Iron Mountain Road
In my opinion, forget Tail of the Dragon at Deal’s Gap, North Carolina. Three hundred eighteen turns in eleven miles is nice, but it does not compare to Iron Mountain Road in South Dakota.
You can easily see Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and ride through Custer State Park in one day. That is what we did when I was there in 2012 including stopping for a bite to eat in Deadwood, SD and walking around for a while.
However, in 2012, it seemed like we were the only ones at the park since it was pre-Sturgis. This past summer, pre-Sturgis still meant there were a lot of people present even a week in advance.
The roads that make up the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway were purposefully constructed to be “tight.” The idea is to force you to slow down and be able to see the beautiful scenery that surrounds you. Peter Norbeck was quoted as saying: “This is not meant to be a super highway, to do the scenery justice you should drive no more than twenty miles per hour and to do it full justice you should simply get out and walk.”
When riding Iron Mountain Road, regardless of the engineering design to forcibly slow you down, you should anyway. The turns are tight and when going uphill on the switchbacks, first gear was too high a gear for my Honda VTX 1800, and second gear was too low. I would take the turn in second gear and just give it more throttle while holding in slightly the clutch.
The best part undoubtedly of Iron Mountain Road is riding through the tunnels on Needles Highway. The tunnels are one lane and the signs make it clear to honk your horn to make sure no one is coming in from the other side.
And when you stand outside of the tunnels, you have Mount Rushmore framed by the shape of the tunnel. It is as impressive sight as you will see and even more impressive when you realize this was 1930’s technology in road construction.
Throughout Iron Mountain as well as the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, there are plenty of areas you can pull off to the side of the road and just relax and take in the scenery. You will be climbing up to 5,445 feet during your ride and at the end, there will be a small parking lot so you can relax and enjoy your view.
The pigtail bridges are also fascinating because of the design concept. Sudden elevation changes resulted in engineers wanting to build the bridges of concrete and steel, but Peter Norbeck believed that distracted from the environment, so he had the pigtail bridges made from wood.
In addition, there will be parts of your ride when you are traveling in a single lane which seems like it was designed just for you motorcycle. Enjoy the hell of it because there will not be any oncoming traffic during these parts.
That day I rode two hundred twenty miles more (221) more, giving me a total of three thousand two hundred thirty miles (3,230) miles.
That night, like every night, we had dinner in front of the fire pit on the back of the truck. As I looked up into the sky, I thought to myself I could easily live a simple life. A life without cell phones, social media, the internet, and television. After spending fourteen days on the road living in the back of truck, I was as happy as I had ever been.