Sunday, July 8, 2007

Western Trip Summary

Having spent the last 3 weeks on an 8,463 mile trip to the far west, I'll share some statistics and summaries of things.

States we visited included: Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia. 19 States, not including North Carolina.

Total mileage by GPS was 8,463 miles. Odometer mileage was 8,701 ( I trust the GPS more than the bike odometer). In any case, a long distance. Bike now shows 51,001 miles on it.

Longest single day of riding was 789 miles. Shortest day was just under 100. No days without riding.

Bike issues: Chain and sprockets that had to be replaced on the road. The folks at Jorgensen's Honda in Richfield were super to get the parts and work in the repair on a Friday afternoon. A BIG thank you to them! Rear tire that got increasingly slick, but got me home safely. Oil leak developed somewhere along the way. Added one quart of oil over the ride. Initially thought it was a bad "O" ring around the oil filler plug, but, after replacing it, decided it's leaking somewhere else. Most likely a crankcase vent tube that is leaking because the leaks showed up on solid parts of the engine much more than around a seal. Bike is absolutely filthy. Needs a day's work to detail it and find the oil leak.

Fuel mileage varied quite a bit, depending on the riding we did. The best was just over 60 mpg when piddling around in parks areas (speed 40-60mph). The worst was just under 40 when riding hard into a heavy side and head wind in South Dakota (speeds usually about 80mph).

Visually, the trip was great. From volcanic action in Yellowstone to the red rock area around Moab, to the desolate areas that cover much of the west, it was quite an eyeful of sights. Colors that covered the palate. Huge vistas of roads going straight as far as the eye would see.

Wildlife, including bear, deer, buffalo, antelope, prairie dogs, elk--too many to mention all of them. Probably the bear were the most impressive because I've only seen one in the wild before this trip.

Most fun were Pike's Peak and Beartooth Pass. Pike's Peak was realizing a dream I've had for a long time. Beartooth Pass was a great surprise--very much like the Alps in Europe. High and beautiful.

The Superbike races were good, especially when my man Miguel made it to the podium.

I guess that's it for this series. It was an amazing adventure! Hope you enjoyed reading about it even 1 percent as much as I enjoyed doing it.

Going Home

I'm home now, but will write a bit about the last two days on the road. LONG DAYS!

Starting in Sioux Falls, SD, we had 1,467 miles to home. On Friday morning we headed east/southeast and ended up in Danville, IL for the night. 678 miles for the day--a new personal record number of miles. The ride was hot, but not as hot as it was in the far west. We stuck with the GPS routing, which took us further north than either of us would have thought was prudent. But it was not a bad route, and made sense when looking at the maps.

Saturday morning, starting in Danville, IL, we continued the trek home. Along the way, I was on the fence as to whether to ride home to Clayton or whether to stop at Gary's home for the night. He wanted me to stay, it was a long ride, and dusk when we got to an exit near his home.

One of his concerns (as well as mine) was my rear tire. It had gotten more and more slick, with it being noticeable in South Dakota. At each stop, I'd look at the tread and wonder if it would make it home. I hadn't noticed it earlier-when I'd take a glance at the tire, I always saw enough tread to feel comfortable. But somewhere in South Dakota, when I looked at it, there was a spot with almost no tread. It didn't wear uniformly.

So, I'd look at it at each stop and wonder. By Friday morning, I was getting pretty concerned--no tread was showing on two places on the tire. I decided not to worry unless some of the tire fabric or steel started showing. When that happened, the bike would stop until it was replaced (however long that took).

When I was deciding where to stop on Saturday night, I took one final look at the tire. While more of it was slick, no fabric or steel was visible, so I decided to ride on to home. And I did with no problems at all.

Got home and looked at the mileage--789 miles for the day! That's a long way for a guy who, 5 years ago when I started riding again (after a hiatus of 35 years) , thought a long ride was 50 miles! WOW!! And, while I was tired, I wasn't exhausted like I probably should have been. Must have been an adrenalin rush....

So, I'm home now. Tired, but not too bad. Will write a summary and post it later.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Needles Highway

Starting from Hill City, SD, we rode to Needles Highway. I had been here 4 years ago, so I knew the treat ahead of us. Needles is a highway made for riding and viewing. It's a narrow two-lane road that winds for only a few miles through the Black Hills.

The highlights of the area are the one-lane tunnels and the rock formations. The tunnels are chiseled through solid granite and are just large enough to let a bus go through them with about 1/2 inch to spare on each side. It takes about 30 minutes for a bus to go through because it has to be oriented just right for it to fit. Bikes, though, are no problem.

The rock formations are so neat. They are granite rocks, pointed towards the sky. Picture a granite needle, and you'll get the picture. I've never seen such formations anywhere else.

We did the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, a delightful road that winds through a section of the park that is designed to allow for wildlife viewing. We saw Antelope and Buffalo--lots of them. No bears or other animals, however.

We also did the Iron Mountain Road, which is also in Custer State Park and also unique. It has several one-lane tunnels also, with two of them oriented in such a way as to allow for viewing the carvings at Mt. Rushmore! So neat! It also has two or three unique road formations. I call it the corkscrew, where the road does a complete 360 degree turn, with the road at different elevations. So unique!

Then we started home on I-90. Rode to Sioux Falls, SD for the night. The ride was long, hot, and boring. Had to fight a stiff wind coming at us from about 10:00, so it was constant matter of correcting for the high wind. No problem, but it was a long, boring ride on the slab.

443 miles today.

Tomorrow--more slab towards home.

Beartooth Pass

We left Cooke City about 8:45am, and headed east. During breakfast we talked to some people who had done Beartooth Pass the evening before. They said it was very high, with snow along the road, and lots of deer and elk along the way.

Just the kind of road we wanted. I can attest to their story--it is all those things plus very beautiful. Maybe the prettiest ride of the trip so far. Just beautiful. It looked like the Alps in Europe. Twisties. Switchbacks. Rocks. Snow. High meadows. And did I say HIGH! We went to 10,965 feet! I think it was the highest pass we've done. As we rode along, each time we crested a mountain, we thought we were at the summit. Driving a little further, we went higher. It was awesome.

The rest of the day was fairly mundane. Hot low areas, mixed with some high cool places. And I-90 to Spearfish, SD. Found a room in Hill City and stopped for the night. Did Spearfish Canyon on the way here--a fun, good ride.

Got the room, walked to dinner (everything closes at 9:00pm, so we were lucky to find dinner!), and did a little laundry.

A long, mixed day. 501 miles.

Tomorrow, Needles Highway, and then rush east to home.

Yellowstone Part II

Spent the day in Yellowstone again. What a beautiful place! There's no way to adequately explain it to folks who haven't been there. Of all the parks I've been in over my lifetime, this is the only park that I could spend a week in and not be bored. Most parks keep me entertained for a day or two, but this one has so much to see. And it's big.

The biggest treat today was watching a momma grizzly bear and her two cubs come across a meadow. The cubs ran and played just like you see on TV. They looked like they were having fun as they came across the meadow. As they came towards the road, a park employee warned everyone to get inside their cars. Since we were not in cars, we left in a hurry!

A half mile down the road, folks with spotting scopes spotted another grizzly quite a way off. I could not see it without a scope.

We did Old Faithful--neat, just like you see on TV. Also did Steamboat geyser, which was also neat. Lots of volcanic activity all ove the place!

Saw an Elk within 100 yards of us, crossing the road.

We left via the northeast entry, which, in my opinion, is the prettiest entrance. Saw hundreds of buffalo on this road--many more than we had seen in other parts of the park.

Unfortunately, we didn't get gas inside the park before leaving. As we left the park, the first worry was fuel tanks that were pretty enpty. The ranger at the entrance said there was a gas station 4 miles up the road in Cooke City. Relieved, we rode to Cooke City.

It looked like an oasis! Two operating gas stations! Several motels. Several restaurants. We gassed up, and since we had not eaten nor had gotten a room for the night, decided to try to find a room there (the next place was 80 miles away, across Beartooth Pass. We were advised not to do Beartooth Pass at night (good advice).

Found a room! Not lavish, but adequate--two beds, a bathroom, tv, and some limited Internet.

Then we found food and had a late dinner.

A very good day.
264 miles today (this post a day late)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


WOW!!! Yellowstone is awesome. We saw almost half--the eastern and southern parts today. The odor of sulfur is often in the air--venting from the many areas with volcanic activity. Bubbing clear water. Bubbling mud. Bubbling dirty water. Noises from the earth. Weird and wild!

Saw the upper and lower falls of the Yellowstone River. Both are very pretty and large, with the lower falls more impressive. Tried to post a picture of the lower falls, but it would not download. Will try again later.

Got to the hotel in Boseman, MT late--about 10:30pm. That was the closest motel we could find.

Beautiful weather today--perfect temperature and deep blue skys. A fantastic day.

Rode 284 miles today.

Tomorrow back to Yellowstone!

Monday, July 2, 2007


Today was a very easy day. The motel needed our room for a family tonight, so we had to move to a normal motel room. That took a while to work out, so it was 11:00am before we got on the bikes.

Since we had seen all of Grand Teton National Park yesterday, we decided to ride over a steep pass (said to be the steepest grade in North America at 10.5%) into Idaho. The pass was okay, but if it was the steepest, I could not tell that it was that steep.

We rode north to Ashton, Idaho and then turned back south. The ride was very easy and nice, with parts in farmland and parts in forests. We were on the west side of the Tetons in a broad valley. So, we got to see both sides of the same mountains. They are impressive on both sides.

We continued to ride south by the Pallisades Reservoir (a beautiful body of water) and then turned back north to ride through the Snake River Canyon. I still believe the Snake River is the prettiest river I've ever seen!

Got back to the motel, checked into the new room, took a shower, washed some laundry, and walked to town for dinner.

A good, easy day. Rode 223 miles.

Tomorrow Yellowstone National Park.