I’ll Take That Bet


As a half-inch of ice covers my little world, I find myself walking past my motorcycle in the garage wondering if it will ever see sunlight again. I know it will, but at the end of November it feels like a warm(er) day of riding is a long way from today.
I have been known to ride through the dark days of winter and as long as it’s not dangerous, I can put up with cold temperatures. I draw the line however, at dangerous or soon-to-be dangerous roads. There are too many things out of my control when dealing with the weather and those other folks that have their hands on the steering wheel sharing my little piece of asphalt. Like pulling up a chair in Vegas at the blackjack table you have to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em. Ice? I fold’em.

So when I ran into the owner of this motorcycle, I had to question his sanity. He left central Missouri on his way to York Nebraska for Thanksgiving, stopping just long enough to warm up and make a phone call or two. It was on the Wednesday before the holiday and it was cold and over-cast but dry. He said he was returning on Saturday, and me being a junior meteorologists and the proud owner of a crystal ball, I told him there was no way he would be riding back on Saturday. He proved me wrong, but he also proved me right at the same time. I was wrong about him coming back by on Saturday, but I was right about how riding in the winter is all about mental fortitude. He was soaked through and through. His leather jacket and insulated bib overalls were heavy with drizzle and his gloves were dripping from the ice that was melting on them. He was in high spirits considering his situation. As for me, I would have pulled over long before I got to this point. Not that I don’t have the fortitude to ride in the cold, and for that matter I feel I would have been a little more prepared by wearing a proper rain suit. But the roads were only going to get worse and the traffic was heavy due to the holiday. In other words, not a good hand at the blackjack table and it was not a good bet to continue on.

So after a handshake and a pat on his shoulder wishing him a safe trip, he climbed aboard his bike and took off heading east with another 3-4 hours of road ahead of him. Knowing he would arrive at his destination after dark, I knew the worst was yet to come for him. The glare from the headlights off the icy windshield and his full-face helmet would be sketchy at best and all of this while being tired and cold. I hope he made it safely. I hope he knows that complete strangers were worried about him. I hope he knows how dangerous it was to be doing this.

I know one thing for sure. He made a promise to me on Wednesday that he would return, and he did. A man of his word – and I have a feeling he made someone else a promise that he would make it home safe and sound. Safe travels my friend and I know we’ll meet again.


Sturgis or…Bust?


I was so looking forward to the 75th Annual Sturgis Rally and at one point I wasn’t sure if this year was going to happen – read: Clarityville. Like every year, this gives me a chance to get away and spend a week riding the highways and byways of Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota while finding interesting things along the way. As I’ve said before, Sturgis is a great place to turn around because it’s the ride I so look forward to, and although a good time is always had during the rally, weather can also play a big part in having a great trip versus a good trip. You see, there really isn’t such a thing as a bad trip to Sturgis. Well…

Planning this trip every year always starts about a week after I get back from the rally, and last year was no different. As winter rolls in you lose a little urgency and just like everything else, plans are put on the back-burner until the first break in the weather and then it all fires back up. Who’s going, who can’t go and all the other details and gossip that go along with planning for Sturgis seem to find their way into the conversation whenever there’s the false sense of Spring in air. We know the trip is happening but like a kid who can’t wait for the last day of school, it’s not getting here fast enough. I swear, we’re just like little kids sometimes.

I heard rumors and I’ve seen old grainy photos of what appears to be people going to Sturgis with dare I say, their motorcycle on a trailer. Heck, I didn’t know you could put a motorcycle on a trailer and why would you? It is a self-propelled machine capable or moving bodies and souls great distances with little more than the twist of the throttle. So this year it happened to me; in a borrowed trailer I hauled my touring bike to the rally. Gasp! A touring bike on a trailer. Where do you buy a t-shirt that says “I hauled mine?” Oh, the verbal beating I will take for this.

Gasp! A touring bike on a trailer. Where do you buy a t-shirt that says “I hauled mine to Sturgis 2015?” Oh, the verbal beating I will take for this.

Let me say this. After hitting rain across the Kansas/Nebraska border, hauling it didn’t seem so bad. After all, I’m delicate. I’ve ridden to the rally 8 years in a row with nothing to prove, and this “pulling a trailer” thing was a little foreign to me. Such things as wipers, a comfortable seat with armrests and climate control changed everything. If I didn’t know any better, I would have wondered why there were so many bikes on the road all heading in the same direction. But wait, I knew better. After a long day behind the wheel, camp was set up, the bike was unloaded and it was a quick ride into Sturgis for a bite to eat. Lot’s of people and somewhat tough to park, but not too bad. Saturday night was pretty uneventful and after all, I did have a long day driving. Can you tell I’m a little bitter about not riding this year? Yeah.


Sunday plans were to ride to Spearfish and head through the canyon to Lead and then south to Rapid City. Back up through Custer State Park into Keystone, Hill City and Deadwood, ending back up in Sturgis. A good days riding and I really hoped to get 250 miles on the bike before it got hot and crowded in the Black Hills. That was the plan… Hitting I-90 west to Spearfish my motorcycle coughed and hesitated. Hmmm. Surely a fluke, I thought to myself. Stopping in Lead about 60 miles later, the decision was made to go back to Sturgis, abandoning the plans due to heavy traffic and a bunch of folks out on the roads that probably shouldn’t have been there – at least on motorcycles. What’s a couple of close calls among friends?

After getting back into town and wandering around for a few hours it was time to head back to the campground for a siesta. Apparently pulling a trailer with your motorcycle in it can wear a fella out. Pulling up to a stop sign leading up to the main drag in and out of Sturgis, my bike died. I fired it up, got a block further and it died again. Rinse, lather, repeat for another couple of blocks and then it wouldn’t start. An innocent bystander watching the parade of bikes rolling into town from his front yard, asked if I needed a ride somewhere, and I gladly accepted. Pretty handy having a pickup and trailer just down the road in the campground isn’t it?

I know what you’re thinking. Am I glad I towed the bike to the rally? Yes, and of course no. The unpredictability of a breakdown is always there no matter where you ride. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have this happen to me on any other trip, and I guess I was probably due. The fact that I trailered this year is pure luck and as a biker, we usually have a plan B in the event of a breakdown. You do have a plan B don’t you?

So as much as I wanted to stay, it was a little difficult getting around in the pickup. With my frustration level peaking, it was only logical to leave the rally early. Two days early. Driving as far as North Platte Nebraska to spend the night, the rain convinced me that I would rather be in the cab of the truck than on a bike. What is it about rain and Nebraska? Or am I getting soft? I think I actually used the word “delicate” earlier. Wednesday, when I should have been planning on an evening at The Knuckle Saloon for the fights I was changing a blowout on the trailer which ruined the tire and wheel. A borrowed trailer at that. Thanks Russ!


All said, it was a trip to be remembered. Pictures? I took 14. Miles ridden? 80. Rain? Yes. Will there be a next year? Probably.