Things to read...

If time is short, I'd suggest reading at LEAST The Prologue and Legend of The Pinto Bean Posts!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Are we there yet?

Hello all.... After posting the Rushmore trip, I headed out to my next destination; Sturgis, South Dakota. Most people probably have heard of this, but in the even you watch even less TV than me, it's a small town that is essentially Mecca for the Harley-Davidson crowd. Being that I at one time tried to get into riding Harleys, I decided I needed to go see this spectacle. Yes, I really said it, I DID once ride Harleys. Now, don't get me wrong, the Harley is a great bike if you are truly a fan of turn of century technology. No.... not 2000... try 1900's. Maybe they aren't THAT far back in time, but close enough...

I came to ride one compliments of infectious mononucleosis, aka mono, aka the kissing disease. Now before anyone gets all confused and starts trying to figure out how a dork like me was kissing enough women to catch mono, let me assure you this was not a problenm I had to deal with. Instead, I caught it from drinking after someone else while sharing water bottles in the hellish heat of Fort Hood. I got it in July in Texas, and suffered through it initially. For the uninitiated, mono basically causes your body to expel everything it has ever consumed out both ends as fast as possible, explosively even. Then you get a nifty sore throat that makes you feel like someone tried to do a tonsilectomy with a spoon. Finally, just in case the fun wasn't enough, it saps every ounce of energy inm your body, forcing you to sleep 23/7. Yes, that's right, it turns you back into a teenager. Anyhow, after visiting the emergency room three times on a four day weekend, only to be sent home with motrin each time, I went on sick call when work started back up. The expert medical officers attending to me there immediately realized that I was faking because I waited until AFTER the four day weekend to go on sick call. Did I mention my ER trips? Well after they realized that my neck should not be 22 inches around, the diagnosis of mono was made, and I was given 10 days leave to go home and recover. Well now, my commander wasn't having any of that. I mean, who goes on leave for a sore throat?! Well he demanded that I go to the clinic and get it changed to "light duty for 14 days".

Well I show up at the clinic where a higher ranking doctor sees me dying in the waiting room, and asks me why I'm there. I croaked the story to him about how i needed less recovery time as per my commander. He was not amused. He calmly explained that light duty would result in my death by exhaustion, and instead gave me 21 days leave (10 was the original) and sent me back to my commander. He was even less amused. Well the commander calls the clinic eager to chew out the lower ranking officer who did that. I guess I should have mentioned that I didn't SEE the low ranking guy, but it was too late. There were a lot of "no sirs" and "no I wouldn't like that sir" being said as I sat there listening to my commander realize the error of his ways. I was on a plane home that afternoon. How does all this equal a Harley, you wonder? Read on...

Well after I'd been home for about a week, I started to get better and therefore restless. Unfortunately since I had flown, I had no car there, and my family lives just a mile or two south of the middle of nowhere. Well dad suggested that maybe I ride his wife's little Harley Sportster. Apparently dad had forgotten my track record thus far. Well I get out on the bike and ride up and down the road for about half the day, and then ask if I can ride out to my cousins. They say I can, and as I left handed me a leather vest, just in case.... Well I take off down the road, basking in the glory of my coolness, riding a Harley and whatnot. I turn onto the curvy road to my cousins, and begin my ride. I gleefully cruise on, smelling the nice country air, anf continuing to bask in said glory, probably wishing all my friends could see me. Then I come up on the worst curve on the road.... Which I sucessfully navigate because I am in fact, The Man. Well maybe two miles farther on, I'm still basking, congratulating myself on riding so well, and trying to see if ther eis any way I can possible look cooler when that opportunity presents itself. Off on my right are several people on a porch, enthusiastivcally waving. Realizing the potential to go at least like +7 in coolness, I briefly look over and give a small wave. They stare back in awe of my coolness. I beam with cool glee. Then I look back forward to see that the road is making a violent turn to the left. In retrospect it might have been more of a gentle change in direction, but whatever, we're not here to argue road design. Seeing the turn, I do the only thing I knew how to do on a bike, and execute what is commonly known as "blind panic." This is a skill I have mastered, and used with predictable results most every time. As I grab the front brake and slied off into the grass, I realize that I just went like -5647789235468 in cool points. well the bike slingshots me off, and I slide across the grass on my chest, and then up onto the road, leaving a fair amount of elbow and knee skin at the transition point. My brain briefly registers pain while still mulling the loss of coolness. As I slide to a stop, the waving family comes running up, tryinf not to trip over the shattered ego lying all over the place. They help me up and bring me back to the house so I can go through what will become my "post tradgedy ritual" of calling my dad. This
is never a good phone call. It went something like this:

Dad: "Hello?"

Battered and bruised son: "Uh hey"

D: "Where'd you wreck"

BABS: "D*mmit"

Well they then came out to get me and haul me and the bike back to the house. Luckily since it was a low speed crash, the bike wasn't hurt too badly, though I was feeling like crap. This was about to spiral downwards... After we got the bike put away, my dad invited my uncles over to "help clean my wounds." At least that was his premise... I suspect it was more along the lines of so everyone could laugh hysterically as I cried like a little girl during the debriding. This is where someone scrubs debris out of an open wound. This is accomplished by a lot of hard scrubbing, a lot of peroxide, and a lot of laughter on the part of the people holding the unlucky participant down. Having been on both sides of this before, I can indeed say it is a lot funnier to be the scrubber and not the scrubbee. After I was scrubbed out, I was then bandaged up and sent on my way. I spent the next two weeks walking around like some odd cross between Frankenstein and The Mummy. This was also effectively the end of my Harley days. Oh I got back on it before leave was over, but I never enjoyed it again. I also think I was the only person I ever knew to go back from convalescent leave MORE jacked up than when I left. Hard to believe this was nowhere near my last motorcycle crash, either...

Anyhow, back to Sturgis, I have to say that Sturgis when the bike rally isn't happening looks suspiciously a lot like a small town. Yeah there are a strangely large number of bars and tattoo shops, but other than that, it wasn't very exciting. The main drag is lined with the usual tourist stores, and there were more bikes there than most small towns, but still nothing spectacular. I had a burger and then beat feet out of town, anxious to get to the Devil's Tower.

Now the Devil's Tower was way cooler. The drive up is quite a site in and of itself, and nearly woth the ride alone. After you get off the interstate, it is all two lane winding road up the Northeastern Wyoming. The land slowly starts to break apart, and red rock outcroppings begin to poke through the prairie and hills. It is hard to tell if the desert is trying to take over the prairie, or if it's the other way around. As you go up and down the hills, the scenery begins to get more rugged, and finally as you crest a seemingly innocuous hill, the tower raises up before you in the distance. For the next fifteen minutes it continues to disappear and reappear, each time looming larger than the last. Finally you descend into the valley it's in, and the magnitude of the tower begins to take hold.

The tower is the result of a volcanic uprising millions of years ago. The stone pushed up through the land that was there above it but never broe through, and then cooled into the the tower. Over the last several eons, erosion has stripped the surrounding soft soil from the tower, leaving the formation as a lone sentry in the valley. It rises over a thousand feet into the air, and the top of it is about the size of a football field. As you get closer you can begin to make out lines on the side the go from top to bottom. The indian legends usually tell of a bear that tried to get to some children that were saved when the ground took them to the skies. As the ground rose, the bear angrily clawed the sides, leaving the tell-tale marks. When you get to the base, there are trails that you can take to get close. Winding through the tall. dark ponderosa pines you finally arive at a huge boulder field that gives rise to the tower. The boulders serve as evidence of the erosion. Looking up at the tower you can see many large birds of prey circling around, enjoying the thermals whilst looking for a prairie dog snack. RTD wanted one of those, too.... I neglected to mention that as you go into the park, you pass a huge prairie dog complex. They are all over the place, and constantly bark and banter at the vehicles as they go by. Rocky wanted out soooooo badly. In te interest of avoiding having my dog show up on YouTube as a "dog gets mauled by rodents, pimplike cat seen laughing in background" video, he had to stay in the Bean.
After I left the park I debated on going to yellowstone, but ultimately decided to continue to Glacier National Park, since Yellowstone has probably been covered in 974535 blogs already, and the pictures of GNP looked nicer. What can I say, I'm a sucker for scenery! The drive through NE Wyoming was breathtaking, and if I were ever to be a hermit, this is where I'd go, at least for spring. Eastern Montana on the other hand taught me that the sparseness of Minnesota was a veritable metropolis in comparison. While it is not quite as flat, you will drive for miles without seeing another sign of humankind other than the fence on the side of the road. When the Zombies take over, this is where I'm coming. For the last 60 miles I saw eight vehicles total. Desolation takes on a new meaning here. Add grass and the occassional tree to pictures you've seen of the moon, and you have Eastern Montana. Tonight I'm in Miles City, and tomorrow I head for the park! So until then, have fun!!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the picture and description of Sturgis -- without a million "older, not tummy-challenged" guys on bikes. (Was that PC enough?)

The Tower looks amazing. Thanks for that, too. Didn't realize how sparse the population is out there.
Take care,

Danielle said...

Great pics Daniel! I think the motorcycle story is even funnier for me cause I know your Dad! Safe travels!

JimandJanet said...

Trying to figure out how you make a story about mono and road rash sound so (+6?) cool.

davintosh said...

Your comments about the boring straight roads in South Dakota tell me that you took the wrong ones, with the goal that too many people have in mind when crossing the state; to get it done in as little time as possible. Sorry to say you missed a lot. I hope you didn't travel I90 all the way across.

And I could've told you that Sturgis isn't all it's cracked up to be (not much to see if there aren't a hundred thousand bikers milling about), and that there's a lot more to see in the Black Hills than Mt. Rushmore and Sturgis. There are a lot of tourist traps in the Hills, and you need a local to help you see past them.

Oh well. Stay safe, and have fun!

Sheila said... I too tried to be a rider at one point, signing up for a motorcycle safety course in Kingsport. The motorcycle thing didn't work out too well for me either. I was in the process of riding up a rather large hill in my neighborhood when a woman walking her dog decided to let the dog wander out into the road. Needless to say I had to stop on the large incline to avoid running over her dog....I was then stuck. I couldn't walk the bike up the hill (it was too steep), I couldn't walk the bike down the hill (the bike was too heavy) and I just couldn't get it going without stalling. After about 10 minutes stuck I was hoping that someone would come out of their house and offer help rather than just looking out the window at me. Eventually I gave it full throttle and jerked my way up the rest of the hill (with slight whiplash). That was the last time I drove one. I love riding on a bike....but as a passenger now.

Interesting to see the pics of Mt. Rushmore. I watched National Treasure II this weekend and it so happens that the secret city of gold is behind those mountains somewhere! HA! Anyways, great pictures and even better blog. I almost feel like I know you! Be safe.