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

Touring The Minnesota North Shore And Door County, WI

Touring The Minnesota North Shore And Door County, WI

Glacier National Park. That was our initial destination for this year.

After I had gone on 8 different trips solo, last year I changed it up and brought a companion. My friend Jon and I traveled to Yellowstone. It was his first big motorcycle trip. I left on that trip slightly wary about bringing someone else, but we wound up having such a great time that I never even considered taking this year’s trip without him.

Around March we started talking and making plans for where this year’s ride should take us. I had never been to GNP, but have many friends who had. All of them said it was incredibly scenic. In addition, the glacier is receding and there is speculation about how much longer it will be around so if a person wants to see it they should go sooner rather than later. So we decided that this year’s destination would be GNP.

I began planning routes. Normally my trips have been in the 4-5 day range. I knew it would take two full days from Sioux Falls to GNP, and then two full days home. If we wanted to see anything we would have to budget at least five days so that we would have a day riding through the park.

There is no real scenic path to get from where I live to Glacier. Between the two locations lie about 1,000 miles of barren nothingness. I planned a route that went north through the central part of South Dakota, entered North Dakota then cut west into Montana. On the way home the route came south out of GNP down through Yellowstone, then straight east across Wyoming and back through South Dakota. Day 3 and most of day 4 would be pretty, but the rest was going to be brutal.

Around the beginning of May Jon suggested that we extend the trip to 6 days so that we might be able to spend more time in the park and see more sights. I ran the idea past the Tundra Girl and received reluctant permission. I modified the route slightly, leaving the first two days untouched but then shortening the mileage on the remainder of the days. Jon and I compared calendars and selected July 25th as the departure date.

Then one Sunday morning in June, I was in the middle of leading a church service when I received an alarming text from Jon stating that he wasn’t going to be able to go on the trip this year. Unfortunately, given my immediate situation I wasn’t able to respond right away. Later that afternoon when I got home I was able to give him a call. In talking to him, he explained he wasn’t sure he wanted to be gone that long as he would rather apply the money for the trip on other areas of his finances.

He asked if I was still going to Glacier by myself, and I responded that I wasn’t sure. I was definitely going to take a trip but seeing as I was going to go solo maybe I would change my destination. As we spoke, I could tell that the idea of bowing out of the trip completely was really bothering him. He wanted to go on a ride.

Somewhere in the midst of the discussion he changed his mind and said that he would still like to go, but maybe we could change the destination and drop the length back down to about 4 days? Seeing as my wife wasn’t 100% on board with our six day trip, I agreed. So we had to pick a new target that was reachable and would guarantee our return within four days.

Jon had heard that the ride north out of Duluth up to the Canadian border was pretty. I had been through Duluth back in 2009, but was heading east. I had previously contemplated routes that went north out of Duluth but had never actually ridden any of them, so I agreed that this would be a good destination.

So once again I went back to route planning. Taking the most direct route, Duluth itself is about 400 miles from Sioux Falls. So I figured the first day we could take the scenic route to Duluth. Then the second day we could ride the north shore of Lake Superior and some interesting roads in that area. After that, however, I was kind of stumped on where to go. I thought about heading east for a day and then returning to Duluth, but that didn’t sound very interesting.

Then I remembered Door County in Wisconsin. My parents had been there about a decade ago and my mother raved about the place. I thought this might make an interesting destination for our third day. Unfortunately, just to ride from Duluth to Door County was about 450 miles. That didn’t leave much time to ride around and see the sights of the area. Despite this, I thought it was still a possibility.

The only problem was that we would then be looking at a rather dull 600 mile trip home on day four, which would be mostly comprised of uninteresting interstate. I pondered this for a while, then had the idea of adding another half day to the trip: we could ride from Door County to Minneapolis, spend the night, and then head home in the morning of day 5. This could get us home before lunch if we were really motivated. As an added bonus, the Minnesota Twins were playing at home that Tuesday evening and if we made good time on day 4 we could catch a ball game. I must admit, as a Twins fan it didn’t take much for me to think this was an excellent idea! I ran my proposal by Jon and he thought it sounded like fun. So our new route was set.

Jon always did have a gift for discernment, and sure enough just a couple days before July 25th I was reading the news only to see that there was a big fire in Glacier National Park that closed the Going To The Sun Road. So if we had kept our original plan intact we would have either had to reschedule at the last minute, or get there and skip the main part of what we were wanting to see. So in retrospect it was a wise choice to change our trip destination.

By the time the end of July rolled around, I hadn’t ridden my motorcycle a whole lot that year. In fact, I was still on my original tank of gas from when I had woken the bike from its winter slumber. The reason for this was I was having a record year on my bicycle(s). Where normally I would have ridden the motorcycle to work quite a bit, I was riding my bicycle. In fact by the time we left on our trip I had logged over 2300 bicycle miles since January 1st, and was on pace to break 4000 miles for the year.

So this was both a positive and a negative. Obviously it was a negative in that I hadn’t put that many miles on the motorcycle to allow my body to get acclimated to the punishment of long distance riding. On the flip side, all the bicycle riding combined with major dietary changes had allowed me to drop more than 50 pounds since last year’s trip to Yellowstone. I was hoping that being in better overall physical shape would make up for the lack of seat time I’d put on the motorcycle. As I would soon find out, this weight loss had both advantages and disadvantages. But more on that later...

A couple of weeks before we were to depart I made all the necessary hotel reservations. Hotels in the Duluth area were surprisingly expensive. A few days before we left I went ahead and purchased our tickets to the baseball game. I held off on the baseball tickets because unlike the hotel I couldn’t just call them up and cancel should one of us come down with an unexpected bout of bubonic plague.

Thursday night before we left I got most of my packing done and gassed up the bike. I wasn’t planning on riding it on Friday, so the tank would still be completely full on Saturday morning. Because of the few miles I’d ridden my motorcycle was still quite clean from the wash I gave it after last year’s trip, so at least I didn’t have to worry about that.

On Friday night I had a church men’s group meeting after work, so I got home around 8 PM. I had planned to mow the lawn, but instead found myself working on other projects along with keeping one eye on the Twins game on TV. Ah, the perils of being a sports addict.

One additional thing I did, which sounds kind of morbid but is very important, is that I took a few minutes to update my "Things To Know If I Die" document with a few recent changes. I created this file on our computer and showed my wife where it’s located. It contains all the information I can think of that she might need should I pass away unexpectedly (via motorcycle or any other method.) Seeing as I am the primary manager of our finances, the document includes things like where our money is invested along with account numbers and contact information. What bills are set up for automatic withdrawal out of our checking account. Our insurance agent phone numbers. When our property taxes are due. How to obtain access to all my email accounts. All sorts of things that I keep in my head and take for granted, but would be a major inconvenience to track down should I die.

I didn’t just create this document for my motorcycle trips. I realized after my parents passed away that trying to settle their estate without easy access to this kind information was a major pain. So I decided I needed to start a document where I could log anything that might be useful to the Tundra Girl if she were to find herself in that situation. Every few months I review it because minor details change and I want the details to stay up to date. I hope she never needs to use it, but I rest a little easier knowing that it’s available. I hope she creates the same document for me. And I hope you create the same document for your loved ones as well.

Anyway, stepping back down from that estate planning soapbox and getting back to my story, I wrapped up all my preparations and went to bed around 11 PM. I set the alarm clock for 5:30, with Jon and I planning to depart at 7 AM.

Continue on to day one...

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018