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

09/10/2010 Through 09/13/2010

09/10/2010 Through 09/13/2010

Each year it gets more and more difficult to come up with a new and exciting location to where to ride my motorcycle. Given my four day time allowance the number of interesting destinations achievable within this narrow window are dwindling. Couple this with a different mindset that had overtaken me during the months leading up to the trip, and my decision wasn't easy.

Usually by the time my yearly motorcycle trip rolls around (semi-intentional pun) I am chomping at the bit to get out of town. Between the pressures of work, church and life I usually start to feel the road calling my name by mid spring. As the departure date nears, I get more and more excited until the night before I'm nearly levitating with mirth.

For whatever reason, this year I didn't really feel that call. Sure the idea of getting away for a few days was appealing, but I wasn't feeling my normal drive. Perhaps it was because I had taken the summer off from one of the churches where I lead music on Sunday morning which lightened my weekly workload sufficiently. Or maybe it was because we took our first "real" family vacation this same summer (I say "real" because it was the first time we went somewhere for longer than a weekend just to see the sights and the first time we'd gone a significant distance without visiting friends or family.) Or perhaps it was a depression that plagued me for a couple of months after I injured my shin in early June and had to cancel the remaining triathlons/running races I had scheduled.

In any event, I found the summer slipping away and I didn't have a location picked nor did I have a firm date scheduled. At the end of July I decided I just needed to make a decision and get something on the calendar before I ran out of good weather.

I toyed with the idea of returning to Arkansas, as when I had gone there two years ago there were many excellent roads in the area and I certainly hadn't ridden them all. As I thought about it, however, the long, painful day of riding through Iowa and Missouri in order to get there didn't really appeal to me. Once I was there I would have two days of riding, and then would have to repeat the painful journey back. I might return some day, but decided not this year.

Looking at the map, I thought about riding across Minnesota to La Crosse, Wisconsin and then heading south to follow the Mississippi river down through Illinois. Once I pondered that route I realized that the majority of the scenery would be between La Crosse and the Illinois border, and after that would most likely be dull riding. Then to get home I would either have to retrace my steps or once again ride through Missouri and Iowa. Not too enticing.

In researching this route I stumbled upon an excellent web site called Wisconsin Motorcycling that had quite a few maps of scenic rides within the state of Wisconsin. Last year I had crossed both the northern and the central portions of Wisconsin on my trip to Michigan. Upon looking at this web site, however, it appeared as though southern Wisconsin had a plethora of excellent motorcycle roads.

So then I got the idea to change up my routine a bit and choose a specific place in Wisconsin to set up camp and then use this as a launch point for riding different roads in the area. The previous years on my trips I had packed up every morning and spent the day driving to a completely new location where I would stay the night, only to repeat the routine the next day. Not having to break camp every morning and set things up every night, along with not having a specific target destination that must be reached at the end of each day would be a nice change of pace. So, this is how I decided to do things this year.

Given the number of available campgrounds, restaurants, etc. available in the area along with its proximity to many of the interesting roads, I decided that the Wisconsin Dells would be a good place to set up my base camp. Then I could wander the area but still have easy access to amenities during the evenings.

So my location was set; now I had to pick a date. Looking at the calendar hanging in our kitchen, the number of available weekends was dwindling. Every year I tell myself that I'm not going to let summer get too busy, and every year there seems to be some activity scheduled on every weekend. This year was no exception.

However, the last weekend of August (the weekend before Labor Day) was wide open. The only catch in a date this late in the summer is that my son would have already returned to school, which for some reason felt really weird for me to go off during this time. After speaking with my wife she said that it would be no problem.

So the date and location were both set in place. I simply continued on with my normally scheduled summer until exactly a week prior to me leaving I received a phone call. It seems that the Renegade Invasion band was coming to town to play four times during the weekend I was scheduled to be gone. Apparently they lost their lead guitarist shortly before I received this phone call, and they were wondering if I would be available to fill in for their missing musician during these four dates.

So once again I found myself in a dilemma. Do I continue on with my motorcycle trip, and miss out on the opportunity to play guitar with this band. Or do I cancel my trip to play with the band and hope that I can reschedule the trip.

I talked with my wife, my brother and a few friends. Everyone was encouraging me to postpone the trip and play with the band. So I heeded their advice and did just that. As it turns out I had a blast playing with the Renegade Invasion band that weekend so I believe I made the correct choice.

As far as rescheduling the trip, that turned out to be fairly easy as well. The weekend after Labor Day I originally had the Le Mars triathlon scheduled for Saturday, and the Sioux Falls Half Marathon scheduled for Sunday. With my injury still keeping me from training, there was no way I would be able to compete in either event. So this weekend was now available. As a bonus, with it being after Labor Day, the crowds should be lighter and the campground prices should be cheaper.

At long last, I was finally ready to begin this year's trip.

Continue on to day one...

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