Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Great Bike Ride – Day 4

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The day started off in Kadoka SD. After breakfast at the local greasy spoon, we jumped on I-90 West for the quick run to the Badlands. It was the first time for John and Jeff, and they were appropriately impressed with the area. Pat & Buss had visited the Badlands the when they rode to Sturgis last year, and Terry and I had chance to visit last fall. It was a pleasure to run through again, this time on a bike.

From there we stopped at Wall Drug for Jeff. It's the very definition of a tourist trap, so we didn't stay long.

The next stop was Sturgis. After the Rally, it's a pretty sleepy town. We had no problem parking the bikes on Main Street, or getting a table at Ben's.

Then came the long stretch. We left Sturgis with the goal of reaching Hardin, Montana. My mapping program indicated that there was no lodging on US 212 between Belle Fourche SD and Hardin, a stretch of about 200 miles. It was correct in that regard. In fact, there was virtually nothing on this road except range land and cattle. We found gas in Broadus MT – 100 miles from Belle Fourche. The next gas was another 100 miles later where US 212 joined I-90, at the Little Big Horn (yep, that one).

For most of the day, it was 100 degrees with cloudless blue sky. Not a tree to be seen for the first hundred miles.

While we were eating in Sturgis, some folks at the next table struck up a conversation (there's always someone who wants to talk with the bikers), and upon finding out we were headed for Glacier said that: a) US 2 west of the park is under repair and pretty much a dirt road (no thanks); and, b) the forest fires in the area make many areas uncomfortable to be in. We're a little bummed by these developments, but still plan to head up there next week.

Tomorrow we head into Yellowstone.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Great Bike Ride – Day 3

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

We started our day in Omaha, digging out of the rush hour traffic to head west. The skies were overcast, and the temperature cool enough that my leather jacket and gloves felt comfortable. The run across US20 was through rolling terrain that gradually shifted from flat Midwestern cornfields to the sandy soils and arid conditions of the rolling upper plains.

Today was the day that we had to start remembering that gas stations aren't always handy. Jeff and I ride older bikes, and therefore have only 5 gallon gas tanks, while the 2008 models ridden by John and Buss have six gallon tanks. But we all have about the same range since John and Buss are pulling trailers – about 150 miles. We were on fumes as we rolled into Valentine Nebraska, and were very glad to find a Shell station there. Another Harley rider pulled in for gas while we were there, and reported that the road north of Valentine to Murdo SD was being resurfaced.

The folks out here are particularly fond of a road surfacing technique called "chip and seal." What that means is that they put down a thin layer of tar and pour fingernail-sized chips of rock over the tar. The idea is that as cars drive over the rock chips and the chips are smashed into the tar, making a very tough road surface without the expense of paving machines and rollers. In practice, they pour way more chips on the road than they need. The effect is that the road behaves as is it were loose gravel, a nasty road surface for riding a heavyweight road bike. To make things worse, car and especially trucks coming the opposite way fling chips into the air, scratching our paint and whacking us in the legs.

Knowing all that, we decided to take an alternate route, staying on US20 Merriman NE, then north on SD 73 to I-90 and back east to Kadoka. At least that was the plan.

This stretch of US20 was empty except for us. That's the good news. The bad news was that a few miles of it had recently gotten the tar & chip treatment as well, although most of the loose gravel had been ground in. After all that extra riding, and a few leg dings, when we got to the leg of SD 18 north from US18, we found it also under construction. In this case the road surface had been removed down to the dirt, and was impassable to our bikes. The flagger there directed us to head further east, to SD63, then north to SD44, the west to SD73 into Kadoka. In the end, we went about 50 miles further than our original route, but it seemed like much longer – I'm sure because of the frustration and time lost. In the attached picture, the planned route is in yellow, and the one we actually took is in green. You can see why we got a little nuts.

But just to prove that sometimes the best things happen when plans have to be adjusted – the last few miles were through the eastern edge of the Badlands just before sunset. It was spectacular.

We pulled into the Best Western at about 8pm, got some rooms, had a nice dinner and crashed. Total of 489 miles today.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Great Bike Ride – Day 2

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We got off to an early start and spent the day crossing Iowa, with our day's goal being to reach Norfolk, Nebraska (birthplace of Johnny Carson).

Our route for most of the day was US24, an excellent road that runs through farm fields that stretch from horizon to horizon, with an occasional small town along the way. The morning was cool, but a long-sleeved t-shirt was plenty to stay warm. By the afternoon, we were roasting in 90+ degrees and high humidity.

As we got closer to the Nebraska border, we could see a storm front building to the northwest – right in our path. After fighting through the late afternoon traffic in Omaha, we hit the western outskirts just as the weather began to look really nasty. We pulled over for gas, and turned on Jeff's weather radio to see what we could find out about the storm. The first thing we heard was that a tornado warning was in effect for the area we needed to go through to get to Norfolk.

So we decided to just take cover in Omaha for the night. We got the bikes parked, unloaded, and covered just before the worst hit. We weren't sure whether the covers would protect the bikes, or act like sails and dump them over like dominos. Gladly, they rode it through the high winds just fine.

Unlike our accommodations last night, the Best Western here at 108th and L is a new facility with great amenities, not the least of which was a free cocktail hour. Well, actually, it was free beer in a little room with a few munchies. It was a great way to unwind after a long hot day.

We leave at 8am in the morning – destination, the Badlands of South Dakota.


The Great Bike Ride – Day 1

Monday Aug 27, 2007

Our once-in-a-lifetime trip began for us when Buss, Pat and I left our house at 7:15am to gas up and ride to C&A Harley-Davidson to meet John Bennett and Jeff Holloway. It was a little tough just getting to C&A as school is back in session, so the traffic in both Hilliard and Dublin was thick. But we still got underway at 8am as planned, heading up US33 toward northwestern Ohio.

The trip didn't start well. My bike had been acting a little strange lately, especially after I replaced the stock horn with a new Harley air horn. The bike had become prone to stalling at idle, which I assumed was caused by my pinching the gas tank vent hose while installing the horn. Then one day the bike would not start, or even turn over, and I had to have Terry come give me a jump. My next diagnosis was a bad battery, so I put a new one in.

The bike ran great the next several days, so I assumed everything was okay. Then at one of our stops this morning, at the intersection of US33 and OH127 in northwest Ohio, the bike would not restart. Dead battery again. We got it started by pushing, and fortunately we were with about 3 miles of Jim's Harley-Davidson in Mendon OH, a dealer we know well. We all rode over there, and asked the service guys to look at it. They got it right in, and diagnosed the problem as a bad stator (think alternator in your car). Two hours and about $300 later, we were on the road again.

The rest of the ride today was wonderful. US 24 across Indiana and Illinois, ending in Galesburg, IL. Cheap but clean hotel. John and I are going to try sharing a room. We'll see who kicks the other out first. About 450 miles today.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Catherine's Journey Begins

We had the great pleasure of attending Catherine's White Coat Ceremony last Friday, marking her induction into the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She has four years of hard work ahead of her on the way to becoming an MD, but we know she has the smarts and the motivation to do well.

The last week she was home, we went to Bodies ... The Exhibition at Easton Mall. If you get a chance to see this here, or in your city, I highly recommend it. It is a magnificent collection of dissected human bodies, treated by a method which infuses the tissue with clear plastics which preserves the detail, but prevents decay. It's not gross - it really isn't.

It's very gratifying when the kids become experts in their fields, and can teach the parents. Elizabeth certainly knows more about music, in theory and in performance, than either of her parents. She's putting it to work serving others, as a teacher.

And as Catherine and I walked around this exhibit, I loved hearing her talk about the systems of the human body, and how they worked. She was the teacher, I was the student

Today, Catherine's classes begin. Hope it's a blast for you kid! We're very proud.