Another Rookie Went to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 72 Yamaha RD350, Jan 3, 2020.

  1. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    It's been hot and humid in Lake Wobegon this summer while the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unsettle governments, commercial businesses, and individuals. I continue my daily routine which typically includes a weekly motorcycle ride to explore nearby areas. Rides are more comfortable since Mrs.RD gave me vented summer riding boots for Father's Day. I had not found anything similar on Revzilla that I liked but this is a new model offered by HD that makes summer riding more enjoyable with the wind cooling my feet.

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    I rarely ride east of my home for recreation as the population density increases but I did so one evening a few weeks ago and spotted this round barn in the distance.

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    A couple weekends ago Mrs.RD and I drove out to an Indian dealer during a rainstorm to check out some bikes. They had this vintage Indian on display.

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    Once the thunderstorms blew through that Saturday we went out for a ninety mile loop which included a few miles on Interstate 94 to cool down (it was a bit warm when we left the house) where we stopped at the rest stop near the Mississippi River. The Father of Waters is a short walk to the left of the facilities building and is only about a quarter mile wide at this point. It was still a bit too warm to make the walk down to the water's edge... and living in Minnesota we see rivers and lakes every ten feet we walk.

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    By the end of this ride I was fed up with the stock seat on the Road King. While it was comfortable when new, over the last few thousand miles the foam had compressed and my hips were sinking further and further below my knees. I called my HD dealer on Wednesday and picked up a Hammock seat on Friday. This is a picture of the Hammock seat I demo'd earlier this year. The Hammock seat provides higher seat height (which makes my hips happy) and a softer ride which compensates for the shortcomings of the suspension.

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    The past Saturday was blistering hot & humid which kept everyone indoors but a much cooler Sunday allowed me to begin replacing the boards on my deck before going for a 140 mile ride with the new seat in the early evening.

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    It was windy while working on the deck which I didn't think much of until I was headed west on Elvis into the 25 mph prairie east wind. (Mrs.RD wasn't able to go due to a medical appointment on Thursday which left her debilitated for a few days.)

    My first destination was to the local home/kingdom of Jesus. I'm not sure he's aware of Annandale, Minnesota, but the sign is strategically placed to warn all of us wicked people from the Cities riding west not to try any of our shenanigans in their holy town. Obviously, there is not a similar sign for eastbound travelers entering from out on the prairie because those folks are righteous Republicans.

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    Having satisfied the New Testament portion of the ride my next destination was the Old Testament Eden... or Eden Valley, Minnesota. I had driven through the blip on MN55 previously but studying the map revealed some potentially interesting riding on 22 north of the blip. And interesting it was. I wore my GoPro on a chesty mount and recorded this portion with a setting sun. I am amazed how difficult it is to control all the details necessary to create good video.

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    At Richmond MN I continued north on 9 to Avon MN, my final destination before turning for home. (My next ride needs to include 50 between Richmond and Avon.) Generally speaking, most roads in western Minnesota are straight as an arrow unless they run into a river or lake. This area is the east end of the Lakes Region which ensures long sweepers and occasional tight bends. If you've never seen this much spotted blue on a map before - there's a lot more to the northwest.

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    The GoPro continued recording as I rode into Avon.
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    One could make a career out of photographing old Lutheran and Catholic churches in Minnesota. This one in Avon dates from 1869. The thought of living here in 1869 is staggering.

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    By this point it was 8 pm. The Sun sets at 9:15 pm and I was 57 miles from home. Regretfully I took the freeway entrance onto I-94 to get home before roadside deer became a danger in the falling dusk. Almost every driver who passed me going 5-10 mph over the 70 mph speed limit was talking on a cell phone.

    I'm still hopeful to get in one big ride this season but the pandemic has forced me to explore my local area and find the curvy and hilly roads in an otherwise flat and straight landscape.
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  2. Hijack

    Hijack Adventurer

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    Thoroughly enjoyed your RR. Adventure riding according to one of my riding buddies is not a specific type bike or way you ride, it is “between your ears.” I too am an Indiana native. I grew up riding dirt bikes and racing motocross and through my mid life have been doing a lot of touring. I am currently preparing to also acquire a smaller “ADV” type bike and expand where I ride. Thanks again for sharing your trip.
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  3. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @Hijack: I don’t know if adventure riding is between your ears or between your thighs, but at the very least it needs to be below one’s ego. I’ve always believed that it was more important for me to compete against myself than anyone else. Those I admire most are the ones who accomplish the most with the least. As Lee Trevino said, “You don’t know what pressure is until you are betting $10 on a putt with ten cents in your pocket.”

    Glad you enjoyed it. Whatever it is, I hope you get to do your dream or pilgrimage ride if you haven’t already and you do it how you want to do it.
  4. Vin

    Vin Hopeless Addict

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    What a great read - just some of thoughts your writing revived...
    1) When I crossed the Canadian border on my Alaska ride, the officer listened to my reply of "why are you coming to Canada?" and responded - "Do you REALLY understand just how far that is?" I gotta admit, I didn't.
    2) When my wife and I go on a car road trip, she naps or reads or surfs on her phone. When we take the bike we are physically touching all day long. We talk on the intercom, share our thoughts and enjoy the wonders of the road together. It helps her understand my love of bikes and travel. It helps me understand my love for her.
    3) There are as many religious philosophies as there are bikes - none of them perfect, but they each fill a need. It's why we don't all ride Hondas.
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  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @Vin : Glad you liked it.

    I knew academically how far it was to Alaska. But theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge are two entirely different things. I'm only a year older than when I went to Alaska last year, but for whatever reason (possibly the walking three miles a day which doesn't provide enough stretching and limberness) my body is feeling ten years older. Every time I get off the bike the thought runs through my head, "How in the hell did you ever ride all the way to Alaska and back?!" The new Hammock seat is helping a lot in that regards and I should have replaced my stock seat earlier this season.

    Absolutely. We joke about what teenagers in love are missing by not riding a motorcycle together. It really does improve your relationship in so many ways. Her health doesn't always allow her to join me, but I don't have to twist her arm to get Mrs.RD on the bike. I'm debating riding to Glacier solo (if she's not able) or possibly a ride together down to Madison County, Iowa.

    True. My good friend Ural sent the following to me this morning: "Theology, to me, appears to be the vehicle to transmit philosophy and culture from one person to the next – to neighbors and children. It isn’t perfect, but it beats 'Figure it out yourself'." He's a pretty smart guy.
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  6. PvtPts

    PvtPts Wanderer in training

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    Appreciate the RR Mr. RD350. I appreciate the tangential stories and sense we could kill a lot of time together should we ever have the chance to meet. Congratulations on your successful trip and thanks again for the excellent documentation. Well worth the time taken to read! All the best.
  7. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I'm at that age when things I used to do with ease now leave me aching for a day or two afterward. I've spent the last three weekends re-flooring my deck. It's 22 years old and the ends facing north rotted out because a certain somebody didn't seal them well enough when he re-finished it ten years ago. This time I'll put RTV on the north facing ends and hope that preserves them forever. Other than applying the RTV, the deck is done which frees up more time for riding.

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    I've been riding about 150 miles every Sunday for three hours before sundown. I head west for an hour, then turn south for 30-60 minutes, and then turn back east for the last hour using as many new routes as possible. I make a short stop at the end of the westward leg to clean the windshield and start the GoPro recording - and then let it run until the battery dies. The angle of sun and my direction of travel tend to align for decent lighting.

    Tonight's westward leg took me past our local nuclear power plant. I've heard a fellow named Homer works there. :D

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    This particular road is part of the Mississippi River Trail.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River_Trail

    I didn't stop and take many pictures. Why is it that when you see that perfect shot on a motorcycle it frequently happens to be in a location that makes turning around or pulling over difficult or unsafe. Fortunately I was able to take these two pictures that the iPhone7 doesn't quite do justice to.
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    The more I explore the area west of where I live, the more I appreciate it for its relaxing and humble beauty. The thought occurred to me at one point tonight, "... you know, if it wasn't fifteen below zero every January a helluva lot more people would live here...". There's a common saying in Minnesota: "The cold keeps the riffraff out". I suppose it's generally true but this piece of riffraff has lasted eighteen winters without great difficulty. As I said to Mrs. RD earlier today on our way to lunch, "The greenery has sucked all the desert out of you" and she admitted that it had although she still loves the mountains... in theory. (1)

    Just like the last few weeks, I rode about 150 miles and maybe saw a couple dozen cars total on the roads I was riding - all good pavement, many of them with a decent amount of curves, or hills, and some with both. Not Tail of the Dragon stuff by any stretch, but by all intents and purposes, 110 miles of roads all to myself. There's something to be said for that. (2)

    The new Hammock seat is feeling comfortable with every mile. I had one 8 minute stop in tonight's ride at a Tour of Honor memorial (sorry, no pictures) but at no point felt uncomfortable in the saddle. I'm still thinking about switching over to Reach bars to allow me to relax more fully into the seat. Even after moving the bars back a little bit, I'd like for the grips to be a bit closer to me.

    (1 - Mountains imply elevation. Elevation implies lack of oxygen. Lack of oxygen means I am carrying her travel bags through Denver International Airport and in/out of every hotel in the mountains. The difference between theory and practice is not always sublime but the impact is insufficient to override her childhood memories of growing up in the mountain West... or at least its insufficient as long as I'm there to carry her bags.)

    (2 - if you exclude the two deer eating off the side of the road, the raccoon who crossed the road about fifty yards in front of Elvis with an "Oh SH!T" look on his face when he saw Elvis headed right toward him, and two more deer having dinner at the edge of a cornfield.)
  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    With the deck project finished I was free to have a weekend for myself finally. On Friday morning a former co-worker who recently moved back to the Twin Cities from Arizona (1) texted me to ask if I wanted to go for a ride on Saturday. I had been planning to do a day trip to Southeastern Minnesota to enjoy some great riding down there and, since he lived that direction, it was apropos. I left my house at 6:45am for the 49 mile ride to his house where he met me mounted on his 2013 Road Glide Ultra ready to roll.

    RGU is a veteran of the US Army and a degreed electrical engineer. (2) He's been riding Harley's long before I first met him and has ridden almost everywhere in the lower 48. He's a pirate, but like most pirate riders he'd give you the shirt off his back if you were in need.

    Our first destination was Welch Village. I had skied there once four years ago and wanted to see the place in the summer. There's a slope there called Chicken Little that is as steep as any Blue I've skied in Colorado - but it's only 100 feet of steepness. Welch Village sits inside a deep valley. The road to it is narrow, tight, and shaded in trees - all the more reason to ride there. The ski "resort" doesn't look like much... and it isn't in the grand scheme of things but it is a local family run business. I enjoyed my half day there skiing and suspect I'll head there again someday.

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    From Welch Village I wanted to go to Vasa MN where my oldest son's high school buddy pulled off this virtuous project. His father told me about it one day this summer and was understandably proud.



    From Vasa we rode to Red Wing to catch Goodhue 58 to Zumbrota where we stopped to see the covered bridge that was getting a new roof when I saw it last Fall. Unbeknownst to me, RGU had lived in Zumbrota in the late 90's.

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    We left the covered bridge to ride east to Zumbrota Falls where I topped off my tank and we took a snack break. The weather was heavy cloud cover which kept the temperature at 73F. RGU told me about riding alongside a river in this area previously and having a bald eagle soar overhead.

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    Re-hydrated, we headed south on Goodhue 68 that turned out to be unpaved. There wasn't enough gravel to unsteady the big Hogs so we kept riding alongside the Zumbro River, waiving at people in rafts and floats headed down river. I live in a river valley and am no stranger to bald eagles but at one point there were four bald eagles circling overhead and we probably saw close to a dozen in a span of a few miles.

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    If having numerous bald eagles overhead while riding alongside a river wasn't the highlight of the day then it was the stretch of riding from Millville to Wabasha. Millville sits down in the river valley which requires climbing back out of to rejoin MN60. MN60 cuts through the high bluffs above the Mississippi river and then drops over the edge of the bluffs into the valley. It is a fantastic section to ride and we were far from the only bikes taking advantage. We were passed by Goldwings and sport bikes of various makes headed the opposite direction.

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    We randomly selected Slippery's Bar & Grill in Wabasha for lunch. I had seen the movie Grumpy Old Men but was unaware of Slippery's role in the movie. Regardless, RGU opted for a burger and chicken sandwich for myself which we ate while watching activity on the river.

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    While we were eating some other riders arrived and we spotted their bikes (an Indian Vintage, a Street Glide, and an R1200GS) adjacent to Elvis when it was time to leave.

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    The guys were civil while we were there and I witnessed no arguments over who was riding the PoS bike. But that might have been because we were all outclassed by a nearby vehicle on the prowl.

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    RGU led for the remainder of the ride until we split at Faribault. The skies had been threatening rain all day but the most my windshield ever saw was a few scattered droplets. It got a bit toasty around 1pm and I saw a bank sign flash 88F. It wasn't unbearable but it wasn't particularly comfortable either. I picked up MN21 at Faribault to head home while RGU headed north on I-35. Just like last year when I did this trip, an afternoon thunderstorm gave a thorough downpour and, just like last year, MN21 had a section closed for road construction with a lengthy detour. I arrived home with 374 miles on the day and a desire to do more riding in southeast Minnesota.



    [1 - Ten years of the relentless heat was enough for him too.]

    [2 - We worked together in 2009 creating a new product for our company that turned out to be a great success.]
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  10. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    My dream for 2020 was to ride to Glacier National Park. Mrs.RD and I did two big auto road trips - one in May/June and the other in July. The resurgence of Covid-19 created a lot of uncertainty for trying to plan anything. Earlier in the year I had scheduled vacation at work for the week headed into Labor Day. Mrs.RD didn't feel up to another big trip yet I was going through the most difficult working period of my career and needed a break. We debated options for several weeks leading up departure day but ultimately a delay in getting insurance pre-approval for a medical test made the decision for us by pushing an MRI into the vacation week. Mrs.RD told me to go. Exactly where was still in question.

    I've previously stated that I prefer to ride toward someone, living or dead. My oldest daughter lives in Williston ND which would sort of be on the way to GNP except the east entrance is closed all season by the Blackfeet Indians. And she wasn't going to be home either weekend anyway. These factors didn't take GNP entirely out of play and I left it undecided until the moment of departure. I wasn't interested in going into any Covid-19 hotspots so that effectively restricted potential destinations to ND, SD, WY, MT, and ID.

    The week prior to departure I took my 17 HD Road King in for a 5,000 mile interval oil change and picked up an HD Onyx Tour Pack Rack Bag. It seemed like the right size bag for me - not too big and not too small - and something we could use when we put a Tour Pack on the RK. It has a lot of compartments which allowed me to segregate items. You can see the bag here at HD's website and you'll see it with the rain cover on it in the pictures that follow.

    https://www.harley-davidson.com/us/en/shop/onyx-premium-luggage-tour-pak-rack-bag/p/93300123

    I packed the bag the night before leaving and even strapped the tent and sleeping bag on the bike before ultimately deciding I would rough camp at Super8 the entire way. We had some reward points from our prior trips so it wouldn't be expensive.

    My recent trend has been to depart for vacations on Friday's at 2:30pm after working the morning and starting it just like any other day. It seems to set the right tone for a trip - don't get too worked up with anticipation yet still get a half day head start.

    One of my goals for 2020 is to walk 1,000 miles - that's three miles a day for 334 days out of 365. I started walking three miles a day when I got home from my Alaska trip last year and, technically, I've already walked over 1,000 miles since then but I didn't make it a goal until January 1. I was over 700 miles into this goal on departure day and arrived at the field house shortly after 1pm to knock out three miles before getting on the bike. Walking gave me time to review things in my head to assure I hadn't forgotten anything and to make a final decision as to the destination. I was leaning toward GNP regardless.

    I will forever be grateful to @Jedi5051 who quoted Robert Penn Warren's perfect piece of prose from "All the King's Men": "For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter stating 'Flee, all is discovered.' It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear thar's gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go when you grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go."

    Covid-19 effectively dictated I would be going to The West and that was fine with me. Despite having just traversed it in May/June - residual stresses from work prevented me from really taking it in. We were in Yellowstone on that trip, four full days in, before my blood pressure had decreased to its normal 70/110. The West would do just fine.

    Arriving home from walking my youngest son posed the question, "Have you figured out where you're going?". I said, "I think I'm going north." That would be I-94 to Jamestown and a long interstate slog to Billings before heading to GNP. Of course, the one thing I didn't review while walking was the weather radar. Once on the bike and fifteen miles west of home filling up at a gas station the northwestern sky looked short of ominous but concerning nonetheless. I really wasn't interesting in putting my new Frogg Togg rain gear to the test. A quick check on the smartphone and I made the decision to head south toward I-90.

    I left with 17,782 miles on the odometer. I returned eight days later with 20,243. Most would characterize it a Harley road trip and that's fine by me. This is as Adventure as I get approaching my 56th lap around the sun. I'm not looking for trouble and it's fine by me if I don't find or create any.

    Come along on my 2020 two wheel walkabout.
  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I had hoped to make it to Mitchell SD on Friday, August 28th, but the hour I spent pounding out three miles at the gym nixed that possibility. I arrived in Sioux Falls just as the sun had set. I've driven this route in a car multiple times and riding it doesn't make anymore enjoyable.

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    I started Saturday, August 29th, with a stop at The Falls Park. Most people have a natural attraction to bodies of water and water falls - it's one of the reasons I focus so much of my pictures on water.

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    The Smithfields meat processing plant that made national headlines due to Covid-19 a few months ago is very near The Falls Park. It is the white rectangular building in the background of this picture. The plant emitted a foul stench. It had signs outside in English and Spanish stating that "Heroes Work Here". Yea, anyone who can stand being around that smell all day long is a hero in my book.

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    While at The Falls Park I noticed a grand church overlooking the downtown area. Since my dear friend is Catholic and his wife appreciates the pictures I take of Catholic churches, I decided to check this one out.

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  12. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    It's a quick 74 miles from Sioux Falls to Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. I've been there numerous times but as kitschy as it is - I still love its uniqueness. I had hoped to get a picture of Elvis in front of the Corn Palace but they were setting up for an afternoon festival and the road was blocked. South Dakota has a unique and controversial view toward the Covid-19. I'm in the habit of wearing a mask since it is mandatory in my home state of Minnesota. I note during my entire time in South Dakota that, aside from restaurant service workers, I'm most frequently the only one wearing a mask. While I love both North Dakota and South Dakota I find myself asking the question: If North Dakota is the Alabama of the north, is South Dakota the Kentucky of the north?

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  13. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Chamberlain SD has an unbeatable view of the Missouri River. The Lewis & Clark Scenic Trail signs give you pause to think of what they saw as they passed this point in the river oh so long ago.


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    For all the times I've crossed the river on I-90 I've never actually seen the town. Today is the day to remedy that oversight.

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    I don't recall the last time I was on I-90 in Chamberlain but this Sacajawea statue was erected in 2016. Maybe I've seen it before or maybe it's been that long. (I actually took this picture and the prior one on my eastbound return.)

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    While gassing up in Chamberlain I picked up an indispensable piece of kit. I love having a clean windshield.

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  14. dirtyleg

    dirtyleg Adventurer

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    Great report it was like reading a book. I’ve got a decade on you , I’ve got similar religion issues been riding since I was 10 but have never pulled the trigger on a long run so congratulations. There’s no doubt you’re a great guy, safe travels my brother oh by the way I’m a beemer guy but I totally understand Elvis.
  15. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @dirtyleg: Thanks for the compliment. At least you’re a decade in the right direction if you made it thru the Vietnam draft era unscathed.

    Notwithstanding my own issues with religion, I know there are some Christian, and other, faith communities out there that are doing really good things. It appears to be difficult for most to remain focused on their objectives without getting wrapped up in political issues. I admire those that can. I’m not sure that getting wrapped up in politics makes anyone a better person.

    There’s nothing about a long ride that makes one a better rider or a better person. I’m coming around to the idea that what draws me into multi day rides is the backpacking nature of it. Backpacking forces you to take less in order to see more. A long ride on a bike does the same. I swore myself off of putting anything on my back at age 40, but putting a small amount of stuff on a bike is ideal. It’s quick, it’s flexible, it can put miles beneath me. It goes back to that Thoreau minimalism I mentioned.

    On this last trip I was in the Black Hills topping off Elvis in Hill City (one of my favorite towns btw) and the number of 2500/3500 size pickup trucks towing 30 foot trailers, and some of those had ATV/SxS mounted on them, just amazed me. I know how long it takes to pack, setup, tear down, repack, and clean up that big of a rig. No thank you. It’s not for me. I’m ok with ten minutes spent registering at a hotel. Everybody has their thing. Personally, I’m willing to leave as much as possible at home.

    Beemers are cool. Usually see a ton of them out touring - not so much on this last ride but did see a few RT’s and K16’s. One or two F800’s. Maybe a couple more GS’ than that but nowhere near normal. HD’s dominated the roads on this trip by far.

    Thanks for reading. I hope you like the upcoming pictures.
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  16. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I know better than to go to Badlands National Park. I've been there enough to know what it is and what it isn't. The problem is - by the time I've spent two hours crossing the Plains west of Chamberlain, tack on another hour for Mitchell, and yet another hour for Sioux Falls - I just want to get off of I-90 and see something... anything different after four hours of grassland. The National Park Service knows this and that's why they put the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site on the same exit. Shortly before the exit is a scenic pull-off. The weather couldn't have been any nicer although the sun was heating things up in the Badlands.

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    A NPS ranger greeted me at the entrance and, looking me over from head to toe, said, "You must be riding a BMW." Nope. His eyes scanned the parking lot. "You aren't riding a Harley are you?" Yep. "I've never seen a person dressed like he's riding a BMW on a Harley before." Well, it happens. Not everybody wears a dew rag. He was nice as could be and we chatted about bikes for a few minutes before I could enter.

    I'm a child of The Cold War. A lot of my formative memories are built around MAD and the years before the Wall came down. If you are interested in this era of history and a bit of how these "gadgets" work, I recommend Richard Rhodes authoritative books: The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun. One of my favorite movies is Dr.Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

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    These are not the keys to your father's Oldsmobile.

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    While in the gift shop I was approached by a middle age woman a bit younger than me. She began asking me questions: Where are you from? Where are you going? Are you by yourself? How long are you going to be gone? What is it like out on a motorcycle? I answered each question and as we parted she said, "I want to be you!". We know that every day on riding trip isn't perfect but this one was shaping up to be ideal and it felt good to be envied. I departed the missile museum and headed into the Badlands.

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    As you can sort of see in this picture, Covid or not, I was hardly alone in the Badlands. Frankly there were far more people than I expected to see during a pandemic. And these were not locals as evidenced by the license plates. Perhaps everyone had decided that South Dakota was THE place to be since the governor had taken a stance against shutdown and in support of Sturgis a few weeks prior. Regardless, I was here. The road was curvy and had elevation. It was time to enjoy the scenery and the ride.

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    It was at this point while winding my way on the scenic road back to I-90 that the first setback occurred in the trip. Six weeks prior I had purchased an HD Hammock Seat for Elvis. The stock seat foam had compressed over sixteen thousand miles and my perch had become uncomfortable. The Hammock rectified the problem and we went "together like peas and carrots" until I hit a sizable bump and I felt the hammock collapse beneath me and immediately dropped over an inch in seat height. The HD Hammock seat has a known design flaw where the sling can slide out of its position. I considered a recommended preventative fix upon purchase but I thought that perhaps my svelte frame would make it unnecessary. So here I was out in BFE South Dakota on the second day of what would become an eight day ride with a slightly uncomfortable seat. It was a Saturday afternoon and too late to get to Black Hills HD for a warranty replacement. It p*ssed me off but I put my energy into getting over it and putting it out of my mind. Without the hammock in place the seat felt a bit like an HD Sundowner seat which isn't a bad seat, truthfully a little bit better than a new stock seat and I had ridden a new stock seat to Alaska. This isn't a showstopper - just an inconvenience.

    I continued into Rapid for dinner at a Perkins. I don't eat at Perkins anymore since they closed the one nearest work but I love their Triple Decker Club. There was a service glitch and the Manager offered to comp the meal but I suggested comp'ing dessert instead.

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    My destination for the night was Hot Springs. I knew that if the Black Hills were as tourist-filled as the Badlands that Hot Springs would be more sedate. Besides, the Super8 there was considerably cheaper and strategically placed as a starting point for the next day's ride through Custer State Park and the Black Hills.

    My youngest son and I had visited The Mammoth Site previously when we hiked Harney Peak, known as Black Elk Peak since 2016. [Apparently William S. Harney made the mistake of massacring Sioux women and children in his zest for dominance.] Youngest son has always had an intense interest in animals of all epochs. I swear I've taken that kid to every zoo and archaeological site west of the Mississippi and a handful to the east. If you've never been there, The Mammoth Site is definitely worth a visit. And if your overnight standards are low enough - the Super8 is literally right next door.

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  17. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I've been occupied on a shed project since I got home from this ride but I took time out from that today to wash and wax Elvis and perform the preventative failure thread for the new Hammock seat I picked up under warranty.

    You can see in these pictures that I have installed small bolts, washers, and nuts with Loctite in the seat pan to hold the hammock bar in place. The white fabric is the hammock sling. The black vertical plastic bars on the left and right molded into the seat pan are all that is holding this end of the hammock in place.

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    With the seat modification, washing, and waxing complete - Mrs. RD and I went for a pleasant ride in the country where we stopped for a break to plan an early dinner. That was when I discovered that I had left my wallet at home forcing us to cut the ride a bit short.

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  18. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Staying at Hot Springs set me up for an early morning entry into the south entrance to Custer State Park via US385 and SD87. This section to Hill City encompasses the Needles Highway and the road is, as my dad was fond of saying, "crooked as a dog's hind leg". I did run into three large herds of bison on the road and had to wait 10-15 minutes at times until it was safe to proceed. Otherwise, the riding was epic and a good example of why the Sturgis rally draws such huge crowds to ride these unique roads.

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    It was too early for lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge but I stopped at the General Store for a bottle of water. I've been here several times with my family... I think the last time was breakfast with my parents in 2012.

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    I took advantage of a roadside pull-out a mile before the Eye of the Needle to get off the bike and enjoy where I was. Quite a few bikes passed while I was taking a break. There were three BMW's I remember clearly. The first was a guy on a K1600. The second was a new RT1200... ridden aggressively... by a curvaceous woman. Funny how up until I noticed the rider was female I could have told you the color of the RT and the brand of her riding gear. Now all I can tell you is the third bike was a GS.

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    This section of riding got me into Hill City where it was confirmed there were just as many people here as the Badlands and it looked like they brought everything with them, including the kitchen sink. Hill City is my favorite town in the Black Hills but this was no place to be with traffic congested by pickup trucks towing oversize fifth wheels with ATV's and SxS's attached. I took the side drag instead of Main to exit town toward Pactola Lake so I could ride Vanocker Canyon Road.
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  19. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    A co-worker of mine rides this 2008 Road King. It's a beautiful bike that he's ridden a bit over 30,000 miles. I think the 60's automotive hood ornament on the front fender gives it a distinctive flair. He had an opportunity to go to the Black Hills this year for the first time - it happened to be during the Sturgis Rally. I've never seen a public event in my lifetime cause such a division in the American populace.

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    Like my neighbor who rode to Sturgis, Road King said they effectively spent no time in town opting instead to fix their own meals and ride 700 miles in the Black Hills in the days they had available. I asked what routes were his favorite and one was Vanocker Canyon Road - not one I had heard of before. Approaching it from the south and west, I initially missed the turn off onto Norris Peak Road but recognized my error.

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    Vanocker Canyon and Nemo Roads were virtually empty of fellow riders and I saw only a few cars and beautiful scenery the entire distance.

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    The riding was great but it was coming up on noon and I was getting hungry. It was Sunday, August 30th. Perkins in Spearfish sounded good as long as The Loud Woman wasn't in the next booth. (My wife and I were nearly driven batty by a loud old woman during our lunch there in June.) Being Sunday, it was packed but I was directed to a table away from most patrons which suited me fine. After exchanging texts with Mrs. RD I began to the study the map. You see, this was as far forward as I had thought things out... head West, ride around in the Black Hills, and then figure things out. While the riding was fantastic, there were far more people visiting the Black Hills than I anticipated. So while I could easily stay several days it is close enough to home that I'm never concerned about leaving new things unseen. It's one place I'm fairly certain I'll return to. So where to go? The map is full of possibilities. I finished lunch by 1:30pm and the fuel tank was topped off. While waiting for the bill I made a reservation at a hotel 200 miles away. That seemed reasonable at the time.

    "For West is where we all plan to go some day... it is just where you go."
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  20. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Despite being a child of the 1970's, I've never seen the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". I've just never been a science fiction guy. In fact - I'm not really big on any fiction. For all the times I've been to the West I have never been to Devil's Tower. This seems like a good time. The tower is only 82 miles from Sturgis.

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    Once off I-90 the road to the tower is wonderful riding - following the topology of the landscape with wide sweeping turns and wide open vistas. I didn't expect the riding to be this magnificent.

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    The tower dominates the landscape even from afar and became more imposing the closer I drew. I expected Devil's Tower to be a lot like Wall SD - hugely anti-climatic - but it was exactly the opposite... dare I say... a touch majestic.

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    Covid or not, the parking lot at the base of the tower was mostly full. A second lap revealed what I thought was flat open parking space. As I took a quick walk onto the trail I happened to glance at the western sky. Sunshine had been replaced by thick cloud cover, darkening in the distance - my planned direction of travel. I wasn't keen on riding in heavy rain. I figured the amount of miles I had ridden to Alaska in heavy rain put me years ahead of schedule. I cut my visit short to return to the bike and began to gear up for a wet ride west. The temperature was still mid-70's so a simple FroggToggz layer over my pants and jacket would suffice. It wasn't much but the sweat started to build until I could get rolling. This is when I discovered the spot I had pulled into wasn't exactly flat. I'm very conscious about riding an 800 lbs bike and not getting myself into a parking spot I can't get out of. This wasn't impossible but it took far more effort than I would have liked, leaving me drenched in sweat by the time I kicked the shifter into First.

    Similar to the eastern approach to the tower, the 32 mile long western departure was excellent riding - if a bit breezy. I pulled into the LDS Church parking lot to switch gloves and text my wife at Moorcroft before getting onto I-90. The wind was blowing full force - a good 40 mph steady with gusts 10-20 mph above that. The temperature had dropped a few degrees but was still above 70F. Once on I-90 the wind hit full force blowing north-to-south. Electronic signs over I-90 warned of high winds over 40 mph - no sh!t Sherlock. The Road King has a small cross section, sits low to the ground, and weighs 800 lbs dry. For all intents and purposes it is not effected in the least by crosswinds of this magnitude. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of my head. My Schuberth C3Pro handles the wind as good as any helmet but each gust tried to separate the helmet from my head - pulling my chin strap tight. The 30 miles to Gillette was some of the most stressful riding I've ever done but the temperature was comfortable... unlike the next sixty miles to Buffalo.

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    The wind gusts were fewer and weaker as I approached Gillette although the average windspeed was still a constant 40mph. The sky was blanketed with thick, heavy clouds but I had not encountered any rain so far. I considered pulling into the Super8 in Gillette and cancelling my reservation in Buffalo - but it was only another seventy miles. How difficult could that be. Turns out - pretty difficult. This stretch of I-90 has an 80mph speed limit. I had the cruise control set at 70mph for a margin of safety although there was virtually no traffic the entire distance. Semitrucks had parked it for the day rather than risk the high winds. (I recall being passed by one semitruck and two cars in that seventy miles.) Traffic wasn't the problem. Temperature, or lack thereof, was. Ten miles west of Gillette I detected a noticeable drop in temperature. I still had only a mesh riding jacket underneath a FroggToggs rain jacket. It would have been comfortable with my down liner but adding that was going to be next to near impossible in the wind without a wind barrier or structure to hide behind. I elected to brass it out. I won't lie - it was tough sledding there for awhile. It tried hard to rain a couple times but, thankfully, never succeeded. I arrived in Buffalo an hour before sunset although the heavy cloud cover made it appear far later than it was. It had rained just enough to clean all the dead bugs off the bike and leave a coating of road grime in their place. The temperature was 46F.

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    Next to the Super8 in Buffalo WY is the Bozeman Trail restaurant. After shaking off the chill and changing into jeans I wandered across the parking lot for a tasty steak dinner with pie for dessert. The Bozeman Trail has a collection of heads on the wall. I spotted one that I doubted was native.

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    [Mrs.RD and I watched “Close Encounters...” as I typed this entry. She had never seen it either. It’s odd to watch such a movie from a modern perspective. The world has changed so much since the film was released in 1977. Film making has changed even more - taking maximum advantage of technological advances. The movie is crude by current standards. Frankly, I’m not sure in some respects it wasn’t crude in 1977. Nonetheless I enjoyed the movie and I am left wishing I had seen it in 1977 when I was 13 years old. And now that she’s watched it I might have to take Mrs.RD to Devil’s Tower but I doubt that if I abandon her there she’s going to believe I was taken up in an alien spacecraft.]
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