Monday, August 1, 2011

Short Way Down III, Part 2

Sunday morning came without much fanfare, although the lightning storm in the middle of the night could count as fanfare.  We arose a bit later than we did the previous day as the campground where we stay has a "mess hall" that they serve breakfast in and that doesn't start until 7:00.  We figured if we're up and ready to go by 7:00, then eat, we can be on the trail by 8:00.

We end up being changed and packed by about 7:10 and we pushed Barney over to the mess hall so we can roll right from there.  The Boy gets an all you can eat pancake breakfast, which I guess for him meant getting two huge pancakes and eating half of them, and I got the "big breakfast" and gave my sausage to the Boy.  Sufficiently fueled up, we stroll out around 8:00, fill our Camelbaks up and hit the trail.
The first stop of the day.
The morning was overcast, which meant cooler temperatures than we had anticipated.  This was a bonus as leaving Hill City means you get a grinder of a climb for about 7 or so miles to the summit at the Crazy Horse Monument and the last thing you want to do is start uphill in the baking sun.  One thing I failed to mention in Part I post was at dinner the previous night, Mom got on the Boy for not helping out with pedaling like he should.  Understand how a tandem works; both cranks have to turn in unison as they are connected by a timing chain, BUT if one person isn't putting their share into it, the effort is all on the other person.  Well, it must have hit home for him as he was a pedaling maniac on the climb!  We were at Crazy Horse before we knew it.
Crazy Horse
After a short break at the monument, we have a nice descent into Custer.  That stretch between Crazy Horse and Custer has some little ranches and houses nestled into the granite outcroppings and I have to say it would be one of the most beautiful places in the Black Hills to live.
Living outside of Custer...
We get to Custer with minimal effort and stop by the grocery store for a quick snack, a bathroom break and a chance to shake the legs out before the last grinder climb of the day.  As we're standing in front of the store, enjoying our snacks by Barney, I hear a mother say to her daughter as they walk by " don't get legs like that from going for walks."  I turn to see they're looking at me, or more importantly, my legs.  Stop it some more...

As we ride out of Custer, the clouds are starting to break up.  It is still cool, but I can feel that it is going to warm up in a hurry.  We bust up the last real climb of the day, which is about 3-4 miles worth of climbing.  At the top, we enjoy one last break before the rolling trails to Pringle and beyond. 

About 100 yards before the Pringle TH, we encounter a Mickelson Trail Patrol, as we did the previous day (and I failed to mention).  I realize these people have a job to do, but MAN, do I have to stop 100 yards before the trailhead to get my pass out?  Can't we roll over to the little hut to get out of the sun so I can get my boy something to eat whilst we play ass-grab with each other?  Surely, this cat can see we're loaded for bear and getting the bike rolling is not easy.  Oh well, pass checked we zip to the TH where we take a quick fiver before rolling on.
The Mickelson is a beautiful trail, but after Pringle it gets hot and desolate pretty darn quickly.  Sure, there are some beautiful spots, but it isn't the prettiest part of the trail.  When people from other places ask about it, I usually recommend that, unless they're hell bent on finishing the whole thing, to stop in Pringle and get a ride from there.  That being said, we were hell bent on finishing.  Mentally, I knew we were NOT going to go a third day.  The Boy said he was getting sore in his neck and shoulders, which was partially from not riding enough before the trip and partially from his new position on the bike, as we've removed the child stoker kit and handlebar extensions, so I knew a third day could wreck him mentally so we were not going to continue back to Hill City.

A quick water fill up at the Lien Quarry hut and we we're rolling to the last trailhead called Minnekahta, where Mom was going to meet us.  We met up just as planned and she had some cool drinks for us as now the sun was beating down on us and it kinda felt like we were in the Serengeti.  At this point we decided to ditch our gear in the truck and ride unencumbered for the last 15 miles into Edgemont. 
Look at that smile!  Still happy after all those miles!
We took off down the trail and about two mile in, guess what?  Another DAMN FLAT!  Seriously, who the hell did I piss off?  OK, we can handle this I think.  I pull the rear wheel off and the cassette cogs fall off with the wheel.  HOLY SHIT.  This is NOT GOOD.  Not good indeed.  But, being fairly handy, I was able to reattach the cog's lockring with the plier end of a multi-tool.  After fixing the flat and reinstalling the rear wheel, I discover that the axle is quite loose.  At this point we decide to pull the plug on this section of trail.  There is no access between where we were and Edgemont, so if something drastic happened, we'd end up walking the last 10 miles or so.  Not gonna happen.  So, a quick call to my lovely which netted me no response and a voice mail, and we turned around and rode back to the Minnekahta TH.  We ended up calling and texting her about 10 times before she responded.  She was in the museum in Edgemont...thankfully it is Edgemont and there is more stuff in my house than in that museum, so it didn't take her too long.

After a picnic at the Minnekahta TH, we got the bike loaded up in the truck and we headed for home.  Another Mickelson trip under our belts, this time with a lot more adversity than we've had in the other years combined.   Which made for an interesting trip and will make us all the more prepared for the next time we do it.  And we are already thinking about the next time...and I'll have a gross of tubes waiting.

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