It's the 33rd day of our cross-country BMW motorcycle trip, and we accomplished our mission: ride into the 19 states of the lower 48 that we haven't yet been in on the BMW. South Dakota was our 19th new state, and this morning we rode south from Bowman, ND into South Dakota. We've covered over 7000 miles so far on this journey, and are now headed toward home.
U.S. route 85 has so little traffic that Mike parked the bike and we stood around in the middle of the highway taking pictures to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.
We got back on the BMW and continued south with the Black Hills looming in front of us. This small mountain range is aptly named; due to the covering of pine trees the hills appear black from a distance.
U.S. 85 took us through Belle Fourche, a town of about 5,500 people that is the geographic center of the 50 states. Belle Fourche, which means 'beautiful fork' was named by French explorers, a good reminder that until the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, much of the country west of the Mississippi was 'owned' by the French.
We continued south on U.S. 385 into the Black Hills National Forest, 1.2 million acres of forests, mountains, and to our delight - twisty, curvy, sweeping roads. It seems like we've been on ruler-straight roads for the past 2 weeks, and we loved the challenge of the technical mountain roads.
These roads aren't for the faint of heart, especially after seeing the road signs warning motorcyclists and 10 mph recommendations for hairpin turns.
Our ultimate goal today was the Needles Highway, a technical, twisting road with hairpin turns and steep switchbacks within the Custer State Park. It lived up to its reputation as one of the ultimate roads for motorcycles.
One of the tunnels was about 9' wide, and another only about 8' wide - narrow enough that we felt cramped riding through it.
The Needles Highway is named after the large granite formations that resemble needles, and the views of the mountains and valleys made this an amazing ride.
Custer State Park covers over 71,000 acres and is home to about 1400 bison along with feral burros, antelope, deer, elk, and mountain lions. As we wound through the lush green valleys we encountered several bison, including some standing in the middle of the highway. Watch the excitement here:
We also rode slowly past 2 feral burros, descendants of the burros brought to the park early in the 20th century for tourists to ride up the mountains.
We left the park and continued south to Hot Springs, SD where we're spending the night. We've had an amazing journey riding through the 19 states we needed to complete our mission:
Along the way we rode through 14 states we've already traveled through: Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. That's a total of 33 of the lower 48 states on this trip alone.
Tomorrow we ride to Boulder, CO to visit our oldest son for a couple of days before the final three days of our ride home to Arizona. There are sure to be more adventures along the way! Here is today's route