Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Day 7: Devils Tower
As usual, I woke up at 530 am. Put my jeans and new Sturgis sweatshirt on and went across the street to Common Cents for coffee and newspapers (Rapid City Journal, Lawrence County Journal and The Black Hills Pioneer). It's becoming my ritual to sit out front of the hotel and read my newspapers and drink coffee while Tony's sleeping. The news is all about Sturgis. 5 people were shot yesterday in Custer (they think a Hells Angels and Outlaw gang related incident), the hail/snow that hit on Monday, the traffic in Deadwood and Sturgis, the concerts in Sturgis, and even an article about Cheyenne Crossing, the little stop we had yesterday for breakfast. Finished up my paper and went back to the room. Tony was up, showered and getting ready for our ride.
Got back on the bike. Destination: Spearfish Canyon to North 85 to 34 to Devils Tower. About 80 miles to Devils Tower. Stopped at Cheyenne Crossing for breakfast and so Tony could zip up his jacket (it's a bit chilly and he has his chaps on, vest on, ski cap on, but didn't zip his jacket). Nice breakfast to start out the day.
As soon as we turned on 34, you could tell there were lots of bikes going to our destination. There was a guy with a Danbury, Connecticut shirt in front of us most of the ride. A pretty ride, with rolling hills and grasslands. Going through downtown Hulett, they had a mini Sturgis going on with hundreds of bikes and bikers. Tents set up, vendors, food, beer. We kept riding through Hulett. We had a destination in mind.
Finally, saw Devils Tower in the distance. We knew we were close. Now for a little history lesson, in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Devils Tower as the nation's first national monument. It's actually the core of a volcano exposed after millions of years of erosion brough on by the Belle Fourche River and the weather. For a local legend story: "One day, an Indian tribe was camped beside the river and seven small girls were playing at a distance. The region had a large bear population and a bear began to chase the girls. They ran back toward their village, but the bea was about to catch them. The girls jumped upon a rock about three fee high and began to pray to the rock, "Rock, take pity on us; Rock save us." The rock heard the pleas of the young girls and began to elongate itself upwards, pushing them higher and higher out of reach of the bear. The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock, and broke its claws and fell to the ground. The bear continued to jump at the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are to this day in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades). The marks of the bear claws are there yet." (souce: pamphlet).
Enough history and folklore: We paid our way into the park and rode up to Devils Tower, passing a prairie dog town on the way. Devils Tower is pretty cool. We even saw some rock climbers going up the walls of the monument. According to the park ranger, they had been there since 4 am and still had a long way to go (the record to get to the top was 18 minutes -- don't know how he did it!). We saw what we needed to see, got some pictures and off we rode. Decided that we were going to head 39 miles up to Montana. Have to get another state on the bike!
The ride to Montana was pretty, but open, wide open. Grasslands on either side of us and lots and lots of blue sky. Why they call Montana the Big Sky State. At the border, we got off and took a couple of pictures and then stopped in Alzada for lunch before heading on our ride back to Lead. I had another burger and Tony had meat on a stick. Plenty of bikers there doing the same thing we were doing -- riding to Montana. At 100 degrees (or thereabouts), we couldn't wait to get out of the open country and back into Spearfish Canyon. Passed a bentonite facility (need to figure out what that is) run by Halliburton. Stopped at Dairy Queen for a slushie. And a little bit later, made it back through the canyon and back to Gold Town Hotel to shower and unwind. Dinner: don't know yet. Tomorrow: Mt Rushmore and Custer Park.