Summer is going well and riding has been epic here in the Montrose valley but the lack of winter snow and no rain is causing it to become pretty freaking dusty pretty freaking early. We had all been talking about our lack of motivation to go breathe dust and then “DING” my Facebook messenger goes off. I check the notification and see that it's from a friend in Sargents CO. This dude is a bad man on a motorbike and I have been wanting to ride with him for a long time and I was over the moon to see that he was inviting me to ride. But there was a hitch, he wants to go to South Dakota?? What? We live in dirt bike mecca so why travel, especially 11 hours to a state known for flat ground and a ridiculous Harley rally.
But its THAT guy, and it must be good if he is going to drive that far. Then there was the issue of getting out of work and leaving the family behind for an extended weekend. I thought about it for a bit then decided that I should at least ask my amazing wife if it would be ok. In true 21st century fashion, I texted her the question and then crossed my fingers. To my surprise, she quickly answered, “Sure, you should do something fun.” YEAH! I have the best woman on earth. Now I just have to convince my boss to let me go. Now, my boss is a hard driving, hard working, jerk of a man but he also understands that some free time is good for the soul. It also helps that he is ME since I own the shop. I granted myself the time off and told my buddy that I was IN!
He quickly responded that the riding is EPIC single track and that I was going to love it. He also gives me the roster of riders and I realize immediately that I am not going to be one of the fast guys and that I am going to have to bring my A-game to keep these boys in sight. I was ecstatic! I love new experiences and I LOVE dirt bikes so this was a match made in heaven. My friend explained that all I needed was my bike, gear, some clothes and a little bit of cash. We were staying at the Nemo Guest Ranch in a cabin with a kitchen so we will cook while we are there and can ride right from the front door. Sounds PERFECT!
We were going to leave Sargents at 4:00 am so I headed over the night before and spent the night with Jeremy in the Single Track Shack. 4 am came… well, at 4 am but I was like a kid on Christmas so I was up and at them right away and we blasted up Monarch pass on the way to pick up Matt in Salida. After a quick load up we were on the way to the front range to grab the last two Colorado boys in Denver. From Denver to the Black Hills is a really boring and long drive but it went by fast as we talked about dirt bikes and the rad trails we were going to ride. A quick stop in Cheyenne for tacos at Taqueria Mi Tierra (go there) and it was on. The nice thing about a state that is so flat is that you can haul the mail in a van with a trailer full of bikes. Jeremy made short work of the drive and before we knew it we were in the Black Hills.
The Black Hills are absolutely beautiful. Big, rolling “mountains,” covered in trees and deep green grass. It is like a scene from an old west movie, giant expanses of incredible terrain, dotted with amazing ranches that have been there for a long time. Our destination was the town of Nemo but we had to go through Custer to get our OHV tags and then Hill City to grab food and dinner. We rolled into Nemo after dinner time and met the other half of the group. 3 guys from Iowa had driven almost the exact same distance to meet us. It was like the East/West shootout!
The Nemo Guest Ranch is an amazing place, nestled in the heart of the Black Hills. They have a general store, a restaurant, and some really nice cabins. The best amenity they offer is that it backs up to the National Forest and you can ride right from the cabins to the trails without any kind of street-legal equipment. We settled in and got a campfire going. That’s right, while Colorado is burning to the ground, SD has had a real winter and 2 days before we got there, it rained 2.5 inches. I was the new guy to the group and it was a hoot getting to know everyone and bench racing around the fire. Finally, it was getting late and early morning dirt bikes were calling so we hit the hay and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of tight single track and epic traction.
The sun comes up early that far north at this time of the year and since the youngest member of the group was 35, we were all up early and ready to rock. Kickstands were up at 8 and we were headed out! The initial riding was on a dirt two-track but we quickly turned off of that and up, up, up into the hills. It amazed me how steep the climbing was for a group of mountains that never get above 7500 feet at their very tallest. We pinned it through dense forests, open meadows, and jumbled boulder fields in the tightest, most single single track I’ve ever ridden. Everyone could ride and we all just hung it out. It was SOOOO much fun! No one held anyone up and we were all laughing in our helmets about how good the conditions were.
After 35 or 40 miles of pure bliss, we pulled into the Sugar Shack. The Sugar Shack is a little outpost in the middle of nowhere on a highway running through the hills and they serve some absolutely amazing burgers and fries. Every kind of burger you can think about is on the menu and the service is great! They also have a gas pump so you can fuel your body and your bike at the same time.
We inhaled the food and topped the bikes off, ready for the second half of the day. Our leader told us that it was going to get harder and we all began to salivate. Harder is good and we all wanted as much as we could handle. The second part of the day did not disappoint. It was much tighter and rockier than the previous section and everyone on the trip crushed it. We hammered down and had a blast. The end of the day was the hardest part of the whole trip and we finished on some really gnarly boulder sections that were jeep trails kind of like the stuff in Dry Creek but a different kind of rock. We were all tired but the fun meter was still pegged and we all had a blast. Rolling down the road, Nemo was a welcome sight. We rolled up to the cabins and geared down. After a much-needed shower, we cooked some brats and kicked back in front of the fire again. The temps were in the 60’s and perfect!
Another night’s sleep lead to a bit later wake up on Saturday morning. Even the toughest of us were a bit sore and welcomed the lazy morning. My job was coffee so I took care of my duty while uncle John made us breakfast again. Then it was off to the hills. This day was tougher than that the previous one and left a few of us (me included) trying some hills twice to make it to the top. Technical hill climbs are my Achilles heel so it was great practice for me. To top it off, the trees are really close together in the Black Hills so navigating a 45 degree, rock-strewn slope is extra challenging.
We repeated the Sugar Shack stop and put down some tough miles in the second half of the second day. We rolled into Nemo fully worn out with perma-grins on all of our faces. After some relaxing and showers, we loaded up and headed into Deadwood (23 miles away) for dinner and some entertainment. Dinner at the Buffalo Bodega was great and across the street, we rolled into Saloon No. 10 for some beverages.
The No 10 is a famous place that has been around a very long time and is best known for being the place where Wild Bill Hickock was shot while playing poker in 1876. While there weren’t any gun fights this night, it was still plenty fun and entertaining. Since I don’t drink I grabbed the keys to the van to ensure a safe night and it was on! After a few drinks, a great cover band began to play and the crowd got into it. “Shuffle” (the band's name) played everything from 70’s rock ballads to Thriller by Michael Jackson. Everyone was having a blast, including the 5 different bachelorette parties that we saw that night?!
When we decided we had had enough fun, we headed back to Nemo for a good night’s rest before the trek home. The next morning was even later than the one before, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the riding? We loaded the van and trailer up, said goodbye to our Iowa buddies and headed towards home.
We stopped in Hill City at the cafe and stumbled on a breakfast buffet that was well supplied and fantastic. A quick triple americano from the shop next door and we were on our way! The trip home is always hard but we broke it up with a stop at the Wyoming border for some illegal (in Colorado) fireworks for my boys (and me). The rest of the trip home was uneventful and fun. Lots of great stories and great memories were made over the weekend and I count myself as a very lucky man to have been invited on such a wonderful adventure. Life is short and fun is important. Get out and have some! Here is a link to a video of the first day!
My final assessment of the riding in the Black Hills is this:
IT IS EPIC!!!! That is really all I can say. I highly recommend getting up there if you like dirt bikes and single track. I have provided the link to all the places I mentioned in the article and I recommend that you give these people your business. They are great folks providing great service. If you need any more info about tire choice, jetting, trails, coffee or anything else, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks and go ride your DIRTBIKES!!! #gospeloftwowheels