Day 3
June 8th, 2006
Mormon Island State Park                                                                   
Grand Island, Nebraska   


Rain drops on the tent served as my wake call in the dawn light.  I hate packing a wet a tent, so I jumped out of bed and started breaking down camp.  When I stuck my head out the flap I was greeted by a slow falling drizzle with small droplets. 

I squared away my sleeping pad, bag, and pillow first to make sure they didn't get wet, anything else I can live with.

I was packed and loaded, when I realized I couldn't find my keys.  I figured they were packed away in the Moto Fizz, and I was not going to unload the bag to find them.  I did a triple check of the camp table and ground to make sure I didn't drop them.  "I'll just get out the spare and look for the main keys later."

Dark skies still loomed in the Northeast, and Southwest.  The rain last night did not dissipate as the evening cooled, as thunderstorms do this time of year.  "Must be some kind of front, I'll hafta to call someone for details."

By 6:30am I was leaving the park, making a right turn into Grand Isle, to find SR 2; a long, desolate road, that spears central Nebraska right through the heart of the Sand Hills.  I made a quick stop at a bank ATM in front of a shopping center, about 2 miles from the park.

I was only 25 miles into a full tank so skipped topping off the tank.

It was going to be a long ride to South Dakota and the Black Hills, but I've been wanting to ride this road for a long time.  I guessed correctly it would be a interesting, and sometimes scenic route.  I wanted to be at the end of  SR 2 by lunch, poised for South Dakota.

I picked up the route just west of the city, and took off west under dark threatening skies.

SR 2 west was busy with eastbound workers making their way into Grand Island the first 20 miles.  The vehicles coming at me had their lights on, but the wipers were still on hold.   A good sign.

A few 6 wheel delivery trucks fell prey to the 1300 as we motored west at 70-80 mph.  The trucks were leaving Grand Island full of supplies for the sparsely populated outposts one finds on SR 2.  Bread trucks, milk, and a Coke to name a few.

Soon I was in the Sand Hills, which is just as the name suggests-small dollops of sandy hills, covered in some kind of brush and grass.   I began to break away from the eastern clouds, and was under partly cloudy skies.  It was not going to be as hot as yesterday, the gauge on the ST was in the low 70s.  If it was going to hit 100, the temp needed to be in the 80s by 9am, not going to make it today.

A hectic railroad runs parallel to SR 2.  Train after eastbound train came at me on my right.  They were timed about 10 miles apart.  They pulled hundreds of freight and coal cars.
​"A hectic railroad runs parallel to SR 2. "
I put the 1300's screen in the halfway position, this spot keeps the wind blast of my chest, and gives me a slick profile in the wind.  The computers on the Honda give me instant feedback on mpg, and for the times I have the screen high, the mpg plummets into the high 30s.

Broken Bow is the first major city west of Grand Island, about 100 miles away, named so by the founder because the post office shot down his first choice.  He recalled he found a broken bow on a nearby trail and thus submitted the name, which they gladly approved.  I read all that at a historical marker in front of the courthouse I stopped to read when I passed by.

The small city was pretty busy when I came through, and I resisted the urge to take my morning break there, I had a long day on the table and I wanted to work my way  farther west before stopping.  I wanted to eat lunch in Alliance, near the end of SR 2.

Traffic was absent west out of Broken Bow, and the miles on SR 2 were empty.  The small towns came and went, spaced out every 30 miles or so.  Each was home to a grain elevator, a small store, trees with narrow branches, 20-50 wood frame houses, and a few old garages and shops.  They pretty much look the same after the first 3 or 4.

The Honda ST 1300 can be deceptively docile sometimes.  On the long open run outs  of the American West it can make 100 mph feel like 50.  Cruising 100 mph can be intoxicating and especially so on the 1300 with its silky smooth motor, excellent wind management, and gobs of torque.  I struggled all morning on SR 2 keeping it in check.

Dunning, Nebraska looked as good as any grain elevator town, so for the heck of it I peeled off the highway to take a look around when I entered the town.  Like most Midwest towns the main highway does not come directly through town but off to the side.

I turned for the old business district, and was not surprised to see everything boarded up.  Nothing has operated here for a long time.  I went pass a row of houses located on a few side streets.  I starred at the old wood frame homes, and wondered what it must be like to live here.  I didn't see anything around for people to do.   It was quiet, and the mid morning air was warm.  Two dogs scampered across my bow and hid under a car parked on a dirt driveway,
​A boarded up house in Dunning, Nebraska
A lady hanging clothes on a corner lot spotted me and watched intently as I idled by, I waved at her and she quickly returned the gesture.  A run down house needing painting so bad it was crying out for help, had a sprinkler going in the front yard.  Why they were so concerned about the lawn when the rest of the house was caving in perplexed me.
​Busy watering grass 
I went up a few blocks then back down, and saw a guy about 25 years old walking down the street with a laptop strung across his shoulder.  I eased over to him and stopped to chat.  He had on a non tucked white T shirt, frayed denim shorts, and sandals.  He looked out of place on the farmland of Nebraska.  I found out he's a high school teacher at the small school located on the highway.  I should have guessed.  A nice breeze gusseted through the green trees.

"So what's goin on?"

"Not much"

"you live here?"

"so what do ya do here in Dunning?"

"teacher at the high school, I was on my way to get some work done"

"y'all still in school?"

"Nah, I just go to office to get online, the only place in town with broadband."

"how long ya lived here?"  In a tone that sounded like if his response was going to be anything longer then a year, I'd feel sorry for him.

"about 5 years.  Its quiet here, and I'm use to it."

We chatted a few more minutes, then I punched the starter of the ST and continued on my way.  It was a nice diversion.

The Middle Loup River kept pace with me as I rode west on SR 2 near the Nebraska National Forest, which in my eye hardly qualifies as a forest.  The few trees were not very big, nor thick.

   "The Middle Loup River kept pace with me" 

By the time I reached Thedford I was more than ready for my morning break.  It was mid morning and I'd just put down almost 200 miles. 

In the middle of the small community an old white framed store with a bench out front appeared.  "That'd be a good place to break, I can sit out front and watch the cars go by on the highway."  The high tech whirl of the ST broke the silence of the parking lot when I came in.  I took my coat, gloves, and helmet off, and went inside and was warmly greeted by the female clerk.

"hey how ya doin!"  She called out.

" Good! How are YOU doin sweetie?"

"Oh I can't complain."

"Well, I just need a Mountain Dew to go with my peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

"Ain't you a little old for peanut butter and jelly?  Why don't ya get one of our sausage biscuits."

"Love to baby, but sausage clogs up the veins of old guys like me.  Besides PB and J is one of the best foods an athlete can eat.  Got everything ya need without the bad stuff."

"Well I wouldn't know about that, most exercise I get is walking to that car parked over there."  As she pointed to a green sedan parked on the side.

I bought a drink and sat outside on the bench taking things in, on this quiet town on the High Plains of America.  A few minutes later I saw a group of youngsters walking across the street on their way to the store.  Only in towns like this do parents let their kids walk a half mile unattended.  The oldest looked about 10 and the youngest came in around 5.  Say what you want about the elites in Boston, New York, or LA, but they don't dare let their kids walk down a city sidewalk unattended, but the same people will tell you they could not live in such a place as Thedford.  All in what you like I guess.
​You don't worry about your kids in Thedford, Nebraska 
After eating I popped a couple of caramels, and to my surprise had a good signal so called Debbie at the office.  "Good day so far, on my way to Rapid City to meet Andy."

Again I stayed too long, but I was in the mood just to hang out and watch. 

I reckoned Alliance to be a 160 or so miles away, so got back on the road.  

Two west bound Harley riders gave me a low wave and I returned the salute.

The wind was at my back, and it made for a slick ride.  "How'd I get so lucky?" I thought in my Arai.
Now that I was entering the true west it was time to pay more respect to the gas gauge.  From now on when the graph goes two bars, time to start looking.  I honored that commitment in Hyannis, and topped off the tank at a BP station.  It was a short stop.

The gauge on the ST put the temp in the low 90s.  An ambient temp meter on a bike is one of the most useful scraps of info a Long Rider can process.  For instance, nearing a thunderstorm, a sudden temp drops tells me a lot is going on up ahead, but if the temp holds fairly steady, then I know its just a quick shower.

There are no corn fields in this part of Nebraska, I guess sandy hills is not the best stuff for growing things.
At last I came to Alliance and immediately started looking for a place to eat.  I settled on a place called "Franks and something I can't remember."  The restaurant was a  little on the fancy side, but ok.  Instead of a waitress I had a waiter.  I hate it when that happens.  I ate a grilled chicken and made a few notes.  I called Mike McGough to check on things back home and in the fire department.  He reported all was quiet.

I left SR 2 for U.S. 395 just north of Alliance and headed for South Dakota.  The route was busy with RVs, mini vans, and SUVs heading for the tourist spots in the Black Hills.  I gobbled them up in huge chunks as I sped to my destination of Mt Rushmore and Rapid City.

I've been in the area several times, but never managed to work Mt Rushmore in.  How that came to be I don't know.  Mt Rushmore is one of the great American landmarks, and required visiting for all Long Riders.

For some reason I grew sleepy in the saddle 30-40 minutes after lunch.  My lunch was low fat, and I slept well last night, so I had no explanation as to why.  I heeded my body, and found a small rest area at the South Dakota-Nebraska state line and came of the road for a nap.  "No need to fight it and risk getting hurt."  I said.  I found a grass spot under a small tree and took a 15 minute nap.

When I woke up I felt much better and got back on the road.  I could see the Black Hills up ahead, and knew my final goal was close at hand.

U.S. 395 through Custer and Hot Springs is touristy and crowded, and I got bogged down in several car lines.  The towns were full of motels and T shirt shops.

The route took me past the Crazy Horse Monument, so I stopped for a few pictures.  The carving is far from finished so I saw no need to pay money to go in the gate.  I could see all I needed from the parking lot.  "Yep, looks like they have a long way to go."  The thing is, I didn't even see anybody working on it, but if they ever do finish, it will be grand.
​Crazy Horse Monument

U.S. 395 winds its up through the Black Hills, taking a Long Rider up to Mount Rushmore.  I left it for SR 244 the road to monument.  Traffic crawled along on the hilly road, but the scenery was good.  The road bended among the rocks and the elevation grew.  The Honda responded to the highway and the riding was fun.  Several turnouts afforded nice vistas out into the rock strewn boulders in the valleys, but they were packed with cars so I skipped them.

The rocky bluffs stuck close to the road so any hooligan riding was out of the question.

Mount Rushmore was better than I thought it would be, and was inspirational.  They don't like it, but I took my pictures from the shoulder of the road.  The visitors center was busy, and the view wasn't going to be any better than what I had, so I saved the 10 bucks.  I knew the story of the Mountain (I have cable) so didn't really need the information pamphlet they pass out at all National Parks and Monuments.
​I took this profile shot of President Washington at one
of the turnouts.

I left Rushmore on SR 16, making a long downhill run towards Rapid City.  Keystone had some kind of dried mud caked all over the road surface, and I had to be extra vigilant at reading the surface.  I did manage to get in a few good leans before entering the city.  Lots of motorcycles were in the area, and I received many friendly waves.

I continued on SR 16 to the city, the hub for the Black Hills.  Traffic was typical of a tourist town in June.
The rally point for Andy and I was the Motel 6.  After stumbling around on I-90 for a few miles I found the unit, ending a 498 mile day. 
I looked around for Andy's 1300 but came up empty, so went to the front desk.

"Hey y'all seen a boy on motorcycle like mine cept silver?"

"yeah checked in about a hour ago"

"where'd that joker go?"

"I dunno he left out about 30 minutes ago."

Andy came in from Cody, not that far a ride.

"You wanna check in?"

"Not right now, I'm thinking I'm gonna split a room with him."

Before I finished the conversation Andy pulled up.  He had been off taking care of some errands. 

I stuck out my hand, "good to see ya bro, havin a good ride?"

"yeah for the most part, Charlie K split off and went southeast this morning."

It was good to see him.  I was ready for some company after all the miles.

Andy turned the TV on back in the room while I unloaded my stuff.  He had the air conditioner on like it was 120 outside, but he's is Canadian, so I didn't say anything about how cold it was.  It was then I got the news we sent Zarqwai to his 73 virgins.  He went room temperature sometime the day before
"I don't reckon he'll cutting off anymore heads, that makes my day."  I told Andy.

I unloaded the Moto Fizz bag, and checked the front pockets of the shorts I had on last night.  I found my keys, right where I thought they would be.

After a shower we took a short hike to the Millstone Cafe for supper.  I had chicken while Andy ate salad.  The company was good and we made plans for my upcoming ride to Eastern Canada, but didn't firm anything up. 
Andy was feeling the miles from this trip and wasn't sure how many miles he wanted to do in late August.  "Look we'll figure it out later, we got time."  I told him.

It was a nice walk back to the room.  I haven't been able to run, and was really missing it and feeling out of shape.  When we returned I needed to pick a few items from Wal Mart and told Andy I was going back out.
He gave me a few bucks to pick up some eye care stuff.  "Pick me up a bottle of this while you're out."  "K"
It was a half mile walk to Wal Mart but that was ok, I needed the exercise no matter how little it was. 

Something is always better than nothing.  On the way back I made my phone calls and checked in with everyone, although I forgot my sister.

Back at the room I realized I picked up the wrong stuff for eye care.  I had some kind of contact solution, but it was the closest thing I could find to what Andy showed me. 

We got in bed, watched a little tv and went to sleep.  The bed felt good, but I can't say it was any better then my therm a Rest and sleeping bag.  Andy is up at 4am to start his long ride back to Toronto.

Andy made it back to Ontario without incident.