I was standing at a scenic stop on Iron Mountain Road in the Black Hills of South Dakota when a few motorcycle riders approached me and the friend I was traveling with.
“Where in Illinois are you from?” he asked, saying he saw the license plates on our bikes.
We said Rockford. He said he and his wife were from Mount Morris. Another rider was from Rochelle and the final one from Rockford.
Talk about a small world.
This was Day 3 of a 2,685-mile motorcycle ride a recently retired friend of mine, Doug, and I took through Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Meeting Roger Miller, his wife and friends was a very surreal moment in a trip filled with beauty and memorable moments.
The day before we rode Iron Mountain Road, I was able to see Mount Rushmore for the first time. I must say, I was pretty overwhelmed by this incredible monument. It is truly majestic, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to make the trip.
The next day we rode all over the Black Hills. Besides the beautiful twist and turns of Iron Mountain Road, we rode the Needles Highway, with rocks shooting out of the ground skyward, hairpin turns and a narrow roads cut through rock. Then on to the Wildlife Trail, where we saw buffalo – yes, they are huge – wild burros and big horn sheep.
As a history buff, Day 4 was one I was really looking forward to. We rode from Spearfish, S.D., up to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. I have read multiple books on the battle at the Little Bighorn – from the perspective of the Army and the Native Americans.
This is a very sobering place. You can stand at the top of Last Stand Hill, where Lt. Col. (his regular Army rank) George Custer and members of the 7th Cavalry were killed during the battle. From the hill, you can look down to where a large Native American encampment was, and imagine the battle raging on the hills and plains.
For anyone interested in that moment in history, this national park is well worth the entrance fee. It stuck with me for days.
On a happier note, after we left the park, we rode over to a nearby trading post and I had the best Indian fry break taco I have ever had. OK, it was my first, but it was fantastic!
The ride back to Spearfish – our center of operations for a few days – seemed to take forever. We rode through a big chunk of Wyoming, and I have to give credit to the hearty souls who live there. To me, there was a whole lot of nothing … everywhere.
The next day we hit motorcycle hot spot Sturgis, S.D. to check out the town. The huge annual rally is held there in August, so it was pretty much a ghost town when we visited. That was fine with me. With our current COVID-19 situation, I wouldn’t want to be around large crowds.
We then hit up Deadwood, S.D., which is a real tourist town. We even saw the reenactment of Wild Bill Hickok getting shot in the saloon it happened in back in 1876 – just two months after Custer was killed up in Montana.
The ride home took two days. The first was our longest of the trip in a single day – about 580 miles. That is tough enough on a motorcycle, but when fighting 40 mph wind gusts it was downright exhausting.
We made it home on Sunday, Sept. 20. I was tired, needed a shower and had a backpack full or dirty laundry. My motorcycle was filthy and bug covered.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There is nothing like riding a bike long distances. We are already planning the next ride out to Roswell, N.M. in 2021. I just hope we don’t get abducted by aliens.