Category: Trips

Cruisin’ Down the Highway

It’s been a busy summer. Since April I’ve been to Minneapolis (twice), Seattle, Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Milwaukee. All were business trips and none of them was by motorcycle. But I went to South Dakota by motorcycle. Sadly, not Sturgis this year, but still an important trip.

If you’re familiar with previous posts on this blog, you know I’ve had troubles with my handlebars the past few years and just got them replaced over the winter. After being confined to in-town trips only because of them you’d think I’d be rarin’ to hit the highway finally.


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Ad for sales assistant job

Follow Where The Path Leads

I have written any posts this summer because there’s been nothing to write about. Other than riding back and forth to work and running errands, I haven’t ridden anywhere or had anything notable happen. It’s been boring and frustrating, as it’s been a beautiful summer.

Yesterday that changed.

Sometime mid-morning I was reading the local newspaper online and in one of the sidebars they list job openings. There was something listed that either said motorcycle or Sturgis or something else that caught my eye. I clicked on it. Seems the local Indian/Triumph dealer was looking for help with their stand at the Sturgis rally. Hmmmm.

Ad for sales assistant job

Background: I had by now given up on making Sturgis this year. While things are FINALLY starting to turn around, finances really won’t start improving until September which is too late to make the trip. And I still have an issue with my handlebars that makes me a bit wary of taking long trips with them.

More Background: The last time I was at Sturgis may have been the first time I became aware of the Indian Triumph of Fargo dealership. They had a big, impressive display at a great location during the rally. Was one of the best there. Rather chuffed that it was from Fargo. But I hadn’t ever gotten around to stopping by the dealership in town and checking it out.

So there I sat at work mulling over whether to check out what this “job” was all about. There was no phone number listed; they wanted you to stop by.

I had just begun this week to workout at the gym over lunch, so one thought was to go to the gym and mull it over and then stop by after work. But something kept gnawing at me and I finally convinced myself there was no harm in finding out more about it. So forget the gym and head down to the dealership.

Walked in and asked for the person listed in the ad, who I needed to wait for until he was finished with some folks. When he finally freed up, he handed me a standard job application form and asked me to fill it out. OK. But as I was filling it out, it was pretty obvious that it was totally irrelevant to what I was applying for. Really don’t need a listing of my grad degrees to work at a stand during rally.

So he asked if I had time to chat with himself and one other person. Sure. So I was introduced to what I assume is the owner or manager of the place. He opened with some info including that they would give me a ride down to Sturgis and the phone rang. I had jokingly begun to say “but will you bail me out of jail?” and he managed to get in an emphatic “NO” before he picked up the call. Ooops?

The interview continued with some more information about the job and the accommodations. They will provide a ride, trailer my bike, provide housing, provide food, give me some time off, and possibly have access to some events, possibly including concerts. Plus pay a flat salary.

So, my turn to ask questions. “When do we leave and when do we come back?” (I have a rather big project going on at the day job at the moment which has some deadlines in the middle of rally week. I’d need to get that squared away before I could leave.) “We’re talking 12-15 hour days, aren’t we?”

Basically, it came down to a week and a half of long hard days with very little recreation time and even less drinking. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Honestly, the opportunity was so perfect I could hardly believe it. Everything they were looking for are things I’ve done before, and I’m no stranger to long days of hard work in the open air with an occasional belligerent soul or two.

I told them as I left that I needed to check with my current employer. It wasn’t about the time off, it was about being gone during a somewhat important time in the big project. I also wanted to talk with the boys since there were some repercussions there too. They responded by saying that if I could make it, I’d be high on the list of candidates they were considering, but that they were looking to make a decision by the end of the day.

Honestly, I loved that interview. No BS résumé. No scripts to follow. Just a good old handshake, a general sizing up of each other, and deciding whether to give it a go.

So I left pretty much knowing the job was mine if I wanted it. Headed back to work, immediately had meetings to distract me (well, not totally), but did finally get a chance to talk to the project manager. He said as long as I could get some things done before I go, he wasn’t going to stop me. Called the dealer back said I was able to make it and they should continue to consider me for the job.

I got a message on my phone as I was riding home from work. Called them back and they offered me the job, which of course I accepted. I’ve got a quick orientation to attend before we leave, but otherwise I somehow managed to finagle a trip to Sturgis less than a week before it starts. I did not wake up with any hope of that happening.

Now all I have to do is learn everything I can about Indian and Triumph motorcycles, past and present, in the next five days.

You know when life puts this stuff at my feet, I feel it’s my job to pick it up and run with it. Don’t know where it leads, but the journey looks to be fun.

And finally, I’ll have something worth writing a blog post or two about.

Odometer: 11,334 miles

One Last Hurrah

I came home from Sturgis to a job interview, and soon thereafter a job offer. 😀 So the next few weeks were filled with wrapping up projects at my other two jobs and then a week of vacation. I started the new job on October 4 and was happily riding the Harley back and forth to work.

The weekend after I started the new job was forecasted to be pretty unbelievable. Highs in the 80s in October just don’t happen around here. As I was financially still between-jobs, I didn’t have more than gas money. But there was NO WAY I was going to let a day like that get by. Especially since it came on a weekend! Didn’t really have a preference for a destination, so I threw it out to my Twitter network. Which direction should I head? North, south, east, or west? Turns out east won. Which might have been good. It’s not a direction I’ve gone a lot on the motorcycle.

While the day was going to have summertime temps, it was October and the days were already getting shorter. That meant I could only go so far if I wanted to get back sometime around sundown. Well, about 100 miles east of here is a state park where the Mississippi River starts. Hadn’t been there all summer, so that settled it. And once again my Twitter friends gave me some good advice. Got a tip about a road that I didn’t even know existed that looked to be a fun one.

So up early on a Saturday morning, I packed up and headed out. Given that I didn’t have lunch money, I threw the T-Bag on and put an MRE left over from the last flood in it. (MRE=Meals Ready to Eat, aka K-rations.) Figured the T-Bag would be useful for stashing jackets as the day got warmer anyway.

Headed east out of town on a road that is just one notch under an Interstate. Bit cold, but the sun was getting higher and it wouldn’t take long to warm up. Only stayed on that road 30 miles or so before turning off to a 2-lane, the natural habitat of 2-wheelers. Even that close to home I was already on some roads I’d never been on before. The motorcycle has been good for that.

Ulen Rest Stop

Stopped at a rest area near a little town just to stretch my legs a bit. And since the outhouse was open, take care of that too. Nice little spot along a river and next to a graveyard. Being late fall, most of the trees didn’t have leaves. I’ll bet the place is really nice in the summer, or even earlier in the fall with colored leaves.

A few more miles heading north and then the turn to the east on the road that had been recommended. Not a lot of traffic out that way, even with the beautiful day. But as I went further east the road started changing from a straight farm road to a curvy, hilly road through the trees. And I started seeing a few other motorcycles out there too. The more I rode on that road, the more it started feeling like Sturgis and a ride through the Black Hills. Curvy, hilly road surrounded by other bikers on a stunning day. Damn it doesn’t get any better than this!!!

Pic of MRE
My MRE Lunch

Started getting hungry and I had no idea how far I had to go before turning into the park. Finally I spotted a little turnoff by a lake with enough advance notice so I could actually stop. (I had passed a few others that I noticed too late to make work.) Even had a flat rock so I could cook the MRE in comfort. While I was there a couple also stopped. They rode their BMW down from Grand Forks for the same reason I rode up from Fargo. Funny that we met in the middle. Theirs was just a quick stop and I ate my MRE after they’d gone. MREs are designed for folks in high-activity situations. Must be at least 3,000 calories in them. I only ate 2 of the 6 items included. That was enough!

Pic of Lunch Spot
Lunch Spot

It really was a pretty spot, but the day was already slipping away from me if I wanted to be home by sundown. So I packed up and headed out only to find I was about 10 miles away from the park. If I had known that, I probably would have held off and had lunch in the park. But I wouldn’t have found the lovely spot then. That’s just one more example of how a motorcycle expands your horizons.

Pic of the headwaters of the Mississippi
The Mississippi Headwaters

Got to the park and the entrance shacks were closed and you were supposed to go to the visitors center to get your permit. OK. So I headed up there and wandered around and really couldn’t figure out where to get the permit. Oh well, I tried. The main road through the park was closed for construction, so I had to jump out and go around to the north entrance. Parked by the other visitor center and then headed out to the headwaters. Any trip to Itasca State Park MUST included a stop at the headwaters. It’s the exact spot where the Mississippi River starts and it’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. There were a few people there, like me, taking advantage of the beautiful day. But I didn’t stay too long, and I didn’t attempt the stepping stone crossing. Wet leathers are no fun!

Pic of Wilderness Drive
Wilderness Drive in Itasca State Park

I have to admit that I was feeling a bit pressured by how late in the day it was getting. But I wasn’t going to leave without taking a drive down Wilderness Road. It’s a loop around the park that is one-way for most of it. Pretty much just a big trail that you can drive down. I’ve driven a car down it, rode a bicycle down it, and walked parts of it. But I’ve never taken the motorcycle down it. It was fabulous as always with large pine trees all around. Hills, lakes, bogs, wildlife – it’s all back there. But this time the road was being worked on and every few hundred yards it was like riding through a sandbox. Made it interesting, but not impossible. Plus there’s no turning around anyway. 🙂

Finished up at the park and since it was getting late in the day, I decided to take a different route home. It’s got it’s own hills and curves, but doesn’t have the Black Hills feel of the one I rode in on. But I could make better time. Other than a stop for gas in Mahnomen, there was nothing notable about the ride home. I didn’t quite make it by sundown, but close enough for comfort.

Days like this one you know are gifts. I can’t think of any better way I could have spent it. I knew it was the last hurrah for the season. Everything I did that day had a special feel. A new job, a beautiful day. It was good to be alive.

Happy Trails

The rest of my time at Sturgis was pretty low key. Spent some time in Sturgis just looking around, but also spent much of the time right at the campground. Hung out a Bikini Beach and made some friends at Senor Wiener’s. Watched PeeWee Herman shoot some scenes. I didn’t do much riding this year, partly because it was so painful just getting through town, partly because I didn’t want to spend the money, and partly because I didn’t want to risk it. Funny how economics and lack of insurance can spoil a party. 🙁 But I still had a really great time and pretty much did what I wanted to do, which was get out of town and relax a bit.

Pic of the nearly empty campground
Nearly empty 🙁

Sunday came and it was finally time to leave. It was almost shocking to look around and where a day ago you couldn’t find a piece of ground was now a wide open view. Folks really started clearing out by Saturday and by Sunday it was just the stragglers. Except the RVs. Still a lot of RVs around on Sunday. I guess if you’re that wealthy, you’re not in any hurry to get back to work.

I hit the road at a reasonable hour. Didn’t need to leave before dawn as I only had a couple hundred miles to go. Made a reservation at a lovely hotel in Lemmon, SD for the evening and was really looking forward to a hot tub, hot shower, and soft bed. It’s always bittersweet leaving, but the party was definitely over and it was time to head home.

Of course all the other traffic on the road was also heading away from Sturgis, so it wasn’t the usual lonely roads. And of course, once again, everyone is passing me by. Still fun to wave. Pretty easy ride until I had to turn north. A crosswind made it a little more strenuous and I was looking forward to my gas stop. As usual during bike week, the gas stop was nothing but bikes lined up. This is that same gas station that you have to go inside to pay. Had an almost-incident there. No gas spill this time. But I left my bike at the pump while I paid (no one behind me at the time), but when I got back out there was an RV waiting to fill. Thought I’d just put the bike in neutral and push it out of the way. I must have been more tired than I thought, but somehow the bike got off balance and started leaning to the right. Dammit I was going to drop the friggin’ loaded bike right at the gas pump! Well with everything I had I was holding that bike up and yelled “Help!” Well, that got a look, but nothing else. Reached deep down again and yelled a bit louder “Can I get a little help?!” Well that got a couple of guys over to get the bike set straight again. THANK YOU whoever you were. If I was tired before that, my arms were now an inch longer and complete jello.

After a few minutes rest, I decided to get back on the road. I was determined to make my favorite cafe in Lemmon for lunch and I knew they closed at 2 p.m. If I got to it I’d make it in time, but I didn’t have time to waste. Another northbound leg of the trip meant more crosswind, so I got to wave at all the folks that were standing around at the gas station as they passed me. I hope the guys that helped me out were among them.

Made it to the cafe at something like 1:50 p.m. Slopped into a booth and ordered my Alaska Burger and realized that everyone in the place was heading home from Sturgis, most of which were the folks that had passed me on the road. I enjoyed my burger immensely and chatted with the staff a bit. I really do love that place. Wish it was a bit closer to home. It took me a long time to eat that meal and I kept expecting to be shooed out of the place. But the staff was smart and knew an opportunity when they saw one. They were staying open late to accommodate the biker crowd. Only happens once a year, you know. I told you the entire state of South Dakota gets involved in Rally week. They were open until at least 4 p.m., perhaps much later.

The good news is that the hotel is just across the street from the cafe and I checked in in the middle of the afternoon. Hauled my gear into the room and immediately found my suit and headed for the hot tub. I sat in there for 3 hours. I knew I wasn’t going to be hungry after the big burger, so I really had no place to go and nothing to do. Hot tub was an awesome way to finish up the trip. Worth every dime of the hotel fee. And then there was the bed. And the TV. And the shower. Civilization can be good.

My bike with the open road behind it.
The open road

The final ride home is about 350 miles, so it’s not an exceptionally long day. Nothing really notable other than every time I stopped for gas there was always a conversation that started with “Are you coming back from Sturgis?”

Some folks might be disappointed by a week at Rally with only a few trips into town and no real riding in the Black Hills. For me, this year, it was exactly what I needed. But I can’t wait to go back and take in a few of the activities I didn’t make this year. You could probably go for 10 years in a row and not do the same thing twice. All in good time. Because it is a good time.

Blue Lagoon

A week at the Buffalo Chip can be wet and muddy or hot and dry. This year, it was the latter. There are free showers on the campground, but after a few days of hanging around them, paid options started to look good. And I should explain. Half of my interest in the shower house was in running water, but the other half was electricity. Keeping my cell phone charged was a constant battle. Some folks have power ports on their bikes, but I haven’t gotten that far. So I would take a shower and just hang around for an hour or two, which never got the phone fully charged anyway. And can you say *AWKWARD*? Just hanging out while other folks are showering is not my idea of fun, nor is it really socially acceptable, even at The Chip. (Although I did see a bunch of the Miss Chip contestants get gussied up.)

So when a gentleman walked through my campsite one afternoon handing out business cards for a paid shower service just up the campground road, it got my attention. The campground has paid showers near the entrance, but the lines seemed constant and it was a bit of a walk. This other service, Blue Lagoon Showers, was the other direction and a shorter walk. Count me in!

I walked over a bit later just to see if I could find the place. It was just a trailer with six showers on each end, left side for women and right side for men. They were charging $5, but it sounded like a bargain for hot water, privacy, and cleanliness. Don’t know why, but I just struck up a conversation with the operators and wound up chatting for quite a while. I promised to come back and be a customer.

Must have been Tuesday when I started making the short hike on a daily basis. It seemed every time I went to take a shower I’d wind up talking for at least an hour. Just chit chats, but a pleasant way to pass the time. Then it dawned on me that these guys have power in their motor home. Well then, the next time I asked if I could plug in my now dead phone while I was showering (shower area had no power). And now the conversations got even longer so I could get more juice into the machine.

This became a ritual the final few days. I’d take a shower and just hang out until my phone charged. Got to know the guys fairly well. Being from Minnesota too, we had lots to talk about.

Some folks may wonder why you’d pay for a shower, but by the end of the week I considered it a bargain for letting me charge my phone and having a nice operation going. I’d use them again in a heartbeat. I hope they return again next year.


I headed into Deadwood a couple of times during the week. The first time was the day they were doing the Legends Ride and doing some filming for PeeWee Herman’s movie. I drove through town (after the long, hot, dusty trip from the campground, then through Sturgis) looking for a parking spot. Well half the town was blocked off and the other half was a zoo. Gave up any hope of parking on the street and headed back to the visitor center parking lot at the end of the main drag. There’s a trolley that runs through town that I thought I’d hop on and get a little closer to the action at the other end of Main Street. Well, I got on the trolley and soon learned that it wasn’t going any where near the action on Main Street. What I thought was going to be a two-stop journey wound up being the entire route. Got off where I had gotten on. (Got my money’s worth out of that $1!)

Pic of The Stockade bar in Deadwood
My favorite hangout in Deadwood

Just walked through town at that point. Knew there was a webcam in town and didn’t exactly know where it was, so I was keeping an eye out for it. It didn’t take too long to find it. I wound up making a beeline for my favorite watering hole, The Stockade, only to discover that the webcam is right at its’ front door. Well, decided that beverages came before tweeting and went upstairs and got something to drink and hung out on the balcony railing looking at all the bikes and people out on the street. Didn’t stay too long as I was hungry. And lo and behold, right across the street was a Chinese restaurant. Good enough for me!

The restaurant was the 2nd floor above a casino. And of course it was dark inside, so I went to prop my sunglasses on my head and boom! – they broke. Now realize, that within the past 7 days I had broke an identical pair the identical way, scratched up the lenses on my night glasses, bought a replacement pair, and now those were broken too. Buggers! I really liked the way those glasses fit, but if they can’t stand up to being propped up on my head, forget ’em! Well, I was now on a mission to find a better pair, but after lunch please!

The restaurant had great service and great food. Got to talking a bit with the wait staff. Everyone always wants to know if I rode in myself. And that’s always worth a conversation – mostly from them! I must have been really tired, because I sure took my time eating. Had nowhere to go anyway. Stop and smell the orange chicken! When I finally left the hostess chased me down. I had left my broken glasses on the table and she thought I had left them behind. Told you it had great service, even if it included throwing them out for me.

Spent the next few hours poking around. Did find some cheap glasses at the Harley store. And I also talked with some of the locals who were commenting on the weather forecast. Just the week before, Deadwood got hit with a MAJOR hailstorm. Looked like snow in the streets it was that deep. Broke some glass in one of the casino hotels and flooded it’s basement. Well, I didn’t think lightning would strike twice, but I also didn’t want to get caught out in a hailstorm. So I finished up my tour of town and headed back for the ride back to The Chip. I think it might be a total of 15 miles or so, but it took me well over an hour. I basically had my feet down from Boulder Canyon all the way into The Chip. Was awfully glad to finally drop the jiffy stand and crawl off the beast once I got to my campsite.

I think I mentioned that my boots are NOT made for walking. After my after day in town, my tootsies were achin’! I walked around the campground again, but limped is probably more of an accurate description than walked. Got some drinks, food, and took in the concert(s). And got the boots off as soon as I could. 🙂