Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dakota Bike Tours Black Hills Monument Tour - Day 3 Crazy Horse Monument and the Mickelson Trail

Day 3 took us from Palmer Gulch in Hill City along the Mickelson Trail to the Crazy Horse Memorial. After a lunch stop at Custer we could do an optional out-and-back to Pringle and if we still had enough legs, we could make the final climb up to the Sylvan Lake Lodge. Laurel's up at day break for her pancake breakfast under the BigTop. Papa the pancake maker has a nifty machine that dispenses just the right amount of batter to make 4 rows of 10 pancakes on his large griddle - all you can eat for $2.50.We entered the Mickelson Trail at the Rafter J-Bar entrance south of Hwy 244 off US 16. The Mickelson Trail is a 109 mile packed gravel trail over the old railroad line from Edgemont to Deadwood. We comfortably rode on 35C tires, but I think going down to 30C would work as long as the trail was dry. Parts of the Trail ran along streams and there were a few bridge and tunnel crossings. Laurel brought along her Trek FX just to ride the trail.
I rode my Fuji Cross Comp Cyclocross bike and changed between 23C road tires and 35C tires for the trail. The Black Hills is a great place to mineral hunt. Over 40 types can be found here. Lots of shale containing quartz, mica, and shiny golden pyrite. Cut by beavers, stacked by woodchucks. Proof that woodchucks chuck wood. Off in the distance, The Crazy Horse Memorial looms 650 feet high. Unlike Mt. Rushmore, which is just sculpted on its face, Crazy Horse will be sculpted on all sides.
"Crazy Horse" on his iron horse "Fuji". The head of Crazy Horse is 87 feet high compared to the Rushmore presidents' heads which are 60 feet high. We were there at the right day and right time to see part of the mountain being blasted away. The crew used explosives placed strategically to sculpt the mountain. This is how the Monument should look if it is ever completed. The project started in 1948 and the face was completed in 1998.
After a leisurely 6 mile downhill along the Mickelson Trail, we arrived in Custer. Just in time for lunch at the Sage Creek Grill.
Painted buffalo sculptures with different themes were on almost every corner in Custer. This was my favorite. After lunch we continued south for another 10 miles on the Mickelson Trail to Pringle. I was disappointed to find out that there was no potato chip factory there. Laurel switched to her road bike and I changed my tires and we rode back north to Custer along US 385.
Fueling up with Rhubarb Strawberry pie at the Purple Pie Shop for our final climb up to Sylvan Lake - 940 feet over 6 miles with an average grade of 5%. Better add ice cream to that pie.
After 52 miles and 3270 feet of climbing, The Lakota Dining Room at The Sylvan Lake Lodge for Buffalo Ribeye Steak was a perfect way to end a perfect day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Brook Lee Catastrophe - American Hotel

The Brook Lee Catastrophe does it again with its third and arguably its best CD.
Upbeat rhythms, catchy riffs, and more Dylan-like lyrics from Brook. His voice is at times haunting, at times soothing, at times mesmerizing. The band takes chances on various genres of music-acoustic, folk, blues, rock, country, and celtic surrounded in an atmosphere only an indie band can provide.American Hotel was released as a limited edition (100 in print) with an insert that folds into a 3-D cut-out.
Not sure how many are left but the CD can be purchased at Fingerprints in Belmont Shore, Long Beach
or at any BLC live shows-which is worth checking out.
My iTunes Genius matched the following artists with the BLC: Third Eye Blind, Semisonic, Smashing Pumpkins, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox Twenty, Sister Hazel, Deep Blue Something, Duncan Sheik, Eve 6, Fastball, Barenaked Ladies, Incubus, Blink-182, The Police, Uncle Kracker, Wilco.

Purchase the CD on iTunes and tell me what you think. I think it's well worth the $9.99. After listening to the BLC, you'll sacrifice a few Venti Lattes to get the previous two CD's - "Mistakes Pt 1" and "The Weight Of Waiting".

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dakota Bike Tours Black Hills Monument Tour - Day 2 Mt. Rushmore

The Mt Rushmore Loop is an uphill/downhill ride featuring the Rushmore Monument, Iron Mountain Road, Norbeck Lookout, town of Keystone, and an optional loop through Hill City and the Prairie Berry Winery.
We start our day with what Jim calls a little bit of micromanagement. A map meeting, general ride strategy, meeting spots, picture spots, eating spots (most important), and the tough hill climbs where we can jump in the van-just in case. At this point my mind becomes foggy and wonders. I just want to get on the road and ride.

Right from the start we get a mile of climbing. It's too early for this. My mind is still foggy.

Just leaving Palmer Gulch, I spot my first deer, looking surprised seeing my two-wheeled machine.

A Kodak moment and a short rest. Climbing at 5,500 feet takes some getting used to.
A final short 4-5% climb as Hwy 244 snakes through the Black Hills into the Rushmore area.

On strict instructions from Jim, we pull off the road and stop. Surrounded by trees and rock formation, we make a slow 360 clockwise turn and smile as we spot Washington's profile.

We spend a few hours exploring the Memorial, taking megabytes of pictures, viewing exhibits, watching movies, and enjoying breakfast under the watch of George, Tom, Ted, and honest Abe. It's hard to imagine that 90% of the granite heads were carved with dynamite!

"The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt." Gutzon Borglum - sculptor

Leaving the Rushmore Memorial, we enjoy a nice descent along the Iron Mountain Road, part of US Route 16A built to tour the scenic Black Hills. Ponderosa logs were used to build the "Pigtail" bridges that spiral and double back over the roadway.

Iron Mountain Road is also known for its one-lane tunnels carved into the mountainside. If you look through the tunnels they all frame Mt. Rushmore in the distance.

After lunch. and a short thunderstorm, we cycle out of Keystone, trying to keep pace with the 1880 TRAIN. As we climb the Old City Road back to Hill City, we cross the railroad tracks 17 times.
The final 9 miles to Hill City is a gradual 1-3% climb, but the scenery and wildlife make the time pass very quickly.Why did the turkey cross the street?

After 35 miles and 3,500 ft of climbing we share stories, enjoy buffalo meatballs (Yum-O), and anticipate a grilled salmon gourmet dinner prepared by our chef, Glenna Books. Oh, and Key Lime Pie to cap off a perfect day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dakota Bike Tours Black Hills Monument Tour-Day 1 Palmer Gulch Resort

The Black Hills Monument Tour is a four day cycling adventure exploring the South Dakota Black Hills, Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles Highway, Custer State Park Wildlife Loop, and part of the Mickelson Trail. The tour started at the Palmer Gulch Resort which is located 25 miles from Rapid City, between Hill City and Mt Rushmore along SD Hwy 244. The KOA Campground at Palmer Gulch has it all: campsites, RV sites, cabins, lodges, swimming pools, mini-golf, water slides, chuck wagon rides, horse rides, and even Wi-Fi.
The little "town" of Palmer Gulch-pizza, ice cream, wine, coffee, laundery, convenience store and a 90 horse stable.

The Ponderosa Restaurant overlooks the campground and features steaks and seafood-just in case campers get tired of hot dogs.

The campground includes a stable and Laurel found time to get in a ride on a four-legged animal named "Walter".

The Palmer Lodge accommodated most of the riders.

We were fortunate to stay in the 3 bedroom Grand Executive Lodge-our home for two nights.
Not bad at all.

This was the view from the deck of our cabin. Mt Harney rises 7,242 feet in the background framed by evergreens and the black rock.

After settling in and a quick bike check we do our first ride-a 9 mile downhill along Deerfield Road through Hill City.
All smiles as Laurel tackles the first official hill climb of the ride, just enough to build up an appetite for dinner.

Stuffed with gourmet pizza and two servings of brownies the evening winds down in anticipation of tomorrow's ride-my first view of Mt Rushmore and 3,500 ft of climbing at 5,400 feet elevation.