Monday, August 30, 2010

Lessons Learned on the Devils Tower Road Trip

We couldn't have asked for a better first road trip. The weather was perfect. The bikes were great. The destination was great. The company was perfect. :-) We even ended up having a house guest to stay in our house while we were away.

We didn't camp so we didn't have to carry nearly as much stuff as we would have otherwise. For our first trip and only a week of travel, I just thought it would be better to spend the extra bucks for our own bed, shower and some air conditioning. Turns out, the chalet was only $4 more a night than the KOA. So, that was a no brainer really.

All of our gear fit inside our side and top cases. Hubby's GL650I had two rear side cases, a top case and a tank bag. My G650GS had two side cases, a top case, a tank bag and two tank panniers. We only had to bungee stuff to a seat once, when hubby's latch got stuck locked after we unloaded on the first night. Fortunately that happened after he had taken everything out of it. He also was able to repair a couple of nights later.

The bike-to-bike communication was a great investment. We bought them just for this trip and I think we did only one test ride. Or maybe we just walked around the house with our helmets on to test them out. At any rate, it was not something we were used to having but is now something we will probably never ride without. That was another good reason not to camp. We needed to charge them each night. Having the ability to talk to each other during the ride enabled me to be the lead rider throughout the trip. I have very poor sense of direction. Hubby can almost always figure out where we need to go. But, when he leads, he told me he constantly checks his mirrors for me. Not for any particular reason but he just does. This slows him down, which really annoys me. I tend to ride up on his back wheel when he's leading. With me in the lead, I can set the pace and he can see me all the time. It works great! :-) We were both very content with that arrangement. With the ability to talk to him, I can ask for directions and not lead us astray. We can also discuss where and when to get gas, when and where to stop for food, when and where to stop to pee, etc. It makes the ride so much easier and more relaxing.

Another invaluable accessory was the evaporative cooling vests, also purchased just for this trip. Wyoming in July is so very hot. Turns out we arrived at our motel in Hullet on the hottest day that year. The vests work in a similar way to the cooldana. You soak them in water for a few minutes so the absorbing gel gets saturated. Lightly wring them out so they aren't dripping. Put them on under the mesh jacket and off you go. Instant A/C! We soaked ours and then put them into over sized zip locked bags and stuffed them into hubby's trunk until we needed them. They stayed wet and we didn't have to find a place to soak them on the road.

We both learned that our stock seats are not so comfy after a hundred miles or so. I learned that I really needed some highway pegs to stretch my legs. (That's already been taken care of by my love!) We had just enough space for all of our stuff - probably more than enough if we really thought about it. We road at night only once but wished we'd had our reflective vests when we did. I think we had a lot of electronic gear but I'm not sure we had too much. All of the chargers and things take up a lot of space. We used a lot of faux packing cubes which made packing and finding things much easier.

The trip as planned worked well for the amount of riding per day. Being our first long trip we wanted to have relatively short travel days without making us too worn out each day. On the way home we rode the most miles to get home on Friday instead of Saturday. That was also a good decision giving us a full weekend to recover before going back to work.

About the only thing I would do differently was to bring a small cooler to keep cold drinks. We wore camelbak packs but it was hard to drink with a full face helmet while riding. I would have liked to have cool drinks once we stopped but that was a minor detail really. Stopping for cold drinks was a good excuse to stretch the legs and resoak our vests and some times even sit in an air conditioned store.

Other than that, I would not have changed one thing! It was a fantastic trip! Happy Anniversary my love! Where should we go next year?? :-)

Lunch ride

Last week I needed to get away from the desk for a bit and decided to take a lunch ride up to Nederland. Nederland is about 16 miles or so up Boulder Canyon (Hwy 119). I've done this route a few times. It's a nice quick and easy ride, depending on the traffic, to shake the days worries off during or after work.

I didn't have a lot of time. I had a meeting at 1:30. I decided to run into the supermarket to see what I could round up for a quick bite. I'd never been in this market before. We always stop in the parking lot when we ride through Nederland. The public library is in the strip mall in this parking lot and has a clean bathroom. Turns out there is a deli and also hot food in the market. Lunch was an elk burger, fries and a lemonade. Yum!

Even better, when I sat down to wait for my food, I checked my email and saw that the person I was meeting was going to be about half an hour late. Good thing because I didn't even order until almost 1:00 and it takes at least half an hour to get back to work. :-) That was the best burger I've had in a while. Maybe because I was just enjoying the day but I think I'll have to stop here with my hubby the next time we are in the town riding through around lunch time.

It was a so-so day made much better by the ride and the meal. Yay! :-) And I made it back in time for my appointment. Woot!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 6 - Heading Home

On day 6 of our Devils Tower vacation, we headed for home. Since our original plan was to get to Hot Springs, SD, we thought we'd locate a cafe there and have a small breakfast before hitting the road. Hot Springs isn't a large town but we were surprised to find that there wasn't much open this morning. There seemed to be plenty of places but we were just out of luck for some reason. As we drove through town we came upon this small drive up and walk up coffee place. You can see our motos across the street parked in front of the post office.
And here is my lovely hubby standing next to his moto. That's the coffee shop in the background with the rainbow umbrellas.

He got coffee and I got juice and we each got a muffin.

While waiting in line, we met a couple from Rapid City (I think) who were on vacation in Hot Springs. Coincidentally, they have kids living in Colorado, one in Loveland (I think) and one in Arvada. Cool. :-) They asked us if we'd gotten caught in the storm last night. We said we'd just missed it, that we checked in to the motel in Custer just before the rain came. They then mentioned the big storm that had come through Hot Springs last night. Lots of wind, lightning, thunder, hail and rain. Trees were down and the power was out. They told us we were lucky we weren't in Hot Springs.

Well that explained why so many places were closed that morning! And it also explained the note taped to the door of the post office saying they could only sell stamps and not mail packages due to the power outage. And to think we almost pushed on through to get to Hot Springs the night before. It seems our luck continued to hold throughout the vacation! Wow.

This photo is of the library across the street from the coffee shop and post office. You can see the downed branches in front.

After our breakfast, as we drove through town, there were signs and trees and branches down all over. Even some small bits of debris in the road. Power crews were out working on down power lines. Wow. We were feeling very lucky indeed to have missed that storm.

From Hot Springs we headed west on highway 18 through Edgemont, SD and crossed the border back into Wyoming. From there we went south on highway 85 to Lusk where we had some lunch. It was another fabulous lunch at some small place in a small town. It was the place to be as the crowd came in just after us. We each had wraps with chips and a drink. Yum. :-)

From there we decided to head for the interstate in order to get home the most direct route. It also continued the theme of not traveling on the same roads twice. :-) The weather looked to be threatening but we made out ok. We did stop to put our rain gear on just before getting to the interstate, but once we hit the super slab, we took off the jackets and it was all clear from there on. You can see the dark clouds that had been chasing us in the photo below.

We stopped to hydrate ourselves and our vests at a rest stop gas station somewhere along I-25. I was starting to feel very ill from the heat at this point so we took quite a long break to fuel up and drink lots.

Once we got into Colorado, we started hitting some rush hour traffic. Cheyenne Frontier Days was also going on and we ran into some traffic there. Once we got south of Ft. Collins the traffic was very heavy. So, we pulled off I-25 at Loveland, had a potty break and more fluids and made our way to hwy 287. From there it was a straight shot home and much less stressful.

We traveled about 385 miles this day, which was by far our longest not only of this trip but, ever! We felt pretty good though and it was kind of weird pulling into the driveway knowing we were done. The next day we still felt a desire to be riding. :-)

Here are the motos safe at home in the garage. :-)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The 5th Day of the Devils Tower Anniversary Road Trip

On the 5th day we checked out of our lovely chalet in Hulett and said so long (for now) to Wyoming. Our destination this morning was Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. We weren’t sure how far we’d get or which roads we’d travel because we weren’t sure how long some of the twisty roads might take to travel. One of the things I really wanted to see and had been excited to see was buffalo. We joked that I’d sort of been working my way up to a live buffalo – starting with the Vore Buffalo Jump and all the buffalo bones there followed by my tasty meal of buffalo medallions on our anniversary in Deadwood. Next would be living buffalo in the flesh! LOL. But, the more I read about Custer State Park, where there are herds of buffalo roaming around, the less safe I felt about riding the motorcycles to see them. So, Tim and I decided we’d not take the road that runs through the main part of the park. (We also didn’t feel like paying the $10 per bike entrance fee.) Instead we decided to ride to the town of Custer, have lunch and then decide where to venture off to.

Along the way, we stopped at a scenic overlook and took some photos there.

We also passed by Jewel Cave National Monument. Actually, we stopped at the visitor center since it was so close and on the way. That road, we were pleased to find out, was very interesting to ride on. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to mount my camera on the moto so I didn’t get very many photos. In the park, which had motorcycle parking, we wandered through the visitor center exhibits and took a potty break. We drove by Wind Cave as well but didn’t stop there. The skies were starting to look questionable so we pushed on to Custer, SD.

In Custer we drove the length of what looked to be their main street and decided on a nice looking place for lunch. Oddly enough, I didn’t take any photos of the restaurant or our meals. We both had burgers – one elk and one buffalo. They were yummy and so were the roasted red potatoes that came with it. The restaurant had some then and now photos of the area by one photographer who was documenting the changes. He’s put out a book, “The Black Hills Yesterday and Today”, as well. We looked through the restaurant’s copy. Very cool.

From there, after consulting with the waitress, we decided to ride the road that would take us by the Crazy Horse Monument and up to Mount Rushmore. Our goal was to get up there and head back to try to get to Hot Springs, SD to spend the night there.

We got to Crazy Horse and pulled off to take a photo from the distance. We really weren’t that interested in seeing it up close even though we’ve heard the exhibits are pretty cool. We just weren’t going to pay for the entrance fees for each bike at each of these monuments. That was going to add up very quickly. In the photo below you can see the dark skies we were also hoping to avoid. We kept getting a few rain drops here and there and really didn’t want to be caught in a thunderstorm with no shelter.

Blue skies in the other direction.

From there we headed off to Mount Rushmore. Turns out we came at it from the backside. I kept telling Tim, as we got closer, that I thought we should be able to see it. It just felt like it was right on the other side of the rocks we were riding alongside of. But, there weren’t hoards of cars or people either, which is usually a sure sign you are near the national park. So, we kept going. Then, all of a sudden, we came around a curve and there it was! But, it was kind of behind and to our left so we couldn’t see it very well. So, we thought, we’d have to go into the parking area in order to see it. (It’s great to have the communication devices so we can discuss these things.) I pulled over so we could turn around. We’d gone around another curve at this point so we couldn’t even see it from the point where I’d pulled over. As we pulled back onto the road after making our u-turn, there it was! So cool! We then decided to just pull over quickly on the motorcycle sized shoulder of the road and snap a quick photo or two. Tim had his phone handy but I didn’t so those photos are from him. Awesome!

We were satisfied with the view we had and decided not to pay the parking fees to see the exhibits. Next time. We did pull over to check out the profile view. I snapped a couple of photos there. Then we were on our way back to Custer. We took a slightly different route back which took us part way through Custer State Park. We didn’t have to pay on this road so it was cool to be able to see the wide open space. And guess what! We even saw three buffalo!! That was so cool!! They were each hanging out by themselves so it didn’t seem terribly scary. They are very large animals. Very, very cool!!

As we got closer to town, we thought it might be better to just stay in Custer instead of trying to push on to Hot Springs. The storm hadn’t passed yet and we didn’t want to get caught in it. I remembered seeing a sign at a motel for $39 rooms. For one night, that would do just fine. It ended up being $49 but we were ok with that.

It was also right across the street from a couple of restaurants which meant we didn’t have to gear up but could walk there. We checked in, unpacked the bikes, shook off the road a bit and sat for a couple of minutes before looking outside to see that the sky had opened up. It was raining really hard. Our luck had held once again.

So, we watched some TV and waited for the rain to stop, which, of course, it did just in time for us to go to dinner. The sun even came out. We moseyed across the street to a sports bar like place and had some steaks. They were ok. Mine was very overdone so I sent it back. The beer was cold and tasty. After dinner we walked down main street but most of the shops were closed. But, it was all good. We were still on vacation.

That day we rode about 160 miles.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The 4th Day of the trip to Devils Tower

This day we decided to ride to Sturgis to visit the fabled town (although I suppose it is the rally that is famous more than the town) and to visit the motorcycle museum located there. This would be the only day we would ride the same road twice.

We started the morning on highway 24 out of Hulett headed for Alma, a town whose claim to fame is a really old store that’s been in business since 18-something. It was interesting and really old but, they didn’t have breakfast. The café across the way did, and according to the stereotypical old guy sitting on the porch at the general store, the food was good. He was right. Tim said his French toast was the best he’d had in a restaurant in a long time.

We stopped at the Wyoming – South Dakota border to take a photo at the state sign. (There wasn’t one the day before when we were traveling on the service road.)

From there, highway 24 became highway 34, which took us to I-90 and into Sturgis. Sturgis is not a very large town. How they fit thousands of motorcycles into this town is beyond me. This year is the 70th anniversary of the rally and they were anticipating a million bikers. I can’t even imagine what that must look like.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is conveniently located on Main Street. We parked there and paid our entrance fee.

There are two levels to the museum. The upstairs is pretty small. Lots of interesting old bikes stuck in small places with ok signage. There was certainly enough to keep us interested for a while. Some of the bikes you would expect to see – Indians, Harleys, Moto Guzzi, etc. And then there were a few one off bikes such as the million mile Harley.

Downstairs the space was much larger. There was even a video viewing room showing a DVD about the history of the rally. There were cases with motorcycle themed record albums on display. There was a room that looked like a rotating exhibit space, with a display about women in motorcycling. And there were more motorcycles too. Lots of dirt bikes, side cars, smaller cc bikes, and a display of Sturgis themed bikes in the video viewing room. If you are ever in Sturgis, I would recommend the museum.

Here is my lovely hubby checking out the dirt bikes.

Also in Sturgis, we visited the BMW dealership there. That was fun and where I bought my t-shirt.

For the ride back to Hulett, we decided we liked Spearfish Canyon so much we wanted to ride it again in the opposite direction. So, the ride took us through Deadwood again, and up the canyon. We’d missed the turn off for Spearfish Falls the first time so made that the destination on this trip. It was a lovely hike just off the highway in Savoy, SD. The waterfall was pretty impressive and had lots of cooling mist coming off at the bottom. The hike looped around to the top of the waterfall but we didn’t figure that out until after we turned around and went back the way we came and walked around the parking lot to view it from the top. We laughed at ourselves about that.

From there it was a nice leisurely ride back to Hulett. We had dinner that night at the Ponderosa Café again. There were quite a few more folks there this night which was nice to see. I’m not sure where they came from but there they were.

The total for this day was about 170 miles.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Day 3 - aka our anniversary!

Day three was our 3rd wedding anniversary. :-) The trip to Devils Tower was our effort to visit at least one place every year we've never been before. We started the day with breakfast at the Feed Bunk, which is a little restaurant inside the local gas station within walking distance from our lodging. Well, really everything in Hulett is within walking distance so that's not saying much. The food was not untasty and we were fueled up and ready to go pretty early this day. We wanted to beat the crowds to Devils Tower so we could enjoy it.

Tim suggested we do a ranger led tour which was a great plan. The walk around the tower is about an hour long. Our tour guide turned out to be a high school earth sciences teacher from Fort Collins. He was fantastic. Here are some photos of the trail and the tower during our hike.

We had a good sized group for the tour but not so large that it wasn't fun. By the time we returned, the parking lot was full and bumper to bumper RVs and such were circling. Planning for the early start was a brilliant idea. We walked through the visitor's center one more time, hit the restrooms and then hit the road.

Our next stop was the Vore Buffalo Jump. This place was also quite fascinating. It is run by the University of Wyoming. There is a small visitor's center and a short walk to the bottom of the sink hole to view the site. This place is a natural sink hole where buffalo were herded by several Indian tribes hundreds of years ago. As the buffalo fell into this sink hole, the Indians would harvest the meat and other parts of the buffalo. After horses were introduced into their culture, the hole was used less often. Below are some photos. The first is of the visitor's center and the informational sign.

A view of the trail to the structure that covers the sink hole.

Inside the building at the bottom is a small walkway for visitors to view the bones. There is a staff person there as well to answer any questions. There are also samples available to view and handle.

The bones. I think they told us this layer was from the 1800s.

One sample of a buffalo skull. Every part of the buffalo was used for something, even the brains.

This was a very cool and interesting place. If you are in the area stop by to see it. We also played Good Samaritan here. A couple from New Jersey had locked their keys in their car and didn't have enough cell service to call for assistance. This place is located just off the interstate in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately Tim's cell phone worked. Hooray Xerox! They were very very grateful.

After this stop, we hit the road again headed for Spearfish Canyon. One of the guys at MotoGear Outlet told us about this canyon ride. We stopped to do the short hike to Bridal Veil Falls. We had to right? It was our anniversary. It was very cool.

Tim resoaked his cooling vest in the water. It didn't smell too fishy. Well, I didn't have to wear it though. :-) Here we are at the falls. Tim's holding up three fingers for our 3rd anniversary! Love you babe!! :-)

After that we hit the road and continued on to Deadwood. This town is famous for all sorts of wild west tales. Apparently they also have fake gunfights in the streets although we didn't see any. Mostly it is full of casinos. Not our cup of tea. We found some motorcycle parking and set out in search of a place to have dinner.

We found a nice place that said it was family friendly (which I took to mean no gambling). It had rooftop seating and was quite lovely. (It took us a little while to figure out that there was a bar with slot machines downstairs that was separate from the restaurant upstairs.) The service was great and so was the food.

Tim had charbroiled elk and I had buffalo medallions (below). OMG it was so very tasty!! It was a perfect meal for our perfect day! :-)

After dinner we headed back home. It was getting late by now so we decided to hop on the interstate for as far as we could in order to get back to Hulett as quickly as we could. We stopped at a rest area to pee and discovered that our headsets had died. We didn't charge them the night before. No worries though as we knew where we were going.

Once it became dusk, I got a bit afraid for all the deer and antelope we'd been seeing. I have not been that focused on the ride in a long time. I slowed way down just because I thought it was safer. We weren't in a hurry anyway. We saw lots of deer and antelope so I felt justified in my diligence. It took us a little longer to get home but that was ok with me. I also felt justified because Tim wasn't seeing the deer or antelope as quickly as I was. That was the only time we rode at night on the whole trip.

It was an awesome, dare I say, perfect day, with my love!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 2 - Monday July 26

Day 2 we rode from Torrington, WY to Hulett, WY, our home case for the next three days. Here is a map of the route:

We checked out of Torrington after a Holiday Inn breakfast. It wasn't very tasty - powdered eggs, yuck! After checking out we gassed up and I took more photos of our motos. :-)

The long unwinding roads continued for a while. Not much in the way of photo ops until we got our first glimpse of Devils Tower. Wow! It just appears out of nowhere! Very very cool. This was taken from the first pull out. We were still pretty far away but my camera zooms ok for the photo.

This is at another closer pull out that had a display sign about the tower. We took this using the clamp mount on the moto mirror and the camera timer. :-)

And here are the motos and the tower. :-) I like to take photos of the bikes. Have I mentioned that?
Devils Tower is about 9 miles from Hulett. Here is our cabin and home for the next 3 days. Have I mentioned that there is no shade at all in Wyoming? Oh my goodness it was hot! I felt ill it was so hot. The cabin had a small window unit sized air conditioner that just could not compete with the days heat. We actually went outside to sit by the river to cool off.

We decided to get some dinner and found the local bar/cafe to be welcoming. The food was ok although my meal that night wasn't the best. But, the beer was cold and so was the restaurant so, it was all good. After dinner we stopped at the corner grocery store to buy some cold drinks, a styrofoam cooler and ice. They were out of ice. I was very sad to hear that as I was really overheated. But, they said the Hulett Motel sells ice as well so we headed back. (It was across the street.) No ice at the motel either. Their freezer was on the fritz. Ugh. We toughed it out for the night and decided to go back to the grocery in the morning when their ice would be replenished. I think the cabin finally cooled off around midnight or 1am. It was a long night. A couple of days later we found out the temperature that day was 104 degrees. Ugh.

We traveled about 226 miles on this day. :-)