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Andy's Western Swing

One daaaaaaay..., I decided there were some things I needed to see out west. The MTF 2007 Western Mountain Ride gave me the perfect chance to fill in some of the blanks. I left my home in Trenton, SC on July 7 with some big plans for some serious riding. Day 1 was a super slab slog where my objective was to get to the west side of St. Louis. I can't remember a thing about the day except that I made it to Columbia, MO and that there was a Cracker Barrel next door to the motel.

I left Columbia for the day 2 ride at the crack of dawn (I planned to do 99% of my riding with the Sun). It was such a beautiful morning that I stopped in the first 5 miles for this pic:

My ride from Missouri to South Dakota was really easy. I was surprised twice along the way. Surprise one was that the scenery along I-29 is really neat. I especially liked the area around Mound City, MO. The second surprise was when an Iowa State Trooper passed me as I was stretching the envelope (by running 10 over). He must have been looking for a trophy stop :o) - he ignored me. I got bored with the interstate as I entered South Dakota and decide to try some of the local roads. I stopped for this pic near Vedin Corner, SD:

I got excited late in the afternoon when I started seeing some of the South Dakota Badlands off to the side of I-90. Seeing the Badlands was my first goal of the trip. I got off the interstate to make the driving tour of the Badlands National Park. SR-240 is the scenic highway through the park and I stopped for this pic along the way:

The western end of SR-240 is at Wall, South Dakota. I had plenty of time to ride a little further but all those Wall Drugs signs influenced me to stop early. I stayed at the Motel 6 near the interstate and was a little surprised at the room rate ($69.95). When I questioned the lady at the desk, she told me that I was in town for the Centennial Celebration of Wall, SD, and that I was lucky to get a room :o). Oh well, the room was nice and I took this pick of a South Dakota sunset:

My plans for Day 3 were to visit Mount Rushmore and the Devil's Tower. I got an early start and it seemed like I had I-90 all to myself. I stopped as soon as the sun was all the way up to take this pic of the Buffalo Gap Grasslands:

On the way to Mount Rushmore I saw some signs for an Air Force Museum (at Ellsworth Air Force Base) that featured a B-1 bomber. I really like military jets, I was off to an early start, and I had never seen a B-1, so I decided to stop at the museum. I took this pic but it doesn't do justice to the airplane:

I didn't spend much time with the jets because I was so excited about seeing Mount Rushmore. I headed straight for the monument and started scouting for a good pic. Parking was restricted on the sides of the road near Rushmore, so I paid my money ($8) and took this pic from the top of the parking deck:

I went from Rushmore towards the Crazy Horse Memorial and found the spot for this pic along the way:

I paid my money to see the Crazy Horse Memorial and took this pic:

One of the things that really surprised me on this trip was how pretty it was in the Black Hills. I had no idea that the mountains would be so big, the forest so beautiful, and the roads so good. I took this pic at an overlook on the Needles Highway:

I almost made this trip with Bob Moore. It turned out that we couldn't match our schedules, but I had paid attention when he started talking about the scenic roads he intended to ride on his trip. One of them was Iron Mountain Road. I had no idea where this road was when he mentioned it, but I saw the sign for it near Rushmore and decided to give it a go. It was a neat road with some narrow tunnels, a couple of 450° turns, and some beautiful views. There was too much traffic to fully enjoy the ride. I found myself passing a few cars and then giving the positions back when I pulled off for pics. Here is another view of Rushmore that I took from Iron Mountain Road:

From the Black Hills I made my best speed towards the Devil's Tower. Lots of young people don't know about the Devil's Tower. Heck, I didn't know about the Devil's Tower until I saw the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The movie is one of my all time favorites and I enjoyed it as much watching it for the 20th time as I did for the first time :o). If you sense that I was excited about this, you are right. My first view was from nearly 10 miles away and it "wowed" me. I took a zillion pics but this panorama best captures the Tower and it's setting:

From the Devil's Tower it was only 130 miles to my end objective for Day 3, Buffalo, WY.

I had announced on the MTF that I was going to spend the night of July 9 at the Motel 6 in Buffalo, WY. I hoped that some of the other MTF riders, heading for the 2007 WMR, would meet me there for the ride into Lolo, MT. The plan worked. Pat and Greg Blewett showed up at the Motel 6 (this one was $79-think Yellowstone) just after I checked-in. I was a little concerned about the Day 4 ride plan because of the length (700 miles) and the fact that much of it was 2-lane scenic highway. On the advice of Bob Moore, I was planning to ride Alternate 14 and Chief Joseph’s Highway towards Yellowstone and then turn away from Yellowstone on Beartooth Pass. Pat and Greg did not seem concerned about the miles or the time required to make the ride. I was up at 600A (Mountain time) for the ride and took this pic of a Wyoming sunrise:

After a few moments of panic while I looked for my motorcycle key, we were off. This series of roads were the most spectacular I have ridden. I'll shut up and let the pictures do the talking:

Man, I got to go back there. As we rode through the day, I noticed that Greg and Pat were always waiting on me to get ready after our stops. This isn't normal for me, I am nearly always the first one ready to go. I watched them on one stop and I could see their secret. They had a routine for their stops that divided tasks and they moved fast. We talked about it at one stop and Pat told me that they had developed the routine to save time while in a LD rally or on IBA ride. I made a special effort on the last stop of the day and got ready before Greg (Pat was ready). I am not used to that kind of pressure :o). The end of a long day found us In Lolo, MT.

Holy Cow! I am here in Montana! There were a few riders already at the motel including Beerme (Brad) on his super hot FJR. Tell me, what does a State Patrolman like Brad do with an FJR (I suspect anything he wants too :o)? Dan Huber, WMRRR honcho, was the last one to show up at Lolo. He had made a 1000 mile ride from his home and had to find a new battery along the way. The fact that he arrived bright eyed and happy tells you something about him. We talked briefly about the schedule and turned in for a well deserved rest.

Day 5, Stardate July 11, 2007, the start of the Western Mountain Rough Road Ride. Six rough and tuff guys are ready for adventure:

Dan talked again about the schedule and the roads ahead. We planned to go west on US 12, stop at the National Park Visitor’s Center, and then get off of the paved road onto the Lolo Motorway. The Lolo Motorway is a narrow dirt road that roughly follows both an old Indian trail and the path of Lewis and Clark. The park service somewhat maintains the road and has place a number of story boards along the way that cover the history (both Indian and Lewis & Clark) of the route. As we talked, the 110 miles of dirt road didn't seem too far. Here are some of the pics I took along the way:

The ride was great but very long. I won't say who whined the most but it wasn't me. One funny thing and one highlight. Dan told us before the ride that the Lolo Motorway was so good that you could ride it in a Honda Civic. After a few miles, nobody believed him. Then, around 300P, durn if we didn't see a guy on the road in a Honda Civic. I still think Dan staged that with a buddy :o). The highlight was near the end of the ride. I was at the back of the pack when Jason Arnold waved me forward. Expecting to have to solve a map problem, I was surprised when I got near Don Kime and saw that he was herding a Moose down the road. Turns out that the Moose jumped out in front of Don and stayed on the road for what seemed like 5 minutes. The Moose was really big and I was glad that it didn't turn around. At the next stop, I expressed my appreciation for being waved forward to see the Moose. Jason and Don quickly told me that they were worried that the Moose might get mad and turn around and wanted me up front for that :o). The heat and the dust made going slower than normal and it was late afternoon before we got back to the paved road. From there it was still 60 miles to our hotel at Elk City, ID. The ride from US 12 to Elk City turned out to be very enjoyable. It was nearly all on deserted 2 lane roads next to the South Fork of the Clearwater River. Miles and miles of twisties where the scenery was just to beautiful to go fast. I didn't take any pics that night but I took a few on the way out the next morning:

Elk City is so far in the country that they have to pipe in the sunshine. The road we came in on was the only paved road to the town, and the pavement stopped at the city limits. First look at our hotel set me to wondering:

I was surprised to learn that the hotel had a resident hooker:

Turns out that the rooms were fine, even if they didn't have air conditioning. We ate at the town bar and grill, which was crowded with students from the local training school for forest fire fighters. Those guys and gals looked to be in excellent condition and we didn't start any trouble. As we waited on our supper, we discussed our ride for the next day. Several of us, including me, had had enough dirt and decided to return to Lolo by paved roads the next day.

The two real adventure riders in our group, Jason Arnold and Dan Huber, were going to continue with the plan. The plan was to travel from Elk City back to Lolo via the Magruder Corridor, a 120 mile dirt road through absolute wilderness. I can't say much about Dan and Jason’s ride except they made it. I have seen Dan's pics and it looks like the road was very similar to what we had ridden the day before. I didn't go because I had decided to go home a day early and I still had one more big thing to do before leaving. The big thing was to ride US-12 and get this pic:

US-12 turned out to be everything I had heard about. Don Kime, Don Braziel, and myself had a great ride back to Lolo, which included a lunch at the best restaurant within 100 miles (and the only one :o). When we got to the host motel, many other riders were there and we quickly planned a group meal for the evening. The steaks were good and well served, and I said my goodbyes after we returned to the motel.

The next three days were all about riding. Eight hundred miles the first day, 900 the second, and then home. I didn't do anything special along the way. I made one wrong turn in Kansas City and got dumped off the slab into downtown (no on-ramp nearby). My GPS got me out of that mistake. My last night on the road was the worst of the trip. I stopped in Mount Vernon, IL and picked a motel that had a flashing sign saying rooms, $39.95. Guess what, the cheap rooms were on the third floor - no elevator :o). I paid extra for a first floor room only to find that somebody had been smoking in my non-smoking room. I should have switched, but thought I would be OK. I did get a good night's sleep, but my nose has been running since then (no picture of that). It was raining as I came into Atlanta on I-75 but it only lasted 5 minutes. That was the only rain I saw on my trip. My new tires and chain aren't new anymore. My wife was shopping so nobody was at home when I got to Trenton. The dog growled at me and didn't want to be petted. The garbage can was full and I needed to make a run to the dump. Welcome back to the real world :o).

A big thanks to Dan Huber and the MTF for doing the WMR/WMRRR. It was a special experience for me.