Westward ho, the rest of the story

On Sunday morning, Ben and I drop our sister, Sarah, off at work

(I also find this on her fridge)

sarah and easter bunny

Then we pack up our bikes and head toward Iowa CIty to have lunch with Alaina’s brother and sister-in-law.

Oh, and we buy those awesome PBR hats at Dirty John’s. They have an incredible beer section. After some kick-ass tacos and some lovely A/C at El Banditos, we kinda face to the north, and real subtle-like turn left. We ride through the late afternoon heat and traffic and heat. Did I mention it’s on the warm side? 100 degrees or more? Feels like riding into a hair dryer. We make terrible time. By early evening, we stop in Fort Dodge for some milkshakes and onion rings.

Ben looking tired in Fort Dodge, IA

And stay for a while to rest. See, riding isn’t like driving a car. You have to use all four limbs to control a burning hot 700 pound machine, all while balancing in the wind, and making sure the cars, minivans, and trucks (to whom you’re completely invisible) don’t turn you into a 1/4 mile skid mark. It’s also incredibly, indescribably fun.

As the sun sets over the Iowa corn fields

seth iowa sunset

we stop to put our leathers back on. And take some pictures, of course.

seth and ben faces in Iowa

Then I hear some coyotes that were pretty damn close. I suggest we get going. Ben poses for some more pics :)

After a couple more stops, we make it to our campground in Sioux City at about 11:30 PM. It is still hot, but there’s a nasty storm getting closer and promising relief. We leave the rain fly off of the (very small) two-person backpacking tent I brought. It’s… cozy. Around 1:00 AM, some fat raindrops fall on us, so we get up, put the covers on the bikes, and put the rain fly on the tent. Now it smells like two sweaty, dirty bikers, and it’s even more sweltering. Oh, and it never actually rains.

The next morning, we wake up around 5:30, shower, put on the same dirty clothes, pack up camp and go in search of coffee.

One of the first things we see in South Dakota

Seth and Ben at South Dakota border

is a teepee (of sorts)

So, I lie down

seth teepee ground

to get a cool shot

south dakota teepee looking up

And make some more faces.

seth and ben teepee faces

And off we go again.

I29 in South Dakota

seth in helmet on SR 50 in South Dakota

Ben burns his arm, but disguises it

ben burn his arm

And finally make it to Buffalo Gap National Grassland

Seth Gray and Ben Gray at Buffalo Gap

Where there’s a whole lot of nothing

buffalo gap national grassland

Then on to the Badlands

Seth at Badlands

seth on bike at badlands

We actually don’t stay at the Badlands that long– it’s about 105 degrees, and there are too many rubbernecking tourists in minivans, SUVs, and trucks pulling campers as big as houses. Also, not enough bikes.

After the Badlands, we cross the Cheyenne River valley. When we roll through there, the temperature on the west side of the river is at least 15 degrees cooler. It feels amazing. Of course, there’s also a 25 mph crosswind from the north doing its best to blow my helmet off.

We decide to get a hotel in Sturgis, rather than camp. Good thing, too. We meet some pretty cool Canadians who suggest the Loud American for dinner.

seth and some Shiner Bock

After which, I’m pretty pumped to be at the Black Hills Rally.

seth at the sturgis rally photo wall

Then we sleep. A lot. 1,300+ miles over two days, with a total of about 6 hours sleep.

Now, I know the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally hadn’t officially started. And that picture of me and the crowd is obviously me in front of the Sturgis 2011 photo wall. But, the vendors were all there setting up and it was the closest we could get to being at the rally. I looked forward to this trip like a hipster looks forward to growing a mustache  growing a huge beard  getting a tattoo of a toaster being ironic, but the end of July couldn’t come soon enough. Lily & Cohen were coming home on the 31st after being with their mom for all of July (a couple nights with us in the middle). It felt weird without Lily and Cohen around. Too quiet. 31 days without my kids sucked, and I wanted to be home when they got there.

The next morning is cool and clear. The plan is to ride through the Black Hills all day and see the sights. The main attraction really is the riding, though. There’s just something about this place. Winding, hilly, smoothly-paved roads. Peaks and valleys. Farms and forest. It actually smells like pine. But pictures and words won’t let you feel the rear suspension settle in while you roll on the throttle and lean in to the curve. Or Be dazzled by the rising sun sparkling over a valley when you crest a hill.

But here are the randomly-ordered pictures anyway:

Ben tells me later that he was afraid at first. Genuinely, seriously afraid. Of the break in routine. Of the travel. Afraid of the unknown, mostly. But, once he loaded up his bike and we set out on the super slab, it was a life changing experience. Because if he can be so terrified, but do it anyway– and have such a great experience– he can do anything. He’s been a much happier person since we got back, and we’re already planning the next trip.
2,961 miles, 7 states, and a lifetime of memories. Can’t wait to do it again (and go to Yellowstone) next year.
Loud pipes save lives,
11 Responses to Westward ho, the rest of the story
  1. Stacia Reply

    Loved this, loved the pics and I even LOL’d a few times. :) So glad you both had the chance to do that and glad it was memorable!!!

    • seth Reply

      actual LOLs are pretty rare, nowadays. Glad you did!

  2. Lindsay Reply

    lol same. I love the cheesy ass faces, those are some real great shots there :) ahhaa

    • seth Reply

      thanks! Yeah, we obviously take ourselves very seriously ;)

  3. Jillian Reply

    What everyone really wants to know is why is Ben so darn cute?

    • alaina Reply

      He is Seth’s brother! ; ) All of the men in the family are very handsome.

      • Jillian Reply

        You’re one lucky lady :)

  4. Brian Estabrook Reply

    Fantastic. I’m quite jealous of such a tremendous journey.

    • seth Reply

      :) thanks! It was an awesome trip.

  5. secondtononewife Reply

    We are leaving to drive across Canada next week, but being in a car doesn’t compare to a bike. Maybe next year! What was it like having a girl around on a typically guy trip?

    • seth Reply

      Have a great time! Seeing the countryside change is so cool, even in a car. But yeah, I prefer to be in the scenery on a bike, rather than watch it pass in a car.

      Alaina actually didn’t go– lots of client work that week. Also, I ride a Dyna Super Glide Sport with a Sundowner seat– much better than stock for long rides, but still kinda painful for the passenger after a few hundred miles. Riding 500+ miles a day for at least a week on that passenger seat would really suck. So, either we’re going to get a geezer glide (Street Glide, Road Glide, or Electra Glide) or Alaina’s going to get her own bike.

      She really wanted to go, and Ben and I wanted her to go too. Would’ve been awesome.

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