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Old 02-16-2011, 07:09 PM   #18
Parepin OP
The Filthy Nomad
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: That's... a tough one to answer
Oddometer: 1,133

Got up early the next day and started off with a good meal of oatmeal and coffee, sans cream and sugar. It turned out to be a fairly nice day of riding, with blue sky and sunshine the entire day. I found myself both amused and amazed at how flat everything was. I could see for miles, and miles. The curvature of the earth took effect on your line of sight around here. That's weird. Every now and then I'd see a tree and all I could do was laugh. I easily burned through several tanks of fuel on these straight endless roads. At one point I pulled over for lunch. Seeking shade beneath an old railroad trestle crossing a dry creek bed, I began assembling my sandwich of peanut butter, banana, and honey on a whole honey wheat bun. These things make the world go round. It wasn't long before I started following the creek bed under the highway and into the plains on the other side. And here I saw my first cactus.... not much to write home about. I also stumbled on an old rattlesnake carcass, again a first for me. I did the only thing that comes natural in times such as these, I found a stick and poked at it a few times. Then it hit me, there are snakes here. Deadly ones. I turn around and look back across the dry and rocky plain I had just hiked through, that stood between me and my bike. Hah, awesome. Rattlesnakes...

Back on the highway I continue west, eventually finding myself entering the South Dakota circus sideshow known as Wall Drug. I had wondered what these signs were that I had been seeing for the past several hundred miles. I immediately noticed a fuck-ton of Harleys swarming the place. Leather vests and chaps a-plenty. Sturgis. Somehow I'd stumbled into Sturgis week without even really knowing it. I remember someone several days back asking me at a gas fill up “Hey, ya takin that thing to Sturgis?” to which I laughed and replied no, had no interest in the Harley culture. Whoops. I wandered about the “town”, marveling at the anamatronic dinosaurs and fountains shooting jets of water into the sky in the center of a fiberglass wagon circle. And then there were the cowboys. Behind the safety of glass, I observed as these ancestors of the Chucky Cheese animal band danced and tapped their boots to old timey cowboy music. Their mouths flapped about with the sloppyness of a well worn gate latch and their fake hair was falling out in patches. Fingers were very awkwardly twisted, giving a glimpse of the history these guys had seen. How many years had it taken for those finger to break and be glued back on again and again before the advanced-stage arthritic hands were just covered in cheap gas-station work gloves. A jack-rabbit mocked me in the background, donned in his cowboy hat and mini revolver.... I need to get outta here.

I payed my exit charge, collected my free ice water and nickel coffee and snuck back out to my bike. It was kinda funny, there were four lines of bikes at least two blocks long on the main drag. Chrome as far as the eye can see, and in the middle was my KLR. And I'll be damned it it hadn't collected it's own fan group. I walk up on the guys looking over my trusted steed. Both from Baltimore, they had ridden up for Sturgis on a couple of V-Stroms. They couldn't speak highly enough of the Strom, and marveled that I had ridden the KLR all the way from NY. We talked for awhile and they recommended the Badlands. I had heard of this place before, but never really got an idea of what it was all about. Seeing as I was so close, I figured why not. Just before leaving town, however, I caught a glimpse of something that I just had to get a closer look. It was a Harley, at least 20 feet of it. Apparently this thing contained one of every model engine that Harley produced throughout the years, all contributing to the drive train. There had to be a dozen seats on this thing, and equally as many people awkwardly pushing it out of the hotel parking lot and onto the main drag. And then it was gone... wow...

So I doubled back and headed south, taking the road as far as I could go. At the main gate I discover a $10 charge just to get the bike in. Well, I'd been trying to make this run on a fairly tight budget. At $40-$50 a day, even a $10 charge would really take a whack out of my already strained budget. So I doubled back to Wall to gas up and see what I could do about acquiring a park pass. Stopping in at the local DQ for a quick grease fix, I see a large steel buffalo on a flatbed trailer coast to a stop just at the end of the parking lot. I grabbed my camera from the tank bag and dashed over to the side of the road just as the truck pulled out. With a wave I raised the camera and he was cool enough to slow down for me to snap a few shots. Made entirely of scrap, this thing was impressive. So I pondered over my small GPS screen while stuffing handfuls of fries into my mouth, and I see it. A dotted line. I got this....

Went back to the badlands, hanging the last right hand turn before the main gate and I followed this random dirt road west before veering south again. Several miles later, I pass through an open gate and a sign informing me I had just entered the park. How convenient. The name of the road is beyond me at the moment, but it's there. I swear. I followed it about the park, stopping here and there for a smoke break, to harass the wildlife and take photos from the vantage point of the canyon rim. With daylight fading fast, I continued south. At one point I ran over a rattlesnake soaking in the last few rays in the center of my lane. I ran him over. Not that I intended to, but by the time I had seen it, it was already under the front wheel and shooting out the underside of the bike like a slinky thrown into the air. I was fairly overwhelmed at this point, it was weird. At one final pull off, I climbed down onto the one of the bluffs and sat down, watching a small rattlesnake on the next bluff face slither away to make home for the night. It was weird, a moment of serenity just came over me. This is rare for me, I often have trouble shutting off. I think, I dwell, it keeps me up at night. But in this moment, all was right with the world. I grabbed my journal and quickly scrawled in a few pages, urgently taking advantage of this serenity to get some new perspective or insight recorded. A few pages in and a large minivan pulls into the lot casting my shadow into the darkened abyss before me. Kids run up, parents call after them. A camera flashes over my shoulder and all I could do was sigh. I slid my Bank of America BIC into the binding and climbed back onto the bike.

I had noticed a place on my GPS called “Sheep Mountain” just southwest of the park. I figured that was as good a place as any to make camp for the night. I had only ever heard awesome things about the Badlands at sunrise, and I wanted to stick close to the area for the experience. I had hoped that Sheep Mountain might offer some vantage points that would truly be epic, bus alas, I had run out of fuel. Doubling back through the park, I pulled over at a random car port I had noticed just off the road. It seemed to be covering just a large pile of road sand behind an orange snow fence. I yanked the fence aside, pulled the bike in and closed up shop behind me. I evened out a nice plot of sand, gave it a slight dish to it and layed my riding jacket down. I slept fairly well, but the cold snuck up on me throughout the night and I pulled my sleeping bag out of my pack, throwing it over my head. I also had the good fortune to experience a passing thunderstorm throughout the night. It was a fairly entertaining show in the wide open plains. Large gobs of rain bounced off the tin roof. What a racket.

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