South Dakota & Wyoming - Yong’s first Road Trip
2000 Honda Valkyrie Interstate

Day 1 - Tale of 2 BMW riders

Leaving the KC area around 12:30 p.m. we began our journey by heading north along Interstate 29. By mid afternoon we were ready for out first gas stop. Not soon after pulling in another couple of motorcyclists pulled in to refuel as well. One guy on a BMW and his counterpart on a Harley. As always I attempt to strike up a conversation with the guy asking typical leading questions. Which way you heading, where ya been, encounter any rain along the way. Anything to get the ball rolling but the BMW guy was having none of it. Every question was answered with a quick yes or no or the minimum amount of information that could suffice for an answer. Feeling rebuffed I ceased with the questions and they retreated into their own conversation, refueled and pulled out without anything so much as a wave. As a motorcyclist to me that is just plain wrong and to be honest hurts. People should talk to one another, especially when it is obvious you have something as wonderful as motorcycling in common.

We finished our refueling and rest break and were soon on the road again. Upon pulling in at our next refueling stop again I notice a guy on a BMW refueling and repacking some of his clothing. Again I attempt to strike up a conversation and bam before I know it we are talking to each other like old roommates swapping stories of the road and motorcycles like we hadn’t seen each other in years. Turns out Bernie is from Kansas City as well and is in route to Montana to visit some friends. We chat for awhile and he then invites us to join him and ride along with him since we are heading in the same direction. We agree and for the next 70 miles or so we share the road with this new found friend. When it came time to for us to go our separate ways Bernie pulls over to the side of the road and stops his bike and motions to me to pull up next to him. He says goodbye and states that is was nice meeting us and wishes us a safe trip. We do the same and wave farewell as we both depart our separate ways. As a motorcyclist to me that was just plain right. Bernie got it right! He knows what motorcycling is all about and he knows the value of sharing the experience with others even complete strangers.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those that take the time to share their experiences and joys with others and those that don’t take the time and are consumed with themselves. I’ll bet Bernie had a wonderful and exciting trip filled with new acquaintances while I doubt if the other BMW guy was as fortunate. We arrive in Michalle, South Dakota as planned and spent our first night on the road resting there. We did ride through 2 rain storms this day one just outside of Omaha, Nebraska and the other just south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Day 2 - Yes Virginia there is a “Corn Palace”

Yes there is a corn palace and it’s in Michalle, South Dakota.
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A co-worker told me before this trip that there was a building of sorts in Michalle, South Dakota that was made out of “corn” and other grains and if I should pass this way I should stop by and take a look. Well we were up early ready to head for the Badlands (Badlands State Park) but we couldn’t leave Michalle without first going by and seeing the Corn Palace. We rode down town and there it was at the corner of 7th and North Main. Yes Virginia there is a Corn Palace. What else can you say about a building made out of Corn? We moved on West toward some ominous looking dark clouds. Sensing we were not going to be able to skirt the rain we suited up in rain gear and boldly headed straight into it. Rain, wind and an occasional lighting strike around you as you are feeling your way along the road will definitely get your heart pumping. It did ours and just when we though we should have stayed at the motel out of darkness of the overcast sky came a glimmer of light then another, and another and soon as we pressed onward the rain let up and sunny blue skies lay ahead. In the rear view mirror all you could see was darkness. A short time later as our rain suits were beginning to dry out a little we happen across the Missouri River and quickly pulled off on to a scenic overlook where you could view the entire area. We parked, removed our rain gear and took in our first glimpse of the beauty that was to come.
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Little did we know at that point we had seen the last bit of rain we would see for the remainder of this Road Trip. You can see in this picture we were drying out our helmets and rain suits. Moving on we headed up towards the Badlands and stopped for lunch just outside of the Badlands State Park. As we were eating lunch (no I wasn’t brave enough to try the Buffalo Burgers) another Motorcycle couple pull up on their matching brand new 1800 cc Honda Gold Wings and come in and sat in the booth next to us. Of course Motorcycle banter and conversation ensued and before I know it 4 people who were total strangers less than 30 minutes earlier become friends. Amazing how that works. They were from Oregon and had just finished touring the attractions we were heading for. Since we had just become instant friends they offered us their passes to to Custer State Park and to Mount Rushmore. These were essentially temporary permits to get you into the parking at Mount Rushmore and to allow you access to Custer State park. They weren’t going to use them any more and both of them were still good for a few more days. You know the kind …. The ones that cost about 6 to 8 dollars and say NON-TRANSFERABLE right on them. So of course we accepted their gracious gift and ended up using them successfully the entire trip saving us a few dollars. Who said those things weren’t transferable We said our good byes and headed straight into the heart of the Badlands State Park. Really cool! Looks like a moonscape for a better way to describe it.
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I can definitely visualize the old west and see where the outlaws used to hide when they wanted to get away from the law. Moving on we headed for the motel in Rapid City which would be our home base for the next 3 days arriving around 7:30 p.m.

Day 3 – Beating the rush to Mount Rushmore

I’ve often said and have proved over numerous Road Trips that the best time to see any attraction is early, early in the morning. Since we were so excited we were up by 5:00 a.m. and were able to get ready, eat a hearty breakfast make the short ride from Rapid City to the Mount Rushmore site and arrived just prior to the masses. If you’ve never seen Mount Rushmore I think when you do you will be amazed that it really isn’t as big as you may have thought. This is not to say it isn’t spectacular because it truly is and when you stand at it’s base an gaze upward you can’t help but think what an impressive human achievement it is and how wonderfully patriotic it makes you feel.
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We took the long walk around the base taking time to read each of the dedication and facts about each president depicted in stone. Blue skies and a slight rustling of the leaves in the trees and the absence of hoards of people at this time of the morning made for a special visit. It was almost as if we had the place to ourselves …. Very cool! We departed a little while later and headed out to see some of the natural beauty of the area. Not to be out done the big guy upstairs and done some pretty impressive things in the rest of the neighborhood as well. Small lakes shored with trees and rugged hills and stony butts that jutted upward were the norm as we winded our way over to the Crazy Horse monument.
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This one is being privately built and will be much larger than Rushmore when finished but still has a long way to go. Very impressive and appropriate given the fact that the white man wasn’t the first to gaze upon this beautiful land. Only the head is done so far but this is statue of what it will look like when it is completed.

As we departed Crazy Horse we headed south in to Custer and stopped at the local Mr. Goodcents and picked up a couple of sandwiches and drinks. Our next stop was inside Custer State Park along side a little lake litter with picnic tables right next to the lake. As we were eating our lunch next to the lake we noticed several ducks and ducklings gliding right up next to the shore. How neat we thought. Then they
came ashore and started coming toward as. Ok … we are still in the fascination mode at this point and feeling pretty special they were so friendly. Then they came under our picnic table and then it happens. I felt a jab in my buttocks where one of them obviously was demanding to be fed. I was outraged and demanded their immediate departure but they were having none of that and refused to leave despite my numerous attempts to use them as footballs kicking at them occasionally to keep them at bay while we ate our lunch. Finally a truce was reached and they nestled right next to us and the picnic table to wait for food. We stood our ground and finished our lunch and departed (I actually though they were going to charge the bike when they saw us readying to leave without supplying them any food).

We spent the rest of that afternoon touring Custer State Park, enjoying the wild life loop where you drive very slowly stopping often to gaze at the Bison and other wild life that frequent the area. At one point we had to navigate the Phat Lady through numerous Bison that were actually on the road and refused to move.
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Very scary for both the Bison and us but we made it through. The day was coming to a close and the sun was setting but we were having so much fun we didn’t want it to stop so we winded our way back to Mt. Rushmore to take in the night show. Awesome to see Mt. Rushmore all lite up in the middle of the night but the most awesome sight was the one just above the outline of Mt. Rushmore in the dark South Dakota night sky. It was the Big Dipper shining bright as could be. We though it was a friendly and appropriate reminder from the big guy upstairs of just who is the real creator of all that is truly beautiful in this world. We didn’t arrive back to the motel until 11:30 p.m. that night. We had just spent about 17 hours lost in all this splendor and it was truly one of the best days I can remember in a long long time.

Day 4 – How do you thread a needle made of stone?

After a 17 hour day you’d think we would have been tired and slept in the next day but that was not the case. Enthralled by the experiences of the day before we were again up early and ready to ride. Today was going to be dedicated to exploring Needles Highway, Iron Mountain Road & Spearfish Canyon. So how do you thread a needle made of stone ………. Very carefully …… check out these pictures
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Many of these “needles” on the Needles highway were one vehicle at a time. Very impressive and carving up the curvy roads getting to them was a lot of fun as well. I think the picture on the right above was along Iron Mountain Road that comes up around near Mt. Rushmore. In fact as you drive through one of these needles the outdoor frame that is created by looking out the end of the tunnel you are driving through frames Mt. Rushmore …… what a rush that was when we realized it. We stopped right after that for this picture. If you look carefully you’ll see Mt. Rushmore in the background.
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We also manage to find the perfect story book lake. Check this one out below
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There is a super neat trail that runs along and behind this little lake and makes for about a 1 ½ mile hike which we took. Yong insisted that every rock formation we saw was some kind of animal. It was fun deciphering what they all were. I could only picture about ½ the ones she envisioned. We couldn’t believe what a perfect setting this was. If fact it was so perfect we decided to come back here later this same day to see what it looked like at sunset. It was worth the return trip and created a totally different mood. Very pretty. In fact we weren’t the only ones impressed with this setting because when we came back just prior to sunset there was an out door wedding going on at the very spot Yong is sitting at in this picture earlier in the day. We sat on a bridge just behind this spot and watched this couple’s entire wedding. They had the perfect setting to start their life together with and certainly one I’m sure they will remember for its beauty. Here’s the picture from the bridge were we sat watching their wedding.
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Here’s we are in front of another great little lake. This one was right around the corner from Mt. Rushmore.
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We finished off this day by winding our way through Spearfish Canyon and then a quick tour of Sturgis and back to the motel. We got back comparatively early this day arriving at around 8:00 p.m. for only a 13 hour day.

Day 5 – The Devil made me do it

Well …. for our last day Devil’s tower was possessing us to come see it. Demanding that we pay our respects. Heck, maybe there were some left over aliens from the movie “Close Encounters” that were sending us telepathic messages to come. Remember that movie? Devils Tower played and important role in that movie being the rendezvous point for the encounter. Although not far away (heck nothing is far away when you’re riding the Phat Lady) it meant a trip across state lines in to Wyoming.
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Now, to many people (including a friend I work with) Devil’s tower is nothing more that a big rock poking up out of the ground. Well if that’s true then the Grand Canyon is nothing more than a hole in the ground and we all know that’s not true. I found in fascinating and evidently so do many other people since there were many many people that were there when we visited it. Some were even crazy enough to be climbing it. We took the entire walk around and spent the better part of the midday there hiking around it. We even climbed up as far as we could and it was pretty inspiring. Take a look and see for yourself.
pasted-graphic-13pasted-graphic-14We finally pulled ourselves away from Devil’s Tower and headed back to the motel arriving back early evening in time to wash clothes and pack for the return trip. That was an adventure in and of itself given the amount of souvenirs and T-Shirts Yong had bought and space being so precious on the Phat Lady. Sadly our journey was coming to an end.

Day 6 – Why do bad things happen to good people?

Now we’re not Saints by any stretch of the imagination but why do we have to be punished by having our short vacation Road Trip come to an end? It just ain’t fair and to top it
off we not only have to end our Road Trip and go home but we have to go back to work also. Say it isn’t so. We took our lumps and hit the road early and spent all day (about 14 hours) on the road getting home in one day (we had taken two days to ride up there). Pulling into our drive way I glanced down at the odometer on the Phat Lady and it read 51,768 miles (2,300 on this short trip). It was a beautiful thing. The PHAT LADY had come through again. Not one problem …….. Just pure performance time and time again combined with style and grace. I recently discovered what PHAT stands for
PrettyHipsAnd Thighs. Well those hips and thighs held up just fine on this trip.
Hope you enjoyed my journal and pictures ………. Until next time Take Care ………………

Donnie & Yong Lewis

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