Black Hills 100 creates tent city

Ron Burtz

Dozens of tents sprouted up like mushrooms last Tuesday at Trailside Park Resort  Campground on the south side of Hill City supported by a fleet of trucks, trailers, busses and staff which temporarily transformed the campground into a military-like encampment. By 8:30 the next morning the tent city and most of the other equipment were gone.
It was all part of the first-ever “Black Hills 100” bike ride organized by a Council Bluffs, Iowa, company. One hundred is the number of bicyclists from across the nation who participated in the first-ever event. It’s also the approximate number of miles the riders traveled over four days from the start in Deadwood to the end of the line at Edgemont on Thursday.
The people behind the Mickelson Trail adventure are Iowans Pete Phillips and his sister, Tammy Pavich. They started the business in the early 90s to serve riders in the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa—better known as RAGBRAI—which traverses Iowa from border to border in the space of a week. With the forming of an LLC in 1994, the company became officially known as Pork Belly Ventures.
Looking to come back from the COVID doldrums last year, the business expanded in 2021 to begin organizing its own events and the Black Hills 100 is one of the results.
Phillips said the company sent out an email this spring announcing the ride and had the maximum number of 100 riders signed up within three days. Because of the enthusiastic response, the company decided to offer a second Mickelson Trail ride August 16-19 which is already about 60 percent full.
Riders are from around the country including people from both coasts. Some of them flew in to Rapid City and others came by car—some traveling as long as two days—to the rallying point in Edgemont. From there the riders traveled by bus to Deadwood for the start of the ride then spent the next four days traveling back to their cars.
The first night was spent at Carsten Cottages between Deadwood and Rochford. The second day took riders across the high trestles and through the tunnels to spend the second night in Hill City. While in town participants took advantage of the opportunity to ride the 1880 Train which was part of the tour package.
The Custer campsite was mostly quiet Wednesday afternoon as riders were on a bus ride to see Custer State Park, Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore.
“The Senior Center provided the most delicious breakfast burritos for our riders,” said Phillips.
Noting that his business is built around relationships, not only with riders but with host communities as well, Phillips was complementary toward everyone he had worked with on the details of the ride from state officials to the caterers and campground hosts.
“They just couldn't be more welcoming and friendly to us and our riders and people are loving it,” said Phillips. “They’re just having a blast. People are saying ‘You’re gonna do this next year because we want to come back and bring friends.’”
Phillips expressed his gratitude to Glenda Uecker at Trailside for the reception the group received. He was also grateful to Dale Householder and the Hill City Senior Center for helping feed the crew.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the event is the logistical operation that has been assembled to pull it all off. For riders who choose not to bring their own tents, the company provides tents and takes care of the set up and tear down. For those who prefer an even higher level of  camping experience, there are three converted semi-trailers which have been transformed into rolling apartment buildings.
“We call them PHAT campers—Pretty Hot And Tempting—as opposed to tent camping,” said Phillips of the units, some of which offer queen sized beds.
There’s also a shower trailer (women on one end, men on the other) complete with individual private stalls and on-demand water heaters, a phone charging trailer with locking compartments and a triangular kiosk with shelves and plug-ins also for charging various electronic devices.
Phillips spent some time cycling the Mickelson himself over the first couple days of the ride and was highly impressed with what he had seen.
 “It is the most beautiful cycling I’ve ever done,” he exclaimed. “It’s unbelievable! It’s gorgeous!”

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