Day 5 – Exploring the Black Hills

I came upon the realization, as I was lying awake unable to sleep on a super hard bed with the flattest pillow known to man, that I had miscalculated the days we had left to make it to St. Joseph.  Somehow the days of the week were all running together.  We actually had an extra day in there.  So once again, we recalculated the trip and since we knew that we wanted to spend some extra time in the Black Hills, we decided that we would only go to Dickinson, ND that day (only 285 miles).  With this short day in mind, we got up, mapped out the best route through the Black Hills to be able to see as much as possible and explored a few things in Hot Springs.

The Black Hills area is beautiful and there is so much to see.  We decided, since there was no breakfast at the hotel, to ride to Custer City first and have brunch. We stopped at the Wind Caves to check them out since they were on our way.  We didn’t take the tour because it would have taken too long, 0615161138-1.jpgut we did look around the information center and have a few laughs.  Then we started through Custer State Park headed to Custer City.  One cool thing to note is that in Custer State Park, there are buffalo that roam freely.  Lots of them.  They put up signs everywhere saying “Buffalo are dangerous. Do not approach.” But you know that some stupid idiot is going to some day and then wonder why he got hurt.  0615161121_hdr.jpg

Along the road they had parking areas where you can stop out of traffic and take pictures and video, but the buffalo can wander wherever they want.  There was this one that decided to stand right on the edge of the road next to where this little bridge was.  So people, being dumb, just stopped in the middle of the street to get out and take pictures.  In both directions, they didn’t pull off the road so people could get around. Nope, they just stopped right in the middle, because of course everyone traveling that road thinks this is worth stopping for, no one would possibly want to keep driving.  And, you know that they probably had 100 other photos of buffalo just like that one already.  I already had pictures of buffalo, and we were hungry.  We certainly didn’t want to be stuck here for an indefinite amount of time.  This is where riding a motorcycle comes in handy.  We were able to squeeze through the stopped cars and keep going. (A little ways down the road, we saw a park ranger on his way to the traffic jam.  I’m sure he got it cleared up.)

Scenery along the way.

Still heading to Custer City to eat what will now be considered lunch for sure (its too late for brunch) and starving, we come across a cool campsite with cabins, Blue Bell Lodge and Cabins.  It is a really neat place and I hope to go back and stay there sometime.  We stopped to check it out because we saw a restaurant with patio seating, overlooking a ravine, and since we were so hungry, decided to just eat here.  I had normal food, but Kirk had buffalo meatloaf.  He was very excited about that.

After a relaxing lunch we got back on the road and made it to Custer City.  (Nothing there worth noting, don’t know why my husband insisted on going through there) We headed to the Crazy Horse Memorial.  It is pretty cool to see how it is coming along.  They said that they hope to have it 2 or 3 generations.  It is a big project and they have to go slow.  It will be an amazing thing for my great grand-kids to go visit someday.  I recommend checking out the link and learning more about it.  It really is interesting. There are a lot of things to see there, including a custom motorcycle.


This is what the mountain will eventually look like when it is all done.

This is the model of the monument with the actual behind it.  You can see where they have finished the finger and have drawn an outline of the horses head on the rock.

We continued on our journey through the Black Hills, cutting back through the national forest and retracing a few of our steps so that we could go up through some more winding roads on the way to Mt. Rushmore.  It was very cool.  I know that isn’t very descriptive, but it just was a very unique experience.  The views were beautiful and the rock formations were amazing.  We rode through some really interesting rock tunnels, and some cool twisty roads.  We just had a nice relaxing time. (when Kirk wasn’t yelling at cars for going way too slow and being stupid….haha) Here are some highlights.

We finally made it to Mount Rushmore parked and stretched our legs.  Honestly, I was tired by this point and had been to Mt. Rushmore before, so I didn’t feel like walking all the way down to the actual site.  Not even for ice cream (it looked good), maybe for water (I was so dehydrated by this point), but we found a vending machine with water near the bathrooms.  With that in mind, this is the only picture of us at Mount Rushmore you will see.

zoom in and you can see Mt. Rushmore in the back

Sitting there drinking our water we slowly realized that it was after 5pm.  Where did the day go?  We had so much more to see and so much farther to ride.  We quickly got back on the road and headed to Sturgis.  


By the time we got there, the Harley store was closed, but I got a picture of the sign…Haha……..(the building on the top left pic, is a bar that is only open one week a year, sturgis.  They make enough money that week to keep them going the entire year.  The bar in the pic on the top left took up an entire city block)…….we regrouped at this point and decided to stay in Deadwood, SD instead of Dickinson, ND.  We made a reservation at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Deadwood.  (I had no idea there were so many casinos in Deadwood) We arrived tired and hungry, so we hit a Mexican fast food place on the way to hotel and just took the food to the room to eat.  When Kirk checked in, the guy told him that they gave him an upgrade to the best room in the house. It was a nice suite with a living room area, but it was nothing super special and at the complete opposite end of the hallway as the elevator and the ice machine. Kirk did find the recliner very comfy though.

Did I mention that we were in desperate need of laundry?  The last place we stayed (Hot Springs) didn’t have laundry, and we had no clean clothes left.  We eyed the laundry room as we waited for the elevator. (One washer and dryer for the whole casino hotel..dumb) and this old lady (who was clearly headed for the pool) comes hurrying to us and says that she has laundry in there and it will be about an hour and a half before she is done.  I think she was scared of us…she sat in the laundry room for the entire time waiting for her clothes. I would never just take people clothes out, but like I said, I think we scared her. We hit the hot tub while doing our laundry, then went up to the room to assess the day.  Turns out,  we rode for 9 hours that day and ended up only 86 miles from where we started.  At this point it was a really good thing that we had extra time because we had just used it up.  It was totally worth it though.  We hit the bed exhausted knowing that the next day would be extra long and boring. (We would be riding through North Dakota)

Day 3 and 4 – Winter is Coming


Before we went to bed the night before, we re-worked our route to accommodate the slow start we had.  We decided to cut out the trip to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee in order to have a smoother trip.  We can always go there another time.  

We woke up in Telluride with great expectations.  I was excited to ride the gondola over the mountain and see everything from up there, but no such luck.  I looked at the forecast on my phone and immediately saw a storm coming.  We found the local weather channel and watched the radar to see how bad it was going to be and which direction it was moving.  It was coming in at an angle in our direction, but didn’t look like it would get to us until around noon.  We ate a quick breakfast, drove through the town.  It is a nice little town with many boutique stores and cafes (being that it is Colorado, there were several Marijuana stores too).  The people seemed to be a mix of rich yuppy types and young bohemian types. (just my observation, don’t get mad at me)

The rain started earlier than expected so we had to cut the visit short.  We quickly pulled over and began putting on our rain gear and the waterproof bag over the luggage pack. Once we were done, we quickly hit the road in the hopes of outrunning the storm.  We had to go slow because the roads were wet and you never knew when a deer or an elk would jump out of the woods, but this just gave me time to see the beauty and take more pictures. It didn’t take us long to get to a patch of blue sky, but we could see the rain in front of us and did not look forward to getting into it.  We did stop for a stretch (or by the looks of Kirk’s picture, a dance..haha) and I got some more pictures. 

Just as quickly as the rain went away it came back.  We rode through a little town called Meeker (shout out for Ron, who hunts Elk there every year), and then got into more rain.  It was not a nice day for a ride.


Because we altered our route, we were now spending the third night in a little town called Steamboat Springs in Colorado.  Let me tell you, it is the cutest little town.  Kirk said that he picked there to live.  He loved that place.  It is definitely somewhere that I will go back to again.  I think I would pick it for a return visit over Telluride for sure.  The people there are super sweet and we stayed at this little off the wall hotel.  It was family owned and they were the nicest people.  It is called the Nordic Lodge of Steamboat Springs.

They have old fashion keys for the rooms (you know like normal keys, not cards), and when we checked in, we were walked to our room and showed around.  She even asked right away if we wanted more pillows and ran and got some for us.  The furniture is made by hand by the owners and their family and is really rustic and cabin like.  They had an amazing continental breakfast spread with pastries and things fresh from the local bakery.  We ate dinner that night at one of Kirk’s new favorite restaurants, Steamboat Smokehouse (Kirk calls it the pink pig because they have a big pink pig statue outside).  The bar-b-que was really good, but their baked beans were amazing.  Oh, and they have bacon wrapped smokies on their menu as an appetizer.  What more could you ask for?  We enjoyed the indoor hot tub after dinner then went to bed.

The next morning the forecast was sunny and nice.  It was a little chilly because we were so high up in the mountains, so we bundled up and headed out.  We were on our way to Hot Springs, South Dakota. We traveled up through the mountains and hit some snow before we got into Wyoming.  So we went from rain to snow.  Luckily it was just on the ground and not actually snowing on us, but it sure was cold.

As we came down the mountain into Wyoming, it warmed up nicely.  The countryside was very pretty as we made our way towards South Dakota.

We took a slight detour and rode through Guernsey State Park.  It was beautiful.  It was a nice break in the day.

It wasn’t long after, that we made it to South Dakota and into Hot Springs. 0614161832-1.jpg Wanting to stay at hotels that aren’t big chains if we can when in these small towns, we opted for the Red Rock River Resort (it was the only one that advertised a hot tub).  It was a bit of a disappointment.  The owners were friendly but there was no elevator so we had to carry our heavy bags up the stairs.  The room was nice and big with a couch and table, but the bed was hard as a rock and the pillow might as well have been non-existent.  I mean so flat that you can’t really call them pillows.  There was no ice machine, no coffee maker, no breakfast or coffee downstairs in the morning. On the plus side (we thought) we did get a bottle of wine that was made locally and had a commemorative label for Sturgis 75th anniversary.

Unfortunately it was awful.  The hot tub was another disappointment.  It was so over filled that Kirk and I were afraid to both get into it.  It was on the second floor, we couldn’t see a drain of any kind and when one of us got in it started to overflow.  I knew both of us would cause a ton of water to come out. We sat in it for a few minutes (one at a time) and then went to bed.

Here are a few videos from the ride in Guernsey State Park.  


Day 2 – Feeling Excited

After a rough start we were finally on the road.  This was our original route and schedule.


 Day 1:  Mesa, AZ to Cortez, CO

Day 2: Cortez, CO to Craig, CO (with a stop in Telluride, CO)

Day 3:  Craig, CO to Douglas, WY

Day 4: Douglas, WY to Eagle Butte, SD (going through the black hills and Sturgis)

Day 5: Eagle Butte, SD to Fargo, ND

Day 6:  Fargo, ND to Eau Claire, WI

Day 7:  Eau Claire, WI to Sheboygan, WI (with a stop in Milwaukee at the Harley Museum)

Day 8:  Sheboygan, WI to Mackinaw City, MI

Day 9:  Mackinaw City, MI to St. Joseph, MI


That is not what happened….(see Tip 1 in Tips and Tricks)  Since we got a very late start on Day 1 and only made it to Payson, AZ, it kind of messed up the schedule so we had to regroup.  I would tell you what we came up with but it changed so many times along the trip as you will see.

After trying to readjust the schedule in order to stay on track, we decided to stay the night during on Day 2 in Telluride, CO instead of Cortez, Co.  That way we wouldn’t be too far off and regroup once we were at the hotel there.  We still wanted to stop at the Four Corners Monument and check that out.  Kirk wanted to make sure we could say that we had ridden the motorcycle in Utah (we have already ridden through New Mexico on a previous trip), so we drove around the outside of the monument, hitting all of the states. Then parked and took a look around.
0612161825a_resized  We rested and had our picture taken, then got back on the road and headed to Telluride, CO.  We had been riding in the hot sun for several hours when I realized that I had forgotten to put sunscreen on.  I promptly stopped and put some on, but when we stopped for the night I looked like this. (See Tip 2)sunburn

We made it to Cortez about the time that we would normally like to be stopping for the night but we had to make it to Telluride.  First, because we had a hotel reservation and second, because we had to be in St. Joseph, MI by Sunday night.  We did stop to eat dinner in Cortez though because we were so hungry.  Cortez is a very small town in the mountains.  I didn’t really have time to look around there, but we found a really good Italian restaurant called Nero’s Italian Restaurant.  It was so tiny inside, but the waitress was very good and the food tasted great. If you are ever going through there, you should stop and check them out.

We got back on the road to Telluride.  It was getting dark and cold very fast.  Many times we considered stopping to put on warmer clothes but we were both so tired that we agreed to just get there as fast as possible.  That turned out to be slower than normal because being in the mountains the deer and Elk were everywhere. They would just stand in the middle of the road and look at us like “what? Oh, you want us to move?”  We had to go super slow because if they weren’t in the road they were on the side of it waiting to jump in front of us.  I would have pictures, but I was too cold to move to take them.

We made it, finally, to Telluride, but I forgot which hotel we were staying at so we went to the wrong one and this really snobby guy came out and basically was saying anything to get us to get away from his hotel. It apparently is one that is super expensive (I looked it up, they have lofts that ran about 2500 a night).  I think we scared him, we did look pretty rough.

We found our correct hotel, The Hotel Telluride.  If I ever go back, it is definitely someplace that I would stay again. The lobby was so rustic but classy. I would love to see it decorated for Christmas.  I am sure it would be just beautiful.

The front desk personnel were so helpful and pleasant. The rooms are very nice with a nice balcony. We had an amazing view from our balcony.
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They had the most comfortable bed on the entire trip. It was so big, I literally had to climb up on it. They had a microwave, a larger than normal mini-refrigerator, a nice coffee maker, real dishes and glasses (including wine glasses), and silverware.  They offered grocery delivery from a local organic store, and had a restaurant/bar on the property.

We slept so well.  Didn’t want to get up and start the next day, but onward we went.

Getting Ready to Leave

It’s May.  The time has come to get ready to start our journey.  First I had to get through the graduation party and graduation day, then I could start focusing on getting stuff out of the house. In the previous weeks I had been slowly sorting through my stuff and deciding what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of.  I sold my bedroom set early because I knew I wasn’t keeping it, but to be honest, I went through things in my keep pile several times and each time realized that I didn’t really need some things and it kept getting smaller.  I am sure that there are still a million things I don’t need. Kirk would say, everything in storage…I am just not ready to give it all up yet.

0521161001_resizedKirk was home for a week so we spent a weekend moving most of the “keep” stuff to storage and clearing out the garage. We kept the big stuff like the couch because it was new and a few other pieces of my favorite furniture but everything else was on the get rid of list.  The dump and goodwill piles just kept growing and the house got more and more empty. 0603162355_resized


It took Kylar a while to go through his room and clear it out.  He is a pack rat it seems, but with the help of his friends he finally got his stuff sorted and loaded up his car to move into his sisters place until time to move into the dorm at ASU.  It was a happy and sad time.

On June 4th I moved into a hotel for the last week that I was in town.  Hired someone to clean the house and clean the carpet and then said goodbye.  I had one last girls night out with my friends. We had dinner then went dancing.  They even bought me a yummy cake.  It was great being able to relax and enjoy the night with my friends one last time.PhotoGrid_1466529234399_resizedI brought my grandson to the hotel to spend the day with me one last time.  I think I will miss him the most.  We swam, played hide and seek (his new favorite game) and had a lot of fun.  He was one sleepy boy when I took him home. 0610161853_resized


I had everything done and nothing to stress about until we left on Saturday….how wrong I was….


Wednesday morning my car battery died. I had to take it to the dealer to get a new one.  On Thursday, on my way to pick up my fixed car, Kylar calls and says he needs to go to the Emergency Room, he is in a ton of pain.  So I spent the day on Thursday at the ER with him.  He is doing ok now. It was an inf0609161058_resizedection in his small intestine.  I made him stay at the hotel with me that night though to keep an eye on him.  Kirk finally got in late Thursday night to go through the walk through, drop off my car at my friends (she is keeping it in her garage for me), get the motorcycle and pack up and leave early Saturday morning. Piece of cake….WRONG….the walk through at the house went fine, then we picked up Leon and were supposed to have a family dinner (early) so we could get packed up and ready to go.  Well dinner was a crazy bunch of misunderstandings and people going to the wrong restaurant.  We didn’t get to eat dinner until 9 pm, then had to go drop the car off and then put on the new saddle bags that we bought.  We decided that we would go the first thing in the morning and put on the saddle bags and just leave a little later so we could get to bed.  Around 1230 a.m., we get a call from kiera that her car wont start.  So Kirk gets up the next morning and goes to see what is wrong.  We get it towed to a place to fix it, but now it is already past noon and we haven’t even started on the saddle bags.  They proved to be more challenging than we originally thought.  We did finally get everything loaded on the bike and head out on Saturday night, June 11th around 7 pm so we did not get very far that night.

I told the kids that I knew they were going to miss me, but they didn’t need to sabotage my everything..haha

We made it to Payson about 930, overpaid for a hotel room, and ran to a local restaurant to grab some dinner before the kitchen closed.  We finally relaxed for the day.

We were on the road.  The adventure has begun.  I think I’m a little scared…..