Riding the Black Hills is the highlight of our summer. Not only do we play in someone else’s backyard, but we also visit with friends who have become extended family. Every year, we take time to catch up and ooh and aah about how big the kids have gotten (looking at you, young Mr. A. 😳). Every year, our experience in the Hills is different.
This year, we chased down patches to reconstruct our riding vests. First Reader lost hers to the fire, and I’d been thinking about a new one for years. So, we treated ourselves to a patch party and decorated our new leather. I added a group of new patches and a few I rescued from my old vest.
The first half of the week, we thought we were going to melt; it was so bleeping hot. Of course, the entire Northern Hemisphere was under a heat alert. Record temperatures throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe made life miserable for millions, and South Dakota was no exception. By the end of the week, though, a storm rolled through, and the air became less of a furnace. The temps cooled into the upper 80’s F (30° C), but the humidity made us feel every degree of temperature. By the end of each day, we were ready for the air-conditioned cabin.
The ride up to South Dakota and back can be stressful, depending on the weather. First Reader and I managed to have a tailwind most of the way home. Yay us. We almost always battle crosswinds or headwinds. Of course, no journey is complete without riding in the rain. It only got cold after the temps dropped into the upper 50s. Be careful what you wish for. 🙄
I love the feeling of riding distances. The sensations differ from driving through those same areas in a car. The air on my skin changes from mile to mile, as do the scents as I cruise along the highway. There is an undertone of danger as one blasts along the ribbon of asphalt fully exposed to the elements. A strong gust of wind will shove a fully loaded bike with its rider across lanes—not a pleasant experience, especially when the road is wet with standing water. 😱
Early on, I learned to ride like I was invisible because, to most people, I am. Drivers have looked me in the eye as they run stop signs, and I’ve had drivers purposefully try to run me off the road. The scariest was when a State Patrolman saw the crotch rockets blazing a path down the left lanes of the Interstate, totally oblivious to the pack on his left. My son was with me that day, and only my skill and attention kept us safe. I am a defensive rider. I always anticipate drivers will look right through me.
Despite the uncertainty of weather and road conditions and the mood of surrounding drivers, the best part about riding is the headspace I find myself in. I don’t listen to music when we ride distances, just the wind. It’s a form of meditation that I struggle to reach when I’m not riding. My mind clears, and I can think differently when everything in the “real world” isn’t trying to interrupt.
Our annual trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota rejuvenates me in a way I had never thought about. Maybe that’s why next August will be First Reader’s and my 26th visit to the area. And there are still places we haven’t explored.