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TSDAT/DAKAL - Post-Pandemic Unfinished Business - 2020-2021

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Orangecicle, May 30, 2021.

  1. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    5,490
    Location:
    West Des Moines, IA
    As the title implies, this thread is about unfinished business. @engineman and I started this route through South Dakota this past September, but Mother Nature had other ideas. At the time, I was desperate for a ride, but a ride in six inches of snow in the hills of South Dakota didn’t sound like what I was looking for. We turned back at Midland after spending a night at the Stroppel Inn.

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    Engineman had laid out this route and made all the plans, so I was pretty much just a +1 tagging along. What I discovered in the few traveling days was that South Dakota is really right up my alley. More on that later.

    It was a route that I just knew that I had to go back and finish . . . some day. That day is here.

    September 2020:

    As to the first part of the trip, the ride over with @engineman from Iowa gave me some time to catch up with an old riding buddy I don't spend enough time with.

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    Covid has kept me from riding. No riding to work, as most of what I do can be done from home. No riding on the weekends, as that would just put me in the presence of people in one way or the other. We have a Type-1 diabetic at home, and Covid in the house would pretty much be a death sentence for her. So, we sat. I watched travel shows, and we sat. We bought an Apple TV box so that I could watch Charley and Ewan the third time 'round, or up, or down or whatever it was, and we sat.

    But then @engineman posted about his SD planning and intent to do both the Trans-South Dakota Adventure Trail and the Dakota Access Loop the first week of September 2020. We had a similar mindset about safety protocols and the virus, and the thought of going into another Iowa winter without riding was making me a bit mental. I offered to be his wingman, and before I knew it we were off - Covid be damned.

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    We started out at the home of @Sleddog in eastern South Dakota. This is Sleddog's route; he created it. We spent many hours talking about his experiences riding in the state and elsewhere. If you get the chance touch base with him.

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    @Sleddog was kind enough to offer us a place to camp for the night before heading out. I spent most of the night awake coping with a massive full moon and sounds of nature that I'd long since forgotten about. Who knew nature was that loud?

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    It was the first week of September 2020. I was the kind of happy that I hadn't been in a long time. I lay in my tent fully awake, eyes closed, contemplating whether coyotes eat people, and grinning ear to ear.
    #1
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  2. ZLTFUL

    ZLTFUL Optimistic Pessimist

    Joined:
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    Al Tuna, IA
    Coyotes will, in fact, eat people. But mostly they are opportunistic predators and them attacking people directly are typically a result of disease (rabies) or desperation. We humans don't provide an easy enough meal most of the time.
    #2
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  3. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    September 2020:

    The first day of our ride back in September started from @Sleddog's place near Monroe. Our day began with a hot cup of coffee from Sleddog and some final pointers before heading out.

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    I have two cars, two motorcycles, and a two car garage. Needless to say, I'm envious of Sleddog's man cave, which comes with its own stocked fridge.

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    We picked up the route south of Sled's house, which is near Monroe. This skipped the bit of route that runs north to the Corn Palace in Mitchell: https://cornpalace.com The route going south from here tracks the James River south to Yankton. There is also a northern route option, which we did not take. Sleddog states the southerly route is the more scenic. All I know is that the route we were on was just idilic with mostly good gravel.

    Selfie:

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    Yankton is a really interesting little mecca. An Army Corps of Engineers dam on the Missouri River has created this beautiful recreation area, which includes a sailing marina -- very unexpected to be in the middle of nowhere and run across a sailing marina. It's a place that I'll definitely have to go back to and explore.

    We crossed the dam following the southerly route and made our way into Nebraska. The gravel along this bit of route was a little tricky. I can only describe the gravel as fesh-fesh and pea-gravel, neither of which is really conducive to motorcycling, and the combination of which will quickly render futile your efforts at steering input. The only time I've ever seen gravel conditions like this is in the Loess Hills in Iowa or along riparian areas where historic floods have deposited soft silt. You generally can identify soft areas like these before you get to them because the gravel will be rutted. We hit this part of the route in the middle of the day, so there was no shadows to help us spot them. The result was that you would be riding along and all of the sudden your front would just start to wash out. I thought it was me, but then @engineman stated at the end of the first day that he was having the same problem.

    Other than the sometimes questionable gravel, I really enjoyed this bit of riding.

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    It seemed like we barely passed a single vehicle after we left Yankton. The route looped us back up to the Lewis and Clark Lake again at a point known as the Devil's Nest, which was really nice.

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    We tried to take in all the sites as pointed out by Sleddog, although I will admit that the Painted Car Hoods was, well, not worth it. It seems that most of the hoods are gone now.

    A lot of this part of the route has you riding along a ridge line of hills that runs south of the Missouri River. The riding isn't technical at all. Rather, it's a lot like the country roads I grew up on. However, these roads are sprinkled with the coolest old abandoned stuff that you run across randomly.

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    Somewhere, my brother has a picture of my Dad as a little boy on top of the upper pipe of a horse-drawn McCormick Deering thresher, just like the one seen here.

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    The further we got into the afternoon, the hotter I got. I kept thinking that it was just me being out of condition. Then I smelled gas. I thought, "Hmm, is that me or Sean?" Turns out it was Sean's bike overheating. We pulled over under a shade tree to let the bike cool.

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    It was at that point that a local drove by and mentioned something to the effect that he was taking a break from driving his tractor because it was just too hot to till in 100° F heat. :knary Yeah, it was hot. But, not too hot for a stogie, lit with a little improvisation. Safety Third!

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    We made it to Fort Randall Dam at Pickstown, SD right at sunset and got one of the last remaining camping spots, which was unfortunately right next to a family that felt the need to run their muffler-challenged generator all night long. :becca It drove me crazy, but not to Engineman. Sean spent his Navy years as a mechanic on a minesweeper, and he mentioned he would take his breaks napping under the engines. The added noise was like a lullaby to him.

    I was hot and sweaty all night, but I couldn't think of any place else I'd rather have been.


    #3
  4. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    #4
  5. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    I would say that we "woke" the next morning, but it was more like I gradually transitioned from being inside my tent fully awake listening to a generator to being outside my tent listening to a generator.

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    Breakfast consistent of oatmeal and warm Shiner Bock. It was a pretty sunrise though.

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    Fort Randall dates back to the 1860s, and remnants of one of the original buildings is still there.

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    From Ft. Randall, we continued on the route and at the point at which the route splits again between a northern and southern route option after Hamill, SD, we decided to take the northerly route. The route is uniquely rural from the Ft. Randall area over to Midland. There is just mile after mile of grassland, farms, ranches. To me, it was beautiful in its solitude.

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    I rode this route without helmet comms or music, and I'm somewhat glad I did that. Getting away from the technology caused me to just soak up the surroundings without the constant chatter. The route takes you through the old ghost town of Capa.

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    Our second day on this TSDAT part of the trip ended in Midland, SD. Midland is know for the Stroppel Inn, a somewhat famous inn with its own hot mineral baths. Sean decided we had to stay and check out the baths, which he did. I didn't. The mineral baths smelled like foot odor, so I was havin' none of it.

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    The Inn itself is kinda interesting -- somewhere between a fixer-upper and a tearer-downer. Of course, it looks like it could succumb to gravity and fall down on its own accord at any moment. It's weird, and I like it.

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    Midland is pretty interesting. It's somewhat eclectic and super quiet. About the safest thing I did all day long was stand in the middle of Main Street to take this long night exposure. Otherwise, the little town looks to be filled with folks who are just ever so slightly off, which I like!

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    We grabbed some grub at the local gas station/restaurant/gathering place, and then headed back to the Inn -- past the trailer house proudly flying a massive Trump flag, the juxtaposition of which left me puzzled. Sean tried to explain. On our return, Sean took his time in the mineral bath that smelled like old feet and I took a shower in the smallest shower I've ever been in. Sean informs me that Navy showers are smaller, but I don't know how that would be physically possible.

    We take a look at the weather, which looks ominous in Custer -- our destination the following day. I took a few sips of the bottle of Mead that Sean had been carrying with him and hit the hay. The beds at the Stroppel Inn were not so bad -- better, and larger, than the shower stall.
    #5
  6. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    The third day of our trip is where things got a little catawampus, as my Dad used to say. That's a bastardization of a Scottish word. We're not Scottish. I have no idea where he picked it up.

    The weather reports coming out of western South Dakota were calling for six inches of snow in Custer. Hmmmm The storm headed our way was massive. We contemplated options over coffee, but there really wasn't any option other than turning back. Besides, Sean had some business dealings weighing on his mind and a future business opportunity that would be life changing, and turning back now somewhat would kill two birds with one stone.

    We looked at the tracks and realized that Midland was the juncture of the northern and southern track routes.

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    We decided to ride the southern route on the way back and try to stay ahead of the storm coming from the northwest. As it turned out, this was the best day of the ride by far for both of us. The weather was clearly moving in pretty quickly, so we packed and headed out. Of course one of the first things we run across was an old abandoned farmstead. I rushed a couple of shots of really interesting stuff, which frustrated me to no end. I had the perfect camera at the perfect place, and I screwed up the shot. Well, I committed to myself that one day I would be back.

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    The best way to describe this part of the route is "wild." We were riding really in the middle of nowhere. I don't recall passing a single vehicle while we were on the track. We were at times riding through just pure grassland with nothing showing you the way other than the line on the GPS. Could you do this route without a GPS? I doubt it.

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    We went to go check out an area that was noted to be a washout to see if it had been fixed. It hadn't.

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    This riding through the country truly took me back to my roots -- I loved it. Again, the riding wasn't overly hard or technical. It was just a blast to be out in the mildly tamed part of the world with a buddy of similar mindset.

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    By the time we reached the intersection of the southern and northern routes, the weather was really just about on top of us. It had been sprinkling a little here and there, and we were essentially on dirt roads or grasslands. I was wondering what would happen if we got caught out here in a massive storm. I was pretty sure that we would be stuck. Anyway, we finished the southern route, at which point we jumped on roads to take us back to Sleddog's place. The storm had caught us well before we reached Jack's, and although I had my down coat on under my riding gear, I was shivering so hard that I nearly drove off the road and into a ditch at one point. I made it back to Sleddog's place on fumes. We quickly loaded the bikes and headed home. Around Omaha, it was raining so hard that I literally could not see where we were going. I couldn't even see the lines on the road or even whether I was on the road.

    Heading back was the right call. But, I knew I had to go back and finish what we had started.
    #6
  7. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 2, 2021:

    Travel day. Just looking for no drama today.

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    #7
  8. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Great report and pics so far. The improvised lighter is one of my favorite things I've seen on the site this year! :rofl
    #8
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  9. engineman

    engineman Long timer Supporter

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    Glad you're trying this again! Thanks for doing the report on last time too.
    #9
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  10. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper Supporter

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    Great B and W photos!
    #10
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  11. ZLTFUL

    ZLTFUL Optimistic Pessimist

    Joined:
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    Dude, I have like 8683058633079586309 straps. If you want straps, I will give you straps. What's with the rope?

    ;-)

    Looking forward to seeing the pics from the trip. Wish we could have gotten some shake down rides out of the way before you headed out though.
    #11
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  12. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    As hoped, the trip over to south central Lisco, Nebraska was uneventful. This most definitely is cattle country.

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    #12
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  13. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    It’s always good to catch up with @RoundOz. He had a bad crash a year ago, and it’s good to see him back together.

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    He’s got a really cool place in Lisco filled with some pretty interesting rolling pieces of art as well as quite a few four-legged friends.

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    #13
  14. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    After dinner, we headed out to check out a new photography tool I bought. The stars really pop on moonless nights like this.

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    #14
  15. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    I would really like to say that this is the most crap I’ve ever packed on a bike. I’d really like to say that I’ll never do it again. Both would be lies.

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    #15
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  16. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 3, 2021:

    Today was just a travel day to get us from Lisco over to our real starting point of this trip.

    And that starting point is . . . . Hey look! It’s like deja vu all over again! It’s the farm truck from the September ride.

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    It’s a long story. I knew I had to find this truck again and try to learn the story of why it looked like this farmstead had been abandoned. I went back over the TSDAT tracks and matched them to a few Google Earth views. That helped me identify the property, and a separate website helped me identify who might be the owners. A few Google searches and random emails later and i was talking to one of the owners, who graciously let us come back to photograph the farmstead and even allowed us to camp there so that we could do some astrophotography of the place.

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    The stars were stunning. The above are just test shots to give you a rough idea. More to come, as well as the full story of the farmstead. I’m a very happy camper tonight. Just wait until you see the finished Milky Way photos. Those will have to wait until I can get the files transferred to my computer at home.

    Otherwise, our day was fairly uneventful.
    #16
  17. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    Arthur, NE:

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    #17
  18. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 4, 2021:

    As we packed up getting ready to leave the farm south of Midland, a truck pulled up, and its three occupants crossed the fence to come talk to us. It was the property owners Shad and Jenna, and they had their daughter Emma in tow. It was great to meet them after the many discussions we had by email. Jenna noted that they didn’t want to keep us because it was going to be a “hot one.”. They were right.

    We left Midland fairly early, but the day turned hot right away. The roads were also not my favorite. They were long, mostly straight, with sketchy gravel, and with much less interesting scenery than we had on the first part of this trip.

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    By the time we had gotten to north of Wall, SD, it was really hot. But, that part of the route was the most interesting of the day. I forget what the locals call it, but you come on a ridge line that you ride down as you drop into somewhat of a valley. Really pretty.

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    We skipped a small bit of the route to go to Wall for some Gatorade and bananas, as we were both cramping up. Didn’t help. We jumped back on the route at the point it drops you off in the Badlands. Note: If you follow the route into the Badlands, you enter at a point where there is no booth, but the sign very kindly informs you that you need a pass to enter. We took our chances.

    After we rode the main gravel road through the Badlands, we were both gassed from the heat. We dropped the route at that point and rode Hwy. 44 over to Rapid City and then south to Custer. I stopped in a gas station to buy a gallon jug of water that I poured over my head, as well as a bag of ice that I stuffed in my jacket. Mark’s thermometer was telling him that it was 105°F. We made it to Custer at about 5:30. It was a long and hot day, but very much worth it.
    #18
  19. Orangecicle

    Orangecicle On a "Quest" Supporter

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    June 5, 2021:

    Today we backtracked from Custer to Hermosa to finish what we could of the TSDAT. The last bit from Hermosa to the Badlands was simply too hot to handle, so we’ll have to leave that for another time. This part of the TSDAT is great. It has you riding on mostly gravel roads through the Black Hills and then out into the front range of the hills. Just very enjoyable riding. That put us in Hermosa after lunch with no good food options we could find, so we rode to Hot Springs on the highway to get to a restaurant that Oz had been to before. It has since closed. The net result was that we rode 30 miles on a highway to go to Subway. Oh well. It was 93°F in Hot Springs, so we loaded up on ice. I found some leftover dog bags in my backpack (also used to walk the dog at home), so I filled those with ice and shoved them in my jacket for a little added air conditioning.

    There was a pretty good storm looming to the north — our direction of travel — so I linked together gravel roads through the hills that would drop us off at Custer. That turned out to be the highlight of the day, as it put us on logging roads, part of which were minimum maintenance. Great fun.

    The minimum maintenance road north of Hwy. 385:
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    Oz’s comment at the rock shop: “Geez, I thought it would have been bigger.”
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    Our home for at least another night:
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    #19
  20. NSFW

    NSFW who else would love noobs? Super Supporter

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    awesome places and brilliant pics....more please!

    thanks oc.
    #20