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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Buffalo Gap to Oelrichs

From Buffalo Gap, the Black Hills BackBone bursts out of the shadows of the Black Hills and hurtles into the wide open spaces of Western South Dakota prairie.  This 25 mile section from Buffalo Gap to Oelrichs is full of surprises, so stay alert.  And know this.  There are very, very few trees, hills, rock formations or anything else that shields, or even slows down, the relentless winds out there.  Today, the gusty cross winds blew me right off my line so many times I lost track.

Toward the horizon lies a bridge over the River Cheyenne.
So, here's Buffalo Gap to Oelrichs on the Black Hills BackBone.  Entering Buffalo Gap on 7-11 Road, turn South (right) on 4th Street, an immediate East (left) on Elm Street, and then South (the second right) on 2nd Street.  Riding south on 2nd Street, do not miss the Buffalo Gap Trading Post on your right.  A picker's paradise stuffed full of stuff.  Some of it is even for sale.  After perusing the wares during last summer's DED Dirt Ride, Shaun's going back with his truck and trailer.

"Hey!  These are my people!" exalts Shaun.
Continue south out of town on 2nd Street, which turns into Buffalo Gap Road (6291), for a dose of mostly up, sometimes down, relatively thick prairie gravel.  Occasional glimpses of asphalt buried below the gravel do not diminish the vibe, but speak to an old road on a sustainable path.  Eventually, after 7 miles, Buffalo Gap Road drops to the Cheyenne River and into the village of Oral.

Downtown Oral, with a little hill out of town.  There's more ahead.
Turn East (left) on Fall River County Road 2.  1.5 miles later, turn South (right) on Ash Road.  Here, the BackBone showcases a rare-for-these-parts center pivot irrigation system, a hint of a gravel grid system, and a steady diet of steep rollers, all reminiscent of Gravel Worlds.  Gotta pay tribute to the Pirates.  After 3 miles on Ash Road, turn East (left) on Hay Canyon Road for just a mile before turning South (right) on Sand Creek Road.  Now, there's just 4 miles to the village of Smithwick, a welcoming place.

Stopped for a Hammer Gel and some HEED, thank you.
Turn East (left) at Smithwick Road for about one-half mile, then turn South (right) on North Butte Road (Fall River County Road 2).  Big exposure, big hills, big views and an aptly named Windy Butte highlight these final 8 miles to U.S. Highway 18.  That's another 25 miles knocked off the BackBone.  Cross the highway and pick up the route described on the post entitled Oelrichs to the Finish.

Post script.  I guess this is how to park a train overnight.  There were many cars extending in both directions.


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