Badlands, SD and Blackhills
I am not a writer by far, I am a person who uses my blog as away to document my passion for riding and my other passions, my life, home, dogs, work and wildlife. It’s my journal into my life even though I share it with well, the “world” to read. Making new memories? Yep…this will sound funny but I like to stream pics through my Apple TV. I am getting tired of seeing all my trips with my ex other half. I am looking forward to actually streaming while listening to my music new pics…pics of trips I take alone versus the past. So, yes…Making new memories as Leslie only.
I want to try something new. I want to start focusing on my future especially since yesterday June 10th will now be the anniversary of my dog Cruizers death. I spent last night texting my “support” system back home in both directions. West and East. I tried to face time my folks to let them know I was Okay but no answer. I had my sister-in-law call them after I heard the news.
My parents and I think for the most part have witnessed how Cruizer and I got along. ;-) I received a face time request from a friend/colleague and to my surprise she was in the office where almost my entire team was present. I have not been very present at work over the last 5 months to be honest. That too is something I want to get back, my passion for organ donation and my new role as family support program director/developer. I have had a buddy or two all along this trip to remind me to eat and rest. They know who they are and with everyone I feel this trip, my blog, FB and the readers on the ADV Rider forum it’s been a solo trip with many following. I kind of like that, best of both worlds.
This was the view where I was when I heard about Cruizer. At least I was thinking wow this is a little like a piece/slice of heaven only to realize that Cruizer was all ready there…
As I head home I been listening to the final chapters of “Ghost Rider”, by Neil Peart. I have an hour left. A truly well written or in my case well audible book that if you have experienced loss and ride a motorcycle, then you could not help to relate to the way he went about trying to heal and mend his broken heart. I only wish I could write like Neil. His attention to details about his first cross-country trip to Alaska and beyond was truly amazing. I have taken a bike to many of the places he went to but never paid the same attention. I learned so much about what he saw, what I saw too and listened intently to his details. Was as if I never been to those places when I heard how he described them.
The most important lesson I am learning from this book is he had it worse than me. Ok, let’s rephrase that because it’s so easy to get caught up in a bit of a grief competition. I heard from a wise teacher there is no rewards for speed when it comes to grief it’s not a competition. Grief belongs to the individual no matter what the loss. I have to remind myself of that because I am after all competitive by nature, stereotypical Type A, need to control my surroundings…well, you get the gist.
I left on May 17th, 2014 for a ride across the country. I had pre-determined places to stop and tried to meet as many people on the road as I could. I missed many who tried to accommodate my day-to-day route planning, and many of my wants to meet people fell through. I think I may have hurt some feelings by not making a connection and I am sorry for that, I really am but in the end it turned out to be sort of impossible.
I am going to try from now on leave the name Cheryl out of my posts. The main purpose of my endurance ride was to shed the hurt and pain I suffered and still do to a degree when she left. I need to as a wise woman said to me in Geneva, NY….”put that away”. I am or let’s be honest I am trying for sake of me, my job, the people who care and worry about me.
Yesterday, I awoke really early to ride the Badlands National Park before all the cagers (cars) woke up. I succeeded in a big way. I had the park for almost my entire ride and exploration to myself with a few cyclists. Not sure if many know this but the park is open 24 hours a day because it’s used by truckers as a “short cut” and is part of the main highway system out there.
Badlands National Park is a national park in southwestern South Dakota that protects 242,756 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States. Wikipedia
It was a cool, crisp morning, 12.5 C or 54.5 F and the sky was clear, blue a sunny.
I went here as a side trip because I was asked to and I am glad I did. I was told maybe I would feel some sort of spiritual connection with the Native American history of the park. Not sure about that part but I did allow myself to slow down and take the rare beauty of this area in. I was for the first half of my ride as they say, “stopping to smell the roses”. Perhaps Cruizer was telling me to so I could have the soulful experience most tell me I would before I would hear of those “bad” words, Cruizer has died.
The sun was still rising by the time I got into the park. I am certain if you go here, depending on the time of day, sunlight etc, this park would take on a different appearance each time. Without cagers, without the tourist traffic jams I have to say it was magical. As a solo rider I have found when I am around large groups of people who do not ride my type of bike, I feel I have nothing in common with them. I get the weirdest questions and I also get Kudos from travelers who wished they were on a bike like mine and my trip. Many men who were driving an RV would say to me in secret, “if I could only ditch the family for a month or two I could be on a trip like you”. I think they mean that in a loving caring way and I know many dream about taking off for a month or more like I do. My response is find a way to make a trip you dream about without hurting anyone’s feelings.
Trips like this can be seen as egocentric. In my case I am egocentric…I mean I am the one in crisis right? Time to move on from that too…thinking it’s all about me is getting to be annoying not only I am sure to those I talk to most but to me as well. I annoy me. “Pull yourself up” Leslie. You are stronger than you think. I hear this all the time but need to absorb how others see me. “You suck at taking compliments”. I think many of us do. All good observations, all ones I will pay more attention to as I move forward into my “new normal”.
Jumping ahead for second, meet Dan. I decided at the last-minute and I mean last-minute as I would have missed to exit off I-90 to ride the scenic by way through the Blackhills. A very fine twisty road made for a little speed and lot’s of leaning into curves. I loved it and as for the cars? Well, they were easily passed with a little touch of the throttle so I could ride the curves with little interruption.
The above picture I met Dan from Kentucky. Riding an old school BMW, forgot to ask what year, that he rebuilt for his adventure. Dan struck me as a bit of a lost soul as I began talking to him. I told him about my dog but nothing about the real reason behind this trip. He began to tell me, because I asked of course what he was doing out and about. Turns out he is unemployed. He used to teach math/sciences to high school kids but realized he does not want to teach. Dan is smart….really smart but is out riding his Beemer to figure his own life direction. I felt for him but found some peace when I found out he feels the same as me about riding. Passion or obsession…either way it is better than drinking or drugging.
We chatted awhile, he then went north I went south only to run into one another heading west on I-90 hours later. We rode me in the lead until Wyoming…we just simply waved to one another and I tried to take his picture while riding but I don’t see it on my camera. That sucks. In any case while I turned off at the visitors area he continued west, waved good bye and that was it. I wish him luck in finding himself. That is what he is doing, trying to figure it all out. Amazing how many of us use our bikes as a therapeutic tool. Listen to Ghost Rider, he did. I have an hour left by the way before that book is done.
This morning I can say this appeared to be the road less traveled. I pretended it was because like I said most people were still sleeping by the time I packed up to ride. I even saw a few awake, humans that is stretching and yawning as I passed campgrounds.
It doesn’t take long to see why this place is one to be visited. It is like a grand canyon of sorts above the land and down below. It’s pretty cool how mother nature continues to erode this area and changing its form slowly each year. Today it was not windy, it was a perfect day to ride.
You can see a cyclist in this pic. Probably wondering about. I did not hike the trails, was planning on doing that later on in the park but half way through when I heard about my dog, my focus was on my house sitters, my dog and me.
If I had longer I would have ridden more of their dirt roads which had signs warning you that these dirt roads were meant to be on only in dry weather. I would imagine they would easily flood. Felt good to ride dirt even for a few hours versus thousands of Km’s. I will take it…this has been a long ride mileage wise. One I could only do in my time by riding asphalt and keeping up some speed.
I left the pavement, which I am sure many GS riders will be happy to hear for the dirt of the Badlands. “Road is for dry weather only” the signs say. It was dry and perfect weather as far as was concerned. My new tires loved the mud and gravel. Nothing technical but if you weren’t paying attention, look where you want to go kind of thing, you could easily get caught in the HUGE ruts in the mud.
I like riding two-track roads. I like going where most cars won’t although these roads most could. In any case I still had these roads to myself and it was quite peaceful. I use the word peaceful a lot these days because I always feel as of late to be in turmoil. One drama after another. Dramatic yeah…that is how I feel I am behaving…so dramatic and overly emotional. Internal conflict I struggle with and need to hear I will be OK with my new life. Life now without Cruizer.
The dirt makes every BMW GS bike a happy bike with a rider who also becomes happy too. Again for all the non riders out there. It’s hard to explain the freedom a motorcycle can bring to ones psyche. It’s about feeling where you ride versus being a passive observer. Being part of the climate, the smells and yes the weather is all part of it making even the same ride feel different every time you do it on a bike.
Road to no where it seemed but it led to others just like it. I bet you could ride all day back here and not be seen but I had to get back to reality…soon after this little off-road stint I got the news from home and then most everything else became a blur.
Frantic texting to home about the necropsy, the colour of the urn, do I want a paw print etc. I have had three cats I put down due to illness and never really thought about getting their ashes back or paw prints. But this was easy for me…the answer was yes to everything and I told Taylor and Dave pick the colour of the urn. You loved Cruizer like me.
Another challenge for me lies ahead. Keep my head on straight, focus on riding now my woes to get home. Getting home also is creating a little anxiety because everything that has happened since I left I get to see…furniture moved out and now one less dog. It’s tempting to “quit” life and stay on the road but I need to face reality and make sure that this ride was not wasted. That this personal challenge to ride solo across the country can be of some use in my everyday life. We will find out soon enough.
My bike turned 24,000 KM’s on this day…# 25. I will get back to days 22-24 at some point but since I was up early, have this ride fresh in my mind, I don’t take notes…I thought get day 25 out there. I will pack up soon…it’s now 0512, have some breakfast and then off I go. Good news…weather for the region over the next few days is actually to be on the cool side. No high 30 C or 90 F. Somewhere between 70-80 or 20’s C. For that I have to be thankful…I am not a great rider in the blaring sun and heat. Cooler weather I could ride forever.
I forgot to add I did stop at Wall Drug but by this time I was so upset and crying I think I was freaking the tourists out. I had a quick bite to eat and left this town as it was filling up with strangers. ;-)
So, this day I dedicate to my beloved Cruizer and ride with him for him. I never say I love you enough to most humans…so, I do love my human friends and family don’t get me wrong…but the love I felt for Cruizer was different. I have to work hard to hold back my tears right now. can’t ride with puffy eyes. I hope I can compartmentalize today and make some ground. Until next time…thanks for reading…
PS…My tires loved the dirt….