South Dakota - Burning Two Weeks of Vacation


(June 23 - July 7, 2001)

Updated: December 4, 2007

[Map of the route taken during this trip.]


Daily Log
Date

June 23 (Sat)

June 24 (Sun)

June 25 (Mon)

June 26 (Tues)

June 27 (Wed)

June 28 (Thrs)

June 29 (Fri)

June 30 (Sat)

July 1 (Sun)

July 2 (Mon)

July 3 (Tues)

July 4 (Wed)

July 5 (Thurs)

July 6 (Fri)

May 7 (Sat)

15 Days Total

Miles

497.2

715.3

500.7

210.2

203.6

399.3

522.0

31.2

0.0

222.4

51.0

75.5

477.1

412.9

590.4

Total: 4,908.4

Destination

Paducah, KY

Sioux City, IA

Sturgis, SD

Sturgis, SD

Sturgis, SD

Watertown, SD

De Forest, WI

De Forest, WI

De Forest, WI

Portage, IN

Cedar Lake, IN

Portage, IN

North East, PA

Waynesburg, PA

Easley, SC

22 States Traveled




I recall, now, when I wanted to hit the continental 48 states on two-wheels. It was actually after this trip to South Dakota. After my accident, I actually just wanted to use all my vacation time and money to see parts of the United States that I'd never seen before. Life is just too short to constantly do the same things over and over and over, again. I figured I'd do this, tour the USA, instead of seeing, and doing, the same old things......Bike Week in Daytona, Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, the Cherokee Survivor's Rally in North Carolina, and a few HOG Rallys. You can only do these things so many times before you get tired of them. I had hit that point, I was burned out on them and my accident made me open my eyes. I had "warm up" trips for this one in the form of riding the Harley to Daytona Beach for Biketoberfest, Fall Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, SC, and the trip to Key West six months prior. I didn't really care to ride to either of the Bike Weeks, but my roommate, at the time I never been to Daytona's Bike Week, and my best friend and his son wanted to go to Myrtle Beach. I felt that this trip to South Dakota was going to be "THE" trip for 2001. I planned it for several weeks, maybe even months before departing on this journey. My overall goal was to ride to Sturgis, South Dakota, four weeks before the big rally there, and go see Mount Rushmore and then jump into Wyoming to see Devil's Tower. After that, I was going to go see friends and family in Wisconsin and Indiana, and then, if all was going well, I was going to shoot over to Niagara Falls, near Buffalo, NY, just because I wanted to see the Falls.

Work was really slow and the company was in trouble, but I still felt compelled to do this trip. The company gave everyone a few days of vacation, for free, during the Fourth of July "shut-down", so I was going to use that for this trip. I didn't have enough vacation saved for a full two-week trip, but that wasn't going to stop me. I was using the second week of this trip as my "qualifying" week for unemployment benefits, if it ever came down to needing them. It did come down to that seven months later when I was laid-off, but that is a different story.

I'd never taken a trip of this magnitude before, on a bike nor by car. The furthest from home I'd even been before this trip was the thousand miles to Key West. I was planning on being over 1700 miles from home, this time, and I was doing it alone, again. I'd spent weeks on the internet doing searches of things to see in the Sturgis, SD area, and found out that Devil's Tower wasn't too far away, as it was just over the state line into Wyoming. Ever since seeing "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" as a kid, I always thought Devil's Tower would be a cool place to go.

Leading up to the trip, I had done some maintenance on the Harley to prep it for this journey and rode it for a few days to check it out. Four days before I was to leave, I heard a really bad banging noise coming from the bike. It turned out to be the counter-shaft sprocket nut. I hadn't used lock-tite on the retained screw, which had fallen out, and the nut backed completely off the threaded section of the shaft and was bouncing off of the inner primary cover. I had to pull the bike apart again to fix this problem. It took a couple of days to put the bike back together, so I didn't have much time to log some miles before hitting the road. I only put 74 miles on the bike before leaving for South Dakota.

I got a little bit of late start and left at close to noon on Saturday. I rode through Asheville, NC to hit I-40 and took this to Nashville, TN. I've always liked riding on the interstate between Asheville and Knoxville as it is nice and curvey for an interstate. The furthest I'd been on a bike before this was just outside of Asheville to got to Cherokee, but I had been to KNoxville in a car on several occasions. Once I headed west from Knoxville, I was on new chartered territory for me, which was a treat, because over the years, I'd become a "map junkie". To be a "map junkie", you have to have maps of the areas you ride in, and you mark those roads on the map that you've been on. The next time you are in that area, you look for roads you've never been on, so you can mark those off. On state maps, I have to drive about two hours to hit roads that I've never been on before. I was looking forward to all the roads, and miles worth of roads, I was going to be able to mark off after this trip.

I rode out of the mountains and into the rolling hills of western Tennessee and into Kentucky. I was wanting to try to hit Illinios before nightfall, but I just wasn't logging the miles I was hoping for. Once into Kentucky, I stopped at the Welcome Center, and even though it was closed, I was able to look at the maps and some of the tourist attraction pamphlets. I found a broshure on the George Patten museum, and it brought back memories of camping with my family as a kid in the 70's in a pop-up camper, and we'd gone to the museum. I never really knew where the museum was located, so I grabbed a pamphlet and had thought sof going back to it, someday. The sun was dropping fast, so I hit the road and drove until Paducah, KY. I didn't want to press myself too far, the first day of the trip, since I had MANY more days ahead of me.

The next morning I hit the road early and was in Illinois soon after I got the on road. I had forgotten how much I liked the plains, deciduous trees, and corn and wheat fields of the mid-west. I was born in Indiana and moved to South Carolina in 1981, so the area holds a special spot in my heart. Anyway, just about forty miles before getting to St Louis, I pulled over on the side of the interstate to take the first picture of the trip: A simple mid-western farm.

[IMAGE]

I got to St Louis and saw the Arch from a fair distance away. I wanted to get a picture of the Arch for my phto album, but as I got closer to the city, traffic got worse and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get a good picture of it. I pulled over onto the side of the road where the interstate split off, and I got my picture of the Arch. I found a break in traffic and hopped back onto the interstate.

Today was just like the day before, hot and very sunny. I was putting suntan lotion on my face and the back of my hands every time I stopped. Gatoraid was my friend, and I often had a partial bottle of it on the bike that I'd even drink warm, just to keep from getting dehydrated. I left my leather jacket on with the zipper partially opened to act as a sail to keep me cool. Being fair-skinned, I needed the protection form the sun that the jacket provided, and the sail effect of the open jacket kept me cool. It was 95+ degrees out by noon, and I couldn't tell I was even sweating, as the sweat was evaporating as soon as it surfaced my skin.

I became on a quest to get state maps from each Welcome Center I came to, if it was open when I went through the area. I had missed the Missouri Welcome Center, so I figured I'd stop at the one on my way out of the state for my map. The Welcome Center for Missouri in Independance was right across the parking lot from the stadiums for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals stadium. I had to get pictures of those, just because it caught me odd of their location in Missouri and not in Kansas, or, at least it seemed this way. Since I was so close to Kansas, I thought I'd jump over there, take the interstate loop/bypass around the city, and head back into Missouri to head north. When I came to the Kansas welcome sign, it dawned on me to try to take pictures of each state's welcome sign and the bike next to it. I pulled over on the side of the road to take the picture, then drove another five miles, or so, to the Kansas Welcome Center to grab a map.

Taking the loop to get back into Missouri, I didn't see a welcome sign, but I had to pull over to take a picture of the "Leaving Kansas Come Again" sign. The first words I thought of were those famous ones from the movie "The Wizzard of Oz": "We aren't in Kansas, anymore."

[IMAGE]

The sun was blistering and the temperature was pushing 98 degrees. It was HOT. I entered Iowa and cruised down the straight and fairly boring interstate, trying to log as many miles as I could. I recall stopping at a rest area to get a drink, take a break, and call my parents. I had a calling card and used the pay phone to talk to my dad for a little while. After the phone call, a guy pulled up on an 1100 Honda Shadow (or some similar bike), and we talked for a while. He was going home from some rally and still had 400 or more miles to get home. He thought my planned bike ride was really interesting and we wished each other well on our rides as we hit the interstate. an interesting site while in Iowa was that, in the distance, I could see a very long freight train. I mean, this things was loooooong. I bet it was at least two miles long, and the interesting thing was that i could see the WHOLE train.....from engine to caboose. It was just pretty weird, but cool, too.

I drove until I just couldn't stand to ride any more. Fourteen hours in the saddle, and I was sore, tired, and weather beaten. I had lost a right-rear turn signal bulb and wanted to change that when I stopped for gas. My bike had also had problems with the dash lights going out from a loose connection, and I knew the connector that was causing it, I decided I'd try to fix that and change out the bulb. I bought a bulb from the store and asked the woman behind the counter if she had a staple I could have. She looked at me strangely as I popped a staple out of her stapler and stepped outside. She came out there to ask me if all was ok, as I pulled the headlight out of the bike to get to the connector. I told her that I had a loose connection and I was going to fix it with the staple. I straightened the staple and then bent it in two, wider than the opening, so it would act as a spring. The dash lights worked and I didn't lose the dash lights for the rest of the trip (ed not - 11/04, three and a half years later, the dash lights are still working with the staple in the connector).

I got a hotel room within walking distance to a mom-and-pop pizza joint and ate some pizza before calling it a night. I got into a conversation with some people there about my bike and my journey. With this being a main route to the Sturgis Rally, which was four weeks from now, they were used to seeing lots of bikes from all over the country come through there. Riding cross-country is a neat way to have strangers come up to you and strike up conversations, especially when they see your bike has a license plate from a place over a thousand miles away.

The next morning, I realized that in the excitement of fixing my turn signal and dash lights, I forgot to fill the bike up. I drove down to the gas station, but there were so many people filling up and in line for gas, I decided to skip filling up and go to a different gas station a little bit down the road. It was also about this time that i realized that Nebraska was just over a small river, and being this close to it, I just HAD to jump into Nebraska to say I'd been there. The day before I thought the interstate was going to take me into the state, but it curved, staying in Iowa, within a mile of the state line near Omaha. I drove over the bridge but didn't see a place to pull over for a shot with the bike, so I turned around and crossed the state line on that bridge about 3 times before I finally just stopped and figured a picture of the welcome sign would be good enough.

I jumped back on the interstate and headed north, out of Sioux City. I was about 20 miles out of town when the bike started to cough and stutter. I switched it over to reserve, in case there was some trash or something on the petcock screen in the tank. The bike straightened up, so I switched the petcock back over and continued down the road. About three miles down the road, and it started to cough and sputter, again. DAMN! With all the frustration of trying to get a picture of the welcome sign to Nebraska, I had totally forgotten I didn't fill the bike up with gas! I was a little concerned as there was NOTHING but straight road and wheat fields to be seen. I rode on reserve for about fifteen miles before finally coming across a truck stop/gas station. I was relieved.

I drove a few more miles down the road, and the wind was getting pretty bad. It was a strong head wind, coming from the north, but it wasn't too bad, other than causing my shoulders to get sore from the wind resistance. I finally decided to pull over for breakfast and I used the pay phone to call Wade. Wade was at work and I told him all about my gas situation. He just laughed. He was also surprised I was so far from home with only two days of riding. With those fourteen hours in the saddle the day before, I'd covered over seven hundred miles. I was soon back on the bike and heading for Sioux Falls, SD.

The road was straight, very straight, and the land was flat, very flat. As I was going down the road, I got this idea to take a picture of the road in front of me, but I didn't want to pull over to take it. I had the camera around my neck from the Nebraska bridge episode and just grabbed it and took the picture while going 70 mph. It ws on this stretch of interstate where I noticed that you could tell where all the farm houses were from a distance. The views were mainly of grassy fields for as far as the eye could see, but, every now and again, you'd see a clump of trees. I thought, initially that these trees were just to make the house seem more "homey". I then realized these trees served a function. They were wind breaks!

[IMAGE]

I saw signs for the Sioux Falls Harley dealer, and, since it was close to the interstate, I decided to stop there. The wind was really blowing hard, now. I got to the dealer and bough a T-shirt for prosterity. The dealer was essentially at the intersection of the two interstates that I would be utilizing on this trip, so it wasn't out of my way. I stayed for about a half hour, all the while listening to the wind howl over, and around, the building.

I was now heading west and this wind was now a cross-wind. I have no idea how strong it was, but going straight down the road, the bike was leaning at an angle severe enough to have me worried. To make this worse, the road construction period in the north is only about three months long and they were doing construction on this interstate. Worse thing about this, is the opposing traffic usualy were tractor-trailers, that, instead of being "piggy-back" with two trailers, these guys hauled THREE trailers. So, here I am fighting a bad cross-wind, and then getting nailed by the wind disturbance from the trucks as they passed no more than six feet away. I got to where I was ducking down onto the tank of the bike to lessen the beating I was taking from the trucks, and then, I started using this technique to battle the cross wind.

I started seeing signs for the home of Laura Ingles of "Little House on the Prarie" fame. Being that I used to watch the TV show in the 70s, I was drawn to want to see her home and the town where she grew up and that her books were influenced. I was on an agenda to hit Sturgis by nightfall, with a run through the Badlands, so I kept on, hoping to maybe stop on the way back through the area.

I took this for as long as I could, until I just started getting pissed. This was NOT fun, and I was wanting it to end. The temperture was over 95 degrees for the third day in a row, and the sun was still wanting to fry my white-ass on this bike. I pulled over for lunch at an A&W restaurant for a burger and fries, and to give myself an attitude adjustment. We had an A&W "Root Beer Stand" on the other side of the lake in Indiana where I grew up, and I remembered it being a treat to go there as a kid. I don't remember the food being as bad as this was. The burger wasn't too bad, but the fries tasted like they were wrapped with plastic wrap before being deep fried. A definite synthetic taste and just plain nasty (ed note - we started getting A&W's in South Carolina when they teamed up with long John Silvers, and their fries STILL SUCK!). Anyway, I then got back on the road and fought the wind same more.

I was getting tired of the flat, grassy, and VERY boring scenery as I baked in the sun and fought a never ending wind. I started to think I was getting closer to the Badlands as there started to be rolling hills and some exposed rock. The views were getting really nice, or at least the best I'd seen in days. Soon, there was a fairly steep downhill and a huge body of water in front of me. I didn't recall seeing a large body of water on the map, so I was a bit surprised. Ths sign said that it was Lake Francis Case, a bulging spot on the Missouri River. It was a nice change of pace for scenery, as I sat on the side of the road for a little while enjoying the view.

My excitement of the rolling hills, trees, and exposed rock, and my hopes of being near the Badlands were soon crushed as they all disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. I was starting to doubt that this ride was a good idea. I just hoped that all the sites I was looking forward to in the Sturgis area were going to be worth it. After what seemed like hours and hours, I started to see signs for the Badlands. I was starting to feel better, but still hot and severely wind beaten.

The Badlans were before I got to Sturgis, so I was compelled to go through them and see them before finding a hotel. I figured if I saw these first, instead of getting a hotel and back-tracking to see them, I'd save myself some time and have more time for other things. All the pictures that I'd seen of the Badlands made me think it was a huge area, similar to the Grand Canyon. Not having been to the Grand Canyon, though, I really had no idea what to expect. I did think that the Badlands would be "bigger". You basically drive across the grassy plains to come to a spot where the plains had been eroded, at some points, probably eroded to a drop of close to a hundred feet. There seemed to be different levels of the Badlands, as the road wound wind down to the different layers. The first section that I came to was the "Big Badlands" (both shots below).

[IMAGE]

I rode all through the area of the Badlands and saw the various section, such as the "3 Trails", "Burn's Basin", and the cool area across from the Vistor's Center. I was having to ask people to take my picture, since I was alone, and I had a conversation with one couple who was amazed that I'd ridden a bike, by myself, nearly 1800 miles to get there. I also had a conversation with an older couple who I got to take my picture. Turns out their daughter was going to school in North Carolina, so we talked abotu some of the sites, and the difference in geography and views in the Carolinas compared to what we were seeig there.

After a couple of hours, I had enough of the Badlands and was ready to get to Sturgis and find a hotel room. Skirting around the edge of the Black Mountains, I got to the Sturgis exit and took the first hotel I came to. The rates were very reasonable, especially since they had an indoor pool. The woman behind the counter told me that i should be glad I was there before the ralley. I was told that, instead of $50 a night, the hotel rooms would be $225 a night, and you HAD to reserve the room for the whole week of the Sturgis Ralley. I just can't see why anyone would want to spend that kind of money to stay in a town of about 7000 people when ther'd be 300,000 people trying to be where you are. Anyway, that is beside the point.

I unloaded the bike, took a shower, made a few phone calls, and then headed into town. The town was small with that feel of a turn-of-the-century town. There were buildings that struck memories of TV shows about the "old west" and the gold rush. It was a quaint little town, but I could tell already that I'd hate being there during the rally. Most of the shops and bars were closed. I was later told that most of them are only open for the rally. That they made enough money in one week to justify keeping the buildings there for the whole year. I found a little bar and grill and had myself a really good steak and some beer. The guy next to me started talking about his job and being there for a few weeks. I don't remember what he did, but the conversation was nice. Being on the road for three days straight, I talked to very few people.

Back in the hotel room, I checked the maps and made plans for what I wanted to do over the next couple of days. I was going to use this hotel room in Sturgis as my "base" and hit the local sites. Since I wanted to see Devil's Tower, I would do that next. I didn't see anything else I really wanted to see in that area, so it would be a single puposed mission. For the day after that, I wanted to ride down to Hot Springs. When at the South Dakota Welcome Center I saw information on the Mammoth Site. It is an ancient sinkhole that became a watering hole for Mammoths and other ancient animals, but once they fell into it, the sides were so steep that they couldn't get back out. There were bones on top of bones on top of bones in this in situ site. Also, at the suggestion of a woman from work who had been in Sturgis for the Sturgis Ralley, she suggested going through Custer Nation Park, so I figured I'd do that on the way to Mt Rushmore from Hot Springs. Seemed like a plan to me.

I got up early the next morning and hopped onto the interstate to Wyoming. This interstate looked really nice, but it was a washboard. The bike vibrated and shook as I hit all the little raised sections of the road. It was made of concrete, and I have no idea how it got this washboard effect, but it was annoying. I would speed up and slow down, trying to find a harmonic frequency to the bumps that was more forgiving on the bike. I couldn't find one. The Welcome Center in Wyoming was a neat, small building. I stopped for a map, of course.

Soon, I was off the interstate and cruising through the hilly country-side of Wyoming. There were lots of pine trees and I even saw an old, abandoned log cabins from the side of the road. It was a nice ride, and not very long, until I started to see Devil's Tower in the horizon.

[IMAGE]

Devil's Tower is an ancient volcano where the center solidified and the exterior was eroded away. At least five different Indian tribes have lore of seven little indians being chased by a huge bear. The earth raised this section of ground up, with the indian girls on it, up and beyond the reach of the bear. The ripples in the sides of the Tower is where the bear's claws scraped the sides, as he climbed, trying to get at the girls. For me, though, as I got closer to the Tower, I kept hearing the music from "Close Encounters" going through my head and kept looking on the roadside for dead cattle. Were the aliens on the other side of the Tower?

There was a neat visitor's center at the Tower that had a painting of the Indian story of the bear. There was quite a bit of information on the Tower, it's reasons for being there, and information on local wildlife. There was information on how to rock climb the Tower, the easiest and more difficult route to the top, and they even mentioned about the snakes and animals that live in the sides and top of the Tower. I stayed for a while and walked about halfway around it before getting back on the bike and heading back toward the hotel.

It was fairly early, and Montana wasn't too far away from where I was, so I decided to take the backroads up into Montana, hit a corner of it, and head back to Sturgis. I just wanted to say I'd been in this state while on my trip, also. The roads and countryside was surprisingly nice, but the more north and east i got, the landscape leveled out a little bit, but nowhere near what the middle of South Dakota was like. There were really large rolling hills on these roads. I ws hesitant to stop at the welcome sign for Montana, because they were doing road construction, repaving the road right at the state line, but I pulled over to the side for the picture, anyway. The guy operating the roller got off of it and walked over to me. He asked me if the bike was a 1985 FXEF, and I looked at him in disbelief. Not many people know of these model bike, and I've actually gotten into arguements with parts people at the Harley dealer in the past about it. Turns out, he had a bike just like it, same color and eveything, that he'd sold a couple years before this. We talked briefly about riding it from South Carolina, and he got back on his roller and went back to work.

I was only in Montana for a total of three miles, or so, the way I cut through the edge of it. I got back into Wyoming, and for some reason, it seemed to take for ever to get to South Dakota. The views were the rolling hills, but almost all the land, for as far as you could see, was fenced in for cattle farms, I assumed, but I rearly saw any cattle. I drove through a couple of small towns that definitely had that "old west" look and feel to them, and I thought that was pretty neat. I eventually wound up in a civilized area that had a Hardee's. I was hungry, so this is where I stopped.

While I was eating my burger, I was sitting near two cattle ranchers. They definitely looked the part. They were talking about their tractors, baling hay, winter snows, and 500 to 1000 head of cattle. That's a lot of cattle! I was stating to wonder if my burger was made from one of their cows. hee hee.....I was back on the road and back in Sturgis not long after that.

Once back into Sturgis, I went to the Harley dealer to pick up some supplies for an oil change. The dealership there was only a store for some parts, oil, and T-shirts and other gifts. They didn't have any bikes nor a service department. I was told I'd have to go into Rapid City to get any service done. I got back to the hotel, after buying a "I Rode Mine to Sturgis 2001" shirt and tranny and primary oil, and started to change the bike's fluids. I worked on the bike in the parking lot. I topped the water level in the battery and changed the transmission fluid and primary chaincase fluid by sliding the ice container, with a plastic bag, under the bike. I found an old milk jug in the trash and poured the spent oil into it. I was going to change the oil, also, but figured I'd be better off to just let the dealer in Rapid City change it for me, especially since it was on my way to Hot Springs to go to the Mammoth Site.

I knew I'd have a buyd day, so I got up early and tried to get to the Harley dealer when they first opened. They weren't difficult to find, and I got there just shortly after they opened. It took them about an hour to get around to changing the oil in my bike, so I had plenty of time to roam around through their racks and displays of merchandise. I was glad to get back on the road and heading toward Hot Springs.

There was nice scenery the whole way to Hot Springs with small mountains, rolling hills, grassy pastures, and plenty of open road with little traffic. As I drove, I got into the theme of the Mammoth Site, as I had visions in my head of Wooly Mammoths and Saber-toothed Tigers roaming the hills of the area. Of course, the land scape was nothing like it is now, thousands of years ago, but I have to keep my mind busy, somehow, while on the road. Once you've ridden a few hundred miles in a day, on long interstates, you find ways to entertain yourself. You have to, of you'll go nuts constantly telling yourself....."247 miles left to go"....."246 miles left to go"....."245 miles left to go". LOL

I got to the Mammoth Site without too much trouble, and went in to get my ticket. They had some displays of the Mammoth Site and books of all kinds you could purchase. The tour had a tour-guide and it wasn't long before our group started theirs. The tour started off by showing how a sinkhole collapsed and then filled with water. Over the many thousands of years, animals constantly went to the watering hole to get a drink, and often, would fall in, only to never get back out. Most of the Mammoths were male. I forget what their explaination was. The Site was discovered during earth-moving operations during a construction effort in the 70s.

After seeing the reason for the Site, we then moved into the room of the site, itself. It is an "in situ" site, basically meaning it is the exact way that they found it. As each bone is uncovered, it is left on display as it was uncovered. An interesting tid-bit is that these bones are no fossilized. They are still bones, just zapped of any DNA because of them being in water for so many years before being covered with dirt. The exposed area was at least 15 feet below the surrounding ground, and they took a bore sample years before that revealed bone fragments another 26 feet below where they were now. That's a lot of bone buried there....animal on top of animal.

[IMAGE]

I left the Mammoth Site and took a different road to head toward the Custer State Park. On the way, I saw a sign for the Wind Cave. I wasn't aware of this and figured I'd go ahead and stop and check it out. Prior to this, I'd only been in Mammoth Cave in kentucky with my family in the mid 70's and again in 1983, so I was interested to see this cave. Turns out, this cave is well known for its outstanding display of boxwork, an unusual cave formation composed of thin calcite fins resembling honeycombs that is only found in a few places in the world.

[IMAGE]

The Wind Cave is a network that is a total of about 1.5 miles, and the tour wasn't too long. Just enough to where you wouldn't get bored with it. The cave has a real interesting story behind how it was discovered. To make a fairly long story short, the guy who found it, found it beccause there was a wind coming out of a hole in the ground, and it blew his hat off. Interestingly, one of the next times he went there, we went to show how it blew his hat off his head, and it actually sucked his hat down into the cave. Turns out, the wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure, such as the high and low pressure systems that the weatherman always talks about on the evening news. I just thought it was pretty cool. Without dwelling too long on the Wind Cave, I left there, and was en route to the Custer State Park.

Custers State Park is part of the same state land as the Wind Cave. I was told by a few people that I HAD to go to this park, just because of all the wildlife that is in it. I was also told to ride very cautiously, as the deer and buffalo were known to be in the road on blind curves or go running across the road in front of you.

The roads through the Park were fairly narrow and mostly unlined, but nice and twisty with some elevation changes. We were in the heart of the Black Mountains, and it was pleasant. They were doing some construction on raods through the park, so there were some detours, but they weren't too awefully bad. The first sign of wildlife I ran across was a deer running down the middle of the road, in my lane, right in front of me. I stopped the bike, turned the engine off, and tried to get a good, close picture of the deer. By the time I got my camera ready, she'd moved a little more away from me, but I still got a nice picture. Not far from this deer, I came across three buffalo grazing in a field. Well, actually two were in the field and one was off to the woods on the side, laying down in some shade. I was tempted to try to get closer to them to get a better picture, but I could read the headlines and decided against it....."Man Gets Mauled by Buffalo for Being an Idiot Trying to Get a Close-up Picture with a Crappy Camera". LOL....or something to that effect.

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I didn't drive another mile down the road before I came acorss a bunch of praire dogs. These I did try to get closer to, but if I got too close, they just darted into their holes. I couldn't get a good shot of any of them that were worth a damn. Before I left the park, I had seen several more deer and a BUNCH of mountain goats. I was taking it fairly easy on the winding roads and on one, partially blind, left-hand curve, I came across about 15 mountain goats in the road. They were walking in the other lane and in the ditch alongside the road and didn't even flinch when I came around the bend. Traffic was a little bad right there, because people were piling up on the sides so they could take pictures of them. I snapped a couple of snots and took off for Mt Rushmore.

The road to Mt Rushmore was so terrific, I wished I'd had a video of some parts of it. The Black Mountains don't have a lot of underbrush nor really close trees, like in the Carolinas, so it made some of the views pretty nice. There were a few bridges that were like cork-screws. After you got on the bridge, it would curve aroudn and drop in elevation to where the end of the bridge was just about under the start of it. The road was really nice and a joy to ride. It seemed to take a while to get to Mt Rushmore from Custers State Park, but it was worth it on that road. As I got closer to Rushmore, I could start to see it in the distance, and it got a little closer each time I saw it, as I wound around the mountains.

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I really liked the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. For some reason, I just figured there was the sculpture on the side of the mountain, and a few places to pull over to see it. I didn't think there was a memorial place. There was plenty of parking, a museum area, and a restaurant. I went and took some pictures and harassed some guy to take my picture for me. We stood around and talked a little bit, and, of course, about the distance I'd ridden to get there. I was hungry and decided to eat at the Rushmore resturant. The prices weren't the best in the world, understandably being a tourist attraction. They had buffalo burgers available, and eventhough tempting, I just settled for a plain-old, beef burger and fries.

A nice, fairly short jaunt on a 4-lane road consisted of most my ride back to the hotel. I was leaving and going east in the morning, despite several more things to be seen in the area. I didn't want to see everything during this visit. I figured I may return some other day, maybe for the ralley, or just with some family or friends to see some of these things, again. The sky of my last night in Sturgis, as the sun dropped, was quite spectacular. I had to take a picture of it.
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I got up early to hit the road. My destination was the other side of Sotuh Dakota before nightfall to the town of Watertown. I had met a really cool guy on an internet chatroom/messageboard a couple of years previous to this trip, and that is where he lived. He went by the nickname "Lunatic" and was one of the people who called me at the hospital after I broke my leg. Lunatic had invited me to stay at his house with his wife and newborn daughter, and if I got there early enough, he'd show me around town and introduce me to some of his friends.

The weather was just as hot and sunny as the day I left my house several days earlier. The roads were long and straight...very straight. I took a bunch of country roads, instead of taking the interstate. With the lack of traffic, it was probably just as quick as the interstate. The strange thing was, that sometimes, the road would take a quick 90-degree turn, for no apparent reason. This is where the land owner didn't want a road going through his property, so the road had to be detoured around his property, and it seemed fairly common in South Dakota.

I got to Lunatic's house before the sun went down, so he showed me his old Moto Guzzi and Harley shovelhead FHL project bike (an early generator case bike) that he picked up "barn fresh" at a very reasonable price. We then jumped in his truck and he took me to the shop where he worked and showed me his other Moto Guzzi and some of the other bikes that were there. We left his shop and he took me to several of his friend's houses. We went to a guy's house who had a really sweet '55-'57 Pontiac station wagon hotrod. He also had an old Ducati "single" and some other Harley show bike. At another guy's house, I was shown some Harley choppers in the "works". Went to another guy's house, and he was rebuilding an old shovelhead Harley that threw a rod and piston right through the rear jug while trying to keep up with an EVO at over 100 mpg (as the story went). He also had a 1966 SS396 Chevelle he was restoring. We went back to his house where his wife fixed the best chili I'd had in my life, and we soon called it a night.

I got up early with Lunatic. I thanked him for the hospitality and left at the same time he left for work. I got a few miles down the road and stopped for gas and a biscuit. I wasn't five miles from there and the road got really wet. I pulled over to the side of the road and put my "rain gators" over my feet to keep from getting wet from the knees down. It never rained, but stayed damp for an hour or so. Where I entered Minnesota, there was not a welcome center, no maps to be had, and the sign was on the other side of the road, so I had to turn around to take my picture of the bike next to it.

I had met another person from the same chatroom/forum as Lunatic, and I was going to Madison, WI to spend some time with her and her son. While in Minnesota, I was starting to see landscape and houses that reminded me of parts of northern Indiana, so this part of the ride was getting to be nice. I remember stopping for gas in some little town in the middle of Minnesota, and there was a picture of Cindy Crawford on the wall. It was autographed and I made a comment about it being a good picture of her. The guy working there told me that the owner of the station was her cousin. Not sure if it is true or not, but it was a good line of bullshit if it wasn't. There wasn't much in Minnesota worth seeing until I got near the Mississippi River.

The first time I'd seen the Mississippi River was as I crossed into Missouri at St Louis from Illinois. The river was quite large and impressive in that region, but up here, it was not very wide. I rode along it for several miles, riding through riverside towns. Every few miles, you'd see a dam section across the river, and you could see the levels drop on the other side of it. I figured these were small, hydro-electric dams, but I'm not sure. Just before jumping into Wisconsin, I had to get back on the interstate. I knew the state line would be on the bridge, so I prepared myself with the camera around my neck. They were doing construction on the bridge, so we were detoured to the west-bound side of the bridge, making the welcome sign smaller and further away. As I crossed the bridge, I tried to take a picture of the welcome sign while at speed. It came out blurry.

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I figured that bridge picture wouldn't come out very well, plus I needed a map, so I shot into the Welcome Center just past the bridge. I picked up my map, and on the way out of the welcome center, I parked the bike on the side of the drive to get a picture. There was enough room for vehicles to get past me, but, as I was getting off the bike, a tractor-trailer didn't think he had room and stopped. Instead of skipping the picture, I made the guy wait while I took the picture and jumped back onto the bike while waving to him as I accerated back onto the interstate......yeah, it was a friendly wave...NOT a one-finger salute. He seemed pretty cool.

At the suggestion of Lunatic, I got a few miles down from the welcome center and jumped onto a back road. Lunatic told me that it would take a little longer to get to Madison, but it would be very enjoyable as I rode through Amish country. It was less than five miles and I was in a valley among small mountains. I was in the land of cheese.....dairy farms and a simpler way of life.

The roads were nice and twisty as they went through valleys and along small rivers. I could tell when I was in Amish-country because there were buggy trails, gravel emergency lanes, where they drove their horse and buggy. It was not uncommon to see signs for trucks that said, "No Jake Brakes", and I assumed it was to prevent scaring the horses. I really enjoyed riding this route, until I got stuck behind a dump truck with a tailer with a backhoe on it in a section of twisty road. I couldn't seem to pass the guy. When an opportunity arose, it was on a downhill and he was accelerating faster than I would have cared to pass him, especially not knowing the road and being on a loaded down Harley. I decided to ride at the slower pace and enjoy the drive. I was able to look around at the scenery a little more at this pace. I wasn't in a hurry, as it wasn't that far of a drive to Kristin's. I finally did get around the truck, though. It was some really beautiful land, an area I wouldn't mind living, except for the winters.

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I got to Kristin's about mid-afternoon. She was getting ready for a yard-sale that her, her roomate, and her neighbor were having, so things were scattered here-and-there. I actually helped with getting stuff into the garage and set up for the sale. Since we were getting up early for the yard sale, we retired early that evening.

I was sleeping on the couch in the familyroom, and just as I fell asleep, Kristin's twin sister, Erin, came in. She had been to a bachelorette party, or some formal-ish party, so she wasn't very quiet. It was fine by me. I woke up, and Erin and I ended up talking for about an hour. We mainly just sat up talking about cross-country motorcycle riding, as her and her fiance' had done some long-distance rides, themselves (I don't remember if they were married at the time or not). Erin soon got tired and went off into the other bedroom as I curled back up on the couch for some more sleep.

Saturday, the yard sale was kicking off, and we got an early start. Started the day off by Kristin's roommate and I running to pick up some breakfast while Kristin and Erin held down the "fort" for the yard sale. I hung out for a little while and then shot on down to the Madison HD dealer. I picked up a really cool HD key fob for the bike that looks like a small piece of diamond-plate wrapped with leather. The key fob I had was the one I had gotten with the bike, and it was looking a little worn. I went back to the house and hung out until the rest of the afternoon. In the early afternoon, Erin left to go home, and we ended the yard sale about six in the evening, so we could go grab a bite to eat.

We went out for a really nice meal at a little Italian restaurant near the house. After dinner, Kristin, her son, and I went to a McDonald's parking lot in another part of town to see the fireworks display. I hadn't seen a fireworks display in a number of years. It was nice to just relax after all the miles I'd ridden over the last several days. We went back to the house, and with the days activities, we were tired and bedtime came quickly.

On Sunday, I didn't do much of anything. We just sat around, hanging out for the yard sale, and drinking some beer. I didn't even fire the bike up this day. Kristin's roommate had a friend that she met on the internet come over, and we were all sitting in the backyard, enjoying the sun, drinking beer, with me trying to keep from getting a sunburn (I burn easily). The day ended faster than it seemed it should have, and I was making plans on leaving in the morning to go to my grandparent's house in north-western Indiana.

We got up early, as I had to leave, Kristin was going to work, and her son was going to school. Kristin made coffee and pancakes for breakfast. Afterwords, I loaded the bike as they got ready to leave. Kristin's mother stopped by to pick her son up and take him to school. Kristin was running late, probably a bit my fault. She walked me out to my bike, I fired it up, we said our "goodbyes", and I rode out to hit the interstate toward Indiana.

It wasn't long before I hit Illinois. I stopped at the welcome center to get a map. it was a good thing, too, as the woman behind the counter informed me that there was a lot of construction and traffic going through Chicago. I was really dreading having to drive through the city, and the woman suggested a rout to avoid the traffic and construction that would take me west, and then south, of Chicago. I decided this was the route to take. I hopped back onto the interstate and looked for my exit for the detour route. The interstate turned to six and eight lanes, as traffic got heavier, the closer I got to Chicago. I found my exit and got off of the quick-paced superslab.

The alternate route took me through some small towns with houses and landscape reminding me of north-western Indiana, my home-town area. It was great seeing countryside and houses like this after about six years since last visiting. This was an interesting route, one that actually took me on a section of old "Route 66". It was a section that took me through a few small towns, and traffic and road conditions weren't the best. I eventually worked my way to I-90/94 and soon after hit a hellacious traffic jam. Turns out they were doing road construction just as you get into Indiana, so traffic was backed up. I got to the welcome sign, pulled over with the backed up traffic, and got my Indiana sign picture with the bike. It wasn't too much later, I was pulling into my grandparent's subdivision.

I'd never been to this house before. My grandparents had moved down the street from my uncle and his family a couple of years before this. Until that time, they had lived in the house that my grandfather basically built in the 50's. As I got closer, I saw my grandfather in his driveway waiting for me. He was smoking a cigarette, as I had grown accustomed to seeing. He motioned for me to ride the bike into the garage, but I left it out on the driveway and told him I'd like to wash it wafter it cooled off. I unloaded the bike, as my grandmother was showing me to the spare bedroom.

Most of my stay with my grandparents was uneventful. This meaning, that I have always enjoyed just sitting around with my grandparents. Since I was really little, I remember following my grandfather outside, or to the garage, when he would leave the house for a smoke break. Being 32 years old, I still had this habit, but now, that included the back deck. While at my grandparents, I had several different relatives stop by. It was good to see some of them. I hadn't seen some of them in many, many years.During the course of the day, my grandmother volunteered to wash my dirty clothes for me.

Early in the evening, I had made a phone call to my dad's best friend's, Uncle Kent. He is the only person I call "uncle" despite him not being my father's brother, but best friend, and I have three actual, blood-related, real "uncles". I made plans to stay with him, his wife (Nancy), and their two daughters, Megan and Tammy, the next evening. Hanging out with my grandparents was as pleasant as ever, and night fell quickly for us. I stayed up and watched TV for a while, and went to bed shortly after my grandparents did.

I left my grandparent's place about 10-ish and drove the 45 miles or so to Uncle Kent's. Uncle Kent had to work, and so did Nancy, so only the girls were home. I caught a slight sprinkle of rain (the only rain of the whole trip) on the way to their house. I got there, knocked on the door, rang the doorbell, and never got an answer. I knew that they knew I was coming about this time. Instead of just sitting there, figuring they may have gone for breakfast, I fired the bike back up and went for a cruise around the lake.

I was back in my hometown, Cedar Lake, Indiana. The town used to be a big resort town in the early 1900's. It circles a lake that is about three miles long and a mile wide, shaped like a three-nut peanut hull. I took the bike around the lake while looking for things that struck up memories of my childhood and seeing what all has been changed.....buildings torn down, buildings put up, and new stores and shops. It doesn't take long to drive around the lake, so I went to my old neighborhood to see the house we used to live in, the house my other grandparents used to live in, and to see my aunt/uncle's place that was next door to our old house.

Back in the old subdivision, a few new houses were built on lots where we had forts and bike trails, when I was growing up. The old house looks the same, but with different landscaping. My aunt happened to be home, so I stopped. It was too funny. Her boyfriend (my uncle passed away in the 80's) answered the door, and I asked for my aunt. She came from another room and asked if she could help me. It was just too funny. She didn't even recognize me! I can't say I blamed her, though. She hadn't seen me in many years, and back then, I had a full beard. I only had a mustache this time, but I was wearing a doo-rag, leather jacket, and had longer hair. With her comment, I asked, "What? You don't even recognize your own damned nephew! I only lived next to you for several years!" It was too funny. It finally clicked who I was, and her face lit up. We had a nice little visit, and she showed me the rail-type dune buggy that they had and enjoyed at the Indiana Dunes. I stayed a little while and headed back to uncle Kent's.

When I got there, Megan ended up answering the foor. Turns out, both her and Tammy were still asleep and didn't hear the doorbell nor my knocking. We sat around and talked for a little while. Tammy had to go to work, so she left about one, or so, and it was just Megan and me. We watched some MTV (nothing else was on TV), and I asked her if she wanted to go for some ice cream at the Dairy Queen (about two miles away). I love Dairy Queen's Blizzards and usually make it a point to stop at Dairy Queens on long distance trips, when I see them. We ended up taking her car and returned to the house soon after. Megan called Nancy, and she we trying to leave work early, but it wasn't looking very good.

Nancy got home a little early, Megan left shortly afterwords, and since Kent wouldn't be home for a while, nancy talked me into taking her for a ride around the lake. Kent had a Suzuki Intruder 800, but never had any time to ride it. He puts in a lot of overtime, and bought it because it was a good deal, and he was interested in riding. Nancy thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and not soon after we got back, Kent arrived at the house.

I've always enjoyed talking to Uncle Kent, and grew up with him always a part of the family. In many ways, he IS my uncle....moreso than some of my actual uncles. I try to keep in touch with him and his family, dispite the eight-hundred miles separating us. Kent and I talked and drank beer for most of the evening. We went into his garage and looked at his bike and talked about his lack of time to ride it. We talked about the girls and their softball, track, and other sports. Nancy, Kent, and I gradually worked our way down to the basement living room/den area and sat down there talking, drinking, and just having a good time for the rest of the evening.

I got up reasonably early and headed back to my grandparent's house for my last day on this leg of the trip before heading to Niagara Falls. My grandparents were going over to another relative's house for a birthday party. The birthday party was for my grandmother's brother's (Coon) birthday. I hadn't seen my Uncle Coon since 1987, when I was in Indiana for a friend's wedding. I had gotten back after the wedding reception, slightly intoxicated, and Coon was at my grandparent's on his Honda Shadow 700(?). I ended up taking Coon's bike for a high-speed run, to "see what it would do" and ended up having a city cop follow me to my grandfather's after clockign me at 99 mph in a 55 zone.....Oh, I'm sidetracking. Anyway, I got directions to the party from my Uncle Jerry and pulled into the driveway soon afterward.

The driveway and yard were full, so I squeezed my bike between some cars and found a spot for the bike. There were several distant relatives at the party. Some of them I hadn't seen since 1980, and others I didn't know if I'd ever seen them before. I didn't know most of their names, but several acted like they knew me. I had some cousins there that I didn't even recognize. Cousins I hadn't seen since about 1983 or longer. I felt out-of-place, but knew that it was something I should do for the sake of "family", and because it was the right thing to do. Since we moved in 1981 to South Carolina, we really hadn't kept up with much of our family, outside of the imediate family.

Motorcycling runs in our blood, guns too, but I think I've done more with bikes than anyone in my family. My Uncle Jerry used to ride Japanese 750s in the 1970's. I remember him being in an accident where he caught his handlebar in the stomach, which resulted in internal injuries. We sat in loung chairs and discussed out accidents and how we were effected by them, especially about loss of range of motion due to them. I had some good conversations with my uncle and aunt Rene, and was actually enjoying myself.

We had the singing of "Happy Birthday" in the garage, where almost everyone could fit. My Great Uncle was considerably older than the last time I saw him. I'd seen him over near my bike earlier, looking it over. He'd always liked motorcycles, too. I don't think I actually spoke with him on this trip. I may have, but I don't remember. I wish I could remember, as this wa the last time I'd see him. He died less than a year after my visit.

The party lasted most of the afternoon, and we eventually headed back to my grandparent's. With it being the Fourth of July, the fireworks were being fired off, especially as the sun went further down. Another trip to the Dairy Queen, and we wound up spending most of the evening, outside, watching the neighbors lighting off their fireworks, watching the town's fireworks in the distance, and socializing even more. The evening was soon over, adn so was my visit with my relatives. I was going to leave fairly early in the morning for the last leg of my trip.

I got up early to head for Niagara Fall's. My grandmother and grandfather said their goodbyes to me. Little did I know that this would be the last time I ever saw my grandmother. She died from cancer on July 19, 2002. I headed to the gas station and then to the interstate. The interstate wasn't five miles from their house, so I was quickly back pounding the pavement. The sun was riding quickly and the temperature was, too. I was reflecting back on the last few days of visiting friends and family. I used to go to Indiana to visit with them every year, for a while, but I hadn't been up there since the summer of 1995. Six years is just too long to see some people....Anyway, I was drowning out the road and wind noise as I was in my own little world, but I was still thinking of where I was heading and how I was going to get there. I was so close to the Michigan border, that I decided to jump off of the toll-road and go into Michigan for a map at the welcome center. Interstate 69 looked like a good place to jump off of the toll-road and hit Michigan. If not for any other reason, I could say I've been on I-69.....Hmmmmm.....sounds like a slogan for a T-shirt....just a logo of the I-69 interstate sign. 8)

I paid my toll at the off-ramp of I-90 to get onto I-69 and headed north. I was thinking I would only have to drive 2-3 miles to hit the welcome center, but it was closer to ten miles. I took my picture of the bike next to the welcome sign and then went to the welcome center for my map. I didn't want to waste much time there, because I was wanting to hit Buffalo, NY by nightfall. I left the welcome center and I didn't see any signs for an exit to turn around at, so, I jumped over into the median and hopped onto the south-bound lane. A little longer, and I was back on the toll-road heading east. It was a few minutes before I hit the Ohio state line and then the welcome center for a map. Riding through Ohio was very uneventful, as I stayed on the superslab.

Traffic started to get fairly bad in Cleveland, OH and the road construction wasn't making mattes any better. I was riding next to a concrete barrier wall for the construction when I got smacked, and smacked really hard, by a huge bug. I never saw the thing coming, so I was caught very off-guard. This had to have been the largest, and messiest bug, I've ever hit in my life. I was hit right in the center of the right lens of my sunglasses. Bug guts completely covered that lens so I couldn't see out of it, and the guts went on my forehead, my cheek, the side of my nose.....I even had some bug guts wind up in my ear. It was really gross. I pulled over to the side of the interstate as soon as I could and started cleaning myself off. Now, I don't know how aware you readers are, but bug guts tend to dry really quickly. Worse yet, they are very difficult to get off of your glasses when they dry. So, here I am sitting on the side of the interstate, cars flying past me, and I'm spitting on my sunglasses to try to get the bug guts off. A guy on a bike pulls up to check on me. I tell him that all is well, just that I'd hit a bug and couldn't see out my glasses, but I was "OK". He just laughed and merged back into traffic.

I got the bug guts off and hit the road, again. I have a bad habit of day dreaming while riding the bike on long trips. My buddy, Wade, can attest to this as I have a tendancy to miss off-ramps and signs every-now-and-again. Well, after the "bug incident", this was no exception. I missed the I-80/I-90 split and wound up seeing signs showing New York City four hundred or so miles away. I first thought this was strange, because I was heading toward Buffalo, but disregarded it....until several miles down the road. I must have been more than thirty miles from the split when I decided to check my map. Yeppers, I was well off-course by now. I found a road that tied back into I-90 and figured I'd be close to forty miles due east out of my way. I got a little pissed at myself, but then reminded myself that I was on vacation and was out to have fun. I laughed it off as I figured it would be a funny story to tell and went looking for my road back to I-90.

The detour was actual a very nice one as I shot through the country-side and some small towns. It was a much better view than the interstates, and, despite covering ground at a slower pace, it was very much welcome. I saw some old churches in towns that didn't look much different than they probably did back in the 1940's and '50s. I saw some farm land, rolling hills, and nice scenery. This ended fairly soon, as I wound up back on track and back on I-90, and was soon into Pennsylvania.

Shooting back toward Buffalo, I was thinking of a small oil leak that I'd developed from my push rod covers. I found them days before and had been trying to turn a lower RPM because of this. I didn't want to force too much oil out of those leaks because I was probably "burning" some oil from the hard and steady riding. I knew my engine oil level in the tank was steadily going down, so I was starting to check it at gas stops.....about every 160-200 miles. I was coming up on Erie, PA, and I was noticing a lot more bike traffic than usual. I was due for gas and an oil check, so I picked an offramp with a gas station and went to fill up.

I was just topping off the oil tank with a quart I bought at the gas station when this couple on a Sporty came up to me and asked if I was going to "Quaker State and Oil". I didn't think I heard them right and asked them to repeat it. It sounded like they said "Quaker State and Oil", which didn't sound too far off since I was in Pennsylvania. I was a little puzzled and told them I was on my way to Niagara Falls and was just coming from South Dakota. They told me that they were having a Bike Night at this place and that I should go to it because they usually have a pretty good turn-out. I figured I wasn't in a hurray to get to Buffalo, so I agreed to go with them.

I followed them to this place, and it turned out it is called "Quaker Steak and Ale". It was a really cool restaurant with all sorts of racing and bike/automobile memorabilia. There were old motorcycles displayed inside, NASCAR hoods and fenders from actual race cars, and anythign else you could imagine. It was a neat place, and you could see Lake Erie off in the distance. Now, I've been to a lot of Bike Nights, but this was unreal. Bikes just kept rolling in....more bikes.....and even more bikes. This couple, Marty and Sandy, told me that they usually get close to 300 bikes there each week. I definitely believed them. Here is a picture of me with Marty and Sandy from that night. You can see the Miss Budweiser jet-boat hanging from the ceiling behind us.

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I was only going to stay a half hour or so, but ended up hanging out with Marty and Sandy until about ten that evening at the Quaker Steak and Ale. They introduced me to a lot of their friends and acquaintances, telling them all about my journey that got me there, and showed me a bunch of really cool bikes. They figured I rode further than anyone else to get there, which was kinda funny. I drank more than I wanted to, at first, and stopped drinking the last couple of hours I was there, because I knew I was going to hit the road, soon. I really appreciated their hospitality and the experience they gave me by being nice enough to invite me along. We swapped phone numbers, and I debated on just staying at the hotel right next to the restaraunt, but I soon back on the road, as I felt I could knock out another hour or so of driving. I didn't make it 30 miles down the road before deciding to call it quits for the day and got a room at a nasty Super 8. It was filthy and the room was puny. It was good enough for me to grab some Z's, though.

I got up the next morning with a little less energy than usual. I think I stayed up too long and maybe had a couple more beers than I should have. I slowly loaded the bike and then went to check out of the hotel room. The continental breakfast sucked, but I met two couples who were heading west. We had some idle chit-chat about riding, found out that one of them was familiar with this area of South Carolina that I was from, and we talked about that a little bit......Back on the superslab I went, again.

The ride was mostly uneventful on the way to Niagara Falls. The welcome sign for New York was in the median between the east and west-bound lanes. Fortunately, there wasn't any traffic behind me as I hit the brakes hard and darted for the median. I got my picture and headed for the welcome center. The welcome center was also an "oasis" with a gas station and resturant. There was a Denny's there, and since I hadn't eaten at one in several years, I got a huge breakfast there. Before I got back on the road, I called Wade and then filled the bike up. Niagara Falls wasn't too far up the road, now.

Before I got to Niagara Falls, I had to go through Buffalo, and I wanted a T-shirt. The map in my HOG Handbook made it easy to find the place. It was a huge building that reminded me of a cross between a warehouse and an old manufacturing building. They had a LOT of floor space, but probably too much of it. They did have a section of the building designated to their own little museum of Harleys. They had bikes from all eras and displacements. There were less than 50 bikes, I imagine, but it was worth the time to stroll over there and check them out. I was looking for a "rare" bike like mine: a 1984/5 "Bastard" Harley. I think they had a 1985 FXWG, but I don't rightfully recall.

I wasn't very far from Niagara Falls at all now. I had to jump back on the interstate and take a toll bridge that goes over the fork of the Niagara River to get closer to Canada. The off-ramp was easy to get to and easy to manuvere after dodging a few potholes. The road to the falls ran alongside the river and you could see just how fast the water was going, and, the closeer you got to it, the water became more turbulent. I got to the falls, and then the fun started. I had to find a parking space. There were cars and people all over the place, and a couple of one-way roads. I ended up circling two or three times before I decided to park away from the actual falls and just walk to them. I was a little skeptical about leaving all my gear on the bike and going that far away from it, but I figured it wouldn't be a huge deal.

Everyone had told me about how beautiful Niagara Falls is and how huge it is, but that the Canadian side was more picturesque. I didn't want to risk going into Canada because I'd been toting a handgun with me the whole time during this trip. Riding alone for this distance, I wanted to know I would have some form of protection with me. Anyway, I was really amazed at the size of Niagara, but it wasn't as scenic as I am used to. It was just so huge. I took a few pictures and ran out of film. I went into the visitor's center to buy film, and as you all know, that is some expensive film. There is an observation tower, and I went on that. From there, I could see some really nice views and see the boat far down in the river, below the falls, under me.

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I love going to the waterfalls in the mountains of North and South Carolina, and I prefer the smaller falls to Niagara. The thing that seemed really out of place to me with Niagara Falls was the lack of mountains. To me, a waterfall needs to be in the mountains. Niagara just didn't seem as pleasant and beautiful as a lot of the waterfalls I see around here. Whitewater Falls, on the border of North and South Carolina, is much more scenic to me. The commercialism of Niagara Falls was a big turn off, too, but.....now I could say I've been to Niagara Falls.

I called my dad really quickly to tell him were I was, that all was fine, and I was heading home. I drove around and found a small gift shop where I bought a couple of small items. I had bought a post card and had to go find the post office to get a stamp and mail it off. This wasn't too difficult to find, after asking for directions. I got the post card mailed off and then hit the interstate back toward home.

I had to back-track on a lot of interstate until I was back on the west side of Erie, PA. I caught I-79 south. I was really surprised at the scenery shortly after I got onto I-79. There were baby mountains and lots of trees. I wasn't expecting to hit this kind of terrain until I was further south. I felt like I was riding on I-40 in Tennessee from the way the scenery looked. It was an enjoyable ride, but long, as the sun began to set. I tried to make it into West Virginia before nightfall. I didn't make it to West Virginia, but stopped about fifteen miles north of there. I had a good day and had a great time. I figured only one more day of riding was ahead of me before I would make it back home.

Morning was soon upon me, so I loaded the bike and figured it would be my last day on this trip. With the daily mileage I'd been pulling, once I was into West Virginia, I noticed that Maryland wasn't too far away, according to the map. Since I'd jumped into a few other states, along the way, to say I'd been in them, I figured I had the time, so I jumped onto I-68 toward Maryland. Maryland was about seventy-five miles out of my way, round-trip, but I wanted to rack this state up, too. I ran into Maryland, stopped at the Welcome Center for a map, and found the first exit off of the interstate so I could turn around. I eventually wound up back on I-79, and back toward home.

To save some time (like it was a main concern after driving to Maryland), I decided to by-pass Charleston, WV and took Hwy-19 to catch I-77 into Virginia and toward Charlotte, NC. This little diversion/by-pass road was very scenic, as this is the type of countryside I enjoy riding in. Even the interstates have some curves and twisties thrown in, and the mountainous views are always enjoyable.

Hitting I-77 South, I was soon to get into Virginia. There are two really nice, long tunnels on I-77 toward Virginia. I'd never ridden a bike in a tunnel that long, especially with a curve in it. Going about 70 mph made it a little interesting. As soon as I got out of the second tunnel, I was in Virginia. I had to slam on the brakes and turn around on the side of the road to go back and get this shot of the bike at the welcome sign.

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Once in Virginia, there were signs and billboards stating to the effect that they didn't care for firearms and mandatory jail time if you were caught with one. Here I was toting a gun in my pocket, and the only thing I could think of was how I really....REALLY wanted to get out of that state....and QUICKLY! I made one stop at a rest area, and when I left Virginia, I couldn't have been any happier.

Being in North Carolina on I-77, now, the terrain started to get flatter and flatter as I got closer to Charlotte. I was in familiar territory, now, but I hadn't been on I-77 into Charlotte, before, so I had more road worth marking off on my maps. I hit I-85 on the north-side of Charlotte and was about two hours from home. It was just after noon on Saturday. A couple hours later, I was pulling into my driveway, a full day earlier than I had planned for this trip. I snapped a picture of my bike when a neighbor showed up and asked me how the trip went. I was coated in road grime, and har her snap this picture of me. I'm holding my little AMT Backup 45ACP that went on this trip with me. Twenty-two states, carrying a loaded firearm illegally, but there is no way I'd do a trip like this, alone, without some form of protection.

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So, I was home, again. Twenty-two states, fifteen days, and almost five thousand miles later, I was back where it all started, and this was a bike trip to remember.


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