Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Thedford, NE to Custer, SD
The huge vacancy sign at my motel had advertised “Wireless Internet! Reasonable Prices! A Relaxing Night in the Sandhills!”
Good thing I’m a sound sleeper. I’m not sure if it could be considered false advertising, but nights tend to be more relaxing when you don’t have coal trains passing within half a football field of your window all through the night. They didn’t bother me, but I can imagine that they might bother some.
My day began with a continuation of the ride through the sand hills.
I caught a coal train just as it crossed under an overpass.
A sign notified me of my passage into “Mountain Time”. I mentally recalculated in my head, deciding not to bother changing the clock on the bike.
I was keeping a wary eye on the sky, worried by dark clouds ahead. I began getting drops three miles before Ellsworth and my turn off NE-2. Rain pelted my helmet as I slowly road past the general store, wondering if I should pause to wait out the storm. Looking down the road, I thought I spied lighter skies.
NE-27 was supposed to be my one fun road in Nebraska. It was advertised as “sweepers” on a motorcycle roads website. It might have been fun, but it was 40 miles of pouring rain with the skies ahead teasing me ever forward.
I love my R1200ST. When the temperature dropped to 60, a flick of my thumb turned on the grip warmers. The wind off the shield kept my visor clear without ever needing to wipe it with my gloves. The bike wasn’t phased by the gusts of wind I could see rocking the trees around me.
I called Mom for a radar check while stopped for lunch in Gordon, NE. She advised me to wait for a little while before continuing, but that I probably wouldn’t see any more heavy rain that day.
Nevertheless, I switched from my soaked summer-weight gloves to the Racer Multi-tops. It was still cool and I continued to see light misting rain past the South Dakota border.
I began to get excited as the Black Hills appeared in the distance.
I found it remarkable that virtually the instant US385 split off from SD-79 I was in the hills. One moment I was flattening the center of my tires, the next I was leaning hard through turns, passing RVs.
After passing through Hot Springs, SD, a tourist-trap horror of an old-West town, I found myself passing over a cattle-grate at the entrance to Wind Cave National Park.
I didn’t fell like investigating the caves, but I did stop to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
A group of bison near the road seemed spooked by all the stopped cars and were running along the road. I slowed to watch but lack of shoulder prevented me from getting out my camera.
A little colony of these critters near one of the scenic overlooks provided my wildlife shots for the day. Isn’t he cute?
I was very much enjoying my ride through the Black Hills. Rocky outcroppings and ranches nestled in the hills provided a teasing taste of what I will see in the next week.
A sense of dread filled me as I approached the resort where the meet was to be held. A group of riders who had arrived the day before had posted that the driveway to the resort was gravel, uphill, and turning.
Oh, and yeah, it was raining again.
I stopped on the concrete shoulder at the base of the driveway and looked at it. Very uphill, very turning (at the top), very gravel, and very wet. A sign said “200 yards” to the office. I couldn’t see it.
I sat there with my engine running for five minutes, trying to decide what to do. Several cars came and went from the resort. A glance in my mirror showed an FJR1300 (Yamaha sport-touring bike) approaching. The rider waved at me before turning off the highway and riding up the driveway without hesitation.
At that moment I decided to be brave. I got myself to the other side of the highway to give myself some running room so that my clutch would be completely out before getting onto the gravel.
It wasn’t awful. I stayed loose on the bars and gave myself a little bit of speed to make sure that I had enough grunt to get up the hill. The tires didn’t wander at all.
Cresting the hill, I saw the FJR parked on a concrete pad by the office. I slid in next to him and turned off the bike. My hands were trembling, but I had done it.
After initial greetings, I registered at the office and found out where my cabin was. Slingshot was kind enough to take the R1200ST up the gravel road to the cabins for me (and exclaimed at the smoothness of the R12 engine next to his old R1150(?). I started a badly needed load of laundry and explored the resort.
The Canadians had already gotten to the welcome sign.
The rest of the evening was a blur of names and faces. I saw old friends from California, people I had met at last years meet, and lots of new people.
DantesDame had surprise for all of us
Stargzrgrl’s new bike gathered some admirers.
This guy (Spectre?) had hit a deer during his ride the meet. The bike went down, lost it’s windshield faring, and entirely ground off the highway peg. Before running off into the bushes, the deer left some hair on his gloves and clutch lever. He was advised to glue that stuff on….such a neat souvenir.
Dinner was yummy, followed by birthday cake, coffee, and various beverages. People were hanging out and swapping stories around the campfire late into the night.