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Sunday, February 12, 2023

BackBone Grande - To The Start & From the Finish

A logistical issue inherent with a cross-state cycling route is getting to the start and from the finish. Make that state South Dakota and that route on back country gravel/dirt roads and both are sure to be well removed from anything resembling a population center.

Well, the southern terminus of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is Antelope Wells, New Mexico, a closed U.S. Border Station 45 miles away from the nearest town of Hachita (population 49). Self-sufficient bikepackers on the Great Divide figure it out. I'm sure that anyone embarking on a ride of the BackBone Grande will, too.

Nonetheless, since South Dakota is largely unknown to many, here are some specifics of the start and finish of the BackBone Grande to kick start things. Introducing the BackBone Grande.

There's prairie to cross, both North and South of the Black Hills, on the BackBone Grande.

1. Drop Off at the Start & Pick Up at the Finish
A simple approach requires another to drop you off at the start and pick you up at the finish. The RideWithGPS file should direct your driver to both the start and the finish, which are accessible via paved roads and all-weather gravel roads. Yes, both will be a bit of a drive from the nearest coffee shop or pub.

2. Ride to Connect at the Nearest Town
One can ride to the start and from the finish to connect with your driver at the nearest town. The southern terminus of the BackBone Grande lies about 30 miles south of Edgemont (population 725) and about 34 miles southwest of Hot Springs (population 3,400). The northern terminus lies about 43 miles north of Buffalo (population 350). Your driver can access all three of these towns on paved highways.

3. Ride Directly from/to Rapid City
One can ride directly from Rapid City to the start or to Rapid City from the finish, presumably for a flight or other public transportation elsewhere. That's about 90 miles from the Southern terminus and 150 miles from the Northern terminus.

4. Ride Back to the Start on the Grande Route
Every year, some adventuresome folks yo-yo the 2,500 mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. That is, they ride the entire route one direction and turn around to ride it all the way back. Why not the 400 mile BackBone Grande? That actually sounds like a great ride.

5. A Different Return Route for One Big Bad Loop 
I'm working on a unique route that starts at the Northern terminus of the BackBone Grande and loops southward back to the Southern terminus. As currently envisioned, this BackBone "Double Grande" would be a much different experience from the Grande. More rough roads. More remote. More distance between re-supplies. More dispersed camping. More self-sufficient. Likely a swing through parts of Montana and Wyoming. This will take some time to do right. Perhaps next year I'll be ready to publish it. Of course, in the meantime, you can always create your own return route.

6. Support/Shuttle Vehicle Shadow
The entire BackBone Grande route cannot be driven by motor vehicle. However, the sections that are not accessible to motor vehicles are relatively short. With a little planning and communication, a support/shuttle vehicle should be able to meet cyclists off and on every day, if that's your jam. In other words, you can bring your shuttle to the finish with you.

7. Open to Imagination
Possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Say a friend wants to join for an overnighter, but not more. Leave a shuttle vehicle at the start and that friend can ride back to retrieve it on Day 2 while you continue on the route. That process could also be employed in reverse from the finish.

The prairie takes no prisoners.

The start and finish of the BackBone Grande are only about 250 driving miles apart, with Rapid City roughly 2 hours from the southern terminus and roughly 3 hours from the northern. 

"No problemo," says the experienced bike packer.

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