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Cheyenne, WY to Buffalo, WY by way of The Black Hills and Devil’s Tower

The 2006 Wyoming District Rally was set for June 29 through July 2 and my wife, Nicole and I decided we would leave a few days early and ride through the Black Hills of South Dakota and catch Devil’s Tower in northern Wyoming before dropping down to Buffalo, Wyoming for the state rally.

Sunday -

On June 25th, after several days of preparation and double-checking our travel lists, we rode out of Cheyenne, Wyoming headed for the beckoning blacktop.

We opted to travel north on US 85, with its mild traffic and avoid the rush of I-25. Near mid-day we arrived at Hot Springs, SD and decided to stop at a small pizza restaurant for lunch. However, once we had pulled off our helmets we heard the driving boom of bass and the telltale pulse of very loud rap music, it became readily apparent that pizza was off the menu. Looking across the street we noticed Sturdley’s Family Restaurant was crowded with locals, so we decided this must be the place to eat. As we entered an older gentleman played tuned on one of those newer electronic organs (the kind with a button for rhythm and backgrounds and such) for donations. It definitely had the feel of a family restaurant with friendly waitresses that ask, “What can I get for you, hun?” with a genuine smile. The food and service was great and I was thinking that the local crowd seemed as noisy as a bunch of Goldwingers. We were guessing that Hot Springs has something in its water, because it seemed that most tables had 3 or 4 children who had not yet learned to use their indoor voices. Again, much like a group of Goldwingers!

We arrived at Deadwood, South Dakota at mid-afternoon and after circling the wagons a few times, (we were looking for a bigger sign) we found Deadwood Dick’s Hotel and settled in on the fourth floor. The elevator was one of those antique models about big enough for three people, but only if you took turns holding your breath. With the lurching starts and uneven floor alignment, it was not just an elevator, but an adventure! Each time we used it, I think we added a few gray hairs to our collection.

Deadwood Dick’s is a look into the old West with ornate high ceilings and creaky wooden floors that create a window into the past. Room 405 where we stayed, was recently remodeled, but was still charming and held the strong flavor of the 1800’s.

Monday -

In the early morning light with its crisp, cool air, we walked up the steep, narrow streets of Deadwood where many small houses clung together, hanging precariously against the mountainside. It seemed that as the valley grew, the businesses pushed the residential area further up the abrupt mountainous slopes. There were many homes with a great deal of character, yet I can only imagine the woes of ice and snow each year as winter lays claim to Deadwood.

After our cardio-vascular hike, we arrived down on the main strip where we waited impatiently for the Boot Hill Tour to begin. We were glad to have Raul lead us on our journey through Deadwood’s past. He was informative, thorough and humorous, telling us stories of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Preacher Smith, Madam Dora DuFran and her house of ill-repute, along with tales of other residents of the Mount Moriah Cemetery.

We were impressed to read the following sign beside a tall flagpole:

It was humbling to think of all the men and women who have given everything to make the United States of America the best country in the world.

That evening we discovered Kevin Costner’s Midnight Star and were able to get on their reservation list for the opulent Jake’s Fine Dining restaurant. We certainly felt out of place wearing t-shirts and jeans, but the staff assured us we were fine. Shortly after we sat down, (I was wondering about the extra forks and such) a group of motorcyclists came in and made us feel more at ease. We were glad we stayed because the food and service were extraordinary, and Nicole and I both felt it was well worth the price. I was also able to learn about cleansing my palette, which apparently was virginal prior to this dinner.

Tuesday - The next morning we saddled up “Maelstrom”, my 2004 GL1800A candy black cherry beauty and rode Highway 14A along the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway and were awed by the stunning rock formations that tower along the highway throughout the route. We were told there were waterfalls as well, but I was unable to locate them while riding. It seemed that the best spots to stop and take pictures were already filled with carloads of tourists. This was another beautiful ride with enough striking scenery to have filled several days by itself.

When we returned to Deadwood, Nicole and I spent some time in the Adams Museum where it would be easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering through several floors filled with amazing artifacts and historical trinkets from the region.

Afterward we walked around Deadwood and watched some of the local productions that revolve around Wild Bill Hickok and his assassin. They did an impressive job with the costuming and the re-enactments.

Wednesday As we were leaving Deadwood, Nicole and I both commented on how much we had enjoyed the Deadwood area for the past two days, and were mentally making plans for a return visit.

We followed Highway 385 south to Hill City, where we arrived early at the Black Hills Central Rail Road 1880 Train. We had some breakfast muffins and hot chocolate at a little espresso shop nearby. When we were finished with our breakfast we returned to the station and picked up our tickets. By now there were several carloads of people waiting in line for a chance to ride the rails on the steam powered locomotive. Luckily I had reserved our tickets a month before, because I saw several families leave in disappointment due to a sold-out train ride.

The 1880’s Steam Locomotive ride through the lush green hills and carved through steep grades of rugged stone between Hill City and Keystone, SD was both entertaining and imaginative. Throughout the trip, a live narrative regaled us with the facts and stories of the vintage steam engine and provided an insightful view of the history of the region. Deer, rock chucks and wild turkey seemed to flourish along the tracks beside steep rocky inclines and fertile grassy meadows. For more information check out

Helicopter Ride to Mt. Rushmore

After our enjoyable ride on the 1880’s train, Nicole and I geared up and headed toward Mount Rushmore. We had both seen the granite faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln before, but never from the saddle of a motorcycle. Today would be no exception, however we did manage to find a less traditional viewing. On our way to Deadwood we had noticed a sign announcing Helicopter Rides. Of course, we had to stop in and check it out. We were informed that the helicopter was out but would be back soon. After reviewing the prices we decided on the direct route to Mount Rushmore. The tour entailed less sight-seeing but would allow us to see Mount Rushmore from a truly advantageous view and it would be free of the typical crowds!

While we waited excitedly, we were able to strike up a conversation with the lady who sold us the helicopter ride tickets. We told her how much we were enjoying our trip on our Goldwing and we were pleasantly surprised to learn that she and her husband were Goldwing owners as well, and were also members of GWRRA. We spent some time swapping motorcycling stories and before we knew it our transportation had arrived.

There have only been a few times recently that I remember having worn a smile for so long my cheeks hurt. Our get-togethers with our Cheyenne Chapter B family always produces a lot of smiles, Friday Comedy Night with Josh Blue in person, every time I ride “Maelstrom”, and our helicopter ride to Mount Rushmore!

I believe Nicole may have gotten a little tired of hearing me say, “That was sooo cool!”

It was an exhilarating, incredible flight, with a great pilot and it was well worth the price! When we paid for the tickets we justified the price by saying it would be a “once in a lifetime adventure”. However, I am pretty sure that any time we are in the Black Hills, that we will be visiting our airborne friends and pasting that smile back on my face!

After watching the next couple take off in the helicopter, we geared up and rode to Custer, SD where we had reserved a small cabin at the Shady Rest Motel. The cabin was small but clean and comfortable and reasonably priced. The owners were biker-friendly and pleasant to deal with.

Needles Highway -

After getting our gear settled into the cabin, and securing our small cargo trailer to a fence, we rode off in search of the Needles Highway. It was close and easy to find. As we stopped at the Park entry booth and I fished my newly purchased National Parks Pass out of my wallet, we were greeted by a young man who smiled and shook his head. “Sorry”, he said, “that is only for National Parks and this is a State Park.”

Muttering something to myself, I paid the $10 entry fee, we rode off to discover the Needles Highway that had been so highly recommended by so many of our friends.

We were not disappointed! This scenic roadway featured tall slender spires of granite along the amazing route. The narrow road had sharp, winding curves that begged my new Elite III tires to grip tightly as we leaned into the constantly changing turns throughout the highway. The two stone tunnels were so narrow and blatantly one-way that motorists were “supposed” to honk their horn before entering. As we got close we saw many cars parked and people walking around with all types of cameras and camcorders filming the spectacular sights.

We were able to bypass the parked cars and after waiting for a couple vehicles from the other side, we honked the horn and pressed on through. Even with a goldwing the tunnel was narrow and impressive. On the other side we realized we should have had our camera out and taken pictures while we rode through. Luckily there was a small area to park and we stopped and got out the camera.

I was getting ready to bring out the tripod when a truck from Texas parked along side us. After he finished recording the sight, I asked if he would take our picture with our camera and he was happy to do it. He commented about the tiny size of our Casio Exilim camera, and I showed him how well it slipped into a pocket, so it was ready at any time. For me, it seems the ideal motorcycling camera.

We stopped and visited with a group of Wing riders, one of whom had a new temporary license plate on his white GL1500. He had purchased a friend’s bike in Denver and after an exciting maiden voyage through the winding roads up to Estes Park, Colorado, he was on his way back home to Illinois. He said he was really enjoying the quality time to get to know his new bike. I assured him there would be lots of miles and plenty of smiles with his new ride!

We returned to Custer that evening with a new appreciation for hairpin turns and the unearthly beauty that nature occasionally allows us to view.

At the Shady Rest Motel, Nicole found a tree with a young red flicker who seemed reluctant to test his wings and leave home. He certainly made a lot of racket whenever he was fed, or perhaps it was his parents who were so noisy. They may well have been saying, “It’s about time you went out job hunting. There will be no more free ride here! When I was your age…”


Newcastle, WY to Highway 585 Sundance, WY

After some deliberation of the route we would travel to Devil’s Tower, I determined that we would ride from Custer, SD to Newcastle, Wyoming, then head up Highway 585 to Sundance and continue north to the first National Monument. The roads were in good condition and were much less traveled than those in the Black Hills, South Dakota areas. It was nice to be able to look at the long rolling hills and beautiful mountains and watch for deer and antelope without being tailgated by a tourist on a vacation deadline. The route was perhaps not the most adventurous or breathtaking, but it was definitely a pleasant ride, which both my wife and I really enjoyed.

We saw Devil’s Tower from quite a distance away, since it stands over 850 feet tall and dominates the view from miles around. We pulled off the road in several places and pulled out the camera and the tripod to get some nice pictures of Nicole, “Maelstrom” and I with the Tower as the background. The tiny little camera looked a bit silly perched atop the tall tripod, but it was not nearly as small as the little dots of color we saw climbing up the ridges of Devil’s Tower. The rock climbers appeared like fleas on a large dog. They were difficult to notice unless you were really looking for them.

The hike around the Monument is a bit over a mile long and is very scenic and remarkable. There are signs interspersed along the hiking trail that inform tourists about the origins of the rock formations, the effect of forest fires on the area, the local Indian tribes and such. This is an amazing hike that features Devil’s Tower from many diverse views. Unfortunately, we did not find a helicopter tour here as well.

When we finished our circuit of the Tower we walked back to the parking area to see several Gold Wings, both old and new. We visited with a new GL1800 owner and learned that he was touring the area with his brother-in-law from back east. We sat on a stone bench in the shade as the heat began to climb and talked of all things Gold Wing. It was great to hear the excitement in his voice as he asked many of the same questions I had asked when I first purchased “Maelstrom”.

Just around the corner I met an interesting gentleman with a candy black cherry GL1800. He said he had put 40,000 miles on his Gold Wing in the last year. I was impressed with the mileage and could not help but grin when I noticed his license plate which read, “X-HOG”.

The heat had surpassed 90 degrees as we geared up and took to the road again. Now, I simply must say this, and I do not want to sound preachy, because that is not my intent. However, I do feel compelled to mention the reason for my strong feelings about safety gear and motorcycling.

On the 4th of July weekend, 2004, I was in an accident with my 1989 GL1500, when the driver of a pickup truck apparently thought a stop sign was only a suggestion. I had noticed him abruptly decelerating at his stop sign, and I had glanced to my right to check traffic. When I looked back in front of me, he was already there. I had time to apply the brakes and realize in that sickening instant that there was no way I would be able to stop in time.

I remember the crunch as my front tire collided with his right front wheel. I felt the handlebars twist fully to the right, powered by the truck’s force. My hands had locked onto the grips, but the bike’s momentum still forced my body forward. Thank God, it was my Nolan helmet that broke off my windshield and not my forehead!

My groin was pierced by the right handlebar, but luckily it was a cut less than half an inch long and it only required three stitches. While I was writhing in pain on the hot, rough pavement, and grimacing against the blinding sun, I heard a voice repeating to bystanders, “I didn’t see him, I just didn’t see him!”

This incident has reinforced my views on safety gear. I was wearing a Joe Rocket Phoenix jacket, leather gauntlet style riding gloves, my Nolan N100 Classic Plus flip-face helmet, leather harness boots, and Lee jeans.

My body had been protected where I had worn the safety gear, and my only wound may have been prevented by protective pants. That is not to say that I did not have any bruising and all over body aches. Nor am I claiming this gear will avert all damage. I am only saying that, for Nicole and I, we will not ride anywhere without helmets, gloves and boots, and protective jackets are paramount. We have added Joe Rocket Phoenix mesh pants to our highway safety gear, which gives us both comfort and confidence as we tour.

Within a few weeks of the accident I had bought a new 2004 candy black cherry GL1800A Goldwing, naming it “Maelstrom”. One of my first purchases were Modulating Headlights which I have installed on the high beams of the headlights. I have seen a definite difference in my visibility, as vehicle drivers much more frequently do the “double-take” instead of just pulling out in front of me.

WingWorld printed my letter concerning Modulating Headlights in the August 2006 edition in Reader’s Responses. I truly believe modulating headlights can be lifesavers!

OK, now that my public safety announcement is over, I will continue.

The heat had surpassed 90 degrees as we geared up and took to the road again. We fished our cool ties neck ties out of our ice water and they were exhilarating for a while, but they did not last nearly long enough. By the time we neared Gillette, Wyoming the cool ties and mesh pants and jackets could not keep us comfortable against the oppressive temperature. Muttering a muffled, “Finally!” we pulled into the first fast-food stop we found in Gillette. It was very busy with other motorists and locals buying drinks and ice cream products to help relieve the heat.

We pulled off our helmets and found mops of sweaty hair pasted to our scalps, and streams of perspiration running down our faces. Well, actually Nicole looked great, but I looked as though I was auditioning for some ‘Creature Feature’ episode.

After drinking our fill of water and taste-testing some ice cream specialties and cooling off in the air-conditioned paradise we took the rest of our ice water and added our Joe Rocket Sahara cooling vests. Five minutes later we donned the arctic wonders with a brisk, “Ahhh!”, and navigated our way back onto the interstate headed west to Buffalo.

It was truly amazing how comfortable the cooling vests and the cool neck ties kept us during the rest of our trip. We had tried the vests that plump up like a Ball Park Frank, but they were very, very heavy and felt sticky-wet and bulky. We are very glad to have found the Sahara Vests.

Buffalo, Wyoming is a beautiful scenic city and played host to our GWRRA Wyoming District Rally. We spent three wonderful days there enjoying the fun and camaraderie with other Gold Wing enthusiasts from the area. We are looking forward to our Region I Rally in Powell, Wyoming this year. We will be representing the Wyoming District as we compete for Region I Couple of the Year. We certainly hope to see you there!

Kenn & Nicole Harvey

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Last Revised: 8-29-06