Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Sunday, June 4, 2017

George S. Mickelson Trail – Part III

A colleague’s wedding in the Black Hills over the Memorial Day weekend provided an opportunity to finally complete my ride of the George S. Mickelson Trail.  As reviewed previously, I biked the Edgemont to Custer section in 2014 and the Deadwood to Rochford section in 2016, leaving approximately the middle third of the trail between Custer and Rochford yet to be ridden.

Under overcast skies, temperatures in the low 40s, and a light headwind, I biked north out of downtown Custer on May 26th shortly after dawn.  It felt good to start the final section of the trail where I ended in 2014.

(Returning to the same sign, nearly three years later)

The moderate climb out of Custer felt good with the cool morning temperatures.  I wasn’t long before I was comfortably warm, stopping briefly near the Mountain Trailhead to snag a photo of the Crazy Horse Memorial to the east of the trail.

(Profile barely visible from the trail)

I arrived at Hill City 15 miles into the ride hoping a small bakery might be open for a light snack and coffee.  A quick detour on the main road through town yielded a couple options, but neither were open so I continued north.

The Black Hills are composed of some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world, estimated at more than two billion years old.  The Mickelson Trail cuts directly through this geological formation (known as the Harney Peak Granite Batholith) on the way to Deadwood.  At four places along the trail, the ‘cutting’ is literal, in that the trail passes through short tunnels bored through the hard granite.  Three of the tunnels (referred to as A, B, and C) occur in rapid succession between the Mystic and Rochford Trailheads.

(Tunnel A)

(Tunnel B)

(Tunnel C)

Shortly before arriving at the Rochford Trailhead I enjoyed a first…   …a mountain lion sighting!  Though it was only a glimpse, the body size and unmistakable dark brown tip on its tail confirmed that it was indeed a lion.  The cat ran ahead of me on the trail, approximately 30 yards out, before darting into a ravine.  Being a cat person, I briefly considered stopping to cajole the large feline out of the ravine for a little mid-ride laptime.  With a schedule to keep for activities later in the day, I opted to gear down and move quickly through the area.

(Puma concolor)

The turnaround at the Rochford Trailhead was brief, stopping only to use the facilities, strip off a wool undershirt, and fill my water bottles.  The temperature had increased considerably, so I was thankful for the hydrant near the shelter.

(Rochford Trailhead)

Though my trek north was a solo journey, multiple groups of riders were out during the return leg.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying the excellent weather and trail conditions.

(Heading south near Mystic Trailhead)

As I entered Hill City, incoming clouds beckoned rain, so I opted to continue on Highway 385 to save time.  The decision was questionable, as the busy four lane highway made for some nerve-wracking riding.  I was glad to return to the trail at the Crazy Horse Memorial turnoff for the final downhill stretch to Custer.

(Back on the trail with rain in the distance)

The Koga-Miyata performed well throughout the ride.  Aside from limestone getting stuck in the cogs (no fault of the bike), I had no problems during 80+ miles of riding.  Its comfort and reliability make it a good – albeit somewhat heavy – randonneur bike.  As of this month, I’ve been riding the Koga-Miyata for 20 years!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gallatin Valley Rambler 200k

Jason Karp, RBA for Montana, always does a nice job designing excellent routes.  The Gallatin Valley Rambler 200k, held on April 29th, was no exception.  Using the Karp residence as a central control, the route is essentially two out-and-back loops, first to the west past Three Forks and the second to the southeast around (and then through) Bozeman.  Squeezed in between each loop was an excellent lunch stop organized and prepared by Jason’s wife, Brenda.  She had grilled cheese sandwiches, roasted pepper and tomato soup, and a nice selection of cookies to keep us going.  There was no need to eat at convenience stores during this brevet.

(Riders gathering at the Karp residence)

Unlike my previous brevets in Montana with (at most) a half-dozen riders, a group of 10 participated in the Rambler, with riders coming from Bozeman, Molt, Missoula, Helena, and Jackson (Wyoming).  The weather may have been a factor, as we enjoyed mostly clear skies, light winds, and cool temperatures.  It was certainly a contrast to the preceding day, with rain/skeet/snow squalls common throughout the valley.

Like many brevets, most of the group stayed together early on.  I’ve come to place high value on this part of the ride while warming up the legs and lungs for the day ahead.

(Heading west on Dry Creek Road)

Jason incorporated two short jaunts off Highway 205 as part of the west loop, one to Missouri Headwaters State Park and another toward Buffalo Jump State Park.  I especially enjoyed the latter, as it included some climbing (something I enjoy).  The view overlooking the valley was well worth the brief effort.

(Entrance overlook to Buffalo Jump State Park)

The west loop landscape was dominated by agriculture.  Irrigated crop and alfalfa fields were common, with occasional grass pastures providing new growth for an assortment of livestock.  Some of the livestock included pack animals, as we passed a few pastures with mules.

(One of the many tilled fields with sprinkler irrigation)


This was my first brevet with a recumbent randonneur.  Lane, from Missoula, expertly guided his Schlitter Encore through the 13 controls over the 10+ hour ride.  I was impressed by how efficiently he managed the many starts-and-stops, particularly through the streets of Bozeman with dual 650b wheels.

(A fascinating machine…)

(…that looks to be an incredibly comfortable ride)

I’ve been intrigued by recumbents lately given the challenges I have with upper back and neck strain during long rides.  The recumbent riding position decreases back/neck strain considerably.

Lane offered the opportunity to try his recumbent at the end of the brevet.  Fortunately, a large parking lot was available across the street from Jason and Brenda’s home, so I gave it my best shot.  With excellent guidance and encouragement from Lane, I was able to make a loop around the parking lot on my fourth try.  The experience left me intrigued to learn more about recumbents.

One aspect of riding in Montana that I particularly enjoy are the people I get to ride with.  Friendly and thoughtful are two words that immediately come to mind.  My experience with a rear flat near the end of the ride underscored my positive feelings towards these great group of people.

(Rear flat within 10 miles of the finish…)

(…and the group I was riding with stopped and waited.  Nice!)

The Gallatin Valley Rambler 200k is an ideal early-season brevet.  Starting and ending in Belgrade, Montana, the route covers a significant portion of the Gallatin Valley with limited climbing, mostly quiet roads, and a visit to the Missouri River headwaters, all surrounded by 360° of beautiful snow-capped mountains.  It is a great way to start the randonneuring season.

(Bridger Mountains in the background)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rawland Nordavinden

There’s a new bike in the stable.  A Rawland Nordavinden.  The search for this frame began over 18 months ago, resulting in fortunate find last January.  Some components were repurposed from my 2004 Specialized Roubiax, which hadn’t been ridden since 2014.  Rene Herse cranks, an SPF bottom bracket, Paul Component center-pull brakes, and Compass tires complemented Dura Ace derailleurs from the Roubaix.  Added to this were a Nitto randonneur touring handlebar, stem, and bar-end plugs.  A Brooks saddle and Acorn bag were taken from another bike, and paired with matching leather handlebar tape (with Newbaums bar tape and twine as enhancement).

It took me over a year to get everything lined up for a final build, which was expertly done by Lance Larson at Larson's Cyclery.  The wait was worth it.  I really like the outcome, and am looking forward to getting the bike out on the road this spring.

Here’s a few photos, taken atop Chief Looking’s Village (reviewed previously).