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I called this ride "Close encounters with Sturgis" because we missed bike week on purpose, but made it to Sturgis.

Five riders, 3800 + miles in just over nine days, mostly on two lane roads with not more than 300 miles of highway riding, traveling through nine states, four national parks, 600 miles in the rain over two days, low temps at 45 degrees, high temps at 95 degrees and 11 miles of dirt roads… The bikes on this adventure consisted of a V-strom, Triumph, BMW, FJR and a Goldwing.

Why you ask? Well it’s one of two ole answers,
“If you have to ask, you’ll never understand the answer” or “Because we could!”

Day one, Friday morning in El Dorado Hills we (Frank, Tom, Roger, Brent and I) all met up ready to ride. Our scheduled start time was set for 6am and we had 600 miles to ride out to Delta Utah before the day was over. This was by far the longest day for mileage, but not for time in the saddle nor was it physically challenging/tiring.

For the most part the ride up into the Serria Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe was pretty much un-eventful. Except for having to ride into the sun on twisty mountain roads, with one hand held up blocking the sun and the other one on the handle bars…

Then it happened, a signal from Frank that he was having trouble with his bike. We were about 50 feet from state-line Calif-Nevada. His engine “over” temperature light came on indicating that his engine was overheating. I’m thinking; where we are going to find a “Triumph” motorcycle shop in the Lake Tahoe area at 7am, or we might be loosing a rider… So we all got off our bikes, and did as complete of a check-out of Frank’s motorcycle as we could, all while parked on the sidewalk. Not finding any problems other than the indicator light, we concluded that it was probability just a bad sensor and not a cooling system problem so we rode off. Our first scheduled stop was in Carson city were we had breakfast.

After filling ourselves with food and our tanks with gas we were off again. Our route, hwy50 east, is not without its scenery and a much nicer to ride east then hwy80, unless your just in a plan-ole hurry. One thing that struck all of us as odd was the small herd of dear grazing along the highway in the Great Basin area in Utah. We all thought the same thing, where do they get their water from? The rest of the ride went as planned and we made it to our motel without further problems.

Our first dinner set the tone for the rest of our meals. We discussed the ride so far, the upcoming ride the next day, any and all scenery we rode through, the weather and if that was not enough motorcycles in general, and Frank’s engine temperature light is still on.

Day Two, Saturday morning we had just less than 500 miles to ride today and this was the day that we would have the most highway time. Our final destination was Craig Colorado, via Moab Utah and a short ride along the Colorado river. We continued our ride east and found a nice little restaurant called “Mom’s” in Salina Utah to stop and have breakfast. This was the last time we’d saddle up in dry weather for the next 400 miles. Yes, not 1 hour out of Salina it started to rain and continued all day. After we gassed up in Moab we rode out to a little two lane road. Imagine, placing a two lane road in the Grand Canyon along side the Colorado River make the canyon walls a little shorter and that is the ride we rode out of Moab Utah. Even with the rain, it was very beautiful scenery to ride through. Not long after left the Colorado River we headed north all the time hoping that we’d now be able to out ride the rain. But as we’d later find out the rain was not done with us. It was during this leg of the ride that we all came to closest to having an accident as an eighteen wheeler carrying 6o feet of pipe, came around a corner with its back wheels sliding over into our side of the road, starting to jackknife the trailer. Had it continued, the back of the trailer would have hit us ALL like a baseball bat. It took a few miles for my heart to calm down and to be able to enjoy the scenery and nice open roads again.

Our adventure this day was not over. As we pulled into Craig Colorado, finally got directions to our motel, with the rain still falling, upon arriving at our motel we were told that they lost our reservations and no rooms were available. It turns out that the motel was sold a month before and none of the reservations were pasted from the previous owner to the new owner. All worked out of the best as we found another motel (which was nicer anyway) and the manager pointed us to a 5 star restaurant that was very willing to accommodate five wet and tired bikers. They put us all in a room that we had more or less to ourselves, with the best view the restaurant had. The bonus was that we all were given the opportunity for one free drink. After what turned out to be our best dinner for the entire trip, not that all the meals were not good or had their own unique points, just that this one was the best as far as the service and food was concerned, we headed back to our motel to rest up for the next day’s ride. Yes, Frank’s engine light is still burning bright.

Day Three, Sunday today the ride would be just over 400 miles and was to take us to the highest elevation at some where near 12,000 feet, while riding through the “Rocky Mountain Nation Park”. We were again riding east and the day started out dry. We rode to Steamboat Springs for breakfast where the rain started again. Five bikers all in riding gear draws a lot of attention and we got it. At breakfast the “locals” over hearing our route and destination, gave us plenty of advice as to which direction to go, or maybe they just wanted “these bikers to leave town”. Since the weather had turned bad and the condition of the roads were questionable, we decided to turn north and bypass the 12,000 foot mountain pass. Today we’d only have about 200 miles of rain and arrived in Lusk Wyoming our next overnight stop. After checking into our rooms and cleaning up a bit, Brent suggested pizza for dinner and since the restaurant was not far we decided to walk (the whole town was only about a mile long). Forgetting that this was Sunday, the only pizza place in town was closed; we went to plan “B”. We were told that there was a nice restaurant inside and in back of the local bar down the street, so we walked over to it. As we walked in, the whole place went quite, turned and stared at the five of us. I looked around for the restaurant and not seeing anyplace to eat asked the bar tender “where is the restaurant?” To which he relied, “you’re staring at it”. Just about then I noticed the “fold-up” tables sitting on the wooden dance floor. Looking to my fellow riders for a sign of what to do next, being tired and hungry we sat down to eat, but not after the bar tender turned the lights on over our table… We again had a nice meal, walked back to our motel to rest up for our next day’s adventures. No change with Frank’s engine light.

Day four, Monday today would be the shortest day as far as mileage goes at 225 miles, but the most historic as we’d be having breakfast at Mt Rushmore national monument, and stopping in One Eyed Jack’s in Sturgis SD for a snack and drink. If you’re like me and you have not been to Mt Rushmore since you were a kid or never been there at all you’re are in for a treat. The National Park Service has done a great job of updating this national monument. There is a café, gift shop, museum, movie theater and walking path that let’s you walk right up to and under Mt Rushmore. Our plans made it possible to have breakfast outside on the patio, overlooking Mt Rushmore. After a couple of hours of site-seeing we jumped back onto our bikes and headed into the Black Hills of SD. Our next stop was Deadwood for gas and then off to Sturgis where we stopped in at “One-Eye’d Jacks” for a drink and some snacks. While there, we toasted our ride, then friends and loved-ones that are no longer with us, but live on in our hearts and through our deeds. (This ride being one of those deeds). Our final stop and overnight stay that day would be at Spearfish SD, where we ate dinner at Bubba’s BBQ. The menu was so large it has a table of contents, and the food was again very good. If you meet up with Tom in person you’ll have to ask him what he ate for dinner at Bubba’s.  Frank’s engine light you ask, yup it’s still on.

Day Five, Tuesday today we’d ride just about 400 miles. Our destination was Cody Wyoming, but first we’d take a little detour and visit Devils Tower. A large rock sticking up out of the ground over 800 feet standing all by its self. You can see it from 30 miles out. After Devils Tower we again headed out onto the two lane black top, only later in the day we’d run out of black top. As we were riding along hwy14 heading towards Cody we saw a road sign stating something to the effect “Road construction ahead 30 miles, may be hazardous to Motorcycles”. Now all of us are experienced riders and we did not want a little sign to deter us, so we rode on until we met up with a young kid holding a red flag standing at the point where asphalt turned to dirt. I’ll never forget what he said, “I’m not telling you to turn back and I’m not telling you to go forward, but I think you’ll be able to make it through. The road is torn up for 6 miles. There are watering trucks, so there is some mud, a lot of loose gravel, dirt and dust, but I think you can make it”. At this point Brent is smiling from ear to ear as his bike is a “duel sport” and made for this type of riding. Tom and I are sweating the ride a little, me because my bike weights over 900 pounds and Tom because of the lack of clearance between his tires and carbon-fiber fenders. I’m not sure how Frank and Roger felt. But we all decided to ride on. We rode for about 3 miles before we were stopped again (still on dirt) and had to wait for a “pilot truck” to take us the rest of the way. About now I’m thinking just how bad is this going to get. As we were waiting we used the down time, to drink some water, eat a snack, put sun block on and just to comment about the ride so far. The construction crew let us (all the motorcycles) form up at the front of the line. They said this way they can keep an eye on us just in case we had a problem. Ok now what? Well it was not as bad as all that. I’m not saying that it was an easy ride; quiet the opposite, for me I was “white knuckling” it all the way with my front tire sliding to the left and right. Not to mention all the mud now stuck all over me and the bike. After what seemed to be forever we finally made it back onto a paved road and with the dirt road behind us we cranked up our speed and headed towards Cody. The rest of the ride was un-eventful, except the scenery which was anything but plain. As we were getting closer to Cody and our next days route through Yellowstone national park we’d hear rumors (at our gas stops from other riders) that the road into the park was under construction, torn up and dirt. When we arrived in Cody the rumors were confirmed, so we decided to take a 40 mile detour to the north the next day. Oh by the way, Frank’s engine light is still on.

Day six, Wednesday was supposed to be a light day of riding with only 340 miles to cover, so we hit the road expecting to ride right into Yellowstone after a short but very scenic detour. Later we all agreed that this detour on to “Chief Joseph’s Hwy” was by far the prettiest and most scenic of our entire ride. However, our light hearts and smiles were soon to be over shadowed by more construction, this time 5 miles of mud, loose gravel, dirt and dust. Being experienced dirt road riders this setback was taken much more lightly. Again, we rode through without a problem and we’re soon back on blacktop. What can I say about Yellowstone, except riding on a bike is the only way to see this park. The only exception would be the time my dad loaded my brothers and I onto the roof of our car in the luggage rack drove us through Yellowstone Park, that was until a park ranger stopped us and told my dad, while he agreed that it was a great way to see everything, not to do that again. (Now you know where I get all my ideas from…) We made couple of stops on the way to “Old Faithful” and arrived with about 20 minutes to spare until Mother Nature would give us her next show, and we were not disappointed. As we were standing there waiting for Old Faithful to give us a show, we made a joke out loud about “seeing a park ranger going over to turn on the value to make Old Faithful work”. It seemed funny at the time. Our detour earlier in the day, took us 40 miles farther north than we had planned and with the parks speed limit of 45 mph, we’d get farther behind in our time table than any other day, which by the end of the day would have us arriving 5 hours late at our hotel. After leaving Old Faithful we headed south and on to the Grand Tetons, the babies of the Rockies… Our ride never seemed to be without some sort of excitement, whether it was the road condition, scenery or the weather, we always seemed to have something to keep our minds busy. While riding past the Grand Tetons, someplace near Jackson Lake, while stopped, a park ranger came up to Brent told him that a “nasty thunder cell” was about to hit us and to head south as fast as we could. Ok you have our attention now! As we mounted up a very dark cloud was moving in on us fast. So we took the nice mans advice and “got out of Dodge, quickly”. We made it south and out of the park without getting pounded by the Thunder cell. While fueling up in Jackson Hole Tom’s suggested a detour that should save us a few miles and a little time, which also turned out to be a nice road down and into Idaho Falls. Here we’d find a Pizza place to have dinner. As luck would have it, they had a special on large pizzas and we ate the whole thing… We arrived in Arco Idaho our overnight stop, five hours late.
The engine light is still shinning brightly.

Day seven, Thursday we headed north towards the Montana state line and 540 miles until our next overnight stop in Riggins Idaho. Short of our first days ride through the high dessert, this leg of our journey was the fastest with plenty of wide open roads through some very nice mountain passes and valleys. We all agreed that the road from Lolo Montana to Kooskia Idaho was the most technical (technically challenging) of the entire ride. 130 miles of switch backs, following a river with few long straight-aways. After 82 miles of “carving corners” above the posted recommended speed limit, I finally had to pull over to rest my arms, from pushing my wing back and forth with what seemed to be never ending curves. (Not that I’m complaining) After leaving this road we headed for Riggins and the nicest motel we’d stay at for the ride. The motel was set along the confluence of two rivers, where two canyons came together. They had a pitcher of water in the “great room / gathering place, just as if they were expecting us. Later that night they set out milk and cookies for all the guests. If you’re ever in or near Riggins Idaho, I can highly recommend the Best Western Motel there. For a British bulb it’s hanging in there and still on…

Day eight, Friday another 400 mile day and we’re heading south for Oregon and home. So far I made it just about 3000 miles without getting us lost. Well today my luck ran out. Just past Ontario Oregon I missed a right turn and took our little group about 30 miles south of where we were supposed to be. Oh well we’re out for a ride anyway… The rest of the ride into Burns Oregon and Lakeview was un-eventful, as most of this area is high dessert and pretty much boring. Lakeview would be our last night out on the road and later found out today, Friday was Brent’s Birthday. (Happy Birthday Brent)
We found a little Mexican restaurant to have dinner and arrived just before the crowds set in… As had been the pattern for our entire trip, this turned out to be a nice meal again.
Not out yet, the Triumph’s bulb is still bright.

Day nine, Saturday and our last day on the road… Today would we’d ride 375 miles to reach our homes. A lot goes on in your mind as your getting closer to home, missed loved-ones, familiar surroundings, that comfortable couch that is perfect for naps, but yet a longing to get back out on the road and keep riding, not wanting the adventure to stop…
(Frank’s pesky bulb is still lit and after a checkout with a mechanic at the shop, we guessed right, a bad sensor)

Five riders, over 3800 miles, 65 hours in the saddle, nine states, just over nine days, several national parks, too many fun characters/people that we met along the way to remember them all, the countless menus and jokes while having a meal, all the gas stations, the scenery and the looks we got as we rode into a town or walked into a restaurant, Price-Less!

And that’s the story!

How can you top that? How about a ride next year?
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