Friday, September 7, 2018

Day 17 - Idahome!

It was cool to cold riding out of Rock Springs in the mid-50's at 8am this morning.  But the draw of home was all we needed to tolerate the morning chill.  We knew the sun would warm us as we rode and expected temps to be in the 80's by the time we arrived home at lunch.

We were on I-80 West as it's the only option to get to Cokeville, WY, our first stop of the day.  We waived by to Rudy as he split off to go to UT at Little America.  From Kemmerer to Cokeville we were on Hwy 30 which always seems to be a busy road.  We got "stuck" behind 4 vehicles which were doing close to the limit, but it still seemed like getting to Cokeville took forever.

At Cokeville, we fueled and some grabbed a quick drink before we got back on Hwy 30 West. Inside the convenience store, Cami snapped a pic of hats on display before we saddled up.  This is a familiar ride to us.  Today was our third trip this summer down this road.   We were cruising between  Cokeville and Montpelier when something to my left caught my eye.  Torrey had surged a bit ahead of me.  As I slowed down, so did he.  There was a full size sheep eating on the edge of the highway.  It had looked up at us as we approached.  Not sure if it would decide to cross, we wanted to ensure we weren't taken out by a sheep in the last 100 miles of our trip.  The sheep turned away from the road as we passed by.  There were no other sheep to be seen in the area.
Dilly Dilly!
Soda Springs was our last stop of the ride.  The lure of Pocatello was a magnetism that would not be denied.  At McCammon we jumped on I-15 and were immediately into construction.  We were nearly to Pocatello before the construction ended.  We arrived home around noon and as we had hoped, the temps were in the 80's and we were warm.

Upon our arrival I texted Rudy. Timpanagos HD, in Lindon, UT had his bike in the shop for it's 10,000 mile service as Rudy had planned to do as part of his ride home.  I asked him to text me and let me know he made it home safely.  He said he would do so.

About 4:30pm Rudy called.  I asked, "Are you home safe?"  With a bit of a giggle, he said he was.  Then he went on to explain that after traveling all the way across the country safely, he was about taken off the road within 15 miles of his home.   I inquired what might have crossed his path that may have put his safety at risk.  His answer was a hawk!  Apparently the hawk had just swooped down and snagged a whistle pig in it's talons.  It was flapping its wings trying to gain altitude, but the weight of his prey was making it difficult.  That's about the time the bird and Rudy crossed paths.  Unfortunately the two collided.  The hawk got tangled up in the foot peg and the whistle pig he was carrying got lodged between the headers.  Luckily Rudy was able to keep in upright on the road.  He pulled off to check the damage.  Sadly both animals lost their lives.  The smell of the whistle pig prevented Rudy from getting close enough to dislodge it.  He opted to get on and ride away to outrun the smell.  He said that when the bike cooled off, he would have to go out and pick out what was left of the animals.  The pictures are a bit graphic so you may want to scroll past them quickly.  I asked Rudy to submit the photos in part because it was unbelievable, and because one can't make this up.

Overall is was a great trip.  While the weather could have been better, we learned about ourselves and each other.   We made it safely there and back with only minimal repairs and regular maintenance to the bikes we rode.  That's a good day or series of days that make up the trip.

Total Miles for the day: 251 miles
Time to Travel that distance: 4 hours
Cumulative miles for the trip: 4623

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Day 16 - Wyoming Wind and Warmth

We set out on the road with a plan to take Wyoming 50 and 387 to Edgerton and then into Casper with the final destination for the day of Rock Springs.  I saw the sign for Wyoming 50 and right next to it the sign for Moorcroft which is eastbound.  I hesitated and opted for I-90 west thinking I would find the turn off for WY 50.  Well after 30 miles I had to face the fact that I had lead us astray.  By the time I stopped to re-check the map, it was closer to finish riding to Buffalo than to turn around and go back.  Not a proud moment as a ride leader, but we're 16 days into this ride and it's the first missed road.  It was a bit cool riding, but dry and mostly clear.  It was windy but much less so than yesterday.

After a brief break in Buffalo, we headed south on I-25 toward Casper.  Our next break would be in Kaycee.  As we approached the exit we saw the signs denoting this is the home town of Chris LeDoux.  Instantly the Garth Brooks song came to mind, "Good Ride Cowboy".  Rudy happened to be listening to Chris LeDoux music at the time and really likes Chris LeDoux.  While Torrey drank a monster, Rudy and Cami went to see the park dedicated in LeDoux's honor.  Rudy and Cami decided my earlier wrong turn was meant to be - for had I gone down WY 50 we would not have passed through Kaycee. The winds were light, but present as is often the case in Wyoming.

In Casper, we hit the HD store and got a lunch recommendation from the staff.  We made our way to J's Pub and Grill and enjoyed a great meal.  For the record, Harley staff members have never steered us wrong when in comes to suggesting good eats regardless of where in the country we are visiting.

Cami says, "Wasn't Me"

Some riders peeled off a layer as we fueled up and got back to it on WY 220 as we left Casper.  The route winds along the North Platte River for the first several miles.  The sun was shining and it felt like what we had hoped every day of this ride should have felt.  The winds seemed to have subsided. Deb snapped a few pics of us riding.

At Muddy Gap we fueled again before turning off on WY 287 which led us to Lander.  This stretch was also warm with very little wind.  Rock Springs is only 114 miles from Lander on 28 & 191.  The sun darted in and out of the few clouds in the sky.  Temps dipped noticeably when the sun was obscured by the clouds.  In fact, as we topped the pass and crossed the Continental Divide we could see evidence of the coming fall.

    We arrived safely at our hotel in Rock Springs and tomorrow we will ride the last stretch of this ride.

Total miles today: 447 (69 miles more than we should have, but allowed for stop in Kaycee)
Time to ride that distance: 9.5 hours
Total Cumulative miles: 4372

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Day 15 - Is Wind Better Than Rain?

Dry overnight! That could be a first on this trip.  We pulled out of Huron, SD this morning and it was 69 degrees, cloudy and a little clammy.  We resumed our pursuit of US 14 West with our eyes set on Gillette, Wyoming by day's end.

A brief stretch stop in Highmore, SD was where we first saw the sun today.  I opted to shed a layer encouraged by the sight of the bright star in the sky.  Others decided to go one more stop before committing.  Turns out waiting was probably the right call.

The ride from Highmore to Pierre was overcast and it would be most of the day before we felt the warmth of the sun again. What we did see in this stretch were fields and fields of sunflowers.  Who knew South Dakota produced so many sunflower seeds?  We arrived at the Pierre, SD Harley store it was 77 degrees on the bank clock, but it sure didn't feel like it.

Leaving Pierre US 14 joins up with US 34.  As we crossed over the river, we regained the hour we lost nearly 2 weeks ago.  I know the time zone is an invisible line, but almost immediately outside of Pierre the air was thinner, drier, and more like the climate of the west that we know and love.  My hands no longer felt sticky in my gloves.  My allergies kicked in as we went from farm fields to range lands.  And, the ever present wind that seems to blow across the plains was waiting for us.  The space was wide open and Deb got a few great shots that illustrate the views. 

I noticed a few signs along the way denoting we were riding along the "Old Deadwood Trail".  Turns out that in 1875 after gold was found in the Black Hills, the shortest route to Deadwood was by steamboat from Yankton to Fort Pierre and then this famous 200 mile trail taking them across prairie and creeks to Deadwood.  I can only imagine riding across this prairie in a wagon and the challenges that brought with it.  Similarly, I pictured what it would have been like for the Native Americans to live on this land they called home.

US 14 had been relatively quiet as far as traffic.  It's a two lane highway, but we didn't have to pass too many vehicles along the way.  Just prior to where 14 and 34 split with 14 going off to the south we had an SUV in front of us with a semi in front of them.  The semi was hauling a trailer full of round bales (I'll say 1 ton each) when one of the bales rolled off the right side of the trailer, hit the road and went into the ditch.  We had plenty of time and space to slow down but it was a bit unnerving to watch.  Within a minute or two, a second one fell from the trailer, again hitting the road and rolling into the ditch.  This time the semi driver seemed to realize something was amiss.  It was then that he was making the turn onto US 14 and I was glad that we were going to go down US 34.  I'm still not sure that the driver pulled over to check the load, but for that SUV's sake that followed him, I sure hope he did.

This road, US 34 from Hayes, SD to Sturgis, SD exemplifies the meaning of out in the middle of nowhere.  The winds picked up and had some strong gusts to go with it. As we rode into a stout headwind that at times felt like we were riding the bike sideways, or tilted at a pretty good angle, I considered if riding in strong wind conditions was somehow better than riding in rain.  In the end, I think the wind riding is better, but some of those gusts make one wonder by just how much.   Some how a road that offers very little in terms of services, like fuel and bathrooms, still managed to have road work/construction on it.  As we waited for the pilot vehicle to lead us through, we were grateful that the 13 miles of loose gravel were in the lane headed eastbound. 

Sturgis was unrecognizable to me.  Our last visit was in 2015 during the annual motorcycle rally.  The place looks completely different without the 1.75 million people in the area.  We hit the Harley store and a nice lunch at the Knuckle Saloon.  Predicted temps were 75 degrees as of last night.  In reality, it was 65 degrees and layers were going on, not off. 

Leaving Sturgis, US 34 rejoins US 14, both of which piggy back onto I-90. It was a quick 115 mile zip into Gillette where we were safe and off the bikes for the night.  As we crossed the Wyoming state line the sun presented itself.  It felt warm on our faces and I, for one, was glad to see it. Torrey and Cami made a quick run over to the Gillette HD store, but were still unable to find a certain 115th Anniversary hat that both Torrey and Rudy would like.  They didn't buy when they first saw it and now it looks as though they may have missed their chance. It is notable that this time Cami and Torrey managed to avoid crossing paths with the state troopers. An improvement over yesterday when they went out on their own.

Total miles today: 409
Time to travel that distance: 8.5 hours
Total Cumulative miles: 3925

Monday, September 3, 2018

Day 14 - Is it Rain or is it a Sauna out here?

Rochester weather forecast was calling for rain by 9am.  Thus we left town before then as we really didn't want to see if the weatherman was accurate or not.  It was low 70's when we left but overcast with thick cloud cover.  So much so that the sun was completely blocked out.  Our plan's to ride to Huron, SD today. 

I noticed yesterday a sign or two that said Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway.  Today I saw several more.  It turns out in 1995, Minnesota and surrounding states designated U.S. Route 14 as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, to mark the family's path. On a map, it seems like a simple journey — almost a straight shot from Pepin, Wis. to De Smet, S.D.: 300 miles and change. More on this in a bit.  All the way to Janesville, our first fuel stop, it was foggy/misty/sauna- ish riding.  It wasn't raining per se, but similar to the Iowa phenomenon, it feels damp out but there's nothing falling from the sky. It felt like we were riding in a giant greenhouse.  A quick check of the stats at the gas station revealed it was 71 degrees and 93% humidity. 

I was happy to get through Mankato without rain.  Based on the weather reports I reviewed that looked like the most likely spot we could get hit with rain.  Luckily we cleared the area without rain.  The next stop would be Walnut Grove.  It just sounded like a nice place.  When we pulled into town we saw the sign marking Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthplace. It is also the home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum. No wonder it sounded so familiar to me.  We weren't off the bikes for 1 minute when a rain shower passed through.  It only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was enough to get everything wet again.  Luckily we were stopped and off the bikes.  We stood under the canopy over the pumps while it passed through.  We also found a store with collectibles in it.  It was aptly named Junk with a Purpose.  Torrey said he needed a picture of that sign so Cami made it happen. Following the pics in we were again on our way. 

The roads were fairly wet through the next several miles but by Florence the road was dry and we almost were too.  And the greenhouse effect was starting to lift.  It was clear and nice through Lake Benton and the South Dakota state line.  US 14 changed from a concrete road, common in the mid-west, to a black asphalt topped road like we are used to in Idaho.  It was nice riding, in the dry air with clear sunny skies.  As we approached Brookings there was a huge thunderstorm coming in on our left.  We were riding perpendicular to this storm.  It was going to be a race to the gas station. 
We made it there just in time to grab gas and make a quick elimination stop inside.  As we pulled away from the gas station the rain was coming down where we had just come in from and was only about 80 yards away. 

As we hustled west the skies got clearer and there were no more threats of rain.  As we passed through DeSmet, the "Little Town on the Prairie", I felt confident we were in the clear of that storm.
Just a few miles more we were into Huron and off the bikes to find our hotel rooms. Did you know that Huron, SD is home to the largest pheasant? It turns out it is!  With today being Labor Day, almost all the restaurants were closed which made grabbing a bite to eat tricky.
It was 81 degrees and sunny upon our arrival.

Total Miles traveled today: 312
Time to travel that distance; 5.75 hours
Cumulative Mileage for the trip: 3516 

Blog Addendum:
What?! No mention of the excitement for the day; breaking the law!! ::As I go searching for an emoticon of Beavis::

The first time I have been "allowed" to go out venturing on my own without Nicki leading the way, and then this happens. 
In all fairness Torrey made the same choice I did, and consequently received the same written warning I did!! Doh!!

Apparently the suicide lane is not a merging lane in South Dakota. I got pulled over because you are not allowed to turn into the middle lane and then merge into traffic going the same direction. That's how we use it back in Pocatello, but now I know not to do that here in Huron.  Whatever. Thanks for the written reminder, officer.  Torrey and I will be on our way now.

Day 13 - New road home

We were loaded up and headed out of Milwaukee by mid-morning.  Ironically is was dry and cloudy. But that was the point, to get out of Milwaukee before the next wave of rains came.  The new route required a reset of all the hotels we had planned.  Before we headed out the door, we were able to get a room booked for the night in Rochester, MN. 

The re-calculated route takes a road we've not been on before but we've had pretty good luck with the  US and state highways we've tried so Highway 14 it is.  We took Blue Mound Rd/ Hwy 18 west out of Milwaukee. Eventually this becomes Hwy 18/12 and will take us to Hwy 14.  Right away there was a detour for 14 west, so we stayed on 18 through the detour. It was cloudy but dry riding.  Temps were in the high 70's and it was comfortable with the leather jacket on. As we rolled through the small village of Sullivan, WI it was clear they were setting up for a parade.  Chairs lined the streets and people were taking their seats to watch the parade.  A few minutes later and we probably would have been part of the Official World's Greatest Junk Parade.  First time for everything.

We rolled into the HD dealership at Madison and Rudy said, "That road was awesome!  It made the whole trip just riding that road."  When I asked what he liked about it he explained the rolling hills, passing farms and all the old barns was it.  In my mind too, it's the best of what Wisconsin roads has to offer. 

Back on the road we easily transitioned from US 18 to US 12 to US 14.  The road was closed at Black Earth so we were again detoured briefly around the troubled area and resumed our route just outside of Mazomanie. As we cruised into Spring Green, about 22 miles shy of Richland Center which was the next planned stop, I decided it might be a good idea to stop for fuel and Culver's had Carmel Peanut Butter Cup as the flavor of the day.  They shared a parking lot, so it seemed like a good call.  As we lunched I checked the weather and if we're going to get any rain today it would be in the next stretch.  Up to this point the sun had been out and the fellas were debating taking of a layer. Rudy opted for sleeveless while Cami chose rain gear.

We weren't much passed Gotham when we took the first small burst of rain.  It cleared fairly quickly but the clouds were dark and imposing as we rounded the corner.  We made a quick rain gear stop and headed into it.  By Richland Center, WI it was coming down pretty good. Between Shelby and La Crosse, US 14 merges with US 35, the Great River Road which runs 250 miles along the Mississippi through 33 river towns and is Wisconsin's Scenic Byway - which sounds like a great ride for another day.  It rained all the way to La Crosse which was about 80 miles.  We pulled in under the cover of a gas station in La Crosse.  There was some grumbling and general unhappiness about being wet AGAIN.  Even with rain gear, we were pretty well soaked through. 

We made our way through the city of La Crosse and came to the Mississippi River Bridge that crosses over to La Crescent, MN.  Almost as soon as we crossed this bridge we were out of the rain. We were now on the Minnesota side of the Great River Road which runs 575 miles through Minnesota. We enjoyed the views along the river as we rode into Winona, MN. 

We passed through Eyota on our way into Rochester for the night.  We were partially dry but still happy to see a hot shower, a good meal and a warm bed.  The washer and dryer made quick work of our wet clothes and we'll be ready to go again in the morning. 

Total miles: 289 miles
Time to travel that distance: 7.75 hours
Total Cumulative miles: 3204 miles

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Day 12 - Rain and Re-calculating

Morning rains kept us in the hotel until around 11am when we decided to venture out in it in hopes of seeing something outside the hotel today. The rain had briefly paused when we went to our rooms to get our boots and jackets on, but by the time we got to the parking lot it had started up again.

Our rough plan was to go to Milwuakee HD, the only one that's actually in the city limits of Milwaukee, to grab a few shirts and see the scene and then maybe go out to Little Switzerland to see the Hill Climbs.  We rode in a drizzle to the dealership.  Inside the store they had live action of the Hill Climbs.  While it looked like a fun muddy mess, it was determined as spectators it would be better from the comforts of a dry location than from out in it.  While being holed up in the dealership we contemplated the idea of bailing out of Milwaukee a day early.  Weather reports were all calling for 80% chance of rain for Sunday and Monday.  By the time we were done shopping and scoping out then vendors it was really coming down.  We took cover at a restaurant in the parking lot called Rock Country.  While we were there we had lunch in hopes that the rain shower would pass by while we ate. 

After lunch the rains had stopped.  All the bikes were on the move while there was a break in the rain.  We made our dash for Hal's/Iron Town HD as there was some merch there two days ago that we haven't seen since in our travels.  Upon arrival we learned that all the items we wanted were sold out.  Should have bought it when we saw it!  Given the amount of rain forecasted for the rest of the time in Milwaukee and the ride home, I decided to get my rear tire replaced as it was low (ish) on tread.  It was a 5 hour wait in line to get the work done, but we had decided there was no sense in staying and paying for a place that we have to spend the whole day inside.  We can do that at home for free.  So in order to have the bike ready to go in the morning, we left it there to get new tires, now front and rear. 

The afternoon rains were still at bay so we opted to hit Wisconsin HD in Oconomowoc, WI which is about 20 miles west of Milwaukee.  We were hopeful they may still have in stock some of the items that were now sold out.  The further west we went the drier and clearer it got.  This dealership was just as busy as House of Harley was yesterday.  Bikes parked down the lanes all around the dealership.  With the dry clear pavement, demo riding has re-commenced after being temporarily suspended at all dealerships due to wet roads.  While the group went to look for merchandise, I decided to try out some of the new models of Harley Davidsons.  I tried the Sport Glide, the Softail Heritage, the Road King and the Fat Bob. Cami tried the Sport Glide.  There's a big difference between the 2019's and the 2003 and 2009 models we're riding. 

It was time to head downtown for the concert.  We made a quick stop at the hotel to grab tickets and switch out gear on our way toward the Lakefront.  After parking we did a little more exploring of the vendors on the grounds at Summerfest and then Storks and Whitskis decided to get some steps in by walking over to Veterans Park to get the Official swag of the 115th Anniversary.  It was still a muddy mess over there and the dampness gave it a less than pleasant swampy odor.  We still didn't find the hat Torrey was looking for, but we snagged a few shirts and headed back to Summerfest.

Back at the concert venue, we snagged a burger and treats and headed for the seats.  Cami and Rudy had found Sandi Long as well as Kristi and Greg who drove down to join us for the evening.  Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum put on a great show. We enjoyed the cool night air and the lightning from the storm coming in behind us.  Luckily the evening rains that were predicted never developed. 


On the way home from the concert, we stopped by Hal's/Iron Town to pick up my bike.  The service department there has been phenomenal.  Even at 11pm last night they were willing to help Rick get a screw he needed to re-fasten the line that hold his trunk open.  Out of the 5 bikes on the trip, 4 of them received some type of service from these guys.  They were incredible.

We all went to our rooms to start packing and to get some sleep before we head out in the morning.  I re-calculated a plan to get us home in hopefully drier weather than we've seen thus far.  While somewhat counter intuitive, the drier warmer weather seems to be to the northwest.  Initially I looked south, but we'd have to go as far as Missouri and Oklahoma to find drier warmer riding.  Interestingly the same is offered through the Dakotas and Wyoming.  It looks like the first day we'll be wet, at least intermittently, but after that we should be out of the rain gear for the rest of the trip.  Here's hoping!