Distance – 1440 km
Time: 17 hours
Location: Hardin, MT
So yeah, you can make it well into Montana in two days riding. I’ve got to say I had my doubts. Not too many pictures of the trip as I was pressed for time and had a lot of distance (as you can see) to make up. This isn’t my idea of a good ride but I’m on a bit of a time crunch and as I’ve got plans to see the Little Bighorn Memorial Battle Site I had to make Hardin in two days.
Things started out hot and sticky in Johnston, just outside of Des Moines, Iowa. I’d been running from the humidity since Mississauga. It had rained during the night but rather than cool things off it had just made things stickier. At least it gave me a chance to give the bike a bit of a wipe down and to get the majority of the bug scunge of my windscreen. I needn’t have bothered.
I like Iowa, it’s a very pretty state. I was in a better mood to appreciate it than the last time I rode I-80 coming home from Reno. Nebraska had left such a bad taste in my mouth, I was in full on home mode and just burning up the miles. Though come to think of it, they’d had a drier time of it then than this year, so it was a lot more brown. Right now, it’s positively lush. The unfortunate thing is that I-80 is one of the straightest interstates out there, so it really does become miles and miles of miles and miles. Seeing as I was giving Nebraska a miss for this trip (and let’s be honest, for the rest of my life) I turned north on I-29 which took me up into South Dakota.
South Dakota knows it’s a big state and has the good sense to post it’s speed limits accordingly. 75mph is pretty much the standard. The bike loves this speed unfortunately, when she runs this hard, even with the 16T front sprocket, your gas consumption goes up considerably. I had some good runs on the first day, getting the solid 400kms per tank but today, I was lucky to get just over 300kms in some stretches. In fact there was one point where I really was bingo for fuel and it looked like I was going to need a set of crossed fingers and my spare fuel to get me to the next station but we made it (I put 5.04 Gal in the tank so I really was down to the wire).
I’d forgotten about the grasshoppers in SD. They’re a real problem. For some unknown reason, they’re drawn to the road surface. You can feel them hitting your boots as they jump up as you go by. They also manage to get up to windshield height too, so the front of my bike is littered with them. I’m also wondering if there’s a club for birds involving collision avoidance. They seem to like to fly in front of me as I approach, to see if they can make it. Mostly small birds (thank God, I still have nightmares about the Wild Turkeys of Virginia). Unfortunately, one zigged when he should have zagged and my skid pan took him out.
I-29 was nice ride but it was all leading up to US-212, which I had high hopes for. Hopes it proved to be right. You nip by Sturgis and Spearfish and to be honest, it starts out sort of boring but then you start to notice the terrain you’re riding through. It’s pretty spectacular. It’s at this point I realized that gas was going to be an issue, because unlike the interstate, this place is remote. It’s one of the few places in America (Wyoming is another) where you get a sense of just how big it is and how very small you are. It’s like riding through a John Ford movie (except everything is green right now) and every hill reveals another huge and spectacular valley. I even found a gas station out there that put my dwindling tank situation right.
Had a funny encounter at the gas station, the guy in front of me asked the girl behind the counter about the town of Belle Forche we’d just passed through. What did it’s name mean?
“I think it means Big Fork,” She replied.
“Belle means pretty in French,” I chipped in.
“Really?” She asked.
“Then I guess all their history books are wrong.”
“God bless the proof readers,“ I thought.
Oh and did I mention, you ride this two lane blacktop at 70 mph? And then after many miles, I hit the Custer National forest. Now usually, when you go through a park, the speed limit is 40 mph, not here. All the curves you can handle and all designed to be taken at seventy. More spectacular scenery as you careen through it all at speed. It was awesome and even though the sun was starting to get low in the sky. it just kept getting better and better. Once I was through the park, I was treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets ever and the sky remained lit till almost 10pm.
Overall, long as it was, one of the best days of riding ever.
Tomorrow I’m checking out Little Bighorn, there’ll be pictures of that for sure.