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

08/24/2012 Through 08/27/2012

08/24/2012 Through 08/27/2012

During the summer of 2011 I had been watching PBS when a show came on describing a Nebraskan farmer who undertook an unusual endeavor: he built a scale replica of Stonehenge. However rather than using rocks (or stones, as the name would suggest) he utilized a lesser common medium. He built his monument out of old cars.

I found the story intriguing. I wondered why someone would go through the time and effort to construct such a beast, and yet at the same time I could see myself doing something like this if nothing else for the curiosity of its uniqueness.

The program went on to explain that the monument continued to be maintained by the family, and that it was open to the public. It is located in Carthage, NE, which is a small town just north of Alliance, NE (which itself is a small town.) I made a mental note that this might be a fun stop if I ever find myself travelling in northwestern Nebraska.

The summer of 2012 was a busy one. Both of my parents had recently died, with my father passing in February and my mother in May. My brother and I were elbow deep (both literally and figuratively) cleaning out their house and working on settling the estate. Every weekend had been consumed with sorting through the mounds of "artifacts" my mother had collected in her 74 years on this earth. Because of this I was finding it difficult to justify taking a motorcycle trip. In addition because of the year's events I had been forced to unexpectedly use several unplanned vacation days, leaving me with precious few left to last the remainder of the year.

Me being a slave to tradition, however, I found it difficult to completely abandon taking my yearly motorcycle trip. Not to mention that mentally I needed some down time from working on the estate and to spend some time in solitude. My wife suggested that maybe I should just take a shorter trip, perhaps riding out to the Black Hills and spending a weekend roaming those roads. Looking at the map, I realized that this would be as good an excuse as I would ever have to go visit Carhenge.

Two days were a little tight to try and fit a ride to the other side of South Dakota and back (400 miles each direction) and still have any meaningful riding once I was in the hills. Throwing in a detour into Nebraska made it near impossible to have any sort of reasonable mileage that would still allow me to enjoy the trip. I decided I could spare one day of vacation time and extend my jaunt to three days.

During my previous four motorcycle trips I had brought along a tent and camped out. This was mostly done in an effort to save money on hotel fees, and certainly not for the love of sleeping outside. My mental and emotional state this year didn't leave me longing to lay in a hot tent at the end of a lengthy day of travel, so I opted to stay in hotels on this trip.

I mapped out a route that took me down to Carhenge, then up into the Black Hills and back home. One of the things I decided I wanted to accomplish on this trip was to not ride on a single interstate, and to try and take as many roads as possible that I had not yet experienced. I have nothing against our interstate highway system. They are great for efficiently getting travellers from point A to point B. The purpose of my motorcycle trips, though, is usually not just to get me from point A to point B. I have travelled the interstates in South Dakota many times, both in a car and on my motorcycle, and didn't feel the need to ride them yet again.

So my rough plan was to spend a day driving out to the Black Hills, spend a day riding around, and spend the third day returning home. I planned to hit Carhenge on my way out. In order to maximize my 2nd day in the hills, I wanted to make it all the way to the west side of South Dakota before stopping. However making the detour into Nebraska put that first day's mileage into the uncomfortable range. When not riding the interstate, 400 miles is usually where I try to cap my daily distance. I've done more, even up to 600 miles on back roads in a single day, but the enjoyment does wear thin once I'm north of the 400 mile mark.

Because of this, I decided to extend my trip by a few hours. I noticed that my planned path would pass right by the family farm in Fairfax, SD, approximately 150 miles from my home. I decided to leave the night before and drive to the farm. From there I could spend the night (for free... woohoo!) which would then give me a more manageable ride the next day.

So once my route was all planned I made my hotel reservations and made sure my bike was serviced. Then it was simply a matter of waiting for Friday, August 24th to arrive.

Continue on to day one...

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018