Pounding the pavement works

Writers are not salespersons by nature. But sometimes, you have to force yourself out of your cocoon and make some calls. That’s what I did in early May, a two-day whirlwind tour of the Black Hills, where I called on motorcycle dealers in the area and presented them with copies of Ride the Black Hills.

Persistence does pay off, even if you feel weird about pushing yourself on others. As a result of my little jaunt, Ride the Black Hills is now available at J&L Harley Davidson in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Indian Motorcycle Sturgis.

So, if you’re heading toward the big Sturgis rally along I-90, or are already in Sturgis and wondering where in the heck the good routes are, stop in at one of these places and pick up a copy of Ride the Black Hills! And tell them I said, “Hi!”

A.B.A.T.E. Ratings for Black Hills Motorcycle Routes

Did you know that American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education (A.B.A.T.E.) of South Dakota has rated various routes in the Black Hills with regard to riders’ skill levels?

Yep. From North Playhouse Road (easy) to Iron Mountain Road (difficult),  A.B.A.T.E. has a skill level rating for each of the rides described in Ride the Black Hills.

Iron Mountain Road is without doubt one of the most technical rides you can undertake, with 314 curves, 14 switchbacks and three pigtail bridges. Throw in spectacular views of Mount Rushmore and you get a truly inspiring ride. Needles Highway has curves that are just as tight, and just as scenically rewarding. Scenery is one area in which the Black Hills are in great supply.

No matter where you ride in the Black Hills, stay safe. Ride within the posted limits. They’re there for your safety.


Ride the Black Hills to be reviewed by Women Riders Now

I just received an email from Genevieve Schmitt, the editor of Women Riders Now, one of the most influential online motorcycle publications in the U.S. Ride the Black Hills will be reviewed in an upcoming issue of WRN, just ahead of the annual Sturgis rally.

Genevieve will also be awarding copies of Ride the Black Hills at the upcoming Revved-Up Women’s Texas Motorcycle Expo April 28-30 in San Antonio.

Thanks, Genevieve!


Weather warning for the Black Hills

snow accum
That’s snow accumulating along the side of the road in Spearfish Canyon — in May.

A half-inch of wet, slushy snow fell on Minneapolis last night. It followed a warm, almost-70s weekend. It reminded me of our trip to the Black Hills last May. More specifically, it reminded me of our hellish ride through Spearfish Canyon, in the snow. (You can read more about it in my book, Ride the Black Hills.)

The weather pattern was similar, with a freakishly warm week followed by a return to late winter/early spring. It was an excellent example how quickly weather in the Black Hills can change, not only as you move up or down in elevation, but from one minute to the next. And how the “shoulder seasons” of spring and fall can fool you with the promise of summer.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit the Paha Sapa during those seasons. But you should be prepared with base layers, windproof outer layers and rain gear. It’s not unusual for a thunderstorm — or even a tornado — to spring up out of nowhere, according to the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Summer mornings in the mountains can be chilly.

If you’re planning to ride the Black Hills this summer, be prepared for what Mother Nature can throw at you. Stay safe!



Where you can buy Ride the Black Hills

Ride the Black Hills is available at the following retail outlets:

rbh-front-cover-webHarley-Davidson Shop of Winona, 1845 Mobil Drive, Winona, MN 55987

Iron Horse Outfitters and Inn, 100 Coffee Street E., Lanesboro, MN 55949

Iron Mountain Visitor Center & Store, Spokane Creek Cabins & Campground, 24631 Iron Mountain Rd.
Keystone, SD 57751

Northway Sports, 21429 Ulysses St. N.E., East Bethel, MN 55011

One Sexy Biker Chick, 230 1st Avenue E., Shakopee, MN 55379

St. Paul Harley-Davidson, 2899 Hudson Blvd N, St Paul, MN 55128

Twin Cities Harley-Davidson, 1441 85th Ave NE, Blaine, MN 55449

Zylstra Harley-Davidson, 19600 Evans St NW, Elk River, MN 55330

 More to come!

Ride the Badlands

The colors of the Badlands really pop in early spring.
The colors of the Badlands really pop in early spring.

A motorcycle ride through South Dakota’s Black Hills takes you through verdant pine forests and past cascading mountain streams. A motorcycle ride through the Badlands takes you to another world entirely.

The land is stunning in its starkness. The sun pours down out of a brilliant blue sky.  It lights up the rocky surfaces and highlights bands of pink and yellow and gray. And when you switch off the motorcycle’s engine, you’re greeted by complete silence.

There’s wildlife in the Badlands. Friends have shown me photos of bighorn sheep. But on the day my husband and I visited, not even a fly buzzed. We were completely alone in a strange, silent world where ancient fossils lay hidden in the rocky spires, gullies, and buttes. The blacktop pavement was our only connection to modern life.

The Lakota called this area “mako sica.”  French explorerers called it “les mauvais terres pour traverse“.  It translates to “bad lands” in both languages. It’s beautiful, and it’s lonely. It’s worth a visit.



Motorcycle Show Season Ahead

It won’t be long now. Even though the current temperature is -3 degrees, the motorcycle show season is starting to heat up.  The International Motorcycle Show will be held February 3, 4, 5 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It will be fun to sniff out the new motorcycles and gear, especially if the weather is this cold! I won’t exhibit, but I will hand out business cards for Ride the Black Hills.

I’ve just sent in my registration for the Rosemount Writers Festival and Book Fair on March 18. Although it’s not a motorcycle show, I’ll be selling copies of Ride the Black Hills, Ride Minnesota and Ride Lake Superior. It’s the first time the Rosemount has held a “celebration of the literary arts”, so I hope it’s successful.

I’ve also registered for the 30th annual Donnie Smith Bike and Car Show at St. Paul RiverCentre. The big custom bike show will be held March 25-26. I’ll be sharing booth space with Pat Shanahan, who runs Iron Horse Outfitters and Inn in Lanesboro, Minnesota. Pat’s a great guy, the Iron Horse was designed with bikers in mind, and Lanesboro is a great destination for motorcycle enthusiasts, with lots of hilly, twisty roads in the area.

I do love getting out and talking with bikers. It’s going to be fun!



Cynthia Sowden is the author of Ride the Black Hills, Ride Minnesota and Ride Lake Superior.  This is her fourth self-published book. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism.

She has also contributed to Masters of Sales by Dr. Ivan Misner, and How I Got the Gig, by Susan Carter. She has worked in corporate communications and public relations for more than 30 years.

Sowden loves traveling via motorcycle with her husband, Ralph. They have visited the Grand Canyon, rounded Lake Superior and traveled the length of the Mississippi River and explored the Black Hills on their 2002 Victory Deluxe Touring Cruiser. They recently acquired a Harley-Davidson Road King and broke it in with a trip to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone Park and the Grand Tetons.


Ride the Black Hills is now available!

Heading to Sturgis next summer for the Motorcycle Rally? Or do you just want to cruise the curves of the Black Hills? Let Ride the Black Hills be your guide.

This 85-page book was written for motorcyclists by a motorcyclist. Is crammed with travel information, including turn-by-turn descriptions of 13 motorcycle rides in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. Route maps are included, as well as information about area attractions, restaurants, and advice about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

With twists, turns, and pigtail bridges, the Black Hills offer some of the most challenging motorcycle rides in the U.S. Order a copy of Ride the Black Hills today!