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Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 22 - Hot Springs to Rapid City - Mt Rushmore




I give up...

I'm exhausted...

The legs are toast...

Today's ride is 75 miles with 5,100 feet of climbing - steep climbs!

It is the 2nd toughest day of the tour.

I can't face it...



So, with leaden heart, I ask Mike to load my bike on the van this morning...

I watch my fellow cyclists leave the parking lot.

The father-son tandem team is split.

They had a broken wheel.

So they are borrowing single bikes till they can get a new one.

It is so sad to watch them go.


And yet Phil is thrilled for the company. He decided a week ago that he had no interest in killing himself to get every mile in. 

So when the ride is too tough, he takes the van to the first SAG stop.

And I have to admit it's fun to zoom up the hills past all the colorful cyclists.





We stop at the first overlook in the Wind Cave National Park...







I get to take pictures of the prairie in the early dew....









My first purple coneflower.




And I get to see Steve - I've never seen him bike before! 


He's way too fast for me.






And there's Little Margo!

I didn't know she's so fast!














And, look! a large herd of elk stampeding over that hill...









....and a bison feeding on the plain...














....with a prairie dog eyeing him warily...









This is what I wanted from this trip - not just to make every mile...

...not to stare at the concrete road or the back of the rider in front of me...

I want to bike...

but even more, I want to see America!






At mile 25 Karen drops Phil and me off at the first SAG stop, well ahead of the other bikers.

Ripley, my bike, comes down off the van and back on the road.

Now I can bike at my own pace...
I don't need to worry about being the last biker...









I can take pictures of the colorful bison on the street corner....







And take my time going up the steep hill to the Crazy Horse Memorial...

This is wonderful!




I even have time to go into the Memorial and watch the short film on the building of this amazing sculpture. 









This memorial of the native Americans - built in their sacred Black hills - will be the most ambitious sculpture in the world.

All four faces of Mt Rushmore would fit in the flowing hair of Crazy Horse.







I am very impressed and want to stay longer...

But the road is calling....

So back out on bike...





Up some monstrous hills...

But my legs are feeling stronger now.











I do stop for a snack along the road - what a relaxing treat...

so nice to not be in a hurry...




Now the fast bikers start to catch up with me...

First the Swiss Team - Daniel and Bruno - these hills are nothing to them!








Then Dave, our Michigander...




I'd better get going...












As we bike into the Black Hills the rocks are incredible.




Big, glassy slabs of stone within my reach of the road...
















Pine trees find a crevice of soil and begin to set root...














Each turn brings new gasps of wonder at the solid rocks thrusting into the sky...













And look - peeking out from the stone - George Washington!

As I stop for pictures, a few more bikes pull up.



Katie - her ankle healed now - is up with the fast guys.















And Tom from Washington is right behind her.

A few more pictures, a few more curves in the road...














...and we enter Mt. Rushmore Park...








Great place to enjoy a sandwich with reflected presidents in the windows...

It's iconic America...









...and attracts visitors from far away.








We've been climbing all day...







The view away from the presidents shows prairie grasses and thick forest...









And now we get a screaming downhill.

All the way down to our 2nd SAG stop...






I feel so good. This has been a great day...




After SAG I loop through the tacky town of Keystone...

and up another major hill...








Who is this climbing so steadily behind me?

It's Howard!











Howard is amazing - he is 79 years old and has biked across America several times...

He even did the Bike America Fast ride when he was 70!















Also climbing the hill is one of our fast riders - Mark from Canada...

He looks concerned about those clouds...

Better hurry...











We all hit the long downhill when the heavens break loose...

Rain pelts us...


No, it's hail!

Careening down the hill there's no place to stop...

and our brakes wouldn't work anyway...

They've gotten so wet we squeeze them full bore and we barely slow...

Cars and trucks splash us to the sides...

I'm not sure we'll survive this...




Finally Howard sees a motor inn and pulls in with us all on his tail....














We wait for the storm to pass as we peruse the gumball sized hailstones...















Finally we see blue skies....











Time to bike those last 6 miles to our hotel...













We've got a big hill to climb...

















But it's all blue skies by the time we get to Rapid City.












Hey, look at that!

I'm not the last one to sign in today!






As we look back out of Rapid City we see the storm clouds behind us...

Maybe that means better days ahead for the bike ride...

...and my biking.










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