Happy Independence Day!

It’s the one day of the year when we actually reflect upon the blessings of liberty that were bestowed on us by an unlikely group of young Englishmen 242 years ago. But so long as we set aside even just one day there’s hope that endless generations to come will also receive this gift.

Today, we observed countless examples that this will hold true. Cars and trucks were flying flags, people were dressed in reds and whites and blues, and people admiring the cars asked us if we’d be participating in “the parade”.

Celebrating the Fourth with reds and whites and blues.
Two of the men who made it possible..

Leaving Deadwood this morning, we opted for a more leisurely climb to Mount Rushmore via Hill City rather than going to, and climbing out of Keystone, but that also left us with the unenviable task of descending from the monument down to Keystone, a grade advertised by one road sign as 10%, the steepest we’ve seen all tour.

The ‘11 making its way towards Mount Rushmore.

Once safely out of Keystone our next obvious destination was the Badlands, about 65 miles away. Because of our aversion to traffic, we worked our way to route 44 to Scenic, passing the Creston Dinosaur along the way, where we then picked up a 25-mile dirt road into the Badlands park.

A rare sighting of the Creston Dinosaur.

While we had much of the road to ourselves, we did pass several modern cars along the way who didn’t seem to have a problem meeting the posted speed limit along the dirt road. We, on the other hand, had much to learn. Not that this was our first time on a dirt road, as you’ve been told, but rather we learned something counterintuitive that may or may not have been useful to us in the past.

We had much of the road to ourselves.

Dirt roads often develop what is called “washboarding”, a phenomenon named after the familiar laundry implements of the past and which are now used by zydeco bands. Anyone who’s driven on a road with washboarding knows it can rattle your bones, even in cars with good suspensions. The Model T has what can be described as a rugged suspension system but not a good one.

Whenever we encounter washboarding on a dirt road, even at slow speeds the rear end of the Model T begins to believe it might feel more comfortable at the front end so begins to wander in that direction. The front end, on the other hand, isn’t sure where it might feel more comfortable so begins to look around just about anywhere. The driver’s intuitive reaction is to slow down, but with all the slipping, sliding and bouncing going on, using the brakes just adds another dynamic component which may lead to slipping a tube inside the tire or rolling a tire bead off the wheel rim, either of which would result in a flat tire. Just letting up on the throttle works, but maybe not fast enough, so ultimately he must drive down the road very slowly with eyes peeled for washboarding.

Along the Sagecreek Rim Road in the Badlands.

The lesson learned in counterintuitiveness is to drive faster. It appears there’s a certain speed at which the Model T actually handles quite well over the washboarded but otherwise smooth road (don’t try this on roads with erosion or ruts). Like early pioneers in aviation trying to break the sound barrier, it seemed impossible or at least foolish to accelerate above a certain speed, but once we hit that speed everything became smooth, including the handling. The residual problem, however, is that the value of “smooth” speed is unknown and as one accelerates towards it one is hoping he reaches it soon. On top of that, there’s the problem of decelerating back into the “bumpy” speed when one is ready to stop. One troubling scenario that comes to mind is when approaching oncoming traffic. It would certainly do no good to slow down and accidentally drift into the other lane, but to keep one’s speed up during the pass is also questionable. These are considerations which we will leave to the reader, but we felt it worthy to at least bring this concept to light for others to use as they see fit.

As we say goodnight here in Wall, after having visited the drug store, we’ve finished our planning for tomorrow. We’ll retrace our last 8 miles to get back into the Badlands and complete our end-to-end tour of the park, exiting at Interior, SD and bid a final farewell to the western hills and mountains that challenged us so. Now we’ll be firmly in the Plains, and expect we can make slightly more distance each day as we roll on through our agenda, collecting magnets as we go. So much distance, in fact, that we hope to have crossed the longest river in North America by nightfall.

Our growing magnet collection.

2 thoughts on “Happy Independence Day!”

  1. Great report, Guys!
    I knew Keystone/Rushmore was steep…just didn’t realize it was 10%! One look at that road years ago, told me we were NOT going UP when we were there in our T.
    Have you pretty well figured out the “new” sequence for starting the ’11? I sincerely hope it’s getting easier.


    1. Hi Scott,
      The ‘11 starts (and pulls/climbs) like a champ, now, thank you very much! We took your advice about Keystone which is why we approached from Hill City. We then kept it very slow going down the grade into Keystone, including stopping at the first turn out just down the hill. We thought the grade would be 8% based on map study (still not something to wish upon anyone) and there were a few tight turns coming down, but fortunately the road near the bottom half is wide, straighter and has no stoplights/intersections requiring hard braking so you can roll out in high with throttle closed. But for anyone else trying it, do be very, very judicious to keep speed under control/brakes cool. Definitely recommend aux (Rocky Mountain or the like) brakes.


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