Road Trip Background …

Some family obligations are putting me smack dab in the middle of some great roads in the Rapid City, South Dakota area from mid March to mid May this year. Wife and I are spending time at my daughter’s place helping out with the Grand kids and of course this kid has to bring the Wing along so I can have my fun from time to time exploring the Black Hills in depth. Road up here safely last week arriving just before the snow storm hit.

Now that I’m here I plan to take rides periodically as time, family obligations and weather permits

Will be out today for my first little jaunt ... here's my spotwalla link.

Monday - March 28' 2016

Today I took my first, of what I hope are many over the next couple of months, one man Wing expeditions into the Black Hills to get a sense of the current curvy road conditions. Having been here a week already this was my first opportunity to break away on the Wing and really the first good upper 50’s and sunshine type day to ride in.

Went out of Rapid City on Canyon Road to Nemo Road and then hit Vanocker Canyon Road and took it into Sturgis. Highway 14 to Deadwood then 385 back south to rejoin with Nemo Road and back home.
The roads were awful and I mean bad. Accumulations of sand, rocks dust everywhere. I guess it’s to be expected because this time of year Spring hasn’t totally sprung up here yet. Even though today was nice and it was great to get out on the Wing it was near impossible to really enjoy any of these great roads and yet more snow and wintery weather is predicted for mid week. I’m hoping with the temps moderating the snow will cease and the roads can start to become a little cleaner with only some rainy days.

Nevertheless it still felt awesome to just be out on two wheels. With the roads the way they were and my current front Bridgestone 709 tire down to the wear bars I just took it easy.

Getting new front tire on tomorrow and will also have my brake recall work done at Rice Honda here in Rapid City. Hope to be back out again after this next snow storm is done with us.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Note ... there was some serious construction going on outside of Deadwood just prior to the Highway 385 junction. Very muddy and very slippery for about a full mile or more. I won't be going back in this direction on any of my future rides. Hard to avoid but if you can I would as it's a mess through there.

Monday - April 4' 2016

Today was shaping up to be a stellar day in the Dakota’s. Temps suppose to rise into the upper 60’s, mostly sunny and even the winds calming down to a reasonable level (that’s less than 20 mph up here). Grand-kids were off to day care and school and my tether had been cut free for my second day ride since arriving up here about 2 weeks ago. Today I decided to ride my steel horse into the …

Badlands National Park and
Wounded Knee area

… areas to do some first hand reconnaissance. Yes, I’ve ridden some of these areas before but to me I could do them over and over again as long as I’m on two wheels. With the brake recall completed and sporting a new front Bridgestone tire I was more than ready to roll anywhere. I even persuaded my wife to come along on this outing.

We departed Box Elder just outside Rapid City, SD around 8:30 a.m. and decided to zip down the freeway east on I-90 to get us over to the Wall and Badlands area quickly with plans to return via an alternate route that would take us through Wounded Knee. In what seemed like a blink of an eye we teleported to Wall, South Dakota. The Wing excels at teleportation. Since it was still early we popped in over at the Wall Drug to see what that was all about. If you’ve ever come up to this part of the country you’ll notice about a thousand road side sign for Wall Drug. It’s a conglomeration of touristy type businesses and we did the customary walk through and took some pictures.
From there we hit highway 240 south which is the Badlands Loop Scenic Highway and headed to the park entrance (Pinnacles Entrance Station). For anyone who hasn’t been here before the entrance fee for a car is $15 and for motorcycles it’s $10. That’s good for a full week. Evidently they don’t sell day passes. However, if you’re old as dirt and have The National Parks and Federal Recreational Land Pass the entrance is free after showing your card.
Our first stop provided some incredible overall shots of the Badlands and you get a feel for the size and scope of this places. Lot’s of good hiding spots down there …
Bad to the bone Wing scoping out the Badlands
Once you leave Wall, SD there aren’t a lot of gas stations or places to eat so We had decided to bring out lunch today picnic style and just picked a good place to stop and eat when we felt the urge. Along this drive there are numerous places to pull over and park and several with picnic tables and restrooms.
Love that sign but this wasn't an area where you could turn loose.
Picnic Here ... Seat for two
Our own private picnic area

We eventually made out way over to the other entrance of the Park and then turned around and headed south out of the park on highway 377 and then on to highway 44 towards Scenic. From there it was down to Wounded Knee on Bombing Range Road (BIA 27). First 7 miles out of Scenic there are Rough Road signs and the road was not in good shape and speed went down to 50 mph. After that first 7 miles it smoothed out and speed limit went back up to 65 mph.

We had to be back home by 4:00 p.m. so I was a little concerned we could make the loop I wanted to make in time. Since I had the Queen on board and when we got down to Wounded Knee and discovered no gas stations and time was running short I decided to backtrack our known route in favor of a grand adventure of looking for gas and fighting the clock on the loop. I ride solo mostly but when the boss is with me I try to keep her happy. If I had been by myself I probably would have continued on south hoping for a gas station and hoping I got home on time. More adventures are had that way. As it was we found gas on BIA 27 about 35 miles south of Scenic. For the record so you know there is also a pump (1) in Scenic for gas but I wouldn’t recommend passing one up when you get out here in the boonies. However don't be expecting a full service Shell gas station to pop up out here somewhere.
Some of our history we are proud of and some of our history we are ashamed of however it is all our history.

We are a great country because of what we have been through together. It makes us who we are.

We arrive back home almost exactly at 4:00 p.m. and I avoided the dog house. All in all we had a great run today and temps creep-ed into the low 70’s by mid afternoon. The only downside was the wind. It just never seems to completely cease up here. Cover about 275 miles today. Hope to get out again later this week for my next day ride.

Here are some more pics of Badlands from today's ride.
Donnie ... and I'm on the Road
Finally I have a stand in… this could free me up to ride more lol
Whack-A-Mole .... these little guys were everywhere ... entire community.
When we get a road paved on the moon this is how it will look. Minus the blue skies of course.
This place is Huuuuge !!!

Wednesday - April 6' 2016

It was 10:30 a.m. in the morning and I was listening to Ted Nugget’s Stranglehold blasting out of the Wing’s speakers as I slowly climbed up Highway 244 towards Mt. Rushmore on the Wing. Traffic was practically nil, blue skies and temps already in the 50’s on it’s way to a predicted mid 60’s high before day’s end. The scenery breathtaking in it’s grander and it truly felt like I was the owner of it all and I was just surveying my world as I rode through it.
Today's route

Mt Rushmore in the distance

Yes, this day had all the ear marks to be a picture perfect day for riding the Black Hills. There was just one fly in the ointment. WIND! If fact, this was the primary reason I chose to ride up into the Black Hills today was to hopefully get away from the wind or at least to negate some of it’s power utilizing the hills to break it up some. 20-40 mph winds with gusts up to 50 mph are not much fun to ride in but I certainly wasn’t going to stay home. Wind is just about a constant up here on most days and you just have to deal with it. My strategy somewhat worked as once I left the flatland and got up into the hills the wind, while it didn’t go away totally, seem to drop to a more tolerable level.
This pic could easily become one of my favorites!
I tell you one thing about being up here early like this before the touristy season really kicks in and that is the solitude. Just about every parking area and scenic overlook was totally empty. Places where I couldn’t find a spot to park on previous visits during the regular season were wide open today. Even the roads weren’t that bad as I had imagined they might have been. If nothing else a strong wind helps with moving debris off the roads as it appears they had been wind swept. Even the wildlife seemed so chilled as compared to other times I visited. Deer, Bison and other wildlife just sat or stood right next to the roads. I was able to stop practically right next to them and get some great pictures.
Please ... No head-butting !!!
I spent most of the morning on Iron Mountain Road and after lunch in Custard I came back up and hit Needles Highway on the way back towards home taking in Iron Mountain Road a second time in the other direction.
About 175 miles today


More pictures from today's ride …

Friday - April 8' 2016

Iron Mountain Road & Needles Highway

Tuesday - April 12' 2016

Today’s pictures are brought to you courtesy of Spearfish Canyon Road (Highway 14A south of Spearfish, SD) and Devil’s Tower, Wyoming (Highway 24) and all the curvy roads before, after and in-between. Today Route totaled around 330 miles. Sunny Blue skies and temps in low 70’s
Today’s expedition into the Hills that are Black would take me through an exquisite canyon and along spearfish creek just south of Spearfish, SD and then over to the always intimidating Devils Tower in Wyoming. As I roll down the road in the crisp morning air I’m always mystified and somewhat in awe by the simplicity of enjoying the moment. It really doesn’t take much to lose yourself in the beauty around you especially when on two wheels and up here engulfed in this wonderland. I think the Lakota Indians were the first to refer to this area as the Black Mountains and said that it was “The heart of everything that is”. They were right. This place has a special feel to it and one that is hard to capture in words and pictures alone. Although that won’t stop me from trying Let’s start with Spearfish Canyon Road.
After the canyon I journeyed on north on Highway 85 until it hit Highway 34 which later turned to Highway 24 as I entered Wyoming.
This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image.
These turned out to be wonderful curvy sweepers leading in toward Devil’s Tower that you could easily take at 75 or 80 miles per hour without much effort. A simple twist of the throttle is all it takes and that simple act alone somehow seems to soothe the beast within me and brings a smile to my face over and over again as I lean left then right and repeat. Soon Devil’s Tower is on the horizon and giving me the evil eye ….
If you’re in this area and it’s around lunch time your best bet would be to find a place to eat in either Hulett just before getting to the Devil’s Tower monument from the north or perhaps Sundance located just south of the area. You won’t find much just out side the monument itself. There is a general store there but the snack bar only operates during the season.

I was having to much fun to eat even though I was hungry I continued to munch on fruit and decided to wait until early afternoon to eat. I made my way down to Moorcroft and then started my return loop swinging south and then east. Note you won’t find much to eat in Moorcroft either other than a gas station and a Subway. Things flatten out once you start heading back towards the east to reenter South Dakota and the Black Hills again.
I eventually found a new burger place that had just been build in Newcastle right near where the junction of Highway 85 and Highway 16 intersect. It was called Wayback Burgers and it was pretty good although a little on the pricey side. The lines were long since it had just opened and was still new to the area.

From there it was back along 16 angling back towards Rapid City. Finally the roads started getting curvy again.

These riding days always end too soon it seems and just like that it was over as I arrived back safely around 4:30 p.m. I tell ya riding just doesn’t get much better than today. I even found myself slowing down the closer I got to home just wanting to hold on to that feeling just a little bit longer … ride just a little bit further … see around that corner just one more time …

The Wing grumbles to a stop in the drive way at my daughter’s house and turns to look at me and seems to say … Is that all ya got? Yes … that’s all I got for today.

More pics from today's ride …
Spearfish Creek ... Don't ya love it when the road follows along side the creek?
If you're into exploring caves while visiting up here take in Jewel cave on Highway 16 between Custer and Newcastle. Third longest in the world.

Friday - April 15' 2016

Something to keep in mind while you ride the Black Hills of South Dakota any time of the year.

I was out again yesterday with no real destination in mind just piddling around in the hills and keeping an eye on the cloud formations and radar. Conditions were ripe for storms to build up although rain chances were less than 30 percent all day. Here's where I was at …
Sunny blue skies when I left and got into the hills
But as the day wore on these innocent little puffy white clouds on the horizon can morph ...
Next you start noticing this on the radar
I made several changes in direction just trying to find some spots here and there to ride in and enjoy while monitoring the movement and direction of the storm track and development.

Got some great shots out at the Pactola Reservoir along Highway 385
This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image.
As the build up of clouds continue I always stayed close to a road to exit out of the hills as quickly as I could if needed. This is not always easy to do while riding in the Black Hills and believe me you do not want to be caught up there in the hills when bad weather strikes. I was up here one year (in a cage thankfully) and we got caught in a hail storm that was quite scary and fierce. We had to pull under a train overpass just to get out of the deluge. That would have been a total disaster if I had been on a motorcycle at that time.

Anyway … my point is … when riding up here … pay close attention to the weather. It can look and be nice and warm in Rapid City and the low land and quite a different story in the hills and these storms can pop up in a moments notice.

Fortunately made it back before the hail arrived in Rapid City
and this is the small stuff .... It's marble size or larger in the hills.

Let’s be careful out there!

Saturday - April 23' 2016

Custer State Park - Wildlife Loop
Play House Road - Shortcut
Crazy Horse Monument

Weather has continued to cooperate lately providing a few good days of riding and I’ve got a few things to share that may be of interest to those planning to lay tread up here sometime in the future.

There’s a little community (town barely) just south of Rapid City on Highway 79 called Hermosa. It provides a good jumping off point to head back west and into the Black Hills area. If you glance at a map you’ll see two highways (40 and 36) that head back to the west from there. Highway 40 will wind it’s way into Keystone (Mt Rushmore) and the other highway 36 winds it’s way into the heart of Custer State Park. This is the route I chose and here is the complete 275 loop I did today
Shortcut - Playhouse Road

While riding both the Needles Highway and Iron Mountain road (2 must ride roads while you’re up here) I’ve found another road that may be of interest. Not because it’s super curvy or anything special but instead for the shortcut it provides between several of these key roads. I’ve created this map below to show that relationship.
As you can hopefully see above* although I failed to label it (It is outlined in red) is a road called “Playhouse Road”. There is a South Playhouse Road that joins Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road AND there is a North Playhouse Road that joins Iron Mountain Road to Highway 40. It’s a paved road all the way through there although for most of it there is no yellow line down the middle and you won’t be setting any speed records through there. I thought it was a neat little road to know about that gives you some options and flexibility if you find yourself wanting to get between these 3 roads without having to go all the way around.

Custer State Park and the Wildlife Loop

Here is a picture of where you will find the Wildlife Loop Road. There is a Ranger station as you exit back out on to Highway 87 and a few others sprinkled along roads that contain Custer State Parks at various locations. The cost for Motorcycles is $11 for a one week pass.
Notice if you are on Highway Alt16 you will find the beginning of it between the turn offs for Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road. There should be a sign to point it out but it’s not a big one.

Once on it the scenery really opens up and you’ll find plenty of wildlife along the way
I didn’t do this wildlife loop today (yesterday) as you can see from my route but if you enter the wildlife loop where i mentioned above it will eventually dump you out on Highway 87. Today I just got on 87 and enjoyed it south towards Hot Springs before turning back north. It’s a very enjoyable road as well and one I’d recommend. Be aware there is some pretty good construction going on right where Highway 87 junctions with Alt16 so be prepared for that. I asked the construction guy how much longer and he said they should be done with that in another month.

I proceed on back north and stop by the Crazy horse monument and tried to get a few pictures. You can’t really get close enough to it for a good picture and I didn’t want to pay to go in as I’ve been there before. Here is a pic I was able to get from a far.
Enjoyed Spearfish Canyon Road again and then back down Vanocker Canyon Road to Nemo and back home… Very scenic along Nemo Road
Whoops this ones along Needles Highway
This one is along Nemo Road

Next week’s weather has the cold and possibly more snow/rain mixed moving back in here so I probably won’t be getting out again for a while.

…. I also had my reminder to be careful out here while riding. I managed to let my Wing fall over and take a short rest. I miss judged a pull out in a picnic area I had stopped for a break at in the morning. I didn’t have the heart to take a picture of my pride and joy laying on it’s side but here’s a shot once I got it back upright. You can see the tar piled right in front of the bike I pulled it out and away from under the bike. Pine needles disguised that crap and the fact it was uneven payment underneath and down I went.
The location was bad for getting it back up by myself using the approved method so I swallowed my pride and flagged down a big guy in a pickup truck that stopped and help me back up and on my way.

It’s always a good reminder when that happens (and zero damage thanks to the crash bars) and it humbles you enough to serve as a reminder to always be careful. Disaster can strike at any time … even in a picnic area.

Friday, May 6' 2016

Got out to ride … one last time into the Black Hills a few days ago. Would be leaving for home soon back to Tennessee. Knowing this would be my last ride I decided to head up to the historic Mining town of Rochford, SD.,_South_Dakota

Here’s my trail …
I took the only paved road into Rochford and came out the same way … about 15 miles in and back. WingWing (Dennis) suggested this route to me on a previous road trip of mine exploring this area years back. Interesting thing about Rockford, SD is that the other routes in and out are via gravel roads. One that cuts back out to Highway 385 (Rochford Road) and the other (Rochford Road South) comes out into Hill City. I’ve done these both on a previous road trip up here on my VStrom 650 and can recommend them both. MisterK (Kevin) check these out while you’re up here if you haven’t already done these. Took a few shots along the way and out there.
South Dakota loves their Tar Snakes ... Watch out for them as many roads have them
The lone saloon in town. I survived a beer and burger here on a previous road trip.
The Mall ...

To think at one time Rochford SD had a larger population than Rapid City. Think population is about 8 now.

Will miss riding up here in the Black Hills that’s for sure but sure looking forward to new destinations.


Epilog - Thursday, May 12' 2016

Good bye Black Hills

Said our good-byes to our family this past Tuesday morning and we also waved good-bye to the Black Hill as we headed out for home under cloudy skies and an ominous forecast for severe weather developing in the countries midsection over the next few days. They were right … what is usually a 2 day ride turned into 3 with a weather delay in Omaha causing a late departure and then having to pull up short of home and fighting the weather the final day in. It was close but we made in home just before the big storms hit. We’re the blue dot below cutting a path towards home.
Happy to say we made it safely arriving home today. Put another 3,700 miles on the Wing over the last 7 weeks on this expedition to the Black Hills. This Wing now has 70,000 miles on it and is well on it’s way to being broken in lol.

Sure enjoyed my time riding in the Black Hills and sharing my journal with those of you that followed along. Hope everyone enjoyed it and thanks for everyone’s positive comments and contributions to this thread that appeared on the forum … link below

For those of you that are heading to the Black Hills …. Enjoy God’s country.

Next up for me … Heading to the Darkside Spring Ride In in Wise, Virginia next week. Gonna lay some tread in those sweet Virginia hills.

Let's be careful out there.


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