After six straight weeks of traveling for work, our project has a lull leading up to the Labor Day weekend. I check the calendar – nothing! Where to go? I pull up a scene from my favorite movie, Dances with Wolves, in my head:
Major Fambrough: You wish to see the frontier?
John Dunbar: Yes sir, before it’s gone.
NOON August 25th: I saddle up my 2012 Street Triple R. The ODO reads 1400. This is my first real ride outside of Chicago on the Triple R. It looks the role of Cisco from Dances with Wolves, loaded up with my gear and ready for adventure.
The goal is to make it to Sioux Falls, SD (571 Miles) before calling it quits. Having owned a Daytona 675 before, I knew the engine was amazing, but what I didn’t expect was how comfortable the riding position would be during a long haul. Four nameless gas stations later I’m disappearing into the vastness of the West. Windmills tick off miles. Time stops, paused with the thrum of the engine.
8:00 AM August 26: Repack “Cisco” and head to the Badlands. It’s already climbing through the 90s. When you travel on impulse, you don’t think about the weather. It’s three digits during the day and 80 plus at night. Each stop I forced myself to guzzle a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade. Fortunately I had the right gear for the climate. I was wearing Triumph Viper Paddock Jacket over some REI Coolmax shirt, Under Armour HeatGear legging under my Alpinestars Bat Leather Pants, Alpinestars gloves, and my Sidi Vertigo Mega Gore-Tex Boots. I must have looked overdressed, but safety first.
1:00 PM August 26th: I took a long break at 1880 Town where I sat with an old gentleman from Alabama. Bill spends his summers in South Dakota. We talked for about an hour on what I should check out when I get to the Badlands. I hadn’t planned on it, but he talked me into adding Rushmore and the Black Hills to my itinerary. It was nice to get a chat in the shade and escape the blistering heat for a while! I changed into my jeans and I was off.
4:00 PM August 26th: Cruising up to the Badlands National Park, the hills and buttes appear out of thin air. (The $10 entry fee is 100% worth it.) I was thinking how much I was going to enjoy the 37.7 mile interior ride on SD-240 but ended up stopping at every scenic pull-off, which seemed to be spaced about 50 yards apart! Typically I wouldn’t complain about such views but without the wind cooling me down, sweat was basically pooling in my boots. I decided to do it anyway – I was here wasn’t I? I ended up capturing some amazing shots on my Nikon. Expect prairie dogs, wild deer, elk and grassy waste lands for miles. I heard there are wild buffalo but you’ll need a Tigre XC or Adventure to get there. Damn dirt roads.
Finishing the SD-240 I decided to head to Wall Drug. That place is just weird. A sprawling store that sells everything and nothing at the same time. Not as highly recommended as the folk lore made it. I either had to lug my camera and computer equipment inside or leave it unprotected from other tourists and the sun in the parking lot. South Dakota doesn’t seem to believe in shaded parking spots, so I took a quick look inside and turned around to ride the interior of Badland again without stopping so I could enjoy riding on the most pristine snaking roads I have ever been on. The speed limits are pretty strict so I took it easy and enjoyed.
6:00 PM August 26th: On a whim I settled down to camp in the interior at Cedar Pass Campground. For $28 I got a campsite with power and a picnic table with shade. It was awesome. With a few hours until sunset I had all my gear off the bike, pitched a tent, set my camera on the tripod and gorged on beef jerky from Wall Drug, I had clocked 908.6 so far. I sat and relaxed while “Cisco” drew the attention of other campers.
The couple traveling the entire perimeter of the united states, the old man from out west, and a fellow motorcycle rider from Washington on his Honda 919 talking about what roads I should take when I head west to Rushmore. This was my first time camping in over 15 years and it couldn’t have been better. Such amazing people. Gorgeous landscape. And “Cisco.”
As the sun set, it painted the sky and the cast colorful shadows on the mountains. I couldn’t have taken a bad photo if I wanted to. Between sunset shots and mountain shots I decided to try some time lapse shooting. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I just don’t have the patience for that. Maybe if I were with someone else and we could chat between frames as time unspooled.
10:00 PM August 26th: Bedtime and it’s 86 degrees. Many times I’d felt alone, but until this afternoon I’d never felt completely lonely.
11: AM August 27th: I make it out to Rushmore the $15 parking fee keeps me from getting close. Normally I wouldn’t think twice, but it’s 100 degrees out and all I want to do is ride to keep the breeze flowing. I change paths and head into the Black Hills to find Needles Highway, which came highly recommended by my neighbor with the 919. Every corner opens up to another stunning view and I see glimpses of Mt. Rushmore through the trees. The switch backs wind through the mountain, climbing and falling as I lean into the corners.
2:00 PM August 27th: I’ve probably lost eight pounds of water weight. I’ve seen what I’ve come to see and decide to head back home to escape the melting heat. South Dakota really has amazing roads but I want to make good time. On I-90, just before dark a rider on a Yamaha FJR blew by me. The speed limit in South Dakota is 75 and it made me feel a little less guilty catching up to him. The Street Triple was superb. I didn’t want to push it too hard because I worried that my gear would fly off.
I made it to Mitchell well before dark and every single respectable hotel was booked. They all had water slides, so I don’t blame them. Plus it gave me an excuse to ride an extra hour to Sioux Falls. I stay at the same place I did before and as I hop off I check the ODO – 1401.2 miles.
8:00 AM August 28th: The game plan is to ride for a tank or two and stop somewhere fun in Wisconsin for the night. I was thinking Lacrosse, Madison or the Wisconsin Dells area by 2pm I’m in a groove and decide to press on through to Chicago. “Cisco” preferred it that way.
6:50 PM August 28th: 1966.9 miles and 30 hours of riding later I arrive home safe back in Chicago. The trip was relaxing, the bike was amazing and the sights can’t compare. The only thing I wish was different was the heat, but then I wouldn’t have been forced to ride so much!
Time Lapse Montage: http://vimeo.com/73880913