We've been slacking at updating the thread because we've been covering ground and seeing sights. It's also been a chance for us to re-connect a bit, now that Tim is not going through final exams and the last rush of college. Here is some text and we will have to insert photos later.
The South Dakota Badlands were beautiful and we got off to do a little walking.
Somebody fell while climbing above us and the SD Guard was called in to lift them out in a basket. Obviously a bad end to their vacation and a reminder.
After doing the usual paved loop through the Badlands, we decided to follow the gravel Rim Road for about 20 miles, which would technically also be a shorter way into Rapid City, rather than getting back on the highway. The first portion was fine and we were making good time, passing by fields of bison on our right and the Badlands on our left. Really pretty stuff.
As we progressed we found that the road had been freshly worked on and the gravel suddenly got a lot deeper. While the Tenere handled it well, with the coarser Heidenau tires and traction control, the VStrom had the more street oriented Shinko tires.
Tim was in the lead and suddenly went into a huge left right left right fishtail that was so deep the tops of his luggage was visible from behind. He rode mountain bikes for years and habits took over as he straightened it up, going off the road, dropping about a foot and a half into the grass. Fortunately there were no rain ruts and somehow he managed to keep it upright. We dug a path to get him back up onto the road and finished the route with a bit more respect.
Meanwhile, we had a huge western style thunder storm bearing on on us.
We were still 20 miles southwest of Rapid City and about to put up a tent when we came across this oasis.
Turned out to have several other bikes already pulled in and the sweet woman running the cafe let them park in a garage. It was full so we parked ours in the lee side of the building, then had a late lunch & fun company.
After the storm, we got groceries in Rapid City and found a nice camp ground near Mt. Rushmore for the night.
Rushmore was impressive, especially when considering how it was built.
We also learned important history there:
Afterward, we rode some incredible roads. Southbound through the Black Hills, we took the Iron Mountain Loop and got to see the wooden PigTail bridges, some open grazing, and beautiful mountain scenes. The weather was perfect.
We crossed to what is now our favorite road, the Needles Highway, to come north again. Toward the bottom of Needles, we had to stop for a bison, who decided that he had right of way and he liked to just stand in the middle of the road. Great photo op, right? As we were sitting, several more buffalo meandered out of the woods to our immediate left. The first one just happened to be the crossing guard and we were now between members of the herd. Comparing notes later, we both kept the clutch pulled and stayed in gear for a quick get away. The buffalo moved on to much the fresh grass next to the road and we gave them as wide a berth as possible. Very cool experience to be within 30-40 fet of these creatures.
Rode into Deadwood and then Sturgis. Got a T-shirt and then back on the highway west. Sturgis looks like a town that waits all year for a single week long party, and is dead without it.
We got off the highway at Sheridan and climbed into Bighorn National Park in a light sleety rain, but it was beautiful. Every time we came arou d the corners, we were talking about new sights on the intercom. There are all sorts of great sights, such as the waterfalls.
It was getting older, too, and the sleet turned into light snow. At one point we saw a herd on bighorns running through the woods nearby, which we probably would not have noticed in a car.
The weather had gotten cold and really windy, with gusts that were knocking the Suzuki around, with its' big windshield. Wei ended the day camping to the west of Cody, Wyoming. On the way into town we got to see herds of wild mustangs. As opposed to Sturgis, Cody was a vibrant place and we both regret not stopping in town for the night.
Our camp sight was near the town of Wapiti, to the east of Yellowstone and this was dinner
Wapiti is in the Shoshone valley, which acts as a wind tunnel. The owner of the camp ground warned us that we would have very strong winds coming in and potentially sever weather. This was while it was already blowing at well more than 20 kts.
It was really an RV park and his tent area was behind what had been the ticket shed for kiddie pony rides at some point. We got one tent up and had to use both a wooden bench and the picnic bench for a wind break. The tent was still dancing in the wind, so the owner let us use the shed, too. Tim chose to sleep in the tent and neither of us got a lot of sleep. The winds didn't just howl, they hammered and drove sand with force.
The next morning we woke to snow on the mountains around us and temps in the high 30s. In June. It took both of us to control the flapping tent material and pack, then we headed west again, toward Yellowstones' East Gate. The road was beautifully set between snow peaked mountains in a valley with a river running over rocks and through trees.
The Yellowstone park ranger at the East Gate cautioned us about reports of snow, icy roads, and slush that we might encounter as we went up through the pass to Yellowstone Lake.
We found all of those and later agreed that it was the best part of Yellowstone. Passing through the mountains was stunning, despite the light snow and cold temperatures.
On the way in we stopped for bighorn sheep grazing next to the road, close enoughfor an eyeball encounter. They were magnificent. As we were about to descend to the lake, a pair of black bears were in a lush field to our left.
We rode around the lake and had a late lunch to the southwest, on the road to Jackson. We stayedsimply to warm up. Looking at the time and with the potential for more snow to ice the road behind us, we decided to skip Jackson and head north.
We got to see the upper and lower falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, elk, and a few other sights. At one point a huge black crow flew next to and between us for a number of yards, as a close wingman. Yellowstone is another place we can return to.
W stopped for a break at Gardiner, on the North Gate, and met a guy who was also seeing the country. He'd left New Jersey slightly under 3 weeks before on his R1200 Adventure and was pressing to get home.
On the road north to the town of Livingston on I-90, the road follows a beautiful river through a wide valley. As with Yellowstone, this is bear country and we saw a blackie who looked like he was just on a stroll.
From Livingston we headed west to stay in Bozeman for the night. Today the weather is warmer and we are headed toward Glacier National Park.
Again, photos to come...