Category Archives: A Great Ride – 2012

August 12, 2012 – Ely, Nevada to Dublin

The last day of this Great Ride was not a lot of fun, especially the last two hundred miles. Earlier I mentioned “bug bites” and how much they itched. They didn’t go away, daily a few more appeared. I called Kaiser hoping for a prescription. “No Mr. Cramer, we can’t do that. This could be a serious allergic reaction and you must be seen soon.” They scheduled an appointment for the next day. 550 miles made for a long last day as I headed home.

Now for some good news, no rain, no hail, no wind, and no blowing sand. Crossing from Utah into Nevada, a memory from another ride returned. A few years ago as we approached the Utah state line and a gas station, Larry Eade and I were running on fumes. Ahead of us JAK did not stop.

Welcome to Utah

In the background is a blue sign with “Next Services 83 Miles”. JAK had no more fuel than Larry or I. He didn’t stop. We pulled in to the pumps. JAK came back a few minutes later to inquire why we had stopped.

Two signs stuck in my mind during this ride, the one above and one on I-70 a few miles from Green River. “Next Services 100 Miles”. With a range of 135 miles on the Ultra, I pay attention to signs like these.

Leaving Ely

Leaving Ely: The Loneliest Road in America

US 50 West Bound

This is indicative of the 259 miles from Ely to Fallon. I made it in exactly 4 hours, an average of 65 MPH. During those four hours, I made two gas and water stops, and twice for photo ops. I might have exceeded the speed limit once or twice.

About half way across Nevada I passed a woman riding a bicycle with camping bags. My thought, She must be one tough lady. Wow! Minutes later, I saw a herd of wild horses grazing alongside the roadway.

About a half hour from Fallon, Nevada a van stopped in my lane and a motorcycle stopped in the oncoming lane. As I rapidly decelerated my first thought was; Oh my God, there’s an accident, I hope it isn’t a biker. It wasn’t.

US 50 Steer

It’s a steer. I didn’t take another shot. It came at me and the Ultra. I jumped on and rode away.

A tradition is lunch at Jerry’s Restaurant in Fallon. They were so busy I had to sit at the counter where I downed two iced teas before ordering. I saw the biggest and best looking open faced chili cheese burger ever. It was smothered in onions. I want that chili cheese burger! Regrettably, I thought of Larry Eade and what he would say to “Gravy Boy.” I ordered a chef salad.

From Ely to Fallon the temperature hovered around 90. Leaving Fallon it shot up to over a 100 and stayed there.

I hit the only truly bad road of the entire trip as I crossed into California. The road became bumpy and in need of serious “Road Repair”. The last 200 miles were by far the worst, worse even than the rain and hail. Those were adventures, and the hail was certainly a new experience. I found the California highways dangerous and unpleasant.

At home, I found my missing boots on a stool. Handy so I wouldn’t forget to pack them. Oh, well, my sneakers got a good workout. I quickly changed into a bathing suit and jumped into the pool.

I put 4278 miles on the Ultra over thirteen days.

I hope you have gotten a wee bit of pleasure from my ramblings. Thank you all being such a great audience.

Four weeks from today I will be back in Ely, Nevada. Jim “JAK” Kennemore and I will be on our way to Marseilles, Illinois.

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Mesa Verde National Monument – A Biker’s View

Approaching Mesa Verde National Monument, I noticed a very steep road cut into the face of a high mountain. This is the road into the park. Road Repair season ensured that new pavement covered the 23 miles to Cliff Palace. About fifteen miles was “almost” smooth with fresh tar and gravel.

Not this biker’s favorite!

Despite the construction, the ride from the park entrance to the Visitor Center is scenic with sufficient turn-outs for the tourist to enjoy and photograph the panoramic vistas.

There was a long queue for tour tickets. A volunteer talked about Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House cliff dwellings. His photo album presented shots of multiple ladders, of crossing an open rock face, and crawling through a tunnel. This got my attention. For starters, I’m afraid of heights, especially ledges, and the knee replacement dislikes weight on it. We asked him for details. He showed close-ups of the rock face. There is a safety wire to hold on to.

Okay, I can do that.

Then he showed photographs of a 32 foot ladder one must climb to enter the dwelling.

Okay, there are people older than me doing the climb.

Next he pointed out a 12 feet long tunnel carved through stone.

Maybe I can drag my right leg.

The tunnel is narrower than my shoulders, and parts of my body tend to be large. If I didn’t have to worry about my knee, I think I could squeeze through. The volunteer suggests; “You might want to try Cliff Palace.”

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I check Cliff Palace, no rock face, no tunnel, and the longest ladder was only 10 feet long.

This is for me.

I bought a ticket for Cliff Palace. I didn’t notice 5 ladders and a 100 foot vertical climb to exit the cliff dwelling.

Oh well, live and learn.

Spending four hours in the park, I only saw Cliff Palace. If I can get back here, I will stay in the lodge and spend two or three days exploring.

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The oval pit above is a Kiva. All 23 Kivas of Cliff Palace were perfectly round until just a few years ago. Several have changed dramatically. Without going into detail, it has to do with water and foundations deteriorating. Recently the park lost 80% of its trees to fire. Without the trees to use and hold the water, it seeps into the ground and undermines the dwellings.

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When I climbed out, it took me ten minutes to get my breath back.

Mesa Fire Damage

This gives one an idea of the magnitude of the fire damage.

When I started out of the park, it began to drizzle. Ten miles from the park exit, I decided to follow some sage advice that JAK had imparted when considering the prospect of rain several years ago. “If in doubt, suit up.” I pulled to the side of the road and dug out my foul weather gear. George Bob (GB) had paid me another visit. My boots were nowhere to be found, leaving me outfitted for a blizzard but wearing sneakers. Thanks GB!

I continued down the mountain. After no more than a quarter mile, there was a clap of thunder followed by a cloud burst. Five miles down the road, right at the apex of a curve posted “15 MPH” was a mud slide.

Oh what a joy.

The minute I exited the park the rain stopped. Within 20 minutes it was 100 degrees. The good thing was that my sneakers dried out. It was 50 miles before I stopped at a Ute Indian casino for gas. I changed out of my foul weather gear, now a sweat box. I chugged some water and put the rain gear away.

As miserable and as dangerous the ride from Mesa Verde to the highway was the sheer grandeur of the cave dwellings made it worthwhile. An added benefit was checking off one more item on my Bucket List.

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Grand & Glorious Motorcycle Ride Day 10 – Second Installment – On to Durango

The scenery on 285 and 160 was spectacular but difficult to enjoy with the traffic. There are little towns and homes all along 285. One of the mysteries of the universe is where all the thousands of “Snow Birds” go when they leave Arizona for the summer. Now I know, they go to US 160 in Colorado. I passed one RV Park where there were literally hundreds upon hundreds of RVs parked ever so close together and with only a narrow lane between rows. I don’t believe it possible to pull one out or put one into the rows without moving dozens. There was not a single shade tree in sight. For a hundred or so miles along 160 there are endless RV parks, fishing camps, rafting companies, and hunting lodges. All seemed full. Even with all the distractions, I was glad I took this route.

I bet you all thought you had heard the last of Jim Bob and his exploits. Well on that eventful ride in 2009, we were Four Amigos, JAK Kennemore, Larry Eade, Burny Matthews and me. All retired cops headed out to D.C. to honor fallen comrades. All except me from OPD. I retired from San Leandro PD. I had lunch at a small place on US 285 at US 50. 23 miles east on US 50 is Monarch Pass, Colorado at 11,312 feet. We crossed the pass in May, 2009; it was 22 degrees and snowing. The coffee shop at the summit was covered in snow, with a tunnel dug to the front door.

As usual, Jim Bob was doing his Alpha Biker thing. As we other three prepared to dismount our steeds for a photo op, Jim Bob rode away. Not a word, he just left. We looked at one another, none of us had a clue, but figured we’d skip the photo op of a lifetime and follow Jim Bob. When we finally got clear of the snow, we had ice on our clothes up to our waists. Finally stopping for fuel, Jim Bob told us; “The snow plow operator told me I should get off the mountain, so I left.”

Asked why he didn’t communicate with his three amigos his typical Jim Bob response was; “You’re big boys.” Not sure what that meant.

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I had lunch near the intersection of 285 and 50.

I was wearing the last of the non-Harley T-Shirts I brought along to wear and discard. I never throw away a Harley T-shirt. I began to wear my new Harley Ts.

About an hour out of Durango, Colorado, I took a hydration break. I called ahead for a room. Yelp gave me a list of a half dozen motels. I called Best Western, $189 for a single. No thanks. Next on the list was an independent motel. A call got me a room, with free WiFi for $54.

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From one of the scenic overlooks.

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Looking back up from the valley floor.

Until I reached Durango, the only wildlife I saw was a turkey. Whoop Dee Do!

In Durango I saw two deer happily munching away alongside a city street. Pulling into the motel lot, I saw a D.E.E.R. As I maneuvered across the uneven and steeply sloped parking lot, a big D.E.E.R. came running in my direction. It crossed not twenty feet in front of me. Can you imagine the catastrophe had I collided with the D.E.E.R. and wound up in the hospital?

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Grand & Glorious Motorcycle Ride – Day 10 (First Installment) – Fort Collins, CO to Durango

I had a rough night at the Best Western in Fort Collins. Right after I went to bed I started itching, ankles, elbows, and nose. When I got to Durango I picked up some cortisone. The pharmacist said it would stop the itching. Nope it didn’t work.

In 2009 while on a ride to National Police Week in Washington, D.C., I woke up with identical bites. I was covered from the soles of my feet to my waist. It was so bad I wound up in an ER in Asheville, North Carolina. Bugs always get me. If ten people are in a line and one person gets bug bit, that’s me.

These “bites” forced me home early. I called Kaiser, “You need to get in here right away. You probably had an allergic reaction, not bites.”

When I saw the Dermatologist, he said; “It’s probably an allergic reaction, but I really don’t know what it is.”

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I got to Thunder Mountain H-D in Loveland, Colorado at 8:15 a.m. for an oil and filter change. They had me back on the road at 10:15 a.m. The largest dealership I’ve ever seen, this picture does not do it justice.

In addition to this building, they have an amphitheater that seats several hundred. And yes, I did buy another T-Shirt. That made three. I didn’t know what to do with my collection of Ts. Somewhere in the vicinity of 150, my wife has this selfish idea that her Hope Chest should not be filled with Harley T-Shirts.

Riding gave me plenty of time to think about all those T-Shirts. I came up with a plan. I had quilts made for my children. I managed to get quilts made for all four in time for Christmas.

Blog Shot

Above is the personalized quilt I had made for my son Paul. It is a combination of Harley Ts and shirts from his life. I especially like the Isla Guadalupe T. It is from a Great White Shark Dive the boys and I went on a few years ago.

Before reaching Denver, I had the bajeebers scared out of me. Trying to keep up with a LOL (little old lady) driving a Prius at about 85 MPH, a tractor with an empty flatbed trailer tried to drive over me. It took me back to the 2009 ride to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. In Arkansas another LOL warned me and my three OPD buddies to be careful on I-40. She said “those darn truckers think they own the road”. She was right. Not quite into Tennessee a tractor with an empty flatbed blew by me. I wonder how fast he’s going. I tried to pace him. At 100 MPH he was still pulling away, I decided it wasn’t important enough.

I got around Denver and headed south west on US 285. It was as attractive as the maps suggested. What I didn’t know was just how popular US 285 and US 160 are. I was in traffic for at least 200 of the next 300 miles.

The day was far from over but time runs short. I’ll finish Day 10 in a few days – See Installment #2.

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Grand & Glorius Motorcycle Ride -Day 9 – Spearfish, SD to Fort Collins, CO

My day started at 6:45 a.m. when a loud thunderclap woke me. Happily there was only one, and it rained less than an hour. Long enough to get soaked riding to a coin operated Laundromat, where they had raised the laundry rates for bike week.

Back at Motel Kozy I checked out. I hoped Spearfish Canyon at 9:20 a.m. would be traffic free. It wasn’t, but at least traffic was lighter than later in the day. Spearfish Canyon is one of the reasons I came this way.

Spearfish 1

The first 10 miles was wet and slippery from the rain. While ambling along at 30 MPH, a squirrel ran in front of me. I had a split second to make a choice; “Do I swerve to miss ‘em, or go straight on?” Swerving and hitting the brakes would have probably resulted in going down. “Sorry squirrel.” I ran over his tail. I ruined his day, but he survived the encounter.

Spearfish Canyon is on US 14A. 20 miles up the canyon it dead-ends at US 85. A left turn takes you to Deadwood. On a whim, “why not go right, I’ve been to Deadwood a dozen times. I’ve never turned right. I wonder where it goes.” So a right turn it was. US 85 took me to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

US 85 was a great ride for about an hour and then it turned bad. The temperature was a cool 80.

Spearfish 2
This was taken 20 minutes before it turned bad.

Not long before this picture, I saw movement ahead on the right. I’d been going about 50 MPH because the ride was so nice, slowing wasn’t difficult. The movement was a fawn, (D.E.E.R.). As I approached it took a step towards the roadway, I slowed even more. It turned back towards the woods, then it turned back toward the road and me. I was down to 10 MPH and almost upon the critter. It jumped up, turned and ran into the woods. I continued slowly for about 100 yards. When you see one deer, you often see a second. Where is Momma D.E.E.R.?

Spearfish 3

Here is a shot after it turned bad.

The temperature was 100+ the rest of the day.

I saw several groups of antelope. I left cruise control on 75 for about 200 miles. Stopping in Lusk, Wyoming (You don’t ever want to visit Lusk) for lunch I pulled out the maps. I saw that Fort Collins, Colorado is not far below Cheyenne.

The maps showed that once out of Denver, I could ignore the Interstates for days. I wanted to visit Four Corners, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico all meet at one point. I could stand in all four states at one time. Added fun would be crossing the Continental Divide at least two more times, and a couple of scenic highways. It was 450 miles so I could make it in two days of easy riding. God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise as my dad often said.

After lunch, the ride to Cheyenne took two hours, but I had to stop twice for water, plus drinking the bottle I had on the bike. Gassing up in Cheyenne, I guzzled two bottles of water. I had a hard time staying hydrated. Checking in at the Best Western in Fort Collins, the clerk handed me a bottle of water. It was gone in two gulps.

I called the local Harley-Davidson dealer about an oil change. They got me in the next morning. Usually I get an oil change every 5000 miles, but this had seen some pretty heavy riding conditions. My good buddy, Larry Eade, sent me a reminder to change the oil, thanks Larry.

I planned to turn north on US 191 after Four Corners. This would take me through Moab. Then it would be I-70 until I reached Salina, Utah. I always call my Granddaughter Salina, when I go through Salina. From there US 50 would take me to Reno where I’d take I-80 home. The entire trip ended up being 4,500 miles, less than what I wanted.

US 50 across Nevada is called The Loneliest Road in America. Trust me it is. I’ve ridden it west to east twice. This was my first east to west trip. Crossing Nevada, you stop every time you see a gas pump. There are very few, and it tests the limits of my Ultra. Last time across, there were stretches when we went upwards of 20 miles without seeing another vehicle. If you think about it, one realizes that there was probably 40 miles between the two vehicles.

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Day 8 –Hardin, MT (Little Big Horn Battlefield / Custer’s Last Stand) to Sturgis, SD – 290 Miles – 8.6.2013

No day is complete without a visit from Jim Bob. Day 7 he got a brochure for the battlefield museum at Exit 514. 8:00 a.m. we are running down I-90 when we pass a sign for the Little Big Horn Battlefield, Exit 509. Jim Bob kept a-going. We get to Exit 514. No battlefield.

The folks at the motel had told us of a good restaurant across from the park. No restaurant or park in sight. Wearing a sheepish grin, Jim Bob took off on the frontage road. He saw ‘his’ first road kill of the day, a horse. Now a horse is pretty good sized. Jim Bob pointed but I didn’t see a horse. Maybe the horse is with the brown bear Jim Bob saw a few days before.

Back at Exit 509 we find the battlefield and restaurant. The restaurant sits about 20 people, the gift holds a couple hundred. After the slowest service ever, we got our food. JAK was happy, not I. My over medium eggs were broken and hard. The hash browns were not exactly cold, but close. All is forgiven because the coffee was excellent.

Cathy and I ate there with son Jonathan about 30 years ago. He was 10. He never stopped talking not matter how much we cajoled, promised or threatened. One time I offered him $10 to stop talking for 10 minutes. He didn’t last 5 minutes. I kept the $10.

We asked the manager about road conditions heading east. I told him; “I can take either I-90 or US 212. 212 looks shorter and more interesting.”

He said, “212 is quicker and a better ride, but it was closed yesterday by heavy smoke.”

I beg to differ. The road was closed by fire. Only two miles east the fire had come down and jumped 212.

After eating we went to the battlefield. Our Senior Park Access passes got us in for free. JAK had never been to the battlefield, this was my third visit. It has changed over the years. The first time I visited was probably 35 years ago. Then it was mostly good soldier, bad Indian. Now the presentation is more evenly matched with an explanation from the Sioux’s point of view. They and their allies were cheated and mistreated.

The battlefield is on the Crow Indian Reservation. They conduct bus tours, we should have taken one. We heard a young Crow Indian speaking. He pointed out where events had taken place. If I ever visit here again, the tour will be a must do. The Indian warriors who died here have much newer and nicer monuments than the soldiers.

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Afterwards we got gas at a gigantic gas station. All they had was unleaded regular. Before I got to Belle Fourche, South Dakota, I had to fill two more times with unleaded regular.

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JAK and I part company

JAK rode to Casper, Wyoming where he stayed in a very upscale Best Western, with bar, restaurant, pool, and laundry. His rent was $105. I stayed in Motel Kozy, Spearfish, South Dakota for $118. I didn’t have any of those amenities. I had cinder block walls and a bar next door full of noisy bikers.

US 212 is an excellent two lane road, wide and well maintained. For most of the 235 miles I was on it, my cruise control was set at 75.

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The first burned area, only two miles from the restaurant, was still smoldering. It stretched for six miles. The fire had jumped the road in a few places. Over the next 60+ miles, I never went more than five miles between fresh burns. Most of the farm homes were islands in a sea of black. The firefighters worked heroically to save them. I saw only one burnt to the ground. I heard that about 60 homes had been lost.

The temperature never dropped below 100.

I got to Spearfish, and changed into shorts and a tank top. I had to show off the tattoos. Without JAK to nag me, I put the helmet away. I held my speed to 80-85 for the ride into Sturgis.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally begins the first Monday in August. This was the first day of the rally and my sixth or seventh visit. I usually arrive when it is in full swing. Things were a little subdued compared to what I’ve experienced. The population of the town is about 8,500. During the rally they expect at least 500,000 bikers to pass through.

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At least ten blocks of Main Street are for motorcycles only. Bikes are parked on each side of the road and two deep in the center. Side streets are set up the same way.

I got an “I rode mine” patch. Many haul their bikes in trailers; I’ve been guilty of that sin.

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I walked around until 7:00 p.m., ate nasty food, visited the Jack Daniels site and had my one drink. It was 95 degrees. When I got to Spearfish the sun was blocked by clouds. It was still 90.

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Day 7 – Great Falls, MT to Hardin, MT (Little Big Horn Battlefield) – 310 Miles – 8.5.2012

We slept in and then cleaned the bikes at a coin operated car wash. They were filthy. We should have known better.

We began on Montana 200, to US 191, and then East on I-90. It was not a fun day. We hit over twenty miles of road construction. Thank goodness it was Sunday, there were no work crews. Weekdays, we would have spent hours stopped for construction.

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This section wasn’t too bad, with only a 6 miles stretch of gravel and lots of dust. Somewhere along this stretch my cruise control lever fell off.

About halfway to Billings, Montana we gassed up and got some traffic advice. “191 is the long way to Billings. Montana 3 is shorter but you will hit at least 19 miles of road construction. It’s pretty rough going.” We went the long way.

JAK was famished but there wasn’t a restaurant where we gassed up. It was about 40 miles to a food stop. I was my turn to lead.

We were on the Great Plains, several times we saw antelope. Unlike deer, they stay away from the roadway, generally at least 50 yards back. We saw buffalo, a few hundred yards off the roadway. At first I thought they were cattle. But then, the “tell” came. There was dust rising around a couple of them, heavy dust clouds. Buffalo roll in the dirt. You never see that with cattle. I took a closer look and yes it was buffalo, between 150 and maybe 200.

I saw one D.E.E.R. all day and it was road kill. JAK noticed a solitary fawn across the roadway.

About an hour after we got on I-90, JAK began giving me the middle-finger gesture. We soon pulled off and had a great lunch. When queried about his obscene signals, he said; “You A.H., you passed at least two places where we could have eaten.”

I wasn’t impressed. “Your problem, not mine. You could have pulled off.”

After noon the temperature exceeded 100 making for an uncomfortable ride. 3:00 p.m. and dehydrated we came upon a roadside rest and pulled in. Fate played an unpleasant joke on us. The restrooms were out of order and all water had been shut down. Deprived of the water we needed made us all the more thirsty.

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Dead center in this image is the temperature gauge. You can see it is over 100 at 4:23 p.m.

In the first picture you see haze in the background, smoke. It got worse the further east we went. At our motel in Hardin, Montana, the owners, Alan & Marie, told us, “You’re lucky you called earlier to get a room.” That sounded familiar.

I asked Alan, “Why?”

He said, “In addition to the vacation people and bikers, there are hundreds of fire fighters in town. Every motel in town is full. It’s been one fire after another all summer.”

Alan suggested the 4 Aces Lounge for dinner. It was about a mile from the motel. I skipped wearing a helmet, not required in Montana, for the short ride. I’ve become a helmet guy since a slight misadventure in Oregon years ago. I went down hard, six fractures, an hour lying in a ditch before the first emergency vehicle showed, and then a helicopter medevac with lots of morphine. Riding bareheaded felt great. JAK always nags and insists I wear a helmet. Guess what, JAK rode back helmetless. I’ve never seen him without a helmet. I wish I had had my camera it would have been great to share such an image with all our biker buds, and his wife.

We were about 15 miles from the Little Big Horn Battlefield Monument. The plan was to spend a half day there and then ride east to South Dakota. A telephone call changed our plans. JAK’s wife Sue had an accident. She was at her computer enjoying HOT coffee when she spilled it on her keyboard, herself, and the floor. She jumped up, hit the slippery floor, and fell. Landing on her elbow, it broke. Her arm in a sling, she wouldn’t know the doctors decision until she saw an orthopedist the following morning. The decision was surgery.

JAK would flat track it to Roseville, California on I-80. He endured miserable summertime riding conditions.

Talking with Sue, my wife Cathy, JAK, and text messages from my daughters, convinced me to continue. JAK has ridden across country alone three times and enjoyed every minute of it. If I went back with JAK I’d only slow him down. This was likely my last opportunity to make a long solo ride. So after visiting the Battlefield Monument, JAK headed home.

I decided to continue on to Sturgis, South Dakota.

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