10,000 Mile Ride Around North America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by flanga, Feb 12, 2008.

  1. flanga

    flanga Delusions of Adequacy

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,806
    Location:
    New Hampsha
    Some of you might also remember a snippet from this ride, posted a while ago here:
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=250453


    But now, as they say, here's the rest of the story...

    ===============
    One way or another, I knew it would be a helluva trip.



    Two years in planning, it was to be a long, looping route across the full width of North America and back again, spanning over 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) and taking as much as 6 weeks. I wanted to explore parts of the continent I'd never been able to spend much time in, especially in the Rockies: I planned two full weeks of the trip snaking back and forth across the continental divide just in Colorado alone.



    I had a well-plotted GPS route, but nothing else was planned. I'd sleep when I got tired, eat when I got hungry, and generally just make up the details as I went along. (I was bringing camp gear, and planned to vary between camping and staying in cheap motels)



    Here's the approximate planned route. (I'll post detailed and as-ridden maps later.)




    [​IMG]



    The trip was also to be a celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary. My wife had no desire to retire yet, and in fact was still working, but the plan was for her to join me for the two weeks' riding in Colorado.



    And the trip also was supposed to be a celebration of early retirement, as I'd sold my business the previous Fall and had just about completed the final tasks and details of the transfer. I was still wound pretty tight, and many of you self-employed types will know what I mean: I'd had a hardcore self-imposed work schedule for the last 10+ years, averaging 60-80 hours of work per week. But when I sold my business, it seemed that all the work was going to pay off, and I was looking forward to finally having open, unstructured time for the first time in a very long while.



    But things have a way of not quite going as planned, and as the departure date for the trip approached, my marriage--- already strained by the long-sustained insane workload--- fell apart. My wife and I separated, and she said she would not be joining me on the trip.



    That cast the trip in a very different light. I didn't know what the future held, and my lifemate and riding companion was gone.



    After many long discussions, we agreed to try counseling after the trip, and I headed out alone with decidedly mixed emotions.



    DAY ONE (Saturday, June 30, 2007)



    I live in New Hampshire, and have traveled extensively in the eastern third of the US, so I wanted to get to new territory as quickly as possible as the trip began. I planned a high-speed run most of the way out to South Dakota, where I'd then slow down and start exploring off the main highways.




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    I'm no stranger to long-distance riding, having done a couple IBA Saddlesores and a number or other long uncertified rides. So I set Cleveland as an unofficial goal for the first day: about 700 miles. If I still felt good at Cleveland, maybe I'd try for Chicago, about 1000 miles from my home.



    The bike: a well-used 2005 Goldwing with about >30K miles on it. I'd prepped the bike as well as I knew how, including new rubber, new battery, fresh fluids, etc., and loaded 'er up with gear.



    My suddenly-changing marriage situation affected my finances: With the prospects of a divorce looming, my seemingly-secure retirement suddenly felt decidedly shaky. To help reduce the out-of-pocket expenses of the trip, I worked out a deal with the guy who'd bought my business: I'd make four business stops along the way (Colorado, Seattle, Toronto, and New Hampshire) to perform some work for him. The work would help pay for the trip, but it meant I had to carry office attire and supplies plus what amounted to an entire portable IT-department with me.

    That hugely increased the bulk of what I had to carry. This would not be "traveling lightly." Fortunately, the 'Wing has enormous cargo space.




    [​IMG]


    I headed out on a gorgeous New Hampshire summer mid-morning.




    [​IMG]


    The first 8 hours of the trip passed uneventfully as I made time on superslab. I ran the length of the Massachusetts Turnpike into New York at Albany and then headed west across upstate NY. By late afternoon, I was near Buffalo, and skirting an enormous thunderstorm.




    [​IMG]



    As the thunderstorm receded, the sun started to go down and the shadows grew longer.




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    A while later, I left NY and crossed a corner of Pennsylvania near Lake Erie.




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    I was just about through PA as the sun set. It was just a week after the solstice, so the days were still very long.





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    It was the weekend just before July 4th, and when the sun did set, several towns along the road set off their fireworks. I could see them in the distance, incandescent chrysanthemums blossoming on the horizons.

    After full dark, there wasn't much to see, but this initial part of the trip was all about eating miles, so that's what I did: cruise control on, tunes up, and stopping only for fluid exchanges. (gas into the bike, ex-gatorade out of me...)

    After a while, I entered Ohio. (Darkness meant a slow shutter speed...)

    [​IMG]



    And then Indiana. With a crystal-clear night, it was starting to get cold, so at a pit stop I dug out warmer clothing and closed the vents on my 'Stitch.




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    Through the dead of the night, I crossed a part of Michigan and entered Illinois. At a gas stop, I snapped this memento of the approaching Saddlesore-worthy 1000 mile mark. I was making excellent time, and felt my initial lower spirits start to lift, buoyed by adrenalin and the start of the adventure. Plus, focusing on riding made everything else go away: divorce, iffy finances, and everything except the ride seemed to fade in importance, at least for the moment.




    [​IMG]


    BTW: You can figure out what "tune" means in the above photo, but you may wonder why I have the intercom running if I was alone. It's for the GPS, which is wired into the helmet intercom so I could hear the voice prompts. On the superslab, also kept the CB on to hear the trucker chatter on road conditions, police activity, and the general state of the country and the world. Seems than many trucks think they're Rush Limbaugh when they have a CB mike in their hand....



    It got cold in the hours before dawn, but it was clear and dry, with a full moon making the visibility excellent for nighttime riding. At one point, I rounded a turn in the passing lane and found a small herd of deer grazing right at roadside. Fortunately, they were busy munching and made no move towards the pavement.



    I snapped this shot of the full moon (white circle in the center) at a truck stop. the yellowish light on the left is a sodium vapor light in the parking lot. I didn't realize I'd snapped a UFO until I saw the photos later....




    [​IMG]


    OK, you know it's not a UFO; it's just an internal camera reflection or refraction artifact caused by the overexposed sodium vapor light.



    One thing I really like about night rides is the way scents get stronger. Maybe because there's less visual stimuli, but for whatever the reason it seems that fresh-cut lawns, piney stands of trees, plowed fields, night-blooming flowers in humidly fragrant marshes and, yes, even the manure of dairy farms all seem more pronounced.

    Combine that with things like the pockets of cool air that gather between hills and in dips in the road; and the way full moonlight paints the countryside with a delicate yet sharp light; and a night ride can be a sensory delight. This one certainly was, despite it being superslab.



    The sky was just beginning to show the first traces of dawn as I rode into Chicago, and the commuter trains were still empty, ready for the coming rush hour. I was still feeling alert and good something like 20ish hours into the ride.





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    Once again, the low light meant for slow shutter speeds for my camera, which caused blurring. But I actually kind of like the effect. If you look closely in the next photo, you can see the outline and lights atop the Sears tower:

    [​IMG]


    Sunrise was coming fast as I crossed into Wisconsin. Here (below) it's still dawn twilight, and that's the full moon setting in the west. The darker band just above the horizon is the last of the Earth's shadow, setting. When the shadow band reaches the horizon, it's officially sunrise on the opposite side of the sky.




    [​IMG]


    I'd been on the road for about 22 hours now, and was starting to feel tired. I'd had light snacks and plenty of hydration along the way, and had learned from previous long-distance rides that larger meals can exaggerate fatigue. Still, man can only live on breakfast bars, beef jerky and gatorade for so long, so I succumbed to the lure of a clean bathroom, fresh coffee, and a hot meal. It felt good to sit on something other than a saddle.




    [​IMG]



    I read the local paper at breakfast. Two bits of local color:



    1) a local farmer had sculpted a replica of Mount Rushmore from 700 pounds of good Wisconsin cheese



    2) a drought had caused the level of Lake Superior to drop by 13" in one year--- an astonishing amount of water lost when you think how big that sucker is. The lake was within 4" of its all-time low, and some ferries had to suspend service because of the shallow water. Some local wags were starting to call it "Lake Inferior."



    I didn't know it yet, but the western drought would be a fixture through much of my trip, with numerous grass- and forest fires visible along the way.



    Although it was drier than normal in that part of Wisconsin, the local vegetation wasn't yet hurting, and a gorgeous green morning was in full effect
    as I left the restaurant.


    [​IMG]


    I'd been on the road now for about 24 hours, and I was starting to feel quite drowsy as my blood left my brain to service my stomach.



    I pulled off the highway and found a little country road leading to some small business' parking lot. The business wasn't yet open, so I pulled to a far corner of the lot, put the bike on the centerstand, and lay back against my duffle and camp mats for a quick hour's snooze in the Ironbutt Motel:




    [​IMG]


    For me, the trick to catnaps is to time the nap to the length of various parts of my sleep cycle. (There are 5 stages of sleep, and the lengths of each sleep stage vary somewhat from person to person.) I find that if I wake up at one of the natural transition points in your sleep cycle, I feel better. But if I wake up midway though one of the sleep stages, I feel like total crap--- probably worse than if I hadn't napped at all.



    In long-distance riding, fatigue actually can work in your favor because the long "getting drowsy" and initial falling-asleep stages pass very quickly: When I'm beat, I close my eyes and I'm out like the proverbial light. That means you can get to the beneficial stages of sleep much faster than otherwise. I find that a quick 20 minute "power nap" will dust off the cobwebs and restore some physical energy, and a longer nap that includes one complete 40-60 minute sleep cycle (including one period of REM sleep) is deeply restorative; not as good as a full night's sleep, of course, but far more regenerative than you might think.

    My roadside snooze this morning lasted just about an hour, and I felt great afterwards. (Want more info on this kind of napping? See

    http://ririanproject.com/2007/09/05/10-benefits-of-power-napping-and-how-to-do-it/
    )



    Energy restored, I headed out onto the farmlands and prairies of Wisconsin.




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    I knew I was getting close to the touristy Dells when I saw signs like this:




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    ... and rock formations like these:




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    As the sun climbed higher, a nearly cloudless, warm summer day unfolded:




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    Crossing the Mississippi is as much a psychological landmark--- roughly halfway across the continent--- as it is a geophysical one. Here, I've just left Wisconsin and am entering Minnesota:




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    Near this town (next photo), I saw signs for a State Park overlooking the Mississippi, and I thought it'd be worth a detour.




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    I was instantly glad I'd gotten off the slab.




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    And it just kept getting better.




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    And better.







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    And better.




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    The Park is on high bluffs and did indeed offer a wonderful view of the river. Here, I'm looking back into Wisconsin.




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    These would be the last hills I'd see for a while. The next several hundred miles of road would be very, very flat.




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    The road out was soft dirt, always a challenge on a fully-loaded 'Wing with street tires, but I was still enjoying the change from slab.




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    I started making my way back to the highway.





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    After a day and a half on the Interstate, even a mild lean felt really good.




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    Did I mention it was getting really flat?




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    As the day wore on, I droned across Minnesota until fatigue again caught up with me. When I finally called Uncle, I was near the town of Worthington on the far western edge of the State. I pulled off to find a cheap room, a hot shower, and a comfortable bed. A cheesy Super 8 would do just fine, thank you.




    [​IMG]



    When I finally stopped, I'd been on the road around 35 hours and had covered over 1500 miles. It was definitely time for dinner and a good night's sleep.




    [​IMG]



    (The trip odometer only records to 999.9 and then resets; the above is actually showing 1517.1 miles. Not bad for a straight-through ride.)



    Tomorrow: The Badlands, Rapid City, a close encounter with a Buffalo, and other amusements.



    Good night!
    #1
  2. greenmtndave

    greenmtndave Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2004
    Oddometer:
    261
    Location:
    Northern Vermont
    :ear I'm hooked already. Great job.
    #2
  3. Tail Gunner

    Tail Gunner Life is Good !!! Enjoy the Ride

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,644
    Location:
    The Sunshine State - Seattle, WA
    Great Start looking forward to the rest of the trip.
    #3
  4. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    105,118
    Location:
    right here on my thermarest
    :lurk
    #4
  5. SgtNapalm

    SgtNapalm ADV'er

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    279
    Location:
    S.W. Fla
    Is that a deer I see on that dirt road shot? ADV-Wing looks great, more please.
    Sgt
    #5
  6. flanga

    flanga Delusions of Adequacy

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,806
    Location:
    New Hampsha
    No, that was some children.

    But there are penty of deer shots coming. And Bison. And antelope. And... well, stay tuned... :evil
    #6
  7. D-Mac

    D-Mac Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    613
    Location:
    Mid-Michigan
    This adventure is just what I needed today. I miss green fields, sunshine, and just riding. Thank you!

    Can't wait to read more. You're definately a road warrior!

    Cheers, D-Mac
    #7
  8. Dilligaf0220

    Dilligaf0220 Miserablist

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    4,539
    Location:
    Armpit Of Canuckistan
    #8
  9. mitch

    mitch Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,331
    Location:
    Townsville ,Queensland, Australia
    This looks like the start of a great adventure :clap
    #9
  10. arcticcatmatt

    arcticcatmatt wanna be adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2007
    Oddometer:
    533
    Location:
    Berkshire NY
    WOW Thats cool! I took that same exact route from Central NY to Minniapolis. You and I took pictures of the same things

    I went in august via cage to the worlds largest snowmobile event there.. Haydays.

    Nice pictures
    #10
  11. flanga

    flanga Delusions of Adequacy

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,806
    Location:
    New Hampsha
    here's a Photoshow of most of the previous images, compressed into a single 4 minute video:

    <object width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/5Ap71YeUf9k&rel=1"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/5Ap71YeUf9k&rel=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></object>
    #11
  12. basilbug

    basilbug Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,835
    Location:
    Where it's 95 plus degrees 4-5 months a year..
    What a great start to a killer ride.:clap

    That really sucks about the wife. Hope everything works out for you. Nothing like working your butt off to have it being split 50/50.

    Keep it comming.......:clap
    #12
  13. solorider

    solorider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    Oddometer:
    143
    Location:
    Houston
    Great report, nice rig! I'm not retiring anytime soon but I thinking of delegating most of the stuff take my laptop and do the same thing! Plenty of Starbucks across US to connect to the mothership :D
    #13
  14. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,436
    Location:
    Diamond Bar, CA.
    I can think of no better therapy for dealing with trying life issues than a good long road trip. In that resepect, the timing is good.
    Think positive.

    In the meantime, I'm enjoying your ride report.
    Nice bike.
    Q~
    #14
  15. flanga

    flanga Delusions of Adequacy

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,806
    Location:
    New Hampsha
    The good news was that Day Three dawned warm and clear.

    The bad news is that my overnight stop, the Worthington Super 8, really, really, really sucked.

    It's not that I had high expectations for a budget motel like a Super 8. I just wanted a cheap, clean room. But that was asking too much, it seems.

    First, it wasn't cheap: There was some kind of auto race going on at a nearby speedway I didn't know was there until the unmuffled engines prevented me from falling asleep for a while. The race fans had occupied almost all the room, and driven the prices out of the "budget" category. They wanted about $90. But, after riding 36 hours straight, I was too tired to argue.

    Second, it wasn't clean. I had companions like these in my room:

    [​IMG]
    Give me a freaking break. $90 for noise and bugs? Grrrr.

    I was glad to see Worthington in my rear view mirrors the next morning.

    Worthington is almost at the corner where Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota come together, so I took a very short detour just to be able to add a small slice of Iowa to my list of "places visited" on this trip.

    [​IMG]

    This was where I encountered the first really large plantings of the approximately 43 trillion corn plants I'd see on this trip.

    [​IMG]

    No clue what this is:


    [​IMG]

    This part of Iowa and the nearby parts of South Dakota were really, really flat. Fortunately, that meant that pretty much everyone ignored the official speed limits. When you're riding on a billiard table in dry, clear conditions, a "safe and prudent" speed can be somewhat up there.

    [​IMG]

    But that flatness also meant the winds blew without obstruction, which led to some interesting moments. Here's an example, from when I pulled off the interstate in search of gas:


    Check out this little 10-second video clip. The wind was very strong and steady from my left. Watch what happens when an approaching truck passes: First, the bow wave of the truck hits me, pushing me right. Then the body of the truck blocks the prevailing wind, which I'd been compensating for; the bike moves sharply left. I correct, and then the wind pick up after the truck passes, pushing me right.

    And remember, this is with a fully loaded bike, probably weighing about 1300 pounds total. That wind was strong.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmHq_7V_FNQ


    <object width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZmHq_7V_FNQ&rel=1"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ZmHq_7V_FNQ&rel=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></object>


    When I found a gas station, I was surprised to see I'd the wind had almost blown a soft pack off the bike. It was saved only by some extra bungees I'd used.
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Freshly gassed, it was back to the flatness as the morning wore on:
    [​IMG]

    It got very hot. When I stopped for lunch, I'd gone through probably close to half a gallon of gatorade. (OK, not the actual brand, but an inexpensive mix-it-yourself electrolyte-replacement drink.) This roadside rest area had water, bathrooms, and shaded picnic tables.

    [​IMG]

    Note the "flagging" of this tree at the rest stop (below), with the branches skewed to the left. The tree's growing off-center due to the prevailing wind, which is from the right in this photo.

    [​IMG]


    It tasted better than it looks: A low fat, high protein, tuna salad lunch. Once again, I prefer light food on long-distance days. By the end of the trip, I'd have eaten so much tuna I could practically use my fingers as mercury thermometers.

    [​IMG]

    After lunch, it was more rolling prairie.

    [​IMG]
    Yes, I deliberately choose to ride across the flatlands, which may make you wonder why. Well, there was a good reason:

    Let me get just a little geeky on you for a minute:

    You may already know that parts of that region are flat because they're the
    beds of ancient seas. You may also know that those warm, shallow seas were a veritable living stew, thick with life.

    But take a look at this critter: a carnivorous fish as large as an SUV; the 16 foot (5 meter) xiphactinus; . Go ahead, click the link. Ponder the dentition. That toothy wonder swam over what is now the quiet mid-continental flatlands, along with other impressive creatures like the 60 foot-long (18 meter) mosasaurs and 50-foot (15 meter) ichthyosaurs.

    Ancient seas are interesting enough, but those same plains and flatlands also contained the remnants of the floors of much more recent ice-age glacial lakes such as
    Lake Agassiz and Lake Missoula; freshwater lakes so large (hugely larger than all the current Great Lakes combined) that when they drained, they actually cooled the ocean and triggered worldwide climate change. We're talking gigantic lakes, here.

    So the flatter parts of middle and western North America can actually be fun to ride through: The low traffic and straight roads mean your mind can wander just a bit, imagining the forces and timescales that shaped the current landscape.


    After a few hundred miles of geologic reverie and a bit further west, the land began to show a little more topographic variation.

    [​IMG]

    And then I approached South Dakota's Badlands:

    [​IMG]
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    This was worth a stop, so I go out to hoof around for a while in the Badlands National Park, in the near 100F heat:
    [​IMG]

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    The road I'd picked would take me off the superslab and right through the Badlands formations, descending rapidly to another plain on the far side of the Badlands. I headed out:

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    I could begin to see the lower plain I'd soon be crossing:

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    With a last few outcroppings, the Badlands faded away into rangeland and farms.

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    The road was almost deserted, and I had some fun on the very, very long straight stretches.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmMydPMM8ww





    <object width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/xmMydPMM8ww&rel=1"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/xmMydPMM8ww&rel=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></object>

    Of course, I would never break the law (cough, cough) and would never start recording a video like that at 70 MPH (113 KPH) accelerating to 118 MPH (190 KPH) before my heavily-loaded 'Wing (with unaerodynamic duffles and bags sticking into the wind) started to show instability at about 45 seconds into the clip; and I'd never then back down, finishing the video at a steady 105 MPH (170 KPH) cruise; with the speeds verified by GPS. Nope. Not me. Never. It's a friend's video clip. Yeah, that's the ticket--- a friend's video.

    Anyway, I made very, very good time heading northwest across South Dakota.

    [​IMG]

    After a while, hills and changing vegetation told me I was getting closer to the Black Hills region.

    [​IMG]

    I planned to stay in Rapid City, but took a short detour into Black Hills parkland to to a little sightseeing.

    [​IMG]
    I explored some roads around the Pactola reservoir.


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    Got caught in a light shower; hence the rain spots on the windscreen.

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    You can see the virga in the next shots.
    [​IMG]

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    Then it was into Rapid City, racking up about 500 miles for the day; and 2000 miles total for three days. But the pace was about to change. I was now in the region I wanted to see more of, so my daily mileage would start to go down as I spent more time exploring the area and riding slower roads. By the time I reached Denver in a day or two (I had a business meeting there) I'd be at a purely-local pace.

    (more to come)
    #15
  16. flanga

    flanga Delusions of Adequacy

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,806
    Location:
    New Hampsha
    Day 4, part 1: Rapid City SD to Boulder, CO


    I'd planned an easy day of a bit over 400 miles--- easy because with an early start and the long summer daylight, I'd have 15 or more hours to complete the day's route. That required an average speed of less than 30mph; easy to do, even with secondary roads and rest stops.


    This was the plan:
    [​IMG]

    Highlights of the trip were to be the Black Hills, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Agate Fossil Beds, and the wide open spaces of Nebraska and Wyoming.


    The day--- the 4th of July, actually--- dawned gray and misty as I packed up in the motel parking lot:
    [​IMG]
    I didn't mind the gray skies: In the motel last night I'd surprised myself in the mirror with a classic raccoon-style sunburn on my face, where my sunglasses had protected an area around my eyes, but the rest of my face had pinked up from the sun. My helmet shield is supposedly UV-blocking, but in the intense heat of yesterday's ride, I'd left it partly open for much of the day.

    So, the cool, moist air felt good as I headed out, looking forward to a slower pace and the new (to me) scenery:

    [​IMG]
    The damp roads and cool temperatures meant there weren't many other bikes on the road. but there were a few. Rapid City is near Sturgis, so those bikes that were on the road tended mostly to be Harley's and similar cruisers; many with those far-forward highway pegs and high handlebars. I can't imagine that sitting on your tailbone is very comfortable; and that legs-forward-and-splayed reminds me of nothing so much as a gynecological exam position.

    OTOH, I'm sure they laugh at a screaming yellow Goldwing, and a rider in a dorky red Aerostitch. To each his own...

    [​IMG]
    I had originally planned to swing past Mt Rushmore, but it was the 4thy of July, and I'd learned at the motel that there was some kind of special fireworks display planned:

    The town was packed with tourists, and the crowds at Rushmore promised to be huge.

    I'm not a big-crowd kind of guy, so I used the GPS to plot a spur-of-the-moment backroad shortcut to avoid the whole Mt Rushmore area. As it was an on-the-fly change, I didn't write down the name of the road, but I think it was Palmer Gulch.

    [​IMG]
    Whatever the name, I was glad I took it. It was dirt, and the 'Wing was still heavily loaded, but it still was fun--- and such a relief after those miles on the Interstate.

    [​IMG]
    This was neat--- the road blasted right through a narrow rock spine:

    [​IMG]
    The clouds started to lift, and the views got better.

    [​IMG]
    Perfect dirt surface, empty road, sharp turns, cool weather--- yahoo!

    [​IMG]
    Deep piney scents permeated parts of the ride.

    [​IMG]
    Aha: approaching civilization again.

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    By now (midmorning) the paved roads were almost dry, so it was fun to pick up the pace a bit and enjoy the curves.

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    This road--- I think it's route 87 south, below Hill City SD, if I remember correctly--- was a blast.

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    Some parts of the road were completely dry, and the rest was drying fast, so I could safely play in the turns a bit:

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    The once-gray sky was turning into bright overcast:

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    More fun:

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    Bony hills from the highest point on that road:

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    The road then wound down; not quite as steep or as curvy as on the way up, but still a fun ride:

    [​IMG]

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    As the landforms flattened, I approached Custer State Park.
    [​IMG]

    And soon entered the park proper:
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    Forest fires had very recently scorched the area. Look at the burns under the trees:
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    Abundant ruminants grazed in the unburned areas:
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    In places, the forest burned right to the edge of the road. A heavy smell, like that of a recently-doused campfire, hung in the air.
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    Fire trucks, like this tanker/pumper, were still parked alongside the road at intervals:
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    But most of the park was green and gorgeous:
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    ... where the dee-e-er and the antelope playyyyyy....
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    I was usually able to get around the cages and could ride the park at my own, unobstructed pace.
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    But there were places where slowing--- and stopping--- was mandatory:
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    It wasn't all four-legged wildlife, either:
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    There were a few interesting stream-cuts:
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    And some unusual road crews.
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    This guy came close; one jackass recognizing another:
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    But when the wildlife was away, the roads were fun:

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    <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/RP69w1v8OJw&rel=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></OBJECT>


    The gorgeous scenery became interspersed with warning signs about bison: They can show up anywhere, they're not tame, they can be dangerous especially when small calves are around (as was the case then), and basically: Stay Away!
    [​IMG]

    Someplace in here, Custer State Park blends seamlessly into Wind Cave National Park. The land looked perfect for bison, but where were they?
    [​IMG]

    I was a little disappointed not to see bison, but the open road and pleasant scenery made up for it.
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    But wait! I came up on a clot of stopped cars and moved forward to see what the holdup was. Hmmm. Looks like a motorcycle in the distance, in the right lane...
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    Um, no, it's not a motorcycle.
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    As it approached, all the warnings about not to get too close to the bison started running through my head. Then, I don't know why (maybe the red jacket?), the bison stopped ambling and looked right at me. Oh, oh.
    [​IMG]

    It then cut across the road right in front of me, and walked down the left side of my bike. I was close enough to smell it--- this close! Holy shit!

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    After snapping the above shot, I slid off the seat to the right, getting ready to run, but careful to make no sudden moves. My heart rate, however was soaring up into hummingbird range. Shit!

    Fortunately, the bison ambled onward. But his close pass had been deliberate and a challenge. I didn't see it at the time, but note his, um, state of arousal as he walked away:
    [​IMG]

    He was in full male display mode. I, on the other hand, was in a Python-esque "Run away! Run away!" mode.

    He calmed down, and so did I, although it was several minutes before my pulse and breathing returned to normal.
    [​IMG]

    I headed back out, amazed at the close encounter.
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    I stopped a short while later for lunch in a roadside pullout.
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    But then this small herd of bison clattered out of the woods, across the road, and towards a nearby creek for a drink. There were quite a few calves in the mix.
    [​IMG]



    <OBJECT height=355 width=425>
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    And the adults were shedding the last of their winter coats.
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    Calves, stopping for a drink:
    [​IMG]

    After lunch. my luck turned a bit for the worse: My GPS died. It simply wouldn't turn on, despite having a full charge. Grrrr. So, I put it away.
    [​IMG]

    ...and resorted to a simpler form of navigation:
    [​IMG]

    I headed out, and south:
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    Look at the top of this hill: Fire scars were everywhere!
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    And there were plenty more bison to be seen:
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    But I had no further very close encounters:
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    The land gently descended as I wound my way south:
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    Then the hills started to fade away:
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    But not without the occasional solitary bison in the distance...
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    Telephoto of the dot in the previous photo:
    [​IMG]

    Then the land started to really flatten out, and I picked up speed.
    [​IMG]

    Hellooooo, Nebraska!
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    [​IMG]

    Those hills in the distance looked more interesting than the flatlands I was riding through, so I looked for a county road that might cut across to the Agate Fossil Beds I wanted to see.
    [​IMG]

    A promising shortcut...
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    After a few ranch buildings, things got pretty open, with few signs of human activity, except for the dirt road itself.
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    I really liked the solitude.
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    It was hot as hell in the sun, but pockets of shade created little momentary oases of comfort:
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    [​IMG]

    This was the last series of small hills before I got to the Agate Fossil Beds:
    [​IMG]

    This sign was a bit misleading--- it was a winding road only by Nebraska standards, meaning it wasn't drawn on a map with a straightedge. <G>Still, there were a few gentle curves as the road climbed the small hills.
    [​IMG]

    A while later, I came to this glorious expanse, and stopped to take it in and to snap a photo or two. To this easterner, the wide-open space was wonderfully liberating; it felt like decompressing. I was way, way in the boonies, and it felt great.
    [​IMG]

    After a few minutes, I got back on the bike, turned the key, pressed the starter, and... nothing.

    Hmmmm.

    I turned off all the auxiliary electrical stuff, and tried again. Nothing. Total electrical death. No lights, no horn, no starter, nothing.

    Hmmmm!

    It was in the 90s (F), and the sun was beating down, so I stripped off my riding suit, put on a broad brimmed hat, and tried to figure out what the hell was wrong.

    The bike had been running fine up to the moment I shut it down, so I figured it was a loose connection (I'd been pounding over dirt roads for quite a while) or a blown fuse.
    [​IMG]

    Everything looked fine; all the fuses were tight and intact. All the connections seemed OK, but I loosened and then retightened them all anyway. Nothing. The bike was still electrically dead, and I was in the middle of nowhere on an empty road. Shit!

    I sat on the side of the road to drink some water and think things through.

    There was no way to bump-start a laden, 1300 pound bike, pushing alone, on a flat dirt surface. Even unladen at 900 lbs, the bike wasn't going to start without its starter motor or a pull from another vehicle. Of course, there were no other vehicles. At all.

    Total electrical death ruled out the smaller ancillary fuses and the secondary wiring.
    Total death meant a main fuse, a massive short, or a main connection problem.

    The main fuses were fine, but I replaced them anyway. Nothing.

    A massive short seemed unlikely. There'd been no smoke, no odor, and all the wiring looked fine. Besides, the fuses hadn't blown.

    The connections? I couldn't move the battery connections by wiggling them--- they seemed solid. But I loosened and re-tightened them yet again.

    Key on, starter in--- nothing.

    It was about 2:30 PM, and although there was plenty of daylight left, businesses (such as tow shops) would be closing at 5. If I was going to get help, I'd better do it soon.

    But where was I, exactly?

    I dug out my GPS and tried it again--- it fired right up. I have no clue why it hadn't worked before, but whatever the problem was, was now gone. I was able to get the name of the county road I was on, and even the latitude and longitude.

    Maybe the gods of small electronics were smiling on me. On a whim, I dug out my cell phone and mirable dictu! I had one bar of signal, even out in the freaking boonies. Yahoo! I wasn't going to have to hike to a house somewhere.

    I'd joined the Honda Rider's Club just before I left home, as insurance against this sort of event. I called their 800 number and explained the situation. The guy I spoke with was great. He took the info and said he'd call around to the closest towns to see about getting the bike trucked in for service. The nearest town, by the way, was 40 miles as the crow flies.

    An hour or so went by. I tried to enjoy the moment, instead of letting the frustration get to me. The sun was hot, but the humidity was low, so I was quite comfortable. A small breeze ruffled through the grasses and flowers, and I could watch the shadows of clouds make their way across the rangeland. I heard a hawk in the distance, and after a while saw him as he gyred his way towards me.
    [​IMG]

    I chewed some grass, and the sweet-sour chlorophyll taste evoked memories of childhood summers. I tossed stones into the fields, to see how far I could throw them. I shouted as loud as I could, just to hear the total absence of echo as the wide spaces, so unlike the tighter confines of my east-coast home, swallowed all sounds, save for the wind rustling the grasses.

    It actually was a peasant interlude.

    The Honda guy called a little after 3. There were no authorized Honda affiliates who were willing to make the trek. Ulp. But, he said, the next step would be for him to try to find *anyone* who'd come get me. Honda would still reimburse me, but I'd have to front the money. that's fine, I said, as long as they'll take a credit card. He said he'd call me back, and did about half an hour later.

    He'd found a tow guy with a flatbed who'd come out; but it'd take him until 5PM to get there, and it would cost about $225 for the lift; but again, Honda would reimburse me. Fine, sez I. What choice do I have?

    I sat down, dug out my portable XM radio, and started listening to a Red Sox game being played back in Boston.

    Around 5, the batteries on my XM radio gave out, so I lost the ball game. In the quiet, waiting for the truck, I dug out my camera and went looking for things to see.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    As the sun headed lower, the shadows threw the land into a beautiful relief:
    [​IMG]

    5:30 came and went. I called the number the Honda guy had given me for the tow service, but their shop was closed--- after all, the guy was in his truck, on his way to get me, supposedly. But he was late.

    Six o'clock came and went. The sun was getting noticeably low now; the shadows stretching way out.
    [​IMG]

    Hmmmm. If the tow wasn't coming, I needed to ponder my options soon, before nightfall.

    It was too far to push the bike anywhere useful. The road was too narrow to stay on, and was also bounded by a ditch on either side. There was no way to get the bike off the road. I supposed I could use my camp gear to sleep on the grass, which would be OK for me--- but again would leave the bike in the road. I could just imagine someone scorching along the road at night and nailing the bike at high speed....

    The Honda guy then called to see how I was doing. (Bless him.) Not great, I said: Help had not arrived and was running way late. I was also running out of good options.

    The Honda guy said to hold on, and he'd call back.

    A few minutes later, he called and said he'd tracked down the truck; the driver had gotten lost, but was "just a few minutes away." I asked him for the driver's cell phone, and he gave it to me. I went back to waiting.

    At 7:00, my Zen had worn off and I was getting pretty frustrated. I'd been stuck for 4+ hours, the tow was 2 hours late, and night was approaching fast. Slightly pissed and with nothing else to do, I went over to the bike, turned the key and.... the lights came on! I quickly pressed the starter, and it kicked right over. The bike settled into its familiar and welcome purring idle. Holy shit!

    Later, much later, I figured out what must have happened. My initial diagnosis of a loose connection had probably been correct: Something had shaken loose on one of the many miles of dirt roads I'd been riding, and the bike had been running off just the battery for a while. When I stopped the bike and went to re-start it, the battery was too discharged to turn the bike over. Tightening the connections actually had solved the root problem, though I didn't know it because the battery was still discharged.

    But letting the battery sit for 4 hours let it regenerate itself enough to turn the bike over! The bike was now running, and everything seemed normal. I just needed to get it to cruising speed for a while to throw a charge back into the battery.

    I left the bike idling with all the switchable electrical gear turned off, and started repacking all the gear I'd taken off it earlier. I was pretty honked at the tow guy, who was now past any reasonable degree of lateness.

    I figured I'd give him until 7:15, and then bug out: the driver could duke it out with Honda, but I wasn't going to sit there into darkness, especially with the bike now running.

    At 7:15, I called the tow guy's cell, and as we tried to figure out where he was in relation to me, I saw a cloud of dust down the road. Yup; it was him.

    I explained the situation, and said I no longer needed a lift to a shop; but I'd pay him for making the trip anyway. What I did need was for him to follow me out to a paved road, to make sure nothing shook loose again, and to get me on my way back on a smooth surface. We did the credit card thing, and headed for pavement. We reached pavement at sunset; he took off in one direction, and I took off in the other, now very, very late in finishing my planned run to Boulder.

    That led to a new question: Most of the day was gone, and I had a business appointment in Denver the day after next. I didn't want to stop now, because I figured I'd need to run the bike at least for several hours to recharge the totally-drained battery. If I stopped now for the night the bike might not start in the morning, and I still was in the boonies, with no Honda powersport dealers anywhere nearby to effect a repair--- and such a repair might eat the next day and make me miss the business meeting. That seemed to suggest I should keep going. But I also wasn't 100% certain of my diagnosis, and not 100% trusting of the bike. I didn't want to get stuck on the side of some godforsaken road again, but his time in the middle of the night.


    Ah, screw it: I'd push onward, and see how far I could get.

    The answer turned out to be "not very," but that's for another posting...
    #16
  17. JcbKarl

    JcbKarl Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2006
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kentucky
    I am enjoying reading this report. Thanks for posting. :1drink
    #17
  18. mikeb.

    mikeb. Adventurer

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2007
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Katy, TX
    :lurk
    #18
  19. RPD1

    RPD1 We don't

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2006
    Oddometer:
    22,575
    Location:
    East PA
    Nicely Done.

    :lurk
    #19
  20. TankerYanker

    TankerYanker Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    38
    Location:
    Alton, Ontario
    You must have spent too much time with that tow truck driver! Go ahead, leave us hanging like that! Maybe we'll all call Honda Roadside to see when you will next post! The nerve!!

    Alright, I'll wait...................
    #20