The Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore

We were up first thing and heading out to enjoy the Black Hills and experience some of what turned out to be the best riding anywhere. There are a couple of my top five that are being displaced by the riding in this hill country.

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Just looking at the Butler Map of the area there are more great roads than we had time to visit. We all had Mount Rushmore on our list of places to see, so we decided that would be our first stop. It didn’t disappoint.

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Rushmore was every bit as impressive as I imagined it would be. Even more so when you could visit from the seat of a motorcycle gliding through beautiful pine-covered forests with the occasional little twist in the road for good measure. There were times we had the road all to ourselves and I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like the week before during the Sturgis Rally. I tend to avoid the crowds as a general rule, so the week after the rally was just about perfect for me.

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We learned a lot about the monument and how it was carved out of the mountain. I was surprised to learn that most of it was done with dynamite and admit to being impressed that they could shape charges to create the faces in the stone. I realize they probably did the finish work with chisels, but it was impressive to think about how they could shape the explosive charges that formed the massive sculpture.

At the base of the mountain was the model (in the photo above) that the artist used to make sure his perspective on the mountain was correct. One inch on the model equated to one foot on the mountain. They would measure the appropriate part of the sculpture on the model and then go up the mountain to mark it before they drilled to blast.

It blows my mind to think they did this without the aid of computers. Not only were they tough as nails back then, they were really smart.

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After Rushmore we stopped for lunch in Keystone before heading for the Needles Highway—which should be on your list of rides to do regardless of wherever you go in the Black Hills. Slow speed switchbacks that I call very technical riding were the norm for the first part of the journey with some pretty impressive views of the four Presidents on one or two of the switchbacks. I’ve never experienced the wooden bridges that wound around themselves, but they were a blast.

Once we dropped off the Needles Highway, we pointed our bikes at Custer State Park and further south to Hot Springs.

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There wasn’t a bad stretch of road all day. The slow speed switchbacks gave way to sweeping turns and more manageable twisties that my Road King adeptly handled. The newer frame geometry and the fatter back tire probably contributed to how she stuck to the road and made the ride a blast through the State Park and on to the Mammoth site in Hot springs.

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If you are the least bit interested in ancient history, this was one of the most well run museums and active dinosaur digs I’ve ever been to. We all had earphones so we could hear everything the guide said as he walked us around the final resting place of Woolly Mammoths as well as Columbian Mammoths among the other fossils buried on the site.

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I would definitely go again with anyone who was the least bit inclined to visit this archeological site.

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We decided to visit the Crazy Horse museum and monument on the way back to Deadwood. The sculpture remains unfinished, but they are still working on it today. It will be incredible when it’s complete, but I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime.

The road back to Deadwood (like all the highways in the area—even the major highways), was another beautiful ride as the sun started to go down. Although we were back before nightfall, it wasn’t long after we’d started eating dinner that the sun had gone down.

We didn’t really cover that many miles—I think it was only a couple hundred for the day, but they were easy, beautiful miles in the wind watching the road pass underneath our feet. I’ve come to appreciate why the Sioux considered this the heart of everything and why the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has become such a mecca for millions of bikers every year. I can’t speak to the Rally, but the riding is second to none.