2009 Ride West – August 1 to August 14
Day 1 Signal Mountain, TN to St. Louis, MO 477 miles
…and so it begins.
Today was a great day. Got an early start, as I wanted to repack my gear to get the weight distribution to my satisfaction. Kickstand up and wheels turning at 7:45 AM.
Took a quick spin through the Club on my way out, as our Member/Guest was just getting underway. Spotted a few friends warming up, waved goodbye, and set out in earnest.
Weather was great when I left; in the low 70s and overcast. I rode for 200 miles before stopping and got a hearty breakfast. After refueling, I headed northwest in mid 80s temps as the day was warming.
Traffic was comfortably light, and all went well until about 3:30 PM, when the rain hit. Not too bad, but had to stop and “gear up”. Met a nice group of riders at the underpass doing the same thing…and we sat for about 20 minutes to let the main front move on a bit.
The last 75 miles were in rain, but only heavy in spots. Precipitation cleared as I reached the outskirts of St. Louis and I found the hotel I’m meeting my *old+ cronies at without incident. Arrived at 4:30PM and warm sunshine came out as I unstrapped the gear from the bike. I laid my gear out to dry in the hotel room, got a shower, and am still awaiting their arrival. The bike ran great.
I believe it is time to sit outside, perhaps light a cigar and be there as they pull in.
Looking forward to seeing my pals, having dinner – and a beer.
Tomorrow our goal is Sioux Falls, IA. The weather looks encouraging.
Day 2 August 2, 2009 Ride to Sioux Falls, SD 630 miles
Today was a full day. We started a bit late (kickstands up at 9:00 AM), as I had my bike all packed and found no electronics working. After pulling all my gear off the bike, I did a field repair on some electrical issues that I wasn’t completely surprised about, and the bike worked fine the rest of the day. We’ll see how long this holds – or if I can get some replacement parts installed while I’m on the road out here.
The weather was great, with initial temps in the low 70s – but climbing into the 90s by day’s end. We did hit some construction, but for the most part we had good running.
After obtaining a local recommendation, we stopped for a lunch of genuine Kansas City barbeque at the Rosedale BBQ; this is a local legend celebrating its 75th year of serving BBQ for the locals. While we had to backtrack a bit to find it, it was well worth the time spent. A fine meal of beef brisket sandwiches…
After our sumptuous lunch, we headed north to Sioux Falls, SD – exceeding our Sioux City goal by over 80 miles. We stayed with it and took advantage of the fine weather…ultimately rolling a total of 630 miles today, arriving at 8:30 PM.
We arrived tired but satisfied, and grabbed a quick shower before heading for a quick dinner across the street. You can see *we+ 3 Amigos in the attached file. That’s Roger on the left, Scott in the middle, and yours truly on the right.
Tomorrow should be a downhill slide to Sturgis, although we plan on touring the Badlands enroute.
If all goes well, we should be able to set up camp in late afternoon and get acclimated to the area/events with no time pressure.
Day 3 Sioux Falls, SD to Sturgis, SD 408 miles
Today was an easy day, with a number of stops.
Wheels rolling at 8:15 AM, and we stopped at about an hour out to visit Cabelas and some other tents and Sturgis memorabilia tourist traps. The signs for the Sturgis bike rally began almost immediately, and we found the restaurants pretty filled and service was slow due to the increasing crowd.
The weather was great, starting in the low 70s and ending in the high 80s – except when we were at the Badlands…as we toured the Badlands, it was much cooler at 92 degrees than our last trip when the thermometer hit 111! Still, it is one desolate place; “inhospitable” as described by Roger. We dragged Scott kicking and screaming to get a photo near the edge of a ravine. Photo to follow, as we’re now camping and I’m making this short to save battery.
We got to the campground around 5:00 PM and Roger found a group of folks he’d met before here. We pitched our tents and had a simple dinner. There is a live band playing, so I’m off to check it out and enjoy a cigar. It’s getting cool, and is really quite pleasant.
Tomorrow looks to be a relaxing, off day…we expect to check out the town and see what it has to offer.
Day 4 Sturgis Rally 16 miles
As planned, today was an off day to visit the downtown rally and see the sights.
We rode to town and – FORGOT OUR CAMERAS ! Anyway, the raucous atmosphere was consistent with a frontier town invaded by 100s of thousands of bikers. It was just like the photos we’ve all seen with motorcycles everywhere as far as the eye can see. Everyone seemed busy with all manner of humanity and activity represented. The atmosphere was infectious and I couldn’t resist the temptation to get a tattoo. I began to feel I fit in better almost immediately; photo to follow. I’m getting less ribbing from the Harley crowd about my Honda touring machine. [NOT REALLY; THE TATTOO THING IS JUST A JOKE!]
We strolled Main St. and came back after stopping in the Dungeon Bar – just one [dingy] look and it is easy to see how it got its moniker.
After returning to camp for a respite, we took the shuttle to the Full Throttle Bar. All I can say is it was “something else”…after the Midget Wrestling exhibitions, there were others – but it rained real hard and Roger had the foresight to secure some prime [dry] seating out of the mainstream for us. Perfect. We were comfortable except for about 10 minutes when the rain was driving sideways.
Later, The Marshall Tucker Band played and I got a “first row” spot. They were terrific, and the music brought back memories of my college days when their music floated thru the halls of the dorm. We grabbed the shuttle back, but had to make a connection downtown enroute to our campsite. Roger convinced us to get a nightcap at the Broken Spoke, as that is an iconic location. Just as we arrived, the band started playing Sweet Home Alabama – and they were GOOD. It turns out it was the Jimmy Van Zant Band (familiar name, oldsters?) and he sang with the accuracy only familial lineage can bring. They then closed with an inspired rendition of Freebird, which was fantastic! Truly a great end to a fun day.
As an aside, I want to thank everyone who has responded – but have to note that my BlackBerry is not taking a charge, so I have been without email for 2 days. This morning when I went to send this message, I lost my computer to a drained battery just moments before I was going to hit send. I’ve had to retype it…and am trying to resuscitate my phone by rebooting it and changing chargers – but so far no luck.
Please do not be offended if I do not respond timely. Thanks for your thoughts and well wishes.
Day 5 Sturgis to Custer, SD 126 miles
Today was all about quality instead of quantity.
We broke camp at a leisurely pace, and got tires spinning at 10:15 AM. That gear sure unpacks faster than it repacks! We said good bye to our camp mates and rolled out of Sturgis. Our plan was to ride somewhat locally and then drift toward the southwest over the next few days.
We rode the canyons southwest of Sturgis and the roads and scenery were both spectacular! Truly a grand day of riding…
I’m sorry to report that I dropped my camera in a parking lot and it is DOA. It remains to be seen if I can resurrect the images on it – I have some really good ones. Woof! And, since my BB is still “bricked” there is no backup camera for me. Roger is handling all photography at this point.
We rode by Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse and have landed at a small roadside hotel. Roger and Scott are at the bar, but I wanted to get a message out since I missed yesterday. I’m off to join them and get some dinner.
Day 6 Custer, SD to Rawlins, WY 350 miles
Today was an exceptional day!
We left Custer at 9:40 AM after waiting for the fog to clear. We ran back roads through landscape that can only be described as incredible. Images of settlers traveling via wagon trains were vivid in our minds as we traversed this prairie land. Little water was evident, although we did see some streams that were beautiful and surely relied upon for sustenance in earlier times.
We saw Independence Rock and found it to be inspiring as we knew it represented the ½ way point for travelers on the old Oregon Trail. I got a wonderful picture of this American landmark; photo attached.
[ A VIEW ONLY A GARBAGE MAN LIKE ME COULD LOVE!]
It was truly humbling to envisage settlers moving at 20 miles per day maximum, as we ran through the hills, dales, and prairies alike at 70 MPH with XM radio and hydration packs providing ice water as we needed it. And we were not worried about hostile Indian attacks either. By comparison…well, there is no comparison! Just past Independence Rock, we also saw a memorial to the Mormon Cart People. If you know about their incredible story, you can understand just how easy our travels are. If you don’t know about them, click here. Of course, there are other websites, but I just picked this one quickly to give you the idea of their self-induced travel/struggles.
The weather was threatening, but never really materialized in force. We hit some rain and saw some really dark areas around us, but were lucky enough to slip through without enduring major storm effects. We arrived at 5:30 PM, and managed to witness the storm release its fervor while we were having dinner safely inside. Later, we did talk to some other bikers that got caught in the hailstorm/deluge – but we thankfully missed that.
Overall, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular and we marveled at the transition from highlands to prairie to the small downtown area of Rawlins.
This was a day of riding and sights that I won’t forget; my description pales in comparison to the actual thing.
Day 7 Rawlins, WY to Mt. Pleasant, UT 418 miles
Today defined why we came here; truly epic riding seasoned with perfect weather.
We left the hotel, fueled up and hit the road at 8:15 AM heading southwest all day. The rolling prairies gave way to high desert and then changed again to windblown rocky formations as we entered Utah. As we continued, the hills grew into real mountains which we climbed to tour through evergreen forest mountain passes. At one point, we checked our elevation and found we were at 9,018 ft – and that was not the highest point of travel. Also interesting (and reasonably concerning) is that this is “open range” territory – meaning that bulls and cows graze freely along/around/on the highways and byways. And while we didn’t *yet+ see any, we know there are bears and elk in these mountains as well. Suffice it to say, with these very large animals roaming around, we were very careful/aware while riding…and will continue to be so.
We planned to ride about 300 miles, but the weather was so good and the roads/scenery were stellar – so we pressed on just “being here now” and enjoying the day. Temperatures ranged from high 50’s in morning and late in the day in the mountains to 89 degrees mid day…layers & liners were on/off/on again.
I know it sounds trite, but the photos can’t depict the reality we experienced today – but they will fuel fond memories and I include them to give you a sense of some of the surroundings we toured during this fine day.
From this one vantage point, you see this if you turn your head and look left:
And if you turn your head right, you see this:
Day 8 Mt. Pleasant, UT to Mt. Carmel Junction 202 miles
An unusual and concerning day…we left town at 2:15PM.
Roger fell ill during the night and woke up with symptoms not dissimilar to food poisoning…certainly in no shape to get on a motorcycle. We decided to spend the day without moving, but he went to a local clinic (they call it a hospital!?!) and was found to be dehydrated. After a bit of intravenous drip, he felt much better – but still not 100%.
He wanted to press on, albeit slowly to see how he would fare. He gathered strength during the day and we ended up rolling until 7:00 PM and are now at the turn off to enter Zion National Park (about 20 miles distant).
During the ride, we stayed mostly on scenic roads (very much so!) and not only found some wonderful sweeping turns, but we also avoided the wind – which was becoming significant. Not threatening, but definitely a concentration factor. Once in the canyons, we didn’t have much wind to contend with and that made the ride much better.
The machines all continued to run great, and the temperatures were perfect.
All in all, we were encouraged by Roger’s recuperation and hope he’ll be 100% tomorrow. We plan to visit Zion and then head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
We are all out of cell phone service now and are not sure when we’ll pick it up again.
Day 9 Mt. Carmel Junction, UT to Jacob Lake, AZ 198 miles
A leisurely day for sight seeing.
We toured Zion National Park in the morning, leaving at 10:15 AM after getting a good night’s sleep. The views were awesome, and – again – the photos don’t do justice to what we saw.
This included a ride through a 1.1 mile tunnel that was completed in the early ‘30s. Impressive civil engineering work.
After we left Zion, we traveled down to Jacobs Lake, AZ and witnessed the landscape morph into rolling desert sprinkled with brush and trees began to appear as we got farther south, ultimately transitioning to real forests.
Upon arriving at Jacobs Lake, we booked a room in a rustic lodge. We got the 2nd to last room, so it was good that we stopped, despite the relatively early hour. The room wasn’t ready, so before unpacking, we rode about 44 miles down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The ride down was magnificent, as we all felt that we were in virgin wilderness the whole way down. One could readily imagine a mountain lion or bear strolling about – but [alas] we never saw one. With respect to the canyon itself, it was truly grand – so I guess coming up with that name was not a particularly creative marketing coup.
We took the obligatory photos, then Scott changed into a local traditional Medicine Man outfit to perform a fair weather dance – offering thanks for the great weather we have enjoyed and imploring for continued good fortune in this area. While I was unable to capture his rendition of the Moon Walk on video, I did manage to capture a quick still photo of him in mid-step.
After grabbing a quick sandwich we headed back to the lodge to check in and get settled. Again, the access road to/from the North Rim was as impressive as any we have been on since we set out, so it was a treat to ride it twice!
At the lodge, our spartan, rustic room was adequate for our needs and allowed us to sit outside next to the bikes. It was a wonderful night of fellowship as we shared a few beers and lots of stories before calling it a night.
Day 10 Jacobs Lake, AZ to Durango, CO 363 miles
A hot, challenging ride today.
As we set out this morning, we officially turned our wheels east for the first time and are now headed back toward our respective homesteads.
The wilderness gave way to desert and the desert asserted itself as we rode almost all day in its heat. We all have hydration packs, so we were drinking adequately – and after Roger’s experience – we were particularly mindful of taking care.
However, it was 95 degrees when we stopped at the 4 Corners. Now…that is one unimpressive landmark! It resides in a barren, hot, dusty area of the planet with nothing there but a small monument and a smattering of plywood-housed tourist traps selling Navaho pottery, jewelry, T-shirts and other trinkets. Not even a gas station. In a moment of “induced altruism”, I succumbed and bought a T-shirt, doing my patriotic duty to support the local economy.
We had to backtrack 5 miles to get fuel as the Harleys have less range and [I’m told] are not fun to push…so we took no chances.
Then, we pressed on to Durango, CO. (Did I say it was HOT?!?) It was uncanny as we left AZ, how quickly the landscape changed to the high rugged mountains cloaked in evergreen forests that everyone associates with Colorado. Durango is a modern, trendy town with many shops and a vibrant economy. Vastly different from many of the places we have seen during our travels.
Day 11 Durango, CO to Dodge City, KS 360 miles
Rocky Mountains! Great Plains.
We swept through and [ultimately] out of the Rocky Mountains today – taking all morning to do so. We enjoyed long, sweeping curves against a backdrop of the most beautiful mountain scenery you can imagine. Wide verdant meadows were framed with deep evergreen forests capped with rocky tops. (I threw that in for our TN contingent!)
After taking our time riding up and down canyon passes, we left the unmatched Rockies and transitioned to rolling hills and ultimately flat prairies. While these prairies had more brush than those of Wyoming, they still presented a fairly forbidding environment that was hot and uncomfortable. And, it just went on and on…it felt like we were adrift in an ocean of sage brush and desert – with every horizon unending and unchanged. Did I say it was HOT? It was. Oh yeah, at some point, a bee flew up my jacket sleeve and stung me in the forearm. I felt the sting, but only now have determined the root cause and it was a small thing. [Postscript: 2 days later, Roger had the exact same thing happen, but much worse; a bee flew into the collar of his leather jacket and around to his back. He was stung 4-5 times.]
I have been monitoring the tread wear on my rear tire for some time now, and – regrettably – I require a new skin to safely traverse the highways that lie between my present location and home. Tomorrow will include an effort to locate a suitable replacement…
We arrived in Dodge City and walked to a local bar/eatery for a meal and a drink before retiring. Suffice it to say, we were easily identifiable as “non locals”. However, everyone was very friendly and after besting my companions in 2 games of pool, we sauntered back to our hotel. The fellow working the front desk was kind enough to open the cement pond for us, so we refreshed ourselves in the cool waters and hot tub facilities before retiring for the night.
Sorry I missed email this night, but we were bushed.
Day 12 Dodge City, KS to Sedalia, MO 477 miles
A difficult and frustrating day.
Hot all day. Clear skies once again.
Since my rear tire is so worn, safety dictates replacing it. We began the day by appearing at the local Honda dealership at opening time to see if they have what I require. Not available, and not sure what a Plan B will be. However, we determined later in the day that I might be able to make this happen in Wichita, KS…so we set our route accordingly.
After more agonizing than I care to report, we finally located a dealer in Wichita that had my [somewhat unusual] tire size and got the job done. I surely feel a lot better knowing my tires are safe. There is a whole story about this that I won’t recount here, except to say that upon my insistence and personal intervention they also located the special Honda molybdenum grease required to do this job properly.
So…after too many hours of delay, we finally laid a trail for Kansas City. We took back roads (state routes) instead of interstates and found it really makes the trip more scenic and interesting.
We literally traveled until dark and were glad to reach a room and get a shower before walking to a very late but well deserved dinner. As you can tell by the date/time stamp on this message – it is late.
So, I’m signing off here…for now. Tomorrow puts us close to home and we should be back in 2 more days.
Day 13 Sedalia, MO to Louisville, KY 485 miles
We rode today like a horse returning to the barn…we are in the home stretch.
Again, the weather was excellent, although it might be viewed as too hot for some. High 80s into the 90s as the day wore on. I had my evaporative cooler on (kind of like fabric shoulder pads, but made with a water absorbing material inside that holds water for long periods), but it is less effective in the East as the humidity increases. Out West, it worked great and really kept me cooler in the heat of the desert.
We were pretty exhausted after yesterday’s long ride/late arrival, so we slept in a bit and didn’t start until 9:15 AM. We again stayed off the interstate until after lunch, at which point we decided to “slab it” (a rider’s term for interstate riding) to allow Roger and Scott to position themselves sufficiently East to make it home tomorrow. They will have to make an early start to do this, but I will have a relatively short ride home from Louisville tomorrow.
So, the ring of fellowship will be broken in the morning – and we’re off to have a last evening together to celebrate our journey.
Day 14 Louisville, KY to Signal Mountain, TN 293 miles
Final leg and reflective musings…
Last night we were joined by an old friend who drove about 90 miles to come out and meet us. It was great to see Kenny; a mutual friend of all of us from the banner years at BFI. Great cap on a fine outing!
Despite being the first to bed last night, I was a bit sluggish this morning and allowed myself an extra hour of sleep. Kenny and I dallied over coffee before I had tires rolling at the “crack of 10:30 AM.”
I ran about 35 miles on the interstate before catching Route 127…and then rode that all the way to Signal Mountain. It was slow going, as the road was 2-lane in many spots and truck traffic was out in force. However, I was content to slide home comfortably since I did not have even 300 miles to travel. In this area of the country, there were some pretty technical riding areas – as the rolling hills create limited sight distance and one must be vigilant to avoid any surprises such as loose gravel, critters in the road, decreasing radius or off-camber turns. I was careful all day and arrived safely home at 5:30 PM, which included the last time zone change of the trip. I have received messages from both Scott and Roger confirming their safe arrivals as well.
As I was traversing the last few hours of my trip as a solo rider, I thought about lots of things and offer just a few of them here:
- I traveled over 4,800 miles in 2 weeks and despite all the planning and scrupulous care while riding, there is a measure of good fortune to complete such a journey without incident. To that end, I am grateful to our Lord for shepherding the three of us through what has been a wonderful saga of events.
- We were truly blessed with incredible weather and I am thankful for that as well. This is no small matter, given how exposed you are while in the saddle. In 14 days of over 8 hours riding each day, I only had to ride through about 2 hours of rain…and most of that was on the first day! The day after we left Sturgis, they had severe hailstorms that damaged many bikes – and other storms raged around the country as we “slipped through.” (A now-forgotten sailor was once interviewed after sailing solo across the ocean, wherein the interviewer asked him how he felt about mastering Mother Nature on his voyage. He responded “no one ever masters Mother Nature – she allowed me to slip through. “) Hence, my earlier characterization.
- The acceptance of my wife and family of my venture means a lot to me, and I thank them for understanding my motivation and interest in completing this journey. I love you all.
- All machines ran well for the entire time, this is also something to be thankful for. While I did have the small electrical issue already documented, it was minor and never threatened our ability to move forward. On one other occasion, my [carbureted] machine puked up some coolant as we stopped at an overlook during some spirited riding up a mountain pass. Immediate and close inspection determined that it was just “altitude overflow” and nothing was actually wrong. Finally, while my tire issue was a bit concerning, everything worked out in the end and that was certainly no fault of the machine. I thought the rubber was fine upon leaving, but the heavy weight of my gear coupled with long hot days caused wear to be accelerated.
- I must offer tribute to my traveling companions – both intrepid souls whose friendship, judgment, and joie de vive made this a very special trip and mean so much to me.
As I close this journal, I want to also thank those of you that offered your support both before and during our venture.
We saw things that defy description, and my humble attempts to portray them for you are surely inadequate. This outing was far more leisurely than Roger’s and my Ride to the Pacific in 2007, but it did require some effort to complete. I am glad we did it. When considering the question “What is over the next hill?” You’ll only know if you venture forth and look.
That said, not unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – the welcoming hills of East Tennessee make me offer the following refrain: “There’s no place like home.”
Written by George Paturalski