Still my favorite…Dreaming of the Black Hills ride

Lucky girl…that’s me.

Playing hooky for a few months, traveling by motorcycle, and seeing some of the world.  My odometer just passed 20,000 miles the other day and I don’t think many of them were repeats.  My KLR has covered some ground this past two years – from Arizona to Newfoundland, from Ontario to Florida…I’ve spent most of my vacation days on the bike and when I left my job in June I road away from home for an extended bike trip which is nearing 10,000 miles so far.

My little black bike has gone over the Trans Labrador Highway (well part of it, but that’s another blog post), the Million Dollar Highway, and the Tail of the Dragon. I’ve ridden to Joshua Tree, to Niagara Falls, over Independence Pass in the Rockies in the spring while there was still snow at the top, to the Grand Canyon and along the rocky coast of Maine in autumn. I’ve been to some incredibly beautiful places and ridden some amazing roads, and loved almost every one of them. But after riding a few of the “best” roads in the world, I can still honestly say that in all the world, my favorite is still back home in South Dakota.
Growing up in the Black Hills has been a blessing that distance and absence from home have made very clear to me. Having been born and raised in Sturgis meant the thought of riding a motorcycle across the country was just as normal as going camping. But I didn’t work up the nerve to do it myself until after turning 40. I’d spent years riding the Black Hills in the meantime and was really excited to get out and ride to and through other places. And now, after a couple of years of vacations and this years 4-month road trip, I have a new appreciation for my all-time favorite ride – Iron Mountain Road to Needles Highway in the Black Hills.

Ride south from Rapid City on Highway 16 past Rockerville and on to Keystone. If you keep going you go through town, Highway 16/16A leads up the hill to Mount Rushmore, and I ride up to see the monument on almost every ride because I never tire of that incredible view. Between Keystone and Mount Rushmore is a road that takes you south through some of the most beautiful parts of the Black Hills, Iron Mountain Road. This road winds, curls and twists its way through tall pines and giant granite boulders. You will cross over the Pigtail Bridges, old wooden structures built to spiral and climb above the road below. You will also ride through tunnels carved into the granite rock…and pay close attention here, because these tunnels are amazingly well-designed. Each tunnel has been built into the rock at an angle that frames Mount Rushmore in the distance. It’s one of the most incredible views in all the Black Hills.
The road winds and runs through the Black Hills National Forest and past parking areas, campgrounds and trails. I stay on this road passing Spokane Creek and Elk Haven and come out at Highway 36 where I turn right and head toward Custer State Park. Custer State Park’s Game Lodge is the perfect stop for a bite and a beverage.
Highway 87 just west of the Game Lodge is known as Needles Highway,a and is the most incredible road I know. It winds north and west through rock tunnels, granite needles and spires.
Sylvan Lake is at the other side of the Eye of the Needle and the Needles Highway. It’s another great stopping point for a rest or drink and is a beautiful place to stretch out after the twisty ride. Highway 87 carries on to Highway 385 where I turn right (onto the 385) and go through Hill City (such a great little town) and on toward Rapid City riding past Sheridan Lake and over the dam at Pactola Reservoir. Then right on Highway 44 for the home stretch back to town. All told it’s a 3-4 hour ride without stops and if the traffic is light, but it is better paced for a full day.

South Dakota is a “no helmet” state, which I know lots of riders love…but as for me, I love riding and want to keep doing it for as long as I can. My motto is A-T-G-A-T-T, All The Gear All The Time. Please consider some protective gear and a helmet. I’ve provided a link below for a great source for all your gear. Wishing you all happy riding!

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  1. Hi Michelle.. Well, you’ve certainly made some progress since leaving the Bkack Hills. As we briefly discussed when you and Brian dropped by to see us near Corner Brook, I would teally like to visit Crow Agency and the Little Big Horn, where Custer bit off more than he could chew! We had intended goung through N. Dakota and Montana en route to Washington State, Oregon and South along the Pacific Coast Road, but we ran out of time and money on that occassion (we were relocating back to Britain for a couple of years (bad move, and that’s why we’re back in Canada!). Anyway, on my drive back East from SLC in April – after flying-out to buy our ’84 FJ/60 Land Cruiser – I only got as far as Rock Springs before the weather diverted me North to Riverton, Wyoming. It took me a few hundred miles out of my way, but I got to drive across part of The Rocky Mountains, passing through Casper, Fort Laramie and coming out at Scottsbluff, Nebraska. I reached a max elevation of 8,500′, and it was snow-covered with temps of minus 20c and a wicked wind, very bleak with no cell coverage in many places and the last place I’d wanna break down (although I had a cot, sleeping bag and food and waer). I’ve travelled through parts of northern Labrador that have been equally bleak and colder – but that’s a sub-arctic climate, so to be expected. The bleakness and remoteness of The Rocky Mountain region was not without its own particular beauty, though, and I’m glad for the diversion, which would have meant me missing-out on that particular journey. That’s what’s so great about about not being tied to a tight schedule – which I was, but had no choice, the I-E90 being closed. Now my bike is now away in storage for the winter while you guys are still riding! We gotta move farther South to get a longer riding season! Take care, be safe and keep us posted. Yo buddies from The Rock, J & A : )

  2. WOW… I’ve been following your adventure and I’m a bit jealous… Thanks for sharing all the fun… I agree about A-T-G-A-T-T… having had an accident I know first hand…

    You are lucky to have the Black Hills at you backdoor. I love riding there and hope to get back up that way soon…

    Hope I see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…

    • Hi Michelle…We just watched a doc called Sturgis Motor Cycle Mania. Had no idea this took ace in your back yard, as we’d never heard of the event, before. You’re sure fortunate to have this in your town and at Buffalo Chip every year. Must be a real blast!

      BTW, we de-activated our Facebook account for a while. Taking up too much time, and not getting my studying done! You can alwAys reach us at this email address. Annette says, hi, and we hope you guys are now moving into a warmer temperature zone. Be safe. AC/JC

    • Hi Michelle

      So where are you & Brian, now. Last I heard you were swilling Tequila at a distillery somewhere in Mexico!

      I saw a fella a couple of weeks ago wearing a Sturgis Motor Cycle Rally T-Shirt. Would love to ride out there for that!

      Take care you guys…

      Jonathan & Annette

      HUMAN HIGHWAY: enjoy the journey…


      • Hey there! So great to hear from you! I hope you and Annette are doing well. Where are you two these days? Brian and I are in southern Mexico and working our way to Yucatan and then plan to ride down into Belize sometime in early April. If you ever get to Sturgis, I can hook you up with a place to stay. If you pick a year other than this one maybe Brian and I can be there!

        Best wishes, Michelle

      • Hi Michelle

        We’re still in western Newfoundland, but plan on leaving to live near Amsterdam in a month or so. Can’t stand these long damp winters, although this one was the coldest for a decade or more, and some folk were driving their SUVs on the Bay ice. Someone went through on a skidoo a few weeks back and lost their life. The winters are better in Labrador, even though, colder. We’re currently trying to sell our ’84 FJ-60 Toyota Land Cruiser, but this Island is so full of time-wasters you wouldn’t believe it. They almost want me to pay them for taking things off our hands! Never experienced anything quite like it anywhere else. I guess living in the poorest Canadian province doesn’t help! I want to take my Nighthawk, though, so could you please ask Brian for name of insurance company he used when shipping his bike from England to BA. I can’t find any such company, here. I have a shipping agent for clearing customs in Belgium, but need that insurance otherwise they won’t clear it for us. So, where are you guys , too, know? Must be warmer although I guess you may be heading into winter? Hope all is good. Be safe, J & A x

        HUMAN HIGHWAY: enjoy the journey…


      • Brian doesn’t remember. But we will see what we can find out. I have bought insurance through and Brian says they do shipping and insurance, one or the other or both. Will let you what else I come up with. Wishing you well in your new home!

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