Days 8 & 9:Rapid City and the Black Hills

Riding the Black Hills of South Dakota kind of spoiled us. Nowhere in Michigan will you find roads like the ones we were on-hilly, twisty, challenging (fun) riding, plus incredible scenery. It’s easy to see why there’s bikers who return to the hills every year for decades.

The first day of our lightning tour of the Black Hills, we headed for the two must-see sculptures, Crazy Horse, and Mount Rushmore. Seeing pictures of these monuments, you know they’re big, but it doesn’t do the spectacle justice. Someone carved these INTO A MOUNTAIN. It’s kind of hard to comprehend when you see it.

Crazy horse is actually a work in progress…very slow progress. After 70 years, they’ve finished his face, and outlined the top of the horses head. Here’s what it looks like now:

(This thing is huge, by the way. These pictures were taken 2 miles away from the mountain. It’s going to be the largest mountain sculpture in the world by the time it’s done. All the faces of Mount Rushmore will fit in the space occupied by Crazy Horse’s head. One nostril on the horse will be big enough to hold a Mt. Rushmore head. And they’re carving this in 3d, all the way around the mountain, instead of just one side like Rushmore.)

And here’s what it’s going to look like, if they ever finish it:

Remember, they've been working for 70 years and all they've finished is his head.

After lunch and MORE gift shops, we headed for Rushmore. Which is still really cool and impressive, but kind of pales in comparison. It’s just so…small.

TOV at Mount Rushmore

From Rushmore, it was a few minutes to one of the “Expert” rated roads in the area, the Needles Highway. A very twisty road through a pine forest, then all of a sudden the trees clear out and you see some very odd, needle-y rock formations rising up out of the trees:

Plus some VERY narrow one lane tunnels blasted through the rocks:

For most of our stay in the Black Hills we were at the Big Sky Lodge in Rapid City, a beautiful motel up on a hill with a great view of the city and very friendly owners/staff. It definitely felt like “home”- when we go back, it would be great to just stay there for 2 weeks.

At the Big Sky Lodge, getting the bikes ready for another day of riding in paradise

Rapid City has a famous alley where graffiti is encouraged, and lots of famous graffiti artists from around the world come to leave their mark:


Our second day in the Black Hills took us first to Wind Cave. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures right now, but caves are kinda dark, and pictures on cell phones without a flash didn’t turn out. I’ll have some once I round up everyone else’s pictures for a later post. After the cave, we hit the Wildlife Loop road. This road goes through Custer state park, and definitely lives up to its name. We saw a ton more buffalo (some IN the road), what seemed like millions of prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, wild burros, mule dear, and heard a pack of coyotes howling in the woods. Very cool.

Bison Crossing

Burro Jam


As it was getting dark, we hit the other “expert” road in the area- Iron Mountain Road. As the name implies, this road goes up, then down a big mountain, the next peak over from Mount Rushmore. As you go up, there’s a series of tunnels that frame the faces on Rushmore, each one closer than the last. Very cool. The other interesting part of this road is the “pigtail bridges”. Instead of switchback turns on the face of the mountain, these are a series of bridges that curve off the side of the mountain, and lead you down through a looping tunnel to change direction. Kinda hard to explain. Here’s a picture:

Oh yeah, one last planking shot for the trip. Jeff at Rushmore:

NEXT: Badlands, Wall Drug, and homeward bound


About whitelightningmc

Follow the White Lightning MC as we go for the ride of our lives. Ten days, 3,700 miles, from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Yellowstone National Park and back, we're headed for Sturgis Bike Week in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and want you all to come with us. View all posts by whitelightningmc

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