This is the log and photo album from a most excellent adventure. A 6595-mi, 27-day motorcycle trip from Maryland to Sturgis, SD, and Las Vegas, NV and back.
A few weeks back I bought a Harley-Davidson Road King. It's a beautiful bike and I love riding it.
Click here for a bunch of pictures of the bike.
If you own a Harley, you just have to do Sturgis. Every year there is a huge motorcycle rally in Sturgis, SD. Hundreds of thousands of motorcycles flood a small town in southwest South Dakoda. So, as a new Harley owner I decided to make the pilgramige.
My route across the country (Click to enlarge)
6,595 Miles traveled. Total. Including side trips for sightseeing.
14 Days of hard riding ("Gettin' there")
6,200 Highway miles
445 Miles per day, average, when traveling
53 Stops for fuel
4 Nights camping in my tent
17 Nights spent with family and friends
5 Nights in motels
22 States visited
8 T-Shirts bought
The trip went something like this:
01 Aug 09
Pax River, MD to Manassas, VA. 85 miles
Home to sister Tammy's house
I rode to Tammy's house first. She had tickets for the Paul McCartney Concert in DC and had invited me to go along. I had intended to leave for Sturgis a few days earlier. I was now 'late' in the strictest sense. But how could I pass up free tickets to Paul McCartney?
At Tammy's I had to park across the street from her apartment complex because they don't allow motorcycles there. Can you believe that? I have a bunch of stuff hanging off the bike so I secured it by just putting it in Tammy's trunk and leaving it there till I left the next day.
So far (it's only leg #1) the only thing I think I forgot to bring was the charger for my camera. So I went over to Best Buy and bought a unit for a few bucks.
The McCartney concert was fabulous. He's looking a bit old, but aren't we all? Yet he sounds great! And the songs. They were still fresh and alive. As usual there was some guy behind me who just had to sing along; loudly. Only this time he was actually very good. Never missed a note and it sort of added to the event. Made me feel a bit bad about trying to sing, too.
The weather held out for the concert and then rained hard. The stadium was full so the producers did well that night.
The thing I was struck with was that I think Paul actually enjoyed performing for us. He made me feel like this was a gift to me not a job for him. Lord knows he doesn't need the money so maybe he really does just love performing. Anyway, whatever the motivation, He was great and I had a great time.
Back to Tammy's for a good night's rest then off I go to Tom's house. GPS said it was about 375 miles and I should make it there easily in a day's ride.
02 Aug 09
Manassas, VA to Vermillion, OH. 373 miles
Tammy's to brother Tom's house
My EZ-Pass unit wasn't working so well. Sometimes it didn't register. Oh, well. Most of the time it did work so I'll watch it. I have it resting in the windscreen pouch and it worked before there.
My little brother Tom
Otherwise an uneventful little trip. Tom and Judy were getting dinner ready when I arrived. The boys (Mike and Matt) were coming over with their Sig-O's for a meal. Judy can really lay out a spread. We sat around eating and drinking beer and talking till I literally fell asleep and Tom suggested that I take a nap. I did.
When I got up Sally was there. She was visiting and picking up some stuff I had brought up from Tammy's for her. We had a nice visit and then I went back to bed. I got up in time to say 'bye' to Judy as she went to work. Tom and I visited for a bit then I hit the road.
Tom took this shot of me as I left his house on the morning of 3 Aug.
I had an exceptionally nice time with Tom and Judy. I'll have to visit more often. That will teach them to be nice to me...
03 Aug 09
Vermilion, OH, to Stillman Valley, IL. 355 miles
Brother Tom's to sister Jinx's house.
Just a long ride through Chicago to get to Stillman Valley. It's just south of Rockford, IL.
Along the way the EZ Pass was really acting up. They have toll booths that, once you're in that EZ Pass lane, there's no way out if the thing doesn't work and won't open the gate. So on the few occasions that it failed I was able to motor around the edge of the gate and get through. Unlike some care which were just stuck there with people behind them honking horns and being assholes.
I had a few close calls while driving through Chicago. Lane changes were more like adventures in confrontation than just land changes. I think people in Chicago must get extra points for getting somewhere ahead of someone else. Why else would they speed up in a mad attempt to close a gap between them and the car ahead of them when they see someone on the adjacent lane signal for a land change?
I finally made it to Jinx's house. Got to love GPS's. They may not take you by the most convenient route, but they do in fact get you there.
I parked my bike in the garage behind Danny's brand new HD Dyna Super Glide. The thing didn't even have a thousand miles on it!
Danny had already had the engine apart installing 'forwards.' That's where you move the shift and break controls from the normal foot peg position to the forward, highway peg position.
My Bike parked in Rich's garage with Danny's brand new Dyna Super Glide
We all went over to the neighbor's house where we were going to have a bonfire and play in the pool. Jinx, Rich, AJ, Danny, and I. Rhonda and her daughter and sister had food and booze available. What more does a guy need? But the pool was too cold.
We sat around and ate and drank. And Drank. And Drank.
Brother-in-law Rich and his son AJ
After dark we lit the bonfire with what turned out to be a bit too much home-made napalm (honestly, that's what we used). After a while Rich spun some donuts in the field with the pickup truck; yeah, normal out-in-the-country fun.
Bonfire and beer with the neighbors. I think Jinx was sort of dancing….
At some time during the evening I said to Danny, "Hey, dude! You've got that nice new Harley in the garage. Why not put some miles on it? Why not come along with your uncle Bill and do Sturgis?"
He said something about having to work in the morning and after only a few disparaging comments I let it drop. I didn't want to be too bad of an influence on the boy.
Eventually the food was gone and then the beer was gone and then, gasp, the rum was gone. So we called it a night. Rich tried to run me down as I walked across the street to his hose and he brought the truck home via the field next door.
Rhonda asking, "Why is the rum always gone?"
The next morning Danny said something to the effect of "Screw work! I'm going to Sturgis with my uncle Bill!" So much for not being a bad influence.
Danny wanted to stop by the HD shop and have them check his work on the forward controls he had installed. HD shops being what they are, we didn't get out of there until well into the afternoon. So we decided to delay our trip for another night and to get a start early the next morning.
That evening Rich brought out his favorite little Smith and we plinked a bit. Till my ears hurt too much to continue. Yep, I still remember how to do it.
A little target practice in the back yard. Living in the country has it's perks!
05 Aug 09
Stillman Valley, IL, to Sioux City, IA. 355 miles
Alice's to Campground
After a quiet night at Jinx's I, with nephew in tow, headed off to Sturgis, now only two days away.
Our first stop was just outside of Galena, IL. Since that's my boat's name I had to stop and do a pix.
Stopped by the side of the road outside Galena, IL. Just because my boat is named Galena
As we motored along, Danny kept up nicely. Illinois is a pretty flat state with not much to look at. I was playing with the camera looking for ways to take pictures without dropping it, getting my fingers in the way, or ending up with pictures that were all katty-whompus like th is one:
Danny keeping up with the old man.
Really, this was my usual view of Danny's bike. Yeah, we're doing 80 in a 55.
After a couple of fuel stops it became clear that Danny's new, six-speed bike was getting much better mileage than my older, five-speed model. I'd buy 3.5 gallons and he would only need 2.5. That's a big difference. I think part of it was that he weighed a lot less than me. Not just him, him and his bike. Together they weighed several hundred pounds less than me and my bike did. And I'm sure his bike's tall sixth gear helped, too.
We ran west on US-20 all the way across Iowa to Sioux City. I had heard of a campground near where US-20 crosses the Missouri River. I found it on the map. And as we crossed the river I noticed the sign: "Welcome to Nebraska." At that moment I remembered that Nebraska has a helmet law. We, of course, were not wearing helmets. I motioned for Danny to follow me off the highway and into a McDonalds parking lot where we quickly put on the helmets. We talked with an old man in the parking lot and asked about the campground. He said that, yes, it was just down the street and that a lot of bikers camped there on their way to and from Sturgis. Rather than set up camp and then find someplace to eat, Danny and I rode over to a nearby bar (there's almost always a nearby bar, isn't there?) were we put away a couple of beers and a pizza.
Then we found the campground and checked in. The lady in charge was a biker and she and I talked for sometime about all the places I have to visit while in South Dakota. Finally we got the tent setup and the bikes unloaded.
Danny and our bikes and tent at the first stop in Sioux City
Our neighbor in the campground was Tabatha. She worked as a bouncer in a local bar and lived in a tent in the campground. She stayed in the campground during the summer and stayed with relatives in Las Vegas during the winter. We offered her a beer and swapped stories for a bit.
Tabatha, the bouncer
06 Aug 09
Sioux City, IA, to Rapid City, SD. 415 miles
Campground to Ellsworth AFB
The weather turned a bit cold and cloudy. Danny and I bundled up to stay warm and we dodged rain most of the day. Early in the afternoon, we could no longer dodge the rain. It caught up with us as we crossed the Missouri River on US-44. We stopped for a photo-op and to get our rain-gear on.
Suiting up for the coming rain
Throughout the day we had seen lines of motorcycles heading east. Some of the places we stopped for fuel we talked with folks who said, "Heading TO Sturgis??? A little late, aren't you?" I was beginning to be afraid that the town would be deserted by the time we arrived.
Just a few miles past the Missouri River we saw some serious rain on the horizon. We had be running through sprinkles to this point. But the lightening, thunder and black clouds ahead of us convinced us that we should take a break. Fortunately there was a local bar nearby. This time it was Ray's North Star Saloon. The sign said we were welcome so we went in. Just as we parked the bikes the rain started in earnest.
Ray's North Star Saloon
Danny and local patrons inside of Ray's North Star Saloon
Once the squall passed the sky cleared up and the sun dried the roads. Soon we were cruising along enjoying the sights as we approached the Badlands. I had been told that the roads through the badlands were the best bike-routes in the land. We were still on the planes and the roads were still straight. But the scenery was becoming spectacular.
By now we were seeing more motorcycles than cars. Usually bikers give each other a casual wave as they pass on the road. Sort of an acknowledgement that, yeah, we're out here doing it, ya know? But now there were just too many to acknowledge, so the waving stopped about the time we hit the Badlands.
Entering the Badlands National park
While at Jinx's house I had called Ellsworth Air Force Base and made reservations for a room. The base is just 30 miles from Sturgis. The rooms were only $40 a night. I had checked campgrounds in Sturgis and they wanted $20 a night to pitch a tent. And rooms were going for over $200 with 4-day minimums!
We found a gate for the base and asked the guard where the inn was. He said "I can't let you guys in here, this is a commercial vehicle only gate. You have to go to the main gate." He gave us some directions, which I didn't quite understand. But off we went. We found another gate, but it wasn't the right one either. Finally we found the Visitor Office and got Danny a visitor's pass. That would allow him to come and go as he pleased. Then we found the inn. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the rooms were actually three-room suites; with a full kitchen! I really like being retired from the Army. The bennies are quite nice sometimes.
06 - 09 Aug 09
Danny and I unloaded our bikes and washed up a bit. Then we headed off base to find Sturgis. Just outside the gate we spied a carwash. The bikes were filthy and so we stopped in and made them sparkle for our grand entrance to Sturgis.
Thirty minutes later we were parking the bikes on Main Street in downtown Sturgis, SD. I'll say this for the first of many times: It looked just like the pictures. Literally tens of thousands of bikes parked everywhere. Finding a place to park was tough!
I made it to Sturgis, Man!
We set off to get a feel for the place. We found that everywhere you looked someone was trying to sell you a T-shirt. Every bar had their own shirt-section. And they were not cheap, either. We walked down the street and wandered into a bar for a beer.
Dan (far left) adjusts his rag on the main street after we arrived on 6 Aug.
Everywhere you looked there were bikes. They were parked three deep in the parking lots. They were stacked up on both sides of the street and there was a double row of them down the center of the road, too. The side streets were also packed. The sidewalks were too crowded in places and pedestrian traffic spilled out onto the roads.
More shots of main street, Sturgis, SD
More shots of main street, Sturgis, SD
Most of the biker bars had the same theme: "Buy our beer, gawk at our barmaids, buy our T-Shirts." The ladies were always ready to help a guy out. And most were dressed for the part.
The barmaids were ready to help you knock a drink down
Being the pig I am I strolled around taking pictures of the barmaids that caught my eye.
And most of them were pretty well dressed for South Dakota
I don't know what this town is like when it's not bike week. Or bike month. Whatever. I'm sure these ladies don't live here. I think they had been imported just for the rally. I was happy there were here.
This lady was asking Danny for his ID. At least HE got to talk with her a bit.
As I was leaving town one day, the babe on the back of the bike in front of me had the greatest shorts. I was fumbling with my camera trying to get this picture as I drove down the road. We were all moving forward slowly toward a stop sign. The guy on the bike next to me asked, "Did you get that shot? I want a copy!"
The shorts on the chick ahead says, "Cute, Dumb, & Lots of Fun"
I stepped over to the Broken Spoke Saloon. It is billed as the "Worlds Biggest Biker Bar" and, as usual, had a beer. While walking around in the bar/store (every place in this town is a something-slash-store) I was grabbed by the image on a T-Shirt. I thought, "That would make an awesome tattoo." The more I looked at it, the more I liked it.
I had to have to shirt just to continue to contemplate the idea of getting this image tattooed on my back. I'm thinking a full sized, across the back and down to the waist tattoo. It's been a few weeks now and I'm still thinking this would be a good idea.
Image on a T-shirt from the Broken Spoke Saloon. I want this tattooed on my back.
Danny and drove south out of Rapid City to take in some scenery. Everywhere we went there were motorcycles. We stopped at this little burger joint (well, burger joint, museum, store, etc) at the corner of Nemo Rd and US-385. Named "Happy Days Gift Shop and Celebrity Museum, the place was full of bikes. And on the road was a constant stream of bikes.
Roadside burger shop/museum
I had a hot dog and browsed the museum and gift shops. And the dog was actually good.
I love my dogs and beer.
Danny and I rode north along US-385 to Deadwood. We stopped at the city limits and had another biker take our picture. We were having almost too much fun!
Danny and I just outside Deadwood, SD
After walking about a bit we stopped in a local establishment for a beer. Here I am being the bad influence that I was supposed to be.
Uncle Bill being a bad influence on poor little Danny
The next day Danny and I did more riding. The roads here are great to ride on. They are, mostly, well maintained. They twist and turn along the sides of streams that have cut beautiful canyons out of the hills.
The sign says 'Twisty" and I say 'Sweet'
The only thing that gave me pause was that 'road-snakes' were always appearing at the most inopportune times. What's a road-snake, you ask? When the pavement cracks they pour tar on the crack to seal it up. In the hot sun, these lines of tar become soft and slippery. When you're laying over in a tight turn you need all the traction you can find. Hit a road-snake and the bike will slide a few inches to the side throwing you considerably off your line. And making your heart skip a beat or two.
It's all fun and games until you hit the road-snakes during a hard curve.
In Deadwood we picked up the official map. This showed all the winding roads through the Black Hills. I recommend that if you only make one run, you make it on the Needles Highway. This is definitely a don't miss bit of road. Spectacular scenery and challenging turns. Oh, and when the sign says it's a 10 mph turn, it really is! Several people died on these roads each year.
a chart of the scenic routes around and through the Black Hills of South Dakota (Click on the picture for more detail)
Danny decided to head home after three days and I stayed for one more. I had several things I still wanted to see. I had to go to Mount Rushmore. And everyone told me I absolutely had to drive the Needles Highway. Once I found out where those attractions were I made a plan to visit them. The sky was grey and threatening rain as I left the Air Force Base and headed south toward Rushmore. I stopped at the sign marking the edge of the Black Hills National Forest for a photo (just to show I was there, I guess).
Entering the Black Hills National Forest on the way to Mt Rushmore
Just down the road I found myself entering the Mount Rushmore National Memorial park. So another stop for another photo. Yep, I was there, alright.
Entering the park for Mt Rushmore
Finally after some really great twisty-road riding I had my first glimpse of the monument. In the picture it doesn’t look like much. But in real life, the scare of the monument in very impressive. The picture below was taken as I approached from the east. It was just a wide spot in the road at the point where one could first see the monument. Several bikes and cars were stopped there.
First Look at Mount Rushmore
This is just a blowup of the picture above
Just a half mile further up the road was the 'official' parking place to view the monument. Of course you had to pay $10 per vehicle for the privilege. I thought, "Not!" I stopped along the road just outside of the main viewing area and snapped this shot. Good enough, I think. OK, I can check Rushmore off my list of things to do.
Mt Rushmore from just outside the main viewing area
I know the sky looks blue in the picture above. And it was. But over my shoulder the sky was black. Serious squalls were moving in from the south. I wanted to run Needles Highway today but I didn't want to do it in the rain. I had been warned that people die on that road and some of them were probably better riders than me. I wanted every advantage when I made the run and that certainly included dry roads.
So I hurried from Rushmore running west on Rt 244 then south for a half-mile on Rt 16 before turning southeast on Rt 87 which turns into Needles Highway. Just before I get to the start of the Highway, which is at the entrance to Custer State Park it rains. Not just a little drizzle, either. I mean real, hurt-your-face-when-it-hits-you kind of rain. I stopped and put on my rain gear. At the entrance to the park the rain lets up and I ask the ranger where I might have a beer while waiting for the roads to dry. He directs me back up the road a half-mile to a little resort named Sylvan Lake. Nice little place. Almost too nice for the likes of me.
I walk in in my leather jacket and chaps and head toward the bar. As I walk through the great room, with the overstuffed easy chairs and fireplaces, I notice a kid playing piano. He seems to be just killing time; not playing for anyone but himself. The barmaid asked what I'd like to drink as I sit down. I explain that I was going to have a beer while waiting for the roads to dry but now, having listened to this kid playing classical piano I had better change that to a glass of wine.
As I listen to this kid play I decide that the lady over by the fire is probably his mom while the guy reading the paper by the window is his dad. The kid is obviously being groomed to be a concert pianist. So, being the rogue I am, I ask the barmaid for an empty wine glass. She hands me one with a quizzical expression. I stuff a dollar bill in the glass and walk over and put it on the piano. I tell the kid, "Kid, you got to have a tip jar when you play in a saloon." His dad smiles but his mom rolls her eyes. The kid gets it and laughs and thanks me. As I sit back down the barmaid says that that was a very cool thing to do. She calls over one of the servers from the dining hall and tells him about it adding that he should go over and put a buck in the glass, too. He does. The kid smiles and shakes his head.
I finish my wine and the sun is shining. The roads look pretty dry to off I go. I pay the park ranger the $6 entrance fee and start down the road.
According to TripAdvisor.com:
Needles Highway (SD Highway 87 between Sylvan Lake and Legion Lake ) is located in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of western South Dakota.
The 14-mile scenic highway winds through pine, spruce and aspen forest under a vista of granite spires called “the Needles.” The route snakes through several small granite tunnels and past Sylvan Lake , featured in the 2007 movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.”
South Dakota Governor Peter Norbeck (1917-1921) carefully planned the highway to provide scenic views without disrupting the natural setting. Needles Highway was completed in 1922.
The “Needles” area is popular with rock climbers, outdoor enthusiasts, sightseers and motorcycle enthusiasts. The drive is winding and slow speeds are recommended; visitors should allow 45 minutes to an hour to safely enjoy the views. For more information about Custer State Park , see www.TravelSD.com/CusterStatePark .
composite photo of a double switchback on a rain-soaked road to Needles
a place to park and take some pictures of the granite spires that gives this road its name
One of the two tunnels along Needles Highway
The needles of Needles Highway
10 Aug 09
Rapid City, SD, to Steamboat Springs, CO. 591 miles
Ellsworth AFB to motel
Out across the Badlands again and then onto the planes of Wyoming. There were bluffs in the distance but mostly this was flat open country.
I was running down smooth two-lane asphalt and feeling good. Way off in the distance I saw an SUV coming toward me… White SUV… Ski-rack on the roof… No! Not ski-rack, light-bar. I glance down at the speedometer and see I'm doing about 85mph in a 65mph zone. As the sheriff passed me I looked into my mirror to see him hit the breaks and swerve onto the shoulder. I hit the breaks and also headed toward the shoulder. There was a pickup truck right behind me. As I breaked the pickup truck passed me. The sheriff came around me and ran after the pickup truck. They stopped a half mile up the road. I idled up to them and the sheriff motioned for me to pull over ahead of the pickup truck.
As he came walking up he as politely, "How are you doing today, sir?" I replied that I was doing just fine until a minute ago. He chuckled and said, "You're still doing OK. I'll just run your name for warrants and if everything is ok you'll be on your way with a warning." Cool.
Wyoming is pretty flat. And the sky really is big (sorry, Montana).
My route was south through Wyoming and into Colorado. Down to Fort Carson and then West through the Rocky Mountain National Park. There I'd pick up I-40 and run west into Utah.
I started to get into the mountains and the change in scenery was abrupt.
Into Colorado and the ground sort of erupts all around you
Crossing ridges into and out of valleys. Great views.
Up I went into the mountains. The Rocky Mountains are spectacular. I know I'm over using that word. But I've seen so much beauty on this trip that I've run out of superlatives. I can say that when this trip is finished I will have seen America.
Yep, snow in August. The Rockies are gorgeous. This was at about 12,000 ft.
As I went through the pass I encountered misty rain. Not enough to put on my rain gear, but enough to consider about it.
Then the unthinkable happened: It snowed on me!!! Snow! In August. Not much, just enough to let me know that Mom Nature is in charge up here and She'll do what she damned well pleases, never mind what the calendar says.
But within a few miles I was heading down and down into a valley with warm air and sunshine.
11 Aug 09
Steamboat Springs, CO to Las Vegas, NV. 745 miles
Motel to sister Nancy's house
From the mountains of Colorado across Utah and into Arizona. I went from cold, high-altitude climates to blistering hot deserts. All in a day. Hell, in hours!
The desert offers some spectacular vistas
The road wanders through a valley and out of sight on the far horizon.
Running across Utah. Two-lane blacktop and beautiful scenery.
In the background you can see a rough cut in the hills. The road went around to the left and about a mile later I came upon a wide spot in the road with the classic "Scenic Overlook" sign.
My bike, heavily loaded with my whole world (at least for this trip)
I decided to look at one more. But I was thinking I was getting a little burned out on these pretty vistas. As I walked out to the railing I couldn't believe my eyes. This was like a mini-grand canyon!. As with most of the things I saw on this trip, snapshots just can't capture the breathtaking nature of the views.
A surprisingly beautiful Scenic Overlook.
But then the hills gave way to relatively flat and open country. The smell of sage filled the air. The roads I had selected were small and mostly empty. Some, like the one below, didn't even have painted lines. Just little plastic markers.
Tar and Gravel roads without centerlines. That's rural.
I came around a corner and found the road running right through a mine operation
As night fell I crossed into Nevada. And the setting of the sun did nothing to cool the air. I was still in my leather jacket and was about to die. So as soon as I hit Nevada I stopped to get fuel and change.
The place I stopped was the usual fuel stop: Lots of fuel pumps, a McDonalds, a travel store. But there was music playing at the fuel pumps that was the most obnoxious sound I've ever heard. I couldn't wait to finish just to get away from that noise. I moved and parked by the travel store. Inside was the same music. I went in to get a bottle of ice tea. I said to the lady at the register that that was the worst music I've ever heard. She said, "It is terrible, isn't it? I hate it." I asked who selected that music and she pointed to the manager; a twenty-something guy who looked like the type to enjoy 'alternative' music. I asked for a word with him. I started with, "Your music selection sucks." and with the lady at the register smiling encouragement I went on to explain that this was not his living room when it comes to music. He wandered off unconcerned. The cashier thanked me for trying.
11 - 15 Aug 09
Finally I made it to my sister's house in Las Vegas. Nancy and Jim have lived there in Henderson for quite a while. We chatted a bit and then called it a night.
In the morning we went out for breakfast at one of the smaller, local casinos in Henderson. I was anxious to see the strip. My niece, Kim (Or Toots as we always called her)
was kind enough to show me the town. We cruised The Strip and it was very cool. Well, actually it was very hot! Temperature hot. The traffic was stop and go with most of it 'stop.' The heat of the day was still coming up from the road and the bike was putting out enough heat to cook us. But there I was, cruising down The Strip in Las Vegas on my Harley! How cool is that? And I had a cute babe on board, too (passersby didn't know she was my niece, ya know). Yeah, I was cool!
Toots took me to a local biker bar. Not really her cup of tea but she was playing host and wanted to show me places that would suite my tastes. She did. We stopped at the Hogs and Heifers Saloon where the barmaids danced on the bar a la Coyote Ugly.
My niece Toots after fussing about 'helmet hair'
They called for the ladies to join them and, with only a little coaxing Toot climbed up on the bar and showed them how it was done.
Kim and the barmaid dancing on the bar at the Hogs and Heifers Saloon, Las Vegas.
Then over to the Hard Rock for a little gambling and Sake. A very nice evening, indeed. Yeah, I could get used to this town. I couldn't afford it, but I can certainly appreciate it's appeal.
I met Fred, a friend of Jim's and the three of us went out for lunch. Something they do a couple times a week. Often enough that when we entered the restaurant, the waitress knew where they wanted to sit (the 'usual table, please') and what they wanted to drink.
We talked about everything from politics, to cycles to boating to writing to working to… you name it. We had a great time and took a couple of hours while we eat and went through a couple pitchers of ice tea.
In the morning Nancy went to work and I hit the road.
16 Aug 09
Las Vegas, NV to Holbrook, AZ. 470 miles
Nancy's to campground
It's just a short ride to Hoover Dam; another must see item on my list. Fred had told me about this new bridge that was being built over the gorge near the dam. When it's completed it will be one of the largest of it's type. The bridge will carry 4-lanes of traffic avoid the twisty two-lane ride down to the dam and over it. I would still take the twisty over the 4-lane, but the bridge will certainly move more traffic.
The new bridge being constructed just downstream from Hoover dam.
I rode across to the Arizona side of the dam and was surprised to see how low Lake Mead was. It was a good 100 ft below normal. I guess they really are in a draught.
Hoover dam from the Arizona side. Lake Mead was over a hundred feet below normal height.
Just a couple of hours past Hoover Dam is the Grand Canyon. Another of my 'Must See' items.
As I get nearer to the park I see a lot of traffic and a lot of police cars. Then I see a bunch of Chevy Blazer's with blacked-out windows. "Looks like the government vehicles I see in DC," I think to myself.
I get to the park entrance and was a bit shocked to see that, just to drive through costs $25 per vehicle. Oh, well, it's the Grand Canyon and I have to see it once in my life, right?
I motor up to the lady at the booth and she hands me a stack of maps and pamphlets. I ask how much to get in. She says the fees are waived for the day. I ask why and she says that President Obama had just left and they were clearing out the traffic that had backed up while he was there. So that was a government caravan I'd seen. Cool, saved money.
I was motoring into a parking lot near the main scenic overlook and noted that there was really no place to park; the place was full and cars were milling about and waiting for others to leave. But there, at a position that could truly be called 'Rock Star Parking' was a motorcycle in a slot, all alone. I pulled in next to him and thought of how good it was to be on a bike.
I walked up to the rim and looked out and, again, a truly breath-taking view. Yes, it looks like the pictures, but no picture can capture the magnitude, the feel, the depth and breadth of this spectacle. You simply have to make time in your life to see this at least once.
I find that, personally, I appreciate these wonders. But that I don't spend much time looking at them before I say, OK, Done that. Short attention span? I don't know. But the Grand Canyon is certainly grand.
The Grand Canyon. Yep, looks just like the pictures.
I was struck by this thought: Imagine yourself on horseback, back in about the year 1830 or so. You're riding along, dozing in the saddle, while your trusty horse wanders through the sage and scrub pines. Suddenly the hose stops and you look up to see…. This. This canyon that is wider, deeper, longer than anything you've ever seen before in your life. About your second or third thought must be, "How in the Hell am I going to get around THAT?"
A few miles east of the park I find an overlook where you can see a small, 'normal' canyon cut into the desert. I stopped to take a picture and rest my bones.
Me in the desert. Behind me is the Grand Canyon northeast of where it's 'Grand'
Back on the road and heading east on I-40 I see a sign for Meteor National Monument. Is this the Meteor crater from Starman? The big one? I had to see. Just six miles south of I-40 so it's not really out of the way.
I start to see gaudy signs about 'must see' attractions. When I saw the big fence around the outside of the crater's rime I knew this was going to be expensive, too. Sure enough, the meteor crater is privately run and they want $15 for the privilege of looking into this hole. So I paid. And, yes, it looks jut like the pictures you see in books.
But seeing is probably worth $15. Although I don't know how they come up with that price. How long does it take to determine what the market will bear?
Yep, Meteor Crater looks just the pictures. $15 for the privilege of looking.
Back onto the highway and time to put some miles under my belt. So I run hard and fast toward Holbrook, AZ.
I followed my GPS to a local KOA Campground. And pitched my tent. There were a few other bikers in the area and as we talked I found out they were on a rally for the American Legion. Raising money for some sort of charity and riding out to Kentucky to meet up with a couple thousand other Legionaries. When I said I was a vet but not a member Doc wanted to sign me up right there.
My camp in Holebrook, AZ
I declined but we all went over to the local Legion post and had a few beers. Doc was also in the Air Force and was also a munitions specialist (as was I). He retired as a
Chief Master Sergeant and still does stuff with several veteran organizations. While I've sort of left a lot of that in my wake, hanging out with other veterans feels comfortable. We've all had the same experiences.
Doc and his wife at the local American Legion Bar
One of the goals of this trip from Vegas to KC was to ride what's left of old Route 66. I found some little stretches here and there. Mostly denoted as "Business I-40" with a subtitle of "Historic US-66". I found a local Rt 66 museum. Cost me a few buck to go inside but there wasn't much to see.
Route 66 Casino
17 Aug 09
Holbrook, AZ, to Amarillo, TX. 550 miles
Campground to campground
As I ran across New Mexico and into the Texas panhandle there were storm cells all around me. I skirted a big one just as I was coming into Amarillo. I left the highway and headed into town. I went to shift into second from the ramp and…. The heel shift lever was jammed! It was down against the floor boards. It seems the bolt holding it had vibrated loose and when I had stepped down on it, it rotated around the shaft stripping the splines and jamming itself in the down position. I couldn't even pull up on the toe shifter. I was stuck.
Fortunately I had a set of Allen wrenches with me and was able to take the thing off. The shaft was ok, but the lever was ruined.
The heel shift lever stripped it's splines.
I followed my GPS to a KOA campground again and found the place flooded. The lady in the office said, yes, they have tent sites, but they were all very very wet right now. More like under 2" of water! With more rain forecast for the evening I opted to spend the extra $20 for a cabin.
That was a good call. At about 0130 hrs the sky was filled with continuous lightening and thunder shook the cabin. Sounded like an artillery barrage. Heavy rain followed and the campground became even more flooded. Yeah, the cabin was a very good call.
KOA Lake. I opted for a cabin after looking at the tent sites.
18 Aug 09
Amarillo, TX, to Olathe, KS. 586 miles
Campground to daughter Michelle's house
I made it to Michelle's house by early afternoon. I was going to take more back roads than I did. But by now I was about ready for this little adventure to be over.
One of the first orders of business was to get a new heel shift lever. Off I go to the Harley Davidson shop. $50 bucks for a new lever. I put it on and move the pedal pad from the old shaft to the new. All better.
A couple of days visiting with Michelle and Richard was nice. Also, I had a friend in Leavenworth (the town, not the prison) to visit. I called and set up a lunch date. I had not seen her for about twenty-years and she still looked as beautiful as ever. We spent an hour or so playing "whatever happened to so-and-so" and telling twenty years of stories explaining how we got to be where we were; as well as explaining where we were in our lives. It was wonderful.
21 Aug 09
Olathe, KS To Corydon, IN 370 miles
Michelle's to campground
I left Michelle's house early in the morning of 21 Aug. Too early in fact (Sorry, again, Michelle). I made it through Kansas city without hitting what I would call rush hour traffic. At least not rush hour as I'm used to it in Washington, DC.
I ran across Missouri making my usual stop for fuel and coffee every hour and a half. Eventually making my way through Illinois and into Indiana. I was looking for a campground and followed the little blue highway signs to the small town of Corydon, Indian. The sings kept saying it was the 'Historic Corydon.' I found an information center in the middle of town, right next to the town square which was filled with town folk. Polka music was being played by a small band in the park. Some of the towns folk were wearing Lederhosen!
The nice lady at the information center told me how lucky I was to be here on a Friday. It seems they have concerts every Friday and today was the German festival. She told me about a small campground just across the creek in town. She wasn't sure that they had tent sites but I should try it. Failing that, there was a big, state-run campground in the State Park just outside of town.
I rode the couple of blocks to the small campground and met Carl, the guy who ran it. Sort of a scene out of Deliverance. But for $19 I was told to pitch my tent anywhere I like. Carl said he'd come by to check on me after I settled in. I asked where I might get a burger and a beer and he pointed across the creek to a tavern. "That's the local watering hole. If you go there, well, don't do anything stupid. You look like a guy who's been around but I'm just saying, there's a lot of good ole boys that hang out there."
With that I set up camp and walked over to the town square.
The town is really quaint and well taken care of. I took this picture just to remember the name of the town.
This little town was a real taste of small-town America
In the town square is an old stone building. This was the first State Capitol building of Indiana, before the capital was moved to Indianapolis. So that's why it's the Historic city of Corydon, Indiana.
This is why it's the 'Historic' Corydon, Indian
The local church was selling bratwurst, sodas, pie, and hand made ice cream. Fabulous! I ate and listened to the band and watched a little troupe of dancers whirl around. Really I think the entire town was in the square. While I ate homemade apple pie with homemade ice cream I thought that this is almost corny in it's homeyness. But I was loving it.
Most of the town is in the square enjoying the polka band
From across the creek, my little campsite
I headed back toward my campsite but stopped at the bar to have a beer and see what the local color looked like. Yeah, it was a little rough. A lot of childish thirty-something's who never found a way out of town. I could see a lot of anger just under the surface of loud laughter and rough, good-natured jostling.
Before dark I was tucked into my sleeping bag ready to get to sleep.
22-24 Aug 09
Corydon, IN to Pax River, MD . 775 miles
The next several days saw me making my way through West Virginia, and North Carolina as I made my way home, stopping to visit some friends along the way. Mostly an uneventful ride. My EZPass stopped working along the WVA turnpike. So I have to get that replaced.
My new heel shifter fell off. This time it didn't strip itself and jam. It simply vibrated loose and fell off. Now I needed another new lever and also a new pad. I stopped for fuel and there was a HD dealer right there. This time the bill was $75 for the parts. I used Lock-Tite and made it as tight as I possibly could.
But a day later, I go to shift up and… no heel shift lever; again! Fell right off again. But this time it dropped into the space between the floorboard and the engine. So I didn't loose the parts. I bought a Allan-head socket and more Lock-tite. I put it on as tightly as I could. In fact I thought I was about to strip the bolt. We'll see how long it stays on.
And the trip was finished.
The trip took longer and cost me more than I had planned. But that's how road trips go. Can't wait until next year; I'll take more time and visit friends in California.