Sturgis Trip Notes
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.