AND MANY UN-4-GETTABLE MEMORIES
|"This red Cushman is just like the one we road as teenagers!"|
The number two spot will be held by my wife, Sunny "The Diva". Sunny is also an experienced rider and has ridden across country at least three times. Additionally she has accompanied me on many trips and has ventured on her own to as far away as Texas just to visit friends.
Part of this trip is to have Sunny meet her goal of riding in all 48 states of the Continental United States. Visiting Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota will leave Sunny with only one State, Maine, to complete her goal. She is very anxious to make this trip and to make it on her first big touring bike, her 2008 Harley Ultra Classic that she recently purchased. This will be a family affair.
A little WD-40 fixed the problem on the spot. It was now after 2:00pm so we decided to have lunch before making our final 2 hour stretch to Custer. Helen's Restaurant was within walking distance. We filled up, walked slowly back to the bikes, thanked the Honda people again for their quick service, mounted up and headed north to South Dakota. In less than 20 miles we crossed the border into South Dakota. In less than an hour and a half we exited the highway and entered the town of Custer, SD. We gassed up at the Exxon station on our right as we turned onto Mt. Rushmore road. Directly across the street was the Rock Crest Lodge, our home for the next 4 days. We had made it there safely, on schedule and with only minor problems. We quickly checked in, off loaded the bikes, found a place to eat, posted pictures on Face book and went to bed thinking what tomorrow would bring.
I took picture as Herb and Sunny held their hands out to allow the burros to feed and then spent some time just petting the friendly animals. As the burros slowly walked back to the field we mounted our bikes and continued around the Loop. At one point we stopped at a small rest area that was once the home of pioneers in the 1800s.
It was an interesting place sitting alone in the prairie with a small museum inside. We spent about 30 minutes there talking with other bikers and relaxing before rolling out and finishing the Loop. Turning left on route 16 we traveled west to route 87, Needles Highway. Needles Highway was on our list of routes to ride. "It is part of the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway rated as one of the top five Scenic Byways in all of the United States. Needles Highway curves and winds through 14 miles of rock tunnels, and magnificent rock formations called "Needles" one of the most prominent rock formations on the Highway is the Needles Eye, reaching 30 to 40 feet in the air with a 3 foot wide slit."
Completing Needles Highway, route 87 leads us back to route 16 for a couple miles then right onto route 244. After a few miles we began picking up glimpses of our next destination, Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore is said to be America's shrine to Democracy. It is awesome. You can't help but just stare at its magnitude.
All Americans, in my opinion, should try to visit this site. The sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum stated "I did not and don't intend that (the Memorial) shall be just a damn big thing, a three -day tourist wonder.
A nation's memorial should, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, have a serenity, a nobility, and power that reflects the gods they have become. Herb, Sunny, Mark and I certainly experienced the serenity, saw the nobility and felt the power of this magnificent sculpture. We took our time soaking it all in and were still looking over our right shoulders for more glances as we departed the grounds. It was a special experience and one that would not easily be forgotten. From Mount Rushmore we pick up route 16 again heading back to town but not before making one more stop. 8 miles from Mount Rushmore stands the World's Largest Mountain Carving, Crazy Horse Memorial.
Sunny and I ventured outside where we found a magnificent bronze sculpture of 2 fighting stallions. It was so beautiful.
While at the Montana, North Dakota Border I think we all realized that we would not make it back to Custer before dark. It would be our first time riding in the dark, at least on this trip and Custer was 230 away. We traveled route 12 to Bowman, ND before stopping for gas and picking up route 85 back to South Dakota. It was now 7:35pm and the sun had set. The next 198 miles would be in the darkness. We give each other a little more room between bikes and head due south. There's very few lights along the way, just road, darkness and millions of bugs. Reaching Belle Fourche at 9:30pm, we gas up, clean off our helmets and windshields, grab a cup of coffee, relax a minute and mount up. We are still nearly 85 miles from Custer. Leaving Belle Fourche we take I-90 east to 385 south. Passing Rapid City we began to see familiar signs for Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. By 11:35pm we pulled into the Rock Crest Lodge parking lot. We had made it home safely but we were beat and extremely hungry. We had been out for nearly 18 hours. Everything in town was closed except for the service station across the street. Sunny hit the shower while Herb, Mark and I raided the service station for anything that could be micro-waved. Pizza and hot dogs in hand and of course Mark's customary end of the day cold beer, we headed back to our rooms ending the longest day of our trip.
On Sunday morning we woke up with the sun shining on four of the dirtiest bikes that I have seen in a while. They were covered with millions of bugs from last night's experience of riding in the Dakota darkness. Today was supposed to be a day of relaxing at the Lodge, checking out the bikes, packing clothes and preparing for our trip home. By the time Sunny and I made our way to the office for coffee, Herb had already made arrangements with the Lodge staff to have a water hose, bucket and rags available for us to clean our bikes. I think that we walked to breakfast that morning and upon our return to the Lodge we immediately started cleaning the bikes. Sunny and I were busy cleaning our bikes when we were approached by a gentleman from Nebraska. He and his family were there celebrating his mom's 84th birthday. His dad and mom were married in Custer in the 50s. His dad had passed a few years ago and his mom wanted to return to Custer to renew her memory of his dad. They asked Sunny if she would join them in the shaded area that they had selected to celebrate.
I guess everyone has their own take on the badlands. I found it to be a strange, eerie, and ghostly place, yet very beautiful and extremely interesting. It was like being on another planet with only a hand full of other humans to keep you company. The "pull over" points along Badlands Loop gave us breathtaking views and plenty of room to walk around for great pictures... if you weren't afraid of the rattlesnakes. But to ride the Badlands Loop on your bike is just a wonderful and unforgettable experience.
We all rode in silence just taking it all in and wishing that we had the time to spend the entire day there. We stopped at the Visitor's Center for breakfast and a few more pictures before exiting the Badlands at the Northeast Entrance. A few miles outside of the Northeast Entrance we pulled over to fill up our tanks at the Badlands Trading Post near Philip, SD.
For the first time on this trip the group was going to split but we all understood why. With Sunny and I accompanying Mark we exited to the right, said our good- byes to Herb and picked up I-70E to Maryland. The 107 miles to Sykesville was an easy ride. This is the part of the country where Mark, Herb and I grew up and we have always loved riding the beautiful rolling hills of western Maryland. Sunny had ridden this area with me several times before too and had always loved the scenery. By 4:00PM we pulled into a service station in Lisbon, Md. It was Mark's last time that he would have to gas his Road King while it was still running. He was less than 30 minutes from home. We all thought about Herb because we were only a few miles from where he grew up in New London, MD. We hoped that he was doing well riding alone down the PA Turnpike. We hugged Mark because this would be our last stop together on this trip. Back on I-70E it was only a few miles when Mark exited on route 32 heading to our childhood home of Sykesville. We all blew our horns and waived and before we knew it Mark was out of sight and Sunny and I were heading on I-70 toward Baltimore. Approaching 695, the beltway around Baltimore, bright tail lights suddenly brought us to a complete stop. Traffic is often heavy on the beltway around this time of the day and we sort of expected some delay but we could tell that this was more than just rush hour traffic. We hung with the cars until my bike once again began to run hot. I looked at Sunny and nodded and she knew exactly what I meant so she started clearing a way for us to move to the right shoulder so that we could keep the bikes moving and hopefully cool them down. We were able to reach the overpass and as we looked down on 695 we could see flashing police lights in the far distance. The merging I-70 traffic was barely moving so we stayed on the shoulder as far as we could then slowly worked our way into traffic and gradually moved over to the left lane. It was the only lane that was getting around the accident. It took a lot of time to get around the accident that was blocking the two middle lanes. But once passed the accident the beltway traffic opened up and so did Sunny and I. It was now past 5:00pm and we were about 140 miles from home. We had enough gas to just about make it so we pressed on still hoping to make it home before dark. Coming off the beltway we picked up I-95N and held down the left lane until we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge and rode under the "Welcome To New Jersey" sign. Back on our own turf we felt comfortable and somewhat satisfied in knowing that we had just about made it. Sunny followed me as we maneuvered through the curves and picked up I-295N. In less than an hour we were exiting 295 and onto route 38. At 7:00pm we stopped in Mt. Holly and gassed up the bikes. 15 miles to go and the sun starting to set in our rear view mirrors we rode east on 38. 20 minutes later we pulled into our driveway, turned off the bikes, gave each other a big hug and recorded our mileage. We had covered 740 miles for the day in 13 hours and had made it home safely. We immediately contacted Herb and found that he too had run into rush hour traffic and had been held up outside of Philadelphia but arrived home safely about 30 minutes ahead of us. The trip completed, we had ridden 4630 miles and completed everything on the "Bucket List" for this trip. It was a wonderful trip that was made great by sharing it with my wife Sunny, my brother Mark and my best friend Herb.
Pictures and videos of the entire trip can be found on the following sites. Please feel free to share these links with family and friends.