What To Do With A Day In The Black Hills
Now, where were we? Well, I’m not quite sure where you may have been. But, as for Travis and myself, I believe we had just arrived at Hog Heaven. What a wonderful place to be. The Black Hills of South Dakota is an exceptional place to roam on 2-wheels. Everything you ever need to see and do can be found right there. And, we were about to go discover it all.
First, it is important to realize that we were only staying for the remainder of the day and rolling out first thing in the morning. This meant we needed to decide what features of the area to go enjoy. Personally, I have a list of “must-do” Sturgis rides and sites to see. Travis, on the other hand, hasn’t explored much of the hills and had only really seen the Sturgis area from up above while flying a plane for aerial photography. I just so happen to love playing tour guide and was excited to show him my favorite places on our vintage BMW.
Mt. Rushmore. Deadwood. Iron Mountain Rd. Needles Highway. Spearfish Canyon.
These are a few of the top rides and sites that you can read in detail about in a future blog of mine, “Top 10 Things To Do In The Black Hills“. And, they are the places we ventured out to explore for our day in the hills. We headed down the main throughway to Deadwood, Highway 385, and thoroughly enjoyed the long winding curves. The old Beamer may not have been the loudest or fastest machine out there, but damn. It certainly hugs those curves and glides through the air as if it were a bird in flight. The pavement was smooth as glass and the engines were roaring all around, away we rolled under the bright sunny skies. The temperature had dropped considerably since our interstate experience earlier in the day and we were quite comfy two-up in the wind.
Deadwood came and went, next we were on top of the dam at Pactola Reservoir. You can not miss this eye candy, it is an enormously large and popular place. Brilliantly blue water, bright green pine forest, and a lengthy bridge spanning the entire thing. Excellent photo ops and a place to take a break in the shade by the crystal clear water. You can read about the history of the area on the signs in the parking lot and there are restrooms as well.
After our short stop there, we rolled along through Keystone and up towards Mt Rushmore. I have visited Rushmore on numerous occasions and Travis was content just stopping to catch a glimpse and take a picture. As luck would have it there was just enough room alongside the hill by the guardrail to fit a motorcycle and do just that. The monument is an amazing site no matter how many times I get to see it.
These Roads Were Made For Riding
Next up was Iron Mountain Road. Talk about an out of the ordinary riding experience. There are lanes split by groves of trees, pig-tail curves, tunnels, views of Rushmore, and hiking areas.
Not to mention, some spectacular views of the giant rocks and valleys off in the distance. This ride is magnificent, however, I favor Needles Highway which is where we ended up next. It has everything that Iron Mountain Rd. has and adds in being smack-dab in the center of the aforementioned giant rocks. The “eye of the needle” is a cozy little cathedral entered or exited through a tunnel and surrounded by towering rock formations, “needles”.
We parked the bike and took off hiking up to my “secret” spot on top of the tunnel. Due to Mother Nature and her elements, there is a hole through the top of the tunnel that you can look down into.
We sat and watched the other bikes roll through underneath us, each one revving their pipes a tad louder than the last. A few riders caught a look at us and waved before entering. As we made our way down through the needles we found a tiny orange rock strategically placed on a huge stone pillar that someone had left their message on. I always love finding such things in the “wild”.
After we threaded the needle, we stopped at Custer park’s ranger station/general store where they always have a brat and buffalo burger feed. We loaded up with burgers, chips, beans, and cookies and sat to chat about the remaining hours of our day. It must have been somewhere around 5Ish and we had covered an amazing amount of territory. I was trying to calculate how far from camp we were and what time we might get there if we toured the Spearfish Canyon on the way. Well, mathing wasn’t adding up in our favor for getting back at a decent hour to load up, shower, and get to bed for our next days’ drive. So, we skipped the canyon and headed north after our buffalo burgers.
A Taste Of Sturgis
When traveling, time of the day often becomes irrelevant and I’m not certain if it was 7 or 8 when we arrived on Main St. And furthermore, I’m not certain that you give a damn. So I’ll just move along with our story here. Downtown Sturgis is the best people watching, cultural experience you can imagine. Everyone there has a love for motorcycles, but motorcycles, like people, vary greatly in style and purpose. As a result, this bike rally is a gigantic melting pot of personalities and walks of life. In other words, generally better to watch than cable T.V.
We strolled the first five blocks before making a left turn over to Lazelle St. Then decided we could both eat again and made our way into The Knuckle Saloon. It’s hard to pass up their steak tips and fries which I rambled about previously in I Fell In Love With An Indian In Sturgis. After a beer and some great chow we moseyed our way back to the bike and onto camp. An astoundingly eventful day of sightseeing and memory making came to an end and we were snoozing away in our van with dreams of the next days’ adventures.
Hot To Trot
And, what an adventure it turned out to be. Let’s just say that the weather was hot and the van got hotter. We were vanning our way down the interstate and I was rambling on about the Spearfish Canyon and how it is the perfect spot to play on hot days. We agreed to make it a destination on one of our next adventures and were about 13 miles past it when the van became rather hot to trot. The temp gauge soared and we pulled over. There was steam rolling out of the front end and a smell of burning antifreeze as we popped the hood to find the entire left side of the engine to be soaking wet.
Hmmm, this wasn’t going to get us anywhere anytime soon. Conveniently, we had mass amounts of water packed for our trip and were able to fill the coolant tank back up, unfortunately, we had no clue where the leak was or what the main problem was. As we sat along I-90 I began Googling auto shops to find help. Mind you it is Friday morning and Rally Week in South Dakota. The first 5 shops I called either were not working on 4 wheeled vehicles this particular week or had no time for us. Then, I found Kimball Auto in Spearfish. Not only could he take a peek at our van, but also thought there was a good chance he could have it fixed this same day. Wow. We had already discussed the fact that we may be “stranded” in Sturgis until Monday, not that that was a bad thing really. I mean we had two perfectly capable bikes in the trailer and all the camping gear we would need.
Long story short, we spun the van around and drove it back to Spearfish, found Kimball Auto and dropped it off. Then we unloaded the Beamer once again to take the trip down the canyon. See in this case the unexpected van trouble was just an excellent excuse to enjoy another day in the hills. Expect the unexpected and roll with it! We abandoned the van and continued our expedition in the wind for the following six hours. The canyon was lovely as always and Bridal Veil Falls was flowing nicely, we took a hike up around to the top and found some Doll sheep laying in the sun.
Then rolled down to the lodge for some Bloody Marys and WiFi. Next up was lunchtime in Deadwood at a saloon/casino with humungous Mac-N-cheese burgers and sexy barstools.
Finally, we wound our way down to Nemo and onto Vanhocker Canyon Rd. There we found a freshwater spring and filled our water bottles up, then rolled passed an old cavern I had explored years ago that now was gated and barred off. Isn’t it sad how things change over time? This is why it’s important to make memories now and be able to say “I did that” Rather than, “I wish I’d done that.”
Time To Roll On
As we made our way to the outskirts of Sturgis we stopped for fuel and had a missed call from Kimball Auto. Sure enough, only 3 P.M. and the van was ready to go! Turned out to be a severed hose and an easy cheap fix. We rode the interstate back to Spearfish, loaded the BMW once again, and down the road we went. Our next stop was supposed to be Sun Valley Idaho but the day was obviously not running according to plan and we ended up somewhere in Montana at a rather sketchy Motel 6 for the night.
I’ll let you ponder that for a bit and will return soon with more tales of our trip. Until next time, keep on rambling on.
Don’t Be Shy
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