2009 South Dakota motorcycle trip
Day 10

June 15

Today we're going to ride to the Hot Springs area and recover most of the bus tour route. We've been wanting to take the bikes on those curvy roads, tunnels, and switchbacks. There will also be some shopping thrown in. The weather is warm, dry, cloudless. Today will be a hot day but at the moment it feels just right. We left the house at 8:14 and rode the 1/2 mile into Hill City and got gas and a beverage.

Our first stop was in Custer at the Bella Day Spa to retrieve an item that was left on Friday. The spa is in the background. While the girls went to the spa us guys checked out the hat store next door. There were a couple hats calling John's name but he resisted.

When you ride down US385 you pass the Crazy Horse Memorial. We've passed it several times and it always draws your attention. It's huge.

From Custer we backtracked the route we guys had taken on Friday. US89 south to Pringle, then US385 east to the Wind Cave National Park. About halfway through the park we came upon a huge herd of buffalo spread along a hillside. We stopped for a few minutes for pictures then moved on. A half mile or so down the road we crested a curvy hill to find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a herd of buffalo. We're talking surrounded! No pictures were taken as we cautiously kept riding. They were too close for comfort.

Hot Springs, SD. 8:16, mileage 30,461 - When we arrived at Hot Springs we cruised through town to see if there was anything anyone was interested in. No one saw anything that stood out so we stopped on the south side and fueled up.

While we were there another pulled in. A couple Goldwings, an Ultra Classic, and a few others. A nice hybrid mix. After drinking some pop, smoking some cigarettes, and hanging out, we got back on the road. We made the reverse loop up SD79, turning west at Hermosa and stopping in Keystone.

We went to the south side of Keystone. We hadn't visited here the other day, but we had ridden by it and noticed the President's Alpine slide which looked like a fun ride.

There were helicopter rides next door which John and Ashton showed an interest in.

We took the chairlift to the top of the mountain and had lunch at the Summit Grille. Excellent hamburgers.

From our picnic table you could see the whole Mount Rushmore complex.

When you buy tickets for the alpine slide you have to sign a waiver. You can also buy packages for multiple rides. Why? I've ridden the one at Ober Gatlinburg and it was pretty lame. Attendants stationed every so often telling you to slow down. It kills the fun. NOT THIS ONE! This one is great. It's long and you can build up a lot of speed with plenty of curves and drops. A must do if you're in Keystone.

When we finished the alpine slide John and Ashton signed up for the helicopter ride. There was a couple hour wait so we went to the gift store and then walked to the nearby strip mall.

A couple saloon girls were walking around drumming up business for the shops. We made our way back to the helicopter ride and waited for John and Ashton to take their flight.

There were plenty of motorcycles going through town, and a cool hotel nearby. They enjoyed their ride and the pilot was very informative.

While we were there a KC-135 and a B-52 made flybys of Mount Rushmore.

The Needles Highway

Now it was time for some motorcycle riding. We would ride the awesome roads we saw on our bus tour. We took SD244 west from Keystone, passed Mount Rushmore, to a short stint on US16, then on to the Needles Highway.

When we entered Custer State park we stopped at Sylvan Lake so we could explore the lake area a little more. There is a gate there and as we rode up the rangers suddenly looked at us and started waving. I wasn't aware we had to pay to get in and almost rode through. They laughingly said our bikes were so quiet they didn't know we were coming. The parking lot was packed so we parked along a side road.

By now it was pretty warm and there was ice cream in the gift shop so we parked the bikes and headed that way.

I wasn't in the mood for ice cream so I got a pretzel and a coke. I sat outside waiting for the others. After a while I peeked inside and didn't see anyone. Hmmmmm...did they get by me? I walked towards the lake and there they were watching a spectacle unfold. The lake rents paddleboats. Apparently a dad and his...uh...rather large...son had decided to take a ride. Well, if there was a weight limit this kid was way over. Whenever they tried to paddle forward the boat would take on water and they were afraid the boat was gonna go down.

The keeper of the paddleboats tossed them a line and slowly pulled them to the dock. Later we saw the paddleboat survivors shoveling in some ice cream. That'll help.

It was a beautiful day to stroll by the lake and enjoy the serenity. In two days we'll be heading back to Indiana and the beauty of the area tempts you to want to stay longer.

We thought about walking across the dam, but you have to wade water to get there. We weren't prepared to do that. We did see a cool display of nature. A hawk circled the water then did a kamikaze dive into the water, emerging with a fish. You can see the fish in its claw here. After enjoying Sylvan Lake for nearly an hour, and seeing a hawk nab a fish and a near paddleboat disaster we left.

Iron Mountain Road

We left Sylvan Lake and rode the remainder (and the best part) of the Needles Highway, taking US16A east to Iron Mountain Road. On US16A we followed a convoy of military vehicles. The Needles Highway was excellent. Iron Mountain Road was even better. Switchbacks, tight turns, scenic road, three pigtails, tunnels...it had everything. We even saw the 'wild burros' bellied up to tourists' cars begging for free food.

Keystone, SD. 17:50, mileage 30,620 - Arriving back in Keystone we stopped for gas and to bask in the afterglow of awesome roads.

After riding some great roads we couldn't go back via a highway, so we took the Old Hill City road back to our house. Tomorrow will be a Pumpkin (non-bike) day as we prepare for our 3-day trip back home.

Pictures from the day.

168 miles

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