Nothing but the Badlands and a Buffalo ‘Sanga’.

Stationary, but not without motion, Denver was in need of rest from Mavis and I, as too were we. Looking on the map trying to figure route plans north into Canada and onwards to Alaska, Badlands National Park in South Dakota kept popping up. With a bike like Mavis and a park name like that, the two were made for each other.

Unwilling to sever ties with Denver completely, nor the lovely Ladies to which it was home, a plan was struck to head north into Nebraska, up to South Dakota, across to the Badlands then loop back into Wyoming before eventually winding up down south in Denver once more in a week. Just in time to partake in a rafting trip on the Colorado River.

With the destination chosen, I waved goodbye to Denver, letting the wind brush past my scuffed weathered jacket as the sun shone and the feeling only the open road can give, resumed top priority in my mind. We hurled along the interstate, eager to turn off to a lesser road and enjoy the landscape of shoulder high corn and recently cut wheat fields at a slower pace.

Stopping for lunch at a small farm town Stirling, Colorado I rounded the main street finding a pub on the corner with a little beer garden out front. Dismounting Mavis, I grabbed the map and found a seat. An aged man in his late 50s, a cane in one hand and a pack of smokes in the other pushed his way through the door and stepped outside as I sat smudging my fingers over the map. Pulling one from the pack, he palmed his pocket and produced a lighter and struck up a flame whilst pacing over in my direction. We got chatting after Marty asked about my “keg” on the back of the motorcycle (referring to my fuel tank, which has a recent addition of a couple”Odell Brewing” stickers, furthering the notion it looks like a beer keg). Asking where I was heading Marty threw in his two cents as to what route I should take, what bars to stop at along the way and who to say ‘hi’ to at them. He’d grown up in farming towns in Nebraska, as I was told and seemed to know what he was talking about in regard to them. He scribbled a few “hot tips” down on a peace of ruffled paper from a pocket and handed it my way, wishing me luck on my trip.

Gradually permeating Nebraska’s vast interior, cruising the peaks and troughs of the undulating plains we made good ground en route to South Dakota. Some have said Nebraska to be dull, boring and repetitive. I somewhat can relate to what they may speak of, but Nebraska definitely grew on me. The beauty of it’s landscape, although at times mundane, was also just as interesting and unique as any other place I’ve visited to date, in it’s own way.

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Hindering to the advice of Marty, I bypassed the Box Butte Reservoir Recreation area of which I planned to spend the night and continued further north to Chadron, Nebraska. Eventually we reached a State Park camping area just outside of town, but I was dissatisfied to its proximity to the hwy. Glancing once more at the map a few other campgrounds were located nearby. Another State Park just down the road felt more like a motel, with a check in desk, gravel pits to pitch the tent and $25 for the pleasure to do so. Quickly we exited the town and continued on along the road. A 100 odd miles further north, Wind Caves NP was located and this seemed like a good option to pitch a tent for the night. The sun quickly set and it seemed as if we’d been riding forever. Eventually we saw light of a petrol station and turned off the road to fill up. After paying our way, I reached into my pack and found the map. We’d traveled an extra 50miles north of the turnoff and now were truly in South Dakota. The night was getting cold as the mist started to set in. I decided to try one of the many campgrounds listed on the map within the Black Hills, Custer State Park to our West. In we drove under the cover of darkness. Mavis’ eyes shining little light on our path. Campsite after campsite, they were either full or reserved. My visor started to fog and site of the roads edge was lost. I cursed and continued riding. Nothing could be done but to continue until a place to rest was found for the night. An hour or two later, we ventured into one of the last unexplored camping areas. The place had ample room and I set up the new tent in the dark.

Waking the next morning to the sounds of gunfire, I knew I’d now reached South Dakota. A chipmunk decided Mavis was the perfect vantage point as I fixed some breakfast before setting out for the day. Bellies full off we raced eager to reach Sturgis before veering East to the Badlands. Deciding earlier that if I weren’t to go to the motorcycle rally, I’d at least go to the town, and I did need to replace a balding rear tyre also. The day started off pleasant as we cornered our way along with blue sky’s and a warming sun. A late change brought with it showers. At first light, but gradually as I rushed to put my wet riding jacket on, light hail, then full blown downpour and gusty winds. Coming to an intersection, the sign read “Sturgis North, Rapid City East”. I figured I could go to Sturgis on my return and Rapid City was a more direct route to The Badlands.

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The rain persisted, as did the stream of road wash into my face. Reaching Rapid City it was time to re-provision before heading out east. I asked the check-out-chick at the Supermarket what the forecast was and told her where I was heading. She explained that if the weather was bad right there in town, it would be much worse further out in the plains to the East, especially over at the Badlands. With the suggestion to stay in town a day or two, a campground was found just outside of town with a shower and laundry.

Overnight the rain eased a little, but the ground was still damp along with the outside of my tent. After cramming everything back into its place, strapping on the bike a quick feed was in order before we were ready to go, back on the road and heading East. Choosing against the interstate, we hurled along the lesser highway which would take us to the south entrance to the park. An hour or two later and the Badlands NP was insight. As instructed by the sign, we turned down a dirt road. Prairie dogs a plentiful, we passed along the road, followed by a cloud of dust. Four Vultures sat on a fence. A rattle snake slithered across the road narrowly being run down by Mavis. I knew we’d finally reached The Badlands.

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Peeling away my helmet for the ride through the park, strapping it to the back, I tied up my bandanna and turned back onto the road. Mavis quickly died and limped to a sudden stop. I jumped off and poked about. Noticing a loose battery contact I gave it a jiggle. It seemed to do the job and we got the wheels once again rolling.

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Two campgrounds within the park, one free the other not. I opted for the freebie. Fifteen odd miles later of dirt and loose gravel, Mavis held up her end of the bargain, and despite her less than treaded tyre, performed rather well. On approach to the campground, I noticed a lone Bison milling about in the long grass. Stopping by the roads edge I snapped away on the Canon. Sitting down for a quick bite to eat with some “Buffalo Salami” (purchased from a local supermarket), cheese and tomato sandwiches I found myself amongst a migrating herd of the beasts within the campground. The sandwich didn’t taste the same so I cracked open some vino to wash it down.

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A day or two passed and it was time get back on the road. Camp packed up we braced for the bumpy ride out of the park. It was finally time to head to Sturgis via the interstate and Wall in South Dakota. Reaching Wall, we stopped off at the somewhat famous “Wall Drug” to get a breakfast feed. Upon completion, and a little wander about the historic Western town, I found Mavis and threw on my helmet. A young boy raced over holding something in his hand. “You left you’re knife back at the campground” he said, handing my pocket knife, a gift from an uncle back in Portland.

We made Sturgis by late afternoon after a blustery day’s ride via the Mount Rushmore National Monument and the Needles Hwy in the Black Hills. The town was horrible and the only thing going for it was I guess the annual motorcycle rally. Some nearby towns made up the discrepancy in charm as we headed off towards Wyoming.

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We raced through the long open roads of Wyoming. Breaching the Century mark by considerable digits (mph) Mavis’ tachometer cable snapped under the speed of the strained RPM’s whilst we whizzed by multiple cars . After all the ‘pussy footing’ about on the way up in regard to camping spots, a decision was struck to head back into Nebraska and hit up the Box Butte Reservoir after all. At one point I felt like the guy on the push bike in “Paperboy” the arcade game. Tumble weeds from the plains bolled about onto the road in front of me as Mavis swerved and dodged them with the agility of racing bike.

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Setting up camp to a retreating sun, the cotton wood trees above rustled in the light breeze. I lay on my back atop a picnic table, clear Nebraskan nights sky above and pondered life’s path, stars shimmering away. The following morning, direction less for the day, I fixed a cup of tea in an old tin can and browsed the map. I felt like staying another night by the lakes shore, within the grove of trees. As this thought was struck, the trees above started to rock and sway with a sudden increase of wind. Something didn’t feel right and I decided to leave. Not more than a minute after packing the tent away, I heard a cracking above. A large limb from a tree feel through the branches below and came crashing down to the ground where once my tent lay!

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Two and half thousand miles later and I returned to Denver. Mavis’s rear tyre was now a black bald slick and a short rest was needed. A fresh Colorado River rafting trip on the weekend made for a nice break from all the riding.

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