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

08/22/2014 Through 08/26/2014

08/22/2014 Through 08/26/2014

I have a confession to make: last year's motorcycle trip to Alabama wasn't that enjoyable as compared to the trips I'd taken previously. It was my longest trip, and physically it was extremely taxing. I spent most of the trip in a great deal of pain from my head and my left shoulder. Mentally, it didn't seem very satisfying either. I think this could be attributed to the fact that I really didn't set out with a specific destination; I just mapped out a route and rode it with no sense of purpose. The route wasn't remarkably scenic either, which gave me very little to look at. I did really enjoy the night I spent in Nashville with my friends Trevor and Lauren, but outside of that I don't have many fond memories of the trip.

When planning this year's trip I knew I needed to change things up. I wasn't sure what this would involve, but I did know that I needed to do something really different this time around. The answer came on a Sunday afternoon in April when my old friend Jon called.

Jon and I were room-mates for about two and a half years starting in 1991. We were young and single, and had all the freedom that went along with that stage in life. Unlike a handful of other room-mates I'd had prior, Jon and I turned out to be quite compatible. When we moved apart, it was because we both were getting engaged and taking the necessary steps towards transitioning to married life. In fact, we both got married exactly a week apart in 1994 and we both were coming up on celebrating our 20th wedding anniversaries. I was a groomsman in Jon's wedding, and he would have been in mine had my wedding not occurred 900 miles away.

Jon had bought his first motorcycle somewhere around 2007: a '98 Harley Davidson Fatboy. He rode that bike for a few years and then in 2011 bought a brand new Harley Street Glide. In the three years he'd owned his new bike, he had only put on 4000 miles. He wanted to do more than just putt around town, so when he called on that Sunday afternoon he asked if I would be interested in him tagging along on this year's motorcycle trip.

My previous eight trips had all been solo endeavors. Part of me kind of liked the idea of riding alone, but the other part of me knew that, as I already mentioned, I was really in need of a change for this year. So, I hesitantly said, "sure."

I say hesitantly because I had a few concerns. The biggest one was that Jon had never ridden more than a couple hundred miles in a single day, and my riding style generally has me logging consecutive 400-600 mile days. I had a fear that we would get somewhere into the second day and have to abort the trip. Thankfully this fear proved to be unfounded.

I also had a concern that Jon's pace would be slower than mine. When I ride I tend to make few stops, and keep my stops short. However, this might have been what contributed to my lack of enjoyment of the previous year's trip. So I decided that if Jon did slow me down a bit, this was probably a good thing as I probably would end up having more fun if I wasn't so stressed out about making good time.

So the first question to be answered was which destination. Jon had never been on a motorcycle trip before and pretty much left the route planning to me. I thought back to my first sizable motorcycle trip, which was in 2006 to Yellowstone National Park. I remembered what a great ride that was, and how every trip I've taken since then has been compared to that one. It was my "gold standard" ride. I thought there's no better destination for Jon's first ride than to take him to Yellowstone. He'd never been there before. I had been there twice in the last eight years, but have fallen in love with that park and didn't need any convincing to go back.

We set the date of the trip to be the weekend prior to Labor Day weekend. The last few years I've been planning my trip for this weekend which is the first one after school starts, and it seems to work well. Summer activities have settled down and fall activities haven't yet started up. August weather, while often warm, is usually pretty decent. Those dates worked for both of us to get the time off from work, so we scheduled it.

I went to work planning a route. Originally I started with a similar route to what I rode the first time. However after I thought about things I revamped it. Changing up the route would allow me to ride some roads I hadn't yet been on, and the ones on which I had travelled I could ride in the opposite direction. Plus, my modified route would allow two nights at the same hotel in Cody, WY, which would make things a little easier from a packing/unpacking standpoint. I removed the jaunt down to Grand Teton National Park and increased the number of miles inside of Yellowstone. The Tetons is a pretty ride, but we just didn't have time to fit everything in.

All the reservations were made, and all of Jon's questions were answered (well, at least all of the ones I was able to answer, anyway.) The week prior to us leaving I got some disheartening news: weather for the Yellowstone area was supposed to be unseasonably cold and rainy. This late in game it wouldn't have been easy to reschedule, and besides pushing the trip into September was no guarantee we'd have better weather. I decided that we would just have to gamble that the weather predictions were wrong.

At last the day came when we were scheduled to leave.

Continue on to day one...

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018