US trip, strike 2

After the “strike 1” trip I was ready to tour the lower 48 and this time I would have some company in the way of 2 friends from the Miami area, Paul and Aileen.

I had my usual cross-country load

Day 1

We met in the early AM at a prearranged rest stop.

Day 2

After what would become our ritualistic loading of the bikes.

We set off north with an overcast and humid morning through Alabama and into Tennessee where we find a roadside park at the Tennessee River.

We end up in Paris, TN after 495 miles and check into the Hampton Inn thankful for the customer carts they have

That night some plans are changed and we cut out Wisconsin, a friend I had planned on visiting is too sick for visitors so a new route is plotted across Illinois and Iowa.

 

Day 3

This would not be a pleasant one. The roads in Illinois are terribly bumpy but Aileen was amused by a huge metal bull in Pike County.

Iowa smells like one big pig farm plus it’s hot and humid. We get through the 519 mile day and set up camp at a state park.

 

Day 4

We wake to nice clear skies well rested, well except for Paul. It seems he neglected to install the plug in his self-inflating mattress and basically slept on the ground, nothing like starting the day with a little humor.

We make good time through the rest of Iowa (you can only hold your breath so long) then into South Dakota.

We stop for lunch but as we enter the restaurant we’re nearly knocked over from the cigarette smoke. The waitress walks by with a butt between her lips and a inch long ash hanging off the end, a patron is at the cash box paying the bill and hands her cigarette to her 10 year old daughter who takes a pull off of it. I asked if they had a non-smoking section to which she answers “sure hon” and points to the 2 tables in the corner barely visible through the smoke.

We decide on the fast food place down the block.

No time to make the campground I had planned on so we hold up at a Holiday Inn Express along the interstate after a good 649 mile day.

Day 5

We get an early start and soon find ourselves on the Louis & Clark trail.

In the open country we dial up the wick a bit for some triple digit travel, feels good to cover some ground.

 

We arrive at the Badlands.

                               Aileen decides to hike the mountain in search of souvenir rocks for her collection.

 

Arriving in Keystone, SD we search out a place for lunch, most are seasonal and closed but we do find one in town. We opt for lunch hot off the grill once we figured out that the chocolate chips in the pudding at the buffet were dead flies, even so lunch was a gut-bomb.

On to Mt Rushmore.

Next on our list was the Devil’s Tower, you see it from a long ways off standing majestically on the plains.

Just outside the entrance is an awesome ice cream place, just what the doctor ordered on a hot day.

We decide due to the slow progress to bypass Glacier National Park and head west instead getting as far as Gillette, WY and finding another Holiday Inn Express after a respectable 525 mile day.

 

Day6

The morning was starting out hot as we traveled west through northern Wyoming until we passed Cody approaching the mountains. On one of our fuel stops we pick up lunch from the deli and found a scenic spot on a mountain pass for the noon meal.

 

With lunch behind us I pick a road that skirts north of Yellowstone and finally find that silly grin I get at the motorcycling candy store that is SR 296. Aileen is slowing down and I make a mental note to ask her about it later.

At the end we find a camp park for the night in the Shoshone National Park next to a river after only 368 miles and the most entertaining day of the trip.

 

Day 7

The day starts damp and cold. The road cuts a corner of Yellowstone and I couldn’t see my way to paying the entrance fee for a few miles of the park so we turn around and head north to Montana. SR 212 is a wickedly fun staircase road going over Beartooth Pass but had to be ridden with tempered enthusiasm because of the constant drizzle and fog.

On the way up I experienced a first, the crew was dropping way back so I slowed for them to catch up and got passed by a Winnebago on a curvy mountain road.

Turns out Aileen has a phobia of chasms and feels drawn to them so 25 mph was all she could muster. To compound the problem she’s heavily layered against the wet and cold restricting her movement.

At the top I stop to take in the beauty of the Pass in the 38°f  rain.

After a time I finally spot Aileen coming up the staircase

 

After some fast food lunch and a much needed warm up we continue north out of the mountains to Laurel and settle in to the Best Western after a dismal 156 miles.

Something has to give because we’re at the beginning of “the candy store” with high mountain passes and steep curves for the next 4,000 miles.

After some discussion they offer to interstate it back but after checking the weather and finding 2 hurricanes off the coast of California effectively basking all of CA/OR/ID and western Montana in rain I decide to turn back with them. Damn! so close!

 

Day 8

We buzz up the interstate for 160 miles before jumping off on US-12 and making tracks to South Dakota. On the way we pick up a Monte Carlo and pace him for 10 miles at 120 mph, no small feat in the strong side winds and 106°f temperature.

What is up with this weather? Normal high for this time of year is 70°f.

The wind has us riding on the side of the seat keeping the bikes leaned into the wind.

Stopping for fuel and to cool off with nature’s hot blow dryer.

We make camp at the Mina State Recreation area after a hot 564 mile day.

 

Day 9

We continue along US-12 into Minnesota and pick up a desolate 14 mile stretch of SR-7

Just not desolate enough as I lope along just over 70 mph in a 55 in my own little world an unmarked trouper passes in the opposite direction and keeps going, I never noticed him for what he was.

A couple of minutes later Paul is on the Chatter Box “we’re getting pulled over!

Another couple of minutes and he says “he wants you to turn around and come back

Yeah, that’s gonna happen. I maintain radio silence and motor on.

Just my luck, he has a back-up plan and calls ahead to have me detained by the local deputy.

Before long I’m making my donation to the highway fund for 72/55, all in the interest of safety of course.

We continue on west and spot a road side rest area so we pull in to take a break.

While Paul is over watering a shed.

Aileent is all excited about something she found in the corn field, some nice mature green bud.

We leave the ganja where we found it but Aileen doesn't leave empty handed collecting another souvenir.

Stopping for gas I load some cruising music. I'll never see those prices again.

 

We make it to a Best Western after a trying 471 mile day.

 

Day 10

We drop south along the Mississippi river then cross into Wisconsin. Most of the lettered roads are fun and I would get the bike air-born a couple of times on the peaked hills.

Into Illinois and the bad roads again, I’m never going to Illinois again but at a gas stop I would find my weakness, sno balls.

We’re running out of daylight so we take the interstate south and find the Travel Inn at a truck stop with another 431 miles behind us. 

 

Day 11

We make our way out of Illinois and into Indiana. The temperatures have finally come out of triple digits but not by much.

We get to Kentucky and hold up at a Holiday Inn after a mild 336 miles so we can change the oil and give the bikes the once-over.

 

Day 12

It’s time for us to part company, they’re going to interstate it home and I’m headed for the mountains of North Georgia to get in some much needed curvy action..

I make a beeline for the Tennessee mountains and arrive at Deal’s Gap around noon time, I run the 11 miles of the Dragon in 13 minutes flat. Not bad for the load I’m carrying.

Over the Cherohala skyway and down into Georgia I get to T.W.O. by 1630 and set up camp in time to tap a bottle of wine I'd been saving for the west coast.

A perfect end to a 451 mile day.

Day 13

With perfect weather I covered 300 miles of gnarly curvy roads taking in some of the local sights

Day 14

Another perfect day for canyon carving and I make the most of it because it’s my last, a hurricane is brewing in the gulf forecast to dump on me tomorrow making rt 315 in TN all the sweeter

Georgia could use some rain to curb their current drought.

275 miles and I’m back at camp reminiscing over the past 2 weeks.

 

Day 15

The voyage home. I take back roads through Georgia in pouring rain and it only seems to get heavier the farther south I go. The winds are picking up, this could get interesting.

A little buffeting and a lot of soaking (I love my rain gear) I pull into my driveway after 577 miles for a total of 6,570 miles in 15 days from a planned 10,000 miles in 20 days.

In 2 years maybe I'll have better luck making it all the way to the west coast.

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