Day: 5
June 6, 2003
Interior, SD - Harding, MT
452.1 miles
8 hr 43 min riding

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Wow, what a day today turned out to be. It started out with beautiful scenery and then was filled with plenty of excitement..

Today was the first day that I actually had places I knew I wanted to stop and see. I had no prearranged route so how I got to those places was totally up in the air. This is my favorite way to travel. I started the day by riding north to Badlands National Park. A very interesting place to visit but I don't think I would want to live there. Of course the name suggests that people for a long time have felt the same way.

Since it was early traffic was very light. The main paved road sees a bit of RV use but a simple turn off onto one of the dirt roads allows you to explore in peace. Due to the recent rain the dirt roads were almost perfect for riding. They were not wet enough to be muddy and not dry enough to be dusty.

There is a whole lot of room out here but of course most of it is unaccessibl. They frown upon you leaving the road but I took a little detour off one of the roads because I was curious about the terrain. A motorcyle would do fine in these fields until you came to a steep walled ravine. At that point you would need to find a way around or turn back. Two wheeled vehicles are not the tool of choice for scaling near verticle walls.

I didn't see a whole lot of people but there were other critters to take their place. I like the animals better than I like some of the people I know. This one reminded me of one of my old girlfriends.

I love to explore places that prompt me to countinually stop and take the camera out. I pull over whenever something catches my eye and then take as much time as I want. Not real good if you are on some kind of a timetable but I wasn't so... A digital camera also helps. With my 30 GB picture pad along I never worried about taking too many pictures. With film, the cost was always a concern and I tended to experiment less since the there wasn't the immediate feedback. (see a later sidebar for more information on this)

I said goodbye to some cows on the way out of the Park and then continued on 44 and headed towards Rapid City and Mount Rushmore. Have I mentioned how much I dislike interstates? Well I dislike city driving just as much so Rapid City was not much fun. Just to keep things interesting it also started raining while I was dodging the city traffic on my way to Mount Rushmore.


Mount Rushmore left me with mixed feelings. The sculpture itself is very impressive and the amount of work and skilled required for its creation is amazing. Unfortunately, I heard that about 3 million people visit the place each year and to make all these people happy certain amenities had to be added. This makes it feel like frick'n Disney World. Gift shops, restaurants, nonstop educational videos, you name it. Not only that but I feel a bit uncomfortable about the mutilation of something as timeless as a mountain with images of something as fleeting as men's faces. There is real irony here. That said, I am glad I went but will probably never go back.

Initially I had planned on seeing the Crazy Horse Monument as well but considering my experience with Rushmore, the fact it was still raining, and that my final destination was in the opposite direction I decide to pass for this trip.

Instead, I went north on 385. I began seeing signs warning about a gravel detour about 20 miles before the actual detour itself and I began to wonder just why they needed to warn people so far in advance. My initial thoughts were that it was some short temporary road around some small section of construction but that it might be difficult for trucks. This would be typical of the way they do road work in the east. Nope. It turned out to be about 15 miles of local dirt backroads. Of course it was much more entertaining due to the previous days of rain and the greatly increased traffic from 385. Luckily, South Dakota mud isn't near as slippery as Alabama mud/clay and I was on a GS. The bike and I wiggled and squirmed the fifteen miles and except for getting covered top to bottom with mud, did just fine. We laughed at the road and its feeble attempt to faze us. Hubris?

Once off 385/detour I took 212 west through the corner of Wyoming into Montana. I was getting tired by this time and would have probably stopped somewhere if there had been any place to stop. Instead I got to Broadus and experienced Montana's unique road construction techniques. Note I was in South Dakota earlier. Just east of Broadus I came to a section of the road that appeared gone. It was like someone took the top of the road off and just left the road bed. Odd. I get into Broadus and stop for gas and ask a trucker coming from the west about the road ahead. He starts cussing and tells me he was stuck in the road for the last hour where they are doing "road work" and have removed the road surface. So that is what that was?

He warns me about going ahead but I really don't want to try and find a place in Broadus, in the rain, to stay so I decided to chance it. I'm not riding a GoldWing, right? Just west of Broadus I came upon the road crew. They had literally removed all of the road and I got in line to follow a roadgrader as it smoothed the road bed enough to drive/ride on. Luckily, it was still raining or this would have been too easy... Following the grader was a semi-truck, a pickup truck, me, and another pickup truck. We were all moving about 2 mph on the mud, I mean road. I was riding a GS right, so no problem? Well... actually there were two problems. The first is that we were moving too slowly. You need a bit of speed while riding on loose surfaces for stability and I had none. The second is that the air itself seemed full of this fine mist of mud and within minutes my windshield became opaque, my helmet visor became opaque and I couldn't see anything. I ended up trying to look around one side of the windshield with my face shield up so I could see well enough to try and keep my tires in the dirt tracks made by the trucks in front of me.

Once I was moving my main concern was that the guy following behind me doesn't run me over when/if I dump the bike. I was also hoping he was a big, burly fellow who would help me pick it up if I did dump it. To make a long story short, I didn't drop the bike and when I got to the next little town I took some pictures of the bike for prosperity's sake and then used some water to clean the headlights enough that oncoming traffic could tell that they were actually on. After this bit of excitement it was just straight, flat, boring riding until Harding.

What a day. I was beat and decided that tomorrow should be a rest day. I arrived in Harding about 21:30, set up the tent and climbed into my sleeping bag. Within minutes I was asleep.

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