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Old 05-18-2009, 10:21 AM   #1
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Big Bike Solo in the Black Hills

Just got back from a solo ride in the Black Hills on my DL1000. I had a blast, got to check out some interesting stuff, and I got to meet some great folks. I also "enjoyed" a wide variety of weather and riding conditions. I put on about 1700 miles in the region exploring in a period of a little over six days.







I had been to the Hills a couple of times in the past riding a DRZ. Each time we would encounter old structures or other places of interest. I thought it would be interesting to get some background on some of these things to better appreciate the history I was seeing.



I went to work reading some books and digging some information out of the web and managed to compile a lot of (hopefully) interesting information about some of the stuff we encounter in the Hills. I went to work trying to locate some old ghost towns among other things.





I like to make rides like this solo as it allows me the freedom to dawdle and pursue anything that interests me without frustrating another rider who may not share my curiousity.





Since a lot of people visit the Hills to ride, I thought I would share some of this information in a ride report so that others can enjoy the history aspect of the Hills as well. For those that have never been there, maybe this report will give you the basic information you could use to put together a trip that will allow you to experience some of the great riding and excellent scenery of the area. For some of the old hands, I hope there is something new in this for you as well.



Riding in the Hills can be great on a street bike or on all sizes of dual sport bikes. Even though I was riding a large dual sport, I still ended up in some spots better suited for smaller bikes since I just can't help myself sometimes.





I am going to write this report in the style of Big Bike Solo on the Pony Express with pictures, tracks, and background information of things seen along the route.

As always, I'll put some map segments in the report and share the GPS file for anyone that wants it. I think I have close to 300 waypoints of points of interest in the file.



You are welcome to ride along in this report. I hope some of the stories and pictures capture your imagination like they did mine.







GPX download here.

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Old 05-18-2009, 12:02 PM   #2
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Looks like an interesting ride CannonShot! Let the history lesson begin!

I'm grabbin a front seat!
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Old 05-18-2009, 02:45 PM   #3
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Me too! Let's tour the Black Hills

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Old 05-18-2009, 03:27 PM   #4
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Day 1

I rode out on a Sunday. Long ride on the interstate from Wisconsin. It was a cold ride out with the constant wind and temps around 40. I was probably less comfortable on that part than when it was snowing later on.

The tour begins at Cactus Flat which is east of Rapid City.


Cactus Flat is also the headquarters for the Minuteman Missile tour. Since this requires an appointment to get on the tour, I wasn't on until tomorrow so more on this later. By the way, if you want to see the missile stuff, best to call for an appointment way early. Fire codes keep the numbers limited since some of the tour is underground. Two tours a day during the tourist season.


I had a lot of daylight left, so I thought I'd look around the Badlands. The green line is the Badlands Loop and the magenta is the track of the missile tour. (You take your own vehicle on the tour.)


As you head toward the Badlands from Cactus Flat you will pass this 1909 sod dugout. Some homesteader from Nebraska stopped his wagon here in 1909 and called this home. It is a sod house with a kitchen and a bedroom. He dug a root cellar, built a chicken coop, and a barn. He moved an old wooden claim shack and connected it to the soddie. He died in 1920 but his wife and son stayed on until 1934. Some bachelor moved in after than and stayed until 1949. Imagine what winter is like in a place like this.




The erosion of the Badlands make this one of the richest fossil beds in the world. No dinosaurs, but lots of marine stuff, early mammals, and birds. Fragile areas erode at about 1" per year so if you're going out there you'd better hurry! The harder sandstone erodes at about 1" per 500 years which accounts for some of the formations. The park gets about 15.5 inches of rain per year.


The loop is a fun ride for motorcycles - as long as you don't get trapped behind one of those giant motorhomes. Nice corners and elevation changes. A good ride, even at the speed limit.


The movie Starship Troopers shot some stuff here. The place was also used for gunnery training during WW II.


Some wildlife in the park.


Bighorn Sheep wearing a tracking collar. There are about 100 in the park and they are being studied. I guess they need the collar to find them as these animals are often sheepish in their presentation.


This coyote slinked across the road in front of me. They always slink past with that tail folded under like you are about to kick 'em in the ass.


Lots of places I went to had signs warning of rattlesnakes and poison ivy. There must be a lot of tourists with rashy snake bites. Or, perhaps it is a ruse to get people to stay on the trail and not ruin some of the fragile off-trail vegetation. The brochure points out that the snakes take refuge from the sun under walkways and stairs which may cause a conflict with a sandal wearing stair climber.


Nice curvy road.


Camp is down behind the center hill near the visitor center. Note the passing thunderstorm in the background. Common in the Hills - best to be prepared.


Camp on the first night. Lots of geology students in camp.

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Old 05-18-2009, 04:10 PM   #5
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Bringing back the memories to the ride I did a few years back,,, cary on.

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Old 05-18-2009, 04:13 PM   #6
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Nice pics,keep ur' coming. Thanks for sharing
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:52 PM   #7
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NPS Missile Tour

Back at the NPS Minuteman Missile tour the next morning. They give tours at 0930 and 1330 during the summer. Again, make reservations early as only a few are allowed on each tour.


There used to be some significant missile fields in the area that were headquartered by units at Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City. This system was part of our national defense for about 30 years. The 150 missile silos around here were detactivated with the 1991 START treaty.


In the time it takes you to watch The Simpsons, we could send a 1.2 megaton warhead to Moscow. As a side note, I think that if you added up all the conventional bombs used in WW II it totals to about 2 megatons.


You follow a Park Ranger in your vehicle to two sites on the tour. One is a missile control center, and the other is a missile silo. This is the topside portion of a control center.


Here we are entering the compound.


Command and control of people and missiles was achieved via radio and cable links. Here is one antenna set up. If this was blown away, there were spare masts available on site. You would blow one of the other four plugs and stick in a new mast.


This antenna was used for airborne control. Missiles could be launched using this type of antenna.


There were also 1500 miles of buried cable around that connected all the silos and command centers. The cable locations were clearly marked so ranchers wouldn't accidentally get into them. Fifteen compressors kept the cables pressurized with dry air to prevent moisture problems and to indicate if any of the cables had been tampered with. Pressure was kept at 6-10 PSI. Pictured is one of the splice cases that were part of the cable system.


This is one of the armored vehicles the Security Police would use to rush out to a site that had an alarm. Sometimes alarms were caused by rabbits. Probably not the most agile vehicle to be "rushing around" in.


Under this wooden building is a missile control facility.


Facility manager's room.


Of course, when you have this much weaponry, you must deal with important issues at the site.


Dining and lounge area for topside crews.


Down underground . . . blast door to the control capsule.


Outside surface of the blast door.


The Ranger leading the tour was a former Air Force Captain who worked in one of these things back in the day. Made for some interesting insight.


Two man control. One operator's console. Strap into the chair and slide back and forth during operations. (Survive blast.)


Other operator's station with missile status board.


There is also a bunk down here. Shifts were 24 hours.

This is a missile silo you can visit - even if you are not on the tour. There are instructions on site as far as how to get information about the site via cell phone.


Note the two antennas. There is also a cable coming in to the silo. The glass on top is to allow viewing the missile. Normally there would be an extremely heavy blast resistant door over the silo.


A training missile in the silo.
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Old 05-18-2009, 04:58 PM   #8
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:36 PM   #9
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cool stuff

I think that stuff is cool. 30 min or less - ha ha.
Thanks.
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:37 PM   #10
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awesome.
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:54 PM   #11
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Awesome! The Black Hills are my favorite place to ride and I have a feeling I haven't even scratched the surface of what is out there.
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Old 05-18-2009, 05:58 PM   #12
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Hey Cannonshot, there is a great book out there called "Exploring the Black Hills, Custer's 1874 Expedition" by Ernest Graffe. Photos taken by the 1874 expedition photographer are compared to photos taken in the early 2000's. Detailed descriptions of photo locations and directions to those locations.
Some of the same trees shot in 1874 are still standing. My campsite last April just out of Custer was the main location of Custer's encampment and the location where his men discovered gold.

It's a great guide to the area.
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Old 05-18-2009, 06:04 PM   #13
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I feel another excellent Canonshot ride report coming on


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Old 05-18-2009, 06:07 PM   #14
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Cool!

I love reading Cannonshot RR's! Seeing where he takes his Vee makes me know I can take mine at least half as far.
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Old 05-18-2009, 06:07 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moosey
Hey Cannonshot, there is a great book out there called "Exploring the Black Hills, Custer's 1874 Expedition" by Ernest Graffe. Photos taken by the 1874 expedition photographer are compared to photos taken in the early 2000's. Detailed descriptions of photo locations and directions to those locations.
Some of the same trees shot in 1874 are still standing. My campsite last April just out of Custer was the main location of Custer's encampment and the location where his men discovered gold.

It's a great guide to the area.
Hi Rhonda,

I have that book and like you say it is great! The author did a fantastic job comparing Illingworth's photos with modern shots taken from the same locations. Like you, I was surprised how some dead snags were still in place in some of the photos. I also enjoyed his mapping the routes on topos. I know that there are still wagon ruts visible on the ground in many places from the Custer Expedition of 1874.

I will cover some information about this expedition later on, so I don't want to comment on that too much right now. We'll be visiting a couple of Custer expedition campsites (including the one you were at) later on in the ride.

I think it would be a very interesting ride for someone to try to cover the accessible portions of his entire expedition route. Of course, much of it is highway now since there are only so many ways to travel in the Hills.

Thanks for recommending the excellent book!
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