 2009


plan for the day - We only had a 25 mile plus ride to the Wyoming border.  Once there we would have accomplished phase one of our South Dakota adventure.  Our trip would not end at the Wyoming border.  We would spend a day in Custer visiting Mount Rushmore and touring the Jewel Cave.  The following day we would drive to Yellowstone National Park for a week of adventure.  We would take a tour of the "Little Big Horn" on the way to Yellowstone to break up the monotony of the driving.  


getting started - We got up to sun!  We were both very sore or stiff I would say is the corrcet description from the climbing the day before.   We decided to get ready to ride after breakfast.  It should be an easy ride to the border so we could afford to be slow. 


We were staying at the Holliday Inn Express in Custer and the location is beautiful.  We went down to feast on the complimentary breakfast buffet.  My wife read our complimentary US Today newspaper.  I entered trip notes on my computer as I over dosed on coffee.


The sun was still shinning by the time we returned to our room.  We dressed in our bike clothes, packed our clothes and gear and put them in the car.  We checked out and drove a short distance to start the day's ride.


today’s adventure – We drove to the edge of Custer on route 16.  I rode first.  The wind was light when I started and there were a couple of long climbs on the road of 5%.  Then the road narrowed and we entered a road which wound through Black Hills National Park.  After entering the park I began to climb along a green wooded area with rock cliffs along the road. 


At the entrance to the cave tours my wife began her ride.  I thought that we were at the top of the climb but it continued up.  We must have exited the park because the road opened up and a shoulder reappeared along the edge of the road.


The road continued to climb after exiting the Park until we were within 5 miles of the Wyoming border.  The wind was in our face but the sun was out.  The temperature was in the 70’s. It was perfect riding weather and we knew that our goal was within sight.


At the Wyoming border we parked the car near the border sign so we could set the camera on the car and take a photo of both of us at the border sign.  We had used this photo technique successfully on previous rides.  As we walked with our bikes to set up for the photo op a military convoy passed on the road and a couple of the “Hummers” honked their horns to congratulate us on our accomplishment.  


We took pictures at the Wyoming sign and then setup across the road to take pictures at the South Dakota sign.  We congratulated ourselves, loaded the bicycles into the car and headed back to Custer.  The ride across South Dakota was complete!


today’s landscape – The most beautiful landscape to ride through in South Dakota is the Black Hills.  The road climbs through a forest with a background of large gray rock cliffs some distance from the road.  In some places the rock is immediately along the road.  It is a radical contrast from the flat rolling green hills we bicycled through in the rest of the State.    


cycling notes - The weather was very cooperative on the ride to the Wyoming border.  The sun was out and there was some wind but it was reasonable.  The climbing was difficult in places but we were only a few miles from accomplishing our goal so physical discomfort was way down the “consideration list.”  There were no bugs. 


The road through the Park was narrow with several turns.  There were a few blind curves but the traffic was attentive and polite.  Once outside the Park the road had a large shoulder the remainder of the way to the border.  The road surface was good and in places where the road was narrow the shoulder could not be guaranteed.  My belief was that in the Park a minimal surface had been used to support traffic to preserve as much of the natural landscape as possible.            


post ride activity - We stopped to take a few photos of the scenes on the way back that we had missed in our haste to get to the Wyoming border.


We stopped at the jewel cave on the way back.  We walked through the ranger station and watched the videos describing the cave and looked at the displays.  My wife was unsuccessful in her attempt to crawl through the “test clearance” located on the patio of the ranger station.  On one of the tours the guides took the participants through small opening in the rocks.  If one failed the "patio clearance test" it was advised they not take the tour! 


We inquired about the Jewel Cave tour which did not involve crawling through small opening and were told the tours were booked for the day.  The tour was sold out.  I did not have my walking (I was wearing my crocks) shoes so it was not a bad call.  We discovered that the 10:20 was available the next day so we moved that adventure to the following day. 


It was getting very over cast so we were afraid that Mount Rushmore would be obsecured so we headed back to Custer and decided to rest.  I think we wanted to bask in our accomplishment.  Did we have Subway for dinner?





South Dakota

car-free adventure _____________________________________________________________


Experiences from the bicycle trip to South Dakota  

No matter how good or how long the planning phase for a bicycle adventure is there are always unexpected situations that require some thought and attention for future trips.  Most of the trip experiences add to the enjoyment of bicycling but a few reinenforce the need for the detailed planning effort.  I catalog our experiences and modify my trip planning "to do list" to include both the unexpected successes and the unexpected failures.    

Bicycle Transport – Traveling with my friend

As a rule, we take our bicycles on our adventures to avoid physical problems due to “a poor bicycle fit” which “will spoil” a good time. Traveling with a bike creates the problem of how to transport the bike boxes to the hotel where the ride begins and also hopefully stores the bike boxes until we return. 

The first problem to be solved was bike transport to South Dakota. We typically FEDEX our bicycles to the start point of a ride in the US because it is cheaper than taking them on the plane. We planned to use FEDEX to South Dakota. Shipping our bikes FEDEX was complicated by the fact that the Marriott where we were to stay in Rapid City was being renovated and we were told did not have a place to store the bikes when delivered by FEDEX. 

When we made our fight reservations with Southwest Airlines we discovered we could take our bikes with us for the same charge as FEDEX, $50 each. We opted to fly the bikes to South Dakota. Flying the bikes to South Dakota had the added advantage of allowing us to discuss possible bike box storage locations with the Marriott.

We have taken our bicycles to LAX on all of our bike adventures on Super Shuttle as regular luggage. No charge. We called to make the reservation two days before we were to leave and where told the bikes would cost an addition 50 dollars each! We told them we would think about that. We called the local airport bus service and found that the bikes rode free to LAX. 

It would cost $4 a day for parking the car at the bus terminal and $8 round trip each to take the bus to the airport. For 21 days parking plus the fare we would pay $100. The shuttle cost was $200. We took the bus. Taking the bus had the added advantage of allowing us to load the car the night before we left and having that relaxed extra cup of coffee in the morning before leaving for the terminal.



Rental Car – Double dipping using a rental car 


I have learned that when planning a bicycle trip the airfare is purchased last. If the plan changes the cost of changing the date of the flight is difficult to hide in a frugal travel budget.

I bought the airfare to South Dakota before I learned that June had the highest average rainfall! And, just for entertainment, June is month when most of the tornados occur in the State!

We experienced a lot of rain during our ride across South Dakota. It was raining when our plane landed in Rapid City. It rained everyday after we arrived until we drove east to start our ride a day early at the Missouri border.

We drove out of the rain about 50 miles east of Rapid City but the forecast was for the storm to continue moving to the east. We were able to ride three days back across the State before we ran into the rain again. We then experienced rain everyday until we reached the Wyoming border. Our bike trip confirmed that rain can be expected in South Dakota in June!

The temperature was ok for riding when it was not raining. I wore my windbreaker comfortably on those days. When I rode in the rain I did not get cold wearing my Gortex jacket. My wife got very cold when her rain jacket did not protect her. It should be noted that it was not humid when we rode in the sunshine.

Interestingly we did not experience strong wind when the skis were clear. When it began to cloud up or after a rain the winds picked up. The web indicated the prevailing wind would blow north to south. I remember only one time riding due north on our trip and the wind was very difficult. The remainder of the time we rode in crosswinds which impeded our progress but was not as difficult as Utah which is our standard.

One blessing about our choice of June was that we did not experience the bugs we had read about on the web. Most of the journals we read described the bugs as a real headache while riding in South Dakota.

Note that the “The Bicycle Ride Across South Dakota” is held in June which is a mystery if our weather experience is common in June. Also note that the vote is 0-2 for bicycling in South Dakota in June. 

But, as usual it was a great bike ride.


The Route – The Lewis & Clark Trail and the Black Hills 


Initially I planned our bicycle ride across South Dakota to begin in Sioux Falls and end west of Rapid City.  We would ride along roads south of Interstate 95 from Sioux Falls to Rapid City and then through Custer to the Wyoming border.     


I knew from my research on the web the route I had chosen would not be very interesting.  My wife suggested that we look at the Adventure Cycling Map which followed the route Lewis and Clark had taken through the state, the Lewis and Clark Trail.  I modified the plan through the eastern part of the state to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail.


The Lewis and Clark Trail follows the Missouri River and as been our experience the Adventure Cycling Maps use roads with light traffic and the river views changed a rather ho-hum landscape into and interesting ride.  The route presents some interesting climbing as it heads north to Pierre after leaving Interstate 95.  The road follows the river and dips down and back up again providing some long steep rollers to cycle over.


We abandoned the Adventure Cycling Maps at Pierre and returned to my dead reckoning technique.  My route began heading due west and then south back across Interstate 95 into the Badlands.    


The route continues to be basically flat until the Badlands.  The Badlands have a difficult climb through a forested area as the park is entered before returning to a flat area.  In the flat area the road has lush green fields on one side and white rock of an ancient sea floor on the other.  We were told the white rock formations are what remain of the sea floor which was pushed up millions of years ago by the volcanic activity which continues at Yellowstone today. 


From the Badlands our route continued west to Rapid City.  From Rapid City we went south and then west into the Black Hills.  The South Dakota landscape changes dramatically in the Black Hills. The small rolling green treeless hills in the east are replaced by forested high hills with rock cliffs in many places which rise above the hills. The climbing makes the riding a challenge but the views are great.


Rapid City is located at the entrance to the area but Custer is the place to stay.  It is a small touristy place similar to the towns in the Colorado Rockies which provide support to the tourists and is located close to everything of interest.


The road surface along the Adventure Cycling route turned to gravel once.  The map warned us and provided an alternate but beware.  We rode through the gravel and it was a bit dicey!  The road surfaces we rode on throughout the state were good.  The shoulder was missing often but the traffic was light. 


The Adventure Cycling Map guided us through the back roads of South Dakota and the distances between food and shelter could average 30 miles.  We were not totally out of civilization but the farms are large and the distance between them requires a bit of riding if help is required.  Phone service was available everywhere in the state. 


The remote territory the Adventure Cycling Maps took us through allowed us to meet the local people.  At one stop where the support van was waiting for me beside the road a farmer had come out to the van to inquire if all was ok and was engaged in a conversation about what we were doing and South Dakota when I arrived on my bike.  The local people experiences are one of the highlights of all of our cycling adventures. 


South Dakota was an excellent choice for our goal to ride across the United States one state at a time.  We spent a week at Yellowstone National Park after our bike ride and that is a must see.



Gortex - Stay Warm & Stay Dry 

Once I discovered that I had selected the wettest month of the year to ride in South Dakota what to wear while riding became a concern. Would we experience all three seasons on our ride through South Dakota in June?

I have had the experience on other rides where the prediction was for unpleasant weather conditions and we caught a break. The weather was excellent. I also had the experience of snow on our ride across Colorado in early August. Loveland Pass was closed to traffic with two feet of snow! My “cycling” crystal ball told me to be prepared.

We had a car which allowed us to carry the weight of our clothes for all seasons. I took my leg and arm warmers, water proof gloves, small pull over hats for under my helmet, thermal shirts, etc. We flew on Southwest Airlines so we could take our bikes at a reasonable price and take an extra, complimentary bag for the “all seasons” clothing.

I also know from riding in poor weather that if I can keep my upper body warm then by legs can put up with most any weather. My feet have had trouble while skiing a couple of times but on the whole if my top is warm the bottom is ok. If I get wet then I get cold at mild temperatures. The rule for me in cold weather is put something waterproof on the top of my body that keeps me warm as well.

I bought a Gortex Jacket on sale from Performance Bicycle before we rode in Spain 5 years ago. That jacket has become my all purpose weather garment. It is bright orange so it can be seen on the road. It keeps me warm in cold or rainy weather. And, if I am wearing it because the forecast is for rain and it is overcast, I do not get excessively hot. If necessary, the sleeves zip open underneath which helps stay cool.

I also do not have to layer clothes when I am wearing it. I can wear a long sleeve riding shirt under the Gortex Jacket and I stay warm. My experience has been that a thermal shirt is too warm. When riding with the jacket and the weather improves I can take the jacket off and I am not over dressed with layers of clothes.

When we are cycling without car support we use a small clothes trunk that is secured to a rack that attaches to the seat post of our bikes. The jacket fits into a small to medium sized stuff bag which easily straps onto the top of the clothes trunk. The jacket can be retrieved easily if the weather changes quickly as it did in Colorado. The stuff bag would also fit on top of or inside my CamelBak if needed.



Bike Shops – Bike repair on route 


The best way to prevent a “mechanical” problem with my bike on an adventure is to buy the best equipment I can afford.  My daughter lives in Colorado and tells the story about a guy driving a $250 car with a $5000 bike in a rack on the top.  I do not own a $5000 bicycle but I was surprised with an expensive bicycle as a birthday gift a few years ago.  It is equipped with excellent components and it has served me well for thousands of miles.  I have never had a mechanical failure on the road.


But even the best bike could develop a problem and when I am riding across South Dakota I want to know where to find a bike shop to put me back on the road if I have a problem. 


I do not want to search for a bike shop on the road. The location of the bike shops in a particular State or any part of the world can be determined before I leave on my adventure using the web.  I can put the phone numbers and addresses on my cell phone so with the help of my map I can locate the closest one.  Even without a map I can contact a bike shop from the list and ask for a bike shop nearest to my location.   


I have found it wise to communicate with the bike shops in the area where I plan to ride during the planning stages.  In addition to finding out possible ways of getting to their shop if an error occurs, I have discovered that bike shops are a good source of information about the area where I plan to ride. 


Bike shops can provide a significant amount of information about weather, traffic, road conditions and what to do if a problem develops on the road.  Many bicycle tours are supported by or originate from bike shops which provide detailed information about bicycling conditions and about what to expect to their customers.


The reality of locating a bike shop in every location along a route is remote and this is a problem.  I am spoiled because I live in a highly populated area with 8 bike shops within a short distance.  My experience does not support the reality that owning a bike shop in a small town is not cost effective and bike shops will not be available in locations where I want to ride. 


As experience has shown the bike shops in South Dakota were located in the larger cities.  It will take some thought as to how to get to a bike shop from the route where I want to ride. We have a support car but it may take hours to get to the closest bike shop.  It is also important to ask what bicycle technology the bike shop can support.  We drove a 100 miles in South Dakota to be told that the bike could not be repaired because the parts necessary were not available.  


Some of our bicycle adventures are self-supported.  If a problem occurs on a self-supported bike ride getting to a bike shop requires the help of the local population.  In Utah we met a fellow riding across the States.  He emailed us after he got home that he had developed a mechanical problem that would not allow him to continue.  He was 50 miles from a town with a fix but needed transport for him and his bike.  He went to the local truck stop and found a good Samaritan going his way who drove he and equipment to the bike shop.


Other methods I have thought about are renting a car, taking the bus or paying someone to drive me to the bike shop location.     





The Hotel - Making it up as we go!  

If we have van support on an adventure the area from which a motel can be selected is much greater and the process is much simpler. In South Dakota we opted for van support. I made the reservations along the route before we left for South Dakota. I entered the motel information for the route into my cell phone just in case a problem occurred which required I contact the motel. Some cancelations for the South Dakota reservations had to be made 24 hours in advance.  

Because we had van support, we selected a Marriott in Spearfish about 40 miles west of Rapid City as our base. Marriott had proven to be very helpful with coordinating early arrival of bike boxes, storing bike boxes while we were on our ride and provided other information via email about the area to support our ride. The Spearfish location provided the support we needed for our South Dakota trip.

Once on the ground in South Dakota the rain forced us to modify our plans. We would be making motel reservations as we rode through South Dakota. We moved up our scheduled start and once underway changed how we would ride the route to insure we could reach the Wyoming border within our “time budget.” We exited Spearfish early and reserved a room at a Marriot in Sioux Falls for the start of the ride.

Having made the motel reservations before the trip I had a good idea of where the places to stay could be found along the route. The reservations I had made did not match our new schedule in all cases so we had to cancel some reservations and look for new places to stay at ad hoc destination towns. 

We bicycled into a wide place in the road along the Missouri River without a place to stay on one occasion. Lucky for us the location was a favorite fishing area along the river and there were several places to stay and eat. We checked into a comfortable room found dinner near by.   It rained hard all night!

In Rapid City we arrived a day prior to or reservation at the Holiday Inn express. At first we were told they did not have room but after a bit of discussion between the hotel staff we were offered a deluxe room for $10 more a night which had a Jacuzzi.   No hesitation there!    

We checked out a day early from our Rapid City location and moved to the Holiday Inn Express in Custer. That proved to be a very clever move because we were able to ride through the Black hills to Custer before the rain became intolerable the first day, and complete our adventure to the Wyoming border the second. It was also a perfect location to support visits to Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and explore the “caves” located near by before we left for Yellowstone.

We encountered one small inconvenience. The day before we reached Rapid City we checked into a motel which said at the desk they had a Jacuzzi. When we went to use it we were told the repair people had been called. We checked out and went to a second motel which offered a second excuse for no Jacuzzi. We went to a third and were told it was too expensive to keep the Jacuzzi going so it had been shut down. We checked in. The economic downturn has had an effect on accommodations.



Lessons Learned – “Touring Mandate” – The ride date rules   

Early in our bicycle touring experience we developed a rule that when the "ride date" arrived we began “the ride.” As I believe most people are inclined to do we begin to develop reasons why we should stay home as the "ride date" approaches.  I will only be able to bicycle for so many years so I don't want to let any excuse put off a bicycle adventure.   

Our planning begins with a list of places where we want to bicycle. Each of the locations on the list is planned to a particular level of detail. We select candidates from the list for our next ride a year in advance and begin the serious planning. If a particular location is supported by a significant cost saving then it goes to the top of the list. Cheap airfare for example can drive a location candidate to the top of the list.

Two locations are selected each year for bicycle tours. One location is in the US and the second is outside the country. If an "economical discovery" is not made to change one or both of the locations then these two rides are planned in detail.

Our "Touring Mandate" has served us well. Our first last minute plan was the ride across Utah. I had a very detailed plan in place but we were physically in bad shape. It was really last minute because the entire plan had to be revised. We bicycled through Utah and had a great time. The Utah trip proved our philosophy.    

South Dakota was another test of our philosophy. I skied in January, February and March. It rained for three weeks in February and March, and I caught a bug in March. My wife, a college professor, became deeply engrossed in teaching young people to think. She joined the skiing and was prevented from training by the interruption in global warming as well. Neither of us had ridden over 25 miles since coming home from our Vietnam bicycle adventure in November of 2008. We were not physically ready to ride. 

But, poor training habits are not allowed to interrupt our schedule. The ride calendar said "South Dakota in June." The ride date approached, we packed and prepared to hit the road. The ride across South Dakota would be used to get in shape to ride the remainder of the years schedule.  New Zealand was scheduled for November.    

LESSON LEARNED: "The Touring Calendar Rules."


Riding environment  – South Dakota on road experience


Weather is the major topic for planning a bicycle ride in South Dakota.  We were told that the probability of rain in June would be high and the forecast was correct.  A major highlight of a bicycle trip is to enjoy the environment at a 15 mile and hour pace.  Riding in the rain does not support that activity. 


There were significant winds at times.  On our ride, the prevailing wind was west to east.  I encountered a “stand up” wind once on the way into Burke and the second leaving Pierre heading west.  The remainder of the time the wind was not a factor.  Based on my riding experience I would not consider the winds in South Dakota to be a deterrent to riding through the State.    


We had been warned about bugs that would bite and cause itching on the web.  Fortunately the weather eliminated the bugs but their bites were described as making a cyclist very uncomfortable on a bike ride.  


We ran into the gravel once when we were following the Adventure Cycling Maps.  The Adventure Cycling Maps warned us that we would be riding on gravel.  It was the only gravel road surface that I encountered or saw during the ride across South Dakota.  The road east of Pierre was rough for a couple of miles but the remainder of the road surfaces we rode on were in good shape.  The road did not always have a shoulder but the surface beyond the roads edge provided a chance of leaving the road and staying up.  


The traffic along the Lewis and Clark route was light.  When we were being creative at the Iowa border until we moved to the Lewis and Clark trail along the Missouri River the traffic was a bit heavy at times.  We shared the road with large army trucks in the Black Hills which I considered unique.  But the traffic in the Black Hills was not bad and the traffic in the remainder of the State was light.  I was never in the presence of three cars behind me for example which has occurred on occasion during my riding adventures.


The drivers were very courteous.  We loaded our bikes into the car at the edge of Rapid City and drove to the hotel so playing “mongoose and snake” with South Dakota city drivers is an unknown.  But I would expect to receive the same courteous behavior that we experienced on the highway.  We also gave into the heavy rain when we reached the outskirts of Pierre.  The smaller towns are typically never a problem.       



"car free adventure"