Return of the Clunk: The CX goes looking for the middle of nowhere

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jlevers, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Thanks man -- yeah, I know it should be farther, but when I'm putting it up after dark I get lazy. I'll try to be better about it once I'm in grizzly country.
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  2. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    By the way, if there's anyone reading this who lives near Rapid City, South Dakota who wouldn't mind me shipping a tire to their house, I would greatly appreciate it... I'm going to need a new one around then, and buying them from the dealer is super expensive.
  3. ponytl

    ponytl even my new bike is old

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    glad you are doing well been a while since your trip through memphis.... check your mail :)
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  4. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    A little update, since it's been a while... I'm in the Black Hills, which are WAY exceeding expectations! Great roads, and great scenery. I was planning to work today and hike tomorrow, but since there's a hail and tornado warning for tomorrow, I might have to switch that plan up I'm heading for Casper Wyoming to get a new tire in the next few days, and I spent the last couple days in the Badlands.

    A proper update will be coming soon!
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  5. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Scott joined me for the first 70 miles of the day. It was great to have company for a little bit of the ride, so thanks for coming along! Also, the Vista Cruise he gave me was mildly life-changing...I’ve had tendinitis in my right wrist/elbow for months, and keeping my right hand on the throttle all day, every day, has not been helping. And today, I spent much of the day holding on lefty, and since the Dakotas are so flat, I even rode 30-40mi without touching the handlebars at all! Sick.

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    Being able to ride with no hands led to fun things, like taking pictures at 75mph :)

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    I rode for a while longer, and then stopped on the side of the road for lunch. I ended up staying for over an hour, eating, reading, trying to figure out the best way to get a new rear tire in Rapid City, and working out a little bit. There were a ton of gravel trucks going past, because there was road work going on, and I’m guessing the same drivers went past me three or four times. By the end, they probably thought I was going to become a permanent installation :lol3

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    As I got closer to the Missouri River, the landscape totally changed! Suddenly, I was riding through beautiful green and brown bluffs, and below each bluff there always seemed to be a herd of ridiculously picturesque cows. It was so pretty that I was able to entirely forget that I was riding on recently applied chipseal! That’s a very high bar.

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    One weird phenomenon I’ve seen everywhere in the Dakotas so far is that there are thousands and thousands of small yellow butterflies. So many, in fact, that my helmet, jacket, and pants are all caked in their remains, and I found a bunch of them stuck in my radiator guard. I looked them up, and I believe they’re called alfalfa butterflies, or colius eurytheme. I’ve somehow never named my bike, but I decided a good name would be Coli, in honor of the gazillions of butterflies she took out at 70+mph today.

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    I spent a while riding through a windfarm built on the bluffs near Mobridge, SD, and something about the sun in front of me, the never-ending bluffs, and the massive wind turbines made me feel like I was riding in a dream. It was a weird but seriously cool feeling...I kind of went into a trance for 10 or 20 minutes. So much so, that I totally forgot to take any pictures of that area. Whoops!

    I ended up finding a campsite outside Isabel, SD, in the Cheyenne River Reservation...it was right on a little pond, which was nice.

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    It was a pretty long day (for me) -- over 350mi. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner, went to start setting up my tent, and ended up getting in a discussion with an older woman named Mary who was driving an RV across the country to go visit her daughter in Minnesota. She’d just come back from a trip up to Alaska, so we talked about AK for a while, and then we both hit the hay.
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  6. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Well, that beautiful picture of the lake wasn’t quite what it looked like when I woke up. I spent a long time procrastinating on getting wet…

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    ...and finally hit the road. It seems that most towns in South Dakota are almost hilariously small. This picture shows pretty much the whole town of Isabel.

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    Of course, as soon as I got all geared up, and waterproofed all my bags, it stopped raining and became totally beautiful within, I don’t know, 10 minutes? Don’t think I’m complaining about the rain STOPPING -- the timing was just hilarious!!

    The rain actually made everything prettier…

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    I also did some more playing around with taking pictures while riding with no hands -- most of them didn’t come out, but here are my favorites.

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    After a lot of pretty damn straight roads, I got the Badlands! Woohooooo! The first national park of the trip (well, in the lower 48, anyways)!

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    And as I was super stoked to find out, the road through the Badlands had some nice twisty sections -- the first real twisties since central Minnesota. Sick. I didn’t take a lot of pictures once I hit the twisties, because, well, it’s kinda awkward re-passing people when they see you pass them, then stop to take pictures, and then pass them again. But boy did I have a goooood time.

    Sage Creek Campground is a free, first come/first served campground on the far western end of the park, so I headed over there for the night.

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    I’d heard about a nice hike through the eastern section of the park, so in the morning, I rode back almost to the entrance and hit that hike! On the way, I ran across some wildlife I’d never seen before.

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    Lemme tell ya, nothing brings home how damn big bison are until you have to ride about 3 feet away from one, because it’s in the road. Let’s mix some metaphors: if moose and bison played sports, moose would be basketball players, and bison would be linemen. They’re that big.

    The hike was nice! It was really overcast, which made the photos not come out great, but it was also on the colder side, which was awesome. Apparently even in September, it can get into the 90s in the Badlands.

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    I had a lot of people come up to me in the parking lot while I was packing up after the hike -- it seems like most people don’t think of motorcyclists as people who like to hike :lol3 some of them thought I was messing with someone else’s motorcycle!

    On the way out of the Badlands, I encountered my first ever dirt road with a 50mph speed limit! Ain’t that midwestern…

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    The next spot on the agenda was Rapid City and the Black Hills. I didn’t know much about either of them, and so I had no expectations...and WOW, the Black Hills totally blew me away. I feel like I could live in this area. It’s so beautiful, and you can be deep in the mountains, while being half an hour or less from the city. Awesome. AND, the roads are unbelievable. Like, some of the best I’ve ever seen.

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    I swear, the farther west you get, the more it seems like the free campsites are prettier than the campgrounds you pay for. Here’s the view from my tent on my first morning in the Black Hills.

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    The ride back into Rapid City to get cell service was sweet too -- and so foggy that even though it wasn’t raining, my leather jacket was soaked through!

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    I’d been planning to work today and hike tomorrow, but I checked the weather, and saw...thunderstorms, hail, and tornadoes tomorrow?? Yeah, I think I’ll hike today and miss being outside for all that!

    The ride to the trailhead was spectacular.

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    Because I hadn’t been planning on hiking, I got a really, really late start -- I started a 15mi hike at about 1pm. Not my finest moment :lol2 I had my sights set on Black Elk Peak, which is the South Dakota high point, and the tallest mountain east of the Rockies. I chose a back route with way less traffic, which I’m glad for.

    The views were awesome, the whole way up (and down).

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    Because I’d started so late, and because I ended up hanging out on the summit with a guy I met up there who was in SERIOUS need of some food (we knocked back some sausage, cheese, and peanut butter that I’d brought up -- not all together, don’t be disgusting!), I ended up seeing the sunset on the hike down.

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    I got back to my bike around 7:15. Here’s how I felt when I saw the road, and then my bike…stoke went from very low, to very high! (I’m pointing at the road in the first one)

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    I was planning on camping in a site that was 40 minutes away, but after seeing how many deer there were, I elected not to ride that far, and just set up on the side of a dirt road in the dark. Bangin’ day!
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  7. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

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    The Black Hills are so rich in great riding one serously could spend a couple of months there and not cover it all...glorious motorcycle roads!
    jlevers likes this.
  8. rjnutt

    rjnutt Desert tortoise

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    You’re doing it right!
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  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Been here awhile

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    I hiked it in 2015 before they changed the name. I didn’t know it was now Black Elk Peak.
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  10. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Just tried to go to Mount Rushmore -- I feel like it's probably illegal to be in South Dakota and not go to Mount Rushmore -- but the fog is so thick you can't see a hundred feet, and the people the entrance said they had no idea how long it would last, so I decided to skip it. $10 to park, wait around, and hope the fog clears? I'd rather ride!
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  11. Drybones

    Drybones Fish bones are on my truck seat cover, too

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    My last visit
    20190911_080447.jpg
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  12. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Okay, that's officially the coolest way possible to visit anywhere...Damn. Sick.
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  13. bk brkr baker

    bk brkr baker Long timer

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    Not sure of your direction after you get your tire , but , the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is worth a look.
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    And these roads south of Medora are sweet.

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  14. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Thanks for the suggestion -- I'm actually already in Wyoming, but I'm sure I'll be back through the Dakotas at some point, and I'll check that out. Looks sweet.

    Also, I've been in Wyoming for like an hour or two and it's already one of the coolest places I've been. Check out the views from the gas station! 1568231686025.jpg
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  15. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I think I may have to drastically alter my route. I'm a little bummed, but it's getting too cold to get through Montana and Idaho comfortably, since it's apparently starting to snow in the mountains, which is the reason I wanted to go to those places. I really wanted to to check that part of the country out, but I think I'm going to have to wait until another time. I haven't totally decided yet, but I think it's pretty likely that I'll turn south...lots of people told me that I might have this problem, and I knew they could be right, but I was hoping it would be alright. Live and learn!
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  16. flei

    flei cycletherapist

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    No big deal; now you will have an excuse to return to the Northern Rockies some other time! There is plenty to see and do and ride elsewhere.
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  17. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Been here awhile

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    Montana is a great place to be on a motorcycle in late June, July, and August. The other months of the year can be tough sledding. The good news is you shouldn't have to go very far south before the temperature increases and riding becomes more comfortable. If you drop down into Utah and take 89 south for awhile you should find it curvy with some elevation and comfortable temperatures before cutting over toward Vegas on your path to LA. There are lots of NP's and NM's in Utah that would be empty of people this time of year. Be aware that going across the middle of Nevada can be iffy for fuel availability. Lower elevations of Idaho and Oregon should be warm enough if you are going toward the coast before heading for LA. Good luck!
    jlevers likes this.
  18. sledrydr

    sledrydr Been here awhile

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    Those who warned you of the cold were absolutely correct. I rode across N. Wa., Id., and Mt. a few weeks ago. Low 40's in the AM at lower elevation campgrounds. Colder as I started crossing passes each morning. I ended up with 6 layers one morning. Ad in some rain and the fun factor multiplies! Used my handwarmers extensively. The cold is taxing to say the least. Day's of riding cold will make you crave lower elevation's and heat.
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  19. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Yeah, I'm no stranger to riding when it's cold, and I've definitely done it enough to know I'd rather not if I can avoid it!
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  20. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    The day started off with a bang -- or maybe I should say a moo. It was extremely foggy, and I as I rode down the forest service road that I’d camped on, something ran in front of me as I went around a corner. I slammed on the brakes, and for a split second, I thought it was a bear...but then I realized it was just a black cow! Definitely the first time I’ve had a near miss with a cow :lol3

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    I tried to visit Mt. Rushmore, but when I saw that it was socked in by fog, I decided to keep on truckin’. I found my way through some dirt roads over to Deadwood. Those roads were a ton of fun, and I only saw a few other cars the whole time...one thing that I thought was REALLY cool was that there was a gravel biking/walking path along the road for much of the ride. I’ve never seen a bikepath quite that rural, but it would be a gorgeous place to get out for a run or a bike ride!

    Deadwood was generally pretty cool -- tons of historical buildings, and lots of motorcycle-related stuff. If it had been warmer, I would have enjoyed spending some time exploring the mountains nearby.

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    I came across this shop that restores old Indians, which I thought was pretty sweet!

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    From Deadwood, I found my way through the rest of the Black Hills on a number of increasingly tiny forest service roads. At first, they brought me up a beautiful canyon…

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    Which eventually turned into pastures. I had a couple more funny encounters with cows -- at one point, there were a couple cows blocking the road, and they wouldn’t move, so I drove up pretty close to them and revved the bike. That got them moving, but they just ran up the road with me following them for over a quarter mile! They finally got the message that to get out of my way, they should get off the road. I felt like a motorcycle-riding cowboy...where can I apply for that job?
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    At some point in the mountains, I crossed the border into Wyoming. As soon as I got out onto the asphalt, the view opened up, and Wyoming immediately became one of my favorite states. It’s beautiful, but not in the usual way that nature is beautiful. Instead, it’s raw, hard, and feels like the side of Mother Nature that you don’t want to fuck with. I love it.

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    Plus, where else is there a gas station with a view this good?

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    I actually ended up waiting out a major thunderstorm in that gas station. My radar was saying there was another big storm coming through, but I really wanted to see Devil’s Tower, so I decided to try and shoot the gap between the storms -- and luckily, never saw another drop of rain!

    Devil’s Tower was spectacular. It’s one of those things that seems like it couldn’t possibly exist. I definitely plan on coming back and climbing it someday...looks like an awesome climb.

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    After Devil’s Tower, I set my sights on Ayres Natural Bridge Park, which was quite a ways away. They close their gates at 8pm, and Google Maps told me my arrival time was 7:40, so I started ripping across the prairie. (Is it still prairie if it’s cold, with short grass?) It was desolate and gorgeous.

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    I was riding into a strong headwind, and the bike was often having trouble even maintaining 80mph. At one point, I rode beneath a storm front that made me understand why it’s called a front...it was a line of black clouds, miles long, that weren’t more than 400 feet off the ground. I’ve never been actually scared of a cloud before -- I was definitely the tallest thing around, and the clouds seemed about ready to start dropping lightening bolts on me. I took a picture once I got past them, but I sure wasn’t going to stop underneath.

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    I rode past the Black Thunder coal mine, which I later learned is the largest open pit mine in the world. There were literally thousands of train cars filled with coal, or waiting to be filled...it looked like the gates of hell. It’s incredible how much pollution must come out of that mine alone.

    As I rode past it, though, a sun shower started, and as I turned around to take a final look at the mine, I saw a massive rainbow over it. It felt strangely profound, and as someone who’s really worried about, and invested in stopping climate change, it’s a moment I’ll never forget.

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    About 40 miles later, my reverie was interrupted when I unexpectedly hit reserve, after only 115 miles. I guess riding at 80 into a headwind really kills your gas mileage...probably should have thought of that! Turns out I’d missed the only gas station in 70 miles, about 20 miles back, so I turned around, knowing that it meant I wouldn’t make it to the place I was planning to camp by 8pm, when they closed their gates. At this point, it was getting really cold, too. I rode back to Wright, which is a town that exists exclusively because of the oil/gas/coal industry, got gas, and rode back out of town to find a campsite.

    I ended up going down the gravel road to some fracking site, and started setting up my tent on a totally flat piece of ground with nothing around it...when I saw a massive thunderstorm in the distance. I’m actually pretty sure it was the storm I’d ridden under earlier. Well, it was already windy as it was, and I was a little worried about the thunderstorm, so I called my dad to get his opinion on whether or not it was actually unsafe. While we were talking, my mom got worried about it and called the only motel in Wright. The person who picked up the phone, Anita, said that I was welcome to camp behind the motel -- well, that sounds a lot better than sleeping in the open with a storm coming through! I hauled back to Wright, and walked into the lobby of the motel. Anita was super nice, and when she saw my teeth chattering, insisted on making me a huge cup of coffee. Anita, you’re the bomb, and Mom, you are too!

    In the morning, I packed up in a 45 degree drizzle. As I rode out of town, I got a lot of “you’re out of your mind” kind of looks from various people...can’t blame em!

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    Luckily, I didn’t need to go that far -- I just had to make it 100mi south to Casper to get my rear tire changed. Despite the cold, it was still a really pretty ride.

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    After the tire change, I went to an auto parts store to change my oil. They lent me a funnel and a catch pan. Unfortunately, the moment I unscrewed the drain bolt, the wind picked up and blew the oil all over the place...sorry guys!

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    As I was in mid oil change in the parking lot, a young guy pulled up and started talking to me about my bike. His name was Garrett, and it turns out he’d done a similar long ride last year on a KLR. He’s 20, and works on big diesel machines that the mining industry uses. He ended up grabbing a XS650 bobber he’d built, and taking me on a ride up Casper Mountain.

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    We hung out and talked for quite a while, and then he mentioned that his family has a little cabin they’d built up on the mountain, and asked me if I wanted to go up there for the night. Well hell yeah I did! It was a really cool place, with an unbelievable view of Casper. It’s about 3000 feet above the plain. We drove up there in his grandfather’s ‘80s F250, which somehow felt perfect.

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    Garrett, you’re the man. I love meeting random people on trips like this...in fact, I think it’s the best part.

    The next day, once we got down from the mountain, I said adios to Garrett, and spent the rest of the day at a Starbucks, working. When the sun started getting low, I made my way to Ayres Natural Bridge Park, where I’d been planning to stay the night I ended up behind the motel.

    I’ve decided because of the weather to head down into Colorado...I guess I’ll have to come back to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho another time. I’m a little bummed, but I’ll definitely be back.