In September 2015, I plan to ride the height of the State of South Dakota, from North to South, traversing the spine of the Black Hills on remote forest gravel roads, sandwiched by remote prairie gravel roads extending to the outermost reaches of South Dakota's borders. One long ride. Call it the Black Hills BackBone.
The prospective route spans 320+ miles and 18,000+ feet of elevation gain, with the middle third of that distance and most of that elevation gain immersed within the ancient mountains of the Black Hills. The first and final thirds of that distance cross wide open expanses of broken prairie. The route covers what I believe are the best of Western South Dakota remote roads, within the constraints of designing a generally North to South cross state ride through the Black Hills.
I'm planning a continuous ride that covers the entire route, a la Trans Iowa and Almanzo Alexandria. From the current comfort of home, I'd hope for 30-40 hours to ride the BackBone, but I don't know if I can do that. The gravel out here is great and the scenery is inspiring, but there's a lot of elevation gain in the Hills and a lot of exposure on the prairie. And there's always the rattlesnakes, mountain lions and buffalo . . .
Resupply opportunities are limited and cell coverage is spotty, at best. Generally, some form of publicly available food, or at least water, is likely every 40-60 miles or so, although there is an 80 some mile stretch up north that's simply prairie. Once in the Black Hills, the roads explode into a labyrinth of up and down roads, paths and trails to ensnare the unprepared and the inattentive. Reliance on cell phone coverage is not advised.
I'm planning to ride this. Over the years, I've been a race director, race team director, racer, participant, volunteer and/or spectator of about every type of cycling event. This is not an event. This is a bike ride I plan to ride.
That being said, you're welcome to join me, if you're so inclined and prepared. Drop me a line. I can send you my prospective route and help with other details and logistics. Our small Rapid City home and very large yard is available as a base camp. And then, once we turn pedals, you'll be on your own ride.
I plan to post regularly about this ride, including more details and pictures on the route, my bike and gear, nutrition & hydration, resupply possibilities and other logistics. In the meantime, for a glimpse of what to expect, go to most any of my FaceBook photo albums of western South Dakota gravel rides. The best of those you'll likely see again.