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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    I arrived in Buffalo WY the night of Sunday, August 30th. I have been through Buffalo previously but never hung around to see what the town had to offer. Neither did I really have a plan at this point of where to go next. The weather forecast showed a large low pressure system moving into western Montana bringing rain and even snow at high elevations. That suggested heading north to Billings and then up to Bozeman and Kalispell would be cold and wet. Let's not do that.

    Studying the map further, west of Buffalo is the Big Horn Mountains. Forty-seven miles of US16 over the Big Horns is known as the Cloud Peak Skyway which traverses Powder River Pass at 9,666 feet of elevation. That sounds attractive but after two and half days on the bike I'm ready for an off-the-bike day and Buffalo looks like a place that can keep me entertained for a day. US16 can wait until Tuesday. I had parked the bike two spots from the front door of the hotel and put the rain cover on it when I arrived - it would be fine.

    I was two days behind in my goal to walk 1,000 miles in 2020 so Monday's goal would be to walk nine miles. The hotel is near the freeway which is a mile or so out of town. The cemetery is on the far end of town. Any respectable cemetery is good for a mile of walking. Chances are good for nine miles.

    Monday's weather was high 50's and low 60's with overcast skies which made for pleasant walking. The first interesting structure I came across was the Catholic Church - with architecture and style totally fitting its location. I may be an atheist but I appreciate the beauty a building such as this brings to a community.

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  2. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    As I continued my walk into Buffalo I was rewarded with murals and sculptures celebrating its western and natural heritage.

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  3. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Making my way towards the cemetery added a few more memorable scenes.

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  4. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    It was a great morning to be out for a walk in an unfamiliar town. Everywhere I turned there was something new but the route to the cemetery returned the surroundings to what one would find anywhere in America - neighborhoods of houses, sidewalks and stop signs in front of manicured and unkempt yards, schools, playgrounds, and the sounds of kids on recess. It's comforting to find familiarity in an unfamiliar place.

    The Willow Gove Cemetery in Buffalo WY is far bigger than one would expect to find in a city of 4,585 people and far greener in this climate with old fashion irrigation canals and a modern sprinkler system. Several community organizations have left their mark with improvements over the years and brand new restrooms were this year's project.

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    Just inside the gate was a potter's field with about a dozen graves. Instead of falling into obscurity, the people laying here had through the efforts of others over the decades acquired headstones, identities, and stories (laminated and stapled to the gatepost - I read every one). I recalled my dear friend, Ural, telling me that you can tell the values of a society by how it treats its dead. The Potter's Field gave me a positive impression of the citizens of Buffalo.

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    You can tell by the size of the trees that this cemetery has been faithfully tended for its century-plus existence.
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    The only way I can reach my goal of walking 1,000 miles in 2020 is by listening to podcasts while I walk. Occasionally I turn off the podcast du jour and switch to music for a few minutes - I need the entertainment to propel me but I also need a break from the talking heads and the insipid arguments they indulge in. Today's break was a song sent to me earlier in the morning by a high school classmate who said she thought of it every time she saw a picture of Elvis (my Road King) on my Facebook feed. The song was from a famous artist from the early seventies who wasn't a particular favorite of mine. I gave it a listen anyway and was captivated by the lyrics so much that I listened to it over and over again for awhile as it exactly matched the mood of the day and the location.

    She used to work in a diner
    Never saw a woman look finer
    I used to order just to watch float across the floor
    She grew up in a small town
    Never put her roots down
    Her daddy always kept movin'
    So she did too

    You know it aint easy
    You got to hold on
    She was an unknown legend in her time
    Now she's dressing two kids
    Lookin' for a magic kiss
    She gets the faraway look in her eyes

    Somewhere on a desert highway
    She rides a Harley Davidson
    Her long blonde hair flyin' in the wind
    She's been running half of her life
    The chrome and steel she rides
    Colliding with the very air she breathes
    The air she breathes

    I would like to introduce you to "Maria Gisler of Switzerland", undoubtedly, an unknown legend in her time.

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    Willow Grove turned out to be much larger than I anticipated. It took me at least an hour to walk the gravel paths defining the sections. There were defined areas for military veterans of the Civil Way, Spanish American War, WW1, WW2, Korea, and Vietnam where I paused for reflection. Unknown legends in their time.

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    It was a long walk back to town where I took lunch at The Busy Bee Diner from a young waitress who was doing anything but float across the floor. No matter, the food was good and I tipped her well in an attempt to change her mood.

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    The girl in the Jim Gatcher Memorial Museum giftshop recommended The Busy Bee when I asked. In the bag on the table is Craig Johnson's first book "The Cold Dish" in the "Longmire" series. I had walked eight miles by the time I arrived back at the hotel and settled onto the bed to devour his novel. I'm not much on fiction but his story was good enough to occupy my spare time for the next few days.

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  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    In between chapters of Johnson's book I reviewed the map and weather forecast for US16 west over the Cloud Peak Skyway to Cody WY as an interim destination. Mrs.RD and I had spent a day in Cody a few months ago visiting the five museums but perhaps there was more to see. The total distance to Cody was less than 200 miles - there would be plenty of time to decide my next move. Tuesday morning arrived and it was time to focus on this brilliant stretch of pavement over the Big Horn Mountains.

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    The weather was perfect, the views were breathtaking, and the riding epic until a short construction zone east of the summit imposed a minor wait. No bother. This was riding worth waiting for.

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    If I remember correctly, this is Cloud Peak.

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    From the summit in the above photo, I descended past Meadowlark Ski Area (on the left in the picture on the far side of the lake) through the canyon into Ten Sleep.
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  6. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    If I had it to do over again I would have stopped and taken more pictures after the last one above. Despite having the appearance of a wasteland, the rolling foothills west of Ten Sleep have a unique beauty all their own. The 64 miles over the mountains had taken two hours including the construction delay and stops for pictures. I was in no hurry but obviously lacked the discipline to pull over and photograph more of the landscape. I think part of my impatience was I had consumed all the fluids and snacks I had with me. It wasn't hot but one still dehydrates quickly in the dry air. Worland was my next stop to top off the tank and pick up a Gatorade and a snack to hold me over to Cody.

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    I recall nothing of interest between Worland and Cody. The landscape was one that could be found in any state in The West.

    I rolled into Cody at 1pm and opted for lunch at the Silver Dollar Bar & Grill. Cody was relatively empty of tourists compared to the Black Hills. The food at the Silver Dollar was acceptable but the service was poor in spite of the absence of diners. I took advantage of the slow service to study the weather forecast for potential destinations but ultimately chose to cut the day short and book a room at the Super8. While I could have pushed on in any of a couple directions, I needed the warmer temperatures at higher elevations that were forecasted for Wednesday. I think I've been to Cody four times but never walked the length of Main Street so that's what I chose to do after getting settled in the hotel. Like Buffalo, Cody has a lot of sculpture and art of The West.

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  7. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Much like a kid on Christmas Eve, a golfer goes to bed full of excitement and anticipation the night before playing an iconic course for the first time full. A skier does the same the night before a steep and gnarly run. Possibly, fishermen too before get on that lake they've been wanting to hit for years. Sometimes sleep can be difficult in such situations. As a motorcycle rider I have to be careful that I don't let my enthusiasm carry me away. A change in the weather can turn a dream ride into a slog. I'm not a small plane pilot but I imagine it is similar. You have to be rational enough to call an audible when the situation demands it. I had been watching the weather forecast for several days. It looked almost ideal but nothing is guaranteed at 13,000 feet. I slept soundly confident that my chances of riding Beartooth Pass were good. Beyond going up the Chief Joseph Highway and riding over Beartooth - I didn't have a plan. Maybe I'd call it a day in Red Lodge. It's hard to predict how much time the ride would be and how much time I would spend stopping for pictures, snacking, relaxing, and waiting at road construction.

    If I recall correctly, it was Wednesday morning, Wednesday, September 2nd.

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    As I've gotten older I'm more careful about getting ahead of myself. It's commonly said that there is a silver lining to every dark cloud but we rarely consider that every silver lining often contains a dark cloud. Things don't live up to the hype. Things break. People disappoint you. Our choices are not always the bed of roses we imagine them to be in the moment. But here I am. Heading up the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway on Elvis. The extent of my dark cloud is a cement truck climbing at a painfully slow pace. We've played leap frog a couple times already. In front of him is a heavily laden deuce-and-a-half utility truck. These are dark clouds I can live with and Elvis can dispense quickly. The sun is out. The sky is blue. This is epic riding at its fullest.

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    It was windy at the top of Dead Indian Pass but I didn't feel it until I got off the bike. There was a short construction zone just below the pass that bunched up traffic but it didn't take long for me to safely pass them and proceed to the bottom of the canyon at Sunlight Creek.



    There is a pull-out with a vault toilet and scenic overlook at the bridge over Sunlight Creek. A single woman just a few years older than me approached with her expensive camera in hand. She asked if it was difficult to ride in the wind. I hadn't noticed the wind at all while riding and told her so. She said she had never ridden a motorcycle but had worked many years at the Goldwing factory in Ohio. She told me of the annual ride-in by people all over the country to the factory and how exciting it was to be a part of. We shared short accounts of where we were from and where we were headed. We talked for maybe ten minutes total but it was the most enjoyable conversation I had in the eight day trip.


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    The hotel in Cody had provided me with a juice box, cookies, apple, and breakfast bar in a paper sack to take with me. I found a scenic pull-out along Lake Creek and spent nearly an hour just enjoying being there. An older couple in a pickup truck stopped while I was there, as did a couple riding an HD Ultra and one or two other HD riders. Everyone was cordial and respected the peace and serenity of the natural setting.

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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    My first time over Beartooth Pass was in minivan towing a pop-up camper . We were exiting Yellowstone in 2007 after a one week vacation. I didn't know that Charles Kuralt had called it "the most beautiful drive in America". I just saw a squiggly line on a map - and despite having my wife and three of our four children along - that was good enough for me. It had not been open for more than a week or two at that point. We have no pictures of that traverse because the high temperature that day was 36F which alleviated any concerns of either the engine or transmission overheating. Today was going to be the opposite end of the scale - Elvis and me with gear were a bit over half the weight of the pop-up camper - with a far more favorable power-to-weight ratio.

    WY296 joins US212 within a few miles of the pull-out where I had taken my break. Just beginning the climb I saw a construction zone ahead with a long line of cars stopped and elected to turn around - there had been a scenic pull-out on the left which would offer shade and an overlook to the west.


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    I rejoined the line of traffic after a few minutes and sat in the increasingly warm sun for 15-20 minutes waiting for the pilot car. I had on as few layers as I thought would be comfortable on the summit climb. The construction delay was due to major reconstruction of the eastbound lane in the first switchback section. The construction zone left one narrow lane that was largely unpaved with some significant potholes. Safely navigating through the hazards kept my attention focused and off the landscape. Fortunately, I have GoPro footage of this section and will post it in the future.

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    The traffic spread out after clearing the construction zone but I opted for a stop at the Top of the World Store for a snack break and stickers. The young woman behind the counter was pleasant and talkative.

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    Just a few miles east of the store is the alpine lakes area with small crystal blue lakes on both sides of the road.

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    US212 climbs to the summit of Beartooth Pass east of the alpine lakes. The pavement is smooth and the curves predictable and entirely in view. While the road experiences severe weather and innumerable freeze-thaw cycles, in hindsight it is remarkably good pavement which must be due to the absence of heavy loads. The fuel injection on the 107ci M8 was flawless as we climbed in altitude and there was never a lack of power from the engine. Similar to the Chief Joseph Highway I didn't experience any effects from high windspeeds until I got off the bike at the summit and was nearly blown over while trying to take this video. I resorted to wedging myself against a boulder for stability.



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    I was passed in the switchbacks by a fellow riding a Ninja of some displacement. On the descent I observed him in a pullout leaning up against his bike in a manner clearly intended to keep it from getting blown over. Overall, traffic was light and everyone was being courteous of fellow drivers and motorcycle riders by using the abundant pull-outs. I opted to stop at the scenic overlook of the valley where a couple from Nebraska on an HD Ultra engaged me in a short conversation.

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    A check of the phone showed cell service and 90F temperatures on the valley floor. I would need to shed some layers but the elevation was still too high and the temperature too cool for that. Fortunately, a wide and long scenic pull-out availed itself at the needed time and I spent a half hour there snacking, making the necessary gear adjustments, and deciding what to do for the rest of the day before proceeding to Red Lodge.

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  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Not that anything went wrong but, in retrospect, I should have ridden into Red Lodge and paid the $120 for a hotel room. Instead, I pulled into the first gas station to fill-up and immediately turned east onto MT308 leaving myself to wonder until I return what I didn't see in Red Lodge.

    A fellow a couple years older than me stepped out of a Toyota Tundra with California plates while I was filling up to ask where I was headed. I answered and his next comment was, "I don't see many guys on Harleys dressed like you". "We're all different" was all I could muster. I don't recall what else we spoke of but the conversation lasted a few minutes. It was pleasant enough although I was already beginning to feel the heat my smartphone told me expect. I rode off with mesh panels open on my riding pants and a synthetic polo shirt under my mesh riding jacket.

    MT308 is a good bit of curves as it drops out of Red Lodge and onto the valley floor.

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    A sample of what I missed is the Smith Mine Disaster marker and abandoned mine west of Bearcreek MT. I saw the mine structures but being unprepared for them I couldn't find a place to turn around. I argued with myself for miles. In looking over my left shoulder I missed the granite memorial marker and pull-off on the right. In 1943 seventy-four men died in the coal mine. The link below tells the story. This is the kind of thing you miss by not planning your ride in advance.

    https://billingsgazette.com/news/st...cle_9bacd94f-a98f-5386-a408-2c93204da392.html

    The abandoned mine buildings are in the top left of the picture below. The granite marker is in the lower right.
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    Regretfully, there are no good photographs of the site today on the internet. Be sure to stop and snap a few if you pass by. I continued riding the fantastic curvy road down into Belfry.
  10. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I took a left at Belfry onto MT72 to hook up with US310 in Bridger. I was in no rush nor hurry. I had left Red Lodge before 2pm after spending more than four hours riding the mountain passes. I was just loving riding. My objective was to ride another mountain pass - US-14, the Bighorn Scenic Byway. This tacked on another forty miles. I knew US-14A, the Medicine Wheel Passage, was closer and shorter. But I'm not an Alternative kind of guy. I'll ride 14A another day. Today I want to ride the original.

    Similar to the Worland-Basin-Cody stretch there's nothing unique in the Belfry-Bridger-Deaver-Cowley-Lovell-Greybull stretch. This is land where hardy people scratch out a living as best they can from nearly worthless land that consumes acre-feet of water to grow the cheapest of crops. I filled up where necessary, ate a lot of ice cream sandwiches, and drank a lot of Gatorade. As long as I was happy riding, I could go without real food all day.

    Somewhere out here in the middle of nowhere, and for no apparent or obvious reason, I was struck with what we’ll call an epiphany (although it wasn’t quite that as Homer Simpson defines it as “sudden realization of great knowledge”). It turned out to be a valuable and highly rewarding result of my trip that I’ll cover at the end when it pays off.

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    The only things of interest in this stretch of miles was the LDS Stake Center in Lovell (unusually large and stately by LDS standards, especially for such a rural location) and The Museum of Flight & Aerial Firefighting in Greybull (wholly unexpected). I suspect most of you will pass this and many LDS buildings completely unaware, but if you like planes then you'll want to plan for an hour or two in Greybull. I've been to Oshkosh, Pima, Wings Over the Rockies, and probably a few other airplane museums I've forgotten.

    https://www.museumofflight.us/

    Check out this link if you want to read a fellow inmate's coverage of this air museum.
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/southern-bighorns-2020.1472631/

    Today was my day to fly over the landscape on my Road King. I stopped between midway between Lovell and Greybull to show you what it's like out here.

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  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I passed the Red Gulch Dinosaur Track Site and felt a minor pain of guilt for not stopping. If my youngest son knew I'd still be hearing about it.

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

    Likewise, the Shell Falls Interpretative Site slipped by on left as I ascended Shell Creek Canyon... albeit with less guilt. Like the dinosaur tracks - it's something to see on a future trip.

    https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/bighorn/recarea/?recid=30868

    US14 climbs eastward up the mountains until it levels out on the plateau.

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  12. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Burgess Junction is where US-14A and US-14 meet on top of the mountains. A few miles east of there is Sibley Lake - one of the most picturesque mountain lakes I've ever seen.

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    From Sibley Lake the road descends into Ranchester where I would rejoin I-90. It was somewhere around 5pm when I pulled to the side to take in the view to the east toward Sheridan. I had ridden three mountain passes and uncounted miles in nine hours. I noticed I was beginning to feel tired and looked forward to a real meal at the end of the day.

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    I don't get an opportunity to ride at night when I am at home - there are just too many deer - though I enjoy the peace and solitude of universal darkness. I refilled the gas tank in Ranchester and calculated that I would arrive in Gillette just as full darkness arrived. That would do.

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    I-90 was empty for miles in both directions. There was no wind. I took these last pictures of the day.

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    It was just past 8:30 pm when I rode into Gillette bathed in full night time and wildfire smoke. Stoplights were faint glows from the opposite side of the intersections. The air had a slight acrid taste. The young waitress seated me promptly in the back of the restaurant where I could see Elvis parked outside. The food was served shortly after I completed a hotel reservation for the night across the street. I retired to bed satisfied that I had ridden a long but thoroughly fulfilling day.
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  13. Mcjoshin

    Mcjoshin Adventurer

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    I’m currently only on page 3 of what looks to be many, many pages, but just wanted to say you’ve sucked me in!!! I really enjoy your writing style and as others have said, I feel like I’m there with you. I loved reading about your early riding days, the subsequent 30 year pause, and picking up a bike again.

    I just went through the same journey back myself. I rode a street bike from 16-26 and then took a 12 year hiatus. I just recently got the itch again and picked up a KTM 790 Adventure R. I can absolutely identify with some of the feelings you had thinking about riding again and the nervousness getting back in the saddle for the first time. I’m just starting my journey on a bike again, but am totally engrossed living vicariously through your write up!
  14. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @Mcjoshin : Thank you. Be glad you are picking it back up as young as you are. Father Time isn't kind to any of us. The 790A-R is a great bike. I'm sure you'll have many joy filled miles on it. Just be careful not to get in over your head - that's easy to do in Colorado.
  15. Mcjoshin

    Mcjoshin Adventurer

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    I basically had the exact same thoughts as you, just a little earlier... “you know, if I’m ever going to get back into riding, I should really do it before I turn 40 and Father Time starts taking his toll”.

    My wife and I spent the last 3 1/2 years traveling in our RV full time and we towed our big lifted Jeep Wrangler on 37” tires with us everywhere. We decided to sell the RV this summer with prices being so insane due to covid and because we wanted to downsize as we’re moving to part time travel due to a job change. We’re now building out a camper van, but we didn’t want to lose the autonomy of having two vehicles and of having an off-road capable rig for exploring. While traveling my wife frequently will stay back at the camper to work or just hang out while I will head to the river for fly fishing. I’m a total fly fishing bum and would be on the river 5-6 days a week whenever I can.

    I decided a dirt/street capable bike on the back of the van was the best answer to our travel dilemma. Now she can stay home while I hop on the KTM and hit highway/forest service roads down to the river so I can feed my addiction (well now, my TWO addictions of fishing AND riding haha!) At some point I will be making the trek to Alaska to visit my brother and his family too.
  16. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I woke up in Gillette without a plan. I had just ridden three of the most exciting mountain roads in the West - could anything really top that? No. Might as well not even try. Besides, I should start making my way towards home. Despite having more days available to ride, the Labor Day weekend was approaching and that meant more people on the roads. The weather was clear and sunny with no wind for an eastbound run to Spearfish. I wanted to ride Spearfish Canyon and a bit of Iron Mountain Road - two routes I had skipped on my way westward. I stopped in Spearfish for a sit down lunch before topping off the fuel tank. It would be my only meal of the day.

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    Mrs. RD and I had driven the Canyon on our way back to Minnesota from Utah in June but had skipped a few photo opportunities. This was the time to snag those pictures.

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    Exiting the canyon and heading south, I pulled over for this picture of Pactola Lake.

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    The traffic in Spearfish Canyon was acceptable but as I headed south toward Keystone to Iron Mountain Road I failed to recognize that traffic was getting heavier. At one point, a line of five SxS UTV's pulled out in front of me and they couldn't hold the speed limit on uphill stretches. It was a long stretch of single lane each way with double yellow lines and nowhere safe to pass due to limited sight lines. My patience was gone and mood soured by the time they pulled off fifteen miles later. I took a deep breath and resolved to not let that twenty-plus minutes ruin my day. But truthfully, traffic just got worse the closer I got to Keystone - not stop and go, but everyone seemed to be driving5-10 mph below the speed limit for no reason. My frame of mind and emotional state were not at its best to enjoy Iron Mountain Road. I pulled into the Norbeck Overlook to mentally re-group and figure out a plan for the rest of the day. I took a poor picture of the Four Heads from this new to me vantage point.

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    My options were to continue south on Iron Mountain Road and possibly overnight in Hot Springs again. But the nature of Iron Mountain Road wasn't matching my mood. It's narrow, tight, and slow. I was riding it ok but I was in the mood for something more flowing and less technical. With that in mind I turned back the way I came to head towards Rapid City. It's only five miles out to the highway, but wouldn't you know it, I was behind a female new rider on a brand new Street Glide. She wasn't a total novice but I could tell by her timid entry into the tight corners that, while not in over her head, she was at the limits of her skills. The worst thing I could do would be to follow her closely and make her more nervous. She was trying to keep up with a couple on an Ultra Limited a short distance in front of her. There's no place to pull over in that five mile stretch so I was stuck for the duration. I accepted my fate and dropped back a hundred feet hoping she would make it out unscathed, which to my relief, she did.

    A warranty replacement Hammock seat would make my ride home more comfortable so I rode to Black Hills HD to see if they had one in stock. Although it is a flagship dealership for the MoCo, they had sold out of Hammock seats during Sturgis and had a some on order that would arrive a few days later. With the dutiful search by the Parts specialist completed and no female Accessories person to assist me with a jewelry purchase for Mrs. RD, I wandered the floor spotting an unmistakable Tri-Glide. Pink, it turned out, was the theme of the evening as I stopped before sundown to take a few pictures midway between Rapid City and Chamberlain before darkness enveloped me and all travelers on Interstate 90. Elvis looked good in the pink hue of a South Dakota sundown.

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    Bruincounselor likes this.
  17. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2017
    Oddometer:
    1,354
    Location:
    Lake Wobegon
    Traffic on interstate 90 became sparse as darkness settled. I felt reasonably safe riding on the interstate at night although there was an occasional antelope carcass on the shoulder. Similar to the previous night I'd only ride less than an hour in full darkness. The temperature was comfortable. If there was any wind at all - it was pushing me - but I didn't feel anything. It had been a long day since starting in Gillette and I was glad to pull into the hotel parking lot in Chamberlain. The desk clerk checked me in promptly and I found my room clean and orderly. Sleep came easy.

    I took a quick ride through Chamberlain in the morning looking for the Lewis and Clark Trail sign approaching eastbound thinking there would be one opposite the westbound one - but I didn't find one. That was all that I had on my agenda for the day besides getting home. Labor Day weekend traffic was building and there was no point doing anything other than getting home. The route should have been I-90 to MN23 to Willmar with the last two hours on US-12 but it didn't work out that way due to an old pickup truck pulling a fifth wheel barely able to hold 50 mph and a road closure. Like the Alaska Ride, I don't ride with a GPS or phone mounted on the handlebars. It took me 20 minutes to safely pass the fifth wheel the first time and, after a stop for gas in Marshall, I found myself behind it again on a detour. Similar to the Black Hills, I had no patience for this unnecessary delay and, at a left turn for the detour, I kept straight not knowing nor caring where I was as long as I wasn't behind that slow fifth wheel. I dead reckoned my way home from there. I'm not familiar with the area but I had dropped off my soldier daughter once at the armory in Redwood Falls for her assignment to the Fort Irwin National Training Center the year after she returned from Kuwait (2015) and recognized the armory when I passed it.

    I didn't plan to take any pictures in this segment. Many ride reports end with a last day of no pictures and focus to just get home. That was me. But there was a picture I should have taken - either westbound or eastbound - and I failed both times due to impatience and lack of discipline. It was a perfect picture both times - I just didn't stop when I should have. It was an old Lutheran Church up on a hill with an adjacent cemetery surrounded by fields of corn. There's nothing unusual about that scene in rural Minnesota but the lighting was perfect and it had something special about it. I'll have that untaken picture in my head for as long as any picture in this ride report. I arrived home in time for dinner, 2400 miles and eight days after I had departed.

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    This trip didn't end when I got home. I had that epiphany out in Wyoming... for whatever reason, while I was way out here... that needed attending to.

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    I was struck with a sudden desire to build something. I'm fairly handy around the homestead but my daily job limits my ability to take on big projects so I tend to be cautious about what I start lest they add to the stress I get at work. I had replaced the floor of my deck earlier in the summer and kept the old deck boards to re-floor my shed (the OSB was getting wavey in places). My trip ended six weeks after I got home when my shed not only got a new floor, but four shelves and a whole lot of organization. I've lived in this house for going on twenty years and the shed was here when we moved in. I can't explain why it took riding a motorcycle 2,400 miles across four major mountain passes to get the inspiration to make it what it could have been all along - but it did.

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    Sadly, the week after I got home our local HD dealer announced they were closing permanently at the end of September under pressure from the new CEO of Harley Davidson, Jochen Zeitz, to reduce its dealership footprint. Despite it being an excellent dealership with high caliber people in every department and a respectable profit margin, I had assumed that it would eventually close due to the declining rider demographic. But the German shoe salesman turned HD CEO killed it prematurely casting our local community aside because we don't live on an interstate. He uses a math by which making it inconvenient and more expensive for customers to purchase his product will result in higher profits. Notwithstanding that I never went on a dealership sanctioned ride, nor participated in their HOG chapter - it was a personal loss to me and my wife. It was somewhere we could go nearby any time of year and spend a portion of our disposable income. The people there greeted us by name and treated us well. The CEO doesn't recognize the value of either of those things. Like many in the business world with an MBA he's chasing personal wealth through "downsizing" and "cost reduction".
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    I'm not a brand loyal guy. Build a good product, stand behind it with a decent warranty, provide good service - I'll buy your product and probably some other things I may or may not need ($2-3k worth of P&A over the last 12 months). I'm not going to lie - I love my Road King I've named Elvis but the Harley Davidson corporation abandoned me as a customer. Sure, I can drive twenty-five miles in either of two directions to the next nearest dealers but why would I? I'm not a pirate. It's not my culture. It's not my social club. It's just a motorcycle... two wheels, some paint and a whole lot of chrome. Neither it nor I care whether I wear an HD leather jacket (I don't) nor whether there is Syn3 in all three holes (not anymore).

    This dealership is in a town of less than 5,000 people. It happens to be the town where the CEO of Polaris (owner of Indian motorcycle) lives. It's a quaint place... everything you'd expect of a small Minnesota town - a Catholic church, a Lutheran church, an old Main Street with an independent restaurant, etc.... Not five minutes after I took the picture of the closed HD dealer a new, pearl white Rolls Royce convertible with the top down passed me headed toward the dealership. It's the first Rolls I've seen in the county since I've lived here. I'm not absolutely certain but I'm pretty sure it was the CEO of Polaris driving over to see the fruits of his labors in the vehicle he purchased with his $10M compensation from 2019. Suck on that Jochen Zeitz.
    rkover1 likes this.