Sorry about the missed updates guys. A busy work week ate through what little buffer I had built up, but I spent the better part of today writing, so I should be good for awhile.
I got up the next morning early pre-dawn and hopped back in the saddle, rocketing up the road and back into Wall to fuel up and grab some coffee. A cheese danish seemed to hit the spot as well. I shot the shit with a local for a bit before heading back into the badlands. I wanted to be there just as the first rays of sun hit the bluffs, so I made a point to move quickly. Slipping back into the park before anyone manned the front gate, I rode down through the canyon JUST as sunlight broke across the peaks. Amazing. I made a point of parking right in the center of an intersection and just taking in the sight for several minutes. Snapped some photos and headed back to Sheep Mountain to see what exactly I had missed, harassing the wildlife along the way.
All and all I was rather impressed. Sheep Mountain turned out to be a huge plateau in the middle of the wasteland. A narrow rough road wound up and into a canyon before crawling up the side of the mountain, following the countours of the landscape. It was refreshing to ride a path with such an organic movement to it. I had gotten absolutely annoyed with the long straight highway of the past several days. The road suddenly turned to some tricky, sandy double track. I admit, my experience on sand is pretty much non existent and I found myself fighting the bike much more than I should have. I was treated with some awesome scenic views as the road suddenly vanished over the cliff edge. Good times, this would have been an epic view to wake up to. I'll hafta come back some day and get it done. I imagine that standing on the edge, looking over the badlands on a full-moon would be quite a sight as well. Add that one to the list. At the very end of the trail, I noticed a scrawny tree with a few strips of hankerchief tied to the branches. I made my own contribution, soaked it in for a few and rooster-tailed my way back to the highway.
So I followed the asphalt, highway 44 I believe, north on to Rapid City, and continued on to Mount Rushmore. With Sturgis going on, I was rubber to rubber with Harleys as far as the eye could see. It was a real cluster fuck. I couldn't even keep a decent pace going as every rider seemed to slow so Mrs. Leather could get some snapshots of this and of that. I had to look real out of place here, but I didn't care. It's a KLR, I'm use to the stares at this point. The roads were pretty cool, however. I came upon the monument before long, but elected not to enter. All these $10 and $20 entrance fees were threatening to kill my budget, so I settled on a few shots from the intersection out front. I was kind of surprised, I always thought Rushmore would have been a lot bigger. Anyhow, I moved on, pulling over every now and then to check out the interesting terrain of the black hills.... and to have a smoke. Before long, I had Crazy Horse in my sights. Well, I would have, had it not been for the ˝ mile line of bikes leading to the monument. Another hand full of light rotations and I was pulling up to the front gate. Surprise surprise, another entrance fee. I patted my pockets and told the guy I didn't have any cash on hand. Peering over my shoulder at the angry chrome behind me, I asked if I could just pull ahead and double back to the exit. The guy seemed cool with this. With a nod, I drop my visor and hit the starter, pulling ahead. By the time I found a spot where I could pull around, I was a good bit away from the entrance booths. In fact, I couldn't even see the man I was talking to mere moments before. With a shrug, I continued on to the monument.
Now I just want to say that, for as un-impressed as I was with Rushmore, I was in complete awe at the mountain before me. It was fucking HUGE. I had been told that all of Rushmore would fit on Crazy Horse's head... if it ever gets finished. Holy shit. There is no way this thing will ever be done in my life time. I parked my bike amongst the straight pipes in a pitiful attempt to blend in and cruised around the visitors center. This kinda shit is right up my ally. I marveled at the scale model of the finished product, and browsed through the creator's tools and various sculptures. A pretty fascinating story. I gotta give these people a lot of respect, especially considering that they've turned down millions of dollars in grant money from the state to keep this creations purpose true. Once the state gets it's hands in the mix, that's where it all goes down hill. It wasn't long before the crowds had me moving back to the parking lot. I did make a note to do a few laps and take in some of the absolutely bizarre and amazing abominations some of these people were cruising around in. One in particular, a rolling mural of the Deadwood series, was pretty impressive. Lots of cleavage.
So I hit the road once again, heading for the Needles Highway. I didn't know much about it, but some random guy at a gas station recommended it and, to be honest, that's all the reason I needed to take a look. All I can say is, awesome. Well, it would have been. Lots of narrow, twisty switchbacks winding through the blackhills forests. It would have been a truly epic ride were it not for the fact that I was stuck in 2nd
gear, fender to fender with yet more cruisers. Bastards. I continued on all the way to Custer, once again skirting the entrance fees and moving onto the mountaintop lakes. Fairly impressive. So far, the black hills are my favorite. I love all the exposed granite spires and the office-building sized boulders that seemed to have just come tumbling out of the sky to land half submerged on the edge of the water. I had another smoke from the edge of one out of the way outcropping and watched as families below enjoyed the beautiful day. Kids were swimming, dogs were frolicking, parents screaming at Timmy as he jumped from the boulders into the crystal clear waters. All I could do was smile and nod as I clambered back down in my moto gear, donning my helmet and puttered away.
I stopped at a gas station just outside of Deadwood for a fill up and to acquire some stickers. As I sat in the shade just off to the side of the building, a short, twiggy Mexican strolled over to me. With his hair pulled back, a bald spot covered with a bandana, and some of the reddest eyes I had ever seen, I didn't really know what to make of him. “Hey mang, 'name's Louie Louie. You wouldn't happen to have any weed would ya? I got my buddies been hitting me up all day, sayin 'C'mon Louie Louie! You gotta get some!'” I couldn't help but laugh. Patting my pockets, I shrugged and told him he was shit outta luck, but if he came upon anything to let me know. I must just look like that kinda guy, I guess....
So on I went, pulling into Sturgis right around 7. Once again, I found myself in the middle of the pack. It made me nervous at first, but to be honest, I was getting a lot of nods from some of the more hard core fellas. Just as the exit came up, I was confronted with a wall of sickly black gray smoke. A custom ahead had just blown some rings with a hell of a pop and was now trailing a column of smoke as he hard decelled into town. Had a good laugh. Found myself stopped dead just off the exit. Traffic. Fuckin Sturgis. I pulled off my lid and struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. His name was Scott, and he really was enjoying the day on his Suzuki cruiser. He and I would find ourselves shooting the shit for the next hour or so as we coasted at less-than-walking pace down the main strip to where the festivities were located. He seemed to really dig the ride that I was on and what few stories I had. We both really enjoyed the boobies that were in abundance. Is there something about leather gear that makes tops that hard to stay on? Not that I'm complaining...
So we coast-walked our bikes to the main drag and I parked mine amongst the customs. It was laundry day, so I had a pair of boxers bungied to the top. You know, so I could remember which one was mine... Scott and I cruised the shops a bit and stopped in for a bite to eat. He offered to grab a drink with me, and I politely declined, saying I had hit my budget for the day. He, in return, offered to buy me a slice of pizza and a beer. I declined this, too, saying I wasn't comfortable moochin. He countered with an exchange. He would buy me a slice of pizza and a beer if I would send him a post card from Alaska. Fuck, that worked for me. And it gave me a reason to head north, so why not? We hung out a bit and downed a few before he headed off to the show. I think Korn was playing. Scott didn't know the band, but he didn't care. I continued pacing this circus sideshow, but it wasn't long before I was once again driven back to my ride by the crowds of alcohol induced chaos and..... BO. Man, bikers stink. I hope I don't smell like that. At least I was confident that my boxers wouldn't smell like ass. They aired out nicely. It was dark by now, and I headed towards Devils Tower. I didn't make it far, however, and ended up pitching camp well before the national park. Oddly, I don't remember where I camped. No where special, I suppose. They all start blending together at this point.