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Old 02-15-2011, 06:30 PM   #16
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I packed up the next morning and headed west, stopping in the next town I pass through for a mediocre meal, a stop at the post office, and a gas fill up. Here's where I have my first real encounter. You know, the people that really make the trip. The guy on the next pump over strolls on up and starts looking over the bike and gear, nodding to himself and asking me about the NY plates. “Yeah, I rode it the whole way.” He tells me of the '08 he just picked up, and offers me the use of his shower. It'd been a few days, and the dude seemed alright, so why not? Turned out to be a solid guy. Kevin was his name, out of Lena, Il. I grabbed a quick shower and had a beer as we looked over the new KLR. I even got to take it out on some back roads for comparison. I still prefer the old school design. A quick introduction to his wife and daughter as they arrived home from work and I packed up to head out. Couldn't find my phone, however. I checked my gear and even made a last minute pass of the house, but to no avail. Finally, I just assumed it'd gotten wrapped up in the luggage. Being the lazy SOB that I am, I moved on.




Kept heading west, keeping the sun in sight. I hit the Mississippi river just before nightfall and turned north along the Great River Road. Made camp behind some random cornfield after hitting my first cat of the season. Kinda bummed me out. I had planned on burning through the midnight oil, but after smacking that damn barn cat dead center and hearing it squawk, I just wanted to get off the road, smoke one, and pass out. I followed the road as it went from asphalt to gravel, gravel to dirt, and the dirt ended at a T intersection. I went straight, down into a field and along some double track. Before long I found myself pitching camp in the dark behind a tall row of corn. Good times, good times.





Got up the next morning and evaluated my situation. Brewed up a cup of coffee and some instant oatmeal and had breakfast while surfing the GPS. I had always heard that the badlands of South Dakota were worth a look, so I figured that this would be my very next target. It's always good to have goals, right? Route 14 seemed to be a straight shot west into Rapid City. That works for me. Wasn't long before I was Baja-ing down the access road back to the Great River Road where I continued north until hitting route 14. I remember finding it fairly interesting how big the holes in the concrete wall to my right were. Debris barriers, I assumed. I amused myself during a smoke break trying to figure just how much energy would have to be crashing down the cliff-face to take out Volkswagen sized chunks of concrete. Yeesh. Anyhow, made that left and crossed the Mississippi. On to Rapid City.





I never did find my cell phone. That's worth mentioning. Apparently, I left it at the post office just before meeting Kevin. It would later get shipped back home, leaving me to find a replacement. I hit half a dozen Wal-Marts along the way in an effort to snag a cheap Verizon throw-away phone, but they don't seem to exist in this part of the country. Where the hell am I? I suddenly find myself feeling a little uneasy. It's like some time warp where it's eternally 5 years ago. Stopped at a Cabelas along the way and scored a nice Brunton dual-fuel stove. Not a bad little MSR substitute. Runs on 87 octane, what more can you ask for? Out of Cabelas, I took the nearest dirt road. Route 14 from here on out turns out to be fairly high speed interstate, which I'm not yet a big fan of on such a tall bike. I stumbled into Lake Benson, MN a few minutes before dark and head for the nearest green blob I've now come to know as home. The road ends abruptly in someone's front yard where I find the owner standing beside his truck watching me roll up like a fool-on-wheels. He was pretty cool, though, and recommended the next lot up to pitch a tent for the night. There was a house there at one point, but no longer. It burned down. People died. I slept well.





Sooo... yeah. Windmills.
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Old 02-15-2011, 08:33 PM   #17
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I'm Liking it FUCKER! Your sett'n the Bar High areennnntchya, Very nice
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Old 02-16-2011, 07:09 PM   #18
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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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Old 02-16-2011, 07:10 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jettn Jim View Post
I'm Liking it FUCKER! Your sett'n the Bar High areennnntchya, Very nice
You'll never be able to come even close to how awesome I am. Sorry to hafta break it to you like that. You probably shouldn't even bother trying.

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Old 02-16-2011, 08:13 PM   #20
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Totally in. Had no idea you started your trip that long ago. Looking forward to more of this.
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Old 02-16-2011, 09:01 PM   #21
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Subscribed! You had me at the first post.
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Old 02-16-2011, 09:41 PM   #22
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What he said...
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Old 02-17-2011, 02:31 AM   #23
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Keep it up

Your writing style is awesome, catches the free flow of the trip perfectly! Keep going, I'm a fan.
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Old 02-17-2011, 08:46 AM   #24
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very cool. I'm in.
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Old 02-19-2011, 06:35 PM   #25
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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 ½ 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.


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Old 02-20-2011, 03:51 PM   #26
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Woke up the next morning and bushwacked my way back to asphalt. It wasn't long before I found myself amongst wave after wave of straight pipes, chrome, and leather. Man, this is getting old. Stopping along the way at what appears to be an old mining setup, I snapped some pics and did the walk around. A few other bikes rolled up as well, one was a Beamer if I remember correctly. Nothing special really, so I moved on. I don't really know what to expect, but with a name like “Devil's Tower”, how can you go wrong? Stopping at the souvenir shop just before the main gate, I grabbed a sticker and a mediocre root beer, and snapped some pictures from afar. As far as I can tell, another entrance fee would only allow me to continue on another ½ mile to the base of the tower. Asking around, it didn't seem like there would be much worth investigating. You couldn't even get to the top, so I was pretty happy with what pictures I had. I wasn't overly impressed, but the tower was still rather cool. I guess it's some sort of ancient volcano that eroded away, leaving behind the columns of hard material that once filled the main vent in long, vertical columns. Good stuff.
















At this point, I decided I had had enough with the biker crowd and moved on seeking a bit more seclusion. Hopping onto highway 212, I soon found myself in a little town in the middle of nowhere known as Broadus, Montana. I did a few laps, looking for a place to eat, and settled on a bright pink Cafe on the corner of the main drag. Hoofers, I think. It was pretty decent food, and a recommendation to anyone that happens to find themselves in this part of the world. I gassed up afterwords and hung out at the station for a few, shooting the shit with riders as they come and go. One old timer in particular, riding a Buell Ulysses, seemed pretty interested in my KLR. It seems that he use to own one and traded it in for the Ulysses. I'd be surprised if he got enough to cover the sales tax. Another, on a Harley, amused himself by questioning my choice in gear for a hot summer day in Montana. He thought I was crazy for my black textile jacket and overpants. I assured him that I'd rather be with it then without it, and it was just more incentive to keep moving, to keep cool. And with that, I moved on.







I soon found myself in Billings with light fading fast. With my boxers strapped to the luggage for the better part of the day, a good air dry and a bake in the sun just wasn't getting the job done. I figured it was time to do some laundry. I scanned the GPS, but quickly found it useless. Lapping the streets wasn't working out all that well, either. I did eventually find one, only to discover that they were closing within the hour. At least, that's what I gathered as the older woman behind the window kept shaking her head and not letting me in.... alright then. So I doubled back to one of the many large hotels to camp out for a couple hours. With an open washing machine, outlets available, and a WIFI pass-code coaxed out of the manager I was set to go. I vegged out for a few hours, stuffing my face on a feast of vending-machine goodness before heading out late into the night. Jumping on a dirt road heading out of town, it wasn't long before I had a tent pitched in the front yard of a burned out ranch. Ironically, the insistent beeping of a dying fire alarm within the home kept me up for a good portion of the night.
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Old 02-20-2011, 05:41 PM   #27
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Nice writing. You're helping to keep my riding spirits up. I'm just a bit south of you in the Bristol Hills. Keep 'em coming.
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Old 02-21-2011, 10:43 AM   #28
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Keep it coming, you got me roped in.
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Old 02-21-2011, 11:50 AM   #29
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Old 02-21-2011, 07:24 PM   #30
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So I made a point to get up extra early the next morning and headed back into town. The goal at the moment was to get a good meal in, on a budget of course. I'd picked up a little trick while living out of cheap hotels for work and was eager to give it a shot on the road. So on to Howard Johnsons I went, pulling up into the rear lot and removed most of my gear. Entering through a rear door, I walked into the main lobby with my hair a mess, yawning and rubbing my eyes. Before I knew it I was sitting down, shooting the shit with other hotel patrons and enjoying myself a hell of a complimentary hot breakfast. Just the coffee would have been worth it, but this place had a goddamn waffle maker. Score! I vaguely recall stuffing my pockets with granola bars and fruit as well. Hehe. I'm on a KLR after all. It's probably worth noting that Billings is where I had my first road rage incident. Heading out to Wally World, the D-bag next to me at the stop light down the road peels out at the green and rockets down the road, only to brake hard in front of me to catch the next right hand turn. I juked left and skirted past him, leaving his ass to lay on his horn as he bumped the curb into the parking lot. I take the next right and pull into Wally World only to see him coming my way. From behind a partially closed window, I can see him throwing four letter words before actually spitting at me as I pass. I just waved. Parking my bike, I take my lid off and look up at the next aisle over, and there he was. Just... stopped in that piece of shit blazer, staring me down. I smirked and waved again, he cursed and peeled out. I relocated the bike and went on with my day. What a douche.


After this, I just wanted out of the city. I continued on west, eating up as many miles as I could. Man, Montana is HUGE. I eventually just hung a right into some random cattle pasture, following the dirt track as it wound through several different fields and dancing with the livestock as they fled the scene and awkwardly clambered up the rocky slope. After a washout intervening, I simply baja'd across the ditch and up the hillside, setting up camp amongst the trees I've quickly come to rely upon.






Got up the next morning and continued eating up miles. At one point I just got tired of the asphalt and took the next dirt road which turned out to be a fairly interesting logging trail switch-backing up some random mountain. The road gradually got narrower and narrower until I found myself on nothing more than a game trail. I bounced off of one fairly good sized rock only to go head long into another, nearly being bucked clear off the trail. I figured this was a good spot to stop and burn one before heading back down. What a great photo opportunity. Dropping back down in altitude, I hopped on what I believe was route 12. My journal says this was a pretty cool, windy road, but I don't recall. I'll just hafta trust what the crayola is telling me. I do remember at one point passing a sign that said simply “Ghost Town <---” If there is any way to get this guy sidetracked, it's with statements like this. An 11 mile dirt road spit me out in Garnet, apparently America's most well preserved ghost town. And that it was. Kind of odd. Located in a valley deep in the mountains, it seems like a lot of these shops were just closed up. Obviously there wasn't much as far as artifacts go, but the “town” was still there. I spoke with one of the caretakers for a bit and walked the trails. I didn't take any pics, however. I was having electrical issues that kept me from being able to charge my batteries, so this portion of the trip you'll just have to trust me on. I spent the night along side some ruined cabin I had passed coming into town.


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