Thursday, August 29, 2019

DED Dirt Ride 2014 - Epilogue

Over five hot days in August of 2014, Shaun Arritola, Rob Sorge and I rode the DED Dirt Ride, a 310 mile bicycle route from Deadwood to Edgemont to Deadwood via the 111 mile single track Centennial Trail, the 109 mile rails-to-trails Mickelson Trail, and primarily gravel road connectors. For 8-10 hours each day, we pedaled, pushed and carried our bikes, on about every type of surface, along the length and breadth of the Black Hills. Spent at the end of each day, we recovered hard by campsite and arose to ride another day. We rode with more gumption than preparation. But we rode. 

I documented this ride through a series of seven FaceBook photo albums, which is not a great platform for narrative or for preservation. So, I plan to reproduce those seven photo albums here in a series of posts, each with an added, rediscovered picture and an introductory note. Here are links to my prior posts in this series. DED Dirt Ride 2014 - PrologueDay 1 - Centennial TrailDay 2 - Centennial TrailDay 3 - Centennial TrailDay 4 - Prairie GravelDay 5 - Mickelson Trail.

As I'm beginning to build the gear, experience and mindset to consider longer bikepacking rides, I'm astonished to realize that five years have passed since this DED Dirt Ride. I am determined to bikepack more the next five years than the last. 



Yeah. We rode the DED Dirt Ride. Yeah.

This final photo album wrapped up the 2014 DED Dirt Ride. Each day of this five day ride challenged us, individually and collectively. Stringing together these five days in a row was an achievement for us, but not Herculean. It's difficult to convey how utterly exhausted one can be at the end of a long, hard day in the saddle, but then how energetically fresh one can be in the morning after a recovery night around a campsite. It still amazes me every time. Keep going and, before you know it, you're created and shared a special experience. Thanks, Shaun and Rob, for sharing this one with me.




Now, that was a ride. We pedaled, pushed and carried our bikes, on about every type of surface, through the entire length and much of the breadth of the Black Hills, and then back again. We totaled about 310 miles, split pretty evenly between single track, gravel and rails-to-trails, with stretches of pavement for by-passes and re-routes. We were out there about 8-10 hours each of the 5 days, with no damage to bikes or bodies that couldn't be handled with some trailside maintenance or ibuprofen. We saw just about every kind of wild critter that roams the Black Hills, without getting charged, gored, stampeded, clawed, buzzed, or exposed to the Bubonic plague. Now, all too soon, we're back where we started five days ago.

Thanks, Shaun and Rob, for sharing this time. I hope these pictures and words capture a piece of the experience. Special thanks to Dachia and Colleen for making it possible with your support and shuttles. Thanks also to Corinne for sending Rob up here.

If this type of thing fires your imagination, make it happen. If you're headed this way, let me know. I'd be glad to help. I may even join you.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

DED Dirt Ride 2014 - Day 5 (Edgemont to Deadwood)

Over five hot days in August of 2014, Shaun Arritola, Rob Sorge and I rode the DED Dirt Ride, a 310 mile bicycle route from Deadwood to Edgemont to Deadwood via the 111 mile single track Centennial Trail, the 109 mile rails-to-trails Mickelson Trail, and primarily gravel road connectors. For 8-10 hours each day, we pedaled, pushed and carried our bikes, on about every type of surface, along the length and breadth of the Black Hills. Spent at the end of each day, we recovered hard by campsite and arose to ride another day. We rode with more gumption than preparation. But we rode. 

I documented this ride through a series of seven FaceBook photo albums, which is not a great platform for narrative or for preservation. So, I plan to reproduce those seven photo albums here in a series of posts, each with an added, rediscovered picture and an introductory note. Here are links to my prior posts in this series. DED Dirt Ride 2014 - PrologueDay 1 - Centennial TrailDay 2 - Centennial TrailDay 3 - Centennial TrailDay 4 - Prairie Gravel.

As I'm beginning to build the gear, experience and mindset to consider longer bikepacking rides, I'm astonished to realize that five years have passed since this DED Dirt Ride. I am determined to bikepack more the next five years than the last. 



On an all day celebratory parade, we spin north on the Mickelson Trail past Crazy Horse Memorial on Day 5. 

Day 5 of the 2014 DED Dirt Ride. Our final day is simple. Ride the 109 miles of the Mickelson Trail north from Edgemont to Deadwood. With no navigation and no technical obstacles, we casually spin gradually uphill for the first 51 miles to the Crazy Horse Memorial. Skies are bright and a steady cross wind blows from the west, but we're just cruising along to a finish that is coming too fast. The miles fly by, although it surprisingly chills for the final descent into Deadwood. We're done, and we can't quite believe it.  


Now we're cruising. After three days of remote, rugged single track and a day of crazy critter and wild weather gravel, we spin out of Edgemont for 109 miles of Mickelson Trail crushed limestone goodness. Departing from the railroad town of Edgemont, we face about 75 miles of gradual uphill and about 35 miles of gradual down, with a steady 15+ mph westerly wind. Our destination is the old mining town of Deadwood, the beginning, and now the end, of our journey. It's a day of mixed emotions.


The southern trailhead of the Mickelson Trail at first light, before we grab a quick cup of coffee
 and a donut or two.
 — with Shaun Arritola and Rob Sorge in Edgemont, South Dakota.

We're barely outside the Edgemont city limits when we have our first, and thankfully last, flat of the day.
After riding more than 45 hours over 5 long days, the three of us only had 5 flats all told,
with Shaun grabbing 4 of them.
 — with Shaun Arritola in Edgemont, South Dakota.

Rob and I enter Sheep Canyon, still steeped in early morning shadows. — with Rob Sorge at Sheep Canyon.

Rob enjoys the early morning shadows at Sheep Canyon trestle, about 8 miles into the Mickelson Trail.
— with Rob Sorge at Sheep Canyon Trestle.

With the rickety Sheep Canyon trestle backfilled with earth, we're able to relax and enjoy the view.
Hey, Shaun, you got some coffee in there?
 — with Shaun Arritola at Sheep Canyon Trestle.

Rob and I pull into the Minnekahta Trailhead, milepost 16. — with Rob Sorge in Minnekahta Trailhead.

Shedding his jacket with the rising sun, Rob flies his Saint Arnold micro brew colors at the Minnekahta Trailhead, at about milepost 16. Hey, now that's a pretty bike. — with Rob Sorge in Minnekahta Trailhead.

Just starting to warm up at the Pringle Trailhead, at about milepost 32, Rob does some strange, swimmer,
stretchy thing.  Shaun doesn't know him.
— with Rob Sorge and Shaun Arritola in Pringle, South Dakota.

After roughly 51 miles of gradual uphill, we take in the view of Crazy Horse Memorial from the Mickelson Trail. A 9 mile descent into Hill City awaits. — with Shaun Arritola and Rob Sorge at Crazy Horse Memorial.

Rob takes a one last look at the sun before venturing into one of the dark, hard rock tunnels near Mystic.
— with Rob Sorge in Mystic, South Dakota.

Even though you can see through to the other side of this tunnel, the trail surface inside
is absolute black nothingness. Riding on faith.
 — in Mystic, South Dakota.

At milepost 94,  Rob celebrates after hammering the last of the 75 miles of uphill.
Descending the final 15 miles into Deadwood would be more fun if not so cold.

— with Rob Sorge at Mickelson Trail Milepost 94.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

DED Dirt Ride 2014 - Day 4 (Wind Cave National Park to Edgemont)

Over five hot days in August of 2014, Shaun Arritola, Rob Sorge and I rode the DED Dirt Ride, a 310 mile bicycle route from Deadwood to Edgemont to Deadwood via the 111 mile single track Centennial Trail, the 109 mile rails-to-trails Mickelson Trail, and primarily gravel road connectors. For 8-10 hours each day, we pedaled, pushed and carried our bikes, on about every type of surface, along the length and breadth of the Black Hills. Spent at the end of each day, we recovered hard by campsite and arose to ride another day. We rode with more gumption than preparation. But we rode. 

I documented this ride through a series of seven FaceBook photo albums, which is not a great platform for narrative or for preservation. So, I plan to reproduce those seven photo albums here in a series of posts, each with an added, rediscovered picture and an introductory note. Here are links to my prior posts in this series. DED Dirt Ride 2014 - PrologueDay 1 - Centennial TrailDay 2 - Centennial TrailDay 3 - Centennial Trail.

As I'm beginning to build the gear, experience and mindset to consider longer bikepacking rides, I'm astonished to realize that five years have passed since this DED Dirt Ride. I am determined to bikepack more the next five years than the last. 



Feeling the need for speed, Rob and Shaun stretch their legs on prairie gravel en route to Edgemont on Day 4.

Day 4 of the 2014 DED Dirt Ride. After three days riding the Centennial Trail, we were more than ready for some gravel and started on one of my favorite gravel roads anywhere:  NPS 5 running from the northern boundary of Wind Cave National Park through prime buffalo country to a 360 degree ridge line view of forest and prairie. We drop from the edge of the Black Hills and spin south into the heat and wind of the exposed, rolling hills of the open prairie, giddy with our higher speeds. Abruptly, we turn west toward Edgemont to face a dark, menacing thunderstorm, which soon pummels us with horizontal rain. Nothing comes easily on this ride and we work through another long day. As we coast into the Edgemont city campground, skies clear and spirits soar. It's looking like we might actually complete this thing.


A gravel grinder's delight! Meandering through herds of bellicose buffalo and a pair of prancing pronghorns in Wind Cave National Park, dropping into the newly expanded Buffalo Gap Trading Post, spinning past wind-swept prairie ranches and cemeteries sprinkled throughout Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, and enduring horizontal rain from an ill-tempered flash thunderstorm, we gratefully coast into the railroad town of Edgemont. It's Saturday night, which around here means it's time for a shower.


Switching to our gravel/cyclocross bikes, we're eager to spin a short pavement warm-up for an all day gravel ride out and into the surrounding prairie. — with Rob Sorge and Shaun Arritola at Wind Cave National Park.

Not yet to gravel, we roust a recalcitrant buffalo off the road as  Rob documents the event from Texas. 
Much more of this ahead. — at Wind Cave National Park.

Into the open prairie. Off to our right, two pronghorn antelope track us to see what all the fuss was about.
— with Rob Sorge at Wind Cave National Park.

After nudging a handful of buffalo off the gravel, we slip by a herd of a hundred or so to a raucous chorus of deep-throated growls.  Rob didn't slow down for this picture. — with Rob Sorge at Wind Cave National Park.

Although they appear here only as white dots on the horizon, we enjoyed the company of a pair of pronghorn antelope, as they trotted beside us for several hundred yards before scooting across the gravel in front of us.
— with Rob Sorge at Wind Cave National Park.


There's always one more. He took more work, before deciding to allow us to pass.  
Rob discreetly drops back, I'm sure for a better camera angle. — with Rob Sorge at Wind Cave National Park.

Just beyond the reach of the buffalo's horns, we encounter a metal cowboy lassoing a fire-breathing dragon. 
Not yard art you see everyday, unless you're out riding prairie gravel.
 — with Shaun Arritola and Rob Sorge in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota.

"Hey, these are my people," exalts Shaun, as we marvel at the collection of stuff at the Buffalo Gap Trading Post. Some of it is even for sale. — with Shaun Arritola in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota.

With the Black Hills sliding off the horizon, Rob navigates a dirt road that turns to sand.
— with Rob Sorge in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota.

Even as the clouds begin to gather, there's no shade on Shaun's spirit.
— with Shaun Arritola in Buffalo Gap, South Dakota.

Spinning south for many carefree, sunny miles, we turn west into this angry beast.
— with Rob Sorge in Angostura Lake.

Nothing quite like a flat while the skies darken, the winds awaken, and the temperatures drop.
Just as we're turning pedals again, a second flat strikes, along with some horizontal rain.
We get a little wet.
 — with Rob Sorge and Shaun Arritola in Angostura Lake.

Out playing with my friend. — in Edgemont, South Dakota.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

DED Dirt Ride 2014 - Day 3 (Sheridan Lake to Wind Cave National Park)

Over five hot days in August of 2014, Shaun Arritola, Rob Sorge and I rode the DED Dirt Ride, a 310 mile bicycle route from Deadwood to Edgemont to Deadwood via the 111 mile single track Centennial Trail, the 109 mile rails-to-trails Mickelson Trail, and primarily gravel road connectors. For 8-10 hours each day, we pedaled, pushed and carried our bikes, on about every type of surface, along the length and breadth of the Black Hills. Spent at the end of each day, we recovered hard by campsite and arose to ride another day. We rode with more gumption than preparation. But we rode. 

I documented this ride through a series of seven FaceBook photo albums, which is not a great platform for narrative or for preservation. So, I plan to reproduce those seven photo albums here in a series of posts, each with an added, rediscovered picture and an introductory note. Here are links to my prior posts in this series. DED Dirt Rice 2014 - PrologueDay 1 - Centennial TrailDay 2 - Centennial Trail.

As I'm beginning to build the gear, experience and mindset to consider longer bikepacking rides, I'm astonished to realize that five years have passed since this DED Dirt Ride. I am determined to bikepack more the next five years than the last. 



Cut-off helmets must have axed this picture before, but it's the only one I found with all three of us at the start of Day 3.
We're ready for another day of Centennial Trail single track. This one gets gnarly in Custer State Park.

Day 3 of the 2014 DED Dirt Ride. Again, we awake refreshed after a relaxing evening at our campsite. With Shaun's Jeep shuttled to the end of the Centennial Trail, we leave his toy hauler at Sheridan Lake for a second night there. Today we face another 30+ miles of single track Centennial Trail, with a by-pass of more tree downfall and a wilderness area. Then, just south of Legion Lake, the Centennial Trail transforms into a series of rock-stuffed steeps that are difficult just to walk. Once past the French Creek Horse Camp, however, the route and our spirits improve. At the end of another long, hot day, we reach the boundary of Wind Cave National Park, marking the end of single track and the beginning of gravel. That was a hard three days covering the length the Centennial Trail. We're ready. Boy, are we ready.


Dawn of Day 3 delivers a transitional day from the granite spiked, thickly forested heart of the Hills to the ragged edge of the emerging prairie, with a route that offers a bit of everything: a gravel climb warm-up, a paved by-pass around the Black Elk Wilderness Area, smooth single track sandwiched between brutal hike-a-bike steeps, knee deep creek crossings and the longest, nastiest gravel uphill this side of Odin's Revenge. We finish the day where the Centennial Trail enters Wind Cave National Park, where bikes must travel on the roads. That was just fine. We're ready for some open gravel.



After a pleasant gravel and paved road warm-up, we hit some Centennial Trail reality south of Legion Lake.
— at Legion Lake.

With the punishing climb behind, Shaun joyfully rails the ridge line single track.
— with Shaun Arritola at Legion Lake.

The gorgeous ridge line single track abruptly dumps us onto an eroded rock fall someone must have mischievously marked as the Centennial Trail. As Rob cheerfully reminds us, "It's what we're here for."
— with Rob Sorge at Legion Lake.

Yes, that's the Centennial Trail somewhere south of Legion Lake in Custer State Park. — at Legion Lake.

It wasn't pretty, but the riders and their mounts survive. — with Rob Sorge at Legion Lake.

Undeterred by a few rocks, Shaun patiently waits to see what's ahead on the Centennial Trail.
— with Shaun Arritola at Legion Lake.

Relieved to be rid of the chute of ankle-breaking rocks, we follow the 89 signs that now approach French Creek. — with Shaun Arritola and Rob Sorge at Legion Lake.

Not long after dropping to the creek bed level, we begin a series of crossings of French Creek.
Here's Rob in his element.
 — with Rob Sorge at French Creek, Custer State Park.

Shaun happily cools his dogs. Seems like he's always happily doing something. We're just happy there's some moving water involved. — with Shaun Arritola at French Creek, Custer State Park.

Not exactly cyclocross form, but the cold water sure feels good. — at French Creek, Custer State Park.

In search of our next water source, Rob finds his rhythm on a very long, increasingly steep gravel climb 
out of the French Creek drainage. — with Rob Sorge at French Creek Horse Camp, Custer State Park.

Shuttling back to camp, we turn our attention to recovery drinks, food, rest and tomorrow's weather.
Another stellar day on the DED Dirt Ride.
— at Custer State Park.