Monday, April 4, 2016

~ Sturgis, One Bikers View ~

"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth" ~ Steve McQueen

This was to be a solo ride to Sturgis, but lucky for me, Ruben decided to join me at the last minute.  Ruben works in fire management for the Dixie National Forest and is Leo's son and my nephew.  He lives in Enoch, Utah so we decided to rendezvous in Ely, Nevada where we will point our ponies north to that Montana country.

The day before me is going to be a very long one by the odometer that is counting each mile.  We had planned to meet at the Shell gas station in Ely but when I arrived Ruben not there.  I was sure that he would arrive well before me.  The clerk lets me know that there are three Shell gas stations in Ely so I move onto the next one.  He is not there and that bad feeling begins in my mind.  The last Shell station is up the hill and Ruben is there looking very relaxed; I can't say that for myself but I am relieved.  

Pony Express Trail
Our plan is to camp another thirty miles further, along the Pony Express Trail.  It may be called a wasteland to some but its colorful history is perfect for us.  We quickly set up camp along a rock out-cropping and reminisce about the bold riders of that day.  They were young, expert horse riders, tough, and usually orphans eager to earn a few dollars.  Some say that they carried Lincoln's inaugural address across country.  Sleep comes easily after 652 miles for my first day.  We have our traditional cowboy breakfast at morning -- Spam, New Mexico green chili, tortillas, and coffee.  The days are warm and it is short sleeve riding. 

Because the Yellowstone ranger said earlier that they have had heavy rain storms lately, the two man tent is strapped on my bike as a back up.

Refreshed, we ride on pass Pocatello, Idaho.  There is a USFS campground that I've seen before after Swan Valley and we hope to make it there before dark.  We arrive shortly before dark and find out that they do not have water nor is the nearby stream running.  Our water bottles will have to do for tonight and we get busy gathering fire wood.  Ruben sleeps in his hammock between two large trees and I lay my gear on my usual spot on the ground.  Tomorrow we ride into Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

At the top of  Teton Pass, we begin to see hundreds of bikers, so we stop.  There are twenty-two bikers there from New Zealand.  We talk and take a few pictures.  We learn that they did not know each other before in New Zealand but organized this trip using their own bikes.  They rented a cargo container and had their bikes shipped to San Francisco where their trip began.  They are happy, enthusiastic, and heading for Sturgis.  They are more than happy for a picture when I call them "Kiwis".  We did not have breakfast so we are looking forward to a hot meal in Victor, Idaho.  It is a very small cafe that is playing some very old country western music.  They also have a TV and the movie, minus the sound, is playing 'The Good, Bad, and Ugly.'  I couldn't image a better setting for our first paid breakfast.  We are content, watching the silent movie.

Easy Rider - Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Hole is a tourist town but is very laid back and we stroll the streets taking pictures along with everyone else.  There are now more and more bikers everywhere, you feel the energy building.  It is hard to ride pass the Grand Tetons without stopping at every pull out.  The mountains are breathtaking.  At one pull out, there is a guy riding a bicycle and I ask if he can take our picture.  I call him "Easy Rider" as he reminisces about the 60's when he rode a motorcycle.  He looks like he has been on the trail a long time so I ask, "how long Easy Rider?" 

"I've traveled 6,600 miles so far" he says without much fanfare. 

Impressive Easy Rider. 

We ride on with a new sense of energy and purpose.  We hope to camp in Yellowstone National Park and know that the campgrounds fill up quickly by 11am so we are cautiously optimistic about a camp site.  We pull into Lewis Lake Campground well after 11am and most sites are taken.  There is a loop that is strictly for walk-in sites and we find an empty spot.  We claim it quickly and discover that it sets high on a hill with plenty of privacy and we like it.  In less than 10 minutes, the entire campground is full.  We take a short excursion riding to the general store and visitor center. 

Our neighbor below us walks up to our site and we talk.  I call him "Bear Man" as he is doing some very extensive solo hikes in Yellowstone where grizzly bears thrive.  He is very fit and offers us some fire wood.  He did not see any grizzly bears but seemed to be an extremist living on the edge.  He ends the conversation by saying, "if the grizzly bears ate me, it would have been worth the journey to see them."  We are not so agreeable but admire his courage.  His fire wood burns will into the night.  We are thankful to "Bear Man."

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Yellowstone is breath taking and we make frequent stops.  The fly fishermen are busy working the rivers and the scene is peaceful.  As we ride through the park, I reminisce about an earlier journey.  In 1973, Denise, Keith and I moved from Pinnacles National Monument in California to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana.  We packed up all of our belongings in a U-Hall truck and towed our Dodge van behind.  The memory of Bear Tooth Pass is still there.  I'm not sure that I would do that trip down this steep winding road again with the U-Hall.  Honestly, looking into the past, I do not remember the beautiful surrounding.  I must have been so scared of going off the cliffs that I rarely took my eyes of the road.  Today is different.  We love this pass.  The vistas are endless and the road drops straight down for miles and miles.  It is cold on top and the clouds are dropping rain further away and the curtain of rains are bending towards us.  Snow is possible.  We stay alert.  We push on towards Montana in hopes of staying ahead of the rain but it will catch us.

Big Horn River
Our camp along the Bighorn River is perfect.  We decide to spend two nights here and the layover helps us considerably.  We fish but no luck.  Our neighbors offer us some freshly caught brown trout and we cook them over our open fire.  Across the river, Ruben spots three black bear cubs, their little legs running fast.  We can not tell if something is chasing them but they are going at full speed.  We then spot the mother about 200 yards further ahead and she is also running.  She stops, looks back, and continues running.  A beautiful sight from across the Bighorn River.  We do not know why she was running her cubs but all seems well.  We are on the Crow Reservation and they do not sell beer.  Our neighbor, Jeff offers to get us some as they are driving into Billings in the morning to get more fishing gear.  When they return from Billings, Jeff joins us in camp for a beer, and we immediately like him.  We call him the "Corn Husker" as he grows corn on his 3,000 acre farm in Minnesota.  "You sure have good country western music playing" the Corn Husker says.  "Is it coming from your bikes?"  He is surprised to hear that it is coming from my little transistor radio.  We explore Bighorn Canyon and fish along one of the most beautiful rivers in Montana.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn
The Battle of the Little Big Horn is historical and a real pride for the Native American Indians.  The artist renditions of the battles are real, yet painful to see but this is what happened a long time ago.  The rolling hills are now peaceful and you can see for hundreds of miles.  We ride on towards Devils TowerNational Monument with the lingering thoughts of the battles fought at the Little Bighorn.  It is easy riding and it is always pleasant to see new country.

Ruben rides a 2000 Yamaha Road Star and mine is a 2007 Yamaha Road Star; our bikes prove to be dependable and run tirelessly.  There are maybe 5,000 bikers heading towards Devils Tower and I am very worried that we will not find a spot at the campground. With that many bikes on the road, we are on high safety alert.  I look over the bikes and see that they do not have any gear and realize that they must be on a day ride.  Our bikes are loaded and carry plenty of highway dirt.  We find a camp site.  The campground sits at the base of Devils Tower and we are surprised to find that they have 'free' firewood. 

We take a short 1.3 mile walk around the Tower and it feels good to walk.  That night our sleep is disturbed by the rain on our faces and we quickly toss our sleeping bags into the tent.  We set the tent up as a back-up when we have 'that' feeling.  Our fire burns well into the darkness despite the rain.

"See how nature-trees, flowers, grass-grows in silence-see the stars, the moon, the sun, how they move in silence" ~  Mother Teresa
Sturgis.  We are here and so are thousands of other bikers.  Sturgis.  We hear that they have estimated 200,000 bikers within a 50 mile radius of Sturgis.  The roar is overwhelming at times.  This is one bike ride that you MUST travel to and get your own T-shirt.  You can't buy it on EBay.  The ride is worth it and we absorb the energy of this town.  As I rest on a balcony having a beer, you can see thousands and thousands of bikers rolling into town.  Melissa and Darin may be down there as well; they rode to Sturgis from Barstow.  Those unlucky tourist in cars or RV's who ventured into Sturgis are trapped.   

We are not staying in Sturgis long but heading for Badlands NationalPark where we hope to camp at a primitive site called Sage Creek Campground where the buffalo roam. 

It is late when we arrive in Wall, South Dakota.  We ask for directions to this primitive campsite and quickly head out to find this spot.  It is along a 15 mile dirt road crossing the prairie.  We come across a heard of buffalo that do not want to move off this isolated dirt road, so we rev-up our bikes and they begin to run.  Exciting.  "Dances with Wolves" was filmed here and I feel that I have gone back 100 years in time.  The buffalo explode in a wild stampede.  We arrive at the primitive campground and quickly set up camp.  Fires are not permitted so we light a candle.  The skies are clear but the lightning in the distance persuades us to set up the tent as a back-up.  The rain drops on our faces during the night again move us into the tent.  Neither of us likes to sleep in the tent but we are glad to have cover when rain pours down.  Ruben sleeps on the high side of the tent and though I'm just a bit lower, all my stuff is wet in the morning.  We hang our stuff to dry on the nearby corral.  The view in the morning is everything I would hope them to be.  Wild.  Open Range.  "Dances with Wolves" all over again.   I feel very free and in touch with nature, I think about the words of Mother Teresa that I saw earlier on the Devils Tower nature walk.

Mount Rushmore is truly a work of art.  We stop shortly as the clouds are getting darker and head off to Crazy Horse.  They have a great film about this 'work in progress' but the weather is changing quickly for the worst.  We leave and within minutes the temperature drops dramatically and the skies are dark, dark.  We ride on but soon the rain hits us head-on from the South.  We are now in Wyoming and heading towards a town called Lusk.  The lighting bolts are fierce and worrisome, the rain is heavy.  I think the sign read 20 miles to Lusk but I'm not sure.  We push on and our boots are quickly collecting water.  There are three motels in Lusk and we find out that there are 4 rooms left in town.  We get one of them and we feel lucky, though costly.  This unexpected stop will push us back some three hundred miles that we will have to make up somewhere along the trail but tonight we can dry out here in Lusk.

Lusk, Wyoming to Colorado National Monument is 606 miles long.  We are tired and it is dark when we arrive at the park's campground.  We talk some and it is not long before we both are asleep.  There is no rain.  In the morning, we see where we are at and it is beautiful.  Large canyons, sweeping views.  This is a great spot.  We made up our 300 miles from Lusk and will head for Cedar City, Utah soon.  Ruben has work tomorrow.

Ruben's house is set in the country side and the views of the nearby mountains agrees with me.  We change out my headlight bulb that went out and he surprises me with a gift.  It is a wooden carved road runner and it brings a smile to my face - "Thanks Ruben."

Miles still to go.  I point my pony towards Las Vegas and this will be another long day.  Seventy miles outside of Las Vegas I run out of gas.  Not fuel for my bike, but my body is strongly objecting to the ride and the 'tired' hits me.  Motel 6 is my goal in Las Vegas and I crash quickly on my bed.  

In the morning, I meet another biker who is off to California and just returned from a solo ride to Sturgis. 

I call him "Smokin' Gary" as he is constantly smoking. 
"So you want to run together," he asked.  "Sure," I reply.  From Las Vegas to Barstow, some 160 miles, we share the road.  I can tell by the way he moves his bike, that he is a veteran biker.  I lead him over to highway 58 on the back roads once we hit Barstow.  He will continue on to San Luis Obispo.  We shake hands and he is off.  

I stop by to see Gilbert but he is not home.  Paula is not home either, but Leo is at work but will meet me at his house where I have lunch.  Irma joins us a bit later and they see pictures of our trip.  They focus on pictures of their son, Ruben.

"I'd rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth" ~ Steve McQueen

The ride from Barstow to Three Rivers is only 225 miles but to me it feels like 525 miles.  I am bone tired.  The sun is directly into my face and staying hydrated is hard to do but I down the water during my frequent stops.

I arrive home in Three Rivers about 9:30pm and Denise is there to greet me.  

It feels good to be home but the miles are still rolling across my mind after eleven days on the trail.  I sleep well into the next morning until 11:30am.  

The odometer records 3,904 miles . . . . .

Ruben Griego, Pony Express Trail

Our Pony Express campsite
Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Beartooth Pass, Montana
Ruben Griego, Campsite on the Bighorn River in Montana
Bighorn River, Montana
Robert Griego, the Battle of the Little Bighorn can not be forgotten

H-D 110th Anniversary, Sturgis

Testing a H-D in Sturgis

Robert Griego, Sturgis
Ruben Griego, Mount Rushmore National Park
Our bikes, Mount Rushmore National Park
Campsite, Badlands National Park
Crazy Horse
Crazy Horse

Robert Griego, I once worked here

Ruben Griego, Colorado National Monument

No comments:

Post a Comment