Motorcycle Road Trip from Beltsville MD to Sturgis SD

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.

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