Sunday, January 12, 2014



Detailed Version

"This red Cushman is just like the one we road as teenagers!"
The 2013 summer began with me entering my 55th year as a biker.  I remember vividly the very first ride that I had. One summer my oldest brother Ike had somehow managed to save enough money to buy an old Cushman step through scooter from one of our cousins. It was hand painted black, wasn't very pretty at all but it ran great and it provided us with a hell of a lot of fun.  It was weeks before Ike would allow me to ride the scooter alone but eventually he did teach me how to ride and from that very day, many years before I was legally licensed to ride, I knew that I would someday have a bike of my own to enjoy the experience of riding.  I have owned many bikes since that old black Cushman that I first rode in the early fifties, including the six that my wife, Sunny and I currently own today. My desire to own and to ride hasn't decreased one iota from what it was during those earlier days.  However today I must confess that at the end of a long day in the saddle my body quickly reminds me that I am now over 70 years old and not the teenager that I was in the fifties.

Since retiring from the military in the early 90s I've made it a point to plan a summer trip each year. The planning always begins in January with the selection of a destination. Then the next few months are spent determining   routes, points of interests, which family members to visit along the way, lodging and always, which historical sites to see. All planning of course is impacted by the amount of time I am allotted by my employer for vacation.  Without a doubt I've found that one of the most important things I consider when planning a long trip is who, if anyone, will be traveling with me.

In the many trips that I've made, I've traveled with as many as twenty other riders (far too many) and with as few as only one. On many occasions I traveled alone. Typically I begin in January asking about ten riders to join me for the year's summer ride. By the time July or August rolls around that number has usually dwindled to a more manageable five or six. This year's ride dwindled to just me plus three. The great thing about that was that I was already very familiar with the three remaining riders; my best friend Herb "KingWing" Dorsey would be my "tail gunner." I love this brother to death and trust him with my life. We have spent countless times together on the road. Herb is 82 and bought his first bike in 1949. He is a member of four different motorcycle organizations and continues to ride today as much and as hard as he did in the 60s and 70s. I couldn't begin to tell you the number of trips that he and I have made together over the past 23 years. My brother Mark Costley will ride in the number three spot. Mark is an experienced rider and has joined me on some of the rides in the past. He is the only one of my eight brothers that is still riding. This trip will test his beautiful 007 Road King. Mark and I normally meet at Americade each year. It will be fun spending a little extra time with him this year. 

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.

Our destination was the Black Hills of South Dakota to visit one of America's most famous monuments, Mount Rushmore.  Along the way we planned to visit the Badlands, Sturgis, Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Custer State Park and the Monument dedicated to the great Native American, Crazy Horse.  The trip was planned for 9 days; 3 days out, 3 days touring, and 3 days back. Estimated mileage 4500.

One week from departure" KingWing" and I start making daily checks of the weather across the country. Everything looks good except for a storm forming in the south and expected to travel up the east coast around the date of our departure. We would watch it closely and determine later in the week if departure times needed to change. Two days from departure Mark calls and says that he is riding up from Maryland a day early so that he can be rested for the first day of the trip. He arrives Sunday afternoon. Herb and I confer about the weather and decide that we will push the departure date up one day to avoid the wet weather that was now definitely arriving in the Jersey area on Tuesday. Like most bikers, we don't mind so much getting caught in the rain, it adds to the adventure...but leaving home in the rain is another story. We spent Sunday cleaning the bikes, packing our bags, and going over our trip plan to insure that we had everything that we needed for the next 9 days on the road.  Then finally we got some rest.

Sunday night seemed to pass quickly and before we could get the amount of quality rest that we had hoped for, the alarm on my clock and on Sunny's phone were both sounding.  Mark was already up and moving around. I guess that we were all a little anxious. We contacted Herb and confirmed our meeting time at the local Wawa in Pemberton. Bikes all loaded and wiped clean, "Harley" & "Chico", our two  spoiled dogs,  dropped off at the kennel, house walk through completed, mental check completed, it's 12 noon and Sunny, Mark and I are rolling out  of the driveway to meet Herb, gas up the bikes, get a cup of coffee and discuss the plan of the day. Destination....Columbus, Ohio.....500 miles before dark.

1:00pm we rolled out of the service station, took Woodlane Road to route 206 north. purposely cut through the town of Columbus, NJ  so that we could say that we rode from Columbus to Columbus on the first day, made a left onto route 130 south and in less than a quarter of a mile we were going up the ramp to pick up the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  EZ Passes displayed, we passed through our 1st toll, locked into a tight formation and headed West. The Journey had truly begun.

I have a few simple rules when riding with a group on long trips; Weather permitting, we start each day by leaving the hotel at 6am; we end the day by watching the sun set. We don't eat breakfast until we have burned the first tank of gas and we always gas our bikes before we find a hotel for the night.  Finally, we don't ride at night in unfamiliar areas unless absolutely necessary. We would follow these rules for the majority of the trip.

The two big Ultra Classics, a beautiful Road King, and Herb's chromed out GoldWing ran through the first 150 miles flawlessly.  At our first stop near Hershey, Pa, we grabbed a quick lunch, gassed up the bikes, drank some Gatorade and hit the road.....but not before I realized that I was missing the gas cap on my Ultra. I had left it on top of the gas tank at the WaWa service station where we had met 150 miles back in Jersey. It would be nearly 2000 miles before I would finally get another one.  Staying on the PA Turnpike we pushed ahead toward Ohio.  We exited the Turnpike at the New Stanton exit and picked up I-70 west toward Wheeling, WV.  380 miles now under our belts, we rode with the sun setting in front of us.  We will not make Columbus before darkness so we rode until the light of the sun disappeared on the horizon.  We stopped in Cambridge, Ohio, 430 miles from home, 70 miles short our destination but happy that we had left a day early because now it was raining in Jersey.

Interstate highways would be our home for the next day. We departed the Southgate Hotel in Cambridge at 6:00am. In short time we were in Columbus and in the middle of morning rush hour traffic. We worked our way over to the left lanes and as traffic thinned we accelerated toward Springfield, OH.  Stomachs full from breakfast and tanks full of gas we would make today a full day of riding.  Leaving Springfield we passed through Indianapolis, Indiana and pick up I-74 west. With quick gas stops in Brownsburg and Rapids City, Illinois we pushed on to I -80 west and into the state of Iowa.  Iowa City would be our destination for the day. Stopping at sunset we had completed a 650 mile day. We were in middle America and enjoying the open spaces. We all slept well that night.

It was now Wednesday, our 3rd day on the road. We were ahead of schedule so found no need to rush but we would stick to our plan. We left the Clarion Hotel in Iowa City on time. The weather turned a little chilly so we all put on our leather and headed I- 80 west toward Omaha, Nebraska. Passing through Des Moines, we stop in Van Meter, IA for gas and breakfast. On the road again we near Omaha and take 680 to I-29 north toward Sioux City. The weather became misty and then light rain started to fall as we neared the mid way point between Omaha and Sioux City.  Just south of Sioux City we veered left onto I-129, crossed over into Nebraska and exited onto US Route 20. I had already informed everyone that once we got to Nebraska we were going to give up the Interstates and travel the old roads once used by ranchers and cowboys to herd their cattle to market. US Route 20 was one of those roads. It was open country, beautiful scenery, lonely roads and little towns of just a few buildings stretched miles and miles apart. It was perfect....except for the rain. I refused to stop to put on rain gear. It wasn't hard rain. It was more like nuisance rain and the leather gear was holding up well. Our plan was to make it to Valentine, Nebraska by the end of the day but as the rain worsened we knew that our plans would have to change. We kept riding and enjoying the sights in spite of the rain until we reached a small area called Orchard, not far from where route 20 intersected 275. The rain was now pouring and the shoulders of the road were too soft for us to pull over so we pressed on. In Orchard, through the heavy rain we saw a big sign reading "DETOUR BRIDGE OUT.”  We were about 20 miles from O'Neill and unfamiliar with the area so we toughed it out, followed the detour signs, took our time and made it safely to O'Neill.  It would be the only rain that we experienced during the whole trip....but it was enough.  Arriving in O'Neill tired from the tenseness of riding in heavy rain and being wet we decide to call it a day. We had completed 435 miles. Not bad considering most of it was done in the rain. Sunny was beat and immediately took a shower and hit the bed. Herb, Mark and I were more hungry than tired. We noticed a Dairy Queen across the street from the hotel and quickly headed in that direction. Two chili dogs and a banana split later we make our way back to the hotel and got directions to the nearest laundry mat. O'Neill is a small town whose laundry mat was a former bar in an old western hotel. The bar and stools were still there so Herb, Mark and I made ourselves comfortable talking about the day's ride as the clothes and leathers dried.

We cleaned our windshields from yesterday's rain and dirt, drank a cup of coffee and left the hotel on time. The weather was still misty but it soon burned off as the sun came up. Our next stop would be for gas and breakfast in Valentine about 115 miles away. Nebraska is known for all the corn that it produces and believe me we saw plenty of it on US route 20. The scenery continues to be spacious and beautiful. The bikes were running great and all of us were anxious to reach our destination by the end of the day. Leaving Valentine with our tanks full we continued on route 20 toward Chadron 140 miles down the road. Along the way I glanced into my right side mirror and noticed that Herb's headlight was out. I radioed him and informed him of the problem. We decided that we would check it out at our next stop. As we neared our exit to the town of Chadron we were supposed to pick up route 385 north and cross the border into South Dakota.  But instead I radioed everyone and told them that I wanted to take them somewhere special. A few years ago I had the pleasure of being the National President of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers and Troopers Motorcycle Clubs. I am no longer a part of that organization. However, both Sunny and Herb are so I thought that they would enjoy visiting a fort from the 1800s where the 9th & 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers were stationed for over 18 years.

Fort Robinson is a gorgeous outpost just 28 miles southwest of Chadron. It is a very historical site that is opened to the public. It has a nice museum and the grounds are immaculate. The scenery surrounding the Fort is breathtaking.  It is well worth the visit if you are ever in the area. We spent a couple hours there and everyone enjoyed the experience. Leaving Fort Robinson we are still on schedule and only 108 miles from our final destination, Custer, South Dakota. Within 30 minutes we were making a left onto 385 north toward the town of Chadron. Riding down main street and seeing a couple of the old buildings brought back my memory of being there years ago. I pointed out to everyone the motel where I stayed on my last visit and told Herb that there was a Honda dealership in town where we could get his light checked.  Just as I mentioned the dealership it came into view and we all pulled in.  We found everyone there willing to help.  Some remembered when the "Soldiers" were there before. Herb explained his problem and in less than 5 minutes it was repaired.  His light bulb wasn't bad at all. The problem was that the starter button was not fully disengaging after use.

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.

The Lodge staff was great. Coffee was ready for our early start on Friday. We had a full day planned for Custer State Park starting with a tour of "Wildlife Loop."  Rolling through town after breakfast we were all excited about our chances of seeing American Bison up close and personal.  The largest herd in American roams the grounds of Custer State Park and we wanted to find them. We were welcomed warmly by the Rangers as we entered the Park.  They explained to us that the main herd was not anywhere near the road at this time but that we could see them grazing in the distance. Pulling away from the station we glanced to our left and lying in the grass was a herd of beautiful antelope.  

Continuing south on Wildlife Loop we enjoyed the slow ride and gorgeous scenery. It was easy to understand why this area was made a State Park.  Deer and antelope truly do play here and so do the Buffalo. It was as if we had the park all to ourselves as we topped a small hill and Mark caught a glimpse of the buffalo herd to our right. We stopped, took pictures and felt a little cheated because we couldn't get closer. Not long after that sighting we noticed that traffic ahead of us had stopped. It didn't take us long to see why.

The famous park "begging burros" were on the side of the road begging for food from every visitor.  Of course we stopped and Sunny found some snacks in her tour-pak to feed to the burros.

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."

Needles Highway was labeled impossible when it was constructed in 1919. It took more than 150,000 pounds of dynamite and a lot of determination to construct the Highway.

It was absolutely gorgeous to ride. Breathtaking to say the least. About two thirds of Needles Highway completed, we pulled into Sylvan Lake for lunch. The lake was beautiful but the first thing that Sunny noticed was the mountain climbers on top of the magnificent rocks surrounding the lake. She thought that they were crazy, I wanted to be up there with them. Leaving Sylvan Lake we traveled less than 2 miles when we were pleasantly surprised by something that we had been searching for all day.

On the right side of the road just as we rounded a curve was the largest bull buffalo that I had ever seen. I radioed for everyone to look but we were past it before everyone realized it was there. We quickly found a place to park, grabbed our cameras and Herb and I ran back down the road toward the buffalo. We were able to get real close and got some great pictures. Sunny was even able to take some video. It was a great end to Needles Highway. The experience of riding Needles Highway would be memorable.  We wanted to turn around and ride it again but time wasn't on our side.  We had a lot more to see.

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.

This memorial is still in progress and has been ongoing since 1948. When completed, the sculpture will be 563 feet high and 641 feet wide. The head of crazy horse is 87 feet high, 27 feet higher than the heads of the U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore.  On the site of this memorial is also the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center.  We explored the entire area enjoying all of the Native American artifacts and speaking with other visitors.

Sunny and I ventured outside where we found a magnificent bronze sculpture of 2 fighting stallions. It was so beautiful.

Leaving Crazy Horse Memorial we rode the five miles back to town thinking about all that we had experienced on our 1st day of touring South Dakota. Our day ended with dinner at the Family Restaurant and Ice cream at the Purple Pie Place.  Tomorrow would be the longest day of our entire trip.

It was already Saturday and a full day of riding was planned. So far we were on schedule with everything. We hoped today would be the same.  We had a lot planned; Rapid City, Sturgis, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and back to Custer, South Dakota all in a day.  An early start was required and we were off and running at 7:00am.  A back road trip to Rapid City was a real nice early morning ride. It was just 40 miles but we took our time enjoying the scenery and the rhythm of the road.  No one spoke on their CB, everyone just soaked in the experience.  In close formation we passed through Rapid City and pick up I-90 west to exit 55.  

Our destination, Black Hills Harley-Davidson.  The dealership was just opening as we pulled into the parking lot but venders outside were busy breaking down huge tents that had been set up to accommodate the large crowds that were there the week prior for the 2013 Sturgis Rally. Inside, Herb, Sunny and Mark hit the sale racks but I headed for the parts and service department. Finally after riding my Ultra over 2000 miles without a gas cap, I was handing out $20.13 for a new one. Refusing to leave the dealership empty handed, Sunny found a beautiful red leather jacket on sale. It matched her bike so she bought it.  Across the highway from the dealership we rode to a truck stop diner and settled in for a big breakfast. In an hour we are back on the bikes and heading west to Sturgis.  Riding into town we saw the big hillside sign, STURGIS.

We parked behind the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, paid our $17.00 to get it and spend over an hour viewing the bikes and artifacts both upstairs and downstairs. Mark and Herb didn't realize that there was a lower floor so by the time Sunny and I finished browsing they were already outside sitting under a big shade tree. After a quick visit to the Sturgis Harley Dealership we stopped by the Hot Leathers store, purchased a few small items, mounted the bikes, slowly toured the empty town and headed back west toward Wyoming. Back on I-90 we exit at route 85 north and travelled to Belle Fourch, SD where we stopped for gas and Gatorade.  My brother Mark convinced me to keep drinking Gatorade to alleviate my problem of leg cramps. It worked for the entire trip. Leaving Belle Fourch we rode route 212 northwest and within minutes we were rolling past the sign WYOMING. 

We weren't expecting to come up on it so quickly so everyone made a U-turn in the middle of the road and went back for pictures. Pushing through Wyoming, route 212 leads us into Montana. We stopped at the border to take more pictures to prove that we had made it. Montana is truly "Big Sky Country." It's the 4th largest state and you can tell it when you are on a bike because the roads seem endless and the land mass is unmistakable.  We stopped in Broadus, MT for gas then picked up route 59 north 80 miles to Miles City. After Lunch we headed east on route 12, destination North Dakota Border, 100 miles away. Route 12 was a straight lonely road with little more than land to admire. We reached the border and once again pulled over to take pictures to prove our whereabouts.

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.

They needed someone to take pictures of the entire family.  Of course Sunny joined them and I was stuck with cleaning both bikes.  Everything done, we were set to relax for the rest of the day but I had a surprise for everyone.  Over the past few days I had purposely steered everyone away from a part of Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway that I felt was the most dramatic.  I called everyone together and explained to them that we were going to take a ride that they will remember forever.  I cautioned them about the extremely sharp curves, switchbacks, stone tunnels and pigtail bridges that drop and rise quickly.  The gorgeous scenery should be appreciated but don't take your eyes off the road for too long.  It would be 17 miles of road that engineers of the 30s once said could not be built.  I explained the important of gearing up or down and accelerating properly in some of the drastic turns to prevent stalling.  Everyone was excited.  Sunny was a little apprehensive but it only took a little bit of encouragement before she was ready for the challenge.  Kick stands up we rolled straight through town on route 16. We entered Custer State Park and exited still on route 16. Riding faster than we should, we passed our turnoff. Sunny quickly radioed that she thought she just saw the sign on the left. Mark turned around and back tracked to verify the sign.  Sunny was right.  We all U-turned and met with Mark in a matter of seconds.  We were all ready for the challenge of Iron Mountain Road. Damn this is fun! Iron Mountain Road was everything that everyone expected it to be.  The ride was thrilling and challenging, and the scenery was overwhelming.  The turns, curves, pigtail bridges and tunnels required all of the attention of an experienced biker.  It was fun with a touch of danger.  It deserves to be ridden more than once but we just didn't have the time. It was time for us to make our way back to the Lodge and prepare for tomorrow's departure East toward home.  We finished our day with dinner in town and another stop at the Purple Pie Place.

As usual we were up early on Monday morning checking the bikes, cleaning the windshields, loading the trailer and saddlebags and ensuring that we didn't leave anything behind in our rooms. We rode down to the office were Herb and Mark were already waiting for us. We had our morning cups of coffee, paid our bills, and quickly discussed our plan for the day and slowing rolled out of Custer heading north to Rapid City. Custer, SD had proven to be the ideal staging area for our plan of touring that part of the country. I radioed Herb to see if everything was clear in the rear. He gave us the go. We changed lanes, rolled back on the throttles, adjusted our positions, picked up route 16 and in less than 45 minutes we were passing Rapid City and on I-90 East. Leaving I-90 at exit 110 and picking up route 240, it was close to 9:00am and we were approaching the entrance to the last item on our bucket list, "The Badlands". We stopped at the Badlands entrance sign where we dismounted and took turns taking pictures of each other.  Sign pictures completed we eased up to the entrance booth, paid our $10:00 per bike and began to tour one of the most unusual places in the country.  "The Badlands."

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.

While some looked around inside Sunny and I grabbed a cold drink and sat in the shade for over 30 minutes watching prairie dogs play on a mound of dirt near our bikes. All of the items on our touring list now completed, the only thing left to do was to head East. Getting the " go ahead" from Herb, we cranked up the three Harleys and the GoldWing, picked up I-90E, rolled back on the throttles and rode for another 350 miles before calling it a day and spending the night at the Americ Inn in Worthington, MN.

We rode all day Tuesday stopping only for gas and meals.  Everything went great until we rode into the vicinity of Chicago and immediately hit heavy traffic. We hoped that the traffic wouldn't be backed up too long but we were wrong. We were in the left lane and barely moving when my bike began to run hot.  There was a lot of construction in the area that left no shoulder on the left side for emergency stops  so we began to slowly move  through the traffic and work our way to the far right lane where there was more room to stop if we had to. My bike was still running hot but the right lane was moving just enough to keep it from shutting down.  Sunny has a Baker 1 Oil Cooler on her Ultra.  I'm not sure how effective it really is but she had no problem in the heavy traffic.  Mark's Road King was still running cool and of course Herb's reliable 1500 GoldWing just automatically kicked on the radiator fan and kept moving forward. Gradually traffic picked up and the bike cooled down but we were hot from sitting in the traffic so we exited the highway to gas up and get something cool to drink. We were in Hammond on the Illinois and Indiana border.  After a brief break we were ready to get back on the highway but without warning Mark's Road King was dead. We checked everything and still nothing.  Mark thought that maybe the Key FOB battery was bad.  I understand the security that the FOB provides but I guess I'm just old fashion, its just one of those items that I can do without on a bike. Luckily there was a drug store across the street where Mark was able to buy a new battery. Once installed the Road King roared to life and the problem was least for the moment. Rolling back onto the combined Interstates of 80/90 we rode another 2 hours and pulled into Elkhart, IN to spend the night. With the problems of very heavy traffic around Chicago and Mark's bike not wanting to respond, we were still able to cover close to 650 miles for the day. It was time for a good meal at the Elkhart Crackle Barrel and then some rest.

Wednesday we were back to our regular schedule. We were all up and ready at 6:00am, the bikes were gassed and at 6:28am we were rolling East. There was no reason to say anything to anyone. We all knew that we were going to ride hard all day to make it home before dark. We had approximately 750 miles to go. Herb did a CB check, cleared the rear and we rolled away from the service station on Cassopolis St and onto Interstate 80/90. In 2 hours we made our first gas stop in Genoa, OH., southeast of Toledo. We planned to "gas and go" all the way home except for a quick lunch. Back on the Ohio turnpike we pushed another 165 miles using I-80 into I-76 and stopping in New Springfield, OH, dead south of Youngstown. We were making good time. We eat a quick snack and were ready to roll in 30 minutes when Mark's Road King reared its problem again. Eventually Mark was able to get his bike started but for the rest of the trip, all 280 miles, he never turned off his bike again until he reached his home in Sykesville, MD. Rolling out of New Springfield we quickly crossed into Pennsylvania. Our next stop was in Bedford, PA. It was 2:00PM and we still had plenty of daylight. All of us were familiar with the PA Turnpike, it's curves, tunnels, and straight-aways so we were able to make excellent time without much concern. So locked into tight formation we rolled back on the throttles and let the big bikes work  like they are suppose to do. The next 20 miles passed quickly and before we realized it we were approaching the Breezewood/Baltimore sign and exit. I radioed everyone that we were taking this exit to accompany Mark home to Maryland so that he wouldn't have to ride alone, especially with the problems that he was having with his bike. Herb radioed back that he was going to remain on the PA Turnpike and go straight home. He missed his "Honey", his lovely wife Esther, and had called her at the last rest stop to tell that he would be home soon. He had 217 miles to go.

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.


Conclusion:  After reading all of this some of you may ask if Mark ever found the cause of the problems that he was experiencing with his 2007 Road King. According to his Harley dealership in Frederick, Maryland, the culprit behind the sporadic starting failures was no more than an accumulation of dirt in the bike's starter and on the starter's contacts. The starter was pulled, disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, reinstalled and Mark hasn't had a problem with it since.

Sunny's 2008 Candy Red Sunglo Ultra Classic with ABS brakes, and progressive suspension made 37 gas stops on this trip costing her $504.02 in premium gas.  Her bike was the only one that experienced absolutely no problems on the trip.

TC's 2010 Flame Blue Pearl Ultra Classic with standard brakes, air suspension and Screaming Eagle air filter, pulling a Hannigan Aerodynamic  Sierra trailer also made 37 gas stops on this trip costing him $508.70 in premium gas. (Just $4.68 more than Sunny and I pulled the trailer the entire trip) The only problem I experienced was the bike running hot in heavy traffic.

Herb's 1997 Pearl Black GoldWing continued to rack up the miles. It made this trip without a hiccup except for the brief period without a headlight. Watching and riding with Herb you would never believe that he is 82 years old. He and I have covered tens of thousands of miles together and know each other's riding styles so well that we travel the highways and country roads in rhythmic cadence like we were still in the military. I'm always proud to see the expressions on the faces of so many people who are pleasantly surprised when they learn that Herb is 82 and still riding strong.

After posting vacation pictures on Facebook I received a lot of calls and comments from friends who were surprised to see me riding a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. For years they have seen me touring only on my Honda GoldWing so naturally they wanted me to make a comparison.  Here's my opinion, not by any means an expert opinion, just the personal opinion of someone whose been riding since 1958 and who has owned a lot of different bikes.  I thoroughly enjoyed touring on my 2002 Goldwing.  It was extremely comfortable, handled like a sports bike, had plenty of power, pulled my trailer like it wasn't there and was more dependable than my car.  I had over 100,000 touring miles on my Wing when it was totaled in an oil slick accident on my way to Americade a couple years ago. In all of that travel I was never once left on the highway because of a maintenance problem with my Wing, not even a flat tire. So you can see why I loved it so much. My 2010 Harley-Davidson Ultra is a nice bike but of course different from my Wing. I didn't find it as comfortable to ride for long distances but that may have been for a couple reasons. First, I had just had shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff just three months prior to the trip. Shoulder surgery is painful so I really don't think that I would have been comfortable regardless of what I was riding. Cruise control really helped me cope with the pain because it allowed me to drop my right arm every half hour or so to allow it to rest. Secondly, I didn't find the Ultra's seat to be as comfortable as that of the Wing....but that may not be because of the seat. It may be because I am now 70 and have lost a great deal of my "natural cushion" from my butt. The Ultra performed very well pulling my trailer the entire way without any strain. I was disappointment but not surprised when it ran hot so quickly in heavy traffic. But I'm elated to know that the recent changes that Harley has made in their new Project Rushmore series incorporates radiators for liquid cooling.  That should practically eliminate the overheating.  What bothered me more than anything or I should say what I missed more than anything on my Ultra vs my Wing was the fact that I didn't have REVERSE. Pushing that Ultra around with the trailer attached and using these old legs proved to be a real chore especially in some of the areas that we visited on this tour. REVERSE is wonderful on big touring bikes whether you are pulling a trailer or not. I would love to see Harley have REVERSE as standard equipment on all of their Electra Glides.  I enjoy riding both of these bikes and I don't put one above the other. I simply accept the characteristics of each and make the adjustments as I ride. Most of today's bikes are very dependable so selection comes down to simply personal choice.  For me I wish that the Wing sounded like the Harley and I wish that the Harley handled like the Wing. Other than that I'll ride either one without complaining.  Right now I'm enjoying adding all of the personal choice accessories to the Ultra to identify it as mine.

It’s already January, five months after our summer trip out West. Planning will begin soon for our next one. Preliminary plans are for us to tour Maine and all of Nova Scotia.  Anyone up for a ride?

See you on the road,

"TC", Herb "KingWing", Mark, and "Sunny The Diva"

1 comment:

  1. Hey Pop! Just getting around to reading this and this article has definitely whetted my appetite to join you on your next ride! I may not make Americade since it's in the same month Louise and I are heading to Hawaii, but keep me in mind as you set up the rest of your travel calendar.

    Fantastic overview! You should submit it to a couple of magazines for them to publish!