Big Bike Solo in the Black Hills

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, May 18, 2009.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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. :lol3

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    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.

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

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    GPX download here.
    #1
  2. WIthumper

    WIthumper The 610 guy

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    Looks like an interesting ride CannonShot! Let the history lesson begin! :D

    I'm grabbin a front seat!
    :lurk
    #2
  3. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    Me too! Let's tour the Black Hills :thumb

    :lurk
    #3
  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    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.
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    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.
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    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.)
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    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.
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    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! :lol3 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.
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    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.
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    The movie Starship Troopers shot some stuff here. The place was also used for gunnery training during WW II.
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    Some wildlife in the park.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Nice curvy road.
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    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.
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    Camp on the first night. Lots of geology students in camp.
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    #4
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  5. JJMSP

    JJMSP Cervicalgia

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    :wave

    Bringing back the memories to the ride I did a few years back,,, cary on.

    :lurk
    #5
  6. david7774

    david7774 Adventurer

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    Nice pics,keep ur' coming. Thanks for sharing
    #6
  7. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Here we are entering the compound.
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    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.
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    This antenna was used for airborne control. Missiles could be launched using this type of antenna.
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    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.
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    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.
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    Under this wooden building is a missile control facility.
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    Facility manager's room.
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    Of course, when you have this much weaponry, you must deal with important issues at the site.
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    Dining and lounge area for topside crews.
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    Down underground . . . blast door to the control capsule.
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    Outside surface of the blast door.
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    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.
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    Two man control. One operator's console. Strap into the chair and slide back and forth during operations. (Survive blast.)
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    Other operator's station with missile status board.
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    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.
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    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.
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    A training missile in the silo.
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    #7
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  8. no

    no dreaming adventurer Supporter

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    #8
  9. Colemanfu

    Colemanfu King of all manfu

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    I think that stuff is cool. 30 min or less - ha ha.
    Thanks.
    #9
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  10. Schlug

    Schlug JockeyfullofBourbon

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    put something on and stay in that position.
    awesome.
    #10
  11. rokklym

    rokklym one man wolfpack

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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.
    #11
  12. moosey

    moosey Superconcentrated Bitch

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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.
    #12
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  13. InfoManiac

    InfoManiac Always Learning

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    I feel another excellent Canonshot ride report coming on :clap


    :lurk
    #13
  14. 65bmwr50

    65bmwr50 Been here awhile

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    I love reading Cannonshot RR's! Seeing where he takes his Vee makes me know I can take mine at least half as far.
    #14
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    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! :thumb
    #15
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Thanks for the nice comments and it is great to see some familiar faces back for another CannonRide.

    Lots of (hopefully) interesting history, general information, and interesting ride tracks coming up. Of course, the history will have it's dull spots from time to time as not everyone will be interested in everything covered. I'll just write it in the order I rode it and we'll see what we discover along the way.

    At first I'll be skirting then Hills, and then I'll jump in to the thick of it after while. :D

    Like with the Pony Express ride, I will be doing some editing on my planned versus executed tracks in the next few days. Once I have that done, I'll be happy to share the GPS file with anyone who wants it. I also prepared a 10 page spreadsheet that lists the points of interest I visited and has a clickable web link for each entry to get you started on getting more information on the subject on your own.

    I think I read that there is a convention of V-Strom riders going to be out there this summer. Some of this might be interesting to that group as I will have both highway and reasonable off-highway tracks available as well as a ton of places to visit.

    To be honest, some of the tracks are better for a DRZ - even though I was riding them on the DL1000. In some cases both big and small bikes are fine, but it is a matter of how fast you can ride them.

    Anyway, much more to come!
    #16
  17. Buffalo Bill

    Buffalo Bill kickthetire.litethefire

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    Hey that cockpit picture in the first segment....Was that a Bell Jet Ranger?

    WHere did ya see that one??

    Nice Report......
    #17
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Yep, a 206. More on that later in the trip.

    Many Army folks might see it as an OH-58 or Kiowa. (But I guess you would know all that quite well! :lol3 )
    #18
  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Stopped in at the National Grasslands Visitor's Center in Wall. I planned to travel through some designated National Grasslands on this trip so I made the stop to check it out. These places usually have some good interpretive exhibits. There are 20 National Grasslands. I would expect they are similar to National Forests but without the trees.
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    I was happy to see off-highway motorcycling as a recognized legitimate use of portions of our National Grasslands.
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    No matter which route you take to the Hills, I'm sure you will pass many Wall Drug signs along your way (probably starting in Florida). This wouldn't seem to be my kind of place to visit, but it really is kind of interesting. Interesting enough for me to visit twice in recent years.
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    They have a lot of old photos and old junk on display that is interesting to look at. They also have an excellent regional book store. I had planned to stop at the bookstore at the Rushmore Mall in Rapid City but found this to offer much more.
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    Get a cup of coffee and wander around looking at stuff. It is worth the stop.
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    #19
  20. AdvRonski

    AdvRonski They call me......Ronski

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    Finally made it to Fruita!

    Cactus Flat is, of course, East of Rapid, and is the Eastern Gateway to the Badlands for us Midwesterners.
    Great report so far, but why not wait for some warm weather?
    #20