We found our campsite and set up the tent. I reserved our site over the internet
and probably picked the worst site in the campground. We have NO trees, either for
shade or to tie things to. We are going to be gone during most days and it cools
down before bedtime so it really isn't too bad. The park is very nice and cheaper
than the one at Estes Park, which claimed their high rates were earned because it
was a "tourist area". It has nothing on the Black Hills for being a "tourist area". Custer
State Park has a number of loop routes to follow. We plan to do all of them.
The first evening we did the Wildlife Loop, where all the wildlife are supposed to
be. We did see wild turkeys, Pronghorn antelope, prairie dogs and American Bison. But
we have seen all of these along other roads and better views of them too. It was
a nice ride for about 40 miles through the hills and trees of the southern area of
The first full day we decided to make the longest loop we would do while here. We
are going to Devil's Tower and the "Center of the Nation".
The ride to Devil's Tower is a long, hot ride across about a hundred miles of Wyoming
nothingness and then the tower appears on the horizon.
It is a National Park and entry is again free for us.
Up close it is massive, almost 1300 feet high and made of columnar basalt. It is
an old volcanic core with the mountain part of the volcano long washed away.
From here we went to the "Center of the Nation". A spot listed as being in South
Dakota about 50 miles NE of Devil's Tower. We headed across the prairie with a very
strong wind blowing us sideways. We arrived at a very small sign alongside the highway
pointing down a gravel road.
This was a disappointment. I was not going to try and ride down gravel road with
the wind pushing me sideways. We would never have made it the nearly 15 miles roundtrip
After visiting Europe's center and finding an obelisk and a very nice park, we were
underwhelmed by the US's effort.
After a long hot ride back across the prairie, fighting the wind every inch of the
way, we entered Spearfish Canyon which leads south towards Custer and is one of the
"must do" rides in the area. This is a very pleasant ride down a two lane road as
it follows the creek southwards. The curves were gentle and the road in very good
shape. A pleasant ride after the wind in the prairie a half an hour ago.
We returned to camp and ended the day with a glass of Tequila to finish settling
our nerves. It had been a long day with some good and some bad.
The next day we headed out to claim two more "must do" motorcycle roads, The Iron
Mountain Road and The Needles Highway. But the first thing we found was a big herd
of American Bison. This is not the "Wildlife Loop Road" but we found more of them
here than on that ride yesterday.
The Iron Mountain Road is famous for its one-lane tunnels that frame Mt. Rushmore
and for its pigtail curves where the road curves in a loop over itself.
Mt. Rushmore can be seen from a long ways away. It is the white spot on the mountain
in the center of the horizon.
One of the more spectacular views is through this tunnel. It was more spectacular
in person than this picture.
The pigtail curves are fun too. Here we came out of the tunnel onto the bridge and
then curved around and are now about to go under the bridge.
This is a GREAT motorcycle road with lots of views and sharp curves to ride. A really
fun road. And it is not the only one around here!
We did the tourist thing and stopped at the Mt. Rushmore Monument. It is a free
entry, for everyone, but there is an $11 parking fee. A sneaky way to get around
the free entry senior card we carry. It is impressive what was done during the height
of the Depression.
While there I saw 3 riders from Mexico City. Their English was about as good as
my little bit of Spanish, but we had a good talk. They rode all the way up from
Mexico City. That is quite an accomplishment. We just happened to leave at the
same time as they did so we took some pictures of them.
The Needles Highway is a narrow two-lane road that is sometimes one-lane as it winds
its way through the spires know as The Needles.
In the picture to the right the tunnel is right past the head of the guy with the
orange shirt on. It is a two-way road/tunnel and cars often meet in the middle. One
then would have to back up; but before he could the one behind would have to back
up; but before he could .....
Now it is our turn.
This is just one of several tunnels on the Needles Highway. I don't know how it
got to be called a "highway" as it is smaller and shorter than a lot of county roads
but it is!
On the way back to camp we stopped for lunch in Hill City. The downtown area is
already blocked off for motorcycles only.
And the rally doesn't start for another three days, and this isn't even Sturgis,
the home of the rally.
We walked the street and looked at souvenir shops and decided to have lunch at the
Mangy Moose. This is a quintessential "Biker bar". The young lady is being draped
with a police tape that says "Crime Scene Do Not Enter". We had burritos and Corona
beer. Then walked some more and headed back to camp.