South Dakota can be brown and solemn or lush and verdant. This trip to ride the George S. Michelson trail was marked by rain and green. The trail runs from Edgemont ( mile 0 ) up to Deadwood ( mile 108 ) along an old railroad branch ( an offshoot from the main route ) that was built in the 1890’s shortly after the 1874 gold rush in the Black Hills. Last used as a rail way in 1983, with the help of Governer George S. Michelson it was converted into one of the best rails to trails paths in the country.
Like the foothills that lead to the mountains, the trail runs up, starting wide open along the crushed gravel path. It was in great shape, and crosses more than 100 converted train bridges as it gently rises. The first thirty-five miles I rode, I saw not a single other rider.
You ride along, with the birds and the small green frogs singing, keeping one out for rattlesnakes who might be sunning themselves ( I only saw one ) sometimes it seems that you’ve covered hardly any ground. If I crept slowly uphill, more on pace with Samwise and Frodo painstakingly ascending Mount Doom than the intrepid Tour de France riders… well stay with me, I’ll think of some excuse soon.
Then you look off to the side and think, I guess I’ve climbed a bit, even with this gentle rail-road pitch to the trail.
I admit at mile 35, where likely 30 miles had been uphill, I was hot from the sun and pretty tired. I met Jan at the trail-head and she had lunch, a sandwich, unsweetened green iced tea, and fresh blackberries. Encouraged an invigorated the last fifteen miles were easily climbed
Just past this pasture, Jan picked me up and it was off to our hotel in Custer City – just as she picked me up at the trail-head the heavens opened with the start of a three inch in an hour rain. But of course, anything can happen in the mountains.
We had the day to cut across Nebraska toward South Dakota and the Black Hills. We headed off the highway along Route 20, stopping a few times when something caught our fancy. Somethings exceed your expectations, and some not. I recall Pizza Hut as better, but it was fun to watch the local town kids go through the pizza buffet like locusts across the plains.
We detoured a bit to Ashfall Fossil Beds in Nebraska. Aside from pirate treasure, what could be more fun than to discover a bed of rhino’s, camels, giant tortoises from long ago.
You can walk by, and see the fossils in situ, as the college students gently work and scrape around them.
Then it’s on to South Dakota and the Mammoth Site called us…
Mammoth Site is a private place, and though we skipped the tour and just hopped through since we had miles to go before we slept… we gleaned that this was a sink hole, where these large fellows tumbled down to be trapped forevermore. This site too showed the bones as they were found…
I recall reading of the early settlers hearing tales of the Indians hunting these beasts. All I know is that these bones show they were here once. We gazed at the bones in wonder, and then it was time to head to Edgemont South Dakota to find a glass or two of craft beer and supper.
If you have time, you can hop off the interstate and drive across the country on Route 20. If you have time, you can stop a time or three just because something looks interesting as you drive past the small towns and farms in Nebraska and South Dakota. You might stop for to take a picture of the “Plainview Klowndoll Museum” (as a joke because your daughter can’t stand clowns ) and find the old-timer working on lawn likes your tee-shirt and opens up the place so you can take a little tour, even though it’s closed.
You might find very rare Red Skeleton pieces, or a clown carved out of a single piece of coal, or another made of the ash from the Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic ash melted into glass. It started with a bequeath – and now every item of the over seven thousand items has been donated. Dolls and knick-knacks, some people come visit this tiny out of the way town to be sure their collection will have a nice home there. And then they donate.
We had places to be, reservations to keep and so we only stayed a few moments. Still we left richer for the time we spent there.
I was going to call this post “A hotdog and a movie” … but that might be misconstrued as self referencing…
First the movie: Mr Pip with Hugh Laurie. If you love the great books and Dickens in particular, then this story of a small Island caught between the Soldiers and the rebels in a revolution – and the impact that story can have is brilliantly done. The location is exotic and the flashbacks to Pip’s England with an island flair are magic. The lesson is honorable as well, in that moment of choice – who do we choose to be. I just had to tell someone.
If you drive an hour or so out of Chicagoland into Indiana you can find the Erie Lackawana bike path. It’s a pleasant well maintained rails to trails kind of path. You can link it with the Monon trail which has a more urban feel and loop it in to get a nice 50 or so miles. This sign near the trail seemed to show the perfect business… 24 hour laundromat, milk-shakes and hot-dogs. Maybe Indiana is cycling heaven…
For our lunch, we had a hot dog and a root-beer float ( generic root-beer ) but hunger is the best sauce….
An art opening requires a celebration, and after the opening we had a nice brunch at Parc. On a nice day you can sit outside and gaze across to Ritenhouse Park where college girls in sundresses walk by, or you might see a woman saunter by with black and white poodles, a perfect fashion accessory. The day was perfect, and Parc is a fine place to have a brunch.
While you look at the menu, the pastry basket is a wonderful start…
And then of course the champagne arrives, a rose since it’s warm outside
Next, the pate…. this was called “Chicken Liver Parfait” it came with a grain bread which was heavenly – it gave texture to the pate and the thin layer of rasberry on top of it. This was rich… a bit of pate.. a sip of champagne… a smile at the sun or the passers by…. This choice was a risk, but you know what they say about risk and reward…
And then “Eggs Norwegian” – a twist on Eggs Benedict – replacing the ham with smoked salmon. The fried potatoes were perfect – this meal required no seasoning… every flavor complemented the other
I thought Parc was a small place, but inside it was bustling – I will absolutely dine here once again. And… how can I not like a restaurant with this wallpaper in the men’s room…
Wisconsin has a rolling heart of the country beauty. Living near the city we often forget how wide and bountiful the US is. Although on climbs there is often only one thought in mind, the next pedal stroke, I find cycling a good place to work on poems. It can be a solitary moving meditation, a place to pray.
After three days on the road, a stay at a legendary bad motel “Ikes”, and a thirty mile stretch of rolling hills, a glass of New Glarus Old Milwaukee Belgian Red hits the spot. Hunger may be the best sauce, but this Lambic like brew which tasted of cherries is the single best beer I have known.
If you start in Naperville Illinois at the crack of dawn and head toward the Fox River bike path, you’ll catch the mist rising above the ponds. Then Northward bound along the mighty Fox river the daffodils burst into sight and the frog princes croak their song of undying love to all the frog maidens as you silently pedal by.
Up near the Wisconsin border in Richmond after sixty miles or so along the path you’ll find a small fast-food joint still attended to by pretty teens who’ll take your order and bring you a hot-dog or a rootbeer and a smile. It was a long day riding, about 73 miles total and I hadn’t seen a Dog N Suds since the 1970’s. We pulled our weary seats in and enjoyed a root-beer as celebration of a day well done.
It was 1973 she was sixteen, I was seventeen and her first real job was car-hop and the local Dog N Suds. That year root-beer was the taste and flavor of youthful romance. She brought the root-beer out in a frosted mug ( just like the old days ) and it was lightly carbonated, slightly sweet with just a hint of licorice, just as good as I remembered. I told the story to our server, did we look so young at sixteen too, and she smiled and told me there were only a handful of franchises left in the whole country, a place of distant memories and tastes.