I saw details of the ride last year when I received an e-mail at work from South Dakota State Parks. While it was too late to sign up for the 2009 ride, I “calendared” the sign up date for 2010. I contacted 3 friends who I thought might really enjoy doing a scenic bike ride, and when the time came, we met at the local coffee shop, gathered around Penny’s laptop and all the paperwork I had printed out, and proceeded to sign up. It sounded like SUCH a good idea at the time — traveling to South Dakota…. Seeing the sights…. Biking 109 miles…. Uh…109 miles… Like I said, it sounded like a good idea at the time.
Anyway, this was the 13th Annual Mickelson Trail Trek out of Custer, South Dakota. A 3-day, 109 mile bike ride, traveling the same path as General George A. Custer, Wild Bill Hikok, Calamity Jane and Potato Creek Johnny. (Go ahead, I know you want to Google him.) Burlington Northern built this rail line over 100 years ago for the miners who came to pan for gold. In 1983, the rail line was abandoned and this incredible trail was made. You travel through beautiful valleys, old railroad tunnels and historic mining towns. You even ride past the Crazy Horse Memorial on the second day of riding (which you can actually see, providing it’s not 36 degrees, drizzling rain, and extremely foggy.) And while I’m on the subject of weather, many, many thanks to Harley from South Dakota State Parks for picking up Penny and me, sharing all sorts of local lore along the way, and dropping us in Rochford to meet up with our friends, the brave ones who actually made it to the end of the 39.5 miles that day.
Several people we met on the bike ride highly recommended a stop at “Memorial Team Ice Cream” at Mt. Rushmore – named after the baseball team formed by the Mount Rushmore carvers – for some of the best ice cream around. They were right, it was delicious! And the serving sizes are GENEROUS to say the least. So when you go there, plan to share.
We met so many nice people on this ride, like the guy from New York and his buddies, Steve from Wisconsin, Aaron and Dave from Colorado, and too many others to remember. Our troupe became affectionately known as “the 4 girls from Grand Junction”.
We also did the Jewel Cave Discovery Talk / Walk and learned about the calcite crystals and the “Big Duh”. Jewel is the second longest cave in the world and you walk up and down 723 stairs – which is a LOT of steps when you’ve just ridden 44.5 miles off-road! (It’s a good idea to call an hour or two ahead to book your tickets as they often sell out.)
Or… if you can squish yourself through a space 8 ½” by 24” and aren’t afraid of closed spaces or heights, then the Wild Tour might be the tour for you! You can take the test using the torture device outside the visitor’s center. Let’s just say it’s not for everyone.
Unfortunately, this was all we had time for, since most of our time was spent bike riding. So when you start planning YOUR family vacation or RV trip to beautiful South Dakota, be sure to leave enough time to see it all!