This post is a part of my Black Hills Road Trip Series 

After spending the morning admiring the boys set in stone, you might be wondering about other things to do near Mount Rushmore.

The Black Hills and surrounding areas are filled with fun things to see and do. Sure, you can get your fill of kitschy tourist traps, but there’s a reason all those places are there — the natural and historical wonders. You don’t want to miss out!

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7 Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore

I visited all 7 of these attractions during my trip to Mount Rushmore and can personally attest to how fun (and accessible!) they all are.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Crazy Horse

Cost: $12 per person OR $30 for cars with 3+ people

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 16 miles / 28 minutes

Crazy Horse: the privately held answer to Mount Rushmore’s public offering. The folks who run Crazy Horse are proud to have never accepted any federal tax dollars for their work. It’s probably why the sculpture, began in 1948, is far from finished.

Admission also includes attractions like the Indian Museum of North America, the Mountain Carving Room, and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, so visitors have the opportunity to learn more about the Lakota tribe, the culture of Native Americans as whole, and the history behind the monument. It one of the coolest things to do near Mount Rushmore, as many guests do both in one day.

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Badlands National Park

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Badlands

Cost: $20 per vehicle — valid for 7 days.

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 84 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes

Aside from the many bad pun opportunities (see what I did there y’all), Badlands National Park boats cute little gophers, mind blowing rock formations, and one of the world’s richest fossil beds! While visiting, you can go for a hike up into the heart of the Badlands Formations or across flatter stretches of land to peer into the canyons below.

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Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Minutemen Missiles

Cost: Guided tour $6 for adults / $4 for children — reserve in advance.

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 97 miles / 1 hour 36 minutes

“Hours of boredom punctuated by seconds of sheer panic,” is how our tour guide described the lives of the soldiers working on the missile silos.

During the Cold War, America’s missile stockpile was not locked in a vault in Washington, but rather sprinkled throughout the Great Plains, hiding in plain sight (I’m really on a role with the puns today, y’all). The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore because of the special look you get into the every day “fighting” of the Cold War.

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Devils Tower National Monument

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Devils Tower

Cost:$20 per vehicle — valid for 7 days.

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 130 miles / 2 hours 13 minutes

Devils Tower likes to stand out. Not only does it rise in dramatic opposition to its surrounding topography, but it was also the very first United States Monument, ever. Teddy Roosevelt did the honors in 1906.

While many visitors (myself included), choose to simply wander around the base of Devil’s Tower and admire its ridged edges (given to it by a giant bear as he scampered up the side, legend has it), about 1% of the 400,000 annual tourists decide to make the arduous climb to the very top, just like the bear.

Will you be one of them?

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Reptile Gardens

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Reptile Gardens Rapid city

Cost: Varies based on season and age from $7 – $10 for kids and $10 – $18 for adults.

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 16 miles / 24 minutes

My sister and I actually only went to the Reptile Gardens because our flight out of Rapid City was delayed and we had two hours to kill, but they turned out to be two of the most fun hours of our trip! The Gardens has it all — snakes, turtles, crocodiles, birds, and more! We went to the snake show and actually has a blast learning about all the different kinds of snakes and their abilities.

I personally hate snakes, but will say I felt rather impressed by the employee who gave the snake show, as she handled and spoke to the reptiles in much the same way you might act towards a puppy you adore. Her job was obviously a great fit for her.

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Wall Drug General Store

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Wall Drug

Cost: Free to explore — various prices for food and souvenirs

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 76 miles / 1 hour 20 minutes

Famous for its free ice water (not as appealing when my sister and I visited during a chilly March), Wall Drug is the quintessential South Dakota Road Trip stop and one of the best things to do near Mount Rushmore simply because of its donuts.

Yes, it might try to lure travelers off of I-90 with promises of ice cold refreshment, the real kicker is the cake-y deliciousness of the donuts made fresh every day in house. I’ve never had anything like them!

Jewel Cave National Park

Things To Do Near Mount Rushmore Jewel Cave

Cost: $12 for basic tour — tends to sell out

Distance from Mount Rushmore: 32 miles / 46 minutes

Jewel Cave National Park is awesome because there are rocks inside side it that look like massive strands of bacon. Not even joking around, y’all. I left the tour starving.

The Park Ranger who gave us our tour looked suspiciously like Chief Hopper (from Stranger Things for those of you who live under a rock…omg another great pun…cause we were in a cave….get it, y’all) and although the tour is underground, it’s not an actual spelunking expedition. There’s plenty of room inside the cave and you walk on railed pathways, so there’s no need to worry about feeling trapped.

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This post is a part of my Black Hills Road Trip Series 

Wondering which Mount Rushmore movie scene to reenact during your vacation in the Black Hills?

With rumors of a Mount Rushmore secret room and the monument being used as a coverup for government conspiracies swirling about pop culture, it’s hard not to get swept up in the theatrics of it all.

But it’s not hard to imagine why the creators of North by Northwest and National Treasure 2 picked Mount Rushmore as the backdrop for the most intense moments of their movies. I mean, just look at it.

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best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

So important. Much wow.

Mount Rushmore Movie Scene Movies filmed at Mount Rushmore

I made my sister pull over to take this picture.

North by Northwest Mount Rushmore Movie Scene

I took a film class focusing primarily on Hitchcock my senior year of college and North by Northwest was by far my favorite movie we studied. I loved the pace. I loved the hijinks. I loved the soundtrack (the iconic theme definitly made an appearance on my Instagram story the day of my visit).

I loved the film so much that I was disappointed that while visiting Mount Rushmore, I learned that the average visitor isn’t allowed up onto the cliff face. Apparently, only the people who work on cleaning the monument are allowed to do that…so my dream of reenacting this heroic Cary Grant stunt was crushed.

You can, however, have lunch in the Carver Cafè, home of the infamous North by Northwest surprise shooting scene. Although the cafè has been remodeled since it’s appearance in the movie, it still has the marvelous floor-to-ceiling windows which offer views of the Mount Rushmore that can’t be beat.

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

The Carver Cafè dining room.

Mount Rushmore Movie Scene Movies filmed at Mount Rushmore

The same great view! Hasn’t changed since 1959.

National Treasure Mount Rushmore Movie Scene

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I’m going to steal the Declaration of Independence. Oh whoops, wrong movie! The much acclaimed (lols) sequel National Treasure 2 was also partially filmed around Mount Rushmore. There’s just something about big stone presidents carved into a mountain that screams “PUT ME IN YOUR MOVIE” I guess.

I was actually pretty excited about walking where Nicolas Cage walked. I mean, he’s the guy everyone loves to hate. The Nickelback of actors.

But once again, the film features people who definitly didn’t pay the $10 entrance fee just casually walking along the TOP of the monument, instead of the lovely walking paths down below. So I definitly didn’t get to walk where Nicholas Cage walked.

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Such a disappointment.

My main goal in life is now to create something so culturally and politically important that I am one of the people who is allowed to climb up the faces of Mount Rushmore. Who knows, maybe this post will be that thing.

But I really doubt it!

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Mount Rushmore Movie Scene Movies filmed at Mount Rushmore

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This post is a part of my Black Hills Road Trip Series 

When’s the best time to visit Mount Rushmore?

Spring break! While spending the 4th of July (or any other part of your summer vacation) visiting Mount Rushmore might seem like the perfect, quintessential American vacation idea, the Black Hills tend to be hot and crowded all summer. Save yourself. Go in the spring.

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best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

Queen of the World

The Best Time To Visit Mount Rushmore

Is a Mount Rushmore spring break excursion a good idea?

Short answer: Yes! Mount Rushmore is awesome during the off season. Book your tickets right now. Immediately.

Long answer: Yes, but there are some things to consider. Like the following…

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

A completely empty viewing platform

Do you prefer having National Parks basically all to yourself?

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The reason spring break is the best time to visit Mount Rushmore is because basically no one else is there. When my sister and I visited in March, we essentially had a private tour of the park and surrounding areas. This is a major plus because it meant…

We didn’t wait in line for food.

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

Plenty of seats to choose from.

The food at Mount Rushmore is actually delicious! It’s called Carver’s Cafè and for reasonable prices (à la Chilis, etc.) you can get homestyle meals like chicken, meat loaf, green beans, roasted potatoes, etc.

The view of the monument from the cafe’s floor-to-ceiling window’s can’t be beat AND when visiting Mount Rushmore in the springtime, you don’t have to fight anyone for a table.

The Bathrooms were clean AF.

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

Hello, Mr. Presidents.

I would assume that Mount Rushmore is clean all year round, BUT there is something to be said to visiting when thousands of people aren’t using the bathrooms every single day. And, if I remember correctly, the restrooms were heated. Ideal.

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We got the best parking spot.

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

Where should we park?

While the Mount Rushmore Hours during the winter and spring are from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM, when my sister and arrived at a little past 9:00 AM, it was still nearly completely empty. We paid the $10 for the annual parking pass and had our pick of the parking spots.

If you visit in the summer, especially near the 4th of July holiday, I imagine that parking would be way more competitive.

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We got tourist-free photos.

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

Sunny day in March 🙂

This was probably the best part of our Mount Rushmore trip. While I wasn’t too big into nabbing the perfect Instagram at the time, it was still so nice to not have to fight our way to the front to take a photo of the monument or deal with 27 other tourists plus their dog crashing our photos.

It was just me, my sister, and the Mount Rushmore presidents.

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We got to take our time.

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

Sister and Presidents.

I’m not sure how many people view South Dakota and the Mount Rushmore area as a top tourist destination, but it’s probably one of my favorite places that I’ve ever been, simply because of how relaxed it was. My sister and I got to wander around the grounds at our own pace.

The lack of crowds made it quiet and peaceful, so whether we wanted to sit down in the middle of the path and just stare at the mountain or skip down walkways at top speed gigging for our Instagram Stories, we had the freedom to do so.

We did both, just in case you were wondering.

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Are you willing to be a little chilly?

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

It was actually really hard to get up on that ledge!

The only “downside” I can think of for visiting Mount Rushmore for spring break is the weather. If you already live in the Northern USA, or are coming from another part of the world that actually has winter, then the temperatures in the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit will make you feel right at home.

Coming from Texas, the weather was colder than I was used to, but wrapped up in my down coat, I didn’t mind. You should also invest in these special gloves that allow you to use your smartphone without taking them off. Genius.

Mount Rushmore Recap:

best time to visit Mount Rushmore best time to visit mt rushmore

This goat was NOT friendly y’all

The best time to visit Mount Rushmore is for spring break (i.e. late February through early April).

Bring a sturdy coat.

Do not touch the mountain goats.

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2017 in review. Wow. 2017 was a big year for me! I quit a job a hated. I quit a job I actually liked, but took too much time away from my writing. I started eating better. I stopped eating better. I went on a lot of trips.

In 2016, I paid off my student loans and explored the States in depth. In 2017, I went on my first solo trip abroad and almost died a few times. All in good fun!

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States visited: Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas.

Countries visited: USA, Costa Rica, Germany, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

Here’s how it went:

Went to Boston on a Week’s Notice to Surprise my College Bestie

friends in Boston

Friends in Boston. Brittney, the surprisee, is in the middle.

I started off the year by flying to Boston to surprise one of my best friends from college. I got some frantic texts from her sister the last week of December letting me know the entire squad was meeting up in Boston and could I come too? 

I don’t really make good financial choices, so I went! And boy, was she surprised.

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Witnessed a Historic Weekend in Washington DC

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

Unimpressed at the Inauguration

I went to an inaugural ball, Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington, AND got some free mimosas from the Hungarian embassy all over the course of one long weekend. It was wild and emotionally draining, but I’m glad I went.

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Hunted for Pancake, the 1st Puppy of Texas, in Austin

Texas House of Representatives

Looking for Pancake in the Texas House of Representatives

My brother in law graduated as a Texas State Trooper in February, so we all went to Austin for the ceremony. It was pretty cool. But I was more interested in finding Pancake, Governor Abbot’s dog. I didn’t find her.

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Failed at Finding Bluebonnets in Fredericksburg

bluebonnets texas hill country

The biggest cluster we could find.

Texas Bluebonnets are legends, so my mom and I went on a hunt for them over spring break. I had visions of twirling in a field brimming with tall blue flowers. I just knew my Instas were gonna be bangin.

But I got the photo above instead. This part of my 2017 in review is a pretty great representation of my life, actually.  The Texas Hill Country is still pretty though, so I couldn’t be too mad.

Visited Chip and Jo in Waco

scared to travel alone first solo trip first time traveling alone

Enjoy a Cinnamon Roll courtesy of Joanna Gaines

I got my braces off on May 1st, so Waco was one of my favorite trips in 2017 because I could finally smile for photos with no more metal mouth. My mom, sister, and I went to Magnolia Market and the Dr. Pepper Museum — and managed not to join a cult in the process.

Caught up with my College Pals at my Mount Holyoke Reunion

mount holyoke college 2 year reunion

We want to recreate this photo at each reunion.

Mount Holyoke does a two year reunion so that you can come back and watch your “little sister” class graduate. Two years is actually the perfect amount of time for a college reunion because no one has actually accomplished anything yet, so there’s a lot of commiserating and not a lot of bragging. I left really looking forward to my 5 year.

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Went Househunting in Newport

newport rhode island

The Breakers

I literally have no idea what I’m going to do if I don’t end up crazy rich later in life. Case in point: casually touring the likes of The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island and thinking, “Yeah. I can totally see myself here.” I mean, what’s a couple billion dollars to a hustler like me?

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Got Bitten by an Iguana in Costa Rica

Iguana Hotel El faro

My little amigo who would later betray me

My trip to Costa Rica in May was a hot mess. I got bitten by an Iguana. My friend Smoky and I got lost in the rain (and not in a romantic way) more times that I care to admit. I saw a man peeing in the jungle. I somehow survived.

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Herded Children in Nashville

parthenon model nashville

Inside the Parthenon model in Nashville

Somehow I pass as an adult out there in the world and was placed in charge of the health and safety of a group of teenagers as we traveled from Houston to Nashville and back again for a week of service work in July. They all survived and I got to eat a lot of ice cream and visit the Grand Ole Opry, so I’d say it was a great trip.

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Got Bedbugs (and had a blast!) in Europe

Sober at Oktoberfest Oktoberfest drinks other than beer Not drinking at Oktoberfest

Me and Smoky at Oktoberfest!

Y’all. My feet about fell off on my grand tour of Europe. I’m not exaggerating. My toes literally started to separate from my body. I also was the proud owner of 70+ bedbug bites and jet leg to beat the band. But I still had a blast! I promise. I braved my first international solo trip and crossed quite a view experiences off my bucket list.

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Got in a Bus Accident in San Antonio

2017 in review

My Texas-sized breakfast at the hotel that morning.

Just imagine your bus breaking down and waiting on the side of the road for two hours while looking after 50+ students. Then imagine getting sideswiped by a guy who fell asleep at the wheel about 90 seconds after you finally got to reboard the bus and having to get off again and wait another two hours in the parking lot to be rescued by a second bus.

At least I got to meet a hot fireman who was working the crash.

Had the Best View in Austin

Hilton in downtown Austin View

Can you spot Willie? He’s there, I promise.

I went to Austin to watch my two baby cousins while their parents attended a Christmas party. We went full on Eloise at the Plaza and spent our evening at the Hilton in downtown Austin eating chocolate covered pretzels, calling the front desk, and admiring the massive Willie Nelson mural we could see from our window. The horses on 6th Street put on a pretty great show as well.

Took my Mom to “Prague”

czech cultural center la grange texas

Just as pretty as the real Prague….right?

My sister went to Prague in 2013 and hasn’t stopped gushing about it. I went in October and became equally obsessed. So now my mom really wants to visit. Prague was still inaccessible the last time she was in mainland Europe in 1978, so she missed it during her grand tour, and I couldn’t quite afford to fly her over — so I did the next best thing. I took her to Prague, Texas!

There are many, many Czechs in Texas (known as HOT (heart of Texas) Czechs) and so the Prague here is basically the same. Basically.

“Moved” my Sister to Corpus Christi

Selena Memorial Corpus Christi

The Queen and I

When I say moved, I really mean came to Corpus Christi over New Years to pay my respects to Selena and took a conveniently timed nap when the moving truck arrived so I wouldn’t have to help unload anything. I’m the worst.

My 2017 in review was full of great adventures! Here’s what is in store for 2018:

January

Fort Worth to see the famous stockyards and hopefully pet a longhorn.

March

Taking a great Southwest road trip with my mom to include the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley so that I can run, Forrest, run.

May

Moving to Australia on a Work and Holiday visa.

August 

I’d love to go to Fiji for my birthday, as well we Bali while I’m on that side of the world. I hope it works out!

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2017 year in review

 

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The 4K for Cancer is as intense as it sounds: 4,000 miles, coast to coast, to raise money for a cure.

Riley (from theBikeDyke) and I met our first year at Mount Holyoke College through Project: Theatre, a student-run organization. We were in multiple plays together during our time there, but my favorite memory of her is from our rehearsals for 12 Angry Men. 

We were supposed to be building character rapport by looking into each other’s eyes without talking — but we couldn’t do it without laughing. I think we derailed the whole rehearsal.

Mount Holyoke College Class of 2015 4k for cancer

Riley also has the travel bug and has biked across America twice on a 4K for Cancer with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

I’ve always been so impressed by this (repeat!) feat, so I had to talk to her about it.

Here’s the deets on the 4K for Cancer:

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What made you decide to ride your bike from coast to coast?

There were a number of reasons I wanted to bicycle across the country with the 4k for cancer The first was just plain old desire for an adventure, which bicycling from Baltimore to Seattle (and then Baltimore to San Francisco) inevitably would be.

I spent the summer before my ride living in a cabin in beautiful Acadia National Park, teaching outdoor education to children, and I wanted to spend another summer primarily outdoors.

4k for Cancer Mount Rushmore

The previous year, my childhood best friend’s father had passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer, and I was looking for the most fitting way to honor his life. He loved being out in nature, and I think he would have loved the idea of bicycling 4,500 miles in one summer so I did the 4K for Cancer.

 The second bike trip was because I had caught the travel by bike bug and needed to do another trip or risk someday selling all my possessions and bicycling from city to city. I’m not sure it was the perfect remedy, as I wish I was on a bicycling trip right now.

How do you train for a cross-country bike ride like the 4K for Cancer?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

Ideally, you’d train with bike shoes and clip-in pedals so you can get accustomed to clipping in and out (and clipping out BEFORE you hit the brakes). You’d do a few 50-60 mile rides to prepare you for the days on the 4k for cancer that we bicycle up to 115+ miles.

You’d get used to drinking water while on the bicycle, become comfortable cruising 40+ miles an hour downhill, and try your hand at not fishtailing on messy gravel roads. I didn’t do any of that. I rode ~8 miles on two flat tires and bought my clips the day before I took off.

How many hours / miles did you cover on a typical day?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

It definitely varied day to day. On average, we would cover around 60-70 miles, but could go as high as 120. Somedays, we’d get lucky and only have to cover 30-40 miles. The amount of time really depended on weather, terrain, and luck. One of those 35 miles day was up the steepest mountain I’ve ever bicycled up.

That took a lot longer than going 80 miles through flat Nebraska with no headwind. Typically, we’d wake up at 5 or 6 and try to be on the road by 8 to maximize on daylight. We’d bike until it started to get dark, but we never bicycled when it was actually dark out.

How many states did you get to explore on the 4K for Cancer?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

On my last trip, I believe I went through around 13 states. Some states, you just pass through and others, it feels like you spend lifetimes in. There was a day where we bicycled through four states in total!

On my previous trip, I believe I hit 15 states. It’s a great way to really get to know a place.

What was your favorite state to ride through? Why?

There were so many states on the 4k for cancer that I fell in love with!

On my first trip, I was obsessed with Minnesota and Montana. Minnesota has such a friendly atmosphere, it’s just like how people describe, and lots of great coffee. Montana is the most beautiful state I’ve biked through. Bicycling to the top of the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is still one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

On my last trip, I loved bicycling through Colorado, even though the terrain wasn’t the easiest and the weather wasn’t the nicest. There are so many bicyclists in Colorado, it felt like we were at home. One of my teammates from my first bicycling trip lived in Boulder at the time, so seeing him during my second trip was a really comforting and encouraging thing.

Was there a particular state or area that was difficult to bike through?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

I think all states have pluses and negatives, but hands down, Tennessee and Missouri were the hardest states to bicycle through. I’ve never had someone point a shotgun at my head while I was bicycling, and now I’ve had it happen twice!

Let’s just say that a lot of people in those states are not fan of bicyclists, even though we were literally biking in a straight line on public roads. They seemed to really value their solitude in those places.

Can you tell us about a time when you felt overwhelmed or exhausted? What made you keep going?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

Sure! I would say that every single day I was exhausted and at one point or another (even though overall it was a blast!), but one day where I was really having a difficult time was bicycling up Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in the U.S. We had “climbing buddies” because the ride was so steep, which just means a teammate who sticks with you and makes sure you’re doing ok.

My climbing buddy had broken her thumb really badly the night before and was in a crazy amount of pain going up the mountain. We started to get really dizzy because of the giant altitude shift. I’m severely asthmatic, so I had to keep meeting up with the van and plugging in my nebulizer so I didn’t have a giant asthma attack. Then, a huge thunderstorm hit and we had no shelter to hide from it.

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4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

My number one fear is lightning, so I was petrified, but also really frustrated that we couldn’t finish the climb, because it was such a notoriously difficult ride and I really wanted to finish it. In that moment, my teammates and the people we met along the way battling cancer or who had lost loved ones to cancer kept me going on this 4k for Cancer.

My team immediately sprang into action and began loading bicycles on top of the van and cramming 20+ people and all of our gear into a 15 passenger van. Some of my other teammates had hitched a ride with a park ranger, and I was impressed that they had beaten us up the mountain.

The view from the top of Trail Ridge Road was incredible – it looked like we were in a fairytale of some sort. It just didn’t seem real. It was a nice reminder that I was safe, I was surrounded by my teammates who were family. Everything was going to be ok.

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

Was there ever a moment on the 4k for Cancer course when you felt totally at peace?

There were so many moments that felt like I was totally at peace.

One day, it was down-pouring and freezing and my climbing buddy Krista and I were for some reason totally in sync. The ride was really hard and a lot of my other teammates were having a difficult time, but for some reason, Krista and I were almost in a meditative state!

The road we were on was super dangerous, and Krista’s back tire kept flinging mud up in my face. I ended up looking like I was covered in a million freckles, but they were all made from mud.

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

Near the end of the day, we reached the peak of the mountain and just coasted crazy fast down. It was one of those really rewarding days where you have steadily climbed for hours and you get to reap the full benefit by having this amazing downhill. At the bottom, we were absolutely freezing, but so happy.

We took these photos on my phone of us just being so happy with how the ride went. We must have looked absolutely bonkers.

What kinds of places do you sleep on these rides?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

We would sleep on the floors of churches, schools, YMCA’s, etc. I was one of the people on my team who coordinated housing ahead of time, which meant contacting previous hosts and asking if they’d be willing to let us crash again or cold-calling all of the potential hosts in a random town in the middle of America.

Sometimes, we’d get really lucky and a church or organization would coordinate homestays for us! That was like Disneyland, because we’d get a hot meal and a hot shower and maybe even a bed and a chance to do laundry. The strangest places I slept on the 4k for Cancer were a firehouse (in the garage, next to the firetruck!), the Utah Jazz basketball stadium, and the barn of a rodeo.

How does a “bike road trip” differ from that in car?

It’s so different! When you’re in a vehicle, you don’t have to constantly be looking out for every piece of glass or vent in the road, you don’t have to expend an incredible amount of energy on big mountains, and you aren’t completely exposed to the elements.

But, you have a much easier time stopping and talking to locals, going into shops and businesses, meeting other folks on the road, and you have a deeper understanding of the places you bicycled through, because you saw them at 15 miles per hour from sunup to sundown.

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

Even though it can be exhausting, you might be battling heat stroke or freezing because your clothing is soaked, or you might be caught in a headwind that makes you feel like you’re moving through molasses, I strongly prefer the latter. After bicycling 9,000+ miles, my executive opinion is that it makes for better adventures.

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What advice would you give someone going on a 4k for Cancer or similar trip?

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

4k for cancer thebikedyke riley smith

Do it! Seriously, do it. Even if you think that you can’t physically do it, even if you are scared or anxious, do it. Your body will adjust to the miles, and you will become so accustomed to life on the road that you’ll be comfortable sleeping just about anywhere and wonder why you ever had more than three outfits to begin with.

Even better, you’ll make true lifelong friends, because they will literally have been in the trenches with you. You’ll have a deeper understanding of who you are as a person and just how dang resilient you are. And you’ll have memories that will make you so glad to be alive.

You can find Riley on Instagram and Youtube. 

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