DAY 45 (7/25/05): Rest Day, Rapid City, SD 12.5 mi. After a solid night's sleep in the relative luxury of a motel, I packed up my gear and spent the rest of the day roaming around Rapid City. The most noteworthy thing about the day was the dramatic change in the weather. Whereas the temperatures had been hovering in the mid to upper 90's the past few days, today it was about 50 for most of the day. So, I found a Border's Book store and passed most of the day reading and drinking coffee, two of my favorite pass-times. Towards the end of the day, I rode out of Rapid City proper and up to the fringe of the Black Hills, on a bluff overlooking the city. I arrived just in time to set up my tent before a cold drizzle started to fall. The Harley riders in the RV next to me gave me a cup of "coffee" to help me warm up. I use quotation marks because, like most things that go by that name out here, the "coffee" that they provided resembled the real thing in temperature and color only. Good coffee is a luxury not to be taken for granted, coastal dwellers... DAY 46 (7/26/05): Rapid City to Spearfish, SD 86.8mi. Because I had such fond memories of the Black Hills from the Big Ride, I decided to take the scenic route today. It was cold and rainy this morning so I had to don all of my clothing, including arm and leg warmers, fleece vest, rain pants and jacket. Then I started climbing steep, densely wooded hills. It felt almost like I was back in New England! The scenery was just as spectacular as I remembered, and there was very little traffic, probably because of the weather. The black hills are totally covered with evergreen trees, with periodic breaks where bare rocks poke through. After a fair amount of effort, I arrived at the city of Lead, elevation 5300 ft, the highest I had been so far. Then, I climbed even further, to the top of Terry Peak, 7000ft. From there, I took a scenic byway through Spearfish Canyon. This 20mi stretch is amoun the most beautiful pieces of road I have ever ridden in my life. The road is at the bottom of a very narrow canyon made by Spearfish creek. The black hills rise up at incredible angles on either side, with big bare cliffs at the top and pine trees lining either side on the lower 2/3 of the canyon. Spearfish Creek is crystal clear and visible from most of the road. Also, if you ride it the direction I did, you slowly burn off 3000 ft of elevation between the top of the canyon and the little town of Spearfish, so you coast gently all the way down, averaging in the high-teens mph. Unbelievable. If you ride a bike, this stretch of road is not optional. Get yourself to South Dakota. This is the best part by far!