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Motorcycling to Sturgis, South Dakota, but not for Sturgis | August 2009

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Revisiting an old favorite on new bikes

WWay back when, when Kris and I rode chrome laden bikes with lots of rake, fancy paint and raucous exhaust systems, we took a ride to Sturgis South Dakota for the annual Bike Rally. Don't believe that we had our humble roots in cruiser-dom, well, ha! Look at these old photos, taken exactly 10 years prior.

cruisers riding in sturgis south dakota

 

Pretty girl sitting on a Suzuki Intruder 800 in Sundance, Wyoming

Skip Ahead


As with many of the most memorable CanyonChasers adventures, this one started out with virtually no planning, and what's more, we didn't even plan on going to The Black Hills when we left home. It wasn't until two days into the trip that we decided to go East instead of our original plan of heading into Northern Idaho.

I love our lack of planning, it helps us stay open to any kind of adventure, unmapped road, small town fair and of course just the excitement of the unexpected!
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Our first day of riding was very uneventful. We actually put the bikes on the trailer and loaded the Jake the Dog into the pickup and took him up to my parents house for the week. Jake would much rather spend time with my dad than be boarded. Sometimes I wonder if Jake would rather hang out with my dad than hang out with us... Anyway, from there we simply ran north to spend our fist night in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

man holding up a bottle of Il Bastardo wine

Since we didn't ride very far, we didn't feel the need for a heavy dinner. So it was wine and cheese on the hotel stoop.

ducati motorcycles being reflected in the chrome of a harley-davidson air cleaner cover

Since we were traveling the week after the big Sturgis motorcycle rally, there were plenty of cruisers out and about as well, providing for some interesting photo opportunities.

The next morning started out as most mornings in Jackson Hole start, with a trip to Jedidiahs Original House of Sourdough for the best sourdough pancakes the world has ever known. Then it was time to head north into the park. The plan for the day was to ride up into the park, then to Cody, Wyoming where we'd run Chief Joseph Highway, then Bear Tooth Pass before ending up in Red Lodge, Montana for 287 miles or riding pleasure.

 

Man and a woman riding through Yellowstone National Park on Ducatis

We'd heard of the major repaving taking place on the southern route into Yellowstone, but nobody told us it would be quite as bad as it actually was. The lack of asphalt was no big deal, but when it was combined with a constant addition of "dust abatement" from water trucks and so much traffic that we could barely roll in first gear, it resulted in seriously high engine temperatures and some really exciting slipping and sliding.

Perfectly fine conditions for the Multistradas! Last time we came through this way I was on the SuperSport and that bike wasn’t exactly made for the dirt.
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

pretty woman at fishing bridge in Yellowstone National Park, standing next to parked motorcycles

After all that traffic and construction it was lunch time and we were fairly tired. So we stopped at the East Entrance Fishing Bridge Gift Shop for some snacks and trinket shopping.

There were still lots of Harley's leaving Sturgis and one local worker came out and asked us if we were on the red bikes. When we said we were, he started talking about another red bike parked nearby and how much it reminded him of his Electra Glide. We didn't have the heart to correct him and let him think the Screaming Eagle Ultra Classic was ours. We just hoped that the real owners wouldn't come out and ride away before the conversation ended.

Ducati Multistrada riding out the east gate of Yellowstone National Park

Once we started on our way out of Yellowstone, the riding immediately got really good. Suddenly there was no traffic to be seen as we made our way East over Sylvan Pass.

Yellowstone is one of my favorite rides on bike, talk about connecting with nature, there is no better way to see the sights and buffalo…

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Dcuati Multistrada riding through Yellowstone National Park

Sylvan Pass proved to be a gloriously sweeping mountain pass with the occasional tight corner to help keep you on your toes. They just finished resurfacing this part of the park too, the asphalt was spectacular!

Ducati Multistrada guages with GPS riding east to Cody Wyoming inside of Yellowstone National Park

As soon as we'd gotten out the East gate, the road started to mellow out and become a lot more gentle. Within a few more miles, we were passing Buffalo Bill State Park and Reservoir. The last time I'd taken this road was in 1990 when I rode on the back seat of my dads Tour Glide for the 50th year of Sturgis. I'd remembered that as a 17-year old I'd vowed to come back and ride this road on my own bike. Now, 19 years later, it was just as great as I'd imagined.

We stopped briefly in Cody for gas then north to Chief Joseph Highway where we enjoyed virtually no traffic. Onto Bear Tooth Pass, there was even less traffic than on Chief Joseph. This was a major contrast to our previous years experience on Bear Tooth where we were riding with 10,000 of our closest friends. This year we passed three cars as we crossed the 11,000 foot mountain pass.

Bridge Creek Country Kitchen and Wine Bar in Red Lodge, Montana

Arriving in Red Lodge, we deposited our gear in the hotel room and then wandered into town for dinner. We found ourselves at the Bridge Creek Back country Kitchen and Wine Bar. Red Lodge has fantastic eateries since the town was settled mostly by Italians as well as many other European influences. Migrants originally outnumbered the the locals in this small coal mining town and resulted in what city records refer to as "riotous and violent living."

Not really the place you’d expect a “wine bar” but it was fantastic!

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Pretty girl holding a menu in Red Lodge, Montana at the Bridge Creek Country Kitchen and Wine Bar

I had one of the best tuna steaks I've ever had. Who could have possibly guessed? Great seafood in Red Lodge Montana?

Tuesday | August 11th

Man eating a bear claw donut

We started out the next morning with a quick stop at a local bakery and Kris started her new tradition of taking photos of me while stuffing my face with sugary foods.

What can I say, Dave’s my favorite sight for photographing!

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Holding up a Garmin Zumo 450 GPS

It was also during this breakfast and playing with the Zumo that we decided to revise the entire trip. We had originally planned on riding into northern Idaho to enjoy Lolo Pass and another few roads we'd heard about. However, we thought maybe now would be a good time to head towards the Black Hills of South Dakota. Sturgis had just ended and the masses were all heading to other locations.

Two Ducati Multistrada motorcycles parked on mainstreet Red Lodge, Montana

It was 70-degrees, sunny and we were quite happy with our new decision while watching weekday morning life in this small, quaint town.

Looking at the map, you can see that there's a whole lot of terrain between us and the Black Hills, it was likely going to be a long day of riding; 350 miles worth... The first few miles seemed to slip by easily. A quick stop in Lowell, Wyoming and we were at the foothills of Big Horn Mountains.

View looking west from the top of Bridger Pass in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, near Lovell

A quick climb off the valley floor and were offered a spectacular view of the desert off to our west. On a clear day I'd swear you could see all the way to California.

Dave and Kris with their Ducati Multistrada's on top of the Big Horn Mountains

We chatted with two older couples from South Carolina. They were quite impressed with the Rocky Mountains, and for good reason. They also took this quick snap of Kris and I.

Ducati Multistrada front wheel spinning with the blurred yellow centerline on top of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming

Back on the road and heading East we were riding the tops of the Big Horn Mountains themselves and while the road was mostly straight, it was also empty and offered stunning views of alpine ecosystems.

Ducati Multistrada riding over the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming

It was a spectacular day with perfect temperatures and the riding was just stunning. This is essenza del motociclismo.

Ducati Multistrada riding over the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming

Unfortunately, what goes up... We'd left the lower elevations and their heat while the day was still young, now as we dropped back down the eastern side of the Big Horn Mountains, the temperatures seemed to grow exponentially.

Two Ducati Multistrada's stopped in the middle of a red asphalt road near Recluse, Wyoming

In an attempt to avoid the bleary, dreary freeway system, we took to some secondary roads. WY-14/16 between Sheridan and Gillette. Few places we've been are as desolate as this. We'd ride for 50 miles never seeing another vehicle, passing by towns with names like Recluse and Spotted Horse. Worse than the desolation was the brazillions of grasshoppers that were crossing the roads around us. It didn't take long before both the bikes and us were covered with grasshopper gore.

For many motorcyclists this is just part of the trip, but for Dave this is disastrous and I knew instantly that we would spend many quarters and possibly multiple hours cleaning the bike. Dave is well known for cleaning someone’s bike when they bring it to our house for a tire change or other minor procedure. He claims its easier to do if the bike is clean. I think this could be an Olympic event for Dave, cleaning usually takes on the use of many brushes from toothbrushes to vegetable brushes, sponges, soaps, waxes…it goes on for hours.
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Bird Strike damage to a Ducati Multistrada pannier

We stopped in Sheridan, Wyoming to survey the damage. One bird strike...

Bug spattered motorcycle boots

And the remnants of a brazillion grasshoppers... Gross. But the slime wasn't near as bad as the smell.

Ducati Multistrada riding near Devils Tower in Wyoming

Having enjoyed some of the finest cuisine Sheridan has to offer (Applebee's), we only had a few miles of freeway left before we were back onto smaller secondary roads. However, the world was already starting to become greener. Greener, in fact, than I've ever seen it before. The wet spring was still paying dividends.

Wearing a Buff for motorcycling

While the corners were nothing spectacular they were the first corners we'd seen in several hours, but mostly I just like how this photo turned out.

Motorcycles riding near Devils Tower in Wyoming

Despite it only being three days since the massive Sturgis rally had ended, motorcycles were a fairly rare site.

Ducati Multistrada motorcycle riding near Devils Tower

Back to our regularly scheduled cornering...

Ducati Multistrada nearing Devils Tower in Wyoming

But then we crested a rise and came upon this view; it looks kinda' like mashed potatoes, or something... So... So... Familiar. (Obscure Close Encounters reference.)

Motorcyclist on a Ducati Mulitstrada riding past Devils Tower in Wyoming

"Devils Tower" is the long since cooled core of a volcano, called the volcanic neck, that now stands defiant to the Wyoming landscape. The native peoples of the land had much more creative names for the monolithic tower, Aloft on a Rock (Kiowa), Bear's House (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lair (Cheyenne, Crow), Bear's Lodge (Cheyenne, Lakota), Bear's Tipi (Arapaho, Cheyenne) and Tree Rock (Kiowa).

Motorcyclist on a Ducati Mulitstrada riding past Devils Tower in Wyoming

The name Devil's Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition when the interpreter misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God's Tower. This was later shortened to the Devil's Tower. Then shortened even more when it became a national monument and the apostrophe was finally dropped.

If you have never been to Devils Tower you should know that if you stay in the campground just outside of the park, they play Close Encounters on a big outdoor screen after dark every night. This is one of the things we did during our first trip 10 years prior.
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Pretty girl ridng a Ducati Multistrada

Thanks to our Interagency Recreation Pass, we didn't hesitate to enter the National Monument and take a look-see.

Sun streaks behind Devils Tower near sunset

Evening light makes for the coolest photographs.

Pointing at Prarie Dogs

We don't have these back home, so we were pretty excited to see Prairie Dogs out and about, chattering and eating away.

Prarie Dogs in the grass

Whole families of the little dogs were enjoying the evening as much as we were.

Two motorcycles parked in RV Only Parking

At the closest point to the monument, we stopped to put our earplugs back in and get ready for the next leg of riding. I tried to get Kris to throw the bird to let the world know how we feel about RV's that clog our canyons with their gluttonous, gas consuming, exhaust spewing meanderings, particularly when they don't use pullouts to let traffic by. But of course, Kris would not give the salute.

Ducati Multistrada motorcycle riding around Devils Tower at Sunset

There was more spectacular light as we made our way out of the National Monument. No traffic, great light and lots of wildlife made the ride gleeful.

Ducati Multistrada motorcycle riding around Devils Tower at Sunset

Motorcycles are cool.

Ducati Multistrada motorcycle riding around Devils Tower at Sunset

As with most things, the Indian story behind the tower is much more interesting than that silly science stuff; most of the stories involve two young children who are being pursued by a bear until the great spirit takes pity on them and raises the ground beneath them. The bear tries to get at the children from every side leaving huge scratch marks on all sides.

Two motorcyclists selfie with Devils Tower at Sunset behind them

Kris and I leaving Devils Tower behind.

Ducati Multistrada motorcycle riding around Devils Tower at Sunset

Leaving Devils Tower behind as we made our way towards the next hotel room.

Two Ducati Multistrada motorcycles parked in front of Camper cabins in Hulett Wyoming

We stopped in Hulett, Wyoming and got the keys for cabin 14, right on the river. We finished off a bottle of wine, watching the cute, little white-tailed deer graze as the sun set. Not bad.

This is an unexpectedly cute little town so we thought we would embrace the cuteness and stay in a cute cabin in the cute town!

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Wednesday | August 12th

Motorcycles parked in front of the Ponderosa Cafe and Bar in Hulett, Wyoming

Before getting on the road, we grabbed a bit to eat at the only dining establishement that seemed open that morning. The food was, uhm, unforgettable in the sense that either Kris nor I have ever seen so much plasti-cheese in one omelet before. Gross. But there were two gray-beard bikers who were talking about some "ass standing right in the middle of the road begging for food." Kris and I thought that the economic times must be getting bad in South Dakota.

Washing motorcycles at a car wash

In Spearfish we made a quick stop at a drug store to pick up a few things and that's when we noticed where the stench was coming from. All the dead grasshoppers caked all over our bikes were making for a horrid aroma. So we did something that we save for the most extreme situations, we took the bikes to a car wash.

You will soon see a “How-To” video on proper motorcycle cleaning. Buy your vegetable brushes now so you are ready!

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

washing to Ducati Multistrada motorcycles at a Car Wash

The thing was, this was the best car-wash I'd ever seen, the bikes came out looking show-room clean. Too bad we don't have anything like this back home.

Staning in front of the Mount Rushmore National Monument Entrance

Being in South Dakota, we figured that we'd have to do the American thing and go see Mt. Rushmore. It is, after all, South Dakota's biggest tourist attraction in the entire state. This proved to be a big mistake and a huge disappointment. Mt. Rushmore is a National Monument and is free to the public, but a private company purchased the parking area outside the monument and charged us $20 to park in their garage. That sucked, but they were pretty nasty about the whole thing and the parking attendant made a comment about knocking our bikes over if we didn't fully comply with their guidelines. Not so cool.

Eating an Ice Cream Cone while visiting Mount Rushmore National Monument

Beyond that, there were scads of people, the concession stands were overwhelmed, the kids standing behind the counters looked like they were woefully understaffed. We got an ice cream cone and tried to enjoy the mountain, but found the whole experience to be kinda' lame. As soon as we finished our snack's we returned to the bikes and would discourage anybody from visiting Mt Rushmore if you are in the area. It's just not worth it and you can see the mountain from lots of other vantage points around the area.

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle Riding through the Pigtail Bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

We left Mt. Rushmore and the biggest disappointment of our trip and on to Iron Mountain Road and the biggest surprise and treat of the entire trip. The road was originally laid out by the governor of the state, Peter Norbeck, who wanted to create a slow, scenic road where visitors could enjoy the area. These bridges are called "pigtails" because the road circles over itself through endless corners that go on and on and on and on. Absolutely perfect riding!

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle Riding through the Pigtail Bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

Here's the top of the same bridge from the previous photograph. Like we said, perfect riding conditions!

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle Riding over the Pigtail Bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

The road featured more technical corners in one area than we've ever enjoyed, and that's including some really spectacular routes in California. The riding is just brilliant!

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle Riding through the Pigtail Bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

We were just not getting tired of this. We found some tiny little county road, and I just took it. More spectacular corners that doubled our way back the head of Iron Mountain Road, so we started the pigtails and the tunnels and the technical brilliance all over again and were very happy to do it.

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle passing a vintage Triumph TR3 Sports Car while riding over the Pigtail Bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

When Governor Norbeck laid out the road, he aligned several to the tunnels so that they would frame Mt. Rushmore perfectly while you were riding through the area. This is much better than paying $20 to park, listen to kids scream and adults bicker. Much better.

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle Riding  on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota where the road splits

We loved how the road would just divide, offering one lane of travel in each direction. No passing could be done in these areas, but fortunately, there wasn't a whole lot of traffic to begin with.


We've gotten a lot of very positive comments about our new video's on CanyonChasers so we thought we'd try something new and grab some video of the roads we enjoy the most. Here is our very first attempt at capturing road footage.

See It In Action!

The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our very first POV video riding throught the pigtails of South Dakota.


This is when we decided Dave needed a GoPro camera. Riding the pig-tails with one-hand while taking moving pictures isn’t the best way to experience this road.
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

An ass in the middle of the road begging for food, the begging burros on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

A few miles past the most epic sections of Iron Mountain Road, the conversation we'd overheard that morning suddenly made perfect sense. An "ass standing in the middle of the road begging for food".... But not just one ass, as many as fifty. They're known as the "begging burro's" and have post cards and t-shirts adorned with their image. They did, however, know enough to know that we didn't have any food and they quickly passed us by to get to the minivan offering bread sticks. Don't believe me - its Wikipedia Confirmed (I read it on the internet, so it must be true).

Motorcycle Ridings around the Pigtail Bridges on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

We finished off our day of riding by taking the Wildlife Loop road and got to savor a few more pigtail bridges and tunnels as we made our way south towards Hot Springs, South Dakota. We were fortunate to only see one law enforcement officer all day, and unfortunate that he pulled Kris over for doing an illegal U-turn (when I made a wrong turn). The cop was so surprised to see a girl behind the dark visor that he simply told her not to do it again and got back in his truck and drove away.

Motorcycles parked in the hotel parking lot in Hot Springs, South Dakota

Hot Springs, South Dakota is not one of the nicest places we've ever visited, but we did meet some of the nicest people there. This hotel is owned by a Polish immigrant who escaped from behind the Iron Curtain. His daughter is in the Air Force academy and he's the proudest American I've ever met. He runs a good business too and we'd recommend his hotel.

Thursday | August 13th

Waking up Thursday morning, what were we to do? Why, go back the same way we came, of course. What other choice did we have? Besides there were a few routes that we'd not ridden yet.


A mere 244 miles stood between us and our destination for the evening. We were really looking forward to more epic riding over some of the best roads we'd experienced since our last trip to the northern coast of California.

Leaving Hot Springs behind in the cool morning air, we rode north, bitter-sweet because of the great riding combined with the fact that we were now heading towards home. The vacation was officially half-way over.

The ride north was pretty uneventful. There was virtually no traffic and we savored every corner and twist as we made our way over SD-87. Back into the park and then we turned north-west onto Needles Highway. We grabbed the video camera again and grabbed few minutes of riding through the perfect morning light, on a perfect Thursday morning.


See It In Action!

The pictures not good enough? Well, check out one of our very first videos as we ride SD-87 through Custer State Park!


I had no sooner shut off the camera when Kris slowed way down, so I passed her and rode on. A glance in my mirrors revealed that she was not following me, so I returned to find her with her hazards on and her helmet off. Her bike was not running.

I started going through all the basics. Checking switches, checking the key - nothing. Then I looked behind a body panel and watched in horror as a wire arched against the frame. Sparks, glowing light and lots of smoke! "Turn it off! Turn it off!"

Fixing a motorcycle electrical short on the side of the road

The problem was easy to find and easy to solve. When I'd installed a new dongle for the heated vest, I'd re-routed a wire to make room, causing that wire to rub against a tab welded to the frame.

Damage to the wiring loom on a motorcycle

Over the course of the last 8,000 miles the wire was slowly rubbing away it's insulation until this very moment when it finally eroded all protection, arched and blew the main fuses. No problem right?

Fixing an electrical short on a motorcycle on the side of the road

Well, there was a slight problem. Inside the Ducati toolkit there lives a screw-driver and a corkscrew. No fuses and no electrical tape. Now, I normally care electrical tape and fuses, but somehow since our trip to Alaska those things had neglected to remain in the tool kit. We were rightly stranded. So we started asking the few cars that rode by if they had any extra fuses. All of them said they didn't (which isn't true - every car comes with extra fuses, but whatever.)

We were left with no choice but for one of us to ride to the nearest town, pick up some fuses and some electrical tape and return. Uncomfortable with leaving Kris alone, on the side of the road, it was decided it would be best for me to go. So I raced back towards the nearest town of Custer, 14-miles away according to the GPS. I returned to find everything just as I'd left it and Kris saying that not even a single motorcycle stopped to help. Very strange.

Truthfully, I was worried about riding into town and picking up the wrong thing so it was best for Dave to go and get the supplies the first time around. It was beautiful country and I was mostly worried about running into large wildlife in the area. Dave assured me it was pretty close and would likely only take 15 or so minutes. Unfortunately, the GPS was not accounting for twisty roads which made the trip about an hour, but I’m sure a bird could have done it in 15 minutes.
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Upon my return, it only took me a moment to get the bike back into running state and we were off to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Needles Highway. Sadly, I took no photos of the magnificence of this road so I am forced to steal these from Sing H. Lin and his site shltrip.com.

Ten years ago we skipped the pig-tails and Needles, all I can say is if you are going to do this trip don’t miss these sights; they are spectacular!

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

The road actually takes you right to the base of these granite needles in the most spectacular way.

The road becomes very narrow, with no centerline, as it works its way towards a couple of tunnels that were blasted through the granite. Some of them are so small and narrow you wonder how anything bigger than a compact car could possibly make it through - which is good because it does discourage traffic.

And finally, a photo of one of the tunnels through sheer granite. You gotta be impressed that someone thought this was worth doing.

Needles ends at Sylvan Lake where there is a visitors center and some food offerings. We ordered up a small pizza and sat on the porch enjoying the cool morning air before we hopped back onto the bikes and headed towards Crazy Horse Memorial. Because of the negative experience we had at Mt. Rushmore, we didn't have very high expectations.

Last time through these parts this memorial was much smaller, we drove by and saw it from the road but there wasn’t all the attractions that are now there.
Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Construction of the Crazy Horse Memorial began in 1948 and the non-profit undertaking is still under construction, however the face of Crazy Horse was completed in 1998 despite controversy from many American Indian tribes who feel that carving a beautiful mountain into a statue to be in conflict with American Indian beliefs. However, we sensed none of this controversy an instead found ourselves enjoying a very positive and, what we saw as a very respectful and reverent American Indian educational center that celebrated American Indian culture, art and life-style. In short, we can't recommend the Crazy Horse Monument highly enough.

pretty girl standing in front of the unfinished Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota

We didn't seem to have the foresight to take many photos other than this hasty parking lot shot. Sorry about that.

Riding a Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle through the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota

After the Crazy Horse Monument, we circled back through Custer, South Dakota and then North Again on Iron Mountain Road back towards Mt. Rushmore. This was our fourth time on this section of road.

Three times on the same road!

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Riding a Ducati Multistrada motorcycle through one of the tunnels on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota near Mount Rushmore

I don't know that we could ever grow tired of this amazing road, and in general, the riding through the Black Hills was proving to be nothing short of dazzling.

Riding a Ducati Multistrada motorcycle inside one of the tunnels on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in South Dakota near Mount Rushmore

One last tunnel before we had to start making our way back towards home...

Riding a Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Past Mt. Rushmore, we rode north again past Silver City and back towards Spearfish. Happily, there was not a whole lot of traffic, but after the amazingness of the Norbeck Scenic loops, everything seemed straight and boring by comparison.

Motorcyclist wearing a full face helmet holding up a road map

A quick stop to make sure we were heading the right way... Yes, my navigation skills are... decent.

riding a ducati multistrada motorcycle through the black hills of South Dakota

Before we knew we'd found our way back to the Spearfish Canyon Road and were on an amazing set of flowing, fast, sweeping corners.

riding a ducati multistrada motorcycle through the black hills of South Dakota

The mood was not hindered by the fine afternoon light.

riding a ducati multistrada motorcycle through the black hills of South Dakota

We stopped in Spearfish for a quick bite to eat, and while looking at the map we had a choice to make. Take the freeway back towards Idaho, or backtrack over the marvelous Spearfish Canyon Road, then back into Wyoming using smaller county roads. Well, we couldn't call ourselves CanyonChasers if we didn't go out of our way to chase some great corners, now could we?

pretty girl standing behind two Ducati Multistrada motorcycles at the hotel in Sundance Wyoming

We made the right choice and went a good 100 miles out of our way to get in one last canyon, particularly since tomorrow was sure to be bland as we crossed Wyoming. Arriving in Sundance, Wyoming we got ourselves one of the nicest rooms the town had to offer. (Or so the sign told us.)

Friday | August 14th

Another unusual cold-front had moved in and with it a thick layer of clouds filled the sky. Yesterday we had been exceedingly hot causing us to wonder if we shouldn't have worn vented jackets for this trip, and today we were very, very happy to have our more insulated, flexible touring coats.

We looked upon the unseasonably cold weather as a wonderful blessing. Today we'd be crossing 335 miles of the wilds of Wyoming's northern emptiness, and the cool weather and clouds were going to make it a much nicer experience.

Crossing wyoming on a Ducati Multistrada motorcycle

Leaving Sundance, Wyoming behind we raced along the desolate freeway roads towards the West and towards home.

Crossing wyoming on a Ducati Multistrada motorcycle

...And it was fraking cold! So cold we were huddling behind the small Multistrada windscreens wishing we'd brought our heated vests.

Extremely cold corssing Wyoming in the middle of summer, stopping to put on more clothing

After about fifty miles we gave in and pulled off the road to add some extra layers to beat back the cold temperatures. It was hard to believe that a couple of days ago, in Hot Springs, South Dakota we were fighting triple digit heat. Now it was a full fifty degrees colder.

Ducati Multistrada motorcycles stopped in front of Starbucks Coffee in Sheridan Wyoming

When we finally arrived in Sheridan, Wyoming I did a search on the Zumo for a Starbucks coffee, desperately hoping that a warm latte would fight off the chill we'd gotten over the last 170 miles.

Riding over the Medicine Wheel Passage in Wyoming

We were also very happy that we'd survived our freeway stint and we're now facing another run over the top of Medicine Wheel Passage.

We have yet to actually take the drive up to the Medicine Wheel. We have to save something for our next adventure out this way.

Kris, CanyonChaser since 1996

 

Stopping for a quick braak on the Medicine Wheel Passageway

There was virtually no traffic and we were able to fully enjoy the plethora of switchbacks that carry you up the eastern slope of the Big Horn Mountains. Past the switchbacks there is a massive opening and we could see the road ahead for almost a mile, enough to see a lumbering caravan of RV's and Campers. Rather than become frustrated with the slow moving traffic we decided to use a pullout and take in the scenery for a bit.

Ducati Mulitistrada Motorcycle riding through sweeping corners in the Big Horn Mountains

The impromptu break to allow traffic to clear proved to be a very good decision as we would rarely see any additional traffic for the remainder of the day!

Ducati Mulitistrada Motorcycle riding through sweeping corners in the Big Horn Mountains

When we had crossed the mountain a few days ago, there was a little bit of construction, and we didn't think there'd have been much progress over the course of the week.

Ducati Mulitistrada Motorcycle riding through road construction in the Big Horn Mountains

We were wrong. The stimulus money from President Obama had been keeping the road crews very busy and they had managed to remove many more miles of tarmac in order to rebuild the road-bed, and we predict, straighten some of the corners.

Ducati Mulitistrada Motorcycle riding through construction and past heavy equipment on the top of the Big Horn Mountains

It was slow going for a while there, but we were happy that the Multistrada's seemed to have no problem dealing with the loose surface and we were wishing the auto traffic would allow us to go around, or at the very least that they would speed up a bit. This never happened on previous bikes we've owned.

Ducati Mulitistrada Motorcycle riding through sweeping corners in the Big Horn Mountains

Once past the construction, cars seemed to evaporate and we were left with lots of miles of open roads.

Ducati Mulitistrada Motorcycle riding through sweeping corners in the Big Horn Mountains

I was getting some cool photos like this, so I thought I'd try another little video clip...


See It In Action!

The pictures not good enough? Well, check out our very first videos as we race over the top of the Big Horn Mountains.

After dropping down the western slope of Medicine Wheel Passage, it was just a series of flat, straight roads bringing us back to the foot of the BearTooth Mountains and the lovely town of Red Lodge Montana where we made the most remarkable discovery!

pretty girl at the Red Lodge Inn, in Red Lodge, Montana

We checked into our Suite, then Kris had to tear me away from the gazebo in front where I was taking full advantage of the open Keg.

We walked into town and picked up some souvenirs and trinkets before dinner and turning in for the night.

Saturday | August 15th

Today would be another run over two of the greatest mountain passes in the continental United States (so say we). Bear Tooth Pass and Chief Joseph Highway. But, just like the day before, the cold front was still upon us and combined with the higher elevation of Red Lodge Montana (5,600 ft), it was quite cold, and looking out the window at the low hanging clouds obscuring the jagged mountains that we would soon be crossing was a bit discouraging - would we get wet? Would it be snowing? We had no idea and all the bikes coming down off the mountain we're wearing rain gear; not the best of signs.

Pretty girl getting breakfast in Red Lodge Montana at the Coffee Factory Roasters

We donned all the layers we could manage, including the liners to our coats and riding pants, fired up the heated grips and started out. A hint of blue sky enticed us provided a modicum of encouragement.

Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle leaving Red Lodge Montana and heading up over Bear Tooth Pass

As we raced up the side of the mountain, the road was bone dry (if not quite cold), so the traction wasn't quite as good as one would hope, but soon we were scraping our helmets on the clouds. It was magnificent!

Seeping Corner on the top of Bear Tooth Pass

Bear Tooth Pass rises up to 11,000 feet in elevation and by this time we were almost on top of the clouds. While I'd really hoped to experience riding above the clouds this is a close as we got. What a major disappointment, we should have just taken the freeway.

Two Ducati Multistrada Motorcycles on top of Bear Tooth Pass

Just like Medicine Wheel Passage, the Obama-stimulus fueled construction crews had been working at record pace and the majority of the top half of the road was nothing more than a well graded dirt road. Once again, the Many-Roads Multistrada's charged ahead without hesitation allowing us to pass traffic and make our way without any problems.

Road construction on top of Bear Tooth Pass

It was, however, brutally cold. So cold in fact, that the very next day the entire area was blanketed in snow. We'd timed it perfectly to avoid the white fluffy stuff. But once on the far side of Chief Joseph Highway we were in dire need of something warm. So we stopped in Cody at the humble eatery, Peter's Cafe and Main St Ice Cream, for some coffee and some of the best pancakes known to man.

Two Ducati Multistrada Motorcycles on main street Cody Wyoming in front of Main Street Ice Cream, Cafe and Bakery

We left Cody in our mirrors and headed back towards Yellowstone National Park - Yellowstone is always a slog because of the slow moving traffic, but Sylvan Pass isn't bad at all.

Ducati Multistrada parked on the side of the road in Yellowston National Park

This was the last bit of good canyoning we'd see today. President Obama was vacationing in the park which meant lots of security and lots of slow going. It took us almost all day to make it into Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Pretty Girl shopping in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

We did a wee bit of shopping, then visited the local brew pub where we drank a bit too much. Today was really the final full day of riding.

Pretty Girl standing behind her Ducati Multistrada Motorcycle at the Rawhide Motel in Jackson Holy, Wyoming

The next morning we left Jackson Hole and headed back to my parents house where we collected Jake the Dog and returned home where we would return to work the next day.

Final Thoughts

Looking Back at another CanyonChasers Adventure
Motorcycle riding around a pigtail bridge on the Norbeck Scenic Byway in the Black Hills of South Dakota

It's no wonder all the Harleys pilgrimage to Sturgis every year. The riding is some of the best we've ever had the pleasure to enjoy competing with some of our favorite California roads for technical glory; however one must use caution when timing the trip. Having been during Sturgis week several times in the past, we can say with absolute certainty that it is much more enjoyable when it’s not infested with a couple hundred thousand of your closest leather-clad friends.

The most unfortunate thing about the Black Hills, however, seems to be a general tired, apathetic view of motorcycles by many of the locals. We got the sense that motorcycling is viewed as a necessary means for tourist income in an otherwise ordinary state (South Dakota), and many would be happy if all of us would just go someplace else, which is really too bad. We should also say that we feel we couldn't have timed our trip better. Arriving the week after the Black Hills Rally meant that the majority (Campers included) had gone off someplace else and every other motorcyclist we met along the way was friendly and polite - many of whom were passing through on their way to Indianapolis for the upcoming MotoGP races.

Mount Rushmore

Our only other piece of advice is to not visit Mt. Rushmore until changes can be made to the private "partnership" with the gastapo-esqu managed parking garage that one must use in order to visit the free monument. Check out Mt. Rushmore by riding the Iron Mountain Road from south to north instead. It’s a much better view anyway.

All in all, one should not be discouraged from visiting the Black Hills. The riding is stunning, the scenery is magnificent, the roads should be considered an artistic and engineering triumph putting any race-track we've seen or ridden to shame. Brand new riders will likely not get as much out of the experience as these roads will challenge even the most experienced of riders. But if you've got a couple of years under your riding belt, then be sure to put this on the agenda for future riding destinations. You'll not be disappointed,. We sure weren't. Just be sure to visit the Beggin' Burros.


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