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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.

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