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Saturday, April 11, 2015


One could approach tackling the Black Hills BackBone from several angles, such as a bike packing trip, a multi-day fully supported tour, even a sanctioned race with teams.  One could have a support crew follow, or meet at designated spots, or be on call.  One could stash water and supplies along the way.  None of the above, for me.  At least not this time.  If you ever take on the BackBone, have fun riding it however you deem fit.  I plan to ride this, as continuous as possible, with no outside support other than that which I can acquire along the way.

So, here's the plan.  The Black Hills BackBone crosses 200 miles of exposed, remote prairie and 100 miles of hilly, remote forest, with few commercial establishments along the way for any kind of resupply.  I plan to presume that nothing but water will be available anyplace, and then hope to find a few treats.  I'll carry enough water for 6-8 hours and food for the entire ride.   How to resupply water?

Spinning out of NoWhere, North Dakota, the possibilities seem limitless, but water is not.
Arrive at the start fully loaded, both bike and body, as there is nothing at NoWhere, North Dakota.  Ranches are few and far between, with none on the route, until a cluster of buildings called Harding at Mile 47.  There are occupied houses and new construction, so I'll top off water for the long stretch ahead.

From Harding to St. Onge, the ranches are more frequent, with some close to the road, and the route passes through the "town" of Fruitdale.  Those are possibilities for water that I hope to bypass.  The first open business on the BackBone is the St. Onge Bar at Mile 121 (74 miles after Harding).  This looks like a fun place to stop, just to stop, which I may.  But Spearfish is the place, at Mile 135 (86 miles after Harding), to really reload and refresh.  The Black Hills are on deck.

Cruising along an open valley in the heart of the Hills.
The 30 mile climb out of Spearfish tops off near O'Neil Pass, with another 31 miles of narrow, forest gravel to Deerfield Lake.  The USFS White Tail Campground at Deerfield Lake at Mile 194 (61 miles after Spearfish) is a great camping spot that happens to have water.  I'll stop there.  The Mountain Meadow Resort is about a mile east on paved Deerfield Road, if needed.  Another resupply possibility earlier on this 61 mile stretch is the TrailsHead Lodge on Highway 85, just over O'Neil Pass about 1.5 miles west of where the route turns off Highway 85.

Out of Deerfield Lake, the BackBone dives into the remote reaches of the Black Hills on roads not recognized by MapMyRide or Garwin.  But it's a relatively short 31 miles to the tourist town of Custer at Mile 226, which features a variety of restaurants and convenience stores.  I'll probably stop for water, and maybe some coffee and simple carbs.  OK, donuts.

The buffalo are always watching in Wind Cave National Park.  Sometime they even leave the road.
Now, we're rolling.  From Custer, it's only 33 miles to Buffalo Gap and it goes by too fast.  I plan to get water, and maybe a fully loaded Coke, at the Buffalo Gap Trading Post.  From there, it's only 46 miles to the finish.  If needed, there are possibilities for water from homes in the towns of Oral (Mile 267) and Smithwick (Mile 276) and at a convenience store in Oelrichs (Mile 285).

Looking for water, in all the wrong places.

Hopefully, I'll have a ride from the finish at NothingThere, Nebraska (Mile 305).  If not, it's another 20 miles of gravel back to Oelrichs.

Also, there are natural sources of water all along, especially in the Hills, if you pay attention.  Shaun Arritola likely will bring some sort of Jedi sterilizing wand to treat wild water, in case he needs some.

Shaun, incredulous:  "That's the plan?"
Craig, emphatic:  "That's the plan!"
Shaun, skeptical:  "How are you going to do it?"
Craig, less emphatic:  "I have no idea."

A recurring conversation, with apologies to the writers of "A Few Good Men."

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