Sturgis, SD and beyond
Trip Breakdown at A Glance:
27 States, 2 Countries, 5 Great Lakes, 7,600 Miles Countless National And State Parks/Monuments
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15 Day 16 Day 17
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The 'Wing was packed the day before so I could get an early start on day one. I left my house at 4AM with Brattleboro, VT as my first destination. I was to meet up with Rich, known from here on as "Guppy" and Ron, known from here on as "Gazelle". The bike was ready, the gear was ready and I was ready - unfortunately the weather did not want to cooperate because it rained and it rained hard!
I decided to take all back roads to our meeting spot in Brattleboro, after all that's what this trip was about - actually seeing this great country and not just hammering out miles on the interstate.
I arrived at the designated spot a little early so I took the time to have a nice hot coffee and warm up a bit from the cold early morning rain. Guppy and Gazelle arrived on time. We fueled our bikes and asked the attendant about some breakfast. We chose to grab some food at Bickfords.
After a hot breakfast and yes some more very welcomed coffee we headed west on Route 9. Vermont has been working on Rt 9 for a longtime. I have traveled this road many times in the past and it has been under construction for years. This morning the roads were in very bad shape. The asphalt was all torn up and we rode on loosely packed dirt roads for countless miles. The thought "I wish I had the Caponord on these roads" crossed my mind more then once!
Eventually the roads got better and so did the weather. We continued west on VT 9 / NY 7 to Schenectady, NY where we picked up Interstate 90 to make up some lost time. We took 90W to Rochester, NY. From Rochester we picked up 18W (Lake Ontario State Parkway) all the way into Niagara Falls. We stopped at Ft Niagara and got some pictures but decided to get some food and find the hotel - Niagara Falls, Ontario would wait till morning.
We found our hotel with ease. We stayed at the Holiday Inn, Grand Island. Gazelle had made these reservations and he did good! The hotel was a little "off the beaten path" but it was quiet and comfortable. The bartender was a jerk so we had one drink, took hot showers and went to sleep.
The day did not start out wet but soon came the heavy rains once again! We all managed to stay pretty dry ... except for the feet. Having wet feet for hundreds of miles really suck, I have to get some good rain covers for my feet.
While packing the bikes in the morning Gazelle and I met a guy named Herman. Herman was impressed that we had traveled "this far on bikes". We explained to him what we were doing and where we planned to be riding - now he was really impressed! He told us that he would like to do the same thing except in a van. Both Ron and I told him that if he really wanted to do it then he should and not to procrastinate.
We chose a Canadian route for day two. The Canadian route would bypass cities like Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee. I have heard horror stories of the traffic and road conditions in these areas. The Canadian route would also allow us to see all five Great Lakes! So instead of traffic, potholes and Interstate we chose scenic roads that were in excellent repair. Some things we did not expect were: 1) we found out that the first weekend of every month in Canada is a "holiday weekend" (May - Sept) - in Ontario - lots of traffic headed the same way we were! 2) never imagined it would take 4 hours to travel 100 miles! Heavy rains hurt the travel time; heavy traffic and we stopped to get some food.
We learned a few things while in Canada. They don't put lettuce on chicken sandwiches ... even if it's not their sandwich! They serve a "quad mac" sandwich at McDonald’s; Rich was in heaven - four patties on one roll! A Canadian $2 coin is a "toonie" and a $1 coin is a "loonie". According to Reed in Andrews Lake, Ontario ... told Ron after he made a purchase with US monies that "there is no exchange rate on coins - just bills" BAHAHAHAHA "coin rate is the same in US and Canada" BAHAHAHAHA and poor Gazelle believed her! This was the start of Ron's new handle/tag!
This was a long day mainly because of the traffic and rain delays. We got some pictures at Niagara Falls (Rich had never been here before) and I led them through some of the streets so he could see some of the tourist sights! After we saw the Falls we picked up Highway 401 toward Toronto. We traveled 401 to Highway 400 North to Highway 69 North (scenic route along the Georgian Bay and North Channel). From Highway 69 we picked up Highway 17 in Sudbury, Ontario and traveled west. Highway 17 is a beautiful route and very scenic (part of the Trans Canadian Highway). We wanted to stop but we wanted to make the US border first. We pushed on till we crossed back into the US at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Sue Saint Marie) is located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Upper Peninsula is surrounded by Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan ... very cool!
We found a little hotel where we literally crashed for the night!
This morning started off like day 2. There was no rain but after seeing the weather forecast we knew we were in for yet more wet riding. I don't know about the others but my boots were still wet! We grabbed some breakfast at a local restaurant where they served a buffet ... again Rich aka Guppy was in heaven!
We left town on Highway 28 W. Highway 28 is a nice scenic, open secondary road. I guess the Hooligan in me needed to get out for awhile. I got impatient (in a joking way) with Ron leading the group at 85MPH so I blasted by at about 115. I held it at 115 till my fuel light lit and started to flash. When we left Sault Ste. Marie we decided to fill up out of town ... almost a mistake, not many chances for gas here! We found a gas stop and we all filled up and were happy once again.
From Highway 28 we picked up Highway 35 S. By this time the sky had really opened up BIG. We met an old biker, "Harry", riding an old Shovelhead. He was headed to Sturgis and sort or hinted around to riding with us. We never invited him to ride along because we knew that there would be no way in hell he could or would be able to keep up to our pace in either speed or miles. Harry did give us some advice on routing around Green Bay and after looking at our maps and GPS it was the same route we had already chosen! When we hit north of Green Bay the lightening was like no lightening any of us had ever seen before. There were "strikes" all around us - a big circle. There was white lightening and blue lightening and it was constant! We decided to pull over under an overpass - none of us could see anything because of the rain. We knew we needed more miles for the day. We were already getting behind because of the rain so we pushed on. By the time we made the Minnesota / Wisconsin state line we were pretty wasted. We all decided to find the next exit get some gas, some food and find a place to crash. BIG MISTAKE - the next exit listed gas and food but we got off and followed the signs to "gas/food". We traveled a very small, extremely dark tiny road for about 10 miles or so. We never did find gas but we saw a little Tavern called Bergees Place so we pulled in. We figured to at least get some bar food, inquire about gas and hotel. Bergees Place was very strange - they serve alcohol to minors (kid may have been 15 at best) and the patrons were all toothless, scary freaks! We saddled back up as quickly as possible to avoid any confrontations and headed back to the highway. We got back on the highway and within 30 minutes were in a much larger town. We found something to eat and checked into the Quality Inn. We all decided to get gas in the morning and we also decided that none of us would ever return to visit Minnesota! Maybe MN is not so bad but what we saw and what we experienced was terrible...
After the past three days we decided to rest a little longer especially knowing we had a rather short distance to travel for the day. We got up, packed the bikes and ate breakfast at the hotels' restaurant. After breakfast we fueled up and were back on the highway leaving Minnesota!
The view at the Minnesota/South Dakota State line is absolutely indescribable! Even though it was not possible to get any pictures it will always remain one of my personal favorite views of the trip.
Once we crossed into South Dakota it seemed bike traffic really picked up. I was surprised by the number of riders we came across ... I was not surprised by the number of trailers. The three of us had a little fun. The roads were dry (for a change) and open - it appeared you could almost see forever! We did some cruising through South Dakota! We passed a State Trooper at 95 MPH and to all our surprised he never even "lit the lights"! We stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and had a couple buffalo BBQ sandwiches ... they were awesome by the way.
The traffic really got thick within 50 miles or so of Sturgis. Unfortunately we needed to go through Sturgis traffic in order to get to our campsite. We choose to stay a Bear Butte State Park while in the area. When we arrived at the park we met a young park attendant. I asked him if he had a place we could pitch our tents away from the masses after all we did want to get some sleep. Tom (Park Attendant) said he had a place he was sure we would like ... he was a cool kid! We followed him down a dirt road for about 1.5 miles - give or take. He led us to an area that a few others already set up but there was lots of space in between and it seemed rather quiet. We had a mountain to one side, a beautiful lake to another side and a pasture full of buffalo on a third side! What an incredible place to call home for a couple days! The only downfall if that's what you want to call it is there are no showers in the park. Tom told us that Bear Butte has arrangements with a private campground down the road where we could shower ... so that is what we did. We paid $6 a piece to camp for two nights each, add $4 for a shower ($8 for two days) and our camp 8 miles north of Sturgis Rally cost $14 for three days/two nights! There were residents of Sturgis charging $60 per night/per person to camp in their yards! We did good - we did better then good!
After we set up camp we decided to head into town. We only planned for a short visit for the Rally. We were in South Dakota for the riding and the sites - Sturgis Rally was icing on the cake. Sturgis made the BIG Three for me this year ... yea! We had a buddy from Massachusetts that was staying in Sturgis for the week (Tom S). Thanks to the wonderful technology that exists today I was able to reach him by cell phone. We set a place to meet and we were on our way. We hooked up with Tom and acted as our "guide" since he had been there for a couple days already. I've got to tell you, I've been to many motorcycle rallies and I've been to many of the big rallies, Sturgis is probably the least impressive for me. I have never seen a crowd of "riders" (I use this term very loosely) that were this reckless anyplace before. Walking through the crowds weather it be day or night the comments on drinking and bars was never far off. I kept thinking to myself and sometimes out loud to the others "why not enjoy the roads and sights that abound out here", "don't they have bars and liquor where you are from".
It was a long day and night so we bought some shirts and other tokens, ate some supper, said good night to Tom and headed back to camp. We found our way back to camp in the pitch dark without any problems. We all decided on the plan for the next day and we headed off to our tents. I had just gotten to sleep when I hear an unfamiliar voice say "I'm cold ... I need some more clothes" ... the voice was coming from Rich's tent. I was extremely tired and I had taken some medicine for my leg when I turned in. I laid there thinking maybe I was dreaming or hearing things? All of the sudden I hear Rich's voice holler "BUDDY ... YOU HAVE TO LEAVE ...NOW"! I hear a tent door unzip and feet walking away - what the hell just happened! Rich filled us in on the entire episode the next morning ... this was 2 - 3 AM when the "buddy" incident occurred!
The "Buddy" story went like this: Rich said he heard his tent unzip. He was tired and did not think much about it at the time. He figured it was Ron or I goofing and maybe playing a trick on him. When the guy spoke Rich knew it was not one of us! He fumbled around for his glasses in the dark and got hem on. When he looked up this guy - "Buddy" - was sitting Indian style staring down at him! Whoa ... talk about freaky! It's funny to laugh at now and we laughed about it the rest of our trip but think about it ... that is too weird! I think the guy was more stoned then drunk - after all he unzipped a tent door, crawled into the tent and zipped himself in.
We woke up and heard the story of Rich's "buddy" ... we all laughed hysterically. We packed up a set of clean clothes and shower items and headed out to the private campground to use their showers. I thought I had everything but I forgot my friggen towel back at camp! I ended up drying off using paper towels from the bathroom ... note to self ... remember towel next time! We ate breakfast at the campground too and planned our route for the day. While having breakfast we met a group of riders from Denmark! They had a total of 90 members from their H.O.G. group that made the 5 week journey for Sturgis and HD Milwaukee, WI 100th Anniversary Party! You should have seen some of their bikes ... very cool classic rides! One guy had a 2003 Ultra Classic, get this ... he told me the cost on that bike in Denmark was $90K! Between tariffs and supply and demand that was the going rate ... I thought to myself "NO WAY" I would ever justify a price tag like that.
Our route for the day included Custer State Park, Needles Highway, Wildlife Road and Mt Rushmore for the "big" sights. Custer State Park was one of my favorite places too. There are just so many things to see that words and pictures can not do the Park justice. Be sure to look at all the photos and you will get an idea of what I mean. Mt Rushmore was cool to see but at the same time it was a little disappointing. I always had an idea of the monument being this huge and massive carving. I am glad I saw it with my own eye but I would not go back to Rushmore unless I had my wife or children with me. I think everyone should take the time and see it personally for themselves. South Dakota has awesome roads and incredible views. I would love to do this trip again but earlier in the year before the Sturgis Rally. The Rally made the roads too congested and we saw too many bikes go down ... and hard. We saw four bikes in Custer State Park alone go down. Grant it there are some nice twisties and great sweeper turns BUT nothing that was very difficult to maneuver. Sturgis brings in inexperienced riders and a bunch of drunks in my personal opinion.
After grabbing a bit to eat and hitting downtown one last time for souvenirs we headed back to our campground.
We got early and headed for the shower and breakfast up the road. We wanted the dew to dry on our tents before we packed them away. After our shower and breakfast we returned to camp and pack the bikes for the day's journey. We all wanted to see Devils Tower so we planned our route so that would be a stop across the State line in WY.
We got a late start out of Sturgis because our bikes were filthy! We could not stand the dirt anymore so we wanted to wash them before we hit the road. I don't think any of our bikes have ever been this dirty before EVER and it bothered us all. We stopped in downtown Sturgis where I mailed a couple packages back home. Rich and Ron were holding a spot in line at the local carwash. When I got back from the PO they were still in line and hadn't moved very far!
By the time we finished washing the bikes and visiting Devils Tower it was getting late in the day. We had laundry that was really starting to stack up too. We looked at the map and decided to stop over in Sheridan, WY for the night. We figured we could get a good meal, do our laundry, have a drink and get some rest. None of us knew anything about doing laundry - we're all married! That is not an insult in anyway to our wives. We appreciate (especially after this trip) everything they do for us including our laundry and good home cooked meals! For some reason my socks and a couple shirts now have an orange/pink tinge to them! I hope to never have to do laundry again ... if I am away I will pay to have my clothes laundered.
We ate dinner at a small sport bar type restaurant "Pony Bar & Grill". The food was good but service was a little slow. We had a waitress that we dubbed "Oh Shit Girl". Her name was Tanya and she must have been new. A couple things we asked her and her response was "oh shit". There was a family dining behind us that she slipped at least 4 times that we heard ... wonder if she still works there ... probably not!
We stayed at the "Parkway Motel" in Sheridan for the night. The room was clean and comfortable but management needs to do some updating. The calendar in our room was turned to August 2002 ... only one year behind schedule! We learned a few other things while in WY. A soda is pop, a bag is a sack and a restaurant check is a ticket. We also learned there are some smart-ass people in WY. There was a woman gas attendant that called Ron "Suzy Chapstick" because he purchased a tube of cherry lip balm - she was actually a very nice lady but it sure took us all by surprise with her comment!
My leg was really giving me trouble this morning. I took some extra medicine in hopes that it would help get me through the day. I talked to Ron and Rich and explained that I did not want to lead this morning the way I was feeling. We had been swapping about the lead position anyway so it was not a problem for either one of them. We wanted to get on the road so we decided to find some food on the road someplace along the way. We left Sheridan, WY and headed out for Yellowstone National Park via Route 14. Route 14 is an awesome road!
When we arrived at Yellowstone Park via the East entrance. We wanted to get a picture at the "welcome" sign just outside the park so we stopped. There were others waiting for pictures also - they came in cars, trucks, campers, motorcycle and trailers! Throughout the trip we have taken pictures for other groups and others have taken group pictures for us ... no big deal, right? It was a big deal here! A woman asked me if I would take a picture for her and her boyfriend/husband of course I answered "no problem" and I took two pictures for them with her camera. When I handed her back the camera I asked if she would mind getting a shot for us as a group. She huffed and puffed about it and agreed to do it. She actually had the nerve to complain about taking a freakin picture for us! Some people are just plain unbelievable ... they must have been from Minnesota (just a joke now).
After we gained entrance to the Yellowstone we headed for our campground. It was beginning to get late in the afternoon and we wanted to set up camp before dark. On our way to the campground we passed our first herd of buffalo wandering through the fields and across the road! Rich was leaving for Las Vegas tonight but we wanted him to see Old Faithful before he left. Once our tents were set we headed out on Park Loop Rd for Old Faithful. En-route to the famous geyser we crossed the Continental Divide twice ... cool.
We barely arrived at Old Faithful when the geyser lived up to its namesake! I think we waited 20 to 30 minutes before hot water was being spit high into the air. We decided to fill our gas tanks and our bellies. Rich decided after fueling he was going to head out. We said our good byes and gave him strict instructions to call when he arrived in Vegas. We all had traveled across Canada and the United States as a group and I did not like the idea of Rich being alone on the road ... but I certainly understood.
WOW ... day eight started off a brisk 37 degrees! I knew the chance of cold weather was a very good possibility. I had talked with other riders that have been to Sturgis in the past that have actually encountered SNOW - in August! The cold air was welcomed as far as I was concerned after the heat we had endured earlier in the week. The air was cold, crisp and clean, it was refreshing. Ron and I packed our gear we thought we would need for the day and headed out to find some coffee!
We were on a time schedule and we only had two days to see everything Yellowstone had to offer. It was a challenge but hey ... somebody had to do it! Ron and I had breakfast at the Lake Lodge restaurant then headed out. We traveled 98% of the roads in Yellowstone that day, it was incredible! We saw numerous waterfalls, canyons, rivers and lakes ...absolutely beautiful and one of my favorite National Parks. Throughout the day we passed by and rode through many buffalo herds. We saw elk, moose, osprey and tons of "other" wildlife in the Park. It was a great day. While traveling on one of the many back roads in Yellowstone we met two riders from Manitoba, Canada. They were both pretty serious riders and we talked at a scenic overlook along with a Park Ranger for a long time. It was good to see others getting out and enjoying my favorite sport ... motorcycling!
While in the northernmost section of Yellowstone we stopped at a Post Office to send another package home. There was a small herd of elk on the back lawn of the post office! This is a town and there are elk just laying in the shade relaxing with people walking about. Ron and I decided since we were on the Montana/Wyoming State lines we would cross over into Montana, after all it gave us one more State we were in! We took Route 212 into Montana and Gallatin National Forrest. Route 212 was another great motorcycle road. If it were not for the impending rainstorm we would have spent a little more time exploring the area. I was able to stop in the middle of the road and get a picture of the "original" entrance to Yellowstone. At one time there was only one entrance and it was on the most northern tip of the park.
As we headed back to our campsite I thought about everything we had seen so far. I wondered to myself how many people realize what is out here to see and how many people will take the time to see it themselves. This trip that I billed as "once in a lifetime" was NOT going to be that ... I will come back and see it all again! I will take the time, expense and the energy and bring my family to all these beautiful places.
We broke camp early today. We had a lot to see and miles that needed covered! Good thing for us it was a little warmer morning. The temperature was 42 degrees! We loaded the bikes and headed for the Park Loop Road south.
We stopped in the Grand Teton National Park for breakfast. We ate at the Signal Mountain Lodge. The hot coffee (Ron and I are both addicted) was more welcomed then the huge bacon and egg breakfast we wolfed down. We had an incredible view from our table. The entire back wall of the restaurant was a glass window with an overlook of Jackson Lake. It was an impressive view and incredible meal! Ron and I both decided that Carol and Kim would have to see this place!
We left the Grand Tetons and traveled South on our way to Bryce Canyon. We met many very nice people on this portion of the trip. We were stopped on Highway 89 south of Jackson, WY in a construction zone. They were clearing the "pass" through the mountain in preparation for winter. We talked with the flag girl (Lindsey) for the twenty-five minutes we were delayed. We arrived in Panguitch, Utah where we decided to find a hotel to crash. We stayed at Bryce Canyon Motel, the price was cheap, the room was large (two bedrooms) and clean and the service was excellent! The manager was really a nice guy. He was a lonely person and he talked a lot. We found out that he had cancer and was going through treatments. His wife left him when he got cancer ... what an evil person ... what happened to "in sickness and in health". Despite his cancer he kept the grounds of the hotel clean and he waited on any lucky traveler that happened through Panguitch! He was out gathering firewood for some Israeli guests that wanted to have a bon fire. We eventually joined the bon fire and had a couple beers. It turned out the Israeli guests were all pilots in Israel Air Force. Our government invited them for a training program dubbed "Red Sky". Apparently the United States does this training program on a yearly basis ... little do we know huh.
We got up early, checked tire pressures, wiped off the bikes and loaded our gear. As I was dropping off the room key I decided to ask the manager for suggestion on where we could get some good breakfast. He directed me to a local truck stop where he assured me they served the BEST breakfast around. Since Panguitch is a small town and personal experience tells me truck stops do in fact have excellent food we headed out. He was right, the food was GREAT. There was an older lady at the grill and she could sling some grub! The service on the other hand was pretty lousy. We practically had to beg for a re-fill on our coffee, remember we are addicts!
After filling our stomachs we filled our tanks ... one stop shopping ... and we were on our way to Bryce Canyon! The trip into Bryce via Dixie National Forrest was beautiful. We ran into a small amount of weather but it was no big deal - not yet and not now!
After passing through the gates at Bryce Canyon we collectively decided that the best course of action would be to travel to the most inner portion of the canyon and stop for pictures on the way out. We cruised into the canyon at a slow pace so we could see it all! When we got to the end of the line we dismounted and stood in awe at the view. I have no words to describe the beauty we encountered. The colors, the formations the entire scene has to be seen to be believed! I am not able to describe the grand nature of it all. Sitting on the edge looking out at the beauty surrounding me caused my mind to "start and wander". After what seemed a very short time the sky started to darken and we knew a storm was imminent. We wanted to capture as many views on film as we could before the rain hit so we started the descent down the road. The problem with Bryce Canyon is there are too many areas you want to get a picture of! We stopped along the edge of the road and soaked in the memories both digital and spiritually. We were halfway back to the entrance when the rain started to fall. We didn't really mind getting wet or the bikes getting dirty ... the splendor of Bryce Canyon was worth it all! As we rounded one of the many corners a rider in the other direction was flagging us to slow down. I thought to myself "jeez how much slower can I possibly go". We turned another corner and I saw why they were so frantic for us to slow down ... another rider was down in the road. I quickly motioned with my throttle hand for Ron to SLOW down. We were entering road construction where the road was torn up and instead of gravel or mud we were on clay type soil (calechi). I'll tell you what, add water to clay and you get GREASE. This was the slickest most difficult riding I had ever done and I've been riding for many years. I consider myself an excellent rider and it took all I could do to keep that fully loaded Goldwing on two wheels! The front and rear both went different directions at the same time. I looked in my mirror and unfortunately Ron was sliding one way and his bike another ... SHIT! I stopped my bike as quickly as possible and ran back to where Ron was. By the time I got back Ron was on his feet and at his bike. We were only moving 1 or 2 MPH but to see my friend off his bike made my stomach sink. He was OK just muddy ... the bike was OK but muddy too. We quickly got his bike upright and him mounted. I walked alongside trying to give the best direction I could to help him. I told him I was going to move my bike farther down to the asphalt and would be back. By the time I moved my bike and got back to Ron his 'Wing was stuck on the "shoulder" area sinking in this heavy clay material. We tried to push, pull and ride it out ... nothing! A multiple of rangers drove past us headed to the accident area. Eventually we were able to flag down a family in a Ford 250. He had four wheel drive so we asked if he could pull Ron's bike out. What a great local family, he dug around in his truck and came back with a couple straps. We tied the straps to the crash bars and to the hooks on the front of his rig. With a little effort of me pushing sideways, the truck pulling straight out and Ron sitting on the bike to steer we got the 'Wing back on the road without hitting the boulders on the side of the road! We were both pretty shaken by the experience so we continued to the Ranger Station without anymore photo stops. We went into the bathroom and cleaned ourselves up the best we could.
On the way out the park had decided to close the road to traffic! They should have closed it earlier and it would have avoided injury to the motorcyclist that was taken away in an ambulance. This accident and the trouble Ron had could have been avoided if they just threw some gravel on the road! A couple hundred dollars in gravel ... that's all. We had planned a visit to Zion National but I found out there was road construction there too. We chose to pass on Zion and instead found a car wash where we could hose off that nasty mud!
We headed out with Las Vegas being the destination for the night. We encountered the most god-awful heat in Utah, AZ and Nevada that day. The temperature gauges on the Goldwings were showing 118 degrees! Needless to say we stopped as often as possible and re-hydrated ourselves with water, Gatorade and PowerAde. Rich met us in the parking area of the hotel and helped us carry our bags up to the room. After unpacking, showers and dinner we spent sometime downstairs in the casino but we really just wanted to sit in the AC and cool off!
Ron and I needed to be up early for an appointment we had with a local Honda shop. Along the way our Goldwings were falling apart and we were loosing pieces across the country! Thanks to Kim who coordinated the entire effort with Honda of America, Desert Motorsports and us. Honda America had all the parts shipped to the Las Vegas dealer, Desert Motorsports had the service bay ready and we got our bikes there in a little less then one piece! I lost the right side engine cover, right lower cowl vent and right headlight. Ron lost the right side engine cover (he looses his headlight in TX a few days later) and also had an oil change done.
After our appointment we decided to do laundry again. This time I had learned a little lesson and there were no more instances of anything changing colors!
So now with the bikes back together, our clothes all clean we could relax and enjoy Vegas. We did a tour of the "strip" at night with all the lights and typical hustle and bussle. We all ended up leaving some money there but had a good time doing it!
We left Las Vegas later then I had planned. I wanted to be on the road before it got too hot. It did not matter too much because we had a short day ahead of us. Our destination was to see the Grand Canyon and then on to Flagstaff for the night.
We left Las Vegas by way of Rt 93 because there was not much choice but highway. After passing through the Hoover Dam and getting some pictures we continued south on 93. We stopped in Kingman, AZ for lunch and fuel. From Kingman we now had plenty of choice as to highway or back roads for the remainder of the ride. Any motorcyclist will choose back roads as long as time permits so this was an easy choice for us! We left Kingman on Rt 66 ... yep old Route 66. It had been awhile since I was here but it all looked the same and I appreciated the scenery much more this time! We took Route 66 to Williams, AZ where we picked up Route 64 north to the Grand Canyon. Route 64 is a great open highway and gave us plenty of time to race each other and play a little. We traveled all through the Grand Canyon and got a ton of really GREAT pictures! It was late afternoon so we decided we better get moving to Flagstaff. We headed south on 64 to Rt 180. All these roads are scenic byways and really worth the time if you find yourself in the area. We arrived in Flagstaff and found a hotel for the night.
Flagstaff, AZ used to be one of my favorite places when I lived in Phoenix. I have not been here for about 8 years and things sure changed a lot in that time! Flagstaff is where Ron's new handle "Gazelle" was solidified! He had two fags on two occasions hitting on him in Flagstaff, a very small town! One fag was from Radio Shack and invited him to have a drink (he had a token at the local VFW) and the other fag was trying to get him to go to a place called "Bun Huggers" to have a drink! Poor Ron - good thing we were around to look after him! I did unload a Canadian $10.00 bill! I had been trying to pass this money off as a joke since we crossed into Michigan! The lady at the Flagstaff Mall where we stopped and bought pins took the bill - she must have wanted it for a souvenir or something :) !
We were turned away from Ruby Tuesdays. They obviously had something against "bikers" and they gave us direction to another place for a steak dinner! Rich was going to write a letter to corporate and let them know the way we were treated ... very poorly. I hope you sent that letter off Rich.
We stopped for fuel after dinner (no we did not eat at Ruby Tuesdays) and met a British family that was on vacation in the States. The family consisted of the father, mother and daughter. The father approached us while we were fueling the bikes. He asked if we were on holiday and he told us they had seen us three times that day! They saw us in Vegas, again in Kingman and finally in Flagstaff ... pretty cool folk. They told us they were headed to CA in the morning to spend what was left of their vacation there. I told him that if they see us again somebody was headed the wrong way! I explained that Amarillo, TX was our next stop. We said good night and headed to our rooms.
We got up the next morning early and wiped down the bikes quickly. We had a long day ahead of us and we all knew it. We needed to make Amarillo, TX so Rich could pay visit to the Big Texan - "home of the free 72 oz steak dinner". We jumped on I-40 and headed east at a pretty stepped up pace! We stopped to see the Petrified Forrest and also the Painted Desert, after all they were on the way. We all agreed the Petrified Forrest was a waste but the Painted Desert was pretty cool and worth the stop. We had a light lunch at the park visitor center and were back on the highway.
Coming from west to east we were now loosing time zones! We did not figure this into our plans when we calculated the arrival time in Amarillo. We did somewhere around 700-mile +/- and found the Big Texan all before 9:00PM. By the time we parked the bikes, washed up in the restroom and sat down at our table it was 8:45PM. The waitress (she was a nasty pig) told Rich he could not have the 72-oz steak because it was too late! What ... get your manager. I explained that we have been on the road for two weeks traveled over 5,000 miles, planned for 6 months and the Big Texan was part of our trip! It did not matter and they said Rich could come back for breakfast and try the 72-oz out.
On the way to the hotel Rich wanted to "try" the 'Wing once again. First time was stoplight to stoplight ... he got his butt kicked! Next he wanted to try a roll on ... again his ass was handed to him! Rich was now ready for a Goldwing - BAHAHAHAHA. For good measure I whipped him again from stoplight to stoplight!
We headed over to the Big Texan in the morning and Rich ordered up the 72-oz FREE dinner. The hitch behind being free is if you can eat it all in one-hour time limit. We all thought he would easily devour the dinner and want more! The BIG steak beat him (see pictures) and his new handle instead of Orca is now "Guppy"! I mean if you can't eat that little steak you don't deserve the handle of Orca ... right! Rich is a good sport and he took it all in stride. He made a good dent in the dinner but it is a lot of food.
We left the Big Texan and decided we would go as far as possible before finding a room. Unfortunately we could only make it to Little Rock, AR. I have had very bad experiences in Arkansas before and this was the last place on earth I wanted to stay! Anywhere but Arkansas would have been fine with me.
Morning came and our bikes and things were still here! I did a quick inspection on the bikes and we headed out. The only plan for the day was to make Tennessee and possibly hook up with Dragbars (Christian) and later Lamontster (Lamont). I called Christians cell phone but unfortunately we played phone tag! Christian, thanks for the offers and wish we were able to get together ... next time. I reached Lamont by phone just outside of Nashville and we agreed I would call when we got closer to his house.
Between traffic and idiot drivers it took a little longer then I had expected but we finally made it to Mosheim, TN. When we got off the exit we stopped and I called Lamont. He said he would be right down. When he arrived at the gas station we all talked and laughed for a long time. It was getting late and Lamont offered for us to stay over his place. We were all tired as hell and graciously accepted his offer! We followed him back to his house on a bunch of tiny little back roads. It would not have been so bad but I kept expecting deer or other critters to run in front of us, lucky that did not happen. When we got there we set up our bags and gear the headed to the garage to talk BIKES! Lamont has a supercharged Valkyrie with many custom one off parts installed ... nice bike. His new baby is a 1999 Boss 350 ... very nice bike!
I had been looking at V8 bikes for a couple years. I even rode one in Daytona and loved it. When Lamont offered me a ride on his machine I quickly accepted! After talking more and thinking about it I told him I would pass on the ride for another time. I was very tired and sore from the trip and I wanted to be 100% before I took somebody else's bike out for a ride - especially a bike that heavy and that much power ... 355HP! We said good night and headed off to sleep. We decided we would have breakfast in the morning before hitting the road.
Morning came and Rich was CRASHED! Rich is more a night person then early morning we found out. Ron, Lamont and I spent some time looking at bikes on the computer, talking bikes in the yard and getting a tour of his "spread". He has a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere ... and the view ... WOW. The smell of apples and pears from the trees was so strong ... what a great place! We all appreciated the hospitality you showed us ... THANKS.
Rich finally rolled off his air mattress and we had the bikes loaded in no time. We were getting really good at packing and unpacking our rides by this time. Lamont led us out from his place to a local restaurant were we all had some coffee (YES) and a great breakfast. Before we knew what had happened the check was paid and we were being shuffled out the door ... thanks again Lamont but breakfast was going to be on us!
In the parking lot Lamont offered up his keys again! Oh it's killing me but again I declined to ride. We left the parking lot and headed for a shortcut and gas. When we arrived at the gas station and filling my tank Lamont pulled alongside me and told me I have to take it for a ride! He must have known! I took the keys to the Boss and gave him some cash to pay for my gas ... he got stuck moving the 'Wing from the pump too. I took a left and headed the direction we just came from. There were some straight road and also some twisties. The Boss was unbelievable for a bike that size it handles the twisties very well. The power was also very manageable to my surprise. I came back to the station with a HUGE grin on my face! I wanted one of these really bad ... really bad! Lamont told me he knew I was a power junkie and would really appreciate the ride the Boss offers ... he was right! Thanks for the test ride Lamont and all the information you gave me on the Boss!
We said our goodbyes again and were on our way!
We left Mosheim, TN north on Rt 81. I was over 1,000 miles from home still and the others were close to a 1,000 miles. We had no intentions of driving straight through but that is in fact what happened!
After we left TN once again we hit some heavy thunderstorms. The radio was talking about flooding in our direction and closed roads. We limped along in the rain and dark until I just had to stop. I could not see anything! We holed up at a gas station/convenient store and hung around in hopes the weather would clear enough to ride. The weather was not clearing, much anyway so we all called home and said we would be staying overnight in Hershey, PA. Unfortunately the hotels did not see things our way ... they told us they were booked! I've run into this situation on the road in the past and I am sure they had rooms but none available to "bikers".
Instead of arguing and wasting more time we got back on the highway and took our frustrations out in the form of just RIDING! Before long we had covered some serious miles and we left the rain south of us. We were way too close to home to stop! So what the hell I've done Iron Butts before ... just not after a 7,000-mile trip is all.
We plotted our last course for the trip after re-fueling somewhere in CT. Ron would part our company at Rt 91 I believe while Rich and I continued on Rt 84 to the MA Turnpike. When Ron's turn approached and he veered off the horns were blasting! I knew the trip was just about to end. Rich and I continued until we reached the MA Pike and stopped for a coffee (told you I was addicted). Rich and I said goodbye as he was going to be taking the next exit toward his house. We got back on the highway and Rich's exit came and he now left the group ... yep the ride was surely over now I said to myself. I had about 2.5 hours left till I got home.
I was a little tired of the highways so when I came upon Rt 125 in Haverhill I decided to take the back roads to my house. Out of MA and into NH ... I had to stop and loose the helmet! I guess cruising at speeds from 80 - 100 + MPH almost got me. I was not looking at my speedo; after all I was tired. Coming into Plaistow, NH around a bend ... oops there's them blue lights. All these miles and no traffic stops being this close to home I was going to get nailed! I immediately pulled over and turned the bike off. The cruiser pulled in behind me and I figured OK I deserve this one; he got me fair and square. The officer walks up and sees my bike loaded like the Beverly Hillbillies. He asks me why I am in such a hurry. I explain to him that I am returning from a very long trip and I am so close to home I guess I was anxious to see my family. It was an honest answer and I think he appreciated the honesty. He told me that he was not going to ruin my trip. He told me to slow it down so I would make it home in one piece to enjoy the family! I said yes sir, thank him for giving me a break and was on my way ... doing the speed limit!
I finally pulled into my driveway and the entire family including the dog was outside to greet me! What a welcome home I got. The trip was incredible; the return home was just as incredible for me!
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my trip as much as I enjoyed writing about it. Once I load this onto my website the trip is officially over. I want to thank Kim and my three girls for being understanding. I want to thank them all for picking up the slack around the house while I was away. I want to thank Ron and Rich, Gazelle and Guppy respectfully for sharing the road and days with me … it was a blast my brothers! Thanks to Lamont for the place to crash. Thanks to all the people I met along the way that made this trip what it was.
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