Two early starts in a row, we're getting better at this. Great day, 9 degrees as we head out with a local forecast of 19 degrees. Cool but pleasant.
This morning the plan was to head south on 16A Scenic, a lovely piece of road, short, but with tunnels, sharp bends and two 360 degree bends! How does it do that; Around in a circle with an overpass. Nice ride but we were going south-east a lot of the time which meant straight into the early morning sun. Good fun as you line up your entry then suddenly have nothing but the sun in front of you. Yesterday, when the lady at the Visitor Centre suggested the route, she said if you ride up the range, one of the tunnels aligns with the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. We wanted to do it down so we gave that a miss. Surprise, it's on the way down you see it. Look closely at the photo, it is hard to see as the sun is behind us at that point and is shining directly on the white granite rock of the memorial.
From the bottom of the range it was into Custer State Park to see the buffalo herd that we had been told to be wary of, especially on a motorcycle. The park has a Wildlife Drive ring road that shows off the different park areas, wooded, rocky, open plains, so you see the various animals in their habitat. Well, you do if they are about and happen to be just where you are. Very disappointing that we didn't see the buffalo herd but we did see a herd of prong horned antelope and a group of donkeys that are descended from the donkeys set loose by the old prospectors so many years ago. Of course the black-tailed prairie dogs were out and about along with a black squirrel and a deer and her fawn. Eventually we did come across three buffalo bulls. The males do not hang around with the herd except in mating season so it is common to see them by themselves. Beautiful park though, well worth the visit, especially to the Visitors Centre to see the video telling the story of the park.
Leaving the park we headed north to Rapid City then east to Wall. Wall has a very interesting business, Wall Drug. It is a very inspiring story and well worth an internet read to see what small ideas can do. In short, attempting to build up a drug store business in a town where the traffic to Yellowstone just passed through, the proprietors offered free iced drinking water to all travelers. People started dropping in and they just kept adding things and the rest is history. It is now a massive shop, has three huge parking lots that we saw, caters to bus tours and offers coffee for 5 cents in an honour system. So many souvenirs, cafe, ice-cream parlor clothing and just about anything you can think of; and the drug store is in there as well. They were busy as one-armed paper hangers.
South from Wall then east, we headed into the Badlands National Park. I hadn't done any research on this place but as it was on the way, I added it. I'm glad I did. There have been a couple of places where the first reaction is wow, this was WOW! I have included quite a few photos, unfortunately they do not do justice to the panorama that opens up in front of you. Basically an ancient sea bed that has been eroded by water and wind etcetera into magnificent hills and valleys that have different colours, stripes and shapes throughout the park. We were almost out of the park and we found another animal for the day; we'd been looking for the long-horned sheep through a few parks and found some. Words can't describe this park, you have to see it.
These guys really do their National and State Parks well. It may be the main reason that a high percentage of vehicles on the roads are motor homes, fifth-wheel caravans, towed caravans and SUVs with racks mounted on the tow bar packed with holiday equipment . So many easily accessible and well presented places to spend time.
Then the GPS hiccupped again and sent me back to Wall. By the time I realised it had gone wrong, we were on the divided lane highway and had quite a few miles to travel before an exit ramp to turn around. I know at least one of you spotted that little maneuver.
Finally we were headed to Valentine for the night. A change of time zone, so we are now only 15 hours behind Brisbane. Had to travel one of the worst sections of road ever. It appeared to have been built of concrete and then a seal coat of bitumen placed on top years ago, so still in very good condition except each concrete section is about 15 metres long and every joint has a gap where the road has a dropped section about 100 mm wide and about 40mm deep, 63 klms long and every 15 metres, thump-thump....thump-thump. No fun at all. Not to mention that most of the afternoon we had a dose of the wind that frequently blows across the prairie. Today, quite strong, often a cross-wind or from the front quarters making riding just that much more difficult with the buffeting.
The bike has had a week's road grime washed off and dinner was at a little cafe down town, great staff, terrific food and friendly owner to chat to. See you tomorrow.
541 klms today, total to date 3976 klms.
A short video of the Badlands National Park.