I’d missed the deluge ( 3 inches of rain in an hour in the mountains means floods. ) In today’s 59 miles there would be several 9 mile descents and instead of mostly open vista’s, the ride would include more canyons and several tunnels.
It followed along and crossed rushing mountain streams,
And Jan kept finding places where the road intersected the trail and surprising me…
About 20 miles in, my tire started to flatten, and my portable pump no longer worked. That left me pedaling up hill for about seven miles on about 2PSI ( Pounds per inch. ) Few things equal the annoyance of carrying extra weight almost 100 miles in the mountains and finding when you need it it doesn’t work. But Jan had a pump in the car and at the next trailhead I replaced the tube. I was ready for more long downhills
Through tunnels ( mostly short ) ….
And up to the last meadow before the end. The burst of green aspen leaves is one of my favorite memories.
Near the end… I was a bit saddened… I wish the trail never ended.
But things end, even the good ones… and I was left with lingering reminders… I’d lathered on bug spray on my exposed flesh, never realizing the mosquitoes would bite right through my spandex leaving me with 40 itching memories on my behind and the back of my legs
This is a bike ride that’s worth the effort.
The day on the Michelson trail was done. I’d ridden the best part of fifty miles uphill, avoided getting caught in a tempestuous downpour and met Jan for a car ride back to the hotel in Custer City. I’d showered, oh glorious hot water, and we caught the Preakness and the triple crown, it was turning out to be a very good day. Little did I expect it would get even better.
Jan picked out a little place, Black Hills Burger and Bun Company, family run only open from 11:00AM-2:00PM and 5:00-7:30. They take no reservations, you just show up and they take your name.
We gave our names and while we waited outside as the mountain sun began to wane Jan tried to convince me that a 900 pound piece of rose quartz in the rock shop next to the restaurant really wasn’t for us. Soon enough, they called our name and we went into the little restaurant.
We started off with a craft beer, Alaskan Amber on tap and then split a Greek salad.
Everything was crisp and fresh, and the dressing was a basalmic that complemented without overpowering the olives, the feta cheese, cucumbers, greens and tomato slices. Everything about the salad showed their commitment to food.
I ordered the “Iowan” burger, with Maytag Farms blue cheese, garlic aioli, carmalized onion and bacon. They bake their own bread for buns and the baked bean side featured a mix of beans and was as fine a baked bean combination as I have had.
As I say, “Hunger is the best sauce,” but this meal stands as both subtle and hearty. A sip of beer, a taste of beans, a bite of the savory burger… life is good.
We could have hurried out, and I was surprised they didn’t hurry us out like happens in the city sometimes but after we finished I went for the coconut custard pie. I was crossed up, expecting a coconut cream pie, but this had almost a rice pudding texture with the coconut and custard complementing each other perfectly. I had calculated with my map-my-ride tool that I had used about 4,000 calories on the ride so ice-cream of course.
Then it was back to the hotel thinking what a fine trip so far. If you head up the Black Hills way you won’t be sorry to stop by this fine food establishment.
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.
One of the joys of driving ‘cross country is all the little places one can find along the way. Just a bit off route 90 in Wisconsin in the town of Mauston is Carr Valley Cheese.
When one finds an artisan vintner, or cheesemaker, or restaurant the trips there are always a delight. In the little store alongside the factory we sampled an aged chedder that was fabulous, and then a wonderful cocoa cardona ( a goat cheese which has the rind rubbed with cocoa powder. ) We took one of each, and then some other goat and sheep cheeses to try. One we chose, an aged Marisa ( sheep cheese from Wisconsin sheep ) sounds especially interesting, I hope to compare it with Manchego, the Spanish sheep cheese that I consider the prince of cheeses.
The above is a sampling, with cheese curds for last. These little cheese pieces have a salty cheddar flavor and make the most delightful squeak with each chew. The squeak lasts while they are fresh, and it makes them as fun to eat as delightful to taste.
After all, a couple cheese curds provide food for thought as one considers the sculpture in South Dakota.
If you can’t get to Wisconsin, Carr Valley sells here: Carr Valley Cheese