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Old 10-04-2005, 12:20 AM   #1
rocketbunny
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Motorcycles: 2005 BMW R1200ST
Name: Becca
5805 Miles to Grandmother's House - CA to WI - Sept 05

A little about me and my motorcycle:

I live in San Jose, CA with my boyfriend Tony, 2 cats, 2 house-rabbits, and 2 goldfish. I ride a very farkled 2003 Yamaha YZF600r. It has Givi hard-luggage, xm radio, gps, heated grips, heated vest, Starcom music system, electronic cruise control, headlight modulator, voltmeter,etc.



About my trip:

Undiscouraged by the fiasco that ended my last 2-week cross country trip (when weather prevented me from reaching Yellowstone and a teen in a Maverick ended it all early) I’m doing it again! San Jose to Wisconsin and back.

Ostensibly, I’m just visiting my grandparents near Racine. Really, I’m going to try to reach a few of the best roads in the United States and experience a little more of the freedom and joy of riding solo across the country.

It’s always easier and far more entertaining to write a trip report DURING the actual trip…and I just so happen to have acquired a laptop small enough to carry along in my luggage (Thanks Dad!). Wireless internet is becoming far easier to find in the wilds of America too. Every few days I sent out a rough draft of report for those day to a small group of family and close friends.

This is my final route out:


And back:


Day 0.5, Friday, Sept 9, Campbell, CA to Lake Alpine, CA- 188 miles


With my boss getting progressively more panicked during the day, I consider it almost a miracle that I left work around my desired time (3pm). After hitting up the bank for some cash, I joined the Bay Area Weekend Exodus. Really, the traffic wasn’t all that bad; I only ended up doing some careful lane-sharing for a short while around Milpitas, Pleasanton, and a bit of 205. Very manageable.

My goal for the night was Lake Alpine, up in the Sierras off CA-4. For some reason, I had thought that leaving at 3 would get me up into the mountains before the deer came out to play. Yeah Right! It was getting towards dusk when I got off the freeway on onto the 2-lane toward the mountains. About 15 minutes of shenanigans in search of a gas station probably didn’t help.

Didn’t see any deer, but I was certainly watching for the reflections of their eyes. By the way, my re-aimed headlight was surprisingly effective in lighting up the road (Thanks Tony!).

I was also getting cold, but didn’t want to start pulling out the heavy guns of my liner and heavier gloves just yet. Instead, I tried out my hand-grip heaters. I was feeling macho, so I put them on “low”, a setting that I don’t think I’ve ever used. A few minutes later…”what is this burning sensation???” Wow. I must have switched some wires upon initial install about a year ago. Low was MUCH warmer than “Hi” has ever been. Great!

Right about the time Highway 4 became one lane, I started worrying about the fact that I hadn’t heard from Steven or Cindy for about a week. I had no clue WHERE they were camped at Lake Alpine (or if they’d even gone through with it). I vowed to Make Steven Pay if he abandoned me on this cold, dark night.

Happily, after making one slow circuit of the first campground at the lake, Steven’s tall form loomed out of the darkness. I set up my tent and joined the giant group of crazy-nuts friends that Cindy had gathered. We roasted some marshmallows and tossed half a Costco-sized canister of non-dairy creamer on the fire before hitting the sack at a scandalously early hour for that bunch of college students.

__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"

Last edited by rocketbunny; 10-04-2005 at 09:21 AM..
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:21 AM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Motorcycles: 2005 BMW R1200ST
Name: Becca
Day 1, Saturday Sept 10, Lake Alpine, CA to Burns, OR- 460 miles



I woke pretty early and packed up my camping stuff while Steven heated up some water for hot chocolate. I also got my first taste of Nutella (weird – spreadable Reese’s peanut butter cup on wheat bread).



I waved good bye and set out to attack Ebbets Pass - definitely the highlight of this day. I’d done Ebbets Pass before, but not in the outbound direction. I encountered a few cars, and even a few touring motorcycles coming the other direction. 30 or so miles of one-lane sweepers and switchbacks were fun and really started to strike home the idea that I had 2 weeks of roads like this ahead of me! 

The morning was cool, but for the most part clear. It wasn’t until I passed through Reno on 395 that I started seeing ominous clouds. I pulled off at a gas station just outside Reno to insert my liner and prep my XM radio for wet weather (ziplock bag and a bit of double-sided Velcro). There were a few other bikes there, so I chatted briefly with the riders. They were from Oregon and headed home. They had heard a weather report that indicated only scattered showers.

Heartened by this news, I took off. Frankly, the dark cloud I had seen was a disappointment. I got a few seconds of pretty heavy rain-drops splatting on my helmet and then the sun came out. Not worth the trouble.

For the most part, the trip up 395 was not all that exciting. I stopped for a quick lunch in Alturas before crossing the border into Oregon and 55 mph speed limit. At this point, I realized that I hadn’t gone nearly far enough toward western OR for the roads to be mountainous and interesting. Picture Nevada, but at enforced 55 mph instead of 70 (or as some people call it: “warp speed”) (not me of course). I found that my cruise control wasn’t holding quite as smoothly at 57 as it does at 74.

At one point I passed a large smelly alkali lake with an interesting basaltic rock formation to one side. A geologic marker indicated there was another rock formation IN the lake. Picture shows Abert Lake, Abert Rim, and US 395. The clouds in the distance look far scarier in the photo than they did in person. Promise.



Around 6ish, I saw a big billboard for a Days Inn in Burns, OR with wireless internet. With the growing chill, I decided to skip the last 70 miles of my planned route for the day (would have totaled around 530) and get off the road before the clouds had a chance to let loose on me.

I did a little planning in my hotel room to make up for being behind on my route. Tomorrow I’ll be running up US95 to US12 and crossing Lolo Pass before ending my day in Missoula. I’m pretty concerned about the current weather conditions in Glacier National Park, so I’ll be checking the weather again tomorrow night to decide weather (hehe) to scrap those plans and just arrive in Yellowstone a day early…
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:22 AM   #3
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Motorcycles: 2005 BMW R1200ST
Name: Becca
Day 2, Sunday Sept 11, Burns, OR to Missoula, MT, 475 miles



After a quick continental breakfast courtesy of the motel, I packed the bike and got on the road at a decent hour. The first order of business was to fill the gas tank. I slid my card and then stood there staring at the lcd in puzzlement as it asked me how much gas I wanted. This was too different for this early in the morning. I heard a yell, and the gas station attendant came up and reminded me that in Oregon, they are supposed to hand you the pump. He asked what grade I wanted and typed some stuff on the keypad. It all went smoothly from there.

Riding down US20, I could already tell that the scenery today would be better. The Nevada-style desert was giving way to farm fields and rolling hills.



The turn-off for US 95 was right around the OR/ID border and I didn’t know how gas availability would be on 95, so I wanted to get some around that time. NOT in Oregon, however. I wanted to get gas in my own solitary way. After refueling, I pulled off to the side and took a break. While I was there, a very loaded cruiser pulled up and a woman got off to get gas. Happy to see another solo woman, I walked over to chat. She had just come down from Fairbanks, Alaska and was headed home to New Mexico. What a ride!

US95 was a river road and strongly reminded me of CA 96 along the Klamath River, but with more traffic. It followed the Salmon River north through lots of long sweepers and awesome views. I got a few sprinkles, but the weather today was mostly cooperating.

Pic is along the Salmon River:



Near Hells Canyon Nat Rec Area, the road entered a huge valley and started to climb steeply. I saw a large exhibit on the side of the road and pulled over to read about the Nez Perce war. There had been a major battle in the valley. There was also a display about the construction of the road, Whitebird Pass. The pass used to have so many switchbacks that a driver would make several complete circles while going up the road. I nodded, impressed by the road I was climbing.





It wasn’t until I started back up the road that I realized the “terraces” that I thought I’d seen on a hill near the road were the old pass road! Wow! Now those were some switchbacks. Still, the current road was impressive enough. It reminded me of the eastern side climb of Tioga Pass near Yosemite.

The day had plenty of sunlight left when I turned onto US12. I anxiously watched the side of the road for the famous “winding road next 77 miles” sign. Of course, I couldn’t do Lolo Pass without getting a pic of that sign.



The picture taken care of, I continued along the road. Lolo Pass is supposed to be among the best motorcycle roads in the US. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but anticipated something wonderful. I was surprised to find that the road wasn’t particularly tight or steep, just never-ending sweepers along a river. Perhaps it is so famous because it makes the riding feel so Easy. I was swooping along at a good pace, hardly needing to touch my brakes. One turn led to another smoothly and the pavement quality was excellent. I think I understand why The Explorer’s eyes (on ST.N) always light up when this road is mentioned.

I stopped briefly at the top and read some of the exhibits before crossing into Montana and descending back into civilization. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in Montana, the speed I’d taken the pass at in Idaho was now legal… (heh). I continued at the same pace.

The KOA in Missoula was easy to find thanks to the GPS, and I set up camp and made dinner. After dinner, I grabbed my laptop and walked over to the “KOA Café” which was basically a large (heated) room with a TV and wireless internet (Woohoo!). After reading some of the replied to my first trip report installment, I did some net surfing and checked weather for the next few days. Not promising. I walked over to chat with another traveler enjoying the wifi. He was from Arkansas and had just come down from Banff in Canada. I oohed and ahhed over his pictures…dreaming of the day….

He had also been through Glacier National Park several days before. The weather had been beautiful then, but with the road under construction and a high chance of snow, I thought it might be better not to risk it. On an off chance, I checked current road conditions in Glacier and found that the highest parts of the pass were closed that very night due to weather conditions. Umm…yeah. I began to put together a route to get me to Yellowstone a day early.
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:23 AM   #4
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Motorcycles: 2005 BMW R1200ST
Name: Becca
Day 3, Monday Sept 12, Missoula, MT to Grant Village, Yellowstone, WY, 270 miles



I started the day with a quick jaunt down I-90 with cruise control engaged. I’d had about enough of interstate when I reached the exit for MT-1, a scenic loop off I-90. It wasn’t particularly twisty, but definitely beautiful views of snow covered peaks and a mountain lake. It didn’t add much time, but contributed to my sanity.

I got back on I-90 and traveled at warp speed (limit was 75!) some more before reaching Bozeman and US 191. 191 had a bit of traffic heading south, but fairly enjoyable. It actually dips into the park for a short while before reaching the motel city of West Yellowstone. I stopped here to have lunch before entering the park. While I was inside eating, I suddenly started hearing what sounded like heavy rain on the roof. A woman eating nearby remarked that it was snowing! I ran outside and dodged large clumps of wet snow to get my tankbag off the bike. I was also a little discouraged, not wanting to risk snow covered roads. I had another cup of decaf coffee to let the roads dry a little. I went outside and saw some more motorcyclists. They had just come through the park and said the weather had been awful in the morning, but the day had been mostly fine, with a few short snow showers that did not stick to the roads.



Encouraged, I started on my way into the park. As with my recent trips to Bryce and Zion, the gate attendant was pretty rude. She took my brand new parks pass and saw that it hadn’t been punched yet with an expiration month. She seemed to think that I’d been using it for a while and no-one had noticed, essentially stealing park entrances. I tried to explain that I’d just recently bought it at REI (which obviously doesn’t punch the cards, not being a national park). She barely listened, “Well now it’ll expire in September.” Whatever…I continued on my way.

Just a few miles into the park I saw a herd of elk grazing along the side of the road. It struck home, I was in Yellowstone! Tears came to my eyes. So many memories of road trips in my youth. Every name brought new memories…Washburn Expedition, Gibbon River, Paint Pots…

I wiped the tears away, but they came back when I saw my first group of bison by the side of the road. Being as I was on a motorcycle and they were about 10 feet away, I prudently turned off my headlight modulator and hoped they didn’t think the YZF was growling at them.



I passed the Old Faithful area and smelled the sulphurous steam. Mmmmm – smells like Yellowstone.

After setting up my campsite at Grant, it was really getting too late to do anything else that day, so I had dinner and settled into my sleeping bag to read. Brrrrrrr – it just kept getting colder and colder. To sleep, I ended up pulling my riding suit on top of my sleeping bag as an extra blanket.
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:24 AM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Motorcycles: 2005 BMW R1200ST
Name: Becca
Day 4, Tuesday Sept 13, Yellowstone, 100 miles.

It was in the 30s when I got up this morning, and the roads appeared wet, so I decided to start by doing some laundry and letting the roads dry a little. I recharged my Ipaq while reading in the warm laundromat at Grant.

After getting a bite to eat at the grill at Old Faithful, I watched an eruption.



I noticed that the venerable Old Faithful Inn was closed and under construction. Just seeing the steeply pitched roof brought memories of standing inside and looking up to the infinity of wood rafters.



I considered walking down to see Morning Glory pool (another favorite), but that would take a lot of time, and I wanted to get to Norris Geyser basin that day. I got back on the bike and followed the line of cars out the 30 miles or so to Norris Geyser Basin. I changed to sneakers and grabbed my book (Ipaq) and hiked down to Echinus Geyser, watching a small eruption of Steamboat Geyser on the way.

Seeing the engraved wood signs marking each geyser and pool, I remembered joking with my dad about creating a similar sign at home and then placing it by an un-named pool and seeing how long it took the rangers to notice. Welcome to Rocketbunny Spring!

I had never seen the benches around Echinus so empty! I was only one sitting there, watching the pool fill. I sat and read, keeping an eye on a rock I’d marked as a gauge. Every once in a while I got a few snow flakes, but they only served to extend my time there (gotta have those roads semi dry). I was warm and comfortable, but getting frustrated! I had been there for 40 minutes and the pool had not noticeably filled. It’s supposed to fill all the way, erupt, and then empty before starting the cycle again. I remembered sitting there through the cycle years before, and didn’t remember it taking this long. Sad, I finally had to leave to make it back to my campsite before dark.



I decided to continue around the loop, through Canyon, Hayden Valley, and along Lake Yellowstone. I saw more bison and elk, but still no moose (meese?) or bears (which I didn’t really expect, but hoped).





Back at the campground it was still in the 50s, so I had high hopes that the night would not be so cold. I got out a map and called my mom for a weather report. The weather was looking to be very nice for the next few days, so it seemed I could probably safely choose any route east through the mountains.

After I hung up, a couple camping nearby invited me over for dinner and a campfire. Kari had made chicken breast with cut up potatoes, carrots, and onions in foil packets grilled over the fire. It was delicious, far better than freeze-dried backpacking food (my alternative). Afterwards, we sat around the fire and chatted. Kari and Bill were from Milwaukee. Bill works for Harley Davidson, but doesn’t really like the whole Harley thing. He has a couple of BMW motorcycles and of course a HD (new one every year with employee discount). We had a good time talking motorcycles and touring.
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:25 AM   #6
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Name: Becca
Day 5, Wednesday Sept 14, Grant Village to Gillete, WY ~400 miles



Coldest morning yet, I think. When I got out of my tent and looked at the thermometer on the bike, it said 21F. By the time I got back from the bathroom, it was all the way up to 24! When I finished packing up the camp about an hour later, it was at a manageable 42.

I had a few choices for this day. I’d been told that the East entrance was half hour delays and several miles of muddy rutted dirt road. The Northeast entrance sounded better..I hadn’t heard about construction, but was worried about going to high elevations after the weather of the last few days. I finally decided to head for Gardiner MT and the north entrance. It would mean several hours of interstate, but I’d get to see the terraces at Mammoth.



I stopped at Mammoth and took some pictures, marveling at the colors and formations. It was here that I decided to be brave and risk the Northeast Entrance. I headed that direction, finally starting to see some beautiful views of canyons and mountains. Up to that point, Yellowstone was mostly seen as roads going through young evergreen forests (since much of the older stands had been burned in the huge fire in the late 80s). Not very photogenic.



After leaving the park, I found myself stopped for a 15 minute wait at a construction site. The flag worker told me that lots of motorcycles go through, and the road was in good condition. What did she know!!!! The pilot car led us through several long stretches of gravely (but dry) dirt roads interspersed with bad asphalt. An infinite time later, the pilot car pulled off to the side and I continued on…my confidence entirely shot. No matter how many times Tony tries to take me mountain biking, feeling your front tire traveling around on dirt and gravel is just WRONG! So much for the safety of the northeast entrance…

Chief Joseph Scenic highway was actually very fun (even if it is a detour for Beartooth pass being closed. I took me a while to get into it (still feeling wobbly after the dirt road), but when I finally did, I managed to have a lot of fun. Here was Scenery. High mountains, valleys, rocky cliffs. I took some pictures and had a granola bar while looking out over a valley which provided escape from Yellowstone for the Nez Perce.





I descended into Cody, WY for a quick lunch before heading out on Alt US14. It started out being long and straight, pretty disappointing. Then I started seeing signs: Steep Grade 23 miles ahead. Ahhhhh.

Wow! They weren’t kidding. I had to downshift a bit to get up the mountain, with switchbacks towering impossibly high above me. I stopped at a turnout up on top which declared an elevation of over 9,000 feet. I continued on, eventually descending along a long rocky hill, with signs calling out the various rock formations visible where they had blasted away to grade the road.





I finally got onto I-90 and rode a few miles to Sheridan for dinner and gas at sunset. It was dark when I came out of the restaurant, but I had planned for this. All that was left was 100 miles of interstate to my reserved hotel room in Gillete, WY to position myself for Spearfish Canyon and the Black Hills the next day.
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:26 AM   #7
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Join Date: Dec 2002
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Name: Becca
Day 6, Thursday Sept 15, Gillette, WY to Mitchell, SD – 500 miles



I awoke determined to get on the road early and to see Devil’s Tower (again). One of the two was achieved.

After a short I-90 stint, I fueled up at the exit for US-14. While I was at the station, a girl with long blond hair streaming behind her pulled up on a Sportster with hot-pink flames on the tank. Due to lack of luggage other than a black leather mini-backpack, I assumed she was a local and smiled shyly. She smiled back but seemed in a hurry to get going again. Something about those pink flames impressed me.

The road to Devil’s Tower would not have been much fun taken in the evening, as I’d originally planned. It was twisty with lots of dips and hills. It would have been terrifying at night, but was lots of fun that morning. I decided not to enter the (fee area) state park, but did pull off to read a highway marker.



The Indians in the area had many stories about the creation of the towering rock formation. One popular one is that a few young girls climbed onto the rock to escape some bears. The rock rose to the heavens to save them and the long furrows in the side were created by the bear’s claws digging into the rock as it rose. Today Devil’s Tower is a local rock climbing mecca.

I got back on I-90 and continued on to Spearfish, pulling off there to get a quick lunch. While eating, I got into conversation with a local on a bright orange GL1800 (Goldwing). He gave me some tips: be careful of Harleys in your lane on Spearfish Canyon and informed me about a backroad into Badlands National Park.

Spearfish Canyon Road through the Black Hills was beautiful. Again, the curves weren’t particularly challenging but they also didn’t flow like Lolo Pass. I think the best part was the scenery…tall rocky cliffs on each side and a mottled forest backdrop of aspens and evergreens.





From there, I got on Highways 14 and 385 towards Mt Rushmore. I was not impressed here, wide lanes and giant sweepers. The mottled (that word SOOOO fits here) forest were still in evidence, but didn’t seem as impressive without the canyon background.

The town of Lead was neat though. The streets were very steep and you could see evidence of mining history everywhere. The rocky hills around the town were pitted and blasted away in several places. Leaving town, I rode past a mine shaft into the side of the mountain.

Approaching Mt Rushmore I was forced to travel at 20 mph (posted limit) through the most godforsaken tourist trap of a town. Keystone, SD apparently wanted my money REAL bad. I of course did not oblige, so offended that I waited ‘til later even to get gas.
Even worse, the parking lot at the monument wanted my money too. I pulled up to the gate after having seen several signs pointing to monument parking and then found more signs explaining that the complex was privately operated, and did not accept National Parks Passes. It was too late, I didn’t feel like backing up (down a steep hill) so I paid the $8 and entered the monument site. At least my motorcycle got a souvenir of the visit (little red band looped around the throttle cable with “Mt Rushmore 2005” printed on it).

I was impressed with the amount of architectural fanfare that had been added to the monument since the last time I’d visited. There was a huge visitor center, café, bookstore, and amphitheater with constant presentations and a nightly lighting ceremony. There was actually a South Dakota Naturalization Ceremony going on while I was there. I asked a ranger about it and he said they only did this once a year (lucky me!).



Next I headed to Rapid City and SR 44 – that backroad into Badlands mentioned by the goldwing rider. It was certainly better than continuing down I-90, but the farm fields seemed to go on forever. I finally felt like it was beginning to pay off when I started seeing what could only be the Badlands. I rode through an area where patches of soil around the road were sunken or raised. There were small spiky rock formations everywhere I looked. I was particularly happy to feel a human scale to the topography of the park. So many parks that I’ve been too lately try to keep the visitor at a distance. This park encouraged you to ride through the eerie columns and then stop and lose yourself in them while hiking. I’d like to come back again when I have more time to explore.





While at the Badlands Visitor Center, I had a decision to make. I was 800 miles from my grandparents house, but I knew that there wasn’t much time left in the day. I had officially decided that high-speed interstate riding at night is not something that I’m good at. My original planned destination for that night was Sioux Falls, SD…but I figured that was really more than I’d be capable of this night. At 60 fewer miles, Mitchell, SD was reasonable. I used my GPS to check motels in Mitchell and found a Motel 6. I called and made reservations and then buttoned up the motorcycle for 200 miles of interstate.

A little after sunset I stopped for dinner near Chamberlain SD at a restaurant that obviously believed in the power of large billboards. I don’t like to stop at anything that reeks of tourist trap, but I was hungry and the five cent coffee was definitely a draw. I was also worried about the look of the sky ahead, so I pulled my tank bag off and waterproofed my xm radio.

Sure enough, while I was inside “Al's Oasis”, the heavens let loose a mighty rain. I knew I could handle the rain, but the lightning that accompanied it was worrying me. I delayed as long as I could, getting another cup of decaf and slowly eating my food, trying to see if it would clear up a little. Finally I called my mom for a weather report. I had 70 miles to go and didn’t want to be dodging lightning bolts.

Mom was able to pull up radar for the area and told me that the storm was heading east, right along the interstate, but the lightning was probably only a early evening phenomenon. She suggested that I wait a little longer to see if I could get the storm fairly far ahead before following it to Mitchell.

I went out to my bike and suited up for bear, pulling the rain cover over the tank bag and grabbing some warm waterproof gloves. I crossed the Missouri river in darkness, only seeing it sparkle in the moonlight before climbing the hill on the other side. My mother assures me that the contrast between the river area and the rest of the plains is striking.

The ride was uneventful, and I actually avoided rain until around the last 10 miles to Mitchell. I saw no more lightning.
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:27 AM   #8
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Day 7, Friday Sept 16, Mitchell, SD to Racine, WI – 590 miles



Knowing that this day would be the longest of the trip, I was motivated to set an alarm and really get moving fast.

I started out with a visit to the Corn Palace. I had figured that as long as I was in Mitchell, I’d better visit it. Early enough that only a few workers were on the scaffolding around the building, I was spared the inside, which my grandparents tell me used to be interesting but is now only a large souvenir mall. I was somewhat under whelmed with the outside appearance of the palace, but gaudy really isn’t my thing, even if it is covered in corn.



From there I set the cruise control and watched the miles slowly tick off. There were a few bright spots. I thought of Bluepoof when I passed the Spam Museum and huge smelly Hormel plant somewhere in Minnesota(?). Seeing the turnoff for Baraboo, WI and the Circus Museum, I really wished I had more time.

Interestingly, while the speed limit kept dropping with each state I entered, I know I went fastest through Wisconsin. As soon as I left the lush state park around the Mississippi, the speed limit went down but the traffic level went up. I felt like I was on I-5 in California, where “keep right except to pass” doesn’t work. I putted along at 4-5 over for a little while and then gave up and joined a train of cars going about 9 over. Whee--- making time finally!

The temperature climbed through the day into the 80s and low 90s. I was still wearing my liner from the night before, but was comfortable because there was a good breeze. I expected rain later in the day, so didn’t want to deal with the hassle of removing and re-inserting. This became a mistake as I got closer to Milwaukee. I was feeling hot, but still didn’t want to stop the bike and remove the liner. I was sooo close. I entered Milwaukee and hit my first traffic/rush hour since leaving the Bay Area the Friday before. I inched along, dying in the heat. Eons later, I was finally moving again.

After the long day, the back of my neck hurt and my head didn’t want to turn, but I felt rejuvenated when I finally recognized my grandparents home along a little country road near Racine. I pulled off onto the short gravel driveway and motored right into the open garage.

First order of business was to give both a hug and then hand Grandpa a hat from Yellowstone, a present for his 78th birthday that very day. Happy Birthday again, Grandpa!

__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:29 AM   #9
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Motorcycles: 2005 BMW R1200ST
Name: Becca
Days 8 & 9, Sept 17&18, near Racine, WI

I slept in, aired my tent, and did some laundry. My cousin Beth was there almost the entire weekend, and we spent countless hours sharing photos, chatting, and playing with Poky the Dachshund. On Saturday, Dad’s Uncle Leonard and his wife Mary came over to visit for a while. Len is fascinated by my trip reports and he really wanted to see my bike and equipment.

On Sunday, my Uncle Rob, Aunt Debbie, and Cousin Andrea rode up from Illinois on motorcycles (Andrea rode with Rob). Beth and her brother Frederick also came and we sat down to a lunch of traditional brats, special recipe baked beans, and sweet corn from a local farmers market. I was very slow in eating my food, because I was doing so much talking and active listening. After lunch, we celebrated my grandfather’s birthday as a family with cake and ice-cream.





That night after everyone left, we relaxed in the living room and watched the Emmys. Not long after Shatner “sang” the Star Trek theme, I fell asleep with Poky resting her head on mine. I love my bunnies and kitties, but I miss having a dog.
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-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:30 AM   #10
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Day 10, Monday Sept 19, Racine, WI to Des Moines, IA – 400 miles



The forecast called for heavy rain, so I was not surprised when I woke to thunder shaking the house and big flashes of light visible through the curtains. I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. I was NOT riding in that.

I finally tore myself from bed around 8 and found my grandparents in the kitchen watching the morning news. The radar showed the storm passing quickly to the east over Lake Michigan. I had breakfast and read the paper, dawdling. Beth called around 9:00 to say goodbye, half expecting me to be gone already. Her call motivated me to get off my ass and start packing up. I took a shower and packed the bike (which Rob and so kindly turned around for me the day before). I hugged my grandparents for the last time before I started to put on my buggy over suit. I waved as I pulled away from the house around 10:30

Using a typically torturous route to avoid Illinois toll ways, I rode through the Lake Geneva area and then Rockford on my way to Il Rt-2. Near Lake Geneva, a historical marker flashing past on the side of the road motivated me to turn around and maneuver onto wet gravel (trust me folks, this doesn’t happen often). I read about the first 4-H club to be formed in Wisconsin and looked at the farm where they met. I wonder if California has a similar marker and where it might be…? (hint hint Steven)



The trip along the Rock River was as beautiful as it was a year before. I did not stop to photograph Chief Blackhawk again, but I remembered the stories told the year before. I rejoined the interstate right after the tollway ended and headed for the Mississippi. I wanted to stop and visit with my dad’s Aunt Carol in Davenport, IA.

I had seen no more rain that day, but the humidity combined with temperatures in the low 90’s made for a hot ride. I gulped ice water at Carol’s while chatting family news and enjoying tales of the Alaska cruise that Carol and her husband Bing had just taken. I was having such a good time that I stayed longer than I’d planned.

This meant that I didn’t come into Des Moines until around 8:30, long after darkness had fallen. Interestingly, since I was now headed INTO the sunset, it took far longer to get dark and even after sunset, wasn’t as bad. It also helped that the interstate was very busy, so I had plenty of headlights to light my way.

Dad’s cousin Laura and her family had recently moved into a brand new house, which I think is why my gps had a little trouble finding it. I found myself on a similarly named street but with very wrong house numbers. Sweltering in the heat, I pulled over and geared down to access my cell phone. I called Laura and she set me straight with better directions.

I toodled down the cross street, looking for the landmarks she’d described and completely failed to see Laura, Michael, and Meghan frantically waving their arms at me until someone stepped right in front of me. Yeah, I’m oblivious when I’m on a mission. Also, for some reason I remembered the house being farther down the street.

I’d visited their current house when it was just in the framing stage the year before, so I was very impressed with the finished interior. The public areas are beautiful with many nice touches, and the finished basement (oooh basement) with a comfortable guest room is a teenagers dream.

Their little puppy Zephie tried to jump all over me while my dinner warmed up. I was definitely in a playing mood and indulged, letting the little dog clamber all over my lap. Many years ago my family had brought our Scottish Terrier Kelsey to visit and Michael had been very afraid of dogs. It seems all that fear has disappeared with age.

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-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:31 AM   #11
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Day 11, Tuesday Sept 20, West Des Moines, IA to Grand Island, NE ~400 miles



Laura and I started the morning with what has become our traditional visit to a local Starbucks. Mmmm – sweetened, chocolaty, whip-creamy coffee. After I ordered, Laura mentioned that Meghan had predicted that I’d get a caramel mocha. Hah!

It was iced….but the rest fit.

We did some more chatting, and then settled down to look at maps. At Laura’s suggestion, I headed south to Madison County, IA.

I realize that with road construction happening in the town of Winterset, things were a little unsettled. Still, it doesn’t seem to make sense to remove all signs directing tourists to your primary attraction (the park with the covered bridge). I went through the town once with my eyes peeled and saw nothing except signs directing me to John Wayne’s birth place. The road out of town was kinda twisty and fun, so I stayed on it for a few miles before turning around for another pass through. Again, I saw nothing and turned around at the other end of town. After asking 2 people for directions, and finally happening on a sign the construction crews had missed, I had my covered “Bridge of Madison County”.



NOTE: There were signs up directing me to other bridges along US 169, but they pointed at gravel roads stretching off into the horizon. I wasn’t tempted.

From there, I headed southwest to tag Missouri and then northwest through Nebraska. The rest of the day was an endless procession of parched golden corn fields (they’re having a drought there) and non-happy cows grazing in fields.

I ended the day at the KOA in Grand Island, NE.
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IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:32 AM   #12
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Join Date: Dec 2002
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Day 12, Wednesday Sept 21, Grand Island, NE to Strasbourg, CO ~400 miles



I’ve always been interested in pioneer history, back to the trips of my youth where we’d read Laura Ingalls Wilder aloud in the car and visit every prairie history monument we could find. I fondly remembered visiting Ft Laramie and Ft Bridger and hoped that Ft Kearny would be interesting too.

I pulled up to the visitors center and went inside to start my exploration. I watched a short slide presentation and walked around the museum area. Ft Kearny was typical of the Oregon Trail forts in that it had very little in the way of actual fortifications and was mainly a depot and home base for pioneers and soldiers involved in various Indian campaigns. When the railroad came through, it was rendered obsolete and abandoned.

Sadly, since usable lumber was very precious at this time, most of the buildings were pulled down and hauled off to another place. Only a few buildings had been reconstructed, but many others had been located and staked out. I went into the sod “Blacksmiths workshop”, earth-covered powder magazine, and walked around the palisade.





I was disappointed, since Bridger and Laramie are such vibrant places with so much to see and explore, but at least the powder magazine was something I’d never seen at those other forts.

After leaving Ft Kearny, I got a quick lunch before heading down US 34. I tagged Kansas near the Colorado border and finally ended up just outside of Denver at a KOA.

It was extremely hot today (dash thermo was showing mid 90s to low 100s) and for the most part the views were the same as the day before through Iowa.

I would like to add that I’ve been very happy with the performance of my GPS on this trip so far. However, at one point it suggested a “shortcut” to take me from US 34 to CO-71. I wasn’t inclined to take it, since I wanted to get gas at the interstate it would miss, but I was pretty amused when that road came up and was dirt off to the horizon. I laughingly cursed out the gps for a few minutes for even suggesting such a thing. Dirt road indeed!!!!! Actually, It made me start to get apprehensive about CO-71, but that road turned out to be just fine.
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IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:33 AM   #13
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Day 13, Thursday Sept 22, Strasbourg, CO to Moab, UT -400 miles



Coming into Denver this morning, I was pretty concerned about the weather. It was early, yes, but very overcast and chilly. It had rained pretty heavily on my tent last night (though all was dry by morning).

I was also concerned about finding breakfast and gas. There hadn’t been anything on the way in from Strasbourg, and the city seemed to be mostly uninviting industrial areas that I wasn’t about to get myself lost in. It wasn’t until I was completely through Denver that I finally found an exit with gas and food that I’d feel comfortable parking my bike around.

Refreshed, I headed out onto the interstate on this gray day. I’ve never been very comfortable with high speeds on roads full of big-rigs and insane local drivers. I really wasn’t having much fun on I-70, but I had been very scared of finding myself on a little mountain road in a rain-storm.

In the early afternoon, the sun came out and the road emptied a little since I was away from the major population centers. Glenwood Canyon was actually beautiful and speeds were down a little, so I was really starting to enjoy weaving between the canyon walls. I was intrigued to see how the engineers had terraced the road on the canyon wall to minimize the visual impact of 4 lanes. All I could see was the 2 going my direction, so it felt more like just another river canyon run.







I got lunch in Glenwood Springs, just before hitting Grand Junction and Colorado National Monument. Another note to the town on directing tourist traffic: I got off on the marked exit for CNM, but started to seriously doubt myself not long after. I was taking a series of turns and even went through a traffic circle. I was following signs that were small and would only show up sporadically. I was feeling pretty frustrated to have been paraded through the downtown when what I wanted to see was rock formations.

I finally got to the entrance and flashed my parks pass with relief. The Rim Rock Road was very scenic. It was about 16 miles through the park on a narrow, switch-backed, steep road with gravel and dust on most turns. It was wonderful. I took it nice and easy and stopped at all the overlooks for more views of red rocks and eroded hillsides.

pic: A sign nearby described it as a double canyon. The red rocks obviously form one, but you can see another shallow one in brush covered floor of the canyon (hint, see the “v” in the greenery out towards the town). By the time the shallow canyon (which is in very hard rock) gets to the size of the red rocks one, the red rocks will likely have completely eroded away.



The sun was setting as I descended from the park and into Fruita, CO. I got back on I-70 and headed for Utah.

Somewhere in there I saw a sign for “Rabbit Valley” and the “Trip through Time” Road (same exit). No time and it looked like dirt, but great names I think.

I’d planned to get gas somewhere around the turn-off to Moab (US191), but there was nothing there except a little run-down station that didn’t look very appealing. I had to wonder if it was even open (I didn’t get that close).

I knew it would be close, but I thought I had enough gas to get to Moab. My reserve light came on about 23 miles away. I had never pushed my tank that far, so was nervous, but I was getting over 50 mpg on this tank, so I thought I could easily make it.

I pulled up to the Motel6 with relief and pulled off my helmet before walking to the door. There I saw the dreaded “No Vacancy” sign. Argggggh! I knew I should have called ahead that day. I pulled my helmet back on and continued down the street, getting worried. Super8: No Vacancy, Days Inn: No Vacancy, Best Western: No Vacancy. Yikes. I started to wonder if I’d have to ride back out to the interstate and try to make it to another town. Ahah! No sign at the Ramada upon first glance. I pulled up and walked in, desperate. They had one room available (single queen, non smoking) from a cancellation just minutes before. I snapped it up, groaning at the expense even with AAA.

Apparently September is a busy month in Moab. I actually will end up with an extra day of vacation at the rate this trip is going, so if Tony had managed to instill even a tiny bit more enthusiasm for mountain biking (or if he’d been along) I’d probably have spent the next day on a rented bicycle. As is, the giant strawberry margarita I had with dinner wasn’t enough to get me wanting to slide a tire around on the slickrock. Maybe next time…..
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-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:34 AM   #14
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More Colorado National Monument Pics:









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Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:35 AM   #15
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Day 13, Friday Sept 23, Moab, UT to Ely, NV



First order of business was to fill the tank. I put in 4.6 gallons, which means that either I’m not filling the tank enough (it’s advertised as 5 gallons) or my reserve should last much longer than I’d thought.

Next I backtracked up 191 to Arches National Park. After flashing my parks pass at the gate, I made a quick stop at the shiny new visitor’s center where I read up on the geology of the park and found out that the road I was about to ascend had won several landscaping architecture awards back in the day.

I’ve been making lots of comparisons between national parks lately. I’d say Arches felt more like a combo of Zion and Capitol Reef. The scenery and the crowds were incredible. In the first few miles, I stopped at half a dozen turnouts and I hadn’t seen a single arch yet.





In an effort to make sure that my day wasn’t too long, I gave myself a time limit for my drive through Arches. I figured I could spend 45 minutes going in (including photo-ops) and get out in 15-30 minutes. With this in mind, I determinedly headed for “Delicate Arch” which is supposed to me the most photographed arch in the world. It’s possibly most famous for its appearance on countless Utah license plates.

While stopped at a turnout, I was passed by a convoy of BMW motorcycles streaming down the road in my direction. I caught up with them at the parking area for Delicate Arch. I think I saw an adv-rider logo on one of the GS’s.

They were all in various stages of gearing down for the short walk down to the “lower” viewpoint, so I felt a little strange and stand-offish walking around with my helmet still on. I usually try not to remove my helmet unless I am planning a long stop. This saves time as well as wear and tear on my face/forehead, which I’ve found can get pretty raw with constant removal/replacement of my helmet on a long trip with hot weather.

I chatted briefly while peering at the famous arch in the distance. They were all from North Carolina. Amazed, I marveled at the organizational ability required to get 10+ riders to coordinate that kind of vacation time.



Delicate Arch seen, I got back on the bike and headed out of the park and back toward I-70. I was amused to see signs around Green River warning no services for 100 miles. It’s not often that you see that kind of a drought on an interstate. I wasn’t much worried though, as SR-24 was coming up pretty soon and I knew there was gas available just through Capitol Reef.

By rights, the entirety of Utah SR-24 should be a national park (or at least a monument). Mostly straight until after Hanksville, I was probably taking way too much attention off the road to marvel at the colorful cliffs and monumental rock formations. Anti-climatically, a road sign not long before Capitol Reef NP warned “Scenic drive next 15 miles” (or something like that – you get the idea).

I started to recognize the road as I approached CRNP and felt incredibly lucky to be visiting this national park twice in the same summer. I traveled through without stopping to retake pictures (it had only been 2 months).

I was getting pretty hungry at this point and eager to reach the Diablo Café (the reason I’d squandered time on 24 instead of slabbing through on I-70). Finally the familiar sign appeared ahead and I pulled into the suspiciously empty (gravel) parking lot. I didn’t bother to pull off my helmet as I approached the open door. My stomach twisted with hunger as I read “Open’s daily at 5” on the door.

Crap. I wasn’t going to wait around 3 hours, no matter how good the food was. I decided to continue on and try to find something else. About an hour later I gave up and got Subway at Delta UT. Not really what I was hoping for lunch that day.

Entering Nevada and racing daylight, I started to feel the wind pick up. It was fine on the plains, but those gusts could be dangerously surprising in the twisty passes. At one point I was descending a pass and in the middle of long sweeping turn when I got my first shot of real adrenaline for the entire trip. A stray gust leaned me waaaaay further over than I’d planned. I brought it back up, but really started counting down the miles to Ely at that time.

The bright Motel6 sign was a welcome sight. I pulled up to the office and walked in. The desk attendant was helping a woman find lodging at another hotel. She looked at me dubiously until I said I had a reservation.

Yet again I’d managed to hit Ely during the weekend where they hold an annual road race from Ely to Vegas. Every hotel in town was booked. The phone call that morning making the reservation had felt so easy, I’d had no idea how lucky I was.

As soon as I got into my room, I turned on the TV and checked CNN and the Weather Channel for an update on Hurricane Rita. My parents moved to northwest Houston a few years ago and this was their first hurricane, so my mind had been on them all day long. Rita had been passing through their area all day long. After reassuring myself that my parent’s part of Houston hadn’t been hard hit, I tried calling mom. The landline gave me an “All circuits are busy” message, but mom picked up her cell phone. We talked. They hadn’t sustained any damage to the house, and hadn’t even seen hurricane force winds. No problems there. My mom had been so stressed in the days leading up to Rita. I was glad she could finally relax.

Darkness had fallen while I dithered on the phone, and I didn’t feel all that comfortable crossing 50 in the dark and walking a few blocks to the fast food restaurant area. I felt bad calling the limo for the Nevada Hotel alone, but I wanted to eat real food. I summoned the limo and quickly put on street clothing before walking down to the lobby. I browsed some fliers and brochures in the lobby and picked up a mini-newspaper about highway 50 attractions. When the limo showed up, I suddenly realized that I’d forgotten my Ipaq in my room and had only the newspaper to read during dinner. Oh well.

The food was mediocre, but the strawberry milkshake was good. I managed to make the newspaper last through the entire meal. By the time I finished dinner, I was so tired the my hands were shaking. I got a ride back to my motel and fell asleep to CNN with my Ipaq dropping slowly from my hand.
__________________
-Becca


IBA#33634
Sport Rider to Touring Rider: "Heheh. Wanna race?"
Touring Rider to Sport Rider: "Sure... To Phoenix?"
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