George Mickelson Trail Trek, South Dakota, Day 2, Saturday, Custer to Rochford

Last night was our second night at the Super 8 in Custer. Good location and reasonable price. We had done some sightseeing on Thursday morning and midday, and then last night we drove through Wind Cave National Park and on the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park and saw quite a few wildlife. Then to bed fairly early because I had heard from Martha that this part of the trail was a bit difficult with all the elevation gain, and I was anxious about keeping up with the crowd. There were two long inclines that I’d heard about, and I was eager and challenged to know if I could handle them okay. (As it turned out, I was fine. I worried unnecessarily.)

Joyce Beginning Day 2

Joyce Beginning Day 2

So at 8:30 a.m. we were again at the trailhead in Custer to start riding north this time. I had 39.5 miles to go today. Ron would pack up our stuff and check out of the motel and drive to Rochford to meet me in the afternoon and then we would go on to Deadwood for the next two nights.

Again, I started out by myself, which was okay, as I knew I’d see some people along the way to talk to briefly. The scenery to Hill City was beautiful with forest area and hills, and I was away from any highways. I also passed the Crazy Horse sculpture, which when it is finally done will be larger than Mt. Rushmore. The trail was the same crushed limestone and gravel, and at one point there was a sign that compared the view a hundred plus years ago with today, and very little has changed. It was neat. Because it was early morning and not hot and not cold and because I was fresh, the elevation gain of 1,000 feet was no problem. As I would ride along, if the person I was passing was an older person, I generally then slowed down to ride along with the person. On this stretch I rode with an interesting lady named Alma from Iowa, who seemed to be about my age. At least she had grandchildren, so I guessed she was in her 60’s. I was telling her about the book I want to write about these Hall of Fame trails, and she seemed interested, so that was motivating.

Trailside Scenery

Trailside Scenery

And speaking of Hall of Fame trails, I was surprised that few people I talked with were very aware of even the Rails to Trails Conservancy, let alone Hall of Fame trails. To them, this was just the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota, and they were riding it now as they had done in years past. Most of their bike rides seemed to be local to their home town or state. Few people are doing what Martha and I have done—going all across the country to ride these trails, which is another reason that I want to write the book and tell them how to do it as well as motivate them to do some of these trails. They seem intrigued by the idea but haven’t had the motivation or knowledge to do the planning that is required. (Even along the trail there are few mile markers to indicate that this is a Hall of Fame Rail to Trail, so I can see why they don’t know much about the concept.)

After Crazy Horse Monument, the trail had a long downhill stretch into Hill City, such that I was going over 20 mph much of the way. I had to really pay attention to the immediate trail so that I wouldn’t swerve or something and take a bad fall. I saw four people with flat tires along this part, and they were all being helped by nice riders along the way if they couldn’t patch it themselves. That was encouraging, but I still hoped I wouldn’t get a flat tire. On this part, I didn’t ride my brakes because I didn’t want to fall, but I did keep at a safe speed. It was fun!

After the morning break at Hill City (good snacks and fruit and water), the trail started going into the mountains, which was really pretty and totally different from yesterday and even the first part of the morning. (This is what I thought the Paul Bunyan Trail would be, but that wasn’t mountains so much as woods of northern Minnesota. Both are pretty in their own way.) Rode a little bit with a nice man from eastern South Dakota—Vern I think—who is 64 years old. With the mountains on both sides of the trail and some granite rock and caves seen in the near distance, and riding alongside a creek, it was very enjoyable, such that any elevation gain was not noticeable. At Mystic was another surprise break—delicious fresh cookies and brownies by the Mystic (seasonal) Homeowners Association. Apparently they do it every year, and it hits the spot for our taste buds. Again, toilets at every trailhead, so my physical needs were well taken care of on this day of riding.

Joyce Exiting Tunnel

Joyce Exiting Tunnel

After Mystic, the trail continued with some elevation climbing. We had done some climbing out of Hill City into Mystic, but I handled it. We passed through two tunnels on this part of the trip. None were very long, but they were neat anyway. We also rode across several old railroad trestles as we headed into some true back country of the Black Hills. One of the trestles was quite long, but I don’t know the exact distance. It reminded me of being on the Virginia Creeper Trail between White Top Mountain and Damascas. This part of the ride was really enjoyable due to the peaceful mountain scenery and the clear blue sky. It was a beautiful day to ride, just the right temperature also.
At Rochford, we all attached our bikes to these string posts in a big field, according to our designated registration number, and left them there for the night. Someone from Trail Trek stayed there all night to guard them. Ron had met me there and then we drove over to the little “town” of Rochford where we had a good BBQ lunch and visited with the men that I had met on the trail that day and on Friday. After that we drove to Deadwood to check into our Motel 6 there, walked around Mt. Moriah Cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried and then had dinner at Saloon #10, where Wild Bill was killed during a poker game while holding aces and eights. An interesting day and evening in Deadwood.

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