Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

08/13/2011 Through 08/16/2011

08/13/2011 Through 08/16/2011

This year was no different from the past few: I was having trouble making up my mind on where to go on this year's motorcycle trip. In fact, I was even debating on whether or not I wanted to make a trip at all.

Now to any of you who have followed my previous trip exploits this idea of not taking a motorcycle trip may sound strange, so let me explain. I had several compelling arguments that put together were making a strong case for me to just stay home.

First and foremost, I am not made of money. I am very thankful to have a decent job and am by no means poor, but at the same time we live on a budget (unlike our government, but that's another rant.) My wife works part-time to allow her to be home with my son when he's not in school.

My motorcycle was in need of a new front tire. Truth be told, I probably should have replaced it before last year's trip to Wisconsin, but being the frugal (cheap) person I am I decided to eek one more trip out of that tire. This year, however, there was no doubt that the tire would need to be replaced as it had worn completely bald in the center. If I were to hit rain with this worn tire I most certainly would be living dangerously.

While traveling in July our car had broken down and cost us $1000 to get it back on the road so we could get home. This unexpected event had put a dent in our saving. Looking at my account balance, I was wondering if I wanted to drain my balance even further by springing for new rubber.

Finally in early August I came to the conclusion that if I didn't take a trip this year, I would regret it come mid-winter when the snow was falling and I was unable to ride. A local motorcycle shop ran a special on tires, so I bit the bullet and had my front tire replaced.

The next step was to finalize where I would be going. I've always wanted to visit Utah, so I did some preliminary mapping of a route that would take me there, as well as the northern parts of New Mexico and Arizona so I could add those states to my list.

If you haven't looked at a map recently, Utah is a long way from South Dakota. Realistically there would be no way to make it to Utah and back within four days, and maintain any sort of pace that would allow me to enjoy the trip. This route would be a five day trip minimum, and even then the "short" day would be in the 500 mile range. Ideally this route would be better suited to a six or seven day trip to really take it leisurely.

I probably could have talked my wife into letting me be gone five days; however there was another worry that was plaguing me about stringing together multiple 500+ mile days. About ten years prior to this trip, I was involved in a motorcycle accident. One of the results of this accident was that I dislocated my left shoulder. In the last few years I had noticed on high-mileage motorcycle days that this shoulder would start to ache. During the first half of 2011, my shoulder was starting to hurt fairly significantly leading me to worry I would have to have the problem surgically corrected.

By August, my shoulder was starting to improve. However I was still skeptical that I could pull off the five day trip to Utah without excessive pain. Therefore I decided to shelve this trip idea for now and find a shorter trip to take at this point in time.

Three years prior I had ridden down through Arkansas. One thing I realized on that trip was that the roads I traveled in that state were excellent. I could also tell that there were plenty of other great roads in the area that I didn't ride on that journey. At that time I had made preliminary plans to return to Arkansas someday and ride the area more extensively.

Two days prior to my trip departure date, I finally made up my mind that this would be the year I would return to Arkansas. Nothing like waiting until the last possible minute.

Last year I changed my strategy from previous trips where I set up camp at a single base location and just made day trips, returning to my campsite at night. I decided to employ the same strategy again this year. I called up the Kettle Campground in Eureka Springs where I had stayed on the previous trip and reserved a campsite for three nights.

The night prior to leaving, my son had football practice until 8 PM. This left me little time for packing once we got home, but to my surprise the packing process went very quickly. Apparently I had done this enough times that it didn't require much thought. I just went down the checklist I use and spread everything out on my bed. Once I had everything I needed, I packed it into the appropriate spots in my bag, then loaded up the bike.

To save myself time in the morning, I also rode up to a nearby gas station and topped off the tank, as well as made sure the tires were properly inflated. This turned out to be a good thing as I discovered the shop had pumped up my new front tire to 50 psi, when the maximum inflation rating was 40 psi.

With the bike ready to go, all I had left to do was spend a little time with my wife and then get a good night's sleep before I left.

Continue on to day one...

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