It is July 5th, 2006 and Val and I set out for the Black Hills, SD on the Goldwing. This is the adventure of the decade for Val and I. A number of questions roll around the back of my mind. Is Val's hip up to the long hours of sitting on the back of the MC with few positions for her feet and legs, taking the shocks of the inevitable pot-holes and bad expansion joints? However, looking on the bright side, as I mentioned in the intro this will be our first vacation alone for 17 years. On the other hand, we are both wondering what it will feel like, whether we can make it the whole way, will the kids be OK with my sister Jo, what if something happens to us on the trip?
We did our best to put our affairs in order. We arranged for supervision of the girls. The new trailer hitch is installed and wired. The trailer is loaded with about 120 pounds of clothes, camera gear, tools, and a spare tire. The cooler is filled with refreshments and on ice. Our first-aid kit is stocked and ready. We have our riding gear on. I guess this means we are ready for this adventure.
The first 150 miles is a little damp most of the way. This year in NJ, the fronts have been stalling out right over us. This means the high pressure system over the ocean (where there's lots of moisture) and the low pressure over the great lakes, combine over the east coast states and produce copious amounts of rain. It isn't until we get to I-80 and the NE Extension of the PA turnpike that the sun finally comes out and we are flying high through the beautiful sky. The weather could not be better than it is now. Its clear, low humidity, and 75 degrees. This part of I-80 is rather scenic and for a super slab, its not too bad.
What's this? Construction? Oh boy, how long is the wait going to be? We start moving after about 10 minutes. That is not bad as construction stops go. After another 50 miles, we hit more construction. This wait is 30 minutes. Oh well. Its a beautiful day, the music is good and we are still loving it. (This would not be the last of the construction on I-80. Chicago had us sitting in bumper to wheel traffic for 1 hour in and among the trucks to go 10 miles. OY) On the first day we travel 465 miles and stop just south of Cleveland. The Fairfield Inn was asking $125, so we decide on the Econo Lodge next door for $60. It was late and we just need a place to flop our bodies for the night.
On the first day we travel 465 miles and stop just south of Cleveland. On the second day, we travel 575 miles and reach Muscatine, IA. Fuzzy meets us at the Wal-Mart which is next to the American Inn where we spend our second night. This place was great! Internet access, pool, hot tub, continental breakfast, beautiful sitting area in the next to the front desk, and wonderful staff. What more could you ask for? This is where the pictures start, with Fuzzy and Linda on the third day. The Fuzz had a Fire-Engine Red Harley Ultra Glide loaner from the shop that was fixing a wiring problem on his trailer. He told the story of his first encounter with the fire-engine. On the ride home, his boots vibrated off of the highway pegs. Now he understands why Harley riders wear heavy leather riding boots with two inch soles. Linda was busy watering the plants around their home in hopes of keeping them alive until they return from the Hills. They have a lovely home with 3 dogs (each with its own wonderfully unique personality) and two cats. What a diamond of a domicile they have.
Fuzzy's friend Joe is coming over to join us on the trip up to Stick and the school Marm in Algona, IA. While we wait, Val and Linda take care of some last minute business at Linda's office and I pick blue berries from the bushes in front of the house. The blueberry bushes were loaded and filling the half gallon container doesn't take very long. I don't what Linda has been feeding these bushes, but the berries are plump and very tasty. Picking them reminds me of the hot summer days I spent picking fruits as a kid in southwest Michigan; cherries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, and plums. If you worked fast, the money is paid in cash and not bad.
Shortly after Joe arrives, after we have sat around the kitchen table and talked a bit. This gave everyone a chance to use the facilities one last time. We also drank iced tea and water to hydrate us before starting the ride. When all is ready, we load up and head north to Algona. Its getting quite warm and the fluids must be replaced, even if a picture is being taken. The other three enjoy some rest and pleasant conversation. Its almost 300 miles to Algona from Muscatine, so several stops are in order; about once every 75 miles.
Just outside (east) of Algona in a small tavern along the highway, we meet up with a good number of the other riders heading west to the hills. The place is lively and with our Braveheart friends, quite excited and friendly. I wish I had gotten a picture of the front of the place with all of our pikes parked in the gravel. Oh well. Next time I guess :-)
After dinner, we head over to Stick's house and visit on the front porch for a while. A special chair has been placed for our guest of honor; The Wiz. The picture to the right shows Len in the chair, but he had to fight Bobby for it. It was a tough scrap, but Len showed him who was boss and took rightful possession of the seat. Bobby is kind of flush from all of the excitement, not the ride. His ride is in his pickup; pulling his bike on a trailer. If I were sensible, I would have done the same thing. Just before we turn in, the school Marm calls us to order to get us prepared for the next day's departure. Diane was really great with making the arrangements for those who did not have hotels and setting our expectations for the next day.
We have a 290 mile ride day planned taking us through Iowa corn fields and Minnesota plains. But the significant milestone for Val and I is arriving in South Dakota. I'm glad we stop at the visitor's center to rest. Its only our 4th day and we are in SD.
Just before one of our rest stops, we passed one of the more odd sculptures encountered on the trip. A rather large head of a steer. After a rest stop, our expanded gang of nine bikes, continue to press for the Black Hills. Val and I take the tail gunner position because we have a CB radio as does the leader (the Fuzz). Fuzz radios back to me saying he going to pass. I move over and block the lane and the other bikes can move over with a cage getting into the line. Also, when in town where there are many traffic lights, I can indicate if all are through the light or not. This helps to keep the group together. Ed and his dad (Len) are just ahead of us, Shadow-Rider ahead of them, and Chuck and Marci ahead of her. Looking farther ahead its, Stick and Dianne, Raymond, Linda (always number 3 from the head), Joe and then Fuzzy at the point.
Our next stop is in Mitchell, SD where the famous Corn Palace is located. The corn palace is now a sports complex with the exterior decorated with colorful corn cobs. Every year they change the theme and the outer facade. Inside they have somewhat of a tourist trap with nick-knack and souvenir sellers. The best part for the group is having a cool place to rest in the cool air-conditioning. Val and I found long sleeve denim Sturgis shirts for $15.
Chuck, Marci, Val and I decide to check out Cabelas and the other riders head for Chamberlain, SD where we'll be staying for the night. They have some of the best animal displays in the country. But the real reason I want to check them out is in the hopes of lucking upon a great deal and also find a pair of perforated hiking boots (not water proof). With the days ahead only getting hotter, and having left my old Timberland hikers at home, I want to get a pair of boots with would keep my feet comfortable. We accomplish both with this stop. We find the boots I was looking for and Val gets a pair of pants like Dianne and Stick found for riding pants. Good deals on both accounts.
Coming into Chamberlain I notice a scenic overlook sign so I pull off to check it out. It provides a beautiful view of the valley with paths leading to various vantage points. However, we are advised to beware of poisonous snakes. Hmmm... Indeed! So we head out over the Missouri River to get to our hotel on the Western side.
The Oasis Inn is where we hang our helmets for the night. Across the street from the hotel is a small park. It marks an important stop for Lewis and Clark on their journey west. Lewis observed at this point over 3000 buffalo grazing on the hills. The town on the western side of the river is called Oakoma.
As the sun sets, I notice the stratus clouds being painted into the sky. It is a beautiful sight to behold.
At 1880s Town stop, Linda told Linda about a strange vibration coming from her front front tire. Upon inspection, Fuzzy found two of the four bolts hold the fender on were gone and the the other two were not much. We secure the fender as best we can with zip ties. Fuzz says the Yamaha dealer in town would be able to take care of the mess.
Just before going into the Badlands, we stop at a scenic overlook to view the vastness of the prairie. Chuck called this area the naughty lands; they weren't quite bad enough yet to be called Badlands. What's this? Two girls standing on the side of the road in the naughty lands? Hmmm - I guess Santa isn't going to be stopping to see them this Christmas.
The first stop in the badlands provides us with on of the most striking views. There are small trails that lead out to vista points that overlook the valleys. On on excursion down to the Vista point, Joe yells down to me; Leave your Keys up here. We don't want to have to climb down for them if anything should happen. Geez! What an encouraging fellow.
Our last stop in the Badlands (the Pinnacles Overlook) was rather fortuitous. The fender on Linder's bike (the one with the zip ties mentioned early) had rotated forward and appeared like it wanted to rest under the tire instead of above it. Whoa! We decide at this point that it would be better to take the fender off, than let it fall off. Fuzzy found room for it in his trailer. After that, we just drank in the view. Just awesome. The three shots bellow were taken from the Pinnacles overlook. Putting them together makes somewhat of a panoramic of the scene.
Bidding the badlands farewell, our next stop is Rapid City, SD. With all of the excitement of reuniting with all of our friends from all over the country, I didn't get the camera out. So I got up early the next morning and caught a few shots of Ed getting his bike ready for the day's ride. How does one start a ride day correctly? By polishing the bike of course. I also found Mike and Braedon in the parking lot greeting folks. What a beauty, Braedon that is :-)! But this is it. We have arrived and the Black Hills await our exploration. As you can tell from the sunrise picture, there are clouds in the sky and it is sure to rain on us at some point. Not to worry. Its all part of the journey. In five days, Val and I have traveled over 1800 miles on and 1800cc Honda and met some of the best people in the country and it has only just begun. Its all good. Lets move over to Day 1.