I spent about five days just outside Vermillion, SD at a County Park. They had electric connection but no water. For a mere $15 a night I thought I’d give it a shot and it worked out pretty well. I was right next to the shower house which was well kept and they had a utility sink outside for dishes. All in all it was a good deal and lovely place. I rode My Girl to town each morning except for the one when it rained. I would work for a 5-6 hours from the McDonald’s or a park and then I’d tool around a bit on the bike before going back to the trailer. One evening a couple from the RV next door came over and said hello. I sat that evening with Krystal and Chad for a long time chatting and laughing. Along my travels I am often blessed to meet such great people.
Saturday morning came and it was time to make my way to my first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I originally had reservations at an RV park in Hill City but then a female rider on a FB group called, “Women Who Ride Rock”, offered her yard and extra bedroom to any single female riders coming to Sturgis. My friend Noelle saw the post and shared it with me. Sue, the lady that made the post, accepted my request and so it was her home that I was bound for to stay during Sturgis.
The drive to Sturgis was relatively uneventful for the most part but I found it fascinating to watch the landscape change from just one side of the state to the other. And of course, at every gas stop there were motorcyclists and somebody to have a chat with before carrying-on. The closer I got to Sturgis, the more and more motorcycles I started to see; they were everywhere. Not 20 miles from Sue’s home in Rapid City I encountered traffic due to a car accident. We were completely stopped on the interstate for at least a mile or more. I was in the right lane and another obvious motorcyclist with an RV and bike trailer was next to me in the left lane. The dude in the passenger seat had his feet out the window relaxing. Since I usually drive with my prosthetic off I thought I’d be funny and stick my leg out the window and relax too. The two guys laughed and we chatted through the windows for a while. The passenger (Jay) came to my door and though we were barely doing 3mph he walked alongside my truck and chatted with me until traffic moved again.
I made it to Sue’s and met her mom and dogs as well. I relaxed and shared stories with the ladies before setting up my trailer for the duration. I had encountered some weight/shifting issues and one piece of aluminum siding was ripping away from the rivets in the beams; this would have to be fixed before I could move on. I also had to do something about the weight and shifting.
In short, during my stay in Rapid City, I was able to repair the siding, donate a lot of stuff I really did not need to survive, and distribute my weight more evenly. All a learning process – no sooner did I have bugs worked out from just living in the trailer for several months, but now I went and added 800+ pounds in motorcycle. Here’s hoping the repairs hold up and my smarts served me ok on this one.
Sue took me into Sturgis on Sunday via a couple neighborhood roads and not right down Main St. I really did not want to deal with that. We parked on 1st St and had a really good spot close to Main St. We walked the strip and checked out some of the vendors, then headed to Jack Daniels for a beer and some people watching. We hung out for a while and then went home to a great dinner with her Mom.
During my Sturgis trip I was blessed many times over to run into people that either knew me from Illinois or follow me online. I am always humbled and thankful when I run into these types of folks. I don’t really feel all that special (special ed some days… hehehe) but folks would like to do what I do and they appreciate my “don’t give up” attitude. I figure it this way, NOBODY IN THIS WORLD WILL CHANGE MY LIFE BUT ME, and so I just do what is in my heart and what burns in my soul.
Another girl from the same FB group I mentioned earlier was also coming to stay with Sue, as Sue’s mom was going home in time for the switch. As it turned out that girl only stayed one night but then my friend Mary from MN decided to come and voila, Sue welcomed her, so it all worked out.
I went alone to ride Spearfish Canyon and got a little rain on the way there. I stopped for lunch and waited for it to pass. It seemed it had and bikers flee the restaurants in town – off to their rides. I made my way through Spearfish Canyon and could hardly believe how lush and green the area was. Rock formations jut upward into the sky and waterfalls come out of the middle of the mountain sides. Ahhh…. I finally made it. I stopped at every few pull-offs to take pictures and then the clouds began to roll in again. It’s very peculiar weather around Sturgis. I was only about half way through the canyon when the skies opened up again. With very few pull-offs and most of them gravel and dirt, I proceeded cautiously in the pouring down rain. Being back on a bike for only a month or so and BAM… get it all at once. Once I got out of the canyon I stopped at a wayside that was loaded with motorcycles and their humans – ALL DRENCHED AND MUDDY!! There were a few washouts we shared as we wrung out our gear as best we could. Some of those puppies made your hair stand on end. It was a beautiful ride and I got to chat with a lot a cool folks, so it was a great day for riding.
During the week I worked each morning until noon on client stuff, my own stuff, or repairs and clean-out. I got to ride with Mary and Sue passed Mt. Rushmore and when we left the pull-off, given the incline and my lack of good reach my side-stand didn’t go up. ARGH – I felt like an idiot when I had to pull back over and ask a dude to kick it up. Usually I plan better; note to self. We got some more rain so we suited up on the roadside and not much further we had to take it off again as it cleared and warmed. We made our way the long way through the Wildlife Viewing Trail into Sturgis.
I can’t remember the name of the band but it was a hard rock band at The Knuckle. Sue and Mary did their thing and I rocked in my own little space to the band for a long while. Then wouldn’t you know, somebody comes up behind me and it’s Tim, Tracy, and Neil from Chicago. I hung out with them for a while before they made their way out as they were leaving the next day. Mary, Sue and I eventually made our way home as well and slept in after a long day of riding. We spent some time getting the linkage on Mary’s bike fixed. Soon Mary and I would pull out and make our way to her nephew’s cidery in Cedaredge, CO.
During my Sturgis trip I was delighted to do an episode of ROAD Lines on Sturgis history and I was honored to have Joan aka Lady Road Dog from Steel Horse Sisterhood on the show with me. Chee the producer at The Road Hawgs joined me as well for some history on Sturgis and rides in the area.
I am riding my motorcycle at my own pace and regaining confidences that were shattered. I still wince going around a blind curve, most particularly when a car shoots around. I have not brought myself to do the drop-off mountain roads because my vertigo and fear limits me. It will come in time, or maybe not. This is a beautiful life I lead, but it is not without its lows. I miss my son and granddaughter daily; I accept that I have given up this time in hopes that future days will be something I can share with them and perhaps they might be proud of me. I have gained a new and greater faith in the Lord. I have gained more respect for myself and a deeper pride in my own abilities.
Following Sturgis, I decided to tag along with my friend Mary to see her nephew and his family in Cedaredge, CO. We traveled along for two days before reaching his place; Mary on her Harley and me with rig in tow. The one thing I can say is that the trudge up and down / twist and turn was not an easy fuel bill to swallow. Colorado though had me in awe from the first 100 miles. There was a portion of our drive in that really gave me some grief. Hwy 65 from I-75 to Cedaredge, CO. Now this is an amazing motorcycle road if you are highly skilled, have no vertigo issues, and for heaven sake, you can’t be afraid of heights. Unfortunately, I have a few of those issues and this road gave me the he-be-je-be’s. I sure would have freaked out on the bike had I come across this road. I had several days of soul searching after what I felt going through that pass. I began once again to question if I was really supposed to be back on a bike. I didn’t end up doing that road when we got to our visit but Mary was a real friend and understood some of what I was feeling.
We took the next couple of days to do relax and do some riding. The Black Canyon National Forest was a gorgeous ride. It was amazing to learn that this canyon is twice as deep as the Empire State Building would be tall. It’s deeper than the Grand Canyon but not nearly as wide. We stopped at almost all the overlooks and took pictures. The photos just don’t do justice to the natural presence. You cannot grasp the depth and magnitude from flat images.
After a few days hanging out with Mary’s family we moved on a bit to a camp ground for a couple of days. We took a motorcycle ride to Cripple Creek and happened to come across a large motorcycle rally in streets. I finally found some riding boots that I thought I could live with and that fit and accommodated my fake foot. We had some ice cream, watched some bikers, and walked around a little bit to the vendors. When we went to leave, Mary realized that she had major issues with her handle bars. She had felt some serious vibrating over the past few days, more than normal, but this time they nearly collapsed and folded inward. She went down to the Harley vendor tent and tried to figure out a solution. In the meantime, I drove the bike back to the camp ground to get the truck while she found a trailer and help. Only it rained like crazy and I was delayed. While I was gone Mary was able to figure out a plan for the following day. We ended up grilling some food and relaxing for the night. She used the truck the next morning to meet the tow truck. After the bars were fixed, Mary was to visit with a friend outside Denver and then make her way back home to Minnesota.
I have to say that I have been extremely blessed in gaining Mary’s friendship. She heard about my crash on the local news in MN, decided she and some other lady riders would come visit me in the hospital, then she helps me get photos and video of the crash site early on, subsequently keeps in touch and checks on me, then plans my 2nd Leg Run ride, hang and lodge together in Sturgis, then to be invited to her nephew’s… Seems like a lot for a short period of time. Mary and I seem to have a kindred spirit in so many ways. She was ever so patient in being my friend through the mountain terrain and in my mental condition. She can’t really grasp the totality of my experience, yet she held my hand the whole way.
As I bid toodle-loo to Mary, I was to drive to Denver and pickup my best friend Meg from the airport. She was going to camp with me for a week beginning in Estes National Forrest. I’ve said before and I’ll say again, how blessed I am to have amazing friends. Meg is undoubtedly a fabulous part of my life. We made camp at a fairly nice RV park in Estes. We spent a day touring in the truck through Estes National Forest. We shopped locally and got stuff to grill for dinner, in fact we ate at the trailer good meals almost every night we camped. We enjoyed the time each in our own way. Meg likes to have her beer and read a good book. I am usually piddling around my trailer, writing a story, or working. We would plan things to do just after lunch when my work slowed down. Meg took the truck once to go hiking while I worked. All in all, we camp and live well together, but we already knew that. It was good for me to have that environment again and I think Meg enjoyed her relaxing, no hassle vacation.
When Meg returned to Chicago, I made my way to Mora Valley, New Mexico. I was camping for a week in the Coyote Creek State Park. I got a lot of work done on this stop. I road to Taos, NM and meandered around the shops and found a decent place for lunch and of course, a chocolate shop. From Coyote Creek State Park, I one day went to Taos, NM. The ride was simply breathtaking.
From Taos to Coyote Creek State Park, NM: Hwy 64 East through the Carson National Forest and Angel Fire. Then 434/38 South. The camp is dead center of 434. If you continue on, you can reach Mora.
From Mora another gorgeous ride exists if you go North on 518, South on 75, and South on 76 into Espanola. I went back the way I came given the hours of daylight I had but there is a great loop to bring you back also.
I was able to find the natural hot springs in Las Vegas, NM. They are along the roadside and the signage is quite small. I came in on 518 from the north. I took 329 west once I got into Las Vegas and then north on 65 which is also called Hot Springs Rd. You have to go down passed the community college, through a small roadside neighborhood, around the first major bend in the road you will see a historic building which I cannot recall the name, and just into the bend in the road are the hot springs on the right. The upper most spring is the one that is the hottest (I couldn’t put a toe in it, let alone sit in it), the one down is a bit cooler and the third down even cooler still. But they are all hot; you have to do like an in and out kind-of-deal; you can’t soak long and be sure to bring plenty of water. The waters below in the creek also provide warmth but the hot spring water isn’t trapped in man-made bathes as above. I met several cool locals there and learned a bunch of stuff I “should go see and do”, but of course there is never enough time in the day to do it all.
I did a great deal of riding in the mountains of this particular area of New Mexico. I wish I could’ve seen more of the state, but I was on a mission to go pick up my Mom in Charleston, SC so we could adventure to FL together to get me a new prosthetic leg. I had needed a new leg for a while but was trying to really enjoy my summer.
So many people give me grief because they think I live the dream life – traveling the country and riding a motorcycle. Yes it is indeed a fine way to live most of the time. What folks don’t realize is that living week to week, planning where to stay, paying even $23 a night that adds up to big bucks. I still have to buy food like any other living arrangement. Every week however, I am packing up camping and a motorcycle to cart it off to another location and set it all back up again. This isn’t just a two week vacation, this is a lifestyle. This is a life style that takes a lot of physical effort which I am still regaining, it requires a steady income, it requires being alone a great deal of the time, and it requires a Plan-B at all times.
I am extremely glad that I took off on the 2nd Leg of my journey. I am proud of myself for the things I faced and getting through them. Yet it is now time for me to take a break, clear my head, and plan the next chapter of my life. Perhaps I shall even find the time to write a book. I fully intend to grow my business and work towards many more long miles. I do have two speaking engagements already for 2015 and I’ll have to go to Illinois to visit at least once in the summer, so I already foresee three road trips. I am looking to set a shallow root path in the Nantahala National Forrest in North Carolina.
I have always loved the Nantahala National Forrest and there are thousands of miles of beautiful roads and mountain passes to ride until your heart is content. I am especially looking forward to my first fall color ride in the Nantahala. I will be between Asheville and Maggie Valley, and of course I absolutely love Maggie Valley and will have to be a regular pest over at Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum (at least until Dale bans me – NOT)! Well, needless to say it’s time to take a break and realign my priorities. The journey isn’t over but rather it’s taking a slightly less scenic route for a little while.
I shall continue to plow through the demons and fears while building my business and sharing what I find along the road. I appreciate all of you that follow along and provide encouragement and words that lift me up when I am feeling down. May we all remember that we only have one life to live, what you do with it and how you treat people will be the legacy you leave.