Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't Stop. I'll Know the Road You're On.

On Sunday, I woke up and my quads were even more sore than the day before and I didn't think that was possible. We went to Perkins for breakfast and then drove over to the Tinton Trail not far from our house.

I had heard about it from a friend of mine who had just discovered it a few weeks earlier. I told John about it and he researched how to get there and what kind of difficulty it was. He talked to the guy who fixed my brakes (he said the increase in altitude sometimes screws with disc brakes), and the guy thought it was a good trail for any kind of skill level.

The trail did have everything. It was mostly an ascent on the way out with some nice, flowy sections in the middle and a really fun descent on the way back. I got to learn how to ride over lots and lots of rocks and I also got to ride through fields of wild flowers. Heavenly.

When we finished riding, we ate lunch, took a short nap and were ready to go. Originally, we were going to ride our road bikes through Speafish Canyon and park them at trails and go on some hikes. Since it was so late, we decided just to drive to the hiking places and ride Spearfish Canyon the next afternoon. I'm so glad we did it that way, so we could focus all of our attention on one activity and not stress ourselves and our senses out by doing too many things at once.

Before we left on our trip, I had Googled, "cool places to hike in the Black Hills and Spearfish" and Devil's Bathtub came up again and again. So did The community Caves. I told John where I wanted to go and gave him some links and he did all of the navigation (because I have no sense of direction).

 The hike to Devil's bathtub required good non-slip hiking boots and walking in water again and again.

It was a beautiful hike and the bathtub itself was FREEZING, but it was pretty amazing to be in a swimming hole with a waterfall flowing over your head.

We headed to Community Caves. It took us a while to find the trail. Very few of the trails we looked for in spearfish were marked very well. One even had a Youtube video to view to help us find it.

Once we were finally on the right path, we climbed and climbed and climbed. We climbed on loose rocks and slippery shale. We climbed so much, I almost whined...

...But holy cow, was it worth it!

Caves with a waterfalls? Who could ask for more than that? Oh, and the views were amazing.

We wandered around in the caves and then climbed even more to a really cool look-out on the other side of the caves that one of the locals told us about.

Then we had to crawl down and that was almost harder than climbing up. I did slip several times, but didn't do any damage to my person any of those times. Whew!

We decided to find some pizza and beer after all of our adventures. We went to Crow Peak brewery because it said they had pizza on their website. When we got there one of the owners told us that sometimes they had pizza and sometimes they didn't and this was one of the times they didn't. That was fine. We each had a beer and went to Dough Traders Pizza Company after that. The food was wonderful there.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Know When to Walk Away. Know When to Run.

On Saturday we had to be out of our cabin in Custer State Park by 10. We figured we'd have time to ride our mountain bikes on the part of the Centennial Trail closest to us before that, but when John went to put the mountain bikes together, he noticed there was something wrong with my brakes. I couldn't ride it until we got to a bike shop, so I told John to drive us to the trail head. He could ride and I'd hang-out and read my book and I'd know what part of the trail he was riding, if he had a bad crash and didn't come back. As it turned out, my quads were just screaming from the trail running the day before, so I was pretty happy to get some alone time, sitting and reading my book.

My new best friend...As long as there's food in the car.

Luckily, John didn't have any mishaps and we got back to the cabin, packed-up our crap and were on the road by 9:30. We decided to use the moving day to do a few touristy things. We drove toward Spearfish on the wildlife highway,  in hopes of seeing some buffalo.

We came across the donkey's right away. There were a ton of them walking around, and panhandling the tourists for food.

If you look behind those donkeys, you will see a a young,  male pronghorn behind them. He got separated from the lady pronghorns who were already on the other side of the road, and you could tell he was nervous about meeting them and was afraid to cross the road with all of the car and motorcycle traffic.

He finally looked both ways and crossed the road to get to the ladies and the story had a happy ending.

The end.

We drove the entire wildlife loop without spotting any buffalo. We ran into a guy who told us some rangers said there were plenty of buffalo on Iron Mountain Road. Luckily, we had to go that way to get to Mt Rushmore anyway. We saw the buffalo almost immediately. All over the place, babies, big old guys, it was awesome.

On the way to Mt. Rushmore we had so many cool tunnels to drive through.

The thing about Mt Rushmore, is that it looks in person, pretty much like it does in photos. Don't get me wrong, it is impressive, but after having seen it 10 years ago, there wasn't much more to see.

I did like the artist's studio, though and mostly, I was looking for the mountain goats we saw last time we were there. As you can see by the startling lack of goats in my photos, we weren't graced with their presence this time around. Sigh.

 We made it to our cottage in Spearfish in the late afternoon. We unpacked and then headed for Deadwood. We thought it would be more fun to be there on a Saturday night, then to wait until Sunday.

Immediately we were greeted by a big 3 Wheeler rally.

Because I'm a huge nerd, this was my favorite one.

Almost everything in South Dakota exceeded my expectations, that is, except, Deadwood. I was hoping it would be more of a historical old Western town, but it seemed more like a giant casino. Every building we stepped into was jam packed full of slot machines. I know a lot of people love to gamble, it's just not my thing. I guess I imagined there would be some casinos there, but that most bars or restaurants would be machine free. I was wrong.

The one place I wanted to go to see where Wild Bill was shot, was closed too. Wah.

I did love the beautiful old buildings, but I'm glad that we went there on Saturday night and I'm REALLY glad we were going to be staying in Spearfish instead.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fantasy Could Never be so Giving.

Fair warning: There are a lot of photos in this post. I'll try to keep the word count down, so it's not ridiculously long, though.

We woke up a little later on Friday and planned to take a day off from the bikes. Like I said yesterday, I thought the Mickelson Trail would be the highlight of the trip. Not that it was disappointing, but so many other things were so much more amazing than I imagined, that Mickelson Trail had so much competition and I would say Friday was one of my favorite days of our vacation, but definitely my favorite in Custer State Park.

First we went to Cathedral Spires and wandered around there. It's an easy, but beautiful hike. You can actually crawl around on the cool rock formations.

From there we headed to Sylvan Lake to access the best trail systems. The drive there was jaw dropping in itself.

We originally planned to swim in Sylvan Lake, but it was too cold outside for that to be comfortable. Weird. Especially since it was over a 105 in Iowa with the heat index that same day.

 We had a wonderful hike/trail run. We would run for a while and then stop when we either saw something cool, were going up a hill that was too steep, or the terrain was too treacherous.

There was a threat of rain most of the day. By the time we got to the top of Harney Peak, it got windy and started raining. Luckily, we had eaten our lunch by the watering hole first, and then were able to take refuge in the look-out castle thing for a bit before heading to the next trail system.

We took the Little Devil's Tower trail after we checked out a tributary trail and I FINALLY found a place where I could get on the internet. Yeah. All that majestic beauty all around me and I'm squinting at  my phone. Lame-ass.

 The Little Devil's Tower Trail was a little more technical than Harney Peak.

 We were both so happy we brought decent hiking boots. We really needed comfortable and non-slip shoes.

I love it when your trail is basically a crevice in a rock.

We came out in a little different area than where we thought we should be, but we found the right trail and followed it back to Sylvan Lake. All-in-all, we were out hiking, running and playing on the trails for 5 or 6  hours. We saw rain and sun and some lightning and had a really lovely adventure.

Of course, by the time we got to our car, tried once more to swim, before we realized it was still way too cold, and changed clothes, we were starving.

We headed to the town of Custer and wandered around the street, before we found a great brew pub. We ate good food, drank good South Dakota craft beer and otherwise had a wonderful Friday night.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good Times Never Seemed so Good.

The second day of vacation, Thursday, was my 50th birthday. I woke up early, because I was so excited. John asked me if I wanted some tea and to open gifts.That was exactly what I wanted. He is the best at giving me perfect gifts. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that we have the same passions and it's fun for him to buy me the stuff I want. He already gave me my big gift - those new bike shoes, but he still got me a Red Shamrock jersey (I'm wearing it in the photos), a rain jacket for the bike, and wireless headphones to wear while I'm running. So wonderful. His mom bought me 3 new books and some bee lotion. I can't wait to get my hands on all of it.

Before my vacation, I was most excited about riding the Mickelson Trail. It is 109 miles of crushed gravel rails to trails in the Black Hills. At one point, I thought we'd try to ride the whole thing, but we kept finding other cool things to do. So, since we were only going to ride part of them, we searched for the best part of it. We heard that from Hill City to Mystic Road was the best part of the trail. So we headed to the trail head in the town of Custer and rode to the town of Rocheford and back.
We rode road bikes, and had to let a little pressure out of tires to help with speed and comfort. The trail is basically a gradual ascent on the way out and a gradual descent on the way back.

We rode past incredible scenery and even rode very close to the Crazy Horse monument. In the picture above you can see John getting photo bombed by Crazy Horse.

When we got to Hill City, we decided to stop and fuel-up. It was my birthday after all. We had a beer and an appetizer and then headed back to the trail.

 We got to the coolest part of the trail shortly after Hill City. So many cool tunnels to ride through and and bridges to ride our bikes over. It made me so very happy.

We made it to the halfway point and it turned out to be basically a saloon and a gas station. We had a late lunch there. They had no veggie or seafood options, so we both ordered reubens and hand-cut fries. They must of cooked and cut the corned beef in-house, because it was definitely the best reuben I've ever had.

Since there was a descent and we weren't taking so many photos, we went back so much faster than we went out. We did stop again in Hill City and had a beer on the rooftop deck at the Bumpin' Buffalo.

Once we got back to the cabin, I started a fire and made black beans and quesadillas with guacamole, salsa and lettuce. We ate and drank a night cap and sat by the fire talking, until it died-out. Perfect birthday achieved.

Monday, July 27, 2015

You Can't Conceive of the Pleasure in my Smile.

Well, we're finally back, kids. It was an amazingly fun ride the last week and a half.

We left after work on Tuesday night and drove to Sioux Falls. After stopping to eat in the Des Moines area, we didn't get to our hotel until around midnight.

We woke up on Wednesday, had breakfast at the hotel and headed for the Black Hills. Driving is always the worst part of vacation. John and I took turns and it split it up between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and it still took longer than I thought it would.

I suggested we go to Wall Drug for lunch. It's super cheesy, but since we were in the area, you might as well check it out, right?

After Wall Drug, we drove to The Badlands. I had heard there was  a decent road to check it out on our bikes. We were warned that it could be 100 degrees or more there and that cars could be a problem. Luckily, had nothing to worry about. It was about 80 degrees the whole day and the cars were very respectful. One Harley rider even flashed us the peace sign. So cool.

Since we've done this kind of thing before, we knew that we wouldn't worry about riding hard and fast. Running, hiking or riding through an area, is so much better than driving through it. You can see things better, feel the wind on your skin, smell the smells (both good and bad) and hear whatever there is to hear. When we do these kinds of rides or runs or hikes, we go slowly, and stop and take photos where we feel compelled. It makes for such a great experience.

At one point as we were riding, I heard these weird barking sounds. I looked over and saw a prairie dog village, with the dogs, popping up and down out of their holes. I showed John and he almost crashed his bike gawking at the cuteness.

Originally, since we got there so late, we weren't planning on doing the full 49 mile ride, but toward the end of the halfway point, I asked John if he wanted to finish it or go back. He told me there were only about 3 miles left. Of course, as it turned out, it was all climbing miles. About halfway through that, John said, "Yeah. I guess when I said we should ride the rest, we didn't think it would be all uphill, but I suppose that's what you get for going on vacation with me." I only partly facetiously replied, "I'm a lucky girl."

I would climb a lot of damn hills to ride in this kind of awesomeness.

On the way back, there was a large group of people congregated at one spot. We stopped to see what the buzz was, and realized there were big horn sheep on the hill in front of us. We felt so lucky to see them.

After we finished out ride, we went to Rapid City to stock up on groceries and then to our cabin in Custer State Park, just as it was getting dark. About 5 miles into the park, we saw what looked to be a tall, shaggy looking homeless guy lumbering down the road ahead of us. As we got closer, we realized it was a buffalo, hanging out ahead of us. Wow.

That was all the day before my birthday. We had so much to look forward to.