Check these photos of the group I was with
in July of '13.
Water spills out of Lake Itasca across these rocks
into the pool, & then feeds down into a creek
that is the beginning of the Mississippi River.
Iron Butt ride 1st day. After day 1 looks like a great trip. I am planning a ride from Arizona to Montana. Will post here soon. I really enjoyed the Black hills area, would like to do it again some time. I know I missed a lot.
Well, for what it is worth, that is the trip I was planning in the fall. The trip I am about to take is not fully planned yet...but day 0 is 350 and day 1 is 950, scheduled.
The point of the initial long ride is to get out there. There is nothing interesting in the flyover states. It's just land between where I am and where I am going. The faster I get across it, the more time I will have out in the good stuff.
Well, I'm back. I ended up making a different trip than I thought I would. Clocked just over 4000 miles. Had two tire punctures. Two out of gas incidents. Ran into epic/historic rain storms in Wisconsin that washed out major roads and had to re-route. Ugh. I'll write more later
Day 0 (7/7/2016)
Left Pittsburgh around 4:30 PM and arrived in South Bend, Indiana over 9 hours and some 380 miles later. It didn't take very long (under 2 hours) before I had to put rain gear on. With my USELESS rain gear, I was soaking wet before I even started moving (and yes, I was dry when I put it on). I should not have even bothered with it. It's the Tempest suit, by River Road, if anyone is interested in what NOT to buy for $90 or so. Anyway - I rode through a rather nasty and WINDY thunder and lightning storm for many hours. I opted for a hotel when I got there, mostly to give my stuff a chance to dry out. As I did not get good sleep the night before, I was pretty sleepy too. I made a Jetboil meal in my room and went to bed around 2AM.
Day 1 (7/8/2016)
I left the hotel around 10:30 AM I think...the latest I ever started a day of motorcycle travel, ever. I guess I was making up some lost sleep. The day was relatively uneventful. Wanted to camp before dark, as I hate setting up in the dark. Was going to stay at a KOA, but all they had was “overflow” camping – which means basically you’re camping in a parking lot. Pass on that. Did some more on-line checking, found a place. Called, they had places available. Seemed kind of strange/sketchy on the phone, but decided to take a chance. I was doubtful driving out there....but it turned out to be a hidden gem. Oakwood Trails Campground, a private facility run by some farmer and his wife. This is the one:
Small, relatively quiet, wooded. Virtually perfect. Proprietors are very friendly and down to Earth people. Highly recommend. I plan to write a good review for this place.
Got to try out my new hammock for the first time. I found it complicated – especially when using an air mattress. More practice would be required. Nevertheless, did not bother to set up tent, just the hammock.
Day 2 (7/9/2016)
Packed up fairly early and got a good start, after a shower in the nice and clean bath house at the campground (it would be my last shower for a while). Stopped in Fairmont, MN for gas and noticed back tire was very low. I went to put air in it, and found a screw in the tire. Great! Used my smart phone to call around for a place that could fix it. First call turned me on to a place, I called them, said they would try. They were only five minutes away. I hot-footed it down there, as a Goodyear place, Graham Tire (http://grahamtire.net/). They plugged the tire right there in their parking lot, put air in it, and charged me only $5. Awesome service – kudos to them!
When I camped last night, I decided I needed some carabiners to use the Atlas Suspension Straps I had bought for my hammock (rather than the suspension that came with it). So, again, using my smart phone (I say that for all you “smartphones have no purpose” people), I found an outdoor store in Sioux Falls, SD that seemed like it would meet my needs. I stopped at the Great Outdoors Store (http://www.greatoutdoorstoreonline.com/) and found what I was looking for, including a full-sized microfiber towel that I decided I needed the night before (using my small hand towel to dry off after a shower sucks). I was on my way $50 later (which is a lot less than I wanted to spend).
There was a lot of wind crossing South Dakota – and it was HOT too. Overall, it made for a very tiring ride. Somewhere along the way, I stopped for gas and I was about to go when a lady came over and asked for some help. Leaving out the details, she, her adult daughter and adult son were traveling from MN to VA with their car pulling a U-haul trailer and a full-sized U-haul truck. The oil light on the car had come on and none of them knew anything about what to do about it (wtf!?!). So I helped her get oil and put it in her car. I also noticed that the safety chains on the trailer were hanging down and dragging on the ground for quite some time and one of them had worn away and broken. The guy said they had been like that since U-haul put them on (which sounds like U-haul). I asked if they had any zip ties, and they did. So I re-attached the chains to the car and zip-tied them so they would not hang down on the ground anymore and wished them happy trails.
I made my way to the campground my wife had booked for me, fairly close to dark. A quick looksey at Hidden Valley Campground (http://www.hiddenvalleydeadwood.com/) revealed it was basically an RV parking lot full of people who just wanted to drink beer and/or be rowdy. No real campers there. I decided that I would rather sleep on the side of the road than that place, esp. for the two nights I had planned to be there. So, cold, and in the dark, I just left – and headed for a National Forest site I had seen on the way there. I had asked my wife to book a NF campground, but she had said she called around and they all claimed to be full (doesn’t surprise me a bit, with their central reservation system).
I arrived at Roubaix Lake campground (http://www.recreation.gov/camping/roubaix-lake/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70756), hoping for the best....and I was at the empty entrance station trying to find some info about self-registration, when the campground hosts pulled up. I explained what I wanted (a good site with trees for two nights), figuring they had nothing – and they recommended a site. Loop C, site 21. They said go look and see if I wanted it. I got there – it was perfect. Wooded, quiet – couldn’t ask for much more. They came around and I said I would take it ($24/night – ouch!) and they also brought the two bundles of firewood I had asked for ($10). Life was good. Had to set up in the dark, but at least I had a good site for two nights. Today’s travel was over 600 miles of very tiring windy riding and I was BEAT!!
Day 3 (7/10/2016)
This is a day of “local” riding. I made a 260 mile or so loop from my campground to Mount Rushmore, to Badlands National Park, to Sturgis, to Deadwood and back to my site. Mount Rushmore was OK, except for the $11 per vehicle parking fee (they outsourced the parking, so a National Park pass doesn’t cut the mustard, which is bullshit if you ask me). A lot smaller than I had imagined. Would be a lot better if they had used Andrew Jackson instead of Lincoln though. I made the small hiking loop around the area. They don’t let you go to the top anymore, which sucks.
Next up was the ride out to the Badlands. Now THAT was a hot ride, but at least it wasn’t windy. GPS took me in some weird “back way” that resulted in going in on a gravel service road or something. No one was there – although there was a sign advertising the entrance fee rates, there was no one to take money and no way to pay. Fine with me. But the result was that I didn’t drive through the whole park – something I will have to rectify next time I am out that way I guess. But of the part that I did see, I liked it.
I stopped in Wall, SD again (stopped there going by on Day 2 yesterday for dinner). Went to the Fat Boy’s BBQ place – it sucked. I would have been better off just eating one of my Jetboil meals. When I left there, GPS took me on a bizzare back road. Yes, I had selected “avoid highways” but **** man – farmer’s fields gravel roads for miles on end? Really? That was a nightmare that FINALLY ended after way too long. Let me just say that if you find yourself in South Dakota, do yourself a favour and avoid Anderson Hill Road and “Highway” 1416.
By the time I got to Sturgis, it was around 7 PM and things were largely closed and quiet. I broke out my laptop and did some thinking about my route and plan and time available and how much riding I wanted to do and how much risk I wanted to take with respect to getting to work on-time. I decided to scrap the plan to go to the Going to the Sun Road in Montana, and instead spend an extra day in the Black Hills National Forest area. This day would be used to go out to Devil’s Tower and back. In retrospect, what I SHOULD have done is just CAMPED out at Devil’s Tower. It would have made for less riding and not that much more distance to cover on the way home. Alternatively, I could have headed home from Devil’s Tower and camped along the way – which would have put me closer to home than my existing camp site - but oh well. Anyway, by the time all that was done, I got back to my campsite pretty late at night. Glad camp was already made.
Day 4 (7/11/2016)
Today was a run of more than 220 miles out to Devil’s Tower and back. Before leaving camp, I paid for an extra night of camping and another bundle of firewood. To kick the day off, I first went to Deadwood and hung out for a bit. Then I hit the road for Devil’s Tower. I went the long way, to increase my riding in the hills. It was a pretty good run until I got to Four Corners. On the ride north, it was very windy. I hate wind more than rain when riding on a bike, and this was VERY windy. Fortunately, the portion of the ride from Sundance to Devil’s Tower and back wasn’t too bad.
Anyway – Devil’s Tower was OK. On the way there, I had stopped by an Ace Hardware in Lead, to buy a hand drill (which sucked, because I had one just like it at home), a bit and some rubber stoppers. I wanted to fix my RAM X-Grip device that had dropped my phone twice at 80 mph (fortunately, I caught it with my legs), and had also lost some of its rubber grip ends. So, while my Jetboil meal is cooking, I am working on this thing....drilling hand drills with the drill, using super glue, all while doing something with the Jetboil and a flame, and some other stuff I had going on that someone could decide was suspicious terrorist activity. I’m amazed that it wasn’t noticed and no one said anything – but if I had been trying to build a bomb right there in the middle of everything, I don’t think it would have been any sort of problem. At any rate, I got my X-grip fixed and ate my meal without incident.
After lunch, I went for a hike around the tower. It was a good hike...except for all the people yelling and carrying on like they’re at a football game instead of a natural wonder. Same types that talk at movies and stink up elevators with their perfume and cigarette smell I guess. The more people I encounter, the more people I end up hating. Anyway – it was rater cool and windy out at DT, and I was glad I had my new Aerostich TL100 windblocker fleece jacket (http://www.aerostich.com/clothing/fleece-wool/tltec-fleece/aerostich-tltec-wind-blocker-fleece-jacket.html), which I had already decided was perfect at the campground (along with the matching pants).
On the way back to the campsite, near dark, I went through Spearfish Canyon, which was an AWESOME ride. However, by the time I got back to camp, I was pretty damned cold and went to get a fire going immediately. I was glad I had that extra bundle of wood!!
Day 5 (7/12/2016)
Today it was time to get on down the road. I packed up my site at the campground and got a reasonably early start on this 520 mile or so day. Today I had the worst wind of the trip. It was REALLY bad, and constant, for all northward travel. I think I had the bike leaned over some 25 or 30 degrees for most of the day, just trying to go straight down the road. When I stopped at the "welcome to North Dakota" sign, I made it make it a very quick stop because I was afraid my bike was going to blow over. It was THAT windy!
I ran out of gas twice. The first time, I just didn't come across any gas stations I could have stopped at. Just the way the route worked out in the middle of nowhere. At one fork in the road, I did a search (using my evil smart phone, GBO) - and decided that I may or may not make it to the gas station that was ahead. But there wasn't one in any other direction I could gone either. So, I went. Sure enough, I ran out of gas - about 3 minutes from the gas station. Just my luck. So, that wasn't too bad to recover from. I got gas in a little plastic bottle left over from a drink, and that was enough to get my bike another 3 minutes down the road to the gas station.
The second time I ran out of gas, it was more my fault I guess. I stopped as a gas station to get gas, before turning off the interstate to go north. But they didn't have premium. I found a lot of this kind of thing out west. WTF? My bike says it requires premium, probably due to its 11:1 compression ratio. I realize I could "get by" with 87 octane, but I was just not inclined to put it in. So, I elected to press on to the next station, knowing I probably would not make it. Sure enough, I didn't. This time, I was even closer to the middle of nowhere, and I ran out of gas a lot further away. As I was at a cross-roads, thinking, "do I go north, where Google shows a gas pump, but is 20 miles away, or do I go west, where there is a town only 9 miles away, but Google doesn't show any pumps", a ND State Trooper shows up. I explain my situation. He says go west, town about 9 miles away and they have pumps, and they are open. He says he will follow me and if I run out, he will run me in. "I said not to jail I hope!", and he smiles. So, off we go, and sure enough, I run out of gas about six miles later. I get gas in the same little plastic bottle that I used before, and down the road I go. I thank the cop for his time and let him know I appreciated his efforts. Of course, this whole time, I'm wondering if this cop remembers the State Trooper scene from the movie Fargo, but I elect not to mention it.
So, before the trip, I debated whether or not to take a gas bottle. Usually I do take gas, but I'm on more extreme trips where I know gas pump distance is an issue. On this trip, I had decided I would never be THAT far away from a pump - but I didn't realize the lack of premium gas issues. So, I made the wrong decision NOT to take a bottle, and sure enough, I should have. So, lesson learned. From now on, I'm ALWAYS going to take extra gas with me.
Anyway - so down the road I go, fully gassed up, trying to make up for lost time. I'm on back roads, where there is simply NO ONE except for me, the road and the fucking wind. At some point, I am going east, WITH the wind, and I'm hauling ass. Doing about 90-95 mph (in a 55 or maybe 65), according to my GPS, over the hill coming the other way is a Sheriff's car, and he lights my ass up almost instantly. So, I start to slow down, and figure I will just pull over without making him chase me down and catch up to me, and take the punishment I have coming. I look in my mirror and notice that he isn't turning around. WTF?? Yes!! He has turned off his lights and is continuing on his way!! Hall ah fucking luya! So, either:
He just turned on his lights as a way to say "knock it off"
He decided that the effort it would take for him to slow down, turn around, and catch to a bike doing 90-95 was too much, or it was too dangerous - even assuming I didn't run (I doubt he knew I was on scooter that tops out about 105)
His department has a no-chase policy
Either way, I took the hint, and slowed down to 80 for the rest of that road (which, admittedly, wasn't very far).
Eventually, I made it to Grahams Island State Park, never Devil's Lake, ND. I paid a ridiculous $30 for one night of tent camping, but not before getting blasted by wind for the last 5 or 6 miles out to the island. It was a nice campground from what I could see, I wish I could have spent more time there.
Almost 400 miles today – most of it in the rain. Pouring down rain. I don’t remember it being too windy though. But the rain was enough that I scrapped my planned stop at Bemidji (MN) to visit a park. I didn’t see much point. Nothing much to say about today, other than it poured rain most of the time, and I was beyond soaking wet by the time I got to a hotel room in Duluth. By the way, Motel 6 offers a 10% military discount, for those who didn’t know (but not if you use booking.com). It did a double-pour of rain as I was getting there, so I was extra wet. I was colder than I realized too, because I spent almost two hours in the bathtub in steaming hot water trying to get warm. Fortunately, they had a dryer, which I used to dry my stuff, and I got most everything dry during my stay here. I hated spending the money on the room ($75), but sometimes, you just have to be reasonable. After drying stuff and getting warm and dry, I went out to get something to eat at a nearby place that got good reviews – Tbonz Bar & Grill. Well, guess what? They don’t serve T-bones, or any other steaks!!! I only went there to get a steak too. But as I walked there in the rain, I wasn’t in the mood to go someplace else, so I got some of their crappy food, paid way too much for it, and left. I should have just stayed in my room and made a Jetboil meal. It would have been just as good and a fraction of the cost. Day 7 (7/14/2016)
I was packed and ready to roll out by 8:30 AM. I started off my day by going to the Aerostich factory store right down the street (http://www.aerostich.com/). Mostly I wanted to inquire about my R-3 Light rain suit (http://www.aerostich.com/suits/one-piece-suits/r-3-light/men-s-r-3-light-one-piece-suit.html). I ordered it in MARCH (riding to Saint Louis to do so) and due to a variety of issues with Gore-Tex supplying the material, it was delayed, delayed, delayed – until the point where it wasn’t going to be ready in time for this trip, which REALLY sucked, given all the rain I encountered (and would encounter later). So I had them ship me the fleece jacket and pants I ordered, so I would at least have those (and they arrived the day before the trip). While I was in the store, I found a patch I wanted them to sew on the suit, and since the suit wasn’t sewn up yet, they were able to add that to my order. Looking around the store – they have a lot of neat stuff. One item, which I had in my hand and was GOING to buy but then decided I would order later, was a mini air compressor and tire plug kit. I should have bought it while I was there. There were plenty of other things I wanted to buy – but I resisted the urge, as I was trying to avoid spending any money on this trip. Anyway, I probably left the store around 10 AM or so, but not before being told that the material for my suit arrived, and it was cut, awaiting sewing!
Anyway – I hit the road with the goal of making good time. Alas, it was not to be. In the morning, you could tell it wanted to rain, but was holding off. Which was good. I was on US Route 2 going east and had made some good time, and decided to eat at Ashland Family Restaurant in Ashland. Turned out the food was VERY good. Much better than I had expected. Greater burger and fried chicken. I should have ordered one or the other, but I wasn’t sure, so I ordered both. I saved most of the chicken for dinner later. While I was there – the locals dropped a bombshell. US Route 2 was closed east of Ashland due to the road being washed out by historic flooding. Even worse, several other roads were too!! The only way I was getting out of there was to drive an hour right back the way I came and drive around the entire area. It was so bad that the governor declared a disaster area in 8 counties and were advising people against travel there. Just my luck! You can read more about it here:
So, after lunch, I backtracked the hour (meaning I lost two hours of travel time) and went around the area. Along the way when I stopped for gas, I noticed my tire was low again. So, I put air in it and bought a can of “fix a flat”, just in case. While I was in the middle of the national forest, I stopped to check on my tire. It was very low – I measured it at 10 psi (down from 35). It was also blazing hot to the touch. It was probably only a few minutes from total failure. I let it cool down some (helping it by dumping some water on it), and used the can of fix-a-flat. One of the things that did was reveal what the issue was. It looks like I had a rock puncture in the middle of the tire. There was nothing sticking in the tire, but there was a 3-sided puncture that looked like a rock may have been the cause. Well, mystery solved. It was NOT the previously plugged hole that I had, it was new. A Google search indicated a gas station some ten miles away, so that’s where I went...and it started to rain as I did so.
When I got to the gas station, I found they did not have air, but a little store next to them did. I put air in the tire and learned that the fix-a-flat wasn’t cutting the mustard. I needed to plug the hole. I called the two tire repair shops – one closed, the other 20 minutes away would close before I got there and he wasn’t going to stay late. So, I went into this little odd store, hoping for the best. To my amazement, I found a tire plug kit, and another can of fix-a-flat, and bought both. I plugged the tire, and went into the little restaurant to wait a few minutes for it to set before putting air in it. It, of course, proceeded to POUR down rain. After a little while, I went back out to check on it, put air in the tire, went back inside to wait. After a little while more, I went back to check on the tire, found it was holding air, and decided it would have to do.
I decided that in the interest of making up time, and reducing the risk of being stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire, or in the ditch (due to a crash from tire failure), I would modify my route. Instead of going north and to Michigan’s UP and into Macinaw City, I would go in a more southeast direction, toward Green Bay. I hated doing it, but it seemed like the rational, sane thing to do, all things considered – between the weather and the sketchy tire – the odds against me were stacking up and I needed to even it out some. So, that’s where I went...in the rain, of course.
A few hours of riding in the rain and it eventually was getting dark and I needed to stop for the night. Google gave me bad directions to Council Grounds State Park (http://wisconsinstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/council-grounds-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=WI&parkId=60012) and I wasted a half hour. Fortunately, Apple Maps got me there just fine after that. The cost of camping there was COMPLETELY ridiculous, but I was stuck at that point, so I paid it. I’ve paid less for hotel rooms I’ve stayed in. By the time I got there, I was tired, cold, wet, feeling ripped off and pissed off. I set up my tent, ate my chicken, took off all my soaking wet clothes and went to bed in short order.
Before going to sleep, I looked at the map, trying to decide my route for the next day, since, by now, I was completely off my original plan. I decided that I would take a 1:30PM ferry from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI. At $115, it was a rather expensive way to travel 60 miles, but it would save me from going through Chicago and put me in a position to drive through more of Michigan than my alternatives. Overall, it was at least closer to what I had originally intended for the trip, in terms of a route plan. So, with this decision made, I went to sleep.
Day 8 (7/15/2016) I woke up in the morning, made a reservation for the ferry, packed up and was ready to head out when I realized I misjudged the time. I was about two and a half hours away from the ferry, and because I woke up so late, I didn’t have much more than that to make the trip! I would have to haul ass and make NASCAR type stops for gas. If I missed the ferry, I would lose my fare AND have to drive a lot longer. Just my luck. So, I tore out of there and headed down the road. It didn’t take long before I realized my cell phone, which I was using as my GPS, had some charging issues. I played around with it some and had determined that the lightning port seemed loose, and that was the issue. I took measures to reduce power consumption on the phone to make it last as long as possible, since I needed it to find my way to the ferry!
I put my gas stop off as long as I could, but eventually, I had to stop some 30 miles from my destination. I found a place just off the interstate and went there, got my gas, and decided to try a different cable for my phone. After a few minutes to swap that out, I determined that, YES!! That seemed to be the issue, not the phone itself. Great! I hit the road, hauling ass and then some. I ended up getting to the ferry was under 5 minutes to spare. As it turned out, the ferry left 2 minutes EARLY, according to the time on my phone. Talk about cutting it close!!
The four-hour ferry on the S.S. Badger was uneventful. I got some lunch, re-organized the bags I had carried on, and slept some. When the ride was over, I went to Ludington State Park Beach to camp, but they had only one spot available, and it didn’t have trees, so I declined and sought my fortunes elsewhere. After some calling around and driving around, and finding the only places with availability were essentially RV parking lots, I ended up deciding on a place some two hours away. Why people spend huge amounts of money on an RV and then use it to go “camping” in close quarters with a bunch of other RVs is beyond me. I think tent camping is a dying form of recreation. Anyway, disgusted with the state of “camping” in modern America, I set out for my destination. Fortunately, I happened across “Black Lake County Park” (http://www.michigan.org/property/black-lake-county-park/) along the way. It was PERFECT!! Small, wooded, and a few, QUIET campers. Although every other site that was taken was taken by someone with an RV, it would do nicely. Best of all, it was only $15 for a lake-side site! This place was a gem, and pretty much how it should be. I gladly paid the $15 and set up my hammock. After some putzing around and making a Jetboil dinner, I eventually went to bed.
Day 9 (7/16/2016) Well, it’s the last day of the trip – 500 miles or so. I woke up early, very cold, and started a fire immediately. This was the first morning fire of the trip. I didn’t have any bought wood left over, so I scrimmaged around in the woods. It worked out pretty well. I even made some hot chocolate – the only breakfast of the trip too. Also the last of my hot chocolate. Anyway – by the time I was done with all that and all packed up and ready to go, it was 8:30 AM and I hit the road.
During my stop to mail some postcards some 10 miles later, I noticed a “fast blinker” indicator. Crap. Testing revealed that, sure enough, one of the “LED eyebrows” on the new headlamp assembly I installed just before the trip was not working. Double crap!!! I was pretty careful with the wiring, so I kind doubt my wiring came loose – but I am hoping that is the case because otherwise, it means the assembly is defective, and resolving THAT with the EBAY seller is going to be problematic. Either way, I have to do a LOT of work to take the front end back off and look at it, which sucks.
The trip was pretty uneventful – it was a great day of riding until I got to the Cleveland area. Once there, I noticed the sky was turning unpleasant and ended up trying to outrun a nasty looking storm. Fortunately, I was able to do so. I met up with some people at a rest stop on the other side of Cleveland, who got there after I did, and they were not so lucky. Anyway, I was able to ward off my sleepiness enough to get home, and I did so around 6:30 PM. My total miles for the trip ended up being 4,039 miles, most of which was wet or windy – and sometimes both.
A forum community dedicated to Suzuki Burgman motorcycle owners and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about performance, modifications, classifieds, troubleshooting, maintenance, and more! Open to all 200, 400, and 650 models!