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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sturgis, So Far..........

For whatever reason, I just haven't taken any time to update Southern Comfort since leaving home last Friday, riding to Sturgis, SD. The plan was for an update every day or so, but I just have not stopped long enough to do any writing. There just always seems to be something new to do. For example, last night I was settling in, thinking about a late dinner and Charlie sent me a text that pole-dancing had started at the Full Throttle Saloon, so..........

But I digress.

Day One: I got away last Friday, leaving directly from work. I pushed hard, making it as far as Saint Clairesville, Ohio, before calling it a day. I hit rain between Frostburg and Morgantown, but not bad enough to slow me down. I reckon that early departure gave me about a 275 mile head-start. For reasons not worth going into, I ended up in a overpriced Econolodge which wins an award for just being crummy, but the room itself was clean, and there weren't many other options.

Day Two: Early start, and an uneventful ride to Champaign, Illinois, if you don't count the speeding ticket I got in Indianapolis. Just before cresting a hill, and as I was passing a semi, the driver blasted the horn several times. I waved. Turns out he was trying warn me about the radar trap on the other side of the hill. The cop, who was also riding a Harley, was cool and knocked the ticket down to something he said was a low-priced ticket, or at least one with fewer points. Could have been worse...was running 70-something in a 55.

Spent the night in Champaign, IL, which (a special thanks to Julie) turned out to have a Hooters, staffed by University of Illinois coeds!

I also learned that day that riding Big Blue gave me a little more range. Cushy riding and a fairing made the distance easier, so I set the bar higher for the next day, deciding to run for Sioux City, Iowa, which was 550 or so miles away.

Day Three was just a hard push, getting to Sioux City as planned after about 550 miles of riding. Iowa was a pleasant surprise, and not nearly as flat as I'd been told. From this part of trip on, I was seeing places I'd never been before. I also learned that just because Big Blue could go longer distances, that wasn't necessarily the case for me. I was stiff, cramped, and ready to get the hell off the bike by the time I got to the hotel.

Day Four: Finally a chance to lighten up and see something besides the interstate. I left Sioux City, heading west on route 20 through Nebraska on the two-lane. The route was predictably straight, and a little boring from time to time, but a pleasant departure from dodging trucks and minivans. I realized also that I had to start getting gas when it was available, and not waiting until I was low. This was a lesson I soon forgot!

I left route 20 and picked up 83 heading north in Valentine, NE, finally crossing into South Dakota in the Rosebud area, a stronghold of the Lakota Tribe, and the hometown of a great (and hot!!) friend of mine, Kathy.

With a half tank of gas left, I turned off 83 onto SD44 heading west through the heart of the Lakota lands. 44 is arrow-straight and lightly used. For miles on end, I was the only traveller and cruised along at a steady 80mph, enjoying the rolling hills and scenery. And watching my gas gauge drift lower. Light usage doesn't make 44 a hot spot to locate a gas station, and I was wondering for the first time if I'd have to use that emergency gallon of gas I was carrying in the saddlebag.

Just at the south entrance into the Badlands National Park, route 44 runs into Interior, South Dakota, and there's a general store and gas station at the crossroads. I was NEVER so happy to see a gas station. Big Blue was running on fumes, and using that emergency gas can had become a certainty. I vowed to fill up at every opportunity after that. Lesson re-learned.

From Interior, I rode into the Badlands National Park and into an area with geological formations like nothing I'd ever seen. Truly amazing, and a must-see if you get into the area. It was like being on Mars or the Moon.

From the Badlands, I rode into Wall, SD,, for the night, if for no other reason to hit Wall Drug Store.

And the next day I was heading for Sturgis. Stay tuned for more.

Cowboy, August 5, 2012