Pork Belly Update #3-Grab Your Spot on the Black Hills Hundred

February 20, 2021
Dear Porkers,
Having heard that the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota's Black Hills is either the most beautiful rail-trail you have have ever ridden or that it's high on your bucket lists, we spent time exploring it from afar before we scouted early this month. We've been planning ever since. We continue to work on a number of breakfast options and food vendors in camp, but here's your opportunity to claim your spot on this limited micro-ride in the Badlands of South Dakota. We're delighted to announce our newest adventure with all of the usual PBV amenities--plus a few surprises! Won't you join us for...
The Black Hills Hundred
on the Mickelson Trail
Deadwood to Edgemont,
South Dakota
Gather on Sunday, June 27 -- Ride June 28 to July 1
Check out this exciting 30-second video,
scroll down when you get there, and go full-screen:
The Amazing Story
of the Mickelson Trail
Until 1983, the Burlington Northern operated what was called "the old high line" into the Black Hills. Like many railroads during that period, the Burlington Northern petitioned to abandon the line, opening up the possibility of recreational use along this gorgeous corridor of birch and ponderosa pine forests, wildlife, trestles, and tunnels.
The governor of South Dakota, however, who was quite famous for never changing his mind, opposed this controversial new rail-trail, largely due to the objections of adjacent land owners. The situation seemed hopeless, as a contractor hired by the railroad had already begun to tear down the bridges, and parts of the trail were only "a signature away" from being lost forever.
But--and this is one of the amazing parts of the story--a group of regular citizens put together $12.000 to buy out that contractor. They bought themselves time to petition for rail-trail conversion. Next, a new governor, George Mickelson, took office, and he made no secret of his belief that this future 109-mile recreational trail would become one of South Dakota's most important tourist attractions. Governor Mickelson set an aggressive ten-year timeline for completion.
This seems like the end of the story, doesn't it? But tragically, Governor Mickelson was killed in a plane crash in April of 1993. That same intractable former governor, Bill Janklow, who had initially opposed the project, became the governor of South Dakota again.
Contrary to his reputation for stubbornness, Janklow not only promised to carry out his late predecessor's vision, he championed it. Under his leadership, the timeline for development was reduced from ten years to only five. With the development of the George S. Mickelson Trail, South Dakota became a pioneer state in rail-to-trail conversion and the custodian of one of the most beautiful examples in the country.
For the rest of this inspiring story, watch the whole video right here:
Today, over 60,000 people use the trail annually. In 2021, we hope that Pork Belly Ventures will be responsible for the care of about 60 of them.
ABOVE: We couldn't resist snapping this photo of one of our campsites, a privately-owned campground right on the trail. We scouted on a gorgeous February day. Can you imagine it in June?
What Kind of Bike Tour Is This?
Limited Number of Participants
This intimate micro-ride will be small by design. We're capping it at something between 60 and 70 riders, and we'll have a crew of 8 or 9. (At this writing, we're about 35% full, just from early interest.)
The trail is just over a hundred miles long, but we're adding a little distance on the Whitewood Creek Trail on the north end in Deadwood proper (connecting to the Mickelson). So although we're calling it the Black Hills Hundred, it's really a few more miles, spread over four days.
Make no mistake, there's some challenging climbing involved. But we have reversed our original plan and switched this tour to a southbound downhill-trending cruise. Your first day is tough, and then you have two short days, and finally a nice mostly downhill ride into Edgemont. We welcome E-Bikes and we can charge your batteries at our refreshment stops on the trail and in camp overnight.
This is a well-cared-for limestone chip trail. The surface is pretty smooth. Bring the bike you're most comfortable on, but we recommend something other than a skinny tire.
Refreshment Stops
On your two longer days, we'll staff a refreshment stop with water, bananas, other snacks, e-bike charging, and a friendly Attaboy from our crew! On your two shorter days, 18 and 15 miles, we will not provide a refreshment stop.
Camping Options
We'll offer our top accommodations, the PHAT Trailers, and our rental tent service. Or you may bring your own tent and pay only the entry fee for the ride. And also, we're providing the phone numbers for each of our hosts below. You can reserve an RV spot in our privately-owned campgrounds--or a cottage on two of the nights--but don't delay reserving these limited opportunities. Keep reading!
You're going to find our usual friendly crew in lovely privately-owned campgrounds right on the trail, with the shower trailer flowing, the juice thingy juicing, the morning coffee brewing, and some excellent meals included. We want to get this invitation into your hands. but we're still working on food vendors in camp and breakfast options in the mornings. And maybe a surprise or two.
Overnight Stops
Our overnight stops include:
  • PBV campground within 1.4 miles of the Deadwood historic downtown
  • a private campground out in the beautiful countryside of the Black Hills and right on the Mickelson Trail, and
  • two small and lovely tourist towns, Hill City and Custer, at which we'll stay in privately-owned campgrounds right on the Mickelson Trail
Afternoon Excursions
In our itinerary below, you'll find two carefully planned half-day excursions. After all, when you're traveling all the way to the Black Hills, you don't want to miss out on seeing its wonders! On your short cycling days, we're taking you to see the the Great Faces and Great Places of South Dakota.
In Iowa, June and July are hot-weather months. But in Custer, South Dakota, the average high/low in June is 74/48, and in July it's 81/54. Bring those pants and a sweatshirt.
Our Day-to-Day Itinerary
We begin in Deadwood on the north end of the Mickelson, breaking the approximately one-hundred mile journey into four days of variable mileage. In part, mileage is determined by the distances between towns, and so we've taken advantage of two short days by tucking two site-seeing excursions into your afternoons. While you're in the Black Hills, you can visit its iconic monuments and travel through its gorgeous landscapes. By bike, by coach, and even by train, you'll get to know the Badlands on your Black Hills Hundred adventure!
Gathering Day, 6/27,
Arrive in Historic Deadwood!
Shuttle from Edgemont: We debated this, but to us, it makes the most sense to park on the south end of the trail in Edgemont and shuttle north to the start in Deadwood on June 27th.
With a coach and bike truck, we'll operate our shuttle midday, getting you to Deadwood by mid-afternoon, where our first campsite will be set up and waiting for you.
Of course, we encourage those who use our shuttle to arrive in Edgemont plenty early and visit one of Edgemont's eating establishments for a late breakfast or lunch, before parking your vehicle and catching our shuttle. Edgemont is accustomed to providing long-term parking for tours on the Mickelson, and there's no charge. Let's give their businesses some support!
By all means, if you would like to find your own way to Deadwood, or place a vehicle at both ends, or come up with some other creative travel plan, that's just fine. Our shuttle will operate from Edgemont to Deadwood only on June 27th.
Deadwood Campsite: Given our campground check-in time. we should be ready to welcome riders by about 2:30 p.m. in Deadwood. We will overnight at the Day's of '76 Campground, behind the museum. The Deadwood Trolley, which runs until midnight, picks up every hour, running from our campsite just a mile and a half to the historic downtown ($1 per ride on the trolley). You'll have this afternoon and evening to visit the museums, bars, restaurants, and casinos of Deadwood. We have it on good authority that it would be a huge mistake to miss the unique museum that chronicles the long history of brothels in this wild-west town!
Long-term Parking in Deadwood: Our Deadwood campsite is only blocks from a free long-term parking option at the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce. But please remember that we don't have a shuttle returning to Deadwood at the end of the ride. You're welcome to leave a car in Deadwood if it makes sense for your travel plans.
RV Spots Available tonight, see below.
Day 1, 6/28,
Deadwood to
Carsten Cottages and Campground:
A Night in the Country, All Meals Included!
Breakfast: Day 1 is challenging, and breakfast in camp would be handy! We have a lead on a great Deadwood caterer for this morning.
Mileage: 25 miles, much of it on an uphill grade. You're getting the tough section of this tour out of the way on Day 1. Today's destination, Carsten Cottages, is a mile north of the Dumont Trailhead.
Refreshment Stop: PBV will be at a convenient place along your route with refreshment for our riders.
Campsite: Right on the trail, you will stop for the night at picturesque Carsten Cottages and Campground, overlooking a beautiful valley. The property is home to llamas, alpacas, many kinds of chickens, one emu, three mules named after Kardashians, and a feisty rooster. Our hostess, Joyce Carsten, is a talented caterer, and on her lovely pavillion, she will provide us with lunch, dinner, and tomorrow morning's breakfast. This country campsite is our opportunity to savor the natural beauty of the Black Hills.
RV Spots and Cottages Available Today, see below.
Day 2, 6/29, Carsten Cottages
to Hill City.
Then All Aboard
the Black Hills Railroad 1880 Train!
Breakfast: Expect a delicious breakfast from Mrs. Carsten before you hit the trail for your shortest day! You'll leave Carsten Cottages with a full stomach and a morning snack in your pocket!
Mileage: Just 18 miles today, leaving the afternoon free for your excursion.
Refreshment Stop: Not today.
Hill City Campsite: We're right on the trail, blocks from town. A babbling brook runs through our gorgeous privately-owned campsite today. After your shower, you can walk a few blocks on the Mickelson Trail to the Black Hills Railroad Train Station for your afternoon excursion.
ABOVE RIGHT: The route of your
afternoon train ride to Keystone,
including box lunch and history narration!
Keystone Excursion on the 1880 TRAIN Included: Your short morning bike ride on the Mickelson Trail gives you plenty of time to shower and walk to the train station. Claim your box lunch upon boarding the 2:30 train for a one-hour narrated tour on the history of the pioneers, gold-mining, and the mountains and forests you pass along the way to historic downtown Keystone. Here you'll have a couple hours to wander, shop for souvenirs, taste gourmet chocolate, sit down for a cold one, or participate in some of Keystone's tours and activities. Your return train departs at 6:15, getting you back to Hill City for supper. Today's PBV Map of Hill City will guide you a block from the train station to downtown dinner options.
[Upon arrival in Keystone, you have the option to turn right around, taking the 3:45 return to Hill City. Later on, we'll ask you to choose between the 3:45 and the 6:15 return trips to Hill City. FYI, the history narration will be different on your return trip.]
Note: Healthy options are available for your pre-ordered lunch on the train, and PBV Crew Members will be along to make this excursion go smoothly!
RV Spots and Cabins Available, see below.
Day 3, 6/30, Hill City to Custer, plus Afternoon Excursion to Custer State Park, Rushmore, and Crazy Horse
Breakfast: In Hill City, we will have an in-camp breakfast option. We'll be working with a non-profit organization rather famous for its breakfast offerings!
Mileage: 15 miles, mostly downhill into Hill City.
Refreshment Stop: Not today.
Campsite: Nestled between the Mickelson Trail and the French Creek, and a block from the main-drag bars and restaurants, we'll camp on a shady privately-owned campground in Custer.
Rushmore/Crazy Horse/Custer State Park Excursion: Get your shower, grab some lunch, and board our coach to see the most important monuments and landmarks of the Black Hills. After a gorgeous drive through Custer State Park, take another scenic route to Mt. Rushmore, where you can spend an hour. Your last stop of the day is a close encounter with the magnificent monument-in-progress, Crazy Horse. Firm schedule to come, but we're thinking a 12:30 departure and a 5:00 arrival back in camp. Note: There are meal options at both Rushmore and Crazy Horse. PBV Crew Members will be along to make this excursion go smoothly!
Spend your evening enjoying Custer restaurants and bars--easy-peasy walking distance to/from camp.
RV Spots Available Today, see below.
Day 4, 7/1, Custer to Edgemont.
Your Downhill Cruise to the Finish!
Breakfast: At our Custer campsite, you are within a block of great breakfast stops. But this is your longest day's ride, so we're working on an in-camp breakfast option, too.
Mileage: 44 miles, mostly downhill! Tempting as it may be to keep rolling, we recommend stopping at the bar in Pringle for a bite.
Refreshment Stop: We will be on the trail south of Pringle with refreshment for you!
ABOVE: This lovely covered bridge is across the street from our Edgemont site. It's in the back yard of the Trails, Trains, and Pioneer Museum, right on the main drag. Thank you, George, for the Feb 2 photo. We're imagining it in summer!
Showers/Restaurants: On the south end of the tiny Edgemont downtown, our little staging area has everything we need: water for the shower trailer, space to unload baggage, and indoor restrooms on site and across the street. We are in close proximity to long-term parking AND close proximity to three or four bars and restaurants on Edgemont's main drag. Our new friends in this little town couldn't be more welcoming! We hope you'll visit these businesses before you leave town!
Our Showers will be available until mid-afternoon.
RV Spots Available, see below.
ABOVE: Yes, this is one of our campsites,
and that's the Mickelson Trail running through it!
About Inclusions and the
Cost of This Tour
Just a reminder that we rarely take so much of our equipment so far from home, mainly because of trucking expense. We learned during our scouting trip that unlike other rides, we won't be camping in city parks. Rather, we have selected privately-owned campgrounds right on the Mickelson Trail. We think, and hope you agree, that despite these additional expenses, the tour is reasonably priced.
Inclusions: Trail user fees; reserved campsites right on the trail in lovely privately-owned campgrounds; daily baggage transport from campsite to campsite; refreshment stops on the trail on the two longer cycling days; daily hot, private shower and towel; phone-charging and morning coffee in camp; catered lunch and dinner on June 28; catered breakfast on June 29; round-trip train fare and site-seeing tour with box lunch on June 29; half-day site-seeing with coach transport to Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore, and Crazy Horse, with return coach transport to our Custer campsite (monument and park admissions included) on June 30; and the assistance of the able and cheerful Pork Belly Crew throughout the Black Hills Hundred. We will also include your souvenir Black Hills Hundred t-shirt, which will feature the ride logo, above. When you sign up, be sure to record your shirt size!
We expect to have a bike mechanic along on this ride, and perhaps even a massage therapist.
We're still working on some details, like food vendors in camp and arranged optional breakfasts in our campsites in those places where we think you'll want it.
Fees & Options: You may bring your own tent. But if you want that extra level of comfort from the PBV Crew, see our accommodations right here!
Entry Fee for Rider: $495.00
Entry Fee for Non-Rider: $475.00
6/27 Shuttle, Deadwood to Edgemont: $79.00
Rental Tent Service with Air-Mattress, including the tent with ground cloth and rain fly, one twin air mattress, all labor of set-up, take-down, and moving of baggage to and from the tent each day. Tents are roomy for one person, cozy for two. (A second air mattress is a separate option.) $245.00.
PHAT Rooms, our top accommodationsincluding your 80-square-foot air-conditioned guest room on board a semi-trailer with hotel-style amenities: three twin-sized bunk beds, a sofa, and an optional twin-trundle on the floor; mattresses, sheets, pillows, and blankets; air-conditioning and fans to circulate cool air; knotty pine interiors; laminate flooring; sound-muffling insulation between rooms; electrical outlets; switched lights at the ceiling and the head of each bed; shelving and wall hooks for convenient duffel and clothing storage; an outdoor deck with chairs; and locking storm doors and windows. Rooms can accommodate one to five sleepers in their own beds. (The photo above shows only the lower berth on the right side of the room.)
Here's a video tour of our PHAT Rooms: https://pkbelly.com/content/phat_trailers)
PHAT Room occupants are the only riders on the Black Hills Hundred who unpack once. Trucking from Iowa is the main factor that affects the price of our PHAT Rooms on the Black Hills Hundred. $1750.00
Your Black Hills Hundred Crew
We have only begun to think about staffing BHH, but every person we've invited to join this crew is a leader in his/her own right. Dave, Kim and Karen, and Pete in the top row, and George, Rob, and Mick (who, incidentally, is available) in the bottom row--these are all long-time, hard-working logistics champs who will take pleasure in making every campsite your welcoming home base!
Interested in RV Sites or Cabins?
Get 'Em Quick!
For those who wish to bring an RV, we do have a non-rider entry fee for your RV driver and limited opportunities in Deadwood, Carsten Cottages, Hill City, Custer. and in Edgemont for you to reserve your own RV spot, usually with hook-ups. (You may call the phone numbers below.)
For those who may wish for a night in a cabin right in camp, you could get one at Carsten Cottages on the 28th, and in Hill City on the 29th. Act fast!
Here is your contact information for each campground, and don't wait. Despite the winter weather, business is heating up for summer at these lovely campgrounds!
In Deadwood, 6/27: Call Shanna at Days of '76 Campground for an RV spot: 605-578-2872.
At Carsten Cottages6/28: Call Joyce Carsten at 605-584-3321 for an RV spot or a cottage. (Carsten is in the process of remodeling their cottages.)
In Hill City, 6/29: Call right away and leave a message for Jan at Black Hills Trailside Park Resort (on the trail), at 605-574-9079. She's holding a couple RV sites, and she'll take messages in the order received. She's in the office on Fridays and will get back to you about a reservation then. Jan cannot hold cottages, but at present, they're all available. For RV spots and for cottages, mention Pork Belly Ventures for a 10% discount!
In Custer, 6/30: Call Diane, French Creek RV Park and Campground at 605-673-3727 for an RV spot. This is a small park right on the trail.
In Edgemont, 6/26 and/or 7/1: Call Deanne at 605-891-9728 for an RV spot. She's a busy person, and you may need to leave a message.
Let's Head for
the Hills!
The 2021 theme for PBV is Try New Things! We're branching out this year, and we hope you'll branch out with us. Please ask questions if you have them. Or by all means, the website is ready for you. Sign up for this limited tour!
Rest assured that we will bring the same level of care, the same attention to detail, and our usual love of a good laugh with us to South Dakota. We hope you'll come along!
Your friends,
Tammy and Pete
Pork Belly Ventures LLC 
Tammy: 712.328.0161 h, 808.375.8921 c, tammy@pkbelly.com
Pete: 402.681.2613 c, pete@pkbelly.com|