Day 25 – Murdo to Chamberlain, South Dakota

73 miles, 1680 feet climbed

Today was probably the hottest day yet; so far we’ve been lucky to see below average temperatures. I’m talking about the heat index, which was pushed up to nearly 100 degrees. We started the ride with the sun obscured by clouds. After the first SAG, however, the sun appeared and I needed nearly two water bottles to make it 23 miles to the next SAG. The final leg was on I-90, construction was in process, adding way more debris on the shoulder than normal. At RAP, staff said that was our last riding on the Interstate.

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Day 24 – Wall to Murdo, South Dakota

99.9 miles, 3858 feet climbed

When I did this ride in 2004, it was a 117 mile day. We hopped on the Interstate for about a mile and then vectored northeast to Pierre, the state capitol. Not much to see and headwinds to boot. The highlight was crossing the Missouri River just before Pierre.

Well ABB has fixed that in the last few years. Today we went south instead and looped through the Badlands National Park. What a pleasant surprise. On our one family trip through this area when I was a kid we were short on time and only visited Mount Rushmore so I had no idea this existed. You’ll find a multitude of pictures below. To make sure we didn’t spend all day there–it was a 99 mile day, after all–staff set time windows for each of the SAG stops to keep us moving.

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Day 23 – Rapid City to Wall, South Dakota

58 miles, 2005 feet climbed

We’ve been gradually coming down from the mountains, so to speak. Across most of Wyoming and the first day in South Dakota we were hanging out at about the one mile elevation mark. Today in Wall, we ended a little below 3,000 feet. With “only” 58 miles to ride, we loaded (luggage) later than normal and headed off. The only possible complication was late afternoon thunderstorms, which were late in coming but pretty impressive at 8:30 pm or so.

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Day 22 – Hot Springs to Rapid City, South Dakota

73 miles, 5531 feet climbed

Today promised the possibility of bison and near certainty of seeing prairie dogs in Wind Cave National Park, followed by the Crazy Horse monument and Mount Rushmore. To get there, we steadily climbed beginning right out of Hot Springs, through Wind Cave, dropped down a bit to the towns of Pringle and Custer, and then steadily climbed again to Rushmore. The weather began sunny, darkened and spit a little water through the middle, and became sunny again as we left Rushmore.

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Day 21 – Lusk, Wyoming to Hot Springs, South Dakota

94 miles, 2802 feet climbed

We got some help from southerly tailwinds on the first leg of today’s route, until we turned to the east. Then it was more of a slog, and a little warmer than we’ve had so far. For the most part, the weather has been cooler than average. The quality of Wyoming’s road shoulders has improved too. Do they want us to leave not entirely mad? Some of the pavement in South Dakota was fresh and quite nice as well.

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Day 18 – Riverton to Casper, Wyoming

120 miles, 2539 feet climbed

This is our longest day of the tour. The weather cooperated, with arm warmer temps to start. It did get into the low 90’s at the end, so I reloaded my water bottle with ice as well as water at the last few opportunities. Rob, Dan, and I were out relatively late due to Rob having 3 flats. Tailwinds near the end helped me hit an 17.4 mph average speed.

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Day 16, Jackson to Dubois, Wyoming

53 miles, 3301 feet climbed

Until recently, this was about an 88-mile ride, actually beginning in Jackson. But the most recent Wyoming Department of Transportation permit for commercial tour operators prohibits cyclists from riding on Highway 191 through the National Elk Refuge on the east side of the Tetons. The what’s about this prohibition have been dribbling out over the past few days but the “why” (rationale) remains a mystery. There is a separate bike path along the highway for the first third or so leaving Jackson and individual cyclists can use the highway. Just not us. So we put our bikes on the roof racks of our vans and drove to our starting point a little east of the turnoff to the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It took two trips to get everyone up there.

The Tetons were pretty much obscured by clouds and taking photos from the opposite side of the van wasn’t giving me anything worth posting. I’m included a shot from 2004 instead.

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