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Diary 6

27 July

Where do I start - the weather, the 'routes' or the almost accidents?

Let's start at the beginning...

Back in leather this morning as the weather had turned. The cold front brought rain through overnight and the temperature was down to 17 (63).

Since crossing the Mississippi at Cairo I started seeing signs saying 'Auto Tour Route'. I didn't read the rest of the sign till today. "Trail of Tears". I stayed on the route till it turned west on I44.

A few miles later I picked up the 'Lewis & Clark' trail.

Just after lunch in Jefferson City, in that period just after you've eaten when the blood is round the stomach (which is bigger than the brain - well mine is) . Going through a series of traffic lights and lane closures I realised that the queue of cars in front of me had stopped.
I had to brake way harder than I should have and heard the front tyre lock.
Every other time I've locked the front, the bars have gone loose and the front has started moving to the side.
This time neither happened. I recognise the 'bars going loose' as the sign I need to let the brake off but it didn't occur.
Also the sound of the tyre skidding wasn't the screech you get on tarmac, it sounded more like skidding in gravel.
The road surface was cement with grooves in the direction of travel.
How or why I didn't drop the bike...
And I know with modern tyre technology a skidding tyre will stop a vehicle as quickly as non skidding - but it was a few seconds after I stopped short of the stationary car that I was able to fully comprehend just how close I'd come to either hitting the deck or slamming into the back of a car.

Not good.

About an hour later, while I was still thinking about that incident, three deer ran in front of me.
Again, I locked the front.
One thing I'll say about the Pilot Road that the bike is wearing is that they skid easily - but very well.

Not long after that, while still on the 'Lewis & Clark' trail I picked up the 'Santa Fe' trail - an old wagon trail, but after the events of today I stopped early.
A long hot bath is the order of the day.

28 July

A three state day.

Started in Missouri, through part of Kansas and into Nebraska.

The roads are getting straighter. I've stopped worrying too much about squaring off the rear tyre as it's going to happen. I'm not riding at excessive speeds so hopefully it will last till the next service when I should be near the mountains.

After yesterday I was feeling quite down and considered having a day off, but there was nowhere that struck me as 'somewhere I want to spend a day or so'. Thankfully today has been some good riding - apart from the lack of corners that is.

I stopped at the 'Native American Heritage Museum' in Kansas - a bit disappointing. It was a missionary in the 18 something's and there were two rooms that talked about the mission and the broken treaties - not much about 'Heritage'.

One thing that I did find out was how vast the 'Louisiana Purchase' was.
(Quick history lesson)
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million.
What I didn't realise was that it was 600,000,000 acres. This doubled the size of the US.
Map here
That can safely be considered a bargain.
At least we didn't give up without a fight.

The roads through the big flat centre of the US are straight.
This is mostly because the land was divided up before it was sold to settlers and partially because there no reason not to have straight roads - they're way more efficient - and way more boring.

Toady's 'routes' were - more of 'Lewis & Clark' some 'Pony Express' some 'California Trail' (wagon trail) and another that I failed to read.

I thought about stopping in Omaha - but it was full.
Well the first two places I asked were full and the third only had non-smoking.

Tonight I'm in Blair - about 20 miles north of Omaha.

I realise that I haven't been supplying many helpful hints. I had intended to use my stupid mistakes to help folks avoid making the same mistakes - and giving them a laugh. Unfortunately I haven't done anything real stupid recently. I could state the obvious like 'Pay attention, small details are the difference between crashing and not' and 'It's the journey not the destination' but if you ride a bike you know this. If you don't ride a bike, I'm sorry.
OK - Here's one

HH2 - You will take too much stuff with you.

Much as I like the VFR, I think I'd rather be on a 'blade with less clothes, throw overs panniers & tent on the back seat.
At low speed I'm always aware of the height and weight - and when I take the panniers off it feels so much better.

You realise that a brand new 'blade over here is $10,000 (About £5,500).
On a, say, 4 month trip - even if you sold it for £4,000 afterwards would be cheaper than shipping your bike.

Looking at the map - at this pace I'll be in the Black Hills / Sturgis area in a couple or three days.
I reckon that will be the time to sit back and plan my route for the next few weeks - and get me through Sturgis before all the cruisers turn up.

29 July

Well I was wrong about that too - apparently there's loads of bikes at Sturgis already ...

Anyway - from the top ...

Is it a UK thing to be talking about the weather all the time - or a biker thing ?

Rain overnight and seriously slick wet tarmac in the breakfast diner's parking lot.
Even with all the luggage, when stationary and sitting on the bike I could turn the bars with one finger.
My feet were slipping as I tried to put the stand down.
Nervous moments.
By the time I'd breakfasted the tarmac had dried.

A lovely 26 (79) this morning. Ran up and round the North East corner of Nebraska.

Stopped at 'Blackbird Overlook', near the site of Chief Blackbird's burial, which provides a great perspective over the Missouri into Iowa.

Heading west I decided that the big black clouds in front of me that were spewing lighting bolts weren't for me so crossed the river again into Yankton, South Dakota to dodge north of the storm.

Stopped in Yankton for lunch & a spot of shopping (run out of shaving foam).
In the parking lot I got talking to a couple of guys. They told me that bikes would already be turning up for Sturgis and would be there all August. Camping and Motel prices will be through the roof already - so route planning will be required tonight.

Another thing...
One guy said 'Beyond Winner, don't camp, don't ride at night, be very careful - that's the Sioux Reservation'
Now I have a dilemma - Is this racism or a genuine warning...

After the storm passed it was like someone threw a switch. The temperature went straight to 34 (93) and the side winds hit from the south.

West of there is the Fort Randall Dam which creates Lake Francis Case - the colour of which is amazing.
Crossing the dam in the side winds was - interesting.

Stopped in Winner for the night.

Tomorrow is Badlands and Wounded Knee, the next day is Mt Rushmore, Sturgis and Devils tower - well that's the plan.

30 July

It's hot.

Added an hour this morning crossing into mountain time.

The temperature climbed quickly to very hot by 10am.

Long straights through grassland then the Badlands start appearing on the horizon.
I kept the tank topped up as there are not that many centres of civilisation.
The Badlands appear to be a rocky cliff that seems to block the prairie with more grassland on top.
Kinda reminds me of bits of Utah.

The route I had intended to take, north through the park then west and south to Scenic turned out to be impractical as the second half was a gravel road. I could have ridden it slowly but in that heat slow means hot (and dusty).
Yes - Ewan would have aced it on his GS - but I'm on a VFR.

Headed south through the Sioux reservation to Wounded Knee.
It is disappointing that the site of the worst Indian massacre and arguably the most famous Indian site has such a crap visitor centre.
Very little about the history.
There were a bunch or youths hanging around outside. One came over and asked for a 'donation' to their baseball team.
Don't know who the coach is but that guy was way too stoned to play tiddlywinks let alone baseball.
For the first time I didn't think it was safe to leave stuff on the bike so I took the tank bag & helmet with me.
Inside the visitors centre there was a sign 'Don't give money to people hanging about outside - They use it for alcohol and drugs'.
It's like a ghetto in paradise.

31 July

I hurt, I need to find a laundry and the MotoGP is on TV.
Also Mt Rushmore is likely to be busier on a Sunday than Monday.
I'm taking a day off.

One thing I did find out - there are loads of signs by the road side with a red "X" saying 'marks the spot' and either "Think" or "Why Die". These seem to be quite randomly scattered. Sometimes you wont see one for a mile or so then 7 or 8 within a mile. Turns out these are markers where a road death has been caused by a drunk driver.
There was one I remember with 5 or 6 in one group.

1 Aug.

Up and out by 7am.
The roads in the Black Hills are wonderful - apart from the cars & RVs, but you can usually get past them after a mile or so.
Some wonderful sections like 'Needles Hwy.' and Alternate 16 to Keystone from the South.
Tunnels and loops - where the road does complete loops under it's self to lose height.

As this is getting physically and temporally close to Sturgis week there are hundreds of Harleys.
One section - the 25 miles of 385 into Lead from the South I sat behind a couple of BMWs that were 'making progress' like bastards :)
That was fun.

First stop of the day - Crazy Horse Memorial.
This is how the Indians should do memorials and visitors centres. This is the best laid out, biggest, best collection of artefacts, best gift shop and they had free coffee (OK so the coffee was shit but that's what coffee's mostly like here - close your eyes and I dare you to be able to tell if it's coffee or tea - sometimes you don't need to close your eyes - it looks like weak tea. Peter where are your home roasted beans when I need them).

The Crazy Horse statue is looking impressive and it's not even half finished.
I will be back to see it when it's done.
The plans they have for an entire cultural centre are equally impressive.
Have a look here http://www.crazyhorse.org/

Next - Mount Rushmore.
Yup - it's impressive, but having seen so many images of it it seems almost unreal.
Maybe it helps to be American to really appreciate it.
It's also stupidly busy.

On to Deadwood and the Mount Moriah Cemetery.
This is where Wild Bill Hickock & Calamity Jane are buried.
It's at the top of a very steep hill. In gold rush days Deadwood had about 4 times it's current population so Boot Hill was moved to a steep hill as no-one would want to build houses there.
Wild Bill was moved. Jane died after the move. Her last request was "Bury me next to Bill'
An excellent guided tour.

Headed North to the 'Geographic Centre of the US Marker'. This is, I now know, one of three.
There is one in Kansas, the lower 48 states.
One north of Belle Fourche South Dakota that includes Alaska and the third somewhere that includes Hawaii.

I failed to find it as the location on my map is some 15 miles out - and on the wrong side of the highway.
I only wanted to go there so I could say "What - I'm only bloody half way".
A 60 mile detour with 4 corners - two on the way north & two on the way back - all for a joke that I can't make coz I didn't get a bloody photo.
Ho hum.

Time to post this.
Another road report follows


Road Report

Rt8 - the excellent roads continue.
From crossing the Mississippi to the end of Rt8 the road has been marked 'Auto Tour Route - Trail of Tears'

Rt68 & US 63 - OK - nothing special

I - through Jefferson City Rt 179 - Good and bad - some sections were lovely - some straight for over a mile.
Hoped to get better views of the river - only really one spot with a good view.

I 70

Rt 41 - Not bad

Rt 65, 24, 13 - Nothing special
They're rebuilding 13, there is a new bridge about 2 miles East of the old one, before Lexington.

Rt 116 - real straight - there was a 10 mile diversion on some back roads that did have one or two corners.


I took Rt 7 as it's marked a 'scenic' on my map and US73 looks very straight - and I wanted to check the 'Native American Heritage Museum'.
Neither 7 nor the museum was worth it.
7 did have a couple of corners but they are almost finished the replacement road which won't have any. The Museum was 2 rooms of brief history and 4 rooms of new paintings.
From the museum I went due west to 73. Absolutely due west with no deviation for 15 odd miles.

US73 to Nebraska - straight.


US73 / 75 - these guys should talk to Kentucky or West Virginia and swap some straights for some corners.
KY & WV have more than enough corners - these guys have none. Having said that - I shouldn't expect 'great' bike roads in the big flat middle section of the US.
75 did have a few corners north of Blair.

Rt12 - half and half - it was quite good until it turned due west at Wynot. Absolutely straight. I turned north at US81 to Yankton to avoid a thunderstorm which is a shame as the map looks like 12 would get better near the end.

From Yankton I took Rt50 then Rt46 across the river, back to US18. Again mostly straight.

Diary 8