Another Rookie Went to Alaska

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

  1. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

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    p.s. I think I met the other pretty (taller) girl behind you a few months ago. . . "somewhere along the wide Missouri..." - maybe? Maybe I mixed her up with a different one.
  2. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Yea. That’s the one! East bank. South side of I-90.
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  3. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Mrs.RD and I had the most beautiful ride up Spearfish Canyon this morning. IIRC, this is the first time I’ve ridden from south to north. And it is certainly the first time I’ve ridden it after the Aspens began to change color. It was the only thing that’s made me wish I had the GoPro with me.

    On this ride I have one job, and only one job: Keep Mrs.RD happy. That alone can be a full time job - as I’ve mentioned -she has the Princess gene. The only difference between Mrs.RD and Meg Ryan’s character in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” is Mrs.RD has never claimed to be low maintenance.



    At lunch our choices were:
    i) hop onto I-90 eastbound toward home
    ii) reserve a room near Devil’s Tower and go meet the Aliens
    Mrs.RD chose to go see the Aliens.

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  4. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

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    Mrs RD picked well
  5. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Hah! We’ll find out tomorrow. It will be a nippy morning ride (50’s) but should be pleasant in the afternoon (60’s).
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  6. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Inaugural Two-Up Touring

    Just sit right back
    And you’ll hear a tale
    A tale of a fateful trip
    That started from this tropic port
    Aboard this tiny ship
    The mate was a mighty sailing man
    The skipper brave and sure
    Five passengers set sail that day
    For a three hour tour
    A three-hour tour...

    If you are anywhere near my age, you know all the words of that song by heart. Occasionally we make choices in life that bring that song to mind as a metaphor for our adventures. Mrs.RD has been intrigued enough by our short rides and, possessing a spirit of adventure inherited from her Mormon pioneer ancestors, decided that she was ready for a multi-day touring ride. We had put off vacations this summer until after our daughter’s wedding. I had a week’s vacation. We could go anywhere by any means. We had made no plans. With the wedding complete, it was decision time.

    [Notice: This will be a text heavy and picture lite Ride Report. I have One Job: Keep Mrs.RD happy. That means no GoPro, no extraneous photographs, etc… This trip isn’t about me. This trip is about Mrs.RD. She’s never done this before. I want it to be a positive memorable experience for her.]

    By process of elimination we settled on riding Elvis west to the Black Hills. I’ll spare you the dozen or more factors and details that resulted in the decision, but chief among them was Covid considerations and the weather forecast. Similar to the infamous three hour tour - this adventure could go well… or it could turn into a minor disaster far less comedic than the tv series.

    The first challenge was getting Mrs.RD into the mindset of minimalist packing. There isn’t much space for gear on a full dress touring bike for a married couple - one of whom uses a CPAP to be a functional human being. (There goes nearly all of one saddle bag.) I typically use one saddlebag for my personal effects. (Second saddle bag.) Mrs.RD has a restrictive diet which necessitates bringing a small cooler. (Half the King Tour Pak.) No self-respecting woman goes anywhere without her purse. (Second half of the King Tour Pak.) Clothes and swimsuits were pared down to the bare essentials to fit in the half-size HD luggage bag. (Conveniently straps to the luggage rack.) That was it. No mas.

    We’ve learned from our local rides that what works for us is to ride 60 minutes and then stop for a 10-20 minute break off the bike. I have conceded that four sixty minute riding segments per day is:
    i) sufficient
    ii) likely all either of us can handle
    Simply put: We’re in close quarters on the big bike. Neither of us has much room to move around or change positions. Touring together isn’t about efficiency or getting anywhere fast. It’s simply about being together. If it takes longer - so be it. We’re sharing an experience.

    We departed with a weather forecast with mostly moderate temperatures and clear skies the entire week of our travels. Day One was slated to get near 80F in the afternoon so we departed as early as we could to minimize afternoon heat.

    Our first day’s stop would be Sioux Falls… or thereabouts. I detest this part of every ride west on I-90. Unfortunately, there is no alternative. We wouldn’t be able to make enough distance off the interstate. (Besides, we did the non-interstate route last year in the car and it sucked big time. You don’t truly know how big NoDak and SoDak are until you cross them off the interstate. Both can be interminably boring.)


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    Our first stop was Hutchinson. Elvis burns about 1.5 gallons per hour at legal non-interstate speeds (and roughly 2 gallons per hour at legal interstate speeds). Each hourly stop is an opportunity to top off the tank and minimize the effects of potential bad gas. A fellow with an F150 towing a thirty-foot travel trailer was also there. He eyed me as I screwed my cap in place. My pump rang up less than six dollars of non-ethanol premium. His pump: $67 for 18 gallons; no wonder he was eyeing me.

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    The idea for the trip was to ride two segments, stop for a sit-down lunch, and ride two more segments to close out the day. Lunch on Day One was in Pipestone at a supposedly reputable local diner that, like all restaurants in the Covid era, was short-staffed. Both service and food were poor. Nonetheless, we tipped generously in recognition of the effort.

    The remainder of Day One was uneventful aside from the wind along I-90. (Mrs.RD has never experienced 20-40 mph crosswinds on a motorcycle. She wasn't a fan.) While having lunch we made hotel reservations for the night west of Sioux Falls at an Americinn in Hartford. While I stay at the cheapest of hotels when I ride alone, this trip would be on the opposite end of the spectrum for Mrs.RD. This particular hotel turned out to be our favorite accommodation for the entire trip for no specific reason. (All of our accommodations were acceptable.) Nearly all of our hotels had a pool and jacuzzi for us to enjoy at the end of the day. (Wall SD was the exception.)

    A middle-aged woman from Texas towing a smaller travel trailer with a pickup truck decided the wind was too much for her tastes and parked her rig to stay at the same hotel. I regretfully answered her that, yes, these winds are more common than not in SoDak. She informed me that it never got this windy in her part of Texas.

    Next up: Houston, we have a problem.
  7. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Fear Realized

    Long before departing on this trip I had considered what having Mrs.RD along could mean. On every multi-day motorcycle trip from where I live there is the potential for the weather to change and for things to go sour. We even dread it as solo riders. I learned on my ride to Alaska that riding in rain is nothing compared to riding in a fifty-degree (Fahrenheit) cold rain. That truly blows. I freely admit I”m a fair-weather rider. Heated gear is on the other side of the line I will not cross: If I need heated gear to be comfortable, then I shouldn’t be riding.

    After I had checked the weather forecast for the last time and while we had been merrily motoring our way southwest to Hartford, a low-pressure system had broken free of the east side of the Rockies and had quickly moved across Montana. It was a sizable dark green blob on the radar map that had altered the forecast along our plotted course. As a motorcyclist, I have become an amateur weatherman. Rapid City would get hit overnight and we would be faced with a decision: hope it narrowed so that we could quickly ride through it or wait it out. The updated forecast placed the system hanging around central SoDak until 2 pm holding daytime temperatures to below 60F. Checkout time was 11 am. There was nothing to do but go to bed and figure it out in the morning.

    Morning broke with minor good news. The system was headed toward Chamberlain, albeit a bit slower than its march across Montana, it was running out of moisture, and it was splintering. It was going to hit Hartford at 11 am which didn’t present good options. Did I mention - we didn’t have rain gear? The last thing I did was put my rain gear on the shelf in the shed because I had not purchased rain gear for Mrs. RD. (In fairness, I had been on FroggToggs’ website shopping for hers but I don’t recall whether they were out of the particular set I was looking for or… whatever the reason… if Mrs.RD didn’t have a rain suit then I damned well knew that I better not take mine.) Our Olympia jackets do have a cheap Korean Gore-Tex knock-off… so we had that going for us… which is nice.

    The temperature was about 57F at the most. Even without the rain, it would be at the edge of our comfort zone with the gear we had. I liked the hotel so, worst case, we could sit it out, but the radar map showed the cell breaking up. It was sunny and warm on the west side of the cell… the only question was what we would endure getting there. We departed the hotel close to checkout time headed for Mitchell an hour away. We encountered nothing more than a few scattered droplets. Our gear was on the edge of its capabilities. I mentioned to Mrs.RD that there was a Cabelas in Mitchell that might carry Frogg Toggs. Being the delicate flower she is, we stopped only to discover that they did not have Frogg Toggs but they did have elk skin thermally insulated gloves and thermal underwear. By the time the receipt was printed and the aforementioned procurements were installed on Mrs.RD, it was raining for real. (This is where my good friend would say, “SFP”.) The radar map suggested we had squandered the only window of dryness.

    Mrs.RD wanted an adventure. This was going to be an adventure - two-up, in the rain, on the interstate, headed further into the Great Plains; how bad could it be. It was thirty minutes of uncertainty. We had placed our bet. Fortunately, the rain was only a pisser and we never hit true rain. The worst had passed.

    Clouds parted to reveal scattered sunshine just as we pulled into the rest area at Chamberlain ahead of a half-dozen senior citizen-filled tour buses. I asked the woman manning the Lewis & Clark information booth to recommend someplace for lunch. Al’s Oasis on the west bank of the Mighty Mo it would be. I’d been past Al’s at least a dozen times and never stopped. My loss. The place had really good food and service. One trip to the salad bar with their signature open-face beef platter as a chaser and I was fuelled for 24 hours.

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    The destination for Day Two was Wall, SD. The radar map showed another cell headed our way. We had an hour’s ride to Murdo and then another hour’s ride from Murdo to Wall. The temperature topped out somewhere around 61F when the skies were clear but eventually the clouds prevailed and we were back in the 50’s. A south wind occasionally made its presence known with gusts half as strong as the day before. Our personal Corps of Discovery was holding its own against a respectable amount of adversity.

    About twenty miles east of Wall is a scenic pull-out. I needed a short break and piloted us onto the exit. I had spoken with a Harley couple from Indiana in the parking lot at Al’s who had left in front of us. Somewhere we had leapfrogged them. (I suspect their heads got cold riding without helmets.) They pulled in shortly after us while we were talking with the occupants of a car who approached us.

    They had seen us at Al’s. It was a Subaru Outback pulling an empty motorcycle trailer. He was 66 years old and regaled us with his motorcycle life. He was not a BS’er. He’d done some serious riding on Harleys and Beemers over the previous forty-plus years and he wasn't done yet. He was on his way to pick up another steed for the stable. In the passenger seat was his 91-year-old mother. She was a real sweetheart and fireball. If it hadn’t been cold and windy I could have listened to them both all day. It was Mrs.RD’s first experience with being approached while traveling simply because of the connection of riding.

    We said a rushed goodbye as storm clouds appeared more imminent. The sky opened up for a ten-minute downpour as I carried the last bag into the hotel. Sure glad we dodged that one.

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  8. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Intimacy (No. Not that kind.)

    Day 3 dawned with the promise of a short ride (90 minutes) from Wall to Hill City under clear blue skies and the kind of sunshine you only get in the West. We topped off the tank in Box Elder and then I promptly missed the exit for ALT16 (or BYP16 depending on which map you use) even though I knew exactly where it was. I didn’t expect the sign to say “Trucks 16”. That meant we’d take just regular old 16 straight through the heart of Rapid City which I’d done back in two thousand and three or five… somewhere in the past. No big deal Rapid City is smaller than many suburbs.

    We arrived at our hotel in Hill City at 12:30 pm - long before posted check-in time but they had a clean room of our type (King, non-smoking) available and we checked in and unloaded. After being on the road for two days we were staying put for the next two. We strolled up and down Main Street, Mrs.RD poking her head into every shop and browsing those that deserved more. At 4 pm we got on the bike and headed south to the Needles Highway. I wasn’t 100% confident (more like 90-95%) in my technical riding ability with Mrs.RD on the back but this would be a good test. All was well until we arrived at the Eye of the Needle to find a backlog of traffic. A Murican had driven his F350 Super Duty with an oversize travel trailer in tow up to the tunnel. The Eye has barely enough width for the extra-wide towing mirrors on a Super Duty. I suspect traffic was backed up because the trailer was too wide and he had to turn around. It was the proverbial redneck American shitshow. This is why we can’t have anything nice.

    Obviously, the one thing that is more difficult riding two-up is extreme slow-speed maneuvers. Off-camber and steep elevation changes multiply the degree of difficulty further. Almost nothing is flat in the Black Hills. I anticipated the traffic backlog at the Eye and prepared to stop in advance which allowed me to park on a rare flat section of pavement while the shitshow progressed to its inevitable conclusion. Nonetheless, it was still a bit unnerving going through the tunnel at the idle speed of an automobile with an automatic transmission. We stopped in the pull-out on the south side of the Eye and at another location toward the end of the highway before riding back to the hotel for the night and relaxing in the jacuzzi.

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    In hindsight, these pictures reflect what I later realized on Day Five: What makes the Black Hills so enjoyable and different from other mountain ranges or geologic features is their Intimacy. The Black Hills is not a place of grand majestic features. Quite the contrary, they are exactly as named - “hills”. Modest, yet beautiful.. the Mary Ann you can approach, converse with, and readily touch. Beartooth Pass, Chief Joseph, Trail Ridge Road, Mount Evans - riding the roads over these massive landscapes gives one a sense of being inconsequential. Nature proves this by closing these roads every winter. “Try me now”, it says. Conversely, riding in the Black Hills places one in scale with his surroundings. A reasonably fit person can climb the highest peak in the morning and be sitting in a nearby diner before lunch is served. Winter is a mere inconvenience, not an overwhelming conquering event. Occasionally we need nature to knock us down a few notches and put us in our place. But more often we need nature to envelop us with its beauty close-up - so close we can’t ignore it, so close we can’t be distracted. Perhaps it's that intimacy that draws me here over and over again..
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  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Day 4 (Wednesday) dawned with more promise than the one before. We had nowhere we had to be. I had such an enjoyable ride last year on SD-87 from Hot Springs to US-16 through Custer State Park that I wanted to do it again. This section of SD-87 is not overly technical with only one pigtail and a single near 360.. It’s mostly long sweepers in an undulating plain. At the north end of this segment is Blue Bell Lodge where good food awaits. I called the restaurant before we left the hotel and made a reservation.

    We rode 32 miles down US-385 to the turn-off to SD-87 only to find an electronic sign stating the road was closed 0.6 miles ahead. I don’t know if the closure was due to road construction or the impending Buffalo Round-up scheduled to start the next day. A couple in a car mentioned there was a herd of buffalo only a quarter mile further. Mrs.RD and I have seen plenty of buffalo in our lives and, not knowing whether there was a safe area to turn around, elected to turn around in the available parking lot. We rode all the way back to the north end of SD-87 to ride it north-to-south (13 miles) before lunch. The headset got quiet as Mrs.RD fell asleep behind me. She woke up as I turned around at the road closure to head back to Blue Bell.

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    Custer State Park subcontracts operation of four lodges and restaurants. I’ve only eaten at Blue Bell. I’m sure the others are fine too but I’m a sucker for nostalgia. [As Mrs.RD and I were escorted to our table, I looked over at the empty table where I ate here with my mother and father nearly a decade ago.] Besides the nostalgia and Old West motif, I come here for the chilli. I consider it the best chilli I’ve eaten anywhere over the past two decades and this time didn’t disappoint. I ordered the Bison Stew which I think I ordered the last time I was here six years ago. Mrs.RD ordered a Steak Salad which met her satisfaction. Both the food and service were fantastic. In the bathroom is a portrait from the only John Wayne movie I saw at the theatre as a kid in 1972. I still consider it his best movie and may God damn Bruce Dern for killing John Wayne on film.

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    We returned to the hotel via Iron Mountain Road (US-16A) to SD-244. We stopped at the General Store at State Game Lodge to acquire some trinkets and rehydrate. Iron Mountain Road is more technical than the Needles Highway with numerous pigtails and single lane tunnels. Nonetheless, we were passed by several tour busses headed in the opposite direction. At one point I pulled over to allow two new Goldwings to pass me at a speed much higher than I was willing to ride. Many riders love Iron Mountain Road. I confess, I am not a big fan. I get bored with the tediousness of highly technical roads. I also tire of the vehicles crossing the double yellow line into my lane.

    SD-244 is a short route from Keystone to Hill City that wraps around Mount Rushmore. Having seen the “Four Heads” multiple times on prior visits, Mrs.RD felt no desire to stop and see them again. A passing view from the road would suffice.

    A relaxing jacuzzi and a comfortable bed are a joy after a beautiful day of riding. Mrs.RD hit the bed while I walked over to the nearby HD shop and railroad museum. I don't buy t-shirts, HD or otherwise, but I do like to see HD bikes on display.

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    I went to the railroad museum to take some pictures for a friend before it closed. His radiation treatments for prostate cancer have been effective but confining. He told me the most glorious words he’d ever heard in his life was “... we’re not treating your condition as terminal…”. He’s originally from Indiana too. In this museum a thousand miles away from Indiana is a model railroad with a tribute to our Hoosier roots.

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  10. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

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    "Monon" is no stranger to Greencastle.

    We have what used to be the Monon RR going through town less than a mile from my house (and a hundred yards from some property I own closer to town).

    And the "Monon Bell" football game between DePauw and Wabash College is locally famous - and gets on one of ESPNs non main channels (ESPN U usually) most years. Not that surprising since William Rasmussen and Scott Rasmussen (2 of the 3 ESPN founders, and father and son) are DePauw grads. Scott also founded "Rasmussen Reports" and the Rasmussen Daily Poll. (Well, two out of three good things aren't bad, right?)
    :)

    Nice PICs!
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  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @jdfog2: You just taught me multiple things I didn't know. I've had a reproduction Monon coffee cup for three decades.
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  12. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Kevin Costner and Aliens

    We rose on Day 5 (Thursday) with no firm plan. Hill City is good for a couple of days but it was time to move on. Our first idea was to go see Tatanka: The Story of the Bison. The obvious next move was to ride north to Spearfish Canyon. We’d figure the rest out later. It’s not procrastination if the decision doesn’t have to be made.

    Pactola Lake was a convenient stop to remove the thermal liners from our jackets. It was warming up quickly. The visitors center was closed for unexplained reasons. Had it been open we might have learned that the reservoir was formed in 1956 when a dam was completed. The lake is 1,200 acres and has a maximum depth of 200 feet. It nominally holds 74,000 acre-feet of water - the only significant water supply for Rapid City.

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    Tatanka: The story of the Bison is at the top of the big hill north of Deadwood. Supposedly Kevin Costner funded this museum/art center. Unfortunately, they don’t have a motorcycle-friendly parking lot with nearly all the spots being severely off-camber. The parking lot also does not loop around to the entrance - but it does have a loop for turning around… that is gravel. Oh, that was fun. I might have muttered some obscenities about Kevin Costner at that point.

    Mrs.RD wasn’t interested in seeing the shops, saloons, and brothels of Deadwood. We had passed a motorcycle museum on the way into town but we rode the brick roadway down Main Street out of town and missed the turn that would have taken us past the motorcycle museum. We stopped for a break at a gas station in the canyon between Deadwood and Lead.

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    It’s difficult to pick only one favorite place in the Black Hills, but without question, Spearfish Canyon is either at the top of the list or near to it. Most people would recognize Spearfish Canyon as the film location of the winter camp scene from the movie, “Dances with Wolves”. This was the first time we’d been through Spearfish Canyon in the Fall. The aspen leaves had begun to turn bright yellow and gold, contrasting with the forest green color of the Ponderosa Pine. I regretted not having my GoPro. And you’ll have to forgive me for not stopping to take a picture or two - the places with the perfect shot didn’t have a safe pull-out and the safe pull-outs offered questionable focal points and framing. We just rode at a steady 40 mph with no traffic in our lane soaking in one of the most spectacular landscapes I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Mrs.RD was immersed in the experience with me. Being from Utah, she has a deep affection for aspens in Fall. The only way we could have been happier is if it had been 170 miles long instead of 17. It was in the canyon that I had my epiphany about the intimacy of the Black Hills.

    In the Perkins at Spearfish (decent food and excellent service), I posed the question to Mrs.RD: Head home or go see the aliens forty-five minutes away. Frankly, I was shocked she picked the aliens. I rang up the nicest hotel in Hulet just to make sure the online “no vacancy” status was accurate - it wasn’t. The kind receptionist took my reservation and we had a very nice room waiting for us at the end of the day.

    We topped off at Sundance, Wyoming, before riding up US-14 to Devil’s Tower. Part of the excitement of going to Devil’s Tower is riding the roller coaster road there - my favorite kind of motorcycle road. (I need to record it with my GoPro.) Mrs.RD had no interest in going to the tower or hiking around it. I steered us into the parking lot of the big souvenir store outside the gated entrance. I picked up some stickers for the inside of the tour pak but put down the cute stuffed bison with the “Made in China” tag. An ADV rider from Franklin TN pulled up on Tiger Explorer 1200. We had a short chat about having common roots in Muhlenberg County KY.

    The hotel was closer than I recalled. It lived up to and possibly even exceeded its inflated price.

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  13. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Frozen: Not Just a Movie

    Day 6 (Friday) began with promise. We departed Hulett at 9 am when the temperature reached 55F. With clear blue skies, a bright sun, and a high of 66F, the day appeared to be shaping up to be ideal. We decided at the hotel to make a reservation for the Baymont Inn next to Al’s Oasis in Oacama. Mrs.RD had wanted steak at some point on this trip and we counted on Al’s to deliver. The distance was 295 miles with a projected time of 4 hours and 15 minutes.

    The ride back to Sundance was perfect. I noticed a picturesque view of Devil’s Tower too late to slow down and capture it. If I had been riding solo, I would have turned around but it was out of the question with Mrs.RD aboard. The roller-coaster road of the day before was just as good in the reverse direction with even less outbound traffic. Our first stop was a quick top off the tank and a rest stop at Sundance forty minutes into the ride. The temperature had risen to 63F and all was right with the world.

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    Black Hills HD in Rapid City was a convenient 60 minutes in front of us where we could get off the bike and stretch our legs. We rejoined I-90 where the Wyoming landscape laid before us from horizon to horizon.

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    The state line passed beneath us but the landscape did not change. We did, however, gain elevation and just as I-90 began its curve to the south we saw the end of sunshine and clouds for as far as the eye could see. Once under the clouds, the temperature dropped. It was no longer in the mid-’60s. A chill was already in the air by the time I put the kickstand down at Black Hills HD.

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    We made a point of closing our vents and putting on our warmest gloves when we re-mounted the bike. Wall was almost sixty minutes ahead where we would top off the tank. It was cooler still when we arrived at the Conoco station - around 58F but we were comfortable and holding our own. A local approached to tell me that I was there at the right time. He said with an air of disdain that during Sturgis the lines to the pumps stretched out onto the road. I’m sure it did and I can only imagine, between the sheer number of RVs and bikes, the inconvenience it must have been for the locals (not that 2021 was different than any prior year). [The question I have is: “What is the Sturgis Rally going to look like in the year 2040?”. With the boomers aging out of riding - I question whether there will even be a Sturgis Rally in 2040. I suspect military veterans will keep the MoCo and the rally going even if attendance is far reduced.]

    Since we were planning to have steak for dinner, we chose not to have lunch. This was a crucial factor in what happened in our next two segments. Murdo was seventy-five minutes in our future but the temperature continued to drop. There was no threat of rain even though the cloud cover was heavy. Without food to metabolize we began to chill and suffer from the cold. After only thirty minutes we were ready for a stop but road construction had eastbound traffic in a normally westbound lane and most exits were closed. I considered stopping at Belvedere once we were past the road construction but estimated, incorrectly it would turn out, that Murdo was not far off. Wrong. It was 21 miles ahead and, in our condition, it was a very long 21 miles even at the 80 mph speed limit.

    In my view, motorcycle touring is very similar to backpacking (something I have personal experience doing): No matter how well you plan and pack, at some point, you are going to be miserable. It’s unavoidable. In both cases, you have made a decision to go without shelter. That gamble only pays off for so long before you lose at the roulette table. I don’t mind placing that bet myself, but I hate the impact of my decision on Mrs.RD. True, she signed up for adventure on this trip. This might be just a bit much for both of us. [I’d suffered worse on my trip to Alaska but I was younger then. :D]

    We only had sixty minutes to Oacama. It’s amazing what you can do when you know the circumstances are finite. It helped that we could see the clouds breaking up in front of us and a little bit of sunshine making it through. Along the way we debated whether to have dinner first or soak in the jacuzzi. It was 55F when we arrived and dinner won out. It was far from the best steak I've ever had but I'm not sure I've ever looked forward to one as much... and it wasn't bad - far from it.

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    We came out of Al's to see this bike on a trailer in the parking lot. I'm not much into sport bikes but I like the style and decal scheme of this one.

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    Besides the steak, Al's had something else I'd been looking for. Many of the gift shops in the Black Hills have bison stuffed animals. All the ones I found were made in China. Not that I am super patriotic or a trade isolationist, but I avoid buying things made in China because they disappoint me on a near-constant basis. This bison stuffed animal was made in Indonesia. I don't have a name for him nor have I figured out how to mount him on Elvis. [I think he's going on the headlight nacelle behind the windscreen.] He's a new mascot for my travels. Bear will still be going along when Mrs.RD isn't riding pillion.

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  14. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Day 7 (Saturday) - The Home Stretch

    There is that point in every vacation where, once you turn toward home, it’s difficult to remain committed to being on vacation and maintain a steady pace. [Perhaps it’s just us Americans. For some reason, we struggle with vacation time more than other cultures.] Why was it acceptable on the way to our vacation destination to pay for a hotel stay less than two hours away but it wasn’t acceptable on the return to pay for a hotel two hours from home. Are we just cheap, stubborn, or do we just want to sleep in our own bed again? [It’s rarely the foreign bed that ruins my sleep, it’s the pillows - especially those ones that are overly stuffy… I’m talking about you, Super8.] We had escalated the quality of the hotels on our travel days and they made a noticeable improvement in our trip. But here we find ourselves, positioned for one more riding day that would be 50% longer than what we’ve been doing. The distance and saddle time is insignificant to a solo rider or accomplished Iron Butt Team. We’re neither. To make matters worse - we need to cross my least favorite region of Minnesota. To address the latter issue, we’ll route up MN-60 to connect with US-169 in Mankato.

    At least the weather would not be a factor. The forecast was for sunny skies with a high of 73F. The most we would encounter would be some winds along the I-90 stretch and a bit further. The key would be stopping on schedule every 60 minutes and spending a little extra time off the bike if necessary. First stop: Mitchell. Second stop: Sioux Falls. Yea, I got this I-90 thing down like a railroad conductor. The fuel stop in Sioux Falls was a Pilot Travel Center that had a Denny’s. On the surface, it sounds risky but the parking lot was full. It was short-staffed like everywhere else but the early thirty-something waitress really hustled. The food was good. A thirty percent tip seemed reasonable. On the road again.

    Next was a rest-stop on I-90 in Minnesota before exiting onto MN-60. Before settlement this nearly flat landscape was prairie. Of course, it’s virtually all agriculture now. Very little natural prairie remains despite preservation and restoration efforts.

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    The towns along MN-60 run together: Brewster, Heron Lake, Windom, Bingham Lake, Mountain Lake, Bufferfield, St.James, Madelia, Lake Crystal. [It should be no surprise that a state with over 10,000 lakes has a large number of towns with “lake” in the name.] We passed most, stopped at a few to top-off and rest, and completely missed others that might or might not have been there. Somewhere along the way we realized that we had snacked enough to make dinner superfluous. We were well within fuel range of home. The stops were purely for our aging bodies. Oh, to be young again.

    Before long we were in familiar territory. Former Soldier-Daughter lived in Mankato for a couple years. I knew the route well. The last stop was fifty minutes from home in the Lutheran church parking lot in Green Isle. Elvis has been there before.

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    We arrived home to find wildlife had taken over the backyard.

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  15. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Epilogue: Why We Ride

    I had lunch with a former co-worker on Friday. He’s a born again cyclist. [My former employer enacted mandatory health screenings some years ago. They followed that up with premium surcharges for various offenses against one’s health, including obesity. (In fairness, the insurance program is funded by the company.) He took up cycling to taprooms and breweries to lose weight and avoid the $1,000 surcharge. It worked. There isn’t one within a hundred miles that he hasn’t pedaled to.] If you aren’t aware, a good day for a cyclist is roughly 100 miles. [I learned that from talking to cyclists on my ride to Alaska.]. However, that’s not the objective when the Mrs. (a casual rider) is along for the trip.

    For simplicity, let’s call my former co-worker, Grom. Grom has pedaled some multi-day trips - some in as bad weather as anything I’ve ever ridden through on a motorcycle. I specifically asked Grom what his long rides are like when Mrs.Grom accompanies him. He carries ninety percent of the gear and targets fifty percent of his solo distance… which works out to twice the stuff and half the distance. Sounds familiar. Grom said, “I just tell myself it’s the sacrifice required for having Mrs.Grom with me on the trip”. Sounds familiar. I don’t know why people cycle long distances… and, frankly, I don’t want to know. [You’ve heard me say previously that I believe the reason adults cycle is because they didn’t cycle enough as a kid. I got my fill, thank you very much.] However, this last trip has solidified for me why I ride a motorcycle and, in particular, why I ride (what is to me) long distances. [In no way do I put myself in the Iron Butt LD category. I’m a flower sniffing rider.] [I forgot to mention that an LD rider had shown up at our hotel in Hill City. I recognized him from the MN1000 Rally. He had ridden from St.Paul to Hill City that day collecting bonuses from the canceled 2020 Butt Lite IX Rally.]

    This trip with Mrs.RD taught me that I take long rides on a motorcycle for exactly the reason Harley Davidson sells motorcycles: F-R-E-E-D-O-M. Make no mistake, it’s not true freedom. It’s the illusion of freedom. I still have a job, a mortgage, and a few bills that aren’t going to pay themselves. Our marital arrangement is that Mrs.RD takes care of paying the bills - all I have to do is go to work every day for 48 weeks per year. I’m not complaining. I have a good job, I get well paid. (Bonus points if you know the song.) It’s only since Covid when I’m beginning the last decade of my planned working years that my motivation and enthusiasm are sagging. Part of it is the work environment (or lack thereof) created by Covid and the other part is a greater appreciation that the clock is running out. This isn’t going to go on forever. [Those of you who have reached fifty know this. Those of you who haven’t are going to learn it.] The machine breaks. One day you learn that something you always took for granted is fading away. The DNA has taken over. You are no longer the engineer of the train. A long solo ride allows me to escape my daily grind and indulge in selfish gratification while the machine is still able. Freedom.

    Mrs.RD has personally experienced the machine breaking… multiple times. (If she was a horse she would have been shot a long time ago.) Sometimes those of us who have been blessed with good health are dismissive of those who are not so fortunate. Despite sharing the same home, meals, and bedroom - her life isn’t anything like mine. She physically can’t go to the gym five days a week or walk six strenuous miles at the park like I did this morning. If my body is like the Duracell Bunny with nearly endless energy, hers is the equivalent of a cheap old set of Ray-O-Vac batteries that you got with your toys on Christmas day that didn’t even last until noon. My medical records couldn’t fill a single page, meanwhile, hers is War & Peace. It’s not her fault. She didn’t pick her DNA. This is why she’s a Princess. Like The Princess & the Pea, she’s sensitive to seemingly everything. Yes, it does drive me batty… and she knows it.

    Mrs.RD chose to come on this 1,678-mile motorcycle ride because she wanted an adventure. Mentally wanting an adventure and physically enduring an adventure are two different things. She wasn’t certain she could handle it, but if she didn’t try she would never know. That’s a small amount of courage there. While riding a motorcycle puts some things out of one’s control, my job was to control everything I could. Thus, stops every sixty minutes, occasionally more frequent, and regular meal times at locations that could service her special dietary needs. In case you are wondering, no, that’s not Freedom.

    In all honesty, was it as enjoyable as a solo long-distance ride? No.

    Would I do it again? Yes.

    Love and Freedom are not necessarily compatible. One might have to give up some amount of Freedom to share an experience with the one you love. Or you might not. It all depends on your situation. [Mrs.RD doesn’t expect to go on every big trip nor does she want to... which raises the jocular concept of a fictional Wife #2 in our intercom banter. First on the list of Things Wife #2 Will Do that Wife #1 Will Not: Ride on the back of a motorcycle in sh!tty weather!]

    Courtesy of another thread, I have distilled my Riding Bucket List. I like to think of it as being modest. It will be interesting to see if I accomplish it before the machine breaks (or something else intervenes). In no particular order:
    1. Lolo Pass & Glacier National Park
    2. North Rim of the Grand Canyon and UT-12
    3. Natchez Trace
    4. Sandhills Scenic Byway
    5. The Ozarks
    6. Skyline Drive & BRP
    7. Big Bend NP
    8. Olympic Peninsula & the Cascades
    9. Icefields Parkway
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  16. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    519
    Location:
    West Central Indiana
    Mrs. Jdfog2 and I also visited the Perkins in Spearfish, several times in fact during our involuntary extended stay in the area.

    Same experience. Good food, great service, and add in good value.

    We weren't thrilled at the time but we've come to reflect on that extended stay in the Spearfish/Black Hills area as a great reminder of how many extremely nice, wonderful people there are in this world when you have to slow down and notice. Or, most of the extremely nice wonderful people live in the Black Hills. And while they are some of the nicest anyplace, I kinda doubt they're the only people that nice. (WY and MT folks were pretty awesome too.)

    We've been to many so called "premiere locations" on this big orb and the Black Hills is our favorite.

    Anyone else reading this ever finds themselves there on an extended stay and you like history, cowboys, railroads, etc.
    Make sure to visit the Museum of Western History up on a hill on the south side of town.

    Ok. I'll get out of your thread now. Great reporting Sir!
    J
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  17. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2012
    Oddometer:
    519
    Location:
    West Central Indiana
    Wife #2... wouldn't that be Elvis ?? Yes. I know the name is NOT wifey but still.
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  18. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

    Joined:
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    I've been around most of the US and to a few foreign countries. I've never been mistreated anywhere. Cultures vary, but generally speaking, most people are nice the world over. I'm not a fan of some behaviors I've witnessed from my fellow professionals in the Northeast US, which is odd because they are nice people on a personal basis, but can be total A-holes on the job.

    I haven't been there since my first visit to the Black Hills back in 2005(?). It was quaint then and enjoyable. It might have exhausted my interest in barb wire and cattle brands though.

    Good on you for being self-aware, but I don't mind. I always look forward to your commentary.
    jdfog2 likes this.
  19. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    2,006
    Location:
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    My wife would tell you at various times in the past, Wife #2 was guitars, golf, guns, my Jeep, or any number of things. But in this intercom banter, "Wife #2" is a legitimate fictional female human being. Of course, it is all in jest amid the backdrop of her tribal and familial history of polygamy in the mid-to-late 1800s. The mere mention of "polygamy" or the historical era has been verboten in orthodox Mormonism for many decades. (It was necessary to become part of mainstream America and viewed as "normal".) The truth is, most LDS women are revolted by the thought of polygamy, but they share their opinions privately and are not above defending it to outsiders. It's a very messy subject - defending your faith against something that is indefensible. Mrs.RD and I are to the point where we can joke about it... having been married long enough to admit, in some circumstances, a surrogate would be welcome. Crank the temperature down to 55F under a heavy overcast sky, throw in a little crosswind or rain, and put the destination 200 miles away - Mrs.RD is happy to cede her pillion seat to whatever woman wants it. I've joked that my retirement gig is going to be hauling widows and divorcees cross country on Elvis. [Wanted: Divorced or widowed female (45-57) who has always dreamed of riding cross country on a Harley Davidson. Various destinations available. Must pay own way. BSC restrictions apply. Call BR549.]
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  20. wobbly one

    wobbly one Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    360
    Location:
    Billings, MT
    Great stuff Mr. & Mrs. RD (and Elvis)! BR549 - classic! Good thing you added the "female" qualifier in your offer - I hear Junior enjoys motorcycle touring. Please please press on my good man.
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