Motorcycle Road Trip from Beltsville MD to Sturgis SD

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Home!

The mad dash for home started 4 days ago in Custer, South Dakota. For the final day, we were in Youngstown, Ohio and packing our motorcycles once more for the ride across multiple states. While packing my bike, it began to rain. The darkness of the clouds over head meant that we would be wearing rain gear, and the low morning temperature meant that we would be wearing leather. We wore both for almost the entire way home. Being cold and damp is almost the norm for us and for our ride from west to east, from South Dakota to Maryland.

Leaving Youngstown and the state of Ohio didn’t take long. Within 20 miles, we were rolling across the state line of Pennsylvania. We would be friends with the PA Turnpike for a while, and the PA Turnpike had a lot of other friends this Monday morning. Traffic rolling east on I76 was heavy at times and our first fuel stop at the service station was particularly packed with people. The service station did have one thing that I was keen on for the morning, Starbucks. I needed something hot to drink to warm me and I hadn’t had a Starbucks in a long while, at least since we left for South Dakota. By the way, it was good.

That first stop was the longest stop of the day. We cranked out 80 miles and I only had about another 220 miles to go. All three of us were jazzed to get home. We rolled across the hills of western PA winding between the highway construction sites and the other travelers on the road. We were making good time. At the next stop, we only got gas for the bikes and to use the bathroom. Then it was back on the bikes to crank out some more miles.

Wearing the rain gear had it’s desired effect on the weather. Since we rolled out of Youngstown, it hadn’t rained at all, except a sprinkle here and there. The dark clouds were still hanging over head and threatened us at all times, but the roads were only damp in a few places. But over all, we had dry pavement and we tore up the miles.

The switch over to I70 to head into Maryland was interesting. On the map it looked like a normal highway interchange. But instead we had to exit the Turnpike and drive thru an enormous amount of fast food restaurants and hotels. Only then are you directed to turn left and enter I70. Very odd, but I’m sure it was setup by those same restaurants and hotels.

Interstate 70 was the same as the PA Turnpike, a bunch of traffic congestion on the highway and road construction. Only 15 minutes later, we rolled into Maryland.

We could smell home. I could feel my favorite chair and I knew my own bed was right up stairs. Plus I wouldn’t have to pack and re-pack the motorcycle every morning and night. It was only a 4 day road trip coming home, but I was tired of traveling. Spending 8 to 10 hours a day on the motorcycle had taken it’s toll. I wasn’t sore in the butt and my wrist wasn’t numb from holding the throttle open as we rolled across the country. In all, I was just tired from the traveling and wanted to be home. In my own home. In my own bed.

Hagerstown passed by in a blur. Frederick, MD was next in our sights. The weather in MD was a big improvement from PA. Since we were almost home, the sun decided to come out and greet us for the last few miles. I pulled off the highway with only 20 miles between us and Frederick. It was just too hot with the leather jacket, the rain gear and the full face helmet. It was also to be our last stop together for fuel for our Sturgis adventure.

Each of us gladly put away the rain gear and got more confortable. We fueled up the bikes together for the last time, shook hands and rolled back onto the highway for the last few miles together.

We blew thru Frederick and the Mt. Airy exit and RT 27 beckoned me. Once the exit was upon us, Michael pulled up next to me and we waved goodbye and he motored on ahead of me. I waved to Steve and I exited the highway by myself as they continued on.

RT 27 north for about 12 miles, Nicodemus for another 3 miles, RT 31 for another couple miles and I turned towards my home. Rolling onto my street and then rode up my driveway. It took me much longer this time to unpack the motorcycle than it had for the entire trip. But I also knew that it would be the last time for this trip.

I was home.

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Wind, Rain, and My Solo Ride

The winds and turbulance on the roadway is still with us. Riding across the southern part of Minnesota is like our ride thru Iowa only a week before. The road cuts a path through the country side and rises and falls with the hills as it vanishes in the distance.

Saturday morning was a cold ride. The winds in the highway kept me awake as I constantly had to adjust my bike to keep it on the road. My leather jacket kept me warm to an extent, but the cold crept in through the sleeves. Of course wearing the open face helmet didn’t exactly help as my ears and nose quickly chilled and became numb. Plus it didn’t help that Steve wanted to maintain 80+ mph on the highway, which just made it that much colder on my face and fingers.

We didn’t get but 150 miles from our hotel when we had to make a repair stop. Steve’s gear lever became detached and forced us to exit the highway. Of course the local Harley Davidson dealership was of no help, we needed a metric bolt and they only had standard. But we did make it to a local Yamaha dealership for the simple repair. Of course a simple repair inflated to include a new rear tire and rear brakes. But while Steve was under going his much needed service, Michael and I went a little further down the road to the Honda dealership (3rd oldest in the US) where Michael also got a new rear tire. I only bought a sweatshirt. Two hours later, and a quick lunch, we were back on the road trying to chew up the pavement and make up some time.

We quickly ran across the state of Minnesota and entered the dairy land of Wisconsin. Our route took us across the mighty Mississippi river and at this crossing, it was much wider than when we crossed going West. The landscape didn’t change that much from Minnesota to Wisconsin, but with our travel going from West to East, you could tell that the wild openness of the West was far behind us. More cars and trucks occupied the roadway with us and the exit ramps were plentiful. It certainly made it much easier to get fuel when we needed it. On at least 2 occasions heading west across South Dakota, I had to reach for my fuel switch to go to my reserve tank. So far for the ride East, I only had to make that manuever once, at least so far.

With the time delay for the much needed service for Steves and Michaels motorcycles, we didn’t get as far down the road as we all had wanted. Plus losing an hour due to the time change didn’t help either (Mountain time to Central Time). Our over night stay was in Rockford, IL, which was about 75 miles less than where we wanted to be. That meant that tomorrow was going to be a long day in the saddle.

Sundays start was much better, but it was still cold. A chilly start for the day that would only get worse. We got out early and on the road by 8:30 and we quickly rolled down the highway towards Chicago. Our thought was to save some time by staying on I90 and going straight thru Chicago. It was Sunday morning, who’s going to be on the road at that time, or at least that’s what we thought. The highway thru Chicago was packed. I’m only guessing, but I’m sure it’s a ton worse during the week than it was today, but I was still surprised by the amount of traffic for a Sunday morning. Only a couple of days before, we were riding in the canyons of the Black Hills and now we were riding in the canyons of Chicago. A stark contrast between the two, but both are equally challenging.

We had left the hotel in Rockford under partly cloudy skys and it looked promising for good weather. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay that way. Just afer we rolled into Indiana, the roadway was wet from a previous rain shower and we quickly pulled to the side of the road to dig out the rain gear, again. We knew that if we didn’t, we would cerainly get drenched from the spray coming off the road and from all the other cars and trucks. I decided to stay with my open face helmet since my windshield was keeping most of the moisture from my face and my visibilty was not effected. The damp roads came and went, but at least we didn’t have to ride in the rain and we made our way across Indiana and into Ohio.

Interstate 80/90 travels along the northern Indiana state line and at an opportune exit for fuel, we were able to cross over into Michigan. A quick photo opportunity and we turned around to head back to Indiana for gas and then back on the highway heading for home.

Our luck ran out in Ohio, especially when we got close to Cleveland. The clouds opened up and dumped heavy rain on us. And it was a cold rain. My open face helmet was no longer a good option and cold water ran down my face and under the collar of my jacket. Steve and Michael were ahead of me and I tried to signal Michael that I needed to stop. I made my way over to the right hand lane as my glasses were quickly fogging up and my vision was distorted by looking through the heavy rain. I made it to the shoulder of the road and to safety, but Michael and Steve kept on going down the highway, unaware that I was no longer behind them. I changed over to my yellow glasses and my full face helmet as quickly as I could, trying to minimize getting any wetter than I already was. By the way, my rain suit is not waterproof. Water had soaked my sweatshirt and t-shirt. Plus my boots were soaked and my socks were squishy when I walked.

I managed to change helmets and get back onto the busy highway after waiting for an extra long opening in the traffic. Steve and Michael had to be miles ahead. I was ok with that because I knew two important pieces of information. First, I knew how many more miles I could go before I needed to refuel. Second, I knew the exit number for the hotel for our planned stay for the night. I wasn’t worried, at least not that much.

The rain was pouring down on me as I made my solo trip down the highway. I was looking all along the side of the highway for the Cats and Dogs that must have come down with all the rain. I didn’t find any Cats or Dogs, but I did finally reach Steve and Michael about 30 miles down the road. I was riding along in the middle lane doing about 75mph trying to gain some ground on my companions when I spotted both of them waiting off to the side of the highway. Since I was surrounded by cars in the heavy downpour, I honked my horn a number of times and waved to them as I motored on by. It wasn’t safe for me to even try and pull over to the side, but I did manage to get over to the right lane and slow down to a respectable 65mph. I knew that Michael would soon catch up to me and it was only a matter of minutes before he was in my rear view mirror. Steve caught up to us as well and we were back together as we motored down the highway.

Blue sky started to break through and the rain started to slow. The spray coming off the other cars was still pretty heavy, but a lot more manageable. We pulled into the next service station for another fill up of fuel for the bikes. Steve experienced a “Bill Tucker” moment, but he and the bike were fine and we were able to continue down the road. Since all of us were cold and wet from the rain, we didn’t take a break at the service station, especially since the hotel was only another 60 miles down the road.

Coming into the Youngstown Ohio area, the roads were drying and in many areas, already dry. However, I was not. The cold rain had soaked through to my pants and I was feeling the cold chill all over. The last night with my Sturgis buddies and we were in no shape to walk or ride to the nearest restaurant. Steve and Michael walked to the corner foodmart just up the street from the hotel for a 6-pack of beer while I ordered pizza.

It’s been a long, cold, rain filled day for the Soggy Bottom Riders. Just a thought, but maybe we should change our name to the “Sunny Riders”, but it’s just not us. We earned our name and keep earning it on almost every ride.

Over 4000 miles on the bike so far for this adventure. Only one more day, and only another 300 miles to go.

Heading Home

We began our ride home from Sturgis early this morning with a short ride thru Custer State Park as we headed for the Interstate. Along the way, we saw a single Buffalo sitting in the grass next to the roadway and a small herd of Buffalo a little futher along. It was as though they were coming out to tell us goodbye, or to tell us “good riddance”. Either way, the short ride thru the park was a good final ride thru the Black Hills.

We got hammered by the winds on Interstate 90 as we headed East. Every time we crested a hill, we had to throttle up just to maintain a constant speed. Plus I felt as though I was riding at an angle into the wind just to keep myself from being blown off the road. The winds were relentless even as the Black Hills faded into the rearview mirror and the land started to level out. We had heard that the winds were so strong the night before that 3 semi-trucks were blown over on the Interstate. There were signs of other damage along the roadway as we saw a number of billboards that were blown over or torn a part. As we drove on down the highway, it appeared that there was dirt or dust being blown across the highway, but as we approached the area, it was actually tumbleweed. It was actually pretty neat to see it up close as the only other time I saw it was in the old cowboy movies.

Sioux Falls, SD came into view on the far eastern side of South Dakota. And just as quickly, Sioux Falls fell behind us. We did arrive in a new state this afternoon, Minnesota. Of course we got another picture of the State Sign. We might be heading into Wisconsin as well (tomorrow), but the state line is at a river crossing so we may not be able get a photo. Especially if it isn’t safe to pull over to the side. We are heading towards the Chicago area, and we haven’t decided if we want to travel thru the city or try to divert around it. We still have a few hundred miles before we get close, so we’ll decide our final route later in the day.

So far for this little excursion out West, I have logged over 3000 miles, and we still have about another 1200 more miles to go. Over all, it’s been a good ride and I hope that we get to do it again in the next couple of years.

Looks like rain tomorrow, so I’ll need to keep my rain gear out and ready. For us Soggy Bottom Riders, we just keep earning our name.

Three States for Three Bikers

We rode our bikes out of Custer, SD in the morning, heading West. Since this was our last day in the Black Hills, we wanted to make the most of it. The road twisted and meandered around and over the hills until it finaly started to level out. The road took us first into a new state, Wyoming, and we then turned north with the Devils Tower as our destination. It was a cool morning and we kept our leather jackets on for most of the ride.

We crossed under the main interstate for the area, I90, but we kept to the side roads for our little excursion. We made a final turn for the Devils Tower and after rolling across some open valleys and crossing over a hill, Devils Tower appeared in the distance. We were still several miles away, but being over 1200 feet tall (over 5000 feet above sea level), it was easiest the tallest object in the area.

We approached the park entrance and parked to get some photographs of the Tower, and some much desired food for lunch. Devils Tower is a famous site since it was used as an Alien Encounter site by Steven Spielberg, but long before that, it was a spiritual site for the local indian tribes.

Since Steve was running on fumes and needed fuel, we turned north out of the Devils Tower area. We fueled up in a small town called Hulett, but decided to continue traveling North. In only another 30 miles, we crossed into our 3rd US State of the day, Montana. It is certainly the Big Sky state as there is a lot of sky in your view for miles in all directions. We arrived into the small town of Azada, MT, but a quick right turn took us back into Wyoming, and a little further on, back into South Dakota.

One thing I noticed as we were rolling along the backroads of MT was the many different names of Ranches above the gates off of the main road, Sky Ranch, Circle K Ranch, etc. But what got me was that you saw the mail box and the road/driveway from the main road, but the driveway seemed to disappear in the distance. All I noticed was the occassional herd of Cows or a number of horses on someones ranch, but rarely did we see the actual homes or other buildings of these ranches.

We rolled along and headed for Belle Fourche, SD, which also happens to be the Geographic Center of the US. The actual offical point of that designation is about 20 miles north of the city, but to be more tourist friendly, they setup a tourist destination at the local visitors center. The actual Geographic Center is located in a field, where it is marked by a marker in the ground and a flying US flag.

Our ride was coming to and end, for the day, and for our Sturgis experience. We were heading back to our hotel in Custer, SD for our last night. The road was getting dark and since the sun was setting on the far side of the Black Hills, it was getting rather cold out.

Tomorrow, we will begin our long trek back across several states and for our homes. Unfortunately, it looks like we will need our rain gear for much of the ride home.

Sturgis!

What can you say about Sturgis. The pictures in the gallery pretty much says it all.

The population of Sturgis is only about 6500, but during the Sturgis Rally, it swells to over 500,000.

Motorcycles are everywhere. Thousands and thousands of them parked on the main street, parking lots, side streets, and alleys.

The girls were also everywhere, wearing nothing but body paint and a smile. I was amazed that Michael didn’t break his neck a few times trying to twist around to see what I was looking at. Most were happy to pose for a quick photo. It was fun watching the people on the street and you could spend hours just watching them walk by.

It was an awesome experience that I’m sure I will return for more in the future.

Buffalo versus Me and My Motorcycle

The last 2 days of riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota has been a lot of fun.  On Monday, we started out riding to Custer State Park and to see some Buffalo (Bison).  Just as we started to make the turn towards the park entrance, there was a huge Buffalo sitting next to the road way.  At that point, I knew it was going to be an awesome experience.  We made our way around the winding roads to the park entrance, paid our fee, and continued on the Wild Life Loop.  We road thru some great scenic areas of the park, saw some mountain goats, but no Buffalo.  We road further along and crossed into a small valley where we did encounter some  wild Donkeys (a bunch of asses).  It was a interesting place to stop for a few moments as we watched a few human asses feed the donkeys. But we were in search of Buffalo, which at the moment seemed more inclined to stay away from the main road.

Our next stop was at the Rangers Station, which proved to be the best place to stop to gather information on our quest for the Buffalo. The Ranger showed us on a map where 3 herds of Buffalo were on the last sighting, but it was no where near the main road. Michael and I are no strangers to taking our bikes down back dirt roads, and this was just another notch on our belts. This particular dirt road twisted around bends and up inclines between the trees, till we crested a hill to see a herd of Buffalo off to the far side of the small valley.

We road our bikes up as close as we dared and parked. All three of us dismounted our bikes and grabbed our cameras to take as many photographs as we could. You could hear the Buffalo grunting in the distance and a few were rolling in the dirt. Most seemed unfazed by our arrival, so of course, we walked further towards them across the open field. We got as close as we dared to the huge beasts, either from the lack of courage or lack of stupididty. The Park Ranger drove out to keep an eye on us, or on the Buffalo, and parked his car at the end of the road. We had shot plenty of photographs when the first few rain drops began to fall, so we knew it was time to move on.

Hoping that the rain wouldn’t last very long, we drove back aways when the rain became more intense, and we dug out the rain gear (again). We took another dirt road and followed it around till we literally drove up to a huge herd of Buffalo. They owned this road and we knew it.

We sat on our bikes and watched the Buffalo wander back and forth across the road and wondered if we would have to retrace our route and go back the way we came. As the Buffalo parted the roadway momentarily, Michael and Steve made their way in single file up the road and between the Buffalo. When it was my turn, the road closed with Buffalo. A few started wandering towards me, and I began to walk my bike backwards. Thinking the whole time, “oh, shit”.

Michael had stopped on the other side and captured photos of me still behind, and on the other side of the Buffalo. These are truly huge beasts and I certainly didn’t want to mess with them, and I hoped they didn’t want to mess with me. I saw my spot open on the road and I moved cautiously forward keeping my hand on the throttle, ready to accelerate the hell out of there! As soon as I road up to Michael, the first words were, “Holy Shit!”. It was scary and intense, and pure excitement that I will never forget.

We meandered our way out of the back trails and back onto hard pavement to continue our way around the Wild Life Loop and out of the park. It was a short slow ride on my motorcycle that I will never forget.

Coming out of the park, we headed along a twisty mountain road to Mt. Rushmore. The road twisted back on it’s self several times, and at one point, the road twisted through single lane tunnels and pigtailed (corkscrewed) down the mountain to a valley below. We did find a few spots to pull off the road and see Mt. Rushmore from a distance. It was still far away, but it was still an awesome site to see carved into the mountain.

I captured several images of Mt. Rushmore, the Buffalo, and of the Crazy Horse Memorial that you can see in the Gallery pages located at the top-right of this home page. Some better than others, but all good memories.

Arrival into the Black Hills of South Dakota

The ride from Chamberlain, SD to the Black Hills was really uneventful. We cranked out the miles at 80+ mph. Michael had talked about wanting to stop in Wall, SD, which is the home of the famous Wall Drug. We had been seeing signs for the place for the last couple hundred miles or so, even as far back as Iowa. It was described as something like “South of the Border” and it certainly lived up to it. Store after store after store of novelties, souvenirs, T-shirts and food. Plus they advertised “Free Water” and “5cent Coffee” on several dozen billboards along the way. The “Free Water” was warm, and the wax-paper cups were stuck together and we never did find the “5cent Coffee”, but we also didn’t look that hard for it. It was a good stop and I bought my first T-shirt of the trip, especially since I needed a clean shirt for the next day.

As we approached Rapid City, the huge mass of black clouds seemed to stretch all the way to the ground. When people talk of tornados and the finger of God reaching down from heaven to wreak havic on the earth, I understand what they mean. This black mass of clouds was intense. Lightening crackled in the distance as we got pelted with heavy rain drops. Certainly not the first rain we’ve encountered on this massive ride across the country. As the rain fell harder, we pulled to the side of the road and raced to get on our rain gear. We road through the rain and just on the edge of town, the clouds parted momentarily. Steve and Michael pulled off their rain gear at the next over pass, but I was too tired of putting on the rain gear, taking off the rain gear, and then having to put it back on again. But only a few more miles down the road, the rain came again and I laughed as Michael and Steve got pelted with rain. The rain didn’t last very long, but Michael did pull over to put on his rain gear again.

In Rapid City, we turned south for our Hotel in Custer, SD, which is nestled in the Black Hills. It was about another 45 mile ride, but a fun twisting ride on curvy roads. As we rolled into the small town of Hill City, motorcycles were jammed all along the main street. It was awesome! At that moment, I knew we were in for a hell of a motorcycle rally like we’ve never experienced before.

Today will be a fun day of riding in the Black Hills and seeing Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monument. The rides we’ve planned for the day should be fun and intense. Hopefully a white knuckler.