4,000 for 40 – Sep Ride 1 – Day 4

Hill City to Rochford – Dumont to Deadwood

Thursday September 15, 2016, 37 miles (60 km) – Total so far: 119 miles (192 km)

The forecast is not good today. Yesterday evening, after Sister C and Baby K left for home, there were some thunderstorms and I hit the tent in between heavy rain showers. It rained through the night but there are signs of clearing in the morning. Showers are forecast after 10am.

So the plan is to dash up to Rochford early and meet Jen’s mom there. We’ll reassess weather and baby needs at that time.

So Jen, Baby H and I are heading out of Hill City around 8am. We chug our way up the trail and Baby H is asleep quickly. Jen and I get through all the rest of the catch-up of our respective lives as we pedal the fine gravel. The trail is in good condition for the most part up to Rochford.

Emerging from the first tunnel on the Mickelson Trail north of Hill City.
Jen and Baby H on the Mickelson Trail near Mystic.
Near Mystic.
We’re pedaling a gorgeous trail. The baby is asleep. All is good with the world today.
Plenty of trestles to ride over.

Jen is impressed with the scenery and it’s a nice ride under mostly sunny conditions. We stop at the Redfern shelter for a long break with Baby H – enjoying the sun while it lasts. Clouds are building. After some time playing with grass and gravel and having a snack, we start back into it.

We start seeing, and getting passed by, a fair number of bikers who are on supported tours. I’m all for everyone getting out on their bike in whatever way they enjoy, but I’m perplexed by all these people with really expensive and fancy bikes doing a supported ride. It seems like riding the Mickelson is pretty straightforward, and would be easy enough to do credit card style. Why would you pay to be guided and chaperoned on a trail like this if you are experienced enough to be a serious cyclist? Maybe it’s the social aspect? Whatever the case we see three different supported groups today.

Into another tunnel.
Through another rock cut.
The clouds were pretty threatening all day, but we never got rained on.

We make it to Rochford an hour later than we thought we would. It’s been a scenic and gorgeous, but slow, ride. We sent Jen’s mom off on a loop of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway before our meet-up time. But she is nowhere to be seen. We hang out on the covered picnic tables at the small general store and wait. The folks in the store haven’t seen Jen’s mom, and there is no phone reception here to try to call.

A woman from the Minneapolis Cycling Club chats to us for a long time – it seems her club members have split up on different Black Hills rides for the day and she has ended up on her own. So she’s doing an out-and-back from Hill City. She’s got a fancy bike and she likes to sail…. she’s in a different socio-economic class than me by far!

45 minutes later, Jen’s mom shows up. She got all wrapped up in exploring Sylvan Lake and has been there all morning. We all agree that the weather is iffy, but Jen wants to ride further. I know that part of the ride between Rochford and Dumont is a real slog with really slow trail conditions and the likelihood of a headwind in a less scenic section of the trail.

So the decision is for Jen’s mom to ferry us up to the Dumont trailhead. Jen and I will ride down to Deadwood (I’ve never done this section of trail) sans baby and meet up with Jen’s mom and Baby H in town.

We drive up to the trailhead and I feel like such a biking wimp when we unload and get ready to ride naked bikes. The other bike tour companies are there as a SAG stop, and I just feel so, so wimpy. I should be up here fully-loaded!! Jen doesn’t feel quite so wimpy. She has been towing, nursing and entertaining an 11-month-old up the trail. Your sense of adventure and need for being hardcore shifts a bit when you’ve got kiddos, I guess!

Trailhead at Dumont. Jen’s mom is in the van in the foreground. We felt like real wimp cyclists having a support vehicle like all the other supported rider vans in the background. Jen WAS the only one towing an 11-month-old baby along, though, so she didn’t feel as wimpy about a SAG tour as me!

There is a little bit of climbing to the trail high point, then it is mostly one long cruise into town. There are really nice views off through the hills from sections where the old rail line clings to the edge of the slope high up the hillside. The aspen are further along in their changes up this high and a bit further north. It is another beautiful section of trail – but this section has a fair bit of mud and slow-riding softness. There is a lot more erosion and rough bits up here, too.

Heading down toward Deadwood.
Gorgeous section of trail with aspen starting to turn.

We roll on down and past all the areas that look flogged from mining until we are spit out on the edge of Deadwood. As we are getting ready to cross the road, we hear our names called out. Jen’s mom is just across the road. Traffic is a nightmare with road construction in town, so Jen’s mom has come out to the edge to meet us.

And just like that, our touring introduction for Baby H is over. Jen’s mom gives us a tour of town (incredibly touristy and full of casinos – I’m not impressed) before we drive on to Rapid City where we are staying the night with one of Jen’s friends before heading back to Ft Collins on Friday. I fly out from Denver on Saturday. It’s been a short but totally full week in the Black Hills. I didn’t really have any expectations, so it was enjoyable and interesting. Baby H did a stellar job in the trailer and was less fussy, overal, than I imagined an 11-month-old would be. Hopefully, this is just the first of many adventures to come.

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