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I left Omaha, NE Monday morning at about 8:30 am. The Burgman 650 was heavily loaded. The underseat trunk was full, the Givi E52 trunk was almost full, and for the first time I used my hump bag, which was also close to full. One reason for this was that I anticipated a wide range of riding temperatures, and some possibility of thunderstorms, so I needed a variety of riding gear. I also packed my AN650 service manual, just in case I had mechanical problems.

I headed over the river to Iowa where I would get on I-29 and follow it straight North for 200 miles, then turn onto I-90, taking it west for 300 miles. Both Interstates are divided, limited access, 4 lane highways that run mostly straight. Mapquest assured me that this was the most efficient route to take. I took one of the first exits off of I-29 to have breakfast at an excellent country Restaurant, with the unlikely name of "The Iowa Feed and Grain Company". One of the waitresses told me that she had recently been to the Black Hills. She highly recommended that I ride the "Needles Hwy" in Custer State Park, which she said was a favorite of motorcyclists.

I resumed my journey north on I-29. Speed limit was 65 mph in Iowa, and I stayed between 75-80 mph indicated. (I will give all my travel speeds in mph as indicated on the 10% optimistic Burgman speedometer.) Scenery in Iowa was mostly corn fields. Shortly after entering South Dakota, the speed limit climbed to 75 mph. I had to go 85 mph to more or less stay with other traffic. Just north of Sioux Falls, S.D., I turned onto I-90. Speed Limit stayed at 75 mph. Running at a sustained 85 mph, my fuel mileage had dropped to 40 mpg. My flashing gas pump would come on at around 120 miles on the tripmeter that I was using to track mileage per tank. It was often many miles between gas stations, so I would stop to fill up at the next available opportunity. At my first gas stop on I-90, I decided to try midgrade 89 octane fuel. Here in the Midwest, midgrade always contains 10% ethanol (corn based alcohol) and it sells for less than the 87 octane regular gas - sometimes as much as 5 to 8 cents per gallon less. I had never run it in the 650 before. I noticed a very distinct performance gain, particularly at higher speeds. Fuel mileage stayed constant at 40 mpg. So, cheaper gas, same mileage, better passing power - I decided to continue using it for the rest of the tour. Scenery was grasslands - and billboards. Thousands of billboards. Tourism is big business in South Dakota. I actually didn't mind the billboards, because reading them gave me something to do, and broke up the monotony of the landscape. I crossed over into Mountain time zone, gaining an hour. I reached my destination, the Redwood Motel in Wasta, SD, at about 5:30 pm. It had been a tedious 10 hour journey.

Motels in the tourist region of SD are somewhat expensive. Many are $90 or more per night. Since I was arriving just prior to peak tourist season, there were a few offering rates of around $60 per night. The Redwood Motel was $35 per night - the least expensive lodging that my Internet search had turned up. Wasta is located between the Badlands and the Black Hills, a reasonable launching point for my Tuesday ride. I was disappointed when I saw that the Motel had a gravel parking lot. Really more like small rocks, and loosely packed. It was dicey getting the heavy 650 from the road to the parking area in front of my motel room. The next morning, my tires had settled down into the loose packed stones, and it took a lot of effort to break the 650 free. The second night, I backed the 650 up to the motel room - a lot of effort, but it paid off the next morning, when I loaded up for the return trip & could get a straight shot, under power, out of the gravel ruts. Anyway, the bed was comfortable, the shower and toilet worked fine, the TV got three channels in clear (typical for rural lodging), and the motel owner provided me with good maps of both the Black Hills and the Badlands, which she annotated with comments as she briefed me on the areas. It served my basic needs at a reasonable price. Wasta is extremely small. I had to ride 11 miles to Wall, SD for dinner. I ate at the Cactus Cafe in Wall. Had an excellent Ribeye steak. Food and service were great. 540 miles logged on day one.

Tuesday morning I set off for the Black Hills - about an hour ride. After reaching Rapid City, via I-90, I topped up with gas and took route 79 up to route 36, which turns in toward Custer State Park in the Black Hills. Finally, some fun! Route 36 is hilly and has many sweeping curves, fun to take on the AN650 at 50 - 60 mph. The scenery was also beginning to get interesting. Inside Custer State Park, I picked up route 16a, which would take me to the Needles Hwy. Wow! The road narrowed, and the curves became endless, and very tight. Terrain was increasingly steeper - my ears popped from time to time as I gained elevation. I quickly learned that Power Mode was the key to running these tight curves smoothly. It kept the engine in the power band at the lower speeds, and provided better engine braking. Many of these curves were negotiable at only 20 - 25 mph, but great fun nonetheless. Straightaways were very short - almost constant curves. No road shoulders, no guard rails, no room to mess up. Occasionally there would be a small turnout, just large enough for one or two cars to pull off the road. I came around a curve and saw a small pond with a turnout opposite it. Three huge male buffaloe were bathing in the pond. I pulled into the cutout, and watched them for awhile. They are huge, and very powerful - and they roam free in this area of the park - no fences. The hotel owner had told me that they are normally pretty mellow, but when irritated, they are strong enough to overturn a tourist bus. They left the pond, rolled around on the ground to dry off (sending up a huge dust cloud), then proceeded to graze in the grass between the pond and the road. I restarted the Burgman, and rolled past them, getting a real good look at the huge animals.

Shortly after that I came to the entrance to Needles Hwy. Two park rangers were stationed there. The ranger on my right informed me that a $5 permit was required to continue my journey. No big deal, I was having more than $5 woth of fun, and I knew the best was yet to come. He was talkative and friendly, and told me about some rock tunnels that I would be encountering, that were just large enough for one vehicle at a time to pass through. At the end of our conversation, he asked me questions about the Burgman 650. He had never seen one before and he was very fascinated with it.

Wow again! Needles Hwy made 16a look like child's play. Constant tight curves, and many very tight hairpin curves. In some cases, I encountered hairpin curves that were joined to reverse hairpin curves. Some of these hairpins I took at speeds as low as 12 mph - and felt adequately challenged at that speed. "Look where you want to go" became really important. I remember thinking what an awesome machine the AN650 was for this tight, technical riding. I would have really had my work cut out for me on my V-Strom, which is not real happy pulling strong at low speeds in first & second gear. The Burgman made it reasonably easy and very enjoyable. There were quite a few motorcycles doing these roads, many were big Goldwings, some pulling trailers. I know I was having more fun than they were... As I gained altitude, there started to be tall granite towers, worn smooth by weather. Now I understood why this is called "Needles" Hwy. Some of these towers rose up right from the side of the road. On a tight right hand curve, with a granite tower rising at roadside, I started to feel like I was almost brushing shoulders with the granite... I stopped at a pullout to rest for a moment. When I resumed riding, I felt strangely awkward, and out of control. Oops! Power Mode had reverted to Auto when I shut off the machine. Back into Power mode, and all felt right again.

I encountered my first rock tunnel - a short one - and I went through unapposed. The Remus pipe sounded cool in the small tunnel. The next tunnel I encountered was a much longer one. Understand that you are coming right off of a tight curve to approach the tunnel, and exiting via another curve at the far end. I approached the tunnel entrance. A minivan was crawling through the tunnel toward me, completely filling the tunnel. I paddled the Burgman backwards out of the tunnel. The minivan emerged through the tunnel a couple of minutes later, crawling at about 5 mph. The driver waved. I entered the tunnel again. Buick coming through. I paddled backwards out of the tunnel. Buick eventually crawled out of the tunnel. Woman passenger was grinning and snapping my picture with a camera. On my third attempt I made it through. Just as I exited the tunnel a pickup truck arrived at that end - I had just made it in time. I was to go through a couple more of these, but my timing was good on the others - no waiting. I eventually came to the northern end of Needles Hwy. I was grinning from ear to ear.

I turned right on Rt 244, which would take me to the Mount Rushmore monument. This road started off with sweeping curves (average 45 mph) and a few straights, but turned into tighter curves toward the end as I approached the monument. Ample fun, but not the level of challenge offered by Needles Hwy. Several small, but beautiful, clear water mountain lakes were passed. There are numerous campgrounds and resorts nestled along the highway, but tastefully blended with the surroundings so as not to disturb the natural beauty of the area. I pulled into a turnout to snap a picture of one of the lakes. While I was there, a couple riding 2-up on a yellow Honda Helix cruised by and waved. I hurridly donned my gear and pursued them, but a minivan and a pickup truck had come in between us. The curves tightened, and the Helix was wallowing through the curves at 21 mph, limiting the caravan to that speed. I remember thinking how narrow the tires on the Helix looked compared to the AN650's wide radials.

Mount Rushmore. Toll gates. $8 fee to enter and park. A little excessive, I thought, but I got in line. The Helix, in a different line, made it through the gates before I did. I lost sight of it, but came around the curve and all the vehicles in front of me turned into a parking garage. I followed. I cruised both levels of the garage. No Helix. I parked, and started climbing stairs up to the monument. The sculptures of the president's heads are quite remarkable, and in excellent shape - worth seeing. The restaurant and gift shop are cleverly blended into the architecture, so as not to be obtrusive. It was noon, so I went into the restaurant. I hate eating at tourist attractions because the food is usually very poor quality and grossly overpriced. But Mt Rushmore was OK. A got a hamburger and a large drink for $5.40. The hamburger was excellent - large and juicy - and they had a nice fixings bar with chopped onions, ripe sliced tomatoes, and more. Tasty! I forgave them the parking fee... Walking down the steps from the monument, I saw Abraham Lincoln walking around and interacting with the tourists. This guy was very tall, and the spitting image of Abraham Lincoln. At the foot of the steps I saw TWO parking garages, one on the left, one on the right. I had no clue which one I had parked in. I walked both levels of the one on the left - no Burgman. But I did find the yellow Helix - of course the owners weren't there to talk to. I went over to the other parking garage and found my Burgman there. Whew! I was tired of walking in my motorcycle boots & ready to resume riding.

A mile or two ahead, I resumed another (longer) portion of 16a. Excellent tight technical riding again. I ended up behind two Goldwings, one pulling a trailer. All of a sudden a miracle! Just enough room to pass - rare on this road. I hit the throttle, and with Remus pipe snarling, I whipped around the two Wings. A few moments later I ended up behind a family. Dad, with son on the back, riding a Harley. Mom on a smaller Harley trailing behind them. Mom was a very conservative rider, but I hung back, not crowding her. Eventually they pulled off into a Resort, leaving me an open run at what was left of 16a. This loop brought me back to Rt 36. Time to exit the Black Hills and head east to the Badlands. The gentle high speed sweepers of 36 were relaxing after the tight riding in the hills.

About 70 miles of straight up riding east on I-90 brought me to Hiway 240 - the Badlands Loop. Another toll gate - another $5. I chatted with the female park ranger for several minutes. She explained that Custer State park is State managed, but the Badlands is Federal. That is why a pass for one is not good at the other. She also said that most of the Rangers felt that the $8 parking fee at Mt Rushmore for motorcycles was very excessive - but there wasn't much they could do about it, since it was imposed by Washington. The natural scenery in the Badlands is awesome! It is kind of like a painted desert rising up into the sky. The road is mixed. Some sweepers, some tight curves, some straights. Not as challenging as the Black Hills riding, but good fun. There are numerous turnouts to pull into and enjoy various views. This looks like terrain that should be in Arizona or New Mexico rather than South Dakota. It is remarkable to visit two areas of such natural beauty, but so drastically different, that close to each other. I went back to Wall, SD for dinner, and returned to the motel at 6:30 pm. Day two mileage was 285 miles - and the most fun on two wheels I've ever had in one day. I also found mileage back up to 50 mpg for the day.

I left for the journey home at 8:30 the next morning. I had decided that I could not psycologically withstand the long, straight, high speed I-90 to I-29 run again. I did about 70 miles on I-90 to get to Route 83, a 60 mph 2 lane which drops south through the Rosebud Indian reservation to Valentine, NE. I held my speed to 80 mph this time on I-90, and topped off the tank at Murdo, where I exited for Rt 83. I got 45 mpg, so reducing my speed by 5 mph gained me 5 mpg. There is an antique auto museum in Murdo, and I love old cars. But I knew I had a long ride ahead, so I didn't stay to visit it. Maybe next time. The ride through the Indian reservation was certainly more enjoyable than buzzing along on I-90. From Valentine, I took the same route home that I had ridden on my "Cowboy trail" tour a month prior. More direct, because it angled southeast, but lower speed than the Interstates, it took a bit longer - but preserved my sanity. Except for passing through the occasional small town, my cruising speed was just under 70 mph (60 mph posted limit). My gas mileage rose to 48 mpg average. I arrived home at about 8 pm. 486 miles logged on day three.

I'll give some notes on equipment performance and related stuff in a subsequent (and shorter) post later on.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Equipment Observations from Balck Hills trip

I thought it might be useful to log some observations on equipment that I made during the trip.

Burgman 650 Scooter:

This machine was awesome in its performance on the tight curvy roads in the Black Hills. Very confidence inspiring. Power Mode was just right for the tight stuff, and engine braking was right on the mark. Line up an AN650 and twelve different motorcycles outside Custer State Park and give me a choice - I'd pick the Burgman 650 with no hesitation. And I am a long time motorcycle rider...

I found that gas mileage was seriously affected by cruising speed. At 85 mph - 40 mpg, at 80 mph - 45 mpg, at 68 to 69 mph - 48 to 49 mpg. In the tight stuff within the Black Hills, even though I was constantly on/off throttle and in hilly terrain - I got 50.9 mpg (speeds were generally under 40 mph, and sometimes much lower). This was something I had never realized before.

Mid-grade gas with 10% ethanol (octane rating varied between 88 and 90) definitely gave the scooter stronger acceleration in the upper speed ranges. This surprised me. Mileage was equivalent to using regular 87 octane gas.

Oil consumption was nil. I am running full synthetic now. Considering that I spent hours running at 85 mph on the trip out, I think it was remarkable that no oil at all was consumed during the trip.

Stability was excellent. I had strong sidewinds most of the ride home. The AN650 tracked straight as a train. Note: I've learned how to ride it with the stock windscreen. I let the wind gusts push my head & shoulders around a bit, but I avoid putting a tense "death-grip" on the handlebars, so I am not feeding the inputs that would cause the scooter to move off-line. If you trust the machine, it will track straight.

The inaccurate speedometer really started to irritate me on the trip. I got tired of mentally calculating actual speed (indicated speed minus 10%) - and wondering if that was even correct.

Windscreen:

I had the stock windscreen on. The main drawback was that South Dakota was very buggy. My helmet faceshield was a mess everytime I stopped for gas. I also took a lot of wind - at my height, my helmet was fully in the windblast. Its a great helmet, but late in the third day, I was feeling a bit of stiffness in my neck. Today I put the XXL Clearview windscreen back on and went for a ride. I hated it. I had no sensation of speed, other than from watching the speedometer. High speed performance deteriorated badly. The same scooter that accelerated strongly through 104 mph on a pass yesterday, lost acceleration at 98 mph and crept 1 mph at at time up to 104 - and that was all she'd do. When I got home from the relatively short ride, my head was sweaty - no air flow was reaching the chin bar intake vents of the helmet - largely defeating its ventilation system. I think I'll put the stock screen back on tomorrow. I'm tempted to call Gustafsson Plastics and have a chat with them...

Seat:

My custom upholstered stock seat did OK. My butt was just slightly sore at the end of each day. By the third day though, I was starting to have difficulty finding a comfortable seating position. I really wanted to be about an inch further back than the seat allowed. I absolutely know that the new Corbin seat would work better for me - I've never had a Corbin seat that I didn't like. But I spent the $200 to do this seat before Corbin announced theirs. It looks great, it works pretty good, and I can't justify the cost of replacing it right now.

O-ring throttle lock:

I used it a LOT on the trips to and from the Black Hills. It worked fine. So will the other alternative throttle locks - but you definitely need something like that for 500 mile days. If I gave a "Best Accessory" award for the trip - I think this humble item would win it.

DJ Ellis Hump Bag:

This was the first time I had used it as intended - on the hump. I normally keep it in the tail section of the underseat trunk with all my contingency gear in it. Keeps the stuff from sliding around in the trunk. It was very handy for items I needed to access frequently during the trip. It holds more than you think it will. The zippers worked flawlessly. A small side pocket was perfect for easy access to my calculator, which I used to compute mileage at every gas stop. The only feature I don't like is the map pocket, which is too short and a wierd trapezoidal shape. You really have to trash a map to fold it so that it will fit the pocket. I kept my maps in one of the side glove boxes instead, where they were easy enough to access when I stopped. Overall though, it is a handy piece of gear.

Tires:

The Pirelli rear tire is holding up very well. Hard to believe, but it already has 3800 miles on it. It does not seem to be flattening out in the middle as quickly as the stock Bridgestone did. Part of that may be due to running slightly higher pressure in it, but I think the tread design also has something to do with it. Plenty of tread left, and it looks right now like it will easily outlast the original Bridgestone, which was replaced at 5300 miles. The original front Bridgestone is getting a little cobby. It still has tread (at 9100 miles), but it is starting to wear flat in the middle,and has some cupping setting in also. I intend to replace it with a Pirelli front later this month - I definitely need a new front tire before leaving for Scootercade in August.

Shoei Z-Two helmet:

The lining has broken in. Most of the first impressions I had of this helmet have held up (see review). Clearly the best feature of this helmet is its superb ventilation system - unless you stick it behind a Clearview XXL (or to be fair, any windscreen that blocks airflow to its vents).

These were the items that mentally registered with me during the trip. The other stuff (Givi Trunk, Ikon shocks, Remus exhaust, etc) just did what they should and I've taken them for granted at this point.
 

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Nothing I have read in a long time has made me fell so much like getting out myself.

That had to be fun from the word go.... :)
 

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Be ashamed .... I saw 9 pics without a Burgman in it. :tongue:
 

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After reading your story and seeing your pics, this is definately one of the first places I am going to have to visit. You mentioned campgrounds, do you remember where they were at? I prefer sleeping outside as to being cramped up in a room.
 

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Paul,
Thanks for the link, it will defininately help me decide where to stay long before I go.

JD
 

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Discussion Starter #11
billmeek said:
Be ashamed .... I saw 9 pics without a Burgman in it. :tongue:
Yah. I could have maybe parked the Burgman under Abe Lincoln's chin when I shot the monument... But that loose shale up there looked worse than the parking lot at the motel. Not much worse...

Good night Bill - time to hit the sack...
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I'm glad to see others expressing interest in the Black Hills area.

One thought I should mention is that I was there just before prime tourist season. Once tourist activity peaks, the roads in the area will get a lot more traffic, so that may alter the riding experience some. The roads are still fun to ride at relatively low speeds though, and the scenery is beautiful.

The annual Sturgis rally in August will also modify the experience during that timeframe (I'm not sure of the actual dates). With thousands of bikers in the area, that may enhance the experience for some, but I'm sure it will also increase road congestion.

Hotel, motel, and camping fees will also be higher at these peak times, and availability might be limited.

My personal preference at any of these tourist areas is to visit them slightly off season, but that is not always possible.

Whenever you go, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
 
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