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Lander, WY to Grand Forks, NoDak via Black Hills


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My son is a college student in the University of North Dakota's Aviation program. In the 2.5 years he's lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota I have not been out to see him. Yeah, I know, Bad Dad. He's been home a number of times and he's repeatedly said, "Dad, it's really flat and boring out here! Save your trip for my graduation!". Anyway, I got to feeling kinda guilty and frisky at the same time after the long Winter, so decided to ride out from Lander, Wyoming and see him. He's got my K-75 at school with him (an early graduation gift ), so the plan was to ride together to Ontario or circumnavigate Lake Superior or something once I got there. We rode to the Canadian Rockies last Summer and it was the most fun we'd ever had together and were looking forward to another Riding Adventure.


Some pre-ride maintenance and service was necessary, so I got my assistant lined out and got to work:




Just like me, the RT looks better with her clothes on!




Alternator belt checked fine, PITA brake bleed done fairly recently, tranny, rear drive and engine oil changed, tires better than 50%, no big surprises anywhere. Changed the fuel filter, another PITA exercise but I think it was time, the new one sure flows better than the old one and I dumped some ugly crap out of the bottom of the tank.








Adjusted the valves and cleaned the K&N filter, did a throttle body sync, double-checked all the lights and other stuff and put her clothes back on. She's all dialed in, tuned up, packed like a moving van and ready to leave home!




Through the tunnels in Wind River Canyon and on through Thermopolis, Wyoming, destination Ten Sleep and Powder River Pass over the Big Horn Mountains:




Thermopolis is is billed as "The World's Largest Hot Spring". I don't know if it's true, but the travertine terraces above the Big Horn/Wind River are pretty and the hot pools are great for a soak!




Wyoming highway patrolman with a Bad Actor just outside Ten Sleep. This asphalt just begs to be ridden fast, it's wide open, brand new with high-speed sweepers. Bad timing for this guy, ooops, but better him than me!




Entering Ten Sleep, a neat and pretty little town with five bars, one gas station and an espresso shop, everything you need:




Ten Sleep Canyon at elevation ~4300' on the way to Powder River Pass at 9,666 feet, then drop to Buffalo at ~4650 feet, all in 65 miles:




Still skiable at Meadowlark:







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I'm posting this in chunks so I don't screw up and lose it all, bear with me!


Cloud Peak on the Buffalo side of the Pass. This is 65 miles of some of the finest high-speed sweepers I know of, an outstanding ride with fantastic pavement, great scenery and very little traffic.




No photos of Buffalo, WY sorry. I was running a little late so took I-90 at warp 8.5 to Gillette and on toward Devil's Tower. This is the WyoDak coal mine and powerplant (I'm pretty sure) just east of Gillette. The Powder River Basin is home to a number of the largest coal mines on Earth and they produce a phenomenal amount of coal. In some places the seams are over 100 feet thick with only 50 to 100 feet of overburden.








I think each car holds 100 tons of coal and each train consists of 110 cars and is over one mile long. The trains never stop moving as they're loaded, they run under the loadout silos at 4 mph if I remember correctly, and load 24/7/365. That's a lot of coal.


My destination is in sight! Good thing, it's getting late and I'm tired.




The KOA wanted $28 a night for a tent space, forget that! So I pitched camp in the unimproved campground at the Tower for $12, spent the night next to a group of rock climbers that I know from Lander (it's a small world grin.gif ) and across from a HUGE group of Boy Scouts. Had to take camp photos the next morning because it was totally dark by the time I got everything set up.








If you've never ridden the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota you're missing some of the best rides around. That's a small part of why Sturgis is so popular (more on that later).

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This is a teeny bit of Spearfish Canyon, about 35 miles of outstanding twistiness between Spearfish and Deadwood/Lead South Dakota. There was almost no traffic, lots of sand in some corners, but I was still able to do most of it at 2X the posted limit. Spearfish Creek:




Obviously a nasty corner..... the back side of the sign says "Why Die?" and some have little motorcycle cutouts attached, more of the Sturgis Legacy I'm guessing. Apparently the SoDak Highway Department errects one of these at the site of each fatality... sobering, they're everywhere!






The "Open Cut" at Deadwood, Homestake Mining Company. It's defunct now (can you tell I'm a geologist?? grin.gif , all my photos have ROX in them!).








Custer State Park is gorgeous, skinny little roads with narrow little tunnels working it's way through "The Needles", another great rock climbing area:










The "Eye of the Needle", very cool rock.






I like tunnels, and this route is chucky full of them. Just don't bring yer motorhome! The camera wasn't able to handle the brightness difference, but you can see Mount Rushmore framed from this series of tunnels (by design of the builder):








This one is extra cool, a tunnel exits onto a bridge and curls around under itself:




The Boys. I didn't bother to park at the visitor center for $12 tongue.gif so I snuck a few photos without paying extra for the better view:






From here it was back through Deadwood to the Motel 6 in Belle Fourche, SoDak. I wanted a shower and good night's rest because Day 3 was 620 miles of South and North Dakota......



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Brilliant ride report !!!

Love the pictures and above all your story around them.. very interesting!

That coal mine is incredible !!


I think I would get lost on some of those roads.. they're so wide !! The ones with the tunnel is more my 'size' though.


Thanks for posting... great stuff !! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

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Thanks for taking us on the trip with you Douglas. It is amazing to see what can happen to a mountain in so short a time.


Ever since I saw 'Close Encounters' I have wanted to visit the Devils Tower. At least throgh this board I get to see it again.


Andy thumbsup.gif

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Absolutely wonderful trip and tale.


Loved the information and history along with it!


That is yet another ride I must partake in!




What kind of aviation program is your son involved in?

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Thanks for the nice comments, folks! I am blessed to live near so much gorgeous country and have the time and resources to enjoy it. (Francois, if you and Nina make it over here after the kids are out of school I'll personally guide you around all these big, wide roads! thumbsup.gif ).


Here's the "Rest of the Story":


OK, so I got to spend two days riding in the twisties of the Big Horn Mountains and the Black Hills. Time to head across the Dakotas for Grand Forks and my son. Heading North out of Belle Fourche, SD with a belly full of good strong java. Damn, it's STRAIGHT and FLAT and WINDY!




Well heck, the filtered java wants out and the effects are starting to wear off and it's still straight and flat and windy:




Finally, a landmark! Dakotans are not intimidated by distance and a big sky.




Teddy Roosevelt has long been a hero of mine for many reasons (#1 reason, thanks for all the National Parks, Teddy!), and it was part of the plan to ride through his former ranch. It was HUGE in his time but has shrunk down to the North and South Units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Cool country, and even a few twists in the road!






This is the Little Missouri River in the TRNP (I think there's camping at the end of the road, but the Ranger Station was locked up so I couldn't explore the literature or situation in any detail):




The colors were kinda washed out in this country, still pretty early with few leaves on the trees but it was still very pretty.


I rode and rode and when the low fuel light came on I realized I hadn't passed a gas station for a long time... I finally found gas at tiny little Watford City, put 7.2 gallons in the RT (it holds 7.5 I think tongue.gif ). Caution, gas is not readily available for long distances on Highway 85.


I stopped in Minot for Starbucks coffee and went looking for a tall mirror for the left side of the RT. When I looked in the fairing-mounted mirrors all I could see was my duffle bag, so I got a cool one off a Honda Ruckus for $20! It fit right on without any mods at all (I tried the mirrors off my GS but I would have had to drill out the RT's mirror hole and didn't want to do that, and GS mirrors are like $65 each).




I didn't take any more photos until I was well East of Minot, NoDak on Highway 2, a very nice divided four-lane with very low traffic. Zoom! This is a "prairie pothole" lake, one of zillions left behind by receding glaciers (the big shield ones that formed the Great Lakes) if I remember my geomorphology correctly. It was very pretty and there were gozillions of water birds everywhere, they were kind of a road hazard in places.




This was kinda neat:




Finally rolled into Grand Forks after 620 miles at about 10:00 PM, bug blasted and tired but happy to be there and see my son!


(posting in sections still, more to come!)



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In Wyoming you can hide from the wind most of the time behind some mountains, hills, in a valley or up in the forest.... In the Dakotas there is NOTHING to buffer the weather systems as they pass through. It's windy in many areas of Wyoming, but not so bad in lots of places! Don't tell anyone this little secret.... wink.gif


To be fair to the Dakotas and other Plains States, we have some pretty flat, straight, boring wind-blasted roads out here too. This is the west side of South Pass a couple days ago, on my way home from working in Rock Springs, WY:




But if you turn off that road, you find features like the Wind River Mountains:




I ended earlier by saying I was "bug blasted", no kidding!




Anyway, now it's bonding time! My son is a Senior in the Aviation program at UND, and he has had his private pilot's license since he was 16. He's 23 now with a commercial rating, multi-engine rating, instrument rating, etc. and qualified to be a commercial pilot. He's working on his instructor ratings and finishing a four-year degree program too, so he's almost done (thank goodness $$$$!). Proud Dad. His first word as a baby, I'm dead serious, was "plane!".


He had some finals to finish up and my butt was sore, so I toured the UND campus while he did his thing. It was cold, overcast and raining on Day 4, but my butt was cooked anyway so no riding, just washed the bike. I stood here quite a while waiting for a motorcycle to come by! grin.gif




They have these covered walkways between main campus buildings because the weather gets so crappy in the Winter it's dangerous to be outside (literally) when the temp is -40*F with 50 mph winds. Gawd!




The elevation is about 800 feet, so they're a little ahead of home on the flowering trees and shrubs. I found a Starbucks, worked up a killer buzz and wandered around admiring the campus and town:








Nice quiet neighborhood my son lives in:




Day Five, he's done with his sememster and the weather suxx for riding since there was a big low pressure system over the Great Lakes spinning wet air into Canada and blowing cold wet air down over North Dakota. So we toured the Campus, flew the flight simulator (I looped the plane and pulled out five feet above ground!), salivated on all the airplanes, drank beer and ate good food and went searching for speed bleeders for my son's K75:








Couldn't find any speed bleeders, but did find this little cutie-pie! Bet the rear tires don't last long on this!




Yes, that's a nitrous-oxide injection system .




Next day the weather was breaking a little, but still pretty chilly and wet so we punted the idea of riding into Ontario for good. My son checked out a Piper Arrow and took us up for an hour's flight above the Grand Forks area. It flooded pretty heavily here just recently (it's REALLY FLAT so floods go a long way and take a long time to drain off) and there was water everywhere still, but some of the fields are coming in green already.






Later that evening we teamed up with a couple of other pilots (both cute girls, hmmmmm......) for a trip down to Fargo for dinner. My son flew a new Cirrus, it was SWEET!






Here's the "Pilot in Command" being caught by two other pilots putting his jacket on upside down. He can fly airplanes like an Ace but can't dress himself. Sheesh! grin.gif




We flew home after a great dinner in Fargo, then hit the rack early. The weather still sucked and looked like it would for several more days, Ontario was out, so I decided it was time to head home.


(Hang on, another installment is coming! It was a long ride!)



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What a great trip report.......Really get a feel for the country you were riding.......Thanks .....And, by the way, thanks for your input in the past responding to my posts about my K75RT; tires and other stuff.....

Ol' Redbrick, the K75, is up for sale as I now have a 1200RT.....Red, of course, but haven't had much chance to ride it yet.....I'm going to join those who say "worst thing I ever did was sell my K75"...

Your trip report really makes me want to get out there........

Thanks again......



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Final segment, I promise!


I wanted to ride the area but the weather was awful for riding! It was great for beer drinking and eating, though, so I did a bunch of that with my son and his friends. Couldn't keep up with those college kids, though, OUCH! I'm out of practice.


So enough of the crappy weather and flatlands, time to Head West, Young Man!


North Dakota is flat, straight and WINDY! The photo is canted because I was heeled into a vicious northerly crosswind for 300 miles as I rode from GF past Minot, guess I overcompensated for the lean angle when I shot the photo.




These things scare the crap out of me because you come fogging over some little rise and here's this MASSIVE piece of equipment taking up the entire highway right-of-way and travelling 12 MPH. There were even bigger ones on the roads that day.




Back past the Little Missouri. I had turned South, all set to enjoy a nice tail wind after 300 miles of the northerly crosswind, so the frigging wind direction changed and was out of the East now . Rode another 300 miles leaning into that.....




About 20 miles north of Belle Fourche the full moon came up beyond some buttes, so I stopped and tried some photos. This is the only one that came out worth a damn, yours truly with rain gear on because it got COLD after sundown.




I spent the night at the Motel 6 again, and when I got up in the morning I found steel belts showing out of my rear tire where rubber should have been! Damn, and I was riding kinda fast the night before.... Called Sturgis BMW, they had a tire and got me right in! Excellent service! I rode very carefully the 25 miles from Belle Fourche to Sturgis. I just had to stop and chat with these guys about their mini-choppers!








These folks were excellent, even fed me sodas and hotdogs while I waited. Bought a tee shirt, fork seals for my GS and helped sell a few BMWs, I think! Three different folks quizzed me for quite a while about long-distance touring, asked if I liked my BMW, I said yes, I own three and love them all! They had all manner of bikes there, but said the GS's were all sold long before they ever got a chance to sit on the showroom floor.


The time and $$$ spent on the tire deal kinda blew my schedule and finances, so I decided it was time to hot-foot it back home. This sign is at the Wyoming border on the way from Belle Fourche to Devil's Tower, another Sturgis HD Rally Legacy Landmark:




Alladin, Wyoming, lots of folks out for a Saturday ride!




The Black Hills are outstanding riding country. Approaching Devil's Tower again:




Back over the Big Horns, short "rest" break and admire the snow piles.




I thought this was a pretty cool photo opportunity, source to end user. Another great potty break spot, too!




Approaching Thermopolis, it's only 80 miles from home but I decided to call my wife and she came over and met me, we spent spent the night and soaked in the mineral springs.




Wind River Canyon on the way to Lander next AM, very beautiful:




Boysen Reservoir at the head of Wind River Canyon:




And the final stretch, about five miles from home, headed toward the Wind River Mountains! Yeah!




It was a long ride, about 2500 miles or so, but I really enjoyed it. I'm prepping the GS for the UnRally now!




Cheers! Hope to see you in Gunnison soon!



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Fabulous trip !

I won't complain about our 'flat Holland' anymore..... grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif


And that Motorcycle sign is just so hilarious !!! cool.gifcool.gif So if you're OVER 18 years old your head will not crack up when dropping off yer bike.... besides, you then won't fall off because you can eaily hang down from your handle bars !! Hahaha ! Priceless !


The photos are special... no place in Europe will have that much space... except for the North Sea and Atlantic.... smirk.gif


Thanks again ! thumbsup.gif

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The photos are special... no place in Europe will have that much space... except for the North Sea and Atlantic....


Now THAT would make for some difficult riding conditions! grin.gif



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The photos are special... no place in Europe will have that much space... except for the North Sea and Atlantic....


Now THAT would make for some difficult riding conditions! grin.gif




GS anybody grin.gifgrin.gif

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enjoyed the tale and pix thoroughly. i gotta get up that way. what awesome routes/terrain you have. thanks again.

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Thank you for taking the time to not only share the awesome riding tale, but do put so much time into the photos and descriptions. A part of the world that I have not spent enough time in. Thank you.


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