Sturgis Trip Notes

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Sturgis Trip Notes

Day 1 - August 4 Day 2 - August 5
Day 3 - August 6 Day 4 - August 7
Day 5 - August 8 Day 6 - August 9
Day 7 - August 10 Day 8 - August 11


Day 1, August 4 – Bellevue to Spokane 

After months and months of anxious anticipation, we’re finally on the road!   

This will be the first of several daily reports about my trip to Sturgis (the Mecca of Motorcycling) with several CMA (Christian Motorcyclist Association) friends, Jeff Darr, Terry Knowles, Roger Miller & Joe Downs.  If you’re getting this message, you’re either on my list of family and friends, or on a list given to me by one of my riding mates.  If you’d care to NOT read any of this, you can of course just delete these daily mails.  If you have significant heartburn, put me in your spam list.  As a last resort, if these occasional emails bother you so much, send me a note asking to be removed, and I’ll see what I can do.   

OK, with that administrative business out of the way, what is going on?  Well, for most of the last nine months, this group of friends has been actively planning this big shin-dig to Sturgis, South Dakota, to the worlds largest motorcycle rally.  And now we’re on the way!  Our plans have us going to Spokane today (Friday, August 4th), then to Big Timber, Montana, then Bella Fourche, South Dakota, our “Sturgis Home Base”.  We’ll be doing the show one day, going to Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse one day, and Wall Drug and the Badlands another.  On our way home, we’ll be going through Cody, Wyoming, through Yellowstone, stopping overnight in Bozeman, and then through Kamiah, Idaho to see an old friend (Charlie Ballew) before heading back to the Bellevue area.  The whole trip will be multiple thousands of miles, with multiple adventures, and lots of interesting stories (I’m sure.)   

= = = = = 

We were all to meet at Roger Miller’s house in Bellevue at noon.  This was changed from 1:30 a week ago.  And 2:00 two weeks ago.  I should have known we would get going as early as possible.  We knew we would only be going to Spokane, and staying with Stacie and Jason Franz, Roger’s daughter and son-in-law.  They graciously offered to put us up.  And Roger was eager to see his grand-daughters Meghan and Mady.  (In fact, Roger’s wife Kathy came over earlier in the week to help prepare.)   

Noon was a good time to plan the start of the ride, but left me hurrying all morning.  My family is hosting two fun Chinese girls, and I had to get them to their school/class at 9:00.  Then I remembered I wanted to buy stamps for the postcards I’m going to buy and send along the way.  Then I remembered I needed a lock for the trailer.  And then I remembered something else.  And then I found that the girls had forgotten their lunches.  I wanted to start my trip with a full insulin pump, so I did that trick, too.  BUT WAIT!!!  The pump came up with a “System Failure” notification!  Just my luck.  I’m 2-1/2 hours from leaving to Sturgis, and my insulin pump fails!!  So I call the manufacturer; on hold for some time.  Then they come on, and have me run all sorts of tests.  Eventually they want to replace all the batteries, and it turns out I don’t have any “fresh” (un-expired) batteries.  Oh well, I convince them my just-out-of-date batteries will work just fine.  Re-boot, and violia, it works.  But I still have way too many other things to do.  My neighbor Jerry Omer comes over, goes with me, and helps calm me down.  He was a big help in getting my trailer packed.   

I buzzed down the road, got gas, got ice for my cooler chest, and a bite to eat.  But I was still a few minutes later getting to Roger’s than I anticipated.  Fortunately, Terry Knowles was a little late, too (Imagine THAT!), and so I wasn’t late at all.  Terry showed up just after noon.  Terry lead us in a prayer to start out, and we were off!   

The plan was to pick up Joe Downs at Indian Johns rest stop at 1:30.  We were JUST on time.  And we had a good time meeting.  We must have looked like we were having fun, because when I asked someone to take our picture, another lady in the group (Sheri) wanted to be in the picture with us.  Turns out she has a Sportster, and was jealous that we were on the way to Sturgis.   

Back on the road, we made a gas stop in Vantage, and then another rest stop before getting into Spokane for gas and finding Jason & Stacie.  Roger lead from the gas stop.  Jason had graciously cleared out his garage so we could all park our bikes in there.  And they had made us a big BBQ dinner of brats and corn-on-the-cob, too.  After dinner several folks used the hot tub.  (I was writing this journal, and missed it…)   

A good day.  266.1 miles, 7.5 gallons of gas.  Averaging 35.48 miles per gallon. 



Day 2, August 5 – Spokane, WA to Big Timber, MT 

Day 2 of the great Sturgis Adventure started early.  I heard Jason get up at 5:00 to check the coffee, so I got up to get a cup.  I actually poured 2, and brought one down to Jeff Darr, who was sleeping on the other couch downstairs.  (Terry and Joe were out in the camper in the backyard, while Roger was sleeping with Mrs. Miller in a real-live bed.)   

Sure enough, Jeff was awake, and eager for a cup of coffee.  I knew he was another early-riser.  We chatted for a few minutes, drank our coffee, and went up to visit with Jason some more.  Eventually the whole crew started milling about.  Our plan was to be up by 6-ish, have a devotional by 6:30, and be on the road by 7:00.  We were actually ahead of schedule, and Jason & Stacie got a great group picture of us all lined up in their street.  (By the way, Jason has also filled my cooler with ice and water, a very generous gesture.)  Construction issues had led Jason to conclude he needed to guide us out on back-roads to 195, and we would jump north to I-90.  We were actually on I-90 before 7:00; man, was Jeff happy.   

Our first stop of the day was the Catlano Mission, about 30 miles into Idaho.  It’s part of the “Steeple Chase”, a project where you get pictures of your motorcycle and churches, much like the “Wing Washington” photographic tour of Washington I am involved with.  I believe I forgot to mention that Roger’s bike had been being picky about starting; it would start about every-other-try.  We again pushed it at the Mission, but it wasn’t so bad then.   

Down the road we went, to Hague, Montana, and the Casino with 10,000 Silver Dollars.  They had a great buffet breakfast, which we all enjoyed.  We also enjoyed seeing all the other motorcycles there, mostly Harleys, and mostly also on their way to Sturgis.  Again we pushed Roger’s bike (the only Harley among us), and it took about three tries to get it going.  No big deal, but a working starter would be nice, too.  (I would later come to regret having those feelings about Roger’s bike…)   

Down the road we went.  The geography of leaving Idaho over the 4th of July pass and Look-out Pass was spectacular, and this part of Montana was equally beautiful.  I always like to compare it with places I know, and I liken it to very southern Oregon, or maybe some of very Northeastern Washington.  We stopped at a rest stop for water and a potty-break, and were delighted to find the coffee hosts were another CMA Chapter.  And Terry knew their leader, “Pappy”.  Very cool coincidence.   

The time changed as we got into Montana, so it was about 2:00 local time when we stopped in Butte for lunch.  The Perkins had Wi-Fi, and I was able to up-load the Day 1 notes and web page update.  Very cool.  Did it between sitting down and ordering, and was done before lunch came.    

The temperature in this part of Montana was now in the 80’s; we had started the day in the low 50’s.  Jackets came off, and sun-screen went on.  And further down the road we went.  I think Jeff’s plan was gas, one-stop between gas, and then more gas for stops.  Lunch was only 30-40 miles from the last gas stop, so we went down the road for another 120 miles before we stopped.  Both Roger and I had hit reserve by then.  I was following Roger at the time, and it seemed like he suddenly slowed WAY down; he had run dry, and had to switch his tank over to the reserve.  It compression-started, but he was doing about 35-40 by then.   

I tried to take some pictures of the others while moving on the bike, sort-of like my buddy Tom Guy does with his movie camera.  But my little camera was not secure fastened to me, and I was rather worried about dropping it.  And the pictures didn’t turn out well, either.  I’ll have to try it again, with better coordination. 

All along the way through Montana, Joe Downs has been giving history lessons over the CB radio.  He had family in the area, and knows lots of the background.  Nice to break up the monotony of an all-day ride.  

We eventually come to Livingston, which was only 40-ish miles from where the KOA we were to stay the evening.  Funny thing happened in Livingston: my Gold Wing refused to start!  I knew in an instant what it was: the solenoid.  I had had the bike into Everett Powersports twice since last November for the same thing, the last time just 3 weeks ago.  Now I had to get pushed (with the trailer, Jeff reminds me); very embarrassing.   

Got to the KOA, and they have wireless internet!  Cool.  We had planned to go back to town (11 miles) for dinner, but, because of my bike, and the fact that they had sandwiches in the KOA, we elected to stay local for dinner.  Gave me time for a beer, and to do this daily journal.  Which I hope you’re enjoying, by the way. 

We had been talking about Roger’s bike, and wondered aloud if the battery terminals were tight, and if that might be the reason for the intermittent starting failure.  In Big Timber, we took the seat off, and could turn the screws ¾’s of a turn.  That was probably just enough to cause the failure.  Now we only have to push one bike tomorrow: mine.   

Oh well, all part of the adventure. 

435.2 miles today; 744 miles total. 


Day 3 August 6 – Big Timber to Belle Fourche

Big day today; lots of miles, lots of issues, But we made it all the way to South Dakota, got our tents set up, and you can’t really ask more than that.

Traveling with a group of believers is different than with another group of motorcyclists. Our group had decided some time ago that we would all share in doing morning devotionals. We also say grace before meals, and do other things that remind each other of our faith. That’s nice.

Jeff Darr lead our devotion today, about “unfamiliar roads”, because most of the roads we would be on today were unfamiliar to most of us. Good choice. Terry had told the KOA camp hostess Carol that I especially would like coffee in the morning; they don’t normally open until 7, be she knew we wanted to be on the road by then. She told Terry that if she was up, she’d start coffee, and let us know. And she did. Just as we were done with our devotional, Carol came over and told us the coffee was ready. We jumped on it. A very nice gesture from Carol.

We were on the road again before 7:00, just after pushing my Gold Wing and re-hooking up the trailer. (It’s amazing how hot those exhaust pipes can get in such a short time; putting on the safety chain and the trailer electrics were very fun.) We had elected to have breakfast at a Cracker Barrel in Billings, some 70-ish miles down the road. No problem! Good breakfast. Roger convinced everybody to try the “country ham”, and some of even did grits.  We filled up with gas, and were on the road again, this time going all the way to Sheridan before stopping.

There were bikes and bikes and more bikes all along the way today. And the gas station in Sheridan was filled to the brim; we had to wait for a pump. We took a long break here, drinking lots of water, using the bathroom, etc. Unfortunately, I think I left my watch in the bathroom when I went to wash my dirty hands. I was needing a push everytime I need to start the bike, and so I often left it running. PITB. I have some ideas on how to resolve the issues, but each will require a bit of luck. We’ll see what I can pull together.

Roger’s bike, however, seems to have been cured; we only had to push it once today; started every time but once!

[OK, I’ve got to take a break here; it’s beginning to downpour. I’ll finish another time.] [Starting back up 10:16 Monday, hanging out at the ABATE of South Dakota booth, borrowing their WiFi…]

The trip between Sheridan and Gillette was marred by an incident initiated by a car wishing to pass us quickly, and ended with me cutting in front of Joe. I didn’t know that I had cut in on him so closely, but he was very upset about it. Once I knew what had happened, I apologized, but Joe was (and still is) very upset. Joe is now the “Tail-gunner”, and I’m second in line behind Jeff. Not a big deal to me, really (being second in line), and I don’t think to anyone else. Still, I’m saddened that Joe still seems to be upset. Jeff tells me to get over it, and I’ll try.

I tried to call some friends when we stopped for lunch in Gillette, but my Harley buddy Larry was already at Sturgis, and I couldn’t connect with my other long-time friend Gary Woods. Oh well, I’ll try again, probably trying to get into Gillette Tuesday night.

We got off I-90 to take a side-trip to Devils Tower. We heard on the radio that the weather was to be in the “low-90’s” today, and “high 90’s” on Monday. But folks in Gillette had also warned us about rain in Sturgis! We didn’t want to hear that. The trip to Devils Tower was cool; we stopped at a photo-op place, and took turns getting pictures of our bikes. It was fun; the place was the same place I had stopped last year, and took a picture at sunset, which made the cover of the GWTA national magazine, Touring News.

Devils Tower to Belle Fourche was only 51 miles; we stopped for gas before heading to the camp-ground. At the campground, they put orange wrist-bands on us, not wholly unlike a hospital band. While I tried to park in a place where I could most easily get a push to get the bike going, everybody else braved the gusting winds trying to put up our tents. The best approach that seemed to work was to get 2 people on each tent; one would help the other, and then move to the other tent. We ended up moving Jeff’s tent to under a tree; his tent is so big that the wind was trying to blow it away. In direct contrast, Terry’s tent is so small that he fit right in-between Jeff and I. Finally, we had most of the tents up enough that we felt comfortable enough to take a break, and pop open a beer. (Joe had a diet coke.) We then started moving stuff in (for “ballast”), just as the lightening storms started crackling all around us. At about 6:30, the light rain started. But by then, we were all un-packed, eaten the chili dinner put on by the campground, and were doing pretty ok. I had moved to near the concession stand, and they let me use an extension cord “for a little while” to start my daily journal, but got interrupted by the rain. By the time I got back, everybody was in their own tents, and yelling to each other.

I had left my tent flap un-zipped on the bottom, and a little water got into my tent. Drat!! AND, worse, by inflatable mattress was clearly leaking. I could pump it up, but it was flat within an hour. (After trying to sleep that way only one night, I’m going to try to patch it.)

Another long day, but we’re finally in Sturgis. And all excited about it. Almost giddy and/or giggly with anticipation. We’ve met more CMA folks in the campground, and we know we’re in good company.

461 miles, and the mileage went down to 29.9 miles / gallon. (Must have been a head-wind…)



Day 4, August 7 – A Day in Sturgis

Our first night in the campground was something to remember. Rained steadily until about 12:30. And there was a very close lightening strike which caused Jeff to have a “laundry problem”. Plus, we were so close to Sturgis (about 25 miles) that there was a steady stream of Harley’s going up and down the road all night long.

And then there was the train, running just 50-ish feet from our tents. First came the locomotive, around 1:30, then the full train going back the other way, about 5:00. Ho boy, was that loud.

All of our crew was safe and sound. Both Jeff and I were up and around shortly after 5. I went up for a shower, and was very surprised to find the whole shower facility completely full. The folks in our campground were all early risers. But all very nice folks, too. The Wyatt Hideaway (where we’re staying) caters to Christians, and I’d say most of the folks here are CMA. Not 100%, but a high percentage.

We all had breakfast, scrambled eggs and biscuits and gravy. And free coffee, starting at 6:00. At breakfast we sat with the nephew of the owners, a young 16-year-old named Ben. Ben says he gets a free breakfast, and gets to work 16 hours during the 10 days of Sturgis each year. Nice kid. Doing the web site for the campground. But the campground doesn’t have Wi-Fi, so he has to go home and use his own DSL.

Today was my day for doing the daily devotional, and I found one from a book my wife gave me, “100 stories for Men”. Talking about shared joys. And I told everybody that I have enjoyed sharing the joy of anticipation before Sturgis, the trip up to now, and looked forward to our big day in Sturgis, too.

So we got on the road before 8:00 again, and was in Sturgis before 8:30. Already the town was FULL of bikes. We got a great parking place just off Main Street, about in the Middle. We walked around, and agreed that if we got separated, we were to meet at the bikes again at noon.

The temperature went up as the day wore on. We came into town and the temperature was 75 or so. By 9:30, it was 80+. And by noon, it was over 90. Hot, hot, hot.

My mission for the morning was to find the Honda booth, and see about getting a new solenoid so I wouldn’t need the guys to push me every time. Every vendor in the world is here in Sturgis: Yamaha, Kawasaki, Triumph, and of course Harley Davidson. And every other brand you can think of, too. And some you’ve never heard of. But not Honda. Unbelievable. And I wasn’t the only asking, according to the Chamber of Commerce. I was stunned. What to do now? Plan B.

Plan B was to call a friend of Terry’s who runs a salvage yard, and knows Wings. Unfortunately, Terry’s friend was on his way to – guess where? – Sturgis. So his assistant looked, and found one. But he didn’t want to break up an $800 wiring harness. Darn. I would then have to move to Plan C later in the day.

One of my first purchases was a patch that said “I rode my bike to Sturgis 2006”. I also got an American Flag to put on my vest. Found a seamstress who sewed them both on for a reasonable cost, too. Roger, Terry and I had all gotten patches, but only Terry and I felt the need to put them on immediately. Roger has ideas to re-arrange the patches on his vest, so he’ll re-do them when he gets home. But he has the patch, and that’s the most important thing!

After scrounging around for a while, I landed in the ABATE booth, snagging their Wi-Fi to upload my web pages and email out the daily journal. They had 5-6 computers set up, letting people check email, and doing a survey for ABATE. They had LOTS of folks stopping in, and they were very nice to let me do my business there, too. I gave them a donation. It’s funny: I believe in helmets, and will always wear one. (The few times I haven’t I have always felt pretty odd.) However, I believe it should be a personal choice for everyone to make. ABATE apparently believes in education, too, which is good. Odd, though: education would seem to suggest that helmets would save lives, even though it seems to me that the mission of ABATE is to make helmet use optional. Odd.

For lunch I had a great big ½ pound hamburger. They also sell fresh-squeezed lemonade for a hefty price, and re-fills for half that (but still, it seems to me, a hefty price.) I drank lots of water during the day. My friend Larry taught me to have a bottle whenever I could to avoid heat exhaustion. Works for me.

After lunch, I went in search of a CMA shirt, and also a shirt for me. Turns out that CMA doesn’t sell shirts at shows. Oh well. So then I found a shirt for me, one for a friend, and one for my wife and one for my daughter. I suspect my daughter will wear one, and my wife will frown about it. We’ll see what happens.

My next mission was to get pictures. I tried to capture the enormity of Sturgis with some pictures, but it doesn’t do it justice. Just not enough width to show all the bikes, all the different kinds of bikes, and all the different kinds of people.

Later in the afternoon, we met up at the bikes again. This time Joe and Terry agreed to go with me to execute Plan C of my mission to find a solenoid. My idea was to stop by Lehmann Trikes in Spearfish. I know they do a lot of Gold Wings, and they might know of a good dealer who might be able to get me a solenoid. Turns out they did: right across the highway at a dealer! They didn’t have one, but they agreed to order one overnight, and I would get it Wednesday. It was the best I could do, and I did it. I even ordered two, just in case it happened again. (I don’t think it will, especially if I happen to have another one in my saddlebag.)

While at the Honda dealer, I ran into a GWTA friend of mine from Chapter L in Longview. Leo had broken a footrest on his wing, on his first-ever trip to Sturgis, and used this as his excuse to his wife why he needed to get a new bike. Apparently it worked. They both seemed excited about their new Titanium 1800.

We had passed a Wal-Mart getting to the Honda dealer, and Terry wanted to stop in and get a Garth Brooks CD. I wanted to find a cheap watch; found one for $7. It will do until I find my other one.

Got back to the campground, and found Jeff and Roger already here. Roger is limping around, and so is Jeff. Roger’s injured foot is bothering him, and all the walking had slowed down Jeff, too. But they still insist on going on with all the plans. I think Roger might want to go back into Sturgis, but I’m not so sure. We’ll see what happens.

The campground had spaghetti for dinner tonight, and we all partook of the meal. Our neighbors are letting me borrow their 110 to write today’s journal, and I appreciate the help. I’m thinking about going into Bella Fourche tonight to see if I can up-load from there. Don’t know, but I’m going to try.

Tomorrow we plan to go to Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse; might be a lot of riding amongst a bunch of other Sturgis riders, but we all want to go. We’ll get an early start, and have a good time.

Like we always do.


Day 5, August 8 – Disaster in Spades…

The night of August 7th was full of blowing, blustering, swirling wind and rain. It was both noisy and powerful. (One of the locals guesstimated it was at least 35 mph.) The wind was so strong that at 2:20 (I know because my new watch has a light on it) I got up because I was sure that my rain-fly was flapping in the wind. Turns out it was just the lightning placing tricks on me. Since I was up, I also checked out everybody else’s tent; they all seemed to be ok. I did re-connect on guy-wire on Jeff’s tent, but otherwise everybody seemed to be doing just fine – praise the Lord.

I did sleep better. I had repaired my leaky air mattress with duct tape (really!), and it held up pretty much ok all night.

Awaking about 5:30, I heard Jeff fumbling around, and I got up to talk to him. He was not a happy camper, both literally and figuratively. The rain had gotten underneath his tent bottom, and soaked though. “Now I remember why I hate camping” was one of his more printable comments. I went to take a shower. On the way back, I walked over to get Jeff a cup of coffee and bring it back, but he was already there. The coffee wasn’t ready yet, but Jeff was simmering enough.

We all had breakfast, and Joe led the devotional. Fortunately, he’s no longer angry about what happened on the road, and I think we’re all over it. (Thanks again, Lord.) Joe, Terry and I needed to start the day with a full tank of gas, so we headed into Belle Fourche (pronounced, I’m told, like “Bell Foos”). Terry happened to notice that Joe’s rear tire was pretty close to flat. I got under it and found a nail. Joe quickly determined that he didn’t want to try to go over 1000 miles more on a bum or plugged tire, so he headed to Spearfish to the Honda dealer for a new tire. (He ended up getting one for the front, too, because they had changed the tread design from an Elite II to an Elite III, and he wanted them to match.)

Roger had come looking for us. Terry and I tried to make up a story about Joe, but it didn’t last long. Oh well.

About 3-4 miles out of the campground, I suddenly lost all my throttle. While I coasted to a stop, I called out to the gang, and Terry came back to help me. (Terry is probably the most mechanically inclined among us.) He quickly figured out that, yep, the throttle wasn’t working, and I would have to get a new cable. I knew how to up the idle, but I had to open the fuel door to do that. I used one of Terry’s keys, so I wouldn’t have to turn off the bike. (Remember, I still need a new solenoid, and people have been pushing the bike for 3 days now.) I bumped the idle up to 2000 rpm, and started idling back towards Belle Fourche, intending to go to Spearfish to the Honda dealer to see if they had a cable. Terry decided to ride ahead and get his meds. I eventually got to the campground, and was waiting for him at the entrance, calling on the CB, with no answer.

I wasn’t sure if Terry had gone ahead of me or not, so I decided to check the camp to see if he was still there. He was just heading out, so I decided to go around the campground. Unfortunately, the road doesn’t go all the way around; it ended up in a muddy up-hill stretch. I thought I could make it, but I didn’t. Spectacular splash and burn, right in the middle of the mud. (Hint to the un-initiated: if you’re ever going to drop your bike, be sure to do it with LOTS of witnesses, so they can help you lift it up.) All of a sudden there were 6-7 guys there to help me. I was a real muddy mess. And the bike was down and stopped. I needed their patient help to get it out of the mud, and then to push it so I could re-start it (again, remember that I had no throttle while trying to do all this). The Lord must have taken pity on me, because the bike did start right up. I idled s-l-o-w-l-y up the hill out of camp.

It was about 18 miles to Spearfish; took me about an hour and 15 minutes. As we got into the parking lot, we saw Joe waving to us. Of course, the Honda shop didn’t stock the cable, but they could over-night it in. Since I already had an over-night order, I did my best to talk them into merging the two orders. After some finagling, they figured out a way to do it.

Joe, Terry and I got to spend the day together. Not traveling to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse like we planned, but hanging out nonetheless. We went to Perkins, expecting them to have internet access like the Perkins in Butte did, but no such luck. We ordered a brunch, took our time (with the hundreds of other Sturgis customers), and then had Terry ferry Joe and I back to the Honda dealer. While Terry was taking Joe back, I walked over to a motel and piggy-backed on to their WiFi to upload the web pages and email. Joe’s bike was to be another hour yet, so Terry and I went to Wal-Mart so I could get a “real” tire-repair kit to fix my mattress, and some shaving stuff because I’m just too scruffy for my own tastes.

Trying to do anything in Sturgis week takes about 8 times longer than you might think. The Honda dealer and the Wal-Mart are just across the freeway from each other, but it took about 15-20 minutes with the hundreds (thousands?) of bikes trying to go this way and that. Even when we got there, Joe’s bike wasn’t ready yet, so we hung out some more. While waiting, I inquired if the service people could pick me up from the campground in Belle Fourche the next day when the bike was ready. They went up to the General Manager, and he authorized one of the shop guys to do it. Now I’ve got to figure out something with Brad.

Got back to the campground, with me riding with Terry, and Joe following us, trying to rough up his new tires to make them safer. We took stuff out of Jeff’s tent to dry it out. Even came up with a way to get air underneath it. After just a short while, Jeff tools up, and has an even greater idea: he moves the whole tent, and turns the bottom side up to get it dried.

Then we all sat down, and heard about Jeff and Roger’s great ride. Jeff was ecstatic about the day. 200 miles of great roads, great country, beautiful sights, and the great feeling of being in the middle of one of motorcycling’s greatest events. Now Jeff was a VERY happy camper. I think he had got to do what he came to do: ride, ride, ride, among thousands of other riders, in the middle of great roads and spectacular scenery, at a good pace, without stress. Jeff was a changed person between the morning and the afternoon. It’s nice to see this Jeff back.

OK, it’s now 5:00. I’ve called Larry in Gillette and told him I can’t make it. (He says when he read about my issues, he wanted me to take the bike to Gillette, and he would loan me his Harley. “It would fit in better in Sturgis”, he said.) I’m still trying to get Brad. And I don’t know what to tell Woody.

Oh well. There will be other trips.


Day 6 - To Wall Drug and The Badlands!...

Day 6 we awoke to a BIG surprise: it didn't rain all last night! We were very happy about that.

We knew we wanted to get an early start today. I was to meet my buddy Brad in Rapid City around 8:00, which meant we had to be on the road and going by 7:00 or so. We were all up for a devotional by Terry about being prepared for anything. After our experiences in the last few days, we sure had to be!

We got down the road a little before 7:00. Great time of day; I love the long shadows. Today was an interesting day of riding for me, because I was two-up with Terry. (Terry had the most recent experience with riding folks two-up, but I suspect the majority of his other passengers were much softer and more curvaceous than me.) My generic idea (subject to change) was to ride with Terry to Rapid City, see Brad, and then maybe make arrangements to spend the day with him, or rent a car and follow the gang, or something else. But to get to the Honda dealer in Spearfish to pick up my bike in the afternoon. Man, was I looking forward to getting my bike back, with it starting and having a throttle. It would be way cool.

Unfortunately, Brad wasn't at the Windmill restaurant. We called before we left, we called when we got there, we called before we left. I don't know what happened. I hope everything is ok. But I just don't know with Brad. (Never do.) I am sorry we weren't able to see each other.

So I continued the day riding 2-up with Terry. If there is anything good about riding 2-up with someone, it's that I had a much better time taking pictures. I was pretty pleased with taking good pictures of Roger, Joe and Jeff. (They all wanted VERY MUCH to get a picture of Terry and I, but the opportunities were few and far between.) I also got some pictures of just the numerous other bikes on the road. But it really doesn't do justice to the feeling of thousands of other bikes going in all directions. Nothing can, but being here yourself.

Wall Drug is about 50-ish miles from Rapid City, and the country changes quite a bit in that time. From rolling hills of trees and green, to much, much drier. The more interesting thing is how you start seeing many more signs for Wall Drug. (We had been seeing signs since Montana, but they were much more prevalent between Rapid City and Wall - maybe one every quarter mile as you get closer.) There really isn't much in Wall besides Wall Drug and the main street of other little stores. But Wall Drug itself is a very eclectic kind of place. They have something for everybody there. Myself, I bought a bunch of postcards, and sent out a bunch, too. 5-cent coffee. Free ice water. Special offers for veterans. Good stuff. Fun place.

We had some mis-communication getting out of Wall, but eventually got on the same page, and headed down the road to "The Badlands". The Badlands National Park is something out of this world. Desolate, craggy bands of colored soils, small peaks and tall spirals, cliffs and gorges, it could be a moonscape, but it's not. Very difficult to describe and cover the subject. Beautiful, but I wouldn't want to get stuck here at anytime. When we were there, the temperature must have been 95+. And there were LOTS of other Sturgis folks visiting, too. Good road, good riding. Hard to say anything bad about the Badlands: just spectacular. My best day in South Dakota, so far.

We had followed the Badlands canyon to the east, then circled around below the National Park going west-northwest back towards Rapid City. Ended up in Rapid City for lunch around 1:45. I called on my bike, and was happy to hear that the parts were in, and the bike would be done today. But they hadn't started it yet. I decided I had to be there to make sure. So while the other crew went into town for water and other refreshments, Terry and I stopped at the campground for my computer, and then he took me into Spearfish. (Along the way, I was remembering my trip going anywhere from 5 mph to 25 mph, depending on the steepness of the terrain.) Got to the dealer around 3:30, and they STILL had not started on my bike. They close at 6:00, and I figured it was to be AT LEAST an hour job. Uh-oh. Might have problems.

It’s now 5:30. My bike is on the rack. I think they’ve started on the solenoid, but I don’t know for sure. I’ll just keep working on my journal stuff.

OK, it’s now 7:55, and I’m back at the campground. With my bike, even. Good to have the bike; it would be even better if it started. The mechanics at the dealer showed me with a test light probe that there was power on the battery, to the solenoid, and even to the starter. But the starter didn’t work. Nothing they could do. Could order one on Thursday, get it on Friday, but they had too much work to even install it on Friday. Next week, probably. (However, they did thankfully fix the throttle cable.) When they heard that I had to go back to Seattle, they thought my best bet was to push-start it all the way there, or maybe over-night order a new starter to another dealer along the way, and wait for a day while they installed it. (Not very likely…)

So I’m back to where I was: push starting the bike whenever I have to start it. Not a happy camper. If my circumstances were different/better, I’d trade it in as is for a new 1800. But not now, not for a while, if ever. (Would have to get a “real” job first…) With Katie starting school, and other things happening. I’m probably going to park it for a while. Maybe get George Welch to work on it over the winter for me. We’ll have to see what happens.

Tomorrow is a big day. Need to be up early, pack as quickly as possible, and get on the road to Cody, Wyoming. Several passes along the way. Should be fun. I hope I’m in a better mood by then…


Day 7 – Sturgis, South Dakota to Cody, Wyoming

It’s Thursday, and time to start heading home. Our intention is to go west towards Yellowstone, spend a day there, spend the night in Bozeman, and then head towards Kamiah, Idaho, to go see our friend Charlie.

Jeff had been sure to tell everyone that it was to be 350+ miles, and it was going to be hot; if we got an early start, it would be cooler, and we could be more comfortable when we get to Cody. With this group, doesn’t really matter: we’re all relatively early people. So we were up pretty early, had breakfast, and had our devotional. We invited our neighbors, Gary and his wife Chris, from Kansas. Roger led the devotional, about how even though our time in Sturgis is almost over, we have learned much about the event, each other, and ourselves, too.

We were on the road before 7:05, all tents packed up and stowed away. We were jazzed.

We took I-90 from Belle Fourche to Gillette, and gassed up there. I was astonished how little gas mileage I was getting. Doing the 75 mph speed limit, my mileage dipped into the low 20’s. I actually put in premium gas, to see if maybe that might make a difference. On our way to Sheridan, Roger dropped off to the side of the road. His heel-toe shifter had slipped, and he couldn’t shift into higher gears. We did a roadside repair, then took the next exit, and worked on it further by taking off the “heel” portion of the heel-toe shifter off.

Next stop was Sheridan, the same Exxon where I had accidentally left my watch last Sunday. Sure enough, they had it. (Thanks again, Lord!) But Joe had decided to depart company with us here, to try to get to see some of his family in Butte, Montana. Joe is an interesting guy, good CMA fellow. But now it was just the four Joint Heirs, who have ridden together for quite sometime, who know each other very well, and relate to each other from long-experience. We’ll see Joe with King’s Riders, and remember our Sturgis adventure.

We took US #14, through the Big Horn mountains, and were pleasantly surprised (“wowed” might be a be a better word) with a great road, amazing scenery, and super riding conditions. It was a great experience, one we didn’t expect would be so cool. The pass itself is over 8,500 feet tall, with lots of switch-backs, and interesting scenic views. We then rode around at the top of the peaks for a while, until it was time to head down. The trip down was equally cool, with a completely different view toward the west. Very, very wonderful, but completely unexpected.

The temperatures from the Big Horn mountains to Cody was between 85 and 95, but while moving on the bikes we didn’t really notice it. What was interesting to me was that, even as close as 10 miles from Cody, we had no idea we were anywhere near civilization.

The campground in Cody was interesting. Jeff & I have a cabin, but Roger wanted a Tee-Pee. Turns out the Tee-Pee was not what he expected. Oh well. Tried to get a cabin, but everybody showed up in time, so Terry and Roger kept the tee-pee.

Roger had the idea to go out for a steak dinner (Rrrggghhh! Meat!!!) Turned out to be a capital idea. The campground folks recommended a place with great steaks. A very cowboy place, with lots of local color (lets say). Very fun.

Dinner conversation was about our CMA group. Same old subjects (to me): how do we grow? How do we keep people? What can we do to be more inclusive? We’ll keep trying to do our best, and see what happens.

Tomorrow will be a good day, but perhaps a long day. We’ve elected to take a loop that gets us by Old Faithful. And we’ve heard that there might be 10 miles of construction on this side of the Park.

Oh well. All part of the Adventure.


Day 8 – The Magic of Yellowstone

Woke up early in Cody, Wyoming. Had to re-pack the trailer from the cabin, and wanted to do up some more post cards. (Haven’t sent as many as I thought I would; still working on it.)

Cabin life was fine; nothing special, nothing bad. I had to use one of my camping chairs to write my journal. And I had brought in the sleeping bag, and pillow, and other stuff, too. Time to re-pack.

Jeff lead the devotional this morning, using something he got off the CMA USA web site, written by “John Sr.” And then we were off to Irma’s for a buffet breakfast. Again, it was ok; nothing special. (The old, old hotel it was in was very special, I thought.)

We had to go back to the campground to pick-up the trailer, and to drop off the keys. We were finally off, a little after 7:30 or so. (The east entrance to Yellowstone, 50 miles away, didn’t open until 8:00, so we were doing just fine for time.)

From Cody to Yellowstone was simply great, beautiful, gorgeous riding. The folks from this part of the world really like their Buffalo Bill Cody, and named a dam, a reservoir, campgrounds and lots of other things after him. The sun was just rising, and it created great shadows, with dynamic views of hues and color like we haven’t seen before on his ride. (Reminds me of some parts of Washington where water and mountains come together, but it was different somehow.) Another dynamic we weren’t used to was that the temperature had dropped. I was riding without a jacket, and thought it must just be me that was cold. I cb’d to Jeff that I wanted to stop at the entrance to put on my Jacket, and everybody else piped up that they wanted to, too. We stopped at a place outside of the park, used the bathroom, and put on warmer clothes.

The entrance to the Park had a small line-up. Turns out folks were waiting for the Pilot Car to take them through the 7 miles of construction. I was afraid of turning the bike off (lest I need a push to start it again), so I just waited. After a short 5-10 minutes, the cars started to move. And we moved with them. S-l-o-w-l-y up a torn-up road, past construction equipment. Up and up we went, with Jeff calling out every 500 feet of elevation, until we reached 8,500 feet. At which point the construction ended, and we had great views of a huge lake in the distance. We took a couple of pull-outs, taking pictures of the lake. And found some “thermal activity” – steam vents right next to the water. Pretty cool.

We rounded the upper portion of the lake, and headed towards Old Faithful. And we stopped again at the “Continental Divide” sign, and got several pictures there, too.

The Old Faithful area is now a great, big extravaganza. We gassed up, went to the sandwich shop for lunch, and then proceeded to the viewing area to await the eruption. And we waited. And waited. Finally, we heard that it was to blow at 12:53, so we decided to continue waiting. Around 12:55, there was some activity, but not an eruption. So we waited some more. Finally, at around 1:10, the “big one” happened, and boiling water shot 95-120 feet into the air. For about two minutes, and then it was done. Oh well. Wait an hour for 2 minutes of action. All part of the adventure.

According to Jeff’s GPS, we could make Bozeman (or evening stop) without another gas stop from Old Faithful. (Total distance was to be around 140-ish miles.) The going was slow, but not stop-and-go. We passed by many interesting hot springs, some with very colorful “paint pots”. We took one turn-out near a waterfall, too. All very magical.

Finally got to the northern entrance to the park, and we actually saw what appeared to be pet elk sitting on the grass in front of the town. Lots of folks were stopping to take their picture, and they just stayed there. Very interesting.

The run from Gardiner (the north entrance town) to Livingston (to catch I-90) was straight and fast. We stopped at a rest stop for water and a break, and appreciated the breeze. (I guess we had taken off the jackets at Old Faithful, where the temperature had gotten into the 80’s again.) Livingston to Bozeman was only 30-ish miles, on I-90, and we were dodging a big storm all the way. Might have gotten a few drops, but nothing major.

Got to the hotel, had a refreshment, took in our evening stuff, and then headed to an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet. $9.99, and lots of variety. Pretty good, for Bozeman, Montana. After dinner, we gassed up, and back to the motel for some more refreshments.

Tomorrow is a big day. 350 miles, 200 of which is on I-90. But the big deal will be to see our old buddy Charlie in Kamiah, Idaho. I’m really looking forward to that.



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This site was last updated 07/15/11