Day 0 (7/7/2016)
Left Pittsburgh around 4:30 PM and arrived in South Bend, Indiana over 9 hours and some 380 miles later. It didn't take very long (under 2 hours) before I had to put rain gear on. With my USELESS rain gear, I was soaking wet before I even started moving (and yes, I was dry when I put it on). I should not have even bothered with it. It's the Tempest suit, by River Road, if anyone is interested in what NOT to buy for $90 or so. Anyway - I rode through a rather nasty and WINDY thunder and lightning storm for many hours. I opted for a hotel when I got there, mostly to give my stuff a chance to dry out. As I did not get good sleep the night before, I was pretty sleepy too. I made a Jetboil meal in my room and went to bed around 2AM.
Day 1 (7/8/2016)
I left the hotel around 10:30 AM I think...the latest I ever started a day of motorcycle travel, ever. I guess I was making up some lost sleep. The day was relatively uneventful. Wanted to camp before dark, as I hate setting up in the dark. Was going to stay at a KOA, but all they had was “overflow” camping – which means basically you’re camping in a parking lot. Pass on that. Did some more on-line checking, found a place. Called, they had places available. Seemed kind of strange/sketchy on the phone, but decided to take a chance. I was doubtful driving out there....but it turned out to be a hidden gem. Oakwood Trails Campground, a private facility run by some farmer and his wife. This is the one:
Small, relatively quiet, wooded. Virtually perfect. Proprietors are very friendly and down to Earth people. Highly recommend. I plan to write a good review for this place.
Got to try out my new hammock for the first time. I found it complicated – especially when using an air mattress. More practice would be required. Nevertheless, did not bother to set up tent, just the hammock.
Day 2 (7/9/2016)
Packed up fairly early and got a good start, after a shower in the nice and clean bath house at the campground (it would be my last shower for a while). Stopped in Fairmont, MN for gas and noticed back tire was very low. I went to put air in it, and found a screw in the tire. Great! Used my smart phone to call around for a place that could fix it. First call turned me on to a place, I called them, said they would try. They were only five minutes away. I hot-footed it down there, as a Goodyear place, Graham Tire (http://grahamtire.net/
). They plugged the tire right there in their parking lot, put air in it, and charged me only $5. Awesome service – kudos to them!
When I camped last night, I decided I needed some carabiners to use the Atlas Suspension Straps I had bought for my hammock (rather than the suspension that came with it). So, again, using my smart phone (I say that for all you “smartphones have no purpose” people), I found an outdoor store in Sioux Falls, SD that seemed like it would meet my needs. I stopped at the Great Outdoors Store (http://www.greatoutdoorstoreonline.com/
) and found what I was looking for, including a full-sized microfiber towel that I decided I needed the night before (using my small hand towel to dry off after a shower sucks). I was on my way $50 later (which is a lot less than I wanted to spend).
There was a lot of wind crossing South Dakota – and it was HOT too. Overall, it made for a very tiring ride. Somewhere along the way, I stopped for gas and I was about to go when a lady came over and asked for some help. Leaving out the details, she, her adult daughter and adult son were traveling from MN to VA with their car pulling a U-haul trailer and a full-sized U-haul truck. The oil light on the car had come on and none of them knew anything about what to do about it (wtf!?!). So I helped her get oil and put it in her car. I also noticed that the safety chains on the trailer were hanging down and dragging on the ground for quite some time and one of them had worn away and broken. The guy said they had been like that since U-haul put them on (which sounds like U-haul). I asked if they had any zip ties, and they did. So I re-attached the chains to the car and zip-tied them so they would not hang down on the ground anymore and wished them happy trails.
I made my way to the campground my wife had booked for me, fairly close to dark. A quick looksey at Hidden Valley Campground (http://www.hiddenvalleydeadwood.com/
) revealed it was basically an RV parking lot full of people who just wanted to drink beer and/or be rowdy. No real campers there. I decided that I would rather sleep on the side of the road than that place, esp. for the two nights I had planned to be there. So, cold, and in the dark, I just left – and headed for a National Forest site I had seen on the way there. I had asked my wife to book a NF campground, but she had said she called around and they all claimed to be full (doesn’t surprise me a bit, with their central reservation system).
I arrived at Roubaix Lake campground (http://www.recreation.gov/camping/ro...O&parkId=70756
), hoping for the best....and I was at the empty entrance station trying to find some info about self-registration, when the campground hosts pulled up. I explained what I wanted (a good site with trees for two nights), figuring they had nothing – and they recommended a site. Loop C, site 21. They said go look and see if I wanted it. I got there – it was perfect. Wooded, quiet – couldn’t ask for much more. They came around and I said I would take it ($24/night – ouch!) and they also brought the two bundles of firewood I had asked for ($10). Life was good. Had to set up in the dark, but at least I had a good site for two nights. Today’s travel was over 600 miles of very tiring windy riding and I was BEAT!!
Day 3 (7/10/2016)
This is a day of “local” riding. I made a 260 mile or so loop from my campground to Mount Rushmore, to Badlands National Park, to Sturgis, to Deadwood and back to my site. Mount Rushmore was OK, except for the $11 per vehicle parking fee (they outsourced the parking, so a National Park pass doesn’t cut the mustard, which is bullshit if you ask me). A lot smaller than I had imagined. Would be a lot better if they had used Andrew Jackson instead of Lincoln though. I made the small hiking loop around the area. They don’t let you go to the top anymore, which sucks.
Next up was the ride out to the Badlands. Now THAT was a hot ride, but at least it wasn’t windy. GPS took me in some weird “back way” that resulted in going in on a gravel service road or something. No one was there – although there was a sign advertising the entrance fee rates, there was no one to take money and no way to pay. Fine with me. But the result was that I didn’t drive through the whole park – something I will have to rectify next time I am out that way I guess. But of the part that I did see, I liked it.
I stopped in Wall, SD again (stopped there going by on Day 2 yesterday for dinner). Went to the Fat Boy’s BBQ place – it sucked. I would have been better off just eating one of my Jetboil meals. When I left there, GPS took me on a bizzare back road. Yes, I had selected “avoid highways” but **** man – farmer’s fields gravel roads for miles on end? Really? That was a nightmare that FINALLY ended after way too long. Let me just say that if you find yourself in South Dakota, do yourself a favour and avoid Anderson Hill Road and “Highway” 1416.
By the time I got to Sturgis, it was around 7 PM and things were largely closed and quiet. I broke out my laptop and did some thinking about my route and plan and time available and how much riding I wanted to do and how much risk I wanted to take with respect to getting to work on-time. I decided to scrap the plan to go to the Going to the Sun Road in Montana, and instead spend an extra day in the Black Hills National Forest area. This day would be used to go out to Devil’s Tower and back. In retrospect, what I SHOULD have done is just CAMPED out at Devil’s Tower. It would have made for less riding and not that much more distance to cover on the way home. Alternatively, I could have headed home from Devil’s Tower and camped along the way – which would have put me closer to home than my existing camp site - but oh well. Anyway, by the time all that was done, I got back to my campsite pretty late at night. Glad camp was already made.
Day 4 (7/11/2016)
Today was a run of more than 220 miles out to Devil’s Tower and back. Before leaving camp, I paid for an extra night of camping and another bundle of firewood. To kick the day off, I first went to Deadwood and hung out for a bit. Then I hit the road for Devil’s Tower. I went the long way, to increase my riding in the hills. It was a pretty good run until I got to Four Corners. On the ride north, it was very windy. I hate wind more than rain when riding on a bike, and this was VERY windy. Fortunately, the portion of the ride from Sundance to Devil’s Tower and back wasn’t too bad.
Anyway – Devil’s Tower was OK. On the way there, I had stopped by an Ace Hardware in Lead, to buy a hand drill (which sucked, because I had one just like it at home), a bit and some rubber stoppers. I wanted to fix my RAM X-Grip device that had dropped my phone twice at 80 mph (fortunately, I caught it with my legs), and had also lost some of its rubber grip ends. So, while my Jetboil meal is cooking, I am working on this thing....drilling hand drills with the drill, using super glue, all while doing something with the Jetboil and a flame, and some other stuff I had going on that someone could decide was suspicious terrorist activity. I’m amazed that it wasn’t noticed and no one said anything – but if I had been trying to build a bomb right there in the middle of everything, I don’t think it would have been any sort of problem. At any rate, I got my X-grip fixed and ate my meal without incident.
After lunch, I went for a hike around the tower. It was a good hike...except for all the people yelling and carrying on like they’re at a football game instead of a natural wonder. Same types that talk at movies and stink up elevators with their perfume and cigarette smell I guess. The more people I encounter, the more people I end up hating. Anyway – it was rater cool and windy out at DT, and I was glad I had my new Aerostich TL100 windblocker fleece jacket (http://www.aerostich.com/clothing/fl...ce-jacket.html
), which I had already decided was perfect at the campground (along with the matching pants).
On the way back to the campsite, near dark, I went through Spearfish Canyon, which was an AWESOME ride. However, by the time I got back to camp, I was pretty damned cold and went to get a fire going immediately. I was glad I had that extra bundle of wood!!
Day 5 (7/12/2016)
Today it was time to get on down the road. I packed up my site at the campground and got a reasonably early start on this 520 mile or so day. Today I had the worst wind of the trip. It was REALLY bad, and constant, for all northward travel. I think I had the bike leaned over some 25 or 30 degrees for most of the day, just trying to go straight down the road. When I stopped at the "welcome to North Dakota" sign, I made it make it a very quick stop because I was afraid my bike was going to blow over. It was THAT windy!
I ran out of gas twice. The first time, I just didn't come across any gas stations I could have stopped at. Just the way the route worked out in the middle of nowhere. At one fork in the road, I did a search (using my evil smart phone, GBO) - and decided that I may or may not make it to the gas station that was ahead. But there wasn't one in any other direction I could gone either. So, I went. Sure enough, I ran out of gas - about 3 minutes from the gas station. Just my luck. So, that wasn't too bad to recover from. I got gas in a little plastic bottle left over from a drink, and that was enough to get my bike another 3 minutes down the road to the gas station.
The second time I ran out of gas, it was more my fault I guess. I stopped as a gas station to get gas, before turning off the interstate to go north. But they didn't have premium. I found a lot of this kind of thing out west. WTF? My bike says it requires premium, probably due to its 11:1 compression ratio. I realize I could "get by" with 87 octane, but I was just not inclined to put it in. So, I elected to press on to the next station, knowing I probably would not make it. Sure enough, I didn't. This time, I was even closer to the middle of nowhere, and I ran out of gas a lot further away. As I was at a cross-roads, thinking, "do I go north, where Google shows a gas pump, but is 20 miles away, or do I go west, where there is a town only 9 miles away, but Google doesn't show any pumps", a ND State Trooper shows up. I explain my situation. He says go west, town about 9 miles away and they have pumps, and they are open. He says he will follow me and if I run out, he will run me in. "I said not to jail I hope!", and he smiles. So, off we go, and sure enough, I run out of gas about six miles later. I get gas in the same little plastic bottle that I used before, and down the road I go. I thank the cop for his time and let him know I appreciated his efforts. Of course, this whole time, I'm wondering if this cop remembers the State Trooper scene from the movie Fargo, but I elect not to mention it.
So, before the trip, I debated whether or not to take a gas bottle. Usually I do take gas, but I'm on more extreme trips where I know gas pump distance is an issue. On this trip, I had decided I would never be THAT far away from a pump - but I didn't realize the lack of premium gas issues. So, I made the wrong decision NOT to take a bottle, and sure enough, I should have. So, lesson learned. From now on, I'm ALWAYS going to take extra gas with me.
Anyway - so down the road I go, fully gassed up, trying to make up for lost time. I'm on back roads, where there is simply NO ONE except for me, the road and the fucking wind. At some point, I am going east, WITH the wind, and I'm hauling ass. Doing about 90-95 mph (in a 55 or maybe 65), according to my GPS, over the hill coming the other way is a Sheriff's car, and he lights my ass up almost instantly. So, I start to slow down, and figure I will just pull over without making him chase me down and catch up to me, and take the punishment I have coming. I look in my mirror and notice that he isn't turning around. WTF?? Yes!! He has turned off his lights and is continuing on his way!! Hall ah fucking luya! So, either:
- He just turned on his lights as a way to say "knock it off"
- He decided that the effort it would take for him to slow down, turn around, and catch to a bike doing 90-95 was too much, or it was too dangerous - even assuming I didn't run (I doubt he knew I was on scooter that tops out about 105)
- His department has a no-chase policy
Either way, I took the hint, and slowed down to 80 for the rest of that road (which, admittedly, wasn't very far).
Eventually, I made it to Grahams Island State Park, never Devil's Lake, ND. I paid a ridiculous $30 for one night of tent camping, but not before getting blasted by wind for the last 5 or 6 miles out to the island. It was a nice campground from what I could see, I wish I could have spent more time there.