Since returning back from Deal’s Gap last summer, we kicked around what we would do this year for our trip. Romantically, you can fall in love with the road and you just want to go, go, go. Your head gets filled with fanciful ideas of things like, " Hey, let’s ride across country!"
The idea in an of itself is of course not crazy in the least, but alas, real life can really keep you from being able to follow such whims. So, we found the balance of real life and still being able to head across the states. We rolled out of my driveway at 5am on Friday May 20th heading off to points west in Wyoming.
The sky was breaking red behind us to the east as we rolled away. In my mind, I thought to myself that it was a relief to be getting away from that. Of course, as soon as we crossed the George Washington Bridge in to New Jersey, the sky opened up and soaked us all the way across NJ and PA until we reached the Ohio border. We stopped a few miles over the border to grab a drink, kiss PA good riddance and shed our rain gear. I took my boots off to change my socks and the bottoms of my feet looked like a brain from being wet so long. Damned Sexy!
Rt 80. Rain
Rt 80. Rain
Rt 80. Rain
PA should be wiped from the map. It’s like 14 billion miles long and boring. At least it has some turns
We stopped in Indiana on day 1. After sleeping in what was probably the HOTTEST hotel room outside of the sun, we snaked our way past Chicago and in to Wisconsin.
" Will squeegee for toll money"
Wisconsin had nice rolling hills, lots of farm land and of course, in stark contrast to the beauty of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and copious amounts of cheese, Wisconsin also bestows upon us.. House On The Rock
We arrived at 4:05 to be greeted by a sign that says " Sorry, last ticket sold 1 hour prior to close," which was at 5:00. A matter of 5 minutes.
5 stinking minutes and they bolt the door. I was bummed that I would be missing this jewel of Americana. Kenny patted my head like a dejected pup and said we’d stop in on the way home. 5 measly minutes, what’s the big deal?
Little did we know that within the confines of this tourist attraction is a neverending maze of displays of strange odds and ends that could take 5 hours to snake thru. There are no clear early exists. Closing the doors an hour before… probably still not long enough.
A view of the House on the Rock’s " Infinity Room" from across the
valley. (That pointy thingy way over yonder)
Infinity Room – Interior – The room extends out 218 feet and is 156 feet off of the ground below. Me being scared of heights just wanted to get the hell out of there. I’m not sure if it was just my buggery Alpinestars incessant squeaking or if the room was creaking, but I sure as hell didn’t want to find out.
Carousel @ HOTR – this thing was HUGE, with no horses, just wierd animals
Wisconsin! Wow, was I blown away by Wisconsin. After trudging through Illinois, we took 81/23/33 through Wisconsin up to La Crosse. Amazing, Amazing farmlands, rolling hills, great sweepers and a set of tight corners in 1 section. A great road for anyone heading around that area. I had no idea Wisconsin would be so nice.
Plus, I like their convenience stores the way I like my women
…Just because we’re in our 30′s and still laugh at fart jokes…
Onward from Wisconsin we headed in to Minnesota where we had holed up for the night. On our third day of riding, we made it to South Dakota. That moment felt incredibly monumental to me. Like I’d crossed the world. We were too far from home to simply turn around and call it quits.
So, in Mitchell, South Dakota, we see this big, palace like building that looks like its made out of corn. And get this… they call it the Mitchell Corn Palace! Isn’t that crazy? I can just imagine this joint turning in to the worlds largest bird feeder. I HATE birds.
Crudmop getting frisky with one of the locals.
That guy whipped me with a cane and called me a whippersnapper.
Pioneer Auto in Murdo, SD has a very curious collection of, well, just about anything you can imagine. From rocks & fossils, to tractors, motorcycles and shrunken heads. They also have the last remaining authentic General Lee. It must’ve been some weird cosmic foreshadowing, because we saw the Dukes of Hazzard each night on TV before going to bed from then on.
Elvis’s Scoot & some greasy, porkchop stained rag that he rubbed across his sweaty jowls:
What a crazy place, that Murdo Museum. It was like, the guy who owned it bought 1 of EVERYTHING that existed and displayed it. Old cars, got some. Ratty old dolls? Got some. A dirty diaper filled with Indian food? Over there in building 412.
Sunrise in Murdo
My bike sounded really crap when we rolled out of there that morning… more on that a few pics down…
Our first stop on this morning was the Badlands National Park.
If someone blindfolded you and dropped you in the Badlands, then told you that you were on the moon, you’d probably believe it.
The weather was absolutely perfect
The Badlands will hold a special place with me, as it was the first real " place" we saw – it’s almost too fake looking to be real, these colored carved peaks which spread out over the landscape. It’s hard not to imagine the awe someone might have had riding on a horse out there and seeing it for the first time, with no idea what they would expect. Incredible. I’d love to camp out here.
While riding out, we saw a Coyote watching us as we rode by, then came the prairie dogs. Cmon, we wanna see a Buffalo (little did we know).
If I’m not mistaken, the name South Dakota is a loose translation that was handed down from the great Lakota tribe. It means " Land of Many Billboards" . There is a billboard like, every 10 feet for Wall Drug
And apparently, " Wall" is Sioux for " Tourist Trap" I liked wall, cooler than South of the Border – I mean, what do you expect, really, from a place that gives away water and bumper stickers, has a giant dinosaur, and sells Gen-YOUU-wine cowboy clothes. Anything with that many billboards is trying too hard I liked it
Hey man. I LIKE my cowboy shirt.
He said it was " one of a kind.. Except for that one over there in a Medium"
Crudmop wrangles the mighty Jackalope.
He swears he saw a dead one in Murdo on the roadside.
I think he was suffering from dehydration, so if he mentions it to you… just go along with him. We don’t want to upset his fragile sensibilities.
DUDE! You saw it too! Pulling off the Murdo exit, there was a big rabbit carcass with antlers. It was a freakin jackalope. It didn’t speak to me, or any of the other legends, cause, well, it was a pancake. But, it was a freakin jackalope man.
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Poor, Poor delusional Crudmop.
Getting back to my native roots.
Apparently, this particular tribe uses their papoose’ to keep their French bread warm as well as their babies. Ingenious really. What’s better than soft warm bread?
Where’s that MMM MM tasty pic
So, we head on out toward Rapid City, with Rushmore and the Black Hills as our next destination. As we pull into a gas station, Fuzz has a concerned look on her face – her bike is now making quite a racket, and its running pretty rough. I remember that there is a dealership in Rapid City, pull out the GPS, and it’s like 500 yards away So we shoot over there to get it looked at real quick. Black Hills Powersports, what a great dealer – they took us right in (although they had a lot of bikes being worked on), resynched her carbs (1 was slightly out), sealed up the vacuum lines to the carbs and gave her the AOK. Bike sounded a little better, and away we go. (Enter foreshadowing here)
The " Where’s ma Dinner, Bitch" statue.
We managed to sneak in to Mount Rushmore after the storm had passed through.
Rushmore – awesome to see it in person. You catch glimpses of it as you round the turns through. the forest, and you wonder " was that it, was that it?" Awesome.
How did he pick THAT spot? Of all the mountains, with all the places, he picks THAT mountain and carves. Pretty wild.
Nothing says true patriotism like a $2.00 can of Coke.
Custer National Park:
Cathedral Spires on the Needles Highway in Custer get a thumbs-up from Crudmop.
In The Black Hills National Forest
(foreshadowing ends here)
Ok, so riding through the Black Hills, Fuzz’ bike now has picked up a tinging rattle. We swap bikes, and it sounds like she might’ve wiggled out a few header bolts, as the sound is very " headerish" , like someone rattling some pennies inside the header pipe. We stop off for some grub, and I pull the faring off to get a better look. Well, at least we know why it’s a little louder. Right before the collector, 1 of the pipes has sheared CLEAR THROUGH – and the vibration has cracked a second pipe. Wholly crap. It’s such a clean shear as well. Now, we are out in the middle of NOWHERE, at a small town with 1 road, and it is 6:00p. I spin off to scour some gas stations in hope of finding some exhaust tape. As luck would have it, there are 2 auto service shops in the town, and 1 has a guy working late – I grab an exhaust bandage, some 16 gauge wire, and do the streetside bodge job. Sounds like a sick stock car, but we are back in business for the time being
I cursed like a truck driver in honor of the HBO show when we stopped in Deadwood.
A baby bird tried to make a nest in Crudmops bike.
Day 4 we leave Belle Fourche, SD and head off in to Wyoming. Devils Tower looms in the distance.
What a gyp. I didn’t see one damned spaceship. NOT ONE! We came in from the northeast, heading down Rt. 14 – what a nice ride, beautiful country, and off in the distance you see this " thing" pointing out of the earth. Devil’s tower, how cool.
I believe it was the great, late 20th century thespian, Clara Peller, who called upon us to ask within ourselves the age old question, " Where’s the Beef?"
Well, Clara, rest easy. I’ve found the beef. It’s west of the Mississippi River.
Buffalo & Cattle combined probably outnumber people in South Dakota & Wyoming, 100 to 1.
We cut along Rt 14 and followed it all the way to Cody, WY that night. One particular stretch on our way from Gillette to Sheridan had no gas services for 70 miles. The sucky part was, you wouldn’t know this unless you came from West to East, where there is a sign posted. When we finally reached a town that had gas. There we two pumps: Diesel or 86 octane. I don’t think I’ve seen 86 octane here in NY since 1984.
Some of the rock-faces were so red along the roadway, it almost seemed like there was light shining from within.
Antelope, deer, jackalopes abound – not many cars, incredible big skies, what an awesome ride.
So, we head to Sheridan, and get some " real gas" for Mr. Fancybike o) The storm clouds were rolling through. fast and furious. We gazed off at the mountains wondering if we should head up. The bighorns are pretty high elevation and as we struck up a convo with some older ‘Wing fella he was remarking how it was probably snowing up there since it was raining down here. Crap. Not ones to fold easily, we decided to find out for ourselves. I’m sure glad we did…Up in to the clouds we went.
Granite Pass provided a slowly winding snake of switchback ess and hairpin turns with stunning vistas.
The Big Horns are the most beautiful place on earth. While heading over the top, a crow dives towards Fuzz and spins off – right behind it, a Golden Eagle swoops down and gives Fuzz’ helmet the " What the hell is that thing" flyby. It was awesome.
The mountains here are wild – on 1 side, it’s cold, snowy evergreens. On the other, like someone drew a line in the Earth and said " ok, stop the trees HERE" – it’s all Mesas, multicolored striped mountains, amazing. I was choked up at how beautiful it was, like, your brain can’t handle seeing something that beautiful (just like Fuzz ) The road weaved and winded down through some corners into the canyon below. Breathatking.
We got up early, having stayed over in Cody. Unfortunately for us, the Beartooth Highway 212 from Red Lodge, MT to the Northern Entrance of Yellowstone was closed due to 12 mudslides that had occurred. This was apparently a crushing blow to the people of Red Lodge as that highway apparently provides a major artery to the town for economic stability during the vacation season.
Buffalo Billy Cody’s Irma Hotel:
The closure of the road was disappointing news, so we opted to take the Chief Joseph Highway just outside of Cody, WY in to the north entrance of the park. About 2 miles in to the road, we pulled off to snap a few quick pictures. As we stood in the pullout, a lady in a pickup truck slowed down and told us.. " Oh boy guys, it’s a sheet of ice up there, about 2 miles up…a sheet of ice…" My mind pictured a complete sheet of ice from one side of the road to the other and to be honest, I was a bit, well, scared. I quickly said to Kenny, that I was NOT riding across any ice. 1 minute later, as if under some sort of demonic possession, I hear, " Well let’s just ride up any way and see what it’s like. We can always turn around if it’s bad," escape from my mouth. Off we went.
I’m dumb – I always figure we will be ok. I look at Fuzz, she looks at me and says " Let’s go for it" . How cool is she! away we rolled.
As we climbed up in to the mountains, the temp began to drop sharply. It was only about 8 am. If I had to guess it was no more than 25 degrees at elevation. Small spots of snow peppered the road way at first, nothing major. Then, I saw it. A winter wonderland. The roadway was completely covered with snow and ice except for 4 tracks of roadway where the cars had been driving through. Oddly enough, at no time in my mind did I think, I can’t do this. I just kept going forward. Slowly! But forward nonetheless. Keeping within the black, hoping the wetness was water and not black ice. ::CRUNCH::CRACKLE::POP:: the small pellets of ice under the tires. This continued on for about 2 miles, though it felt like 20. The most nerve wracking part was when we reached the backside of the pass that was still in shade. While the snow dwindled away, the roadway was shiny black. I still couldn’t tell if it was just water of if it was black ice…
only one way to find out… I kept going. Hands freezing, trying to keep my grip loose, thinking it would probably be awful to have to apply the brakes sharply. I so wanted to stop and take a picture, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop until I made it to a clearing.
Cooke City, MT. We stopped for breakfast, to warm up and ‘rastle a bear.
If you ever want to just forget about life, find a cabin in the woods and veg out for the week, head to Cooke City.
1 mile into Yellowstone, our first moose.
I loved the buffalo. It never gets old looking at them in the wild. As we would roll up on them, you realize that they are bigger than you and your bike together and you don’t want to upset of spook them so that they get agitated or something. It would be just my lucky to get hit BY a buffalo and have to fly home so I tended to just pull over and wait till they meandered out of the way rather than get too close.
Yellowstone is like a time capsule – if you enter the park from the northeast, you spin past mountains and prairies mixed together – wildlife everywhere, buffalo ALL OVER THE PLACE, it’s like someone sent you back to a time long ago. Awesome.
Ahh the sulfur of the springs – beautiful scenery, mixed with the smells of a white castle fart. Occasionally, you smell a breath of sweetness in the air as well as you ride along – the trees next to the springs, which are spread throughout the park, actually start to roast and the sap melts, releasing the sweet smell. Fried maple syrup anyone?
Just a tip, if you ever go to Mammoth, and want to view the springs, there are these looong walkways and stairs that seem to head up into the sky. We walked those damned steps, at 7k feet, in gear, panting like a couple of old people – we finally reach the top, to see the parking lot behind it :-\ So, if you ever go, just drive up there and skip the walk
This is so typical. Never one to miss a photo opportunity our intrepid explorer disregards signs of danger and " Unsafe Conditions" . He’s basically standing on the edge behind the tree in the pic above. Hey Fuzz, look at this… ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..[Wiley Coyote] POOOOOF [/Wiley Coyote]
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, that Crudmop almost fell in to
We stayed in a small cabin at Old Faithful. This was a bittersweet moment as this was our turnaround point. This cabin was THE LAST CABIN available for the night. We got it because someone cancelled and just by sheer timing. The people behind us.. turned away. Whew. That was close. It has no bathroom, just a sink & a bed. You have to walk to the community bathroom or the lodge to go.
Old Faithful errupts every 33 minutes.
Brrr. Frosty morning in Yellowstone. When I got up, it was only 28 degrees. When Crudmop FINALLY got up, it was probably 40 already
Finally? Don’t blame me that you are turning into your mom and are waking up at 4:30a! It was like, 6a when I got up!
Yellowstone, by one of the hot springs
Cloud Peak Skyway – Rt 16 from Tensleep to Buffalo
Buffalo Bill Cody State Park:
Wind on the prairie:
This photo represents something special to me.In my mind it exemplifies the antithesis of where I live. What I’ve known my whole life. Wyoming and South Dakota, where the ground touches the sky in any directions you send your gaze. It was refreshing, a relief. The wide open expanse helped the stress and clutter in my life and mind just melt away. The big sky made me feel the hope of infinite possibility.
Hands down, Wyoming was the most beautiful state I’ve ever been to. It is wondrous and vast and filled with diversity. Mountains, desert-like, rolling hills, forest. Each rise in the road, each corner turned, a new view. Something more beautiful than the last. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to see it. 10 days, 12 states and 5000 miles of drinking in endless miles of delight.
America is a beautiful place.
Kenny & Rachael