South Dakota on the Wee (Suzuki 650A V-Strom) - Road Trip 2012

Trip Background - Heading back to South Dakota yet again for a few weeks to visit family and most importantly my little Grandson, Travis, who just turned two years old. My little Suzuki 650A V-Strom (Wee) will be featured on this trip as I’m anxious to explore and lay some tread on the back roads of the Bad Lands / Black Hills and this will be my first opportunity to do this on the little Wee.

Monday & Tuesday - June 4 & 5 ‘ 2012

Waking up early Monday morning and wandering out to my truck I gazed anxiously up at the Wee upright and strapped securely, I hoped, in to the bed of my Ford Ranger Truck. I couldn’t help but let out a heavy sigh of anguish. I wasn’t sure if I should hang my head in shame or just be proud of the fact that I’ve evolved to a place in my life that I can now actually stomach the trailering of a motorcycle for the purposes of transporting it to a predetermined destination. Destination was the Black Hills of South Dakota and for this run up there I would not be riding my bike there. The reason for this is simple … my better half needs to bring so much stuff to the daughter we can’t fit it all on the bike so taking the truck with the bike in the bed was my only option and I took it oh so reluctantly although it goes against ever fiber of my riding code and my definition of a road trip.

Off we went, ever so slowly at first, with me almost constantly staring into the rear view mirror rather than looking where I was going. The next 48 hours for the approximately 1,200 miles there would prove to be an exercise in needless worry. Of course, most worry is useless anyway as nothing we usually worry about ever happens. This event was no exception as we arrived safely with Wee still where we placed it a couple of days earlier.

Wednesday - June 6 ‘ 2012

I was anxious to venture out on the Wee and the opportunity presented itself the very next day. There was a dirt road that lay just North of I90 and west of Ellsworth AFB that I wanted to explore. I figured it should wind it way up toward Sturgis the back way. I had come down this road when I had the Wing up here last year thinking it was paved and had turned around when I discovered otherwise after going only a short distance. Now it was time to check it out with the Wee.
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Just between you, me and the fence post … and that dirt road way over yonder to the left

Having a dual sport bike to complement the Wing is great but it's really all about compromise when you got one bike trying to provide two roles. Yes, it can do both, payment and dirt, but it can’t do either one of them really really well but it does do a respectable job of trying to do both. Now if I could just hold up my part of the bargain and stay upright. I’ve discovered, while riding the Wee over the last year, how horrible my off road dirt riding skills have become. This road was pretty basic and graded but there were spots where things got a little dicy for me anyway. Nothing reminds you quicker to be careful than almost dumping it which I almost did until I calmed down some and started paying closer attention to the road and my diminished abilities. I was right, after about 25 - 30 miles and one left turn to the west the dirt road came out right next to the Buffalo Chip Campground and rally point at the outskirts of Sturgis.
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Entrance to the Buffalo Chip Campgrounds out side Sturgis, South Dakota

Figured I’d had my fill of dirt roads for today and motored through Sturgis seeking out a nice paved road I had seen on the map that looked like it went over the hills and hooked back up with Nemo Road (Nemo Road runs between I90 and Highway 385) that I had discovered on a previous trip. I struck Gold! It was a great curvy road that sliced into the Black Hills and came out in the quaint little town of Nemo. Take Vanacker Canyon Road - Country Road # 3 southwest out of Sturgis. Here are some pics … careful on the Tar Snakes.
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Is that a beautiful road or what? The Wee is about to tear that road up .. yummy.
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Tar Snakes covered with something. Temps here today 91 degrees
so they are nice and slippery … watch your step please.

It was a great ride through there and very pretty under blue skies. I began zipping around various roads from there but the fix was in for storms this afternoon. I keep a close eye on the weather while riding and it’s especially important here riding in the Black Hills of South Dakota. You don’t want to be caught unprotected if you can avoid it. It can be sunny skies one-second here and be hailing the next. No kidding … I’ve seen it on previous trips. I cautiously pointed her towards home and just barely arrived ahead of the bad stuff coming in.
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This is what chased me home today. This pic taken from the deck at
my daughter’s house. Didn’t get caught today thankfully but there would be other chances I’m sure.

Thursday & Friday - June 7 & 8 ‘ 2012

Working in the right balance for family time and feeding my riding addition is always a challenge for me but one I’m up for. My Grandson Travis is a blast and is getting every so closer to being able to go for a ride with Grandpa on the Motorcycle. Now that will be quality time :-)

Squeezing in some half days of riding I sneaked back into the Black Hills under fairer skies and hit some of the usually haunts. Keep in mind I’ve ridden to and through this area many times but I always find news roads and stuff each time I come which makes it a pleasure. Still riding solo for now … Yong hasn’t wanted to try a two up ride on the Wee and prefers to stick to the Wing. However, I think I’ll be able to persuade her to finally try it on this trip. Here are some couple of pics I took from some of those haunts
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One of many tunnels along Iron Mountain Road
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Lake Pactola Dam and Reservoir along Highway 385
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These 3 pics were taken along Custer State Park - Wildlife Loop

I also tried my hand at a few more well established dirt roads that I had bumped up agains while out here on the Wing last year. One was out by Rochford, South Dakota. I took the Wing to that little spot of an old town on the one paved road that leads into it from the North (Rochford Road) last time. However, there were two dirt roads that run south and west out of Rochford I didn’t explore. The one I was exploring today was the west one that hooked up with highway 385. It was about 11 miles and very pretty as it looped back and forth through the woods.
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Pretty Nice …

After going through Rochford and out the other side (it took one sec) it was up to and then down 385 South again until I saw a little sign that said Silver City (not an outlet) sign pointing go this way … works for me let’s take a little detour and go see what Silver City is all about. Only 5 miles off the main drag of 385 so off I went … found a nice spot for a break and walked through the woods along a ridge line that allowed me to peer down at Silver Cities few building out in the middle of no where.
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The Wee takes a breather by putting it’s feet up … ok putting
it’s lid up …. While …. I take a walk along the ridge in the distance
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That’s it ! … That’s Silver City
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This bird chased me away back down the ridge. It followed me squawking from tree to tree as I walked. It was very cool as it was protecting it’s nest in one of the nearby trees and didn’t appreciate my presence in its pristine world. Since I’m not a bird watcher I can’t tell you what type of bird it was but I am a rider so it was back on the Wee and off I went.

Tearing myself away (the hours spent on the bike rolls by so effortlessly) I pointed us back towards home done riding for this day.

Saturday - June 9 ‘ 2012

Today my Son-In-Law was off work for the Weekend and had in his possession a Suzuki Boulevard M1089R that a buddy loaned him to ride. Today we were both going to head into the Black Hills and tear up some roads while grabbing lunch someplace. Dave and I hadn’t ridden that much together so this would be a good chance to do so and trade bikes just for the fun of experiencing what each ride had to offer.
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Dave and my Grandson Travis getting the Boulevard ready to rumble

We rolled around 10:00 a.m. and headed out Nemo Road into the Black Hills. I showed Dave all of the good roads and we traded bikes for the first time once we took a break around Sturgis. Riding the big V Twin Boulevard back through those twisty roads after riding the Wee was like entering a different world. I liked the power but that was about it. Way to cumbersome of a bike for me and was no comparison to the Wing although it’s about the same cc and weight of the Wing. We continued on up to the intersection of highway 14 and 85 right before heading into and toward Spearfish Canyon we stopped for burgers. I tried the Buffalo Burger and it was pretty good. Here is a pic along Spearfish Canyon road when I was up here by myself a day or so before. I say that because for some strange reason this entire day that Dave and I were riding I didn’t take one picture. Funny it was just one of those days I didn’t pull the camera out … weird … focused on riding only I guess.
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Dave and I had a great day of riding together and no rain to contend with on this day.

Wednesday - June 13 ‘ 2012

Skipping forward some this is my next opportunity to get out go and I’ve finally persuaded Yong to mount up and let’s give it go for a ride on the Wee together. We knew it would be no where as near as comfortable as the Wing but that truth became even more evident as the miles began to roll by and we got up into the Black Hills. Her lower back had no support even though I have a cheesey backrest back there. There was also little to no room for her to move around. We headed back home and I continued the ride in the afternoon without my better half. I guess she will be sticking with riding the Wing and not the Wee going forward. The Wee will become my solo bike for sure now as I’m not sure I can make it any more comfortable back there given the nature of the bike.

With the afternoon ahead of me I decided I’d head in the opposite direction and go out east of town into the Badlands again. I knew there was plenty of dirt roads out that way and one in particular that I wanted to do called the Badlands Loop. 25 miles dirt road that eventually joins in with highway 240 that runs the length of the park and is paved. I entered it off of Highway 44 just past the little smudge of a town called “Scenic”. Sage Road was the road and turn off and I believe it’s also C590. It was a cool ride and very desolate as it wound upward in elevation and into the park proper.
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Kind of a 25 mile dirt road back way into the park without paying as
all the gates were open with no checkpoints.
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Moonscape of the Badlands as seen through the eyes of the Wee

Some construction in the park caused some delays but overall a good run through the park and then the straight road back home on highway 44 at days end.
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Doesn’t that look so inviting ?

Friday - June 15 ‘ 2012

Time to head back to the Black Hills and explore some more new roads and find some new and exciting places that I haven’t been before. Today I figured I’d go back to Rochford for a third time and take the final dirt road out of town to the south and see if I could make it over to a little lake called Deerfield.

As I rolled out of Rapid City in the morning I figured I’d find a new entry point into the Black Hills today so I figured I’d take the Old South Dakota Highway 40. It’s also called Sheridan Lake Road because where you come out is on Highway 385 next to Sheridan Lake. Here are some pics along the way. I thought it was unpaved but it was not.
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Sheridan Lake. The park attendant at the gate allowed me to ride
through the area without paying … that was pretty cool.

After departing here I made my way over to the dirt road that leads south out of Rochford that I wanted to explore. It was a swell road but those rain clouds were building in the distance again and I sure didn’t want to get caught on a dirt road if something hit. Here are some shots along that road.
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Down to a couple of cows in the middle of the road now … when I came around the turn the whole herd was in the road.

I continued on but the clouds were increasing but as I got to Deerfield road I was pleased to see that it was paved. This road can also be gotten on from the town of Hill City (real town with a Dairy Queen I might add) from main street.
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Super road and I followed it all the way to Deerfield lake. Here are some shots from this remote lake.
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So magically beautiful and tranquil.
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Deerfield road turns to gravel just a few miles past the lake and with the clouds and rain blooming all around I decided to pack it in and save that dirt road for another day.
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I turned around and headed back into Hill City and stopped for some ice cream and watched the tourist for awhile before eventually heading back towards home. Once again I escape the majority of the rain as it poured about 15 minutes after I got into the garage. How long can I keep this up :-)

Monday & Tuesday - June 18 & 19 ‘ 2012

After some family time this past weekend I was able to squeeze in a couple of more days riding around the area. First up - Monday - afternoon - I wanted to head back towards the southern part of the Badlands and explore some roads down that way. There didn’t appear to be many paved roads there but I was hoping to head out highway 44 and go south when I hit the little town of Scenic by turning south on C589. From there I figured it would be dirt on BIA 2 heading back west to hook up with Highway 40 and then back into the town of Hermosa on highway 79.

Well best laid plans … BIA 2 was dirt and off I went again with that uneasy feeling on gravel although it was my choice.

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The road was fine at first but I just couldn’t help but worry when you see gobs of loose gravel on it. Staying pretty much on the hard part of the road where the car tracks were when I could I was fine but sections quickly degraded and increasingly it became more and more difficult to find those tracks and instead I’d find myself in the loose gravel fighting for my life to stay upright. After about 10 miles in I decided this wasn’t fun and managed to turn around and head back the way I came. I just felt like I was quickly getting in over my head and riding beyond my abilities is not something I like to do on either bike.

I’m sure if I deflated the tires some it would have helped with tractions but it’s hard to keep a bike set up correctly to handle both off road and pavement all in the same ride I’m finding out. I may need to re-evaluate my perceived desire to ride off road but for now I was longing for pavement underneath me and after back tracking about 10 miles that became a reality. From there the paved route around back to highway 79 was too long I headed back the way I came thinking I would stay on paved roads at least for the rest of this trip.

Tuesday - This was going to be my last ride in South Dakota Black Hills for this trip so I saved the best for last - Needles Highway. I’ve ridden it many times but hadn’t made it up there yet this trip so I decided I would have to do it today. If you haven’t been to the Black Hills Rapid City area before Needles highway is a must ride. It winds it’s way through some impressive scenery and is dotted with tunnels and some pretty long and very narrows ones as well.

I zipped down highway 79 south late morning with my deli sandwich safely tucked in the rear saddle bag and then went west along highway 36 entering into the Black Hills. It wasn’t long before wildlife in the form of Bison were everywhere including the road ahead which causes all traffic both ways to stop and wait for them to get out of the way. They say be careful around the bison since their behavior can be a little unpredictable. Little did I know at this point I was going to find this out first hand.
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After patiently waiting for the bison to clear the road enough to inch by I preceded on up the hill a ways. About a 1/4 of a mile later I saw a great spot to pull over and park the bike and hike up a ridge along the road. It never crossed my mind in the least to consider if I had traversed far enough away from the herd of Bison which was still pretty close by but around the bend and out of sight and consequentially out of mind … that was until I saw this and zoomed in and got a picture.
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This is where I was at on top of the ridge looking back down towards the road where I had just hiked up from
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Then off in the distance I see a couple of the Bison coming around the bend heading down the side of road. Quickly putting 2 and 2 together I realized I potentially had a big problem on my hands if those two bison and the rest of the herd joined in and started heading down the road to where I parked my bike. I immediately started back down the hill at a very quick pace in hopes of reaching the bike and scooting out of there before they made it to the same location.

As I rushed down the hill my worst fear was realized and those two bison had been joined by about 7-8 others and they were all now on a march down the hill directly toward where my bike was parked and unfortunately where I was headed. Great! how do I get myself into these spots? I picked up the pace but then became aware as I got closer that it might not be a good idea to run down the hill towards them as it might be perceived as threating so I scaled back my progress to a very quick walk instead and eased down to pick up a good size rock to hold in one hand just in case. Luckily some cars came from the other directions and stopped to observe them and this distracted them for a sec and slowed their progress some. Just as I stepped off the hill and onto the little gravel area where I parked the bike I figured if I was going to be trampled to death by a Bison I was at least going to get one picture so as I was walking I eased my camera out in one hand with the rock ready in the other and snapped this shot.
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I would have loved to have taken a couple of more pics since things really got interesting at this point but my only focus now was getting on the bike and getting the hell out of there as quickly as I could. I rushed the bike, tossed some stuff in the back saddlebag, grabbed my helmet and jumped on and fired her up all the time keeping a sharp eye on the Bison to see what they were going to do. About this time 2 cars and a motorcycle in the distance started to come down the hill toward them and me. As I watched the one Bison in the picture above closest to the road actually tried to charge and headbutt the motorcyclist on the road as he passed. I don’t even believe the guy knew he was almost toast unless he saw him out of the very corner of his eye as he road on having been just barely missed. The cars stopped for me realizing my predicament and let me get out on the road ahead of them and escape the bison. Back on the road I breathed a sign of relief that didn’t turn out the way it could of. Sooooo if you do get up here to ride don’t mess with the Bison … they will charge … and oh yeah … you might want to park in designated areas although the Bison pretty much go where ever they want.

I continued on looking for a nice place to have a lunch and found a great spot at Stockade Lake as I went around the loop drive.
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Pick at spot for lunch … any spot will do … it’s all beautiful.
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Here’s lunch and the rock I tossed in there from the Bison encounter. Glad I didn’t have to use it :-)

After lunch I found another one of my favorite spots … Sylvan Lake up along needles Highway.
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Needles highway is gorgeous and has many spots to pull out and observe the beauty.
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Road by Mount Rushmore one more time and said good-bye to George and then it was home.

Tomorrow will be spent cleaning up the bike and packing as we plan to head to Kansas City tomorrow and spend a few days with family and friends there before eventually returning to Tennessee and home. Since putting the Wee in the back of my Ford Ranger for the trip up here was so traumatic for me I decided I wasn’t going to do that again and decide I would be riding her home to Tennessee for the return leg. I can’t go through that worry again … plus being on the bike is where I want to be anyway :-)

I will add a few more post to this trip to finish it up and if I get a chance to ride some in Kansas City I will post that as well.

Thursday - June 21 ‘ 2012

What better way to start off a long ride with this staring you in the face first thing in the morning that you’re planning to leave? I can think of a few ways rather than this.
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It’s funny (well not really) how you can check your tires out religiously every day after a ride and then the one day you don’t check them and decide I’ll just make sure they are aired up in the morning … screws and stuff just appear out of nowhere to throw a wrench into you plans. Yesterday, I washed the bike, cleaned the chain, oiled the chain, checked and added oil but for some reason I neglected the tires thinking they would only need air and I could do that in the morning. WRONG there’s a tire that needs to be patched before we leave for Kansas City.

I guess this is the price you pay for going riding off the beaten path but least I was prepared for this eventuality and within 30 minutes of this pic my son-in-law and me had the tired plugged. Fortunately, the screw was inserted straight in (perfect for a tire plug) and it’s location was good as well being off center and in a tire groove it would get less pressure.

We all made it safely to Kansas City arriving around 7:30 p.m. after the longest most boring and tedious ride you can imagine. I tell ya there is nothing to see but flatlands through most of South Dakota and then down I29 to Kansas City. 750 miles made for a long day in the saddle but with my custom seat and backrest on the Wee from Russell Day Long Seats it wasn’t bad at all although any time you’re out on the road for that long the sun beats it out of ya. I think next time I’m up here and have more time I’ll take highway 34 across the state of South Dakota and see some of the towns. It’s probably as boring as Interstate 90 but least it will be different as you can pass through the capital and a lot of other smaller towns as you cross the state.

Resting tonight and the next 3 nights in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and will stay in the Kansas City area visiting friends and enjoying the area we used to live in for many years. Really doubting if I’ll get any riding in while here so the next entry may be summarizing the last leg of the trip back home to Tennessee as we will depart on Monday for home.

Monday - June 25 ‘ 2012

We rolled out of the Kansas City area towards home to Tennessee around 7:30 a.m. Yong was in the truck and I was on the Wee. The skies were clear blue and I couldn’t help but reflect on the last few days spent with family and old friends, many of which we hadn’t seen in a long time. I like to think of those times in our lives we spend with our families and our friends as bonuses in life. I’m so blessed to have such a wonderful family and great friends. The time we spend doing things with each other and enjoying each other we are truly living. What a great time we shared. Life is short - Treasure it all.

As I roll down the highway towards home and the last leg of this road trip amazingly enough I’m actuality looking forward to …. yes … another Road Trip ….this one on the Wing in July/August timeframe. Guess it’s true … I never do get tired of riding if I’m thinking about another road trip while I’m still on a road trip. Kind of a dream within a dream :-) Well … why not that’s what your mind does sometimes when you’re riding … it percolates ideas.
Todays ride was a good ride for that as it was almost performed automagically as I’ve ridden that hunk of slab between KC and Dover many a time before. And just as this script has played out so successfully many times before we rolled safely into the harbor of our drive way around 5:00 p.m. No small wonder and we quickly give thanks for a safe return home.

I have to admit it was a great feeling to get off the Wee in the drive way when I got home. Much more so than it would have been if I was to “unload” it down a ramp from the rear of the truck now instead. Guess it’s nice to know I can strap a bike in the back of a truck and take it somewhere to ride if I want to but I’m still asking myself the same question “Why?” I like to ride my motorcycles not load or trailer them anywhere. On the other hand I can appreciate the times when one might choose to do so as I had to for the first portion of this road trip.

Take Care … Hope to see or meet you on the open road.

Donnie

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