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.

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