Timeline: August 30-September 2
As planned we left camp in the morning heading for the George Mickelson Trail, roughly an hour away at the trailhead in Rochford. We took the scenic route through Spearfish Canyon and drove down into Spearfish on Main Street to get to it, only to encounter a detour caused by a two block long line up of Ford Mustangs. Curious as to the gathering, we drove around it and made our way through the canyon, making note of its beauty and considering it for a future bike ride.
We arrived at the trailhead, unloaded the bikes and set out with the intent to do about 30 miles. This is an old rail bed, part of the Rails to Trails network and the surface is flat crushed gravel, easy to ride on but creating a bit more effort than normal; due to the additional resistance and the flatness of the course, one can’t coast much.
We rode eight miles up the trail to the town of Mystic, first named “Sitting Bull”. Gold was mined here in the early 1900’s by the Electro-Chemical Reduction Company and after this went bust, it became a stop for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy line, a north/south track that stretched south from Deadwood. A second line, later called the Crouch Line, went from Rapid City to Mystic where it intersected with the north/south railroad.
From Mystic on for another seven miles or so it was all uphill, gradual at no more than 4%, but uphill none the less. It was tough going and I felt a bit out of sorts, possibly a result of the altitude. We finally summited and decided to turn around and head back to the car. Now we had the benefit of the downhill we’d earned until back at Mystic, where we engaged in a conversation about travel with a couple from Alabama, then finished up the ride for a total of 30 miles for the day.
We made sandwiches out of the ham spread, packed up and drove into Deadwood, where we parked on Main Street and began a walk around town. The first thing we noticed was that two blocks or more of the street were blocked off to accommodate yet another gathering of Ford Mustangs. It turns out there is an annual rally of Ford Mustangs out of Sturgis and we’d run into it.
We were great fans of the Deadwood TV series, which used actual diaries and newspapers from 1870s Deadwood residents as reference points for characters, events, and the look and feel of the show and were anxious to see if any part of the restored Deadwood resembled the fictional setting we’d come to know so well.
We went directly to the tourist information center in the old train station, picked up a walking tour map there and started at the top of Main Street, working our way down reading plaques at each historic location, stopping for a beer at a bar as we waited for the three times a day staged shoot out to occur.
The beer was just what I needed as I was still feeling under the weather and after we spent the time to watch the shoot out, we decided to cut the tour short and finish up our day by driving up the hill to the Mount Moriah cemetery to check out the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. It’s a long way up the hill and after parking, the walk into the grave sites was nice and peaceful. The cemetery overlooks Deadwood and it’s an inspiring sight, looking up and down the narrow canyon that contains the town.
Did Deadwood live up to our expectations? Not really, but what modern day restoration ever fully replicates the way you imagined it would be? It was a good visit though and we made our way quickly back to Spearfish, stopping at a Safeway to pick up some provisions, a bagged pre-made salad as it was about all I felt like eating. A good, long, hard day had come to an end and we went to bed uncertain about what we’d do the next, our last day, in town.
The morning started out a bit slow and lazy and we quickly surmised that driving an hour or more to spend the afternoon at Wind Cave National Park wasn’t in the cards. We both agreed that we’d been on a fast track since leaving Charlotte and thought that spending a bit of time in camp in the morning was needed and that later we’d then give Spearfish Canyon on the bikes a go.
By around noon we were ready for the ride and saddled up, taking a back street all the way to the entrance to the canyon as we started up the grade. Like the day before, this would entail another long, gradual ascent up the canyon, but on pavement, making the go a little easier and more tolerable. We stopped briefly at Bridalveil Falls, long enough to take a picture or two and then continued on, riding into a pervasive headwind.
Eventually we arrived at the lodge at Savoy, our intended goal, sixteen miles into the ride. Not much was available there for purchase so we settled on a Coke Zero and chowed down on the Cliff Bars we’d brought along. Refreshed we hopped on the bikes and began the ride back to camp; what a difference it made, buying back all of that uphill. That nasty headwind on the ascent? Now a tailwind. We easily averaged 25 miles per hour, rarely stroking the pedals as we gobbled up the return, riding into Spearfish on Main Street to stop briefly at the local bike shop, then riding on the back street we’d originally used to return to camp.
Later, showered and refreshed, we drove over to Crow Peak for a beer or two, dropping in on a conversation at the table we shared with some bike industry folks in town for a big mountain bike race. Two of the guys owned a bike shop in Nebraska, another was a racer and as they talked they were approached by a young women who as it turned out, worked for a local company, Quarq, which had been acquired by SRAM in 2011. It was interesting dropping in on these industry insiders discussing the bike business and the technology associated with it.
We finished up and drove back into Spearfish central for dinner at Dough Trader Pizza, rated highly in Trip Advisor. Known for using sourdough for their pizza crust, with starter from the 1880s, we were in the mood for a good pie. With little recognizable exterior signage, it took us some time to find the place, but once discovered we parked, walked in, were seated, ordered a couple of local beers and waited for our pizza, the Scarborough Fair (Marinara sauce, grande pepperoni, fennel-infused sausage, red bell peppers, and red onions).
When it arrived we dug in, enjoying one of the better pizza’s we’d had in ages. The sourdough crust was thin, crisp and airy, yet had a bit of chew to it that gave it character and allowed it to stand up to all of the ingredients, not getting soggy at the end like many thin crust pizzas do. It was a good sized pie and although we thought we might take a piece or two back to camp to eat later, we managed to consume the whole thing without much of a struggle.
We settled up our tab, $43 including tip and drove back to camp. Our four nights in Spearfish and three in the Badlands had been highly successful, bringing us a wide range of physical activity, gorgeous scenery and decent food. Two weeks into the trip we’d begun to find the groove one attains when traveling over a greater length of time than on a short vacation. Our next stop would be Denver and the annual gathering of the Cisco’s. We had a lot to look forward to and yet much to remember.
Mickelson Trail: http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/mickelson-trail/
Sturgis Mustang Rally: http://www.sturgismustangrally.com/
Deadwood Series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadwood_(TV_series)
Dough Trader Pizza: http://www.doughtrader.com/