So, I'm back from my 9 day 3,400 mile ride that took me to the 2009 North American V-Strom Gathering in Rapid City, SD. I had a travel plan and mapped everything out to the minute months before I left. I was travelling from San Antonio, TX to Rapid City, SD via Wichita, KS and returning via Denver, CO. Great plan, lots to see, places I had never been before. Day 1, 22 Jun 09, 0530hrs. I pulled out of the garage fresh and ready full of excitement. I read my plan once more and set the GPS. Heading out of town on IH-35 North would be a breeze at this sime of the morning and I would be out of the state (and some of the heat, it was going to be 102F that day) by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. As I reached IH-10 for some reason I turned off course and started heading North. What was going on? Was I still asleep? I pulled over and thought for a moment. "This trip is an adventure ride. Not a road trip." I said to myself. I opened my pannier and tossed all 30 printed pages of the the travel plans I had in. Got back on the bike and off I went. First stop was Fredericksburg, TX deep in the hill country. Great ride early in the morning. The cashier asked where I was going and I said, "I don't really know." At that moment I knew this was going to be fun. I meandered through the Hill Country heading in a general NW direction as I went. In about 280 miles I wound up in Sweetwater, TX. The heat was rteally coming on and at this point my only thought was to get out of the state. I decided to make a b-line for Colorado. Last long stop in Texas was the Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo. This is the place you have seen on TV with the 72oz staek that you eat for free if you finish it. I had a coke and a water, took some pics and off I went. WTF SNAKES in the giftshop! I don't do snakes. Next stop New Mexico. I rode on stopping often for fuel and to cool down. Temps were over 100F now all day. MORE FREAKIN SNAKES! I gotta go! That night after crazy wind in Texline, TX I pulled in to Raton, NM at around 1930hrs. I was going to grab a bite and fuel and head on to Colorado. When I got off the bike it was 80F and breezy. After eating I realized how tired I was and not being a fan of riding at night unless I have to I decided to stay and get some rest. After all, this was day 1 of a 10 day adventure. Very friendly town to motorcyclists. Had a great meal, a few beers and headed to bed. Day 2, 3 Jun, 750 miles Waking up locked, cocked and ready to rock I headed to Colorado. I stopped in Pueblo, CO for a break and checked out the River Walk. Pretty cool. Heading up to Colorado Springs the weather was clear and about 90F but comfortable. When I got to Colorado Springs I saw a sign like a beacon in the night: "Pikes Peak" it said, and off I went. I rode to the summit took some pictures and rode down. It was snowing! Getting back down the mountain I decided it was ALOT of fun, so I rode up again. The weather was good. About half way up it turns into a dirt road with lots of hairpin turns. What a blast! WARNING: DO NOT PASS THIS UP! YOU MUST TRAVEL HERE! YOU WILL REGRET IT IF YOU DON'T. Getting back to Colorado Springs I decided to keep heading North. When I got on IH-25 it suddenly got dark. Really dark and cold. The rain came down in a flash and was blowing sideways at what felt like 100mph! I had to pull over under a bridge for a few minutes. I knew I could get rooms at the Isle of Capri Casino in Blackhawk, CO and although I had planned on riding more the rain cancelled that plan. I rode the 30 miles out of Denver to Blackhawk down HWY 6. GREAT road! Lots of great scenery and a fun road to ride. I got to Blackhawk late in the evening soaking wet and beat. Pikes Peak is alot of fun and I would do it again, but it takes alot of work on a fully loaded V-Strom. After checking in I went down to Farradays restaurant in the casino, had a few beers and an antelope steak. All the food at Farradays is great, but the antelope is in a class of it's own. Went into the casino, played some video poker drank a few more tasty beverages and off to bed I went. Day 3, 24 Jun, 1070mi Waking up I was releived to again be in a nice hotel room. Although I had planned on camping the majority of the trip this was nicer. Ate some breakfast fueled up and got out of town. I planned on travelling North on 25 in the general direction of Wyoming and seeing what happened. Probably spending the night somewhere along the way. After all the Gathering didn't start until Thursday and I was only Wednesday. Well my friends, nothing happened. The weather was clear and comfortable and the road was not as packed as I thought it would be. The towns were of no consequence Cheyenne, WY, I just cruised at a comfortable speed stopping when needed until I came to Glendo, WI. There is a great gas station, food stop right off the highway on the East side. Good sandwiches for $4-$6. The girl at the counter asked where I was heading and again I said I wasn't sure, but I was generally heading in the direction of Rapid City, SD. She said I should take 319 which runs North through Glendo State Park and ends up on HWY-18 towards Lusk, WI. Sounded great. I had already been on the slab longer than I wanted. So, off I went. Arriving in Lusk I just wasn't tired. I guess that good meal and comfortable hotel did the trick. I decided to either keep going until I didn't feel like it anymore or it got dark. Next thing I knew I was in the Black Hills National Forest. The weather was agreeable, I still wasn't tired and the views were great. I rode on until I got in the middle of Custer State Park in South Dakota. The sign says "30mph Drive Careful" and they mean it. Around one curve in the middle of the road stood a buffalo. Had I been speeding (any more than I was) I might have run into it. I snapped some photos and went on my way when he got out off the road. WARNING: DO NOT GET THIS CLOSE TO BUFFALO. I FOUND OUT FROM SOME LOCALS THAT THEY CHARGE MOTORCYCLES AND CARS ALL THE TIME DOING SERIOUS DAMAGE AND INJURY. I rode on until I reached Rapid City, SD. The hotel was packed with some sort of convention and checking my handy-dandy AAA application on my iPhone I saw the hotel right across the street accepted discounts. Great hotel with better views than the expensive place across the street. The gathering headquarters would be at the Quality Inn across the road and there were bars, restaurants, Wal-Mart and a gas station within walking distance. Great plan, I'll stay here. I was a day early with nobody checking in until 1430 the next day. I unpacked, ate and went in to Cheers. The local bar. Somewhere around midnight I went back to the room. View from the room Day 4, 25 Jun, 1,530mi I slept in late, got some breakfast and wondered around town a little. at around 1400hrs I went over to the other hotel to see if anybody had arrived. There were V-Stroms lined up all over the place. Check in began and the rest of the day was spent yakking and having a few beers. A bike showed up with the RICHARD the TRAVELLING STROM on it (www.travellingstrom.com). He had no reservations so I told him to go across the street because they had had some cancellations. We spoke a few words and off he went. That evening I ran into him at the bar and we blabbed about motorcycles and trips, blah, blah, blah. We closed that bar and went over to Cheers where I had been the night before. Next thing I knew it was 0200hrs the lights came on and we were being told to go home. Richard is the Australian looking guy and I'm the Texan! Day 5, 26 Jun, no added mileage Woke up late again and slowly got going around noon. Damn Aussies can put em down! Richard was nowhere to be found so I took off. I decided to go see all the touristy stuff and get it out of the way. Went to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse then decided to cruise through the park for a while. As I got close to Rushmore there was a storm on the horizon. I decided to keep going and see what happens. I got sprinkeled on for a few minutes but nothing bad. Kept going and spent the day sort of meandering around. My advice: dont pay to see Mt. Rushmore. You can see it fine from the highway and the parking was a mess. Crazy Horse was pretty cool though. There was a little museum and an Indian trading post. I met another Strommer on the road in Custer Park and we headed out together. We stopped in Keystone for something to eat and a rest. The Buffalo chili was great! We headed through the park and back to Rapid City. Many more bikes had arrived throughout the day. Dinner that night was good with many door prizes given out by the various sponsors.After dinner I met up with Richard at the bar again. Are you seeing a pattern here? Day 6, 27 Jun, 1,723mi The next morning I couldn't sleep in and had to be at the group picture by 0900hrs. Took the pics, had some breakfast and set off with Richard to find the geographical center of the U.S. (adding Alaska and Hawaii). It looked to be 25 miles away in the town of Belle Fourche, SD. I remembered googling this the night before and reading something about the actual marker being on private property 33 miles out of town. Sounded like an adventure. Plus we could get through Spearfish, SD, Deadwood, SD and up to Sturgis, SD. Richard and I being the only two from the previous nights group that hatched this plan to actually make it headed off around 1000hrs. It was a REALLY windy day. We drove sideways most of the trip. Wish I had a shot from the cars behind us. When we reached Belle Fourche we found the "monument" and took a few pics. Going inside we asked the attendant where the "Real" marker was. She gave us directions and asked if we were in a 4wd. We said we were on motorcycles and she gave a stare. She said they put this "fake" marker here so that the tourists could get to it. So, off we went. The directions were pretty simple and after leaning to the left for the 25 miles it took to get there in 40mph winds we arrived. The scenery was actually breathtaking. Nothing but rolling hills and dirt road either way you looked. There was a small hand painted marker on a barbed wire fence that said "Center of the Nation". Past that was a flag. So, after looking to our left and right we went through the fence and took some pics. It was very cool. Finishing up there and with a sense of accomplishment we decided to head off to Spearfish for lunch. We arrived just as a festival was ending and missed all the food. But we found a place that was open and had a bratwurst in pretzel dough. Richard left off the sauerkraut. Both our tanks and stomachs full we headed off towards Deadwood and Sturgis. The rest of the day was nice riding in and out of the mountains with varying temps from the high 80's to the low 60's in the mountain passes. We headed home for another dinner with the group and another interesting night at Cheers. From the stromtrooper forum The Blade was the organizer of this event. GOD JOB BLADE! Day 7, 28 Jun, 1,900mi Started the day early getting up and putting things together for the long ride in a homeward direction. Had breakfast with Richard and off I went. Once again destination unknown. I was heading out of Rapid City towards Sioux Falls, SD when I saw a sign, or should I say what looked like hundreds of signs, for Wall Drug. So, I pulled in. Typical tourist trap a few somewhat interesting things to see, but mainly the same junk as everywhere else. As I was pulling out of town I spotted a sign for Badlands National Park. Looking at the map I decided to do the Badlands then start heading in a Southeasterly direction. The badlands was incredible. I would say this is a must see. Vast areas are just dissapearing. Wild buffalo, deer, prairie dogs all over the place and fun roads to ride. So, leaving the park I pulled over to look at the map and decide where to next. The Blade had mentioned that HWY 2 in Nebraska was very cool so I decided to see that. Looking at the map I realized I was just North of the Wounded Knee Massacre site. I rode through the Oglala and Lakota Indian territories. WARNING: Watch out some roads suddenly end, others turn to really loose dirt. I took some of the dirt and had a little fun on the bike. Winding my way through what seemed like endless dead ends and dirt roads I came across some Native American homes, schools and even colleges. Very interesting to see from close up. Heading South towards Nebraska. Great little roads winding through the countryside I finally came to HWY 2 as recommended by The Blade in Ellsworth, NE. Rode it for quite a few miles to Broken Bow, NE. Decided to spend the night camping without doing much looking around. I found a decent campsite with water, electric, bathroom and shower. Set up camp and went out for a bite. The food at the little diner was bad and I didn't finish it. I drove in circles for a while looking for a watering hole. I finally gave up and got a six-pack at the gas station and went back to camp. Drank my drink, smoked a few cigs, killed a couple hundred mosquitos and went to bed. Passed out like a light until midnight. That was when the first train went by. I had been so happy to find a free campground with facilities I didn't ask any questions. The train tracks were 50ft behind me and the whistle blew 5 minutes before the arrival of the train. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep. Day 8, 29 Jun, 2,343mi Woke up at the crack of dawn and got out of that forsaken town. 10 miles down the road was another town that had 2 bars as you drove in. Maybe the last town was Mormon (shout out my Mormon homies, you know who you are). Looking at the map for the days route I saw Clinton, OK was due South of me. My grandmother used to live there and I wanted to see what it looked like now. Between me and Clinton was Dodge City, KS. So, Dodge City is was. I headed out almost due South for the majority of the day through Nebraska and entering Kansas. WARNING: in Nebraska there is very large farm equipment driving on the road taking up both lanes at 20mph. You come over a hill like I did a few miles over the speed limit and you are bound to find one. It seems to be getting hotter by the minute. I had to keep moving in order to not melt away. Dodge City is near. I enter the town and head to famous Boot Hill. I am almost immediately put off by the stupidity of the place. There is one small place that has a touristy alley with a few displays that you have to pay $8 to see and the rest is average stores. The Dodge City walking zone has an African food mart, Thai restaurant and a barber shop. I'm not going back there any time soon. What exciting entertainment! As I was talking to a fellow two wheeled traveller heading West I noticed a storm over his shoulder. We both looked long and hard said our goodbyes and hauled ass out of there. I made 39 miles in 19 minutes and outran the storm. I don't condone this type of idiotic riding, but there I was. WARNING: ALL of the gas stations were closed in this area. I was getting a little nervous when I finally found one at Woodward, OK. Make sure you gas up at Dodge City. The rest of the ride home was pretty boring slabbing it alot of the way. I got to Clinton, OK that evening and decided to stop for the night after hitting two birds. Well, the first one hit me square in the chest at about 75mph and the second hit the handguard at the same speed. The first might have had a chance, but the second dissintegrated on the handguard. I walked into a Shell station and the lady said "Are you allright?" "I'm fine," I said "but the bird isn't doing so well." When I looked in the mirror in the bathroom it looked like I murdered someone with my right arm. There was blood and feathers all over the place. I washed up and found a decent motel for $24, had a meal and went next door to a little pub for a relaxer. Day 9, 30 Jun, 2,941mi Woke up late at around 0945hrs. Packed the bike and off I went. The ride was uneventful from this point on except for the rain. There were thunderstorms wandering around the area and I spent the entire day running in and out of them. I went from soaked through to dry as a bone and back again. The saving grace was that it was cool compared to the previous day and overcast so the sun wasn't as blinding. There were a few times the rain got bad enough to pull over, but mostly just sprinkles. I arrived in Texas late in the afternoon and got home at around 2100hrs. It was a great trip. I met tons of really nice people and had a relaxing adventerous time.