Jul 15, 2015

Day 3: Banging the Black Hills and Badlands

Thursday morning, we did our usual song and dance about getting breakfast first or hitting our separate roads and getting on with our two return trips. Scott took a bit to sort of make-up his mind that he wanted to keep moving and grab breakfast later and by the time he’d made his decision, I was on the bike and ready to go. Sort of. We said goodbye and I took off while he did the usual stuff he needed to do to get on the road.

I’d done a full bike inspection while Scott was getting up and around on Thursday and I found that the V-Strom was suffering from “old oil syndrome.” Every time I’ve let the oil change slip past 3,000 miles, my bike starts to use some oil. It’s burning it, not leaking it. The oil level was at the add mark and I decided to grab a quart before I left Chadron. The problem was that I was an hour ahead of opening time for about 90% of the city. They were on Mountain Time and I was still on my Central Time internal clock. In other words, it was 6:15AM and nothing was open, but Walmart.

I usually avoid Walmart, but no choice. Thanks to Chadron being on the Sturgis route, this store had a variety of motorcycle oil to chose from and a good selection of chain oil, too. Topped off and ready to go, I headed north into the Black Hills.

Breakfast in Custer and a weird loop up 385 and back down through Roubaix, Benchmark, and Nemo to 44 and under Rapid City and I was out off the hills and back into the plains. For years, I’ve driven through South Dakota like it was one long drag race. Just hammered down 90 until I could escape the damn place and that miserable road somewhere in Minnesota. Scott had tried a northern route through Pierre and found it as miserable as the freeway.

This time, I decided to find out what is below the freeway. I grabbed gas in Rapid City and stuck with 44 down into the badlands. It is a good road but there are damn few places to find fuel. The first stop was a crossroads with a town name I have forgotten. $3.10 for regular and enough panhandlers hanging around the station to make you believe you’ve slipped into LA. A “town” called White River was the next stop and I was warned not to let the bike get out of sight while I was in the grocery store. I had some weird insights on the reservation life on the way out of town and I might write about them someday. The badlands go on for a lot longer than the national park’s acreage. It is entirely worth seeing and a lot more fun than the freeway. I didn’t take nearly enough pictures to give you any idea how incredible this place is, but I have a brain full of great shots that I’ll carry with me for a while.

44 deadends into US 183 and I ducked down to US 18 for the route into the Missouri river valley. The river valley is more dramatic, wider, and a lot more fun on 18 than I90, too. 44 picks up again at Winner and I stayed on it to Platte, SD where I snagged a motel for the night. Obviously, the freeway route was picked to make life easy for trucks.

There were a few decent camping places along this route and I carried my hammock tent and sleeping bag, but the SD parks permit plus a camp site was damn close to the $40 I paid for a motel and I’m nursing a bum foot that really improves with ice followed by soaking in a hot bath. At 67, I’m suspecting that my camping days are either over or in short supply. That sucks, because I have the best camping gear I’ve ever dreamed of having and it will be tough to get rid of it all after almost sixty years of sleeping on the ground.

I found a terrific pub in Platte, thanks to the motel owner’s suggestion, had a prime rib slathered blu cheese burger, a couple of local beers, and a long walk back to the motel which put me in the mood to sleep at about 8PM. So I did.

Road Miles: 581 Foot Travel: 2 miles

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