Day 2 (August 18, 2009)

2 07 2011

The second day of the trip. You know that feeling you get sometimes when you think something really bad might happen, but then doesn’t, that feeling of relief and clarity of thought, well I think I had a little of that this morning. I woke up early, with a predetermined plan to watch the sun rise, so I walked on down to the small lake that flanked one side of the campground. There I found a nice little bench on which to sit and witness the awakening of nature. If you have never seen a full sun rise, then the only way to describe it would be a “peaceful awakening”, when nature seems to be in a suspended animation and is then released by the power of the sun. But enough on the sun rise, back to the trip. We managed to get everything packed back into our saddle and duffel bags, then hit the road across SD with absolutely perfect riding weather, blue skies and cool air. As we made our way north-west away from the river, the land rolled by as familiar farm and prairie land, but that was all to change.

Half-way through the morning we crossed the mighty Missouri River, which when viewed from the surrounding hills looked like a giant ribbon of pure blue twisting its way over the prairie. As the day continued, the corn fields of the Midwest transitioned into the sunflower fields of South Dakota, and as we made our way through the Badlands the mercury rose as well, to an indicated 110 degrees. Needless to say we were very glad when we rode into Rapid City a little while later, where the temperature fell to a very comfortable 70. Riding through the Black Hills was a lot of fun, and such a difference already from Iowa. There is such an energy in those hills, especially for motorcyclists, even though we are far from the Sturgis crowd. The Black Hills take on a certain “island effect”, being that they are surrounded on all sides by seemingly endless open grassland, the Black Hills are an oasis for the weary soul, a cool haven to the road warrior, but most importantly, camp for tonight.

We snaked our way through the winding roads of the Black Hills, getting stuck behind the occasional motor-home along the way. Our destination was Deadwood, with a campground in mind and the hope of a hot shower and some grub. Before long the narrow canyons peeled back to reveal the town of Deadwood, quaint, historic, and pack to the brim with government revenue establishments. We pulled up to our stop for the night, a little privately owned camp nestled in a narrow valley on the edge of town, far enough away to be relatively quite while close enough to allow for a quick jaunt into town for a nice supper. After setting up our tents and securing our gear safely inside, we took the advice of our camp hosts and ventured into Deadwood for a good, satisfying burger. After several wrong turns a good burger was found, in a casino of course, and then it was back up the hill to camp. After a good refreshing shower and some time to write in my journal, it was time to hit the sack and dream of what the road would bring us the next day.


Day 1 (August 17, 2009)

25 06 2011

Wow, I can’t believe we’re actually doing it now. All those months of planning and prep. are finally being put to the test. This morning started like any other, but in reality it was like no other morning I had ever experienced. I got out of bed at 6:30 and had a small breakfast, ready to charge into the rest of the day. Dad and I went out to the shop and threw open the big bay doors to reveal our motorcycles, ready and waiting, loaded with everything we planned on using for the next three weeks: tools, food, tents, sleeping bags, camping equipment; more than those bikes had ever carried before. We pushed our bikes out of the shop, said good-by to Mom, and started off. Somehow, when you know you are going on a huge trip, the first few feet seem so much more symbolic, the start of a grand adventure. For some people this feeling of commencement gives them a complete sense of peace, as if they are at peace with whatever happens next. For me though, that feeling didn’t hit me for at least four more hours. I was a nervous wreak, though I didn’t really show it on the outside, a wave of fear washed over me during those first few miles. But as happens so often when riding a motorcycle, my mind soon cleared and I was able to really eat up the miles.

We started our journey across Iowa along hwy. 3 and soon came to the town of Pocahontas, in which there is a giant statue of the lady herself, so Dad took my picture next to her. This pattern continued for the rest of our three weeks on the road, ride for a while, see something interesting, pull over and take a break and snap some pictures. We continued onto Cherokee, which served as our first lunch stop. Then it was the final push to our campsite in Yankton, SD. When we crossed the border between Iowa and South Dakota, the terrain changed dramatically from flat fields to rolling hills, then to my disappointment back to flat fields again. But after a full day in the saddle the only thing I’m concerned with is rolling into our campsite, which was a pretty good one too. Surrounded by cottonwood trees and less than 100 feet from a beautiful little lake, these are the kind of campgrounds one dreams about, apart from the two-dozen motor-homes jammed around us. The dogs bark as children ride their bikes around the lanes, being watched by grandparents relaxing in their folding lawn chairs. The generators roar to life and the occasional car rolls in from a day of site-seeing. I suppose this is as close to the wild west as some people get, “discover the west from the comfort of an air-conditioned, 30 ft. home away from home”. But for my dad and I, this is not the west. This is just the beginning.

Preface to 2009 Trip

22 06 2011

For the past few months, Dad and I have planned this great trip, from Iowa to Oregon and back. What really started it all was the TV series, Long Way Round, that’s what first lit the fire in me to go out there on a motorcycle and see the world. Ever since I was a little kid I have wanted to go and see the West. When I was 8 or 9, Mom, Dad ,and I went out to the Black hills, but that was just a taste. Now at 17, my dad and I started to formulate an idea as to what we wanted this trip to be. He already had a bike, an ‘05 Kawasaki KLR650, so we agreed that it would be beneficial to have the same type of bike. So we kept our eyes on the web for other KLR’s and finally found a good one down in Iowa City. So one day, Dad and I went down to Iowa City Motor sports. We came back with a ‘07 KLR, black and silver, completely stock. I had my riding permit, so I had been riding our Yamaha TW200 around for a while, but after riding Dad’s KLR down the highway once, I admit I was a little intimidated to have my own. But right away I felt totally comfortable on my new bike. Our next task was to outfit our new rigs.

We both spent countless hours scouring Ebay and other sites for our equipment. Our first big purchases were our new Tourmaster jackets from Motorcycle Super Store. Then we slowly accumulated our other gear, such as saddle-bags and tank-bags, as well as a new Eureka tent for me and an extra thick sleeping pad for Dad. We bought one pair of riding pants off Ebay for me but they were to light, made for hot weather. So we ordered another pair but they weren’t right for me, but Dad liked them, so I ordered yet another pair of new Klim pants. They worked great, so then we were pretty much set, as far as stuff we needed to buy. Then we just had to go through all of Dad’s old camping stuff and get all the things we needed from there.

The last couple of weeks before we left, everyone we talked to in town asked questions and wished us a good time. One of our good friends went with us on a “shake-down” ride to Pikes Peak on the Mississippi River. I was surprised that a “Harley rider” like him would want to ride with two “Japanese” bikes, but it was a lot of fun and a good test of our equipment. So now we were done with the planning and prep,  all that was left to do was wait for the departure date.