Rapid City - South Dakota Road Trip - Sept 2011

Road Trip Background

My daughter, Jessica, Son-In-Law, David, and Grandson Travis were recently PCSed from Luke AFB in Arizona to Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City a few months ago. Now there is a contrast in seasons. They are about to experience their first real winter. Of course to me this all screamed for a Road Trip on the Wing for a visit from GrandMa and Pa before the cold weather set in so off we rolled …

Wednesday - September 7’ 2011

A 6:00 a.m. departure on the heels of what was Tropical Storm Lee slowly creeping northeast from our home in Dover, Tennessee provided the perfect window of opportunity to experience great weather over most of our route northwest for this trip. The skies were already clearing as we headed north up the Trace between the Land Of The Lakes into Kentucky. From there freeways would be the rule for the rest of the trip there allowing for a 2 day window to get there. We knew there would be great riding roads once we got there as a previous road trip to the area on my 2000 Valkyrie Interstate many years back had proved. We were looking forward to seeing the kids again in this new setting and once again exploring the area on the bike for the next couple of weeks once we got there. Sturgis had just wrapped up the month before so there wouldn’t be the influx of bikes in the area and the Mount Rushmore tourist season was coming to and end so hopefully the scenic roads in the area would be less crowed

We made excellent time and my initial concerns about my aging Wing with 229K on it now were quickly dispelled as the miles rolled by and it hummed along without incident. Around lunch time we found a neat little state park called Cuivre River State Park right along Highway 61 near where state highway 47 crossed it east to west near the little town of Troy, Missouri. We stopped here and enjoyed our packed lunch in the cool sunny day although there wasn’t any water in the creek we picnic by. Refreshed and nourished we continued on north on 61. This wasn’t exactly a freeway but is was a very good divided two lane highway that provided and alternate route north as we were trying to avoid the detours on Interstate 29 north of Kansas City that had occurred because of the spring flooding. This route added about an additional 100 miles to the trip but on a motorcycle that’s no big deal … least to me … as long as we could continue to move without detours. We stopped for the night in Waterloo, Iowa in good position to finish the next days run into Rapid City.

Thursday - Sept 8’ 2011

Another early start and before we knew it we were on that massive stretch of slab heading into Rapid City knows as Interstate 90 that runs the entire length of the state. One thing that irritates me about riding the super slab sometimes is the absolutely poor quality of some sections of the road. I know the U.S. infrastructure is decaying and many sections of this road could easily be the poster child for proving this point. By contrast there were many excellent sections that had been recently paved so I guess it’s a toss up. I suppose if we all had our way there would be no construction and all the roads would be perfectly smooth. Apparently they were doing their best but as always there was many sections where slow downs and delays were necessary as improvements were made to the existing road. Taking in all in stride we zipped along until we approached my next irritant that I just can’t help but comment on although it’s and old story I’m sure you’re heard before if you ride a motorcycle.

As a general unwritten rule of the open road all motorcyclists wave at each other as they pass each other as a sign of friendlyness and a sharing of their two wheel experience. My rule is that I wave to everyone regardless of what they ride and it doesn’t usually bother me if they don’t wave back as there could be many valid reasons that some don’t wave back or don’t wave at all. These non wavers don’t usually correspond to any particular brand of motorcycle with the exception of one and it’s that one that really chaps my ass when they don’t wave and that is the snobs on Harley’s. No … not all Harley riders are snobs but it is out of this group you will find a select few of them that are. You usually can’t tell what the reason is for a non wave from another cyclist when it’s obvious they see you coming from the opposite direction but when they are right along next to you … different story and the reason becomes much more clear. Such was the case today as we approached Rapid City.

Up ahead I saw three bikes, all Harley’s, as I confirmed as we approached them in the fast lane. Speed limit was 75 mph and they were doing just a little more than that in the slow lane and I was cruising at 80 mph in the fast lane. As is generally my custom I always throw a hand out and glance over as I pass other cyclist going in the same direction just to say hi and acknowledge our two wheel connection. They were having none of it … first guy actually looks away as I pass and the same scenario is played out with the second one as well. As I approached the lead Harley I purposefully slow down to match his speed and sat there staring at him occasionally to see how long he would ignore me. He stared straight ahead refusing to give up the mantel of arrogance of the Harley mystic that his select group was wrapped up in. I eventually gave up the quest and pressed on just shaking my head and thinking to myself what a small world they must live and ride in … Yes … I know I shouldn’t let things like this bother me and I’ve experience it before but it never ceases to amaze me especially whey you experience it up close and personally like that. Over my many years and miles on motorcycles I have found and met many Harley owners that are friendly and would give you the shirt off their back and to be fair I’ve also met many Goldwing and BMW owners that are snobs as well so I guess it all evens out in the long run … which is after all the journey we are all on. I just think it’s a shame that a select few of my fellow travelers on two wheels can be so narrow minded and rude.

We rolled into Box Elder (just outside Rapid City and where my daughter’s house is located) around 4:00 p.m. safely and I was looking forward to doing some exploring over the next couple of weeks we would be here visiting.

Friday - Sept 9’ 2011

Waking up in the Rapid City area the next day at my daughter’s house and knowing that I would have many days coming up to enjoy and explore the roads around the Black Hills, Badlands and Mt. Rushmore area gave me goose bumps. The weather was still great and had cooled down to the 80’s. and the scenic roads were only a few miles away … practically in my backyard. Having cleaned the Wing up and adding just a little more oil (yes she burns a little bit more now in her old age) we were off first to get another glimpse of Mt. Rushmore. Here’s a couple of different shots of the historic figures from different angles.
The approach up from Keystone to the Mt. Rushmore Monutment
Old George looks lonely from route 244 on the back end of the Monument.

From here we zipped along Iron Mountain Road and Needles highways. Although there was still tourist traffic, although not bumper to bumper, it was a great ride. I also noticed that almost all of the cages were very considerate and almost all pulled over whenever they could to let those of us on motorcycles hit those curves just a little bit faster … much appreciated and I always waved a big Thank You for those that showed that courtesy. For those that didn’t I just slowed down and let them go creating enough space between us and the slow cage ahead to enjoy the road ourselves. Usually a 60 second pause puts enough space so you can enjoy the ride without tailgating any one for too long.
One of the many one lane tunnels that sprinkle the area
Pause to drink in some of the beauty
Rushmore in the background

Next it was the Wild Life Loop in Custer State Park. Midday there wasn’t much wildlife about other than some Buffalo and these Donkeys mysteriously standing perfectly still in the middle of the road … very eerie.
Turns out they wait patiently in the middle of the road for the cars to come by and open their windows and feed them carrots and the such. Apparently it is alright to feed them but not the other wildlife in the area.

Few more shots as we wandered around many of the excellent roads around the area

Monday - Sept 19’ 2011

In my previous work life days Mondays were usually a thing to be dreaded. Typically a back to work day for the working stiffs of the world but for those of us fortunate enough to no longer have that ball and chain attached Monday’s represented something much different. With a crisp blue sky and temps to match it was time to venture out again on the Wing to enjoy the fruits of God’s labor. Today’s masterpiece was Spearfish Canyon with Spearfish River (called a creek today probably because the volume of water is less) etching out a beautiful canyon right in the heart of the Black Hills. With a wonderfully curvy road right next to it, so exploration by modern man could be made easier, all that was left to do was enjoy and that … we knew how to do.

With a picnic lunch that even Yogi Bear would be proud of, tucked away in the back of the Wing our only chore for the day was to pick from the abundantly beautiful spots along that stretch of Highway 14 that winds south out of Spearfish, South Dakota where to stop and have our lunch. From what I understand that name, Spearfish, came from the lore that the Indians used to spear fish right from the river banks and after we found our spot I could see why …
Words can’t describe the beauty we saw and felt so I won’t try … least I end up insulting this magnificent spot we had found. The water was clear and yes there were fish just waiting to be speared although the fisherman to the right of this picture above, out of frame, insisted on using a fishing pole. After our mouths had returned to their normal positions and our awe settled down some we enjoyed out lunch right there and explored around the area some.
Peering up the sides of Spearfish Canyon
As you can tell from Yong’s mouth we were still in awe of the beauty at this point :-)
Yong settled on this picture of me in the river once it became clear I wan’t going to fall in although I think she was hoping

We savored our lunch and chatted with a few other motorcyclists that also chose to stop here before reluctantly saddling back up on the Wing for further exploration. We eventually winded our way through Deadwood and Lead and then back down south towards Rushmore enjoying many more roads and quaint towns with interesting names … like Nemo. Just about everywhere you ride west of Rapid City is Golden in my book.

It truly doesn’t get any better than this and our cup does indeed runneth over this day … in fact if it gets any fuller we’re going to have to break out the bowls as we still have the rest of this week left in this paradise.

Thinking about heading back over to the West some later in the week and take in some of the Badlands area.

Wednesday - Sept 21’ 2011

Extreme winds nullified Tuesday’s ride but Wednesday the weather was back to form and I was off to Badlands National park riding solo today. Crossing Cheyenne River on highway 44 heading southeast our of Rapid City towards the Badlands I imagined what it would have been like in the wild west days. Today’s ride was on a steel horse but the feeling would have been much the same 150+ years ago riding horseback with my 6 shooters dangling from my waist heading back to my hideout in this remote area. Pretty exciting either way!
If a cowboy or gang wanted to hide out this would be the place to do it. After passing the little specs of town of Scenic and then Interior you get into the most eerie of rock formations I’ve ever seen. There is an entry here into the northern part of the park and the twist and turns between these protruding structures provides ample opportunities to get lost in a maze of beauty.
Road into the baddest of lands
Same shot up close and personal

I did a double loop here heading up along the rim on highway 240 all the way into Wall for lunch and gas and then back the other way. Amazing how going along the same exact road in the opposite direction gives a totally different perspective and views not seen.
I stopped occasionally and just walked some just listening to the nothingness. I think it’s during these times that you can really get a sense of the vastness of it all. As I mounted back up on my steel pony to begin the ride back to civilization I was thankful I was able to cover more miles in 20 minutes than those cowboys could in a day in years gone by. It made for a fairly quick ride back.

My only slight disappointment today was that I had to once again pay a $10 fee for a weeks pass into the Badlands Park. I had just purchased a pass a few days ago when I was in Custer State Park for the same amount and thought it covered all the parks in the area according to the ranger but evidently it does not cover the Badlands National Park. No big deal but you may want to keep that in mind if you are up this way. If you’re in a cage they charge you $15 for the pleasure … and what a pleasure it was.

Tomorrow it is time to cross over in to Wyoming and visit Devils Tower and see if those pesky Aliens are still hanging around over there. Hope to swing by the Crazy Horse Monument on the way back to see if any progress has been made on that effort.

Thursday - Sept 22’ 2011

As the sun rose and kissed the sky this morning it must have been smiling because there was nothing between it and the green earth below … least here in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As the stars faded away the sky burst out with my favorite shade of blue. It was going to be a great day. I had about a 300 mile route roughed out that would take us up pass Sturgis and out highway 34 towards Wyoming and Devil’s Tower. We had traversed this way 8 years ago on our 2000 Valkyrie Interstate but as anyone will tell you that have had the pleasure to grace this part of the country before on two wheels you never tire of the South Dakota Black Hills experience.

We made short order of the freeway leg and were quickly zipping along S. D. Highway 34 west. It is a great ride but really doesn’t start to get real good until you cross the border in to Wyoming where it switches to Highway 24 west. Here’s a pic of me at the border sign.
There was also this sign below there that I got a kick out of …
Especially the part about the handlebars having to be below shoulder height. I guess Wyoming had had enough of those guys that like to ride with those tall Ape Hanger handlebars. I quickly glanced at the Wing and since we were in spec we continued on :-)

The anticipation of seeing Devils Tower again had me constantly scanning the horizon for that first glimpse as we motored closer and closer. You can’t miss it when you see it and as you draw closer you can’t help but wonder what went through the person’s head that first saw this thing protruding out of the earth like a spacecraft made of pure stone.
This was the first spot on highway 24 that we could see it on the horizon.
As we got closer we though those dots in the field were Alien dropping but it turned out to be only rolled hay.
Just prior to arrival and only a few miles away we took the money shot. No I’m not that fat but my jacket just bunches up around my stomach area when I ride. Least that’s my story and I’m sticking with that. Damn that bikes looks good for 231K.

We continued on and decided to have out picnic lunch at the base of the tower just prior to entering the gate. This gave us a great view of the tower and we were able to sit in the shade next to an establishments there that sells T-Shirts and souvenirs. We actually sneaked into their picnic area behind the place and enjoyed our lunch with Devil’s Tower towering over us. So cool!
Our private picnic table awaited …

With our tummies full it was time to saunter south on Highway 14 and eventually Highway 16 slowly making our way back over towards the border back into South Dakota. This was a pretty straight road for the most part and gave Yong a chance to have her customary Wing nap. Try as I may I have not found a way yet to keep her from dozing on the back occasionally as we humm along the highway. Unfortunately things aren’t always as exciting in the back seat of the Wing as compared to the pilots seat up front where I’m wide eyed regardless of the time of day. Someone has to pilot this thing :-)

We entered Newcastle and then back into South Dakota where the curves and scenery picked up again as we made a bee line to the Dairy Queen in Custer for another afternoon stop. So darn hard to pass those things without stopping … curses …

From there we though we would swing by Crazy Horse and check to see how it was coming along although I already knew the answer. However I made a wrong turn (if there is such a thing on a motorcycle) and we headed up to Needles Highway instead. We had done both Needles and Iron Mountain Road several time already this trip but hey what’s wrong with once more. Just more great photo opportunties.

We did circle back around toward Crazy Horse but didn’t get close enough for a good shot. We didn’t feel like paying again to go in since there really wasn’t much change from when we were here in 2003. Here’s a partial shot …
As the Crazy Horse Monument is only partially completed I guess it was appropriate I unintentionally only took a partial picture of it :-) I wish they could finish it … it would really be pretty special and a tribute to those that were here first.

Before we knew it the day was over and it was time to head back to my daughter’s house so we blew by Mt. Rushmore again on the way back and are now preparing for the last ride in the area on Friday before we leave for home this coming Sunday.

Thanks to a couple of fellow Wing riders on the gl1800riders.com site I’m going to use my last day, Friday, for the following

Revrunt suggested --> Old Hill City/Keystone Road that crosses the 1880's train tracks nearly 15 times.
Dennis suggested --> Rochford?...."Best in the world" burger and fries at the Moonshine Gulch Saloon

Both of these are on my riding agenda for tomorrow … thanks guys for the recommendations

What a wonderful day today was ….

Friday - Sept 23’ 2011

My last ride in the area would be another solo run. I think Yong is saving up her energy for the 1000+ mile run back home to Tennessee on Sunday/Monday. Of course I can and usual do like to ride everyday and I had no intention of missing this one. Plan was to get up to Highway 14 just past Lead and then hit Highway 205 into Rochford where my fellow Winger, Dennis, had recommended. I scooted up Nemo Road and then found 205 and it was just as Dennis had described it. Sweeping turns sprinkled with an occasional twist and very little to no tourist traffic.
Only paved road into Rochford …

This was certainly one of those roads you would not normally notice on a map and it is off the beaten path which was nice. I arrived in Rochford around lunch time and parked in front of one of the only few buildings at the intersection there that comprise this little spec of dust of an old mining town. Very pretty area. There are two other unpaved roads that lead out of the little town … one to Hill City and the other that cuts over to 385. I parked in front of the Moonshine Gulch Saloon and bellied up to the bar to place my order.
I was eventually joined by some other patrons that were riding bikes in the area and some 4-wheeled quad arrived later as well. After a burger and fries it was time to mosey across the street to the Mall. Yes … people don’t walk around here they mosey … and Yes Rochford has a Mall.
The only Mall in America you can walk thru in less than a minute or two :-)

After chatting it up with some of the locals and tourist alike it was time to head back out and over to Hill City. Unfortunately, I was too late to catch the Train that runs between there and Keystone (another recommendation from Winger -Revrunt) so I decided to save that for my next visit. Instead I perused the area south along Highway 385 stopping to visit Pactola Lake and Dam/Reservoir pictured below

From there is was down to Sheridan Lake along 385


As the afternoon waned I decided to head back a little early figuring I would use the rest of the day to get the Wing cleaned up and readied for the long ride home that laid ahead.

I was sadden as I rolled along back towards Rapid City knowing that this would probably be my last ride in this area until probably next year. Contrary to my daughter, Jessica’s, wishes Mom and Dad would not be making any winter time visits to South Dakota :-)

Sunday/Monday - Sept 25th/26th’ 2011

What can you say when all the good riding is done and it is time to actually ride to a specific destination (yuck) even if it is home? Not much … but I usually let out a primal scream at the top of my lungs followed by a heavy sigh. It’s always so much more fun to be out in it riding rather than to be on the road riding home. With that said we rode out of paradise in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday and started the trek home to Tennessee.

Only highlight for the two day ride back to Dover, Tennessee was I actually paid less than $ 3.00 + for a gallon of gas somewhere in Illinois ($2.92 - wow). Unfortunately, it was back around $ 3.42 a gallon by the time I got to Tennessee.

Only irritant was that there is still a significant detour on I29 due to the spring flooding. The freeway is still closed just south of Omaha, Nebraska and St. Joseph Missouri. Other sections along I29 had been reopened. We pulled up for our one over night stay in Red Oak, Iowa along that detour when we just couldn’t take it any longer.

Monday we finished the journey pulling into our driveway around 6:00 p.m. completing about 1,240 miles in two days.

Wing is up to a little over 232K now and deserves a rest but I have plans to head to Arkansas in a few days to meet some new friends that are riding out east for a week visit so we both will be back on the road soon for an encore performance although only for a couple of days.

Take Care … hope those that travelled along with me on this trip enjoyed the write up and pictures. Hope to see you on the road somewhere soon.


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