Spearfish, SD

“If you gentlemen still wish to see a Tatanka sometime today lets get this Black Hills Vision Quest started, shall we?” Blinking into the slowly climbing sun on the dew-wet lawn in front of his downtown Spearfish home, Perry is ready to go. Luke, his friend and our co-host, is ready to go. Aaron is mostly ready to go. Tony, was at last check ready to go. Robert from Colorado Springs, riding and sprinting up and down Perry’s street for the last hour and a half, is maybe a little too ready to go.

On the way out of town Perry takes us on a tour of Spearfish’s bike shops and coffee houses because our tires need air and our bodies need caffeine and sugar. From Main Street’s western facades, swinging doors and neon signs to the craggy pine tree hills surrounding town, it dawns on us—at some point last night, after it got dark, after ice cream cones and the World Famous Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, we made it to the West.

And now it’s a little after 9:00am and we’re following Perry, a veteran fire fighter, snowboarder and mountain-bike race promoter, past the prerequisite golf course on the edge of an otherwise unspoiled mountain town towards a massive rock walled canyon on scenic byway RT 14. We’re following him south through the northern Black Hills in the direction of Mount Rushmore. We’re following him through, across and along a geographic anomaly – though separated from Colorado’s 14’ers the Black Hills are part of the Rocky Mountains – to the southern Black Hills. We follow Perry and Luke to Cheyenne Crossing where we eat a wonderful breakfast. We follow them into a near endless exhibition of gulches, alpine meadows, rivers, forests, creeks, abandoned gold mines, western saloons, prairie views, granite peaks, hard packed gravel paths, tunnels, empty roads and pig-tail bridges. We follow them at 45 miles-an-hour around a banking corner past George Washington’s sixty-foot profile. We follow them over several mountain ridges into Custer State Park where we pass one-by-one the real-life, full-grown, shaggy, big brown Tatanka, standing like a sentinel on the edge of the road (as if on cue), that Perry promised (we thought he was joking) so many hours ago.

Settled and occupied by various tribes, most recently (in the eighteenth century) by the Lakota Sioux, the Black Hills are steeped in Native American history, tradition and importance, so it was with a wry sense of humor that Perry proclaimed this ride to be a ‘vision quest’. Without a doubt today’s roads have the kind of rhythm, ergonomics and topography required to make a ride special. But what made this ride so exceptional is the intrinsic nature and quality of the land through which we rode. Insert your religious beliefs, inclinations and tendencies here, the Black Hills are more than a stunning
collection of physical and geological attributes and epic road-riding roads, they’re closer to something infinite, magical and spiritual.