Black Hills of South Dakota, Crazy Horse and Sioux Falls.

Riding the Mickelson Trail
Harney Peak, highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees (Spain and France border) at 7240 feet.

Most people know the Black Hills as the home of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial giant sculptures. There is much more to the Black Hills than these two hugely popular tourist attractions. We parked Turtle for a week beside Mike Reynolds and Pam Traina’s (FHTV #190) house in Hill City, in the heart of the Black Hills. We should have known that visiting with Pam and Mike (Mike in Tucson, Mick in Hill City) would not consist of porch sitting and lazy walks. We bicycled a total of 169 miles with something over 12,000 feet of vertical climbing. After having not ridden for nearly two weeks, that was the biggest jump of weekly mileage, outside of touring, that we can remember. To top it off, the weather was at near record levels of heat and the humidity, though not high by Midwest standards, was brutal by Arizona/Utah standards. We survived though, and think we probably gained weight eating Pam’s great pasta meals. We also hiked to the top of Harney Peak, with a thousand or so other hikers; apparently it is the most popular hike in the Black Hills, with good reason.

Bison in Custer State Park

We also visited with Nick and Carolyn Clifford, new winter residents (owners) in Far Horizons Tucson Village. We also met Mary, raconteur and next door neighbor, and friends Fritz and Loretta, who gave us a ride, with bikes, about 35 miles up the Mickelson (rail) Trail for a one-way ride back to Hill City.

Approaching bison in Custer State Park; trying to decide how to hide behind those cars.

We rode many miles in Custer State Park, gem of the Black Hills, home to herds of bison, pronghorns, flowers, blue skies and puffy clouds. Those puffy clouds do tend to turn to thunderstorms, and one day pelted Turtle with golf-ball-sized hail; we were convinced during the cacophony of hail and thunder, that we were about to lose our second motorhome to hail. We were lucky: the hail was not baseball sized, and our roof is now fiberglass and stood the test well; we could find no dents. The only casualty was a huge hematoma on Claire’s hand as she tried to stuff a blanket through the skylight to protect it, while I stood by and reminded her that hail was probably the main reason we have insurance. I’ll never say that again, and she won’t stick her hand out in large hail again.
Crazy Horse’s eye

Crazy Horse from back side
Crazy Horse from his index finger

We left Mike and Pam after a week and went back to work, getting an up close tour of the Crazy Horse Memorial by the public relations staff (thanks Ace Crawford) for a proposed story on Native American Tourism. We spent one night in Rapid (short locally for Rapid City) and a short visit with Tass and Bruce, fellow cycle touring adventurers we met in Turkey. They had some great ideas for South America from their trip there several years ago.

Since we were passing through Sioux Falls, we decided to pop in on Miller and Marilyn Glanzer (FHTV 421). They showed us the falls and the interesting downtown sculptures and treated us to sodas at a great soda fountain. Thanks! That rich ice cream soda was a wonderful lunch and will help us put back on the weight we lost in the Black Hills! (Yes, Pam and Mike, we both lost weight, despite Pam’s pasta).

The best soda in years in downtown Sioux Falls.
We’ll be in Iowa soon, visiting Winnebago for a few minor things on Turtle. For the RVers among you, we are getting 18-19mpg, even in the mountains. Good boy Turtle!

Next up: The Greatlands National Park of South Dakota

Bob and Claire

Tornado within a mile or two

Last night in Spearfish, S.D., we noticed the sunny day turn black, then green, which Claire said meant tornado. Hah. It did look funny though. So we turned on our little yellow weather radio (never travel the great plains without one!) and heard a line of violent thunderstorms were due to arrive in Spearfish at 7:45. Right. 7:45. Sure. At 7:43 a light rain began. I laughed. Some storm. At 7:44 the breeze picked up a bit. So what.
At 7:45 (I swear) exactly, we were hit by a downpour and 60mph winds, lightning and thunder. Turtle shook violently. I will never doubt our little yellow National Weather Service radio again. We were somewhat protected by Wal*Mart, but when some hail began to pepper us (we have a history with hail) we drove close to the wall of the building and were well protected through the worst of it.
Then we heard about a tornado bearing down on Spearfish. We are still debating whether we should have gone into Wal*Mart. I could see that huge roof sucked off and dropped back down on us in pieces; Claire could see Turtle sucked up the tossed onto the Yellow Brick Road.
Wal*Mart is on the far eastern edge of Spearfish. the tornado touched down three miles east of Spearfish, perhaps a mile or two from us. Yikes. Glad we didn’t know until morning.
The wind backed and stayed force six until about 2:00a.m. when we again moved to the lee of Wal*Mart so we could get some sleep. I think I like 107 degrees in Tucson better.
We met a nice couple from N.C. heading for Alaska in their View (like Turtle) and spent a couple of hours talking about little glitches, and how much we like our Skinny Winnies. During the storm, we looked like two white beetles scurrying around in the horizontal rain, looking for shelter.
Not the the two pictures, taken a couple of minutes apart, are not the same. Picture number one, a heavy Wal*Mart cart is being blown uphill, out of its corral; picture number two it is long gone; we never saw it again after it passed our stern at about 20 mph.

Devils Tower (not Devil’s Tower)

I think I’m being watched.

I don’t know how many times we have passed to the N.S.E. or West of this place and never stopped. We finally decided this was the time. Often things you have always wanted to see are underwhelming when first finally experienced. This was my reaction to the columnar basalt plug that somehow became named Devils Tower (it was supposed to be Devil’s Tower, but a clerical error in the bill forever gave our first National Monument an incorrect spelling). After so much red rock in the southwest, the greenish gray of the tower was a bit of a disappointment. Set down in any other country in the world it would be the most visited place. shame on me!

However, the surroundings, pines, grass and wildflowers were a welcome change, and we enjoyed two days in the campground. There was a prairie dog colony between the campground and the tower, and they were somewhat habituated to humans; nobody shoots them here, and it’is possible to get a good look. When they are hunted, as they are on most all private property in Wyoming, they won’t let humans within a couple of hundred yards of them.

Our campsite was in the middle of a grove of cottonwoods, and the rustle of the leaves sounds like a gentle rain falling, even with the sun shining. Our sunroof gave us views of the small, heart shaped, leaves against a starry sky each night. Last night thunderstorms to the east added depth and interest to the stars and broken clouds. We got a sprinkle. Or was that just the cottonwoods?

Vedauwoo Wahoo!

June 10, Vedauwoo, Wyoming. We decided to check out a SE Wyoming bouldering spot; the photos we saw at the Wyoming Welcome Center reminded us of a place in Australia called Devil’s Marbles. It is on BLM land, so the camping was cheap, and half price for me, so we decided to make a day of it and stay the night. The hike around Turtle Rock, from the campground, was four or five miles, just right, and we had lots of daylight. We got distracted by a little bouldering of our own: Claire surprised me by asking to try a little climbing and she did very well. If I remember the old system, we might have done some 5.2, hard core! It was really fun, but the top was truly vertical and we had no gear, so we passed and made our way back down to the trail and finished the hike.

The campground was basic, picnic tables, raised fire grates and no showers, but $10 and every site with a half-acre of space and a spectacular view of the granite piles of rocks. The wildflowers were thick and the scent of pine strong, and at 8,000 plus feet, breathing deep. The sleep was long and deep and the dawn was bright. Ahhhhhh.