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Old 03-22-2004, 11:46 PM   #38
Rogue 1 OP
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Joined: Mar 2004
Location: New York City
Oddometer: 659
Talking More midnight reading...

"Thank you for your support" - Bartles & James

Parking for Silver at the Hotel in Rapid City

The forecast on the Weather Channel is grim...

Am I scared of a little snow in the mountains of South Dakota? Hell no! (well maybe a little)

Tracking through the Badlands

Friday October 11th

miles on Silver, the weather is cold and cloudy. The Weather Channel says the rain will hit at 3pm, snow will follow soon after and it' getting colder... uh oh. I have to make some time south. First its on to see Mt Rushmore, 17 miles away.


First View

Nice, tight, twisting roads and climbing elevations. Pine valleys and mountains lead me to Rushmore. The pictures don't do it justice... it is truly an amazing human feat along the lines of the Sphinx. The Plaza leading up to the main viewing area perfectly frames the view of the mountain. Walking through the Hall of States with the likenesses of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln ahead of me is inspirational. "Good morning gentleman, I have waited along time and come a long way to make your acquaintance."

I have no doubt that many of you reading this have been to the monument and the rest have of course seen pictures. I only post these so that I might in some way share the awe I felt while approaching.

See it if you can.

I purchase some post cards and stamps and send them off as quick as possible. A park ranger has checked The National Weather Svc. for me and the snow is coming fast from the west. It's due to begin at 3pm (at this elevation) and I can see the darkening sky in that direction. He gives me a map of the area and directions to Custer State Park and Needles Highway and I follow the twisty back roads towards it. It is fall here, and the foliage is brilliant, the stands of Birch fiery against the deep green of the Pines.

From behind the Monument...

Foliage and a motorciclists "HAVE A NICE DAY" sign.

Great roads for a motorcycle, but the deer are out in force and speed is not prudent. A large doe bolts across the road if front of me and my heart skips a beat as I grab the breaks (thank you ABS!) Stopped, digging for my camera, the doe waits to my right. "Where is your friend, honey?" Ahhh, there he is, a four point buck stands right behind me! Grab a photo and continue, once again on full deer alert, as my elevation climbs to 4000ft.

I enter theBlue Star Memorial Highway leading to Needles Highway. The road climbs at and exterme degree and hairpins up the mountain. As my elevation increase the weather continues to dergrade with the requisite drop in temperature.

Blue Star Memorial Highway

You can see the road drop away step by step below.

It's colder now, the clouds are thickening and grey and it's starting to drizzle. I reach the Park Station for Needles (4500ft) and pay the reduced MC fee of $5. The Ranger assures me it is not cold enough for snow... uh huh! Sure feels cold enough to me!

Onto Needles Highway, I pass a couple from Plattsburg, NY in a white SUV traveling with there dog. They left NY on Sept 15th and have done a similar amount of mileage, seems I am not the only one doing this. I'm just the only one crazy enough to do it on a motorcycle.

Needles Highway in Custer State Park

The road continues its twisty climb, and at 6500ft (damn cold here, and raining) I see the first rock formations for which this road is named. 30, 40, 70ft towers shoot skyward from the earth at the top of this range. The road winds in and out of them, the views to the east and west alternate as the path finds its way to either side of the peaks.

The famous "Eye of the Needle"

At one particularly spectacular point, while stopped for pics, the rain turns to snow/sleet. Damn! I can't feel my fingers and the camera is barely functioning due to the cold. I have to run like hell to get down in elevation. 20 minutes later, and less 1700ft, the snow becomes rain again and the temp rises a few degrees to just bearable.

Yup... that is snow

I hated to have to blow through there so quickly. I would have liked to spend more time studying that area, perhaps I will return someday when it's a little more weather friendly.

Still on deer alert, I pass signs that red "Large Wildlife on Road, 13 miles" ... and "Buffalo Are Dangerous, Do Not Approach." From what I saw of them behind the fences back in The Badlands I have no doubts of the validity of those statements.

At one point, a white tail doe runs through the bramble to my right, pacing me for a full minute. I can see her leaping gracefully through the thicket. Eventually she turns deeper into the wood and is gone. Thrilling to have that experience.

My speed is steady at 30 out of respect for the weather and the wildlife. I stop at a large prairie dog town during a break in the rain, the silence is magnificent in the still, moisture heavy air. No vehicles along this road either. In fact, since leaving Rapid City I have probably seen less than twenty cars outside of Rushmore proper. 100 yards further up the road, a giant buck and 5 doe (way to go dude, these bucks know how to live, chuckle) are grazing on the edge of the PD field, on the right side of the road.

I climb back aboard Silver and slowly, quietly, with my lights off, I move up the road towards the small herd. The buck is watching me carefully and at 15 feet, he has seen enough. He bolts, leaping high into the air, first along side the road and then sharply turns and crosses in front of me, the doe follow and they head up the sparsely vegetated hill on my left. As I pass, even with them, the doe in the rear suddenly stops and turns to look at me.. our eyes meet and for an extended heartbeat, I see beauty and intelligence in her gaze. What can I say, we had a moment... wow.

2 miles later, the road is overpopulated with large goats, like tough kids on a tough street, they are cool in there countenance and oblivious to passerby. Further on, sheep, fat, furry and ready for shearing as winter approaches, run along side me.

The buffalos "piles" on the road are becoming increasingly more hazardous and as I break free of the mountains and into the open plains I see the herds everywhere, and the occasional loner, off by him(or her)self for whatever reason.

I take another short break, rain be damned, at the edge of a valley that has recently suffered a fire. Low charred stumps share the renewing landscape with the saplings of new growth. I scavenge a few perfect pine cones to bring home as a reminder of the scene. Alone with my thoughts on this grey, wet day I wonder what the valley once looked like as the cycle of nature continues to renew itself. All this pales in comparison to the battle I am waging to find one freaking dry cigarette and to retain some feeling in my frozen water pruned hands. OK... nicotine definitely screws up a persons priorities. (just kidding... mostly)

Recently Burned Valley

The Beast meets her match... and then some!

I round a turn, and am confronted by a formidable road block. A loner, 7 ft high at the head, stands nonchalantly in the middle of the road, dinking water from a puddle that has formed on the double yellow line. After careful consideration, I determine that Silver is no match for this 2 ton hamburger and deem it best to wait for another vehicle to guide me past. I inch Silver as close as I dare. When the Buffalo looks up and takes a step toward us I call it quits on the approach and settle in.

Hmmm... exactly how close dare I get?

Beast vs. Beast (but his insurance won't go up)

He occasionally looks up at me, looks me over, as if daring me to make a move. Time passes. I shut off the engine. I discover that my voice echos nicely in the silence and I run down the Yankee batting order. A full a hour passes before a red pick up arrives.

"Hello, I've been waiting for ya!"

They laugh and tell me I did the right thing. More likely than not the big guy would have charged a bike. We approach slowly and he moves for the truck without hesitation (buffalo are apparently smarter than deer). As I pass within 8 feet of him, he looks right at me and we have a moment as well as takes the biggest dump I have ever seen! "I crap bigger'in you!" his eyes say. I'd swear he knew exactly what he was doing.

The weather seems to be clearing as I head south. Open plains, the sky grey with high cloud cover. I pass more buffalo; need to wait one more time for an entire herd meandering on the road... more deer and more prairie dogs.

I've made Hot Springs, SD my destination for today and 20 miles north of the town, the wind picks up and I can see the storm clouds coming fast.

Hot Springs was once a major health destination at the turn of the century for its namesake. A small river runs right through, fed by 170 natural hot springs which cause the water to maintain a constant 87 degree temperature year round. Pools created to capture the water run at 102 degrees. During the 30's, as peoples ideas of whats healthy changed, the booming town quieted and is now just a nice place to visit.

Clever Mailbox

... God does good work...

I get a little cabin next to the stream at The Wayside Motel ($30).

It's heating system consists of a small 20 year old electric space heater.

Management responds...

The woman at the desk tells me that during Sturgis Bike Week, the riders just jump right into the stream. I walk down to its bank, test the water and am tempted to follow their lead. Steam rises from the waters surface as ducks swim past me without a care in the world. I decline when I think of what I'll feel like when I get out.

A great bowl of stew at a little place called "Elkhorn Ron's" followed by a so-so Jack Daniels Steak and I head back to the cabin for a shower and some well deserved rest.

I catch one of the funniest shows I have never seen on the local TV station. "The Red Green" show has me laughing out loud for its full hour run. I'll have to look for this when I get home.

I am aware that it has become difficult for me to keep track of the days. Things I did and saw yesterday seem like a week ago. I've had so many new experiences. Time is different on the road.

``~~~=o&o> Rogue1

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Frank Herbert , "Dune"

"I never drive faster than I can see... other than that it's all in the reflexes..." BTILC

"Remember the face of your father." Roland the Gunslinger

"T.A.L.R. Redux 2007" HAS BEGUN!!! Visit the "I once was lost..." Website

Rogue 1 screwed with this post 08-12-2006 at 10:10 AM Reason: yeah... thats right... pest control
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