Today was really quite a day. To a lot of the riders today is the most beautiful ride of the entire tour. Most of the sectional riders are here for this day. It covers a number a number of huge cycling icons. The Needles highway has been immortalized in a lot of riding journals for the beauty and challenge. The Iron Mountain Rd is also a huge cycling destination. It is known for the tunnels, pigtails, switchback and beauty. Then of course there is the ride up to Mount Rushmore. The 2 miles of 8-10% is a grind but what a prize!
Jos, Ken C and I set out this morning under absolutely prefect weather conditions. Slight south wind, not a cloud in the sky, and low 60’s F. We turned onto the Needles highway and started the climb into Needles National Park. It is a long steep grind into the Needles Park but the trees gave us lots of shade and the fresh legs helped us. The Needles are a strange geological formation of highly weathered granite which has turned the granite into slender spires. At this one point there is a tall spire with a hole in the top “the eye of the needle”. There was a pair of mountain goats there to greet us this morning.
After riding though the Needles Park we turned north towards the Iron Mountain RD. There we saw a herd of approximately 65 buffalo grazing beside the road. A mile further we turned on to the Iron Mountain Rd and began the 12 mile climb. About half we up Jos and I stopped at a campground store and had a soft ice cream. Although the service was terrible when the small dish finally arrived it had to be a 16 oz cup of ice cream. It was great. After the climb we saw our first glimpse of Mount Rushmore off in the distance. It was a lot of fun cycling the hills, tunnels, switchbacks, pigtails (where the road curls around under itself. The whole place is so pretty and the mountain views are breath taking.
It was 11:40 when Jos and I got to the base of Mount Rushmore. It was an additional two mile climb of 8-10% but we were going. At the top we finally caught up with Ken C. I don’t have to describe what a world icon it is, however standing beneath it is really magical. Being there with two wonderful friends was even more magical. The picture of us together might become as legendary as the one of Jos and I on the Bosporus. WOW is all I can saw.
Down the hill at breakneck speed and two deer run out between Jos and I. Down the road into picnic which was a South American bean and rice dish which was fabulous. It was hard to leave picnic but we still had 20 miles to go and lots of climb remained. It was a very cool roller coaster into Rapid City but my legs were spent.
The stats kind of look like 5600 ft of climb and 67 miles, plus the optional 2 miles of climb to Rushmore, call it a 1000 feet and 4 miles. This is the last of the big climb days until much later in the ride.
I guess I can’t say it was ride of a life time as I used that one already so I will say that this one was absolutely magical.