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Road Trip - 4500 miles in 16 Days

Mar 28, 2005
Houston, Texas
4,478.07 miles (according to my GPS), through 11 states in 16 days.

Vernon, Texas
Amarillo, Texas
Colorado Springs, Colorado (via Capulin, New Mexico)
Rawlins, Wyoming
Colter Bay, Wyoming (Grand Tetons)
Cooke City Montana
Sheridan, Wyoming
Deadwood, South Dakota
Wall, South Dakota
Broken Bow, Nebraska
Junction City, Kansas
Neosho, Missouri
Harrison, Arkansas
Mena, Arkansas
Marshall, Texas (via Oklahoma)

We left Houston at about 7:30 am with the intention of staying in Jacksboro, Texas. We stopped about 60 miles north of Houston for breakfast.

Our first 150 miles was on the freeway and the Texas State Troopers were out in force. I saw at least half a dozen with cars pulled over so we kept it to around the speed limit or maybe 5 over but no more. When we pulled off the freeway for our first gas stop and to leave the freeway for two lane black tops we ran into a couple of troopers. They explained that DPS had a large task force on the streets to catch speeders over the Labor day weekend.

When we pulled into Jacksboro, I had a list of 3 possible motels. The first one on my list had been torn down. The second one was pretty ratty looking and appeared to be full when we rode by.

Since it was still fairly early in the day, we decided to head a bit further since we wanted to get to Amarillo early enough to do a bit of running around the City. We went another hundred miles and stayed in Vernon, Texas. We ended up doing about 440 miles the first day and this left us only about 190 miles to get to Amarillo the next day, all of it on 4 lane limited access roads.

Found a small place called Norman’s Catfish Restaurant where the parking lot was packed and had visions of a gourmet experience like Alton Brown on Feasting on Asphalt. If you ever find yourself in Vernon and hungry, go to McDonalds. This place sucked. The service was slow, the food was cold and tasted horrible. Oh, well. Better luck next time.

Up early and off to Amarillo, we rolled in before Noon. Check-in was 3. A bit of schmoozing to the desk clerk and a tip to housekeeping got us in the room by 12:30. We unpacked, grabbed some lunch and headed off to Cadillac Ranch. 10 Cadillacs buried nose first in the west Texas plains. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea but it has been there for at least 30 years and people stop by and paint their names on the Cars.

From Cadillac Ranch we headed to Palo Duro Canyon. A fascinating place. Amarillo is pretty much flat in every direction, but 20 miles south is this canyon cut deep into the landscape. It was hot. I bet it was close to 100 degrees in the lowest part of the Canyon.

After riding through the Canyon we headed back to the Big Texan Hotel and Restaurant where we met Jbay and his family for dinner. This may be a tourist trap, but the steaks were excellent.

Up early the next morning and off to Colorado Springs. About halfway to Colorado Springs we pull off for a leg stretcher between gas stops. I pull into the parking lot of a closed business, drop my kickstand and start to get off. My riding partner has pulled in beside me and has gotten off to the right of his bike. As I get off, and I do not know why, the bike starts to fall to the right. I am trying to hold it up but there is just no way. It falls against my buddy’s HD Ultra Classic and also knocks it over (with the rear floorboard landing on his foot. I end up having to lay the bike over onto his and go around and help lift his enough to get his foot out. We then stand my bike up and then his. No damage to the HD. The Tiger has the left mirror mount broken and the mirror comes off. The master cylinder is attached to this mount and therefore comes off with the mirror.

It is Sunday of a holiday weekend and here I sit with a bike with no Master Cylinder. I took a couple of pieces of Plastic and a small pair of vice grip pliers and clamp the brake line. I check it and I have brakes, so off we go.

We check a couple of places and no one has dot 4 brake fluid. I figure we will eventually get somewhere that has some and I will be able to put the master cylinder back on so we keep going.

90 degrees on a high speed limited access highway and I learn the other purpose of the brake master cylinder. At first I think I have kinked my throttle cable because I can’t seem to accelerate. I pull over to check it out and the brake line is blown up like a balloon and constantly applying my front brakes because in the heat the brake fluid expanded and has no where to go! I can only assume that the only reason the front wheel did not lock up us because of the ABS brakes.

I open the vice grips and let enough fluid out to relieve the pressure. The front brakes are now spongy but still there.

Back on the road, next stop Colorado Springs. We get to Colorado Springs and pull off the road and yep, no front brakes. A short ways down the road we spot an open Auto parts store. We pull in and I get some Dot 4 brake fluid. I full up the master cylinder, squeeze the air out of the end of the brake line, attached it to the master cylinder and remove the vice grips.

First squeeze, nothing. I start pumping the front brakes while keeping the master cylinder full and pretty soon they feel almost normal. I cap the master cylinder, zip tie it to the handlebar and off we go in search of a hotel. Labor day weekend and everything is full. We finally find a place with an empty room and settle in for the night.

By the way, I never did anything else to the front brakes and they worked great for the rest of the trip.

Next installment – Pikes Peak, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone.

Big Texan Hotel


Cadillac Ranch


Palo Duro Canyon

Dec 4, 2006
Toro, LA
Thanks for the partial trip report...I'm hoping more is on the way. It's the surprises (the good and the bad) that make memories.
Mar 28, 2005
Houston, Texas
Rawlins, Wyoming
Colter Bay, Wyoming (Grand Tetons)
Cooke City Montana

Now with brakes I was ready for a real road trip.

We got up early Monday morning and decided to ride up to Pikes Peak without luggage and would check out of the Hotel when we got back.

We get about 5 miles past the entry point and the road turns to dirt. My buddy was on a HD Ultra Classic and said he would be ok going to the top but would not feel comfortable coming back down those steep dirt twisty roads on his HD.

I feigned disappointment at not being able to continue, but I really had no desire to try those roads on the Tiger with the pure street tires on it either. It turns out this was actually a good decision. Otherwise we would not have gotten to Rawlins until well after dark.

So it is back to the Hotel, pack up, stop for breakfast and on the road.

I think it was just west of Denver on State Road 40 we went over our highest pass of the trip.

We are riding along this twisty road and we pull over for a look at the view and to take a photo or two. While standing there I look straight up the side of the cliff face and about 50-75 yards up the cliff is another road with traffic moving the same way we are moving. I am standing there thinking about checking the GPS to see if we want to check out what is on this other road when enlightenment finally hits my slow muddled brain. This is not another road but is the same road we are on and has gone thru two 180 degree switch backs that quickly on its path up the side of this mountain!

The top of this pass was 11,218 feet. That is the highest we would be for the entire trip. It was a fun ride up and down the Mountain.

After this the trip was pretty uneventful until after lunch. When we get ready to had out after lunch we look up along the route we are planning to take and there are lots of dark clouds with flashes of light in the sky. Out come the maps and we plot what we hope is a route around the storm that will only add about 25 miles to the Days ride. Unfortunately we did not quite make it. We did miss the lightening and the very heavy rain but did have to stop and don rain gear for a short while.

The last 20 miles of the day are long I-80 into Rawlins, Wyoming. When we turn west on the interstate the sun is directly over freeway about 20 degrees above the horizen shining directly into my eyes. I am riding along at about 65-70 mph with just my throttle hand and trying to block the sun with my other hand and I can’t see anything. Every so often a semi will pass at about 75-80 mph and rock me all over the road. (speed limit was 75). This is probably the toughest 20 miles I have ever ridden.

We finally pull into Rawlins at just about dark, find our hotel, grab some dinner and settle in for the night.

Up early, we are off to our first real destination, the Grand Tetons. Short day 267 miles. Roads are nice but not too technical and it is an easy ride. Great weather, no rain, and no big orange disk shining directly into our eyes. We are trying to make good time today because Tony needs go take a Detour down to Jackson Hole to the Harley Dealership to see if he can get a new front tire.

The only interesting part of the ride was the road construction. We hit dirt about half way to the Tetons that goes on for about 15 miles. Luckily it was on the up hill side of the mountain. We get out of it well before the top and head down the other side. Well, about 5 miles down we hit construction again and I am envisioning 15 miles of damp dirt (they spray it with both water and oil to keep the dust down) heading down a steep mountain. Fortunately the downside was mostly paved and we just had to follow a pilot car thru about 10 miles of construction at 20 mph.

We split off at a point about 10 miles from the Cabins we have reserved for the night. I head to the Hotel and Tony heads to the Harley Dealership about an additional 30 miles away. (60 mile round trip added to the day’s ride.)

I get to the Cabin, get checked in and am unpacked before 4 oclock. I walk over to the Park General Store and then down to the lake to take a few photos.

Tony shows up about 6 but was not able to get a new tire at the Jackson Hole dealership. Why not? Because they did not have any tires. Would not do them any good to have any tires because they do not have a Service Department. And they do not have a service department, because they do not need one, they don’t sell motorcycles. They are a t-shirt shop. Nothing else. They just sell HD “road clothes” and memorabilia. No bikes, no parts, no chrome, no service but a heck of a selection of t-shirts.

We have dinner at an excellent little restaurant run by the park within walking distance of our cabin, buy a few items at the Park General Store, take a few photos and try to prepare for tomorrows experience – Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was a treat. We only had 150 miles planned for the day and it took all day. Up early and off we go.

As we are riding along we see several buffalo off in the distance. We round a corner and find one lined up walking down the street toward us in a line of traffic. Pulled off and took a photo.

Then just a short way up the road another buffalo is crossing the street in front of us. At this point Tony is leading and he pulls over and stops. The buffalo has somehow gotten thru the steady stream of southbound traffic. At this point we are the only Northbound traffic. Tony looks at me and asks me if I want to take over the lead. He was apprehensive about riding by the buffalo which is now on the right side of the road where there is only about 10 feet of space between the road and a sheer rock cliff face.

I put the bike in first, pop the clutch and do my 0-60 in under 3 seconds routine. By the time I back off the throttle I am well past the beast. Apparently, zooming by the buffalo spooked him and when I look in my mirror to see if Tony is behind me the buffalo is at full gallop. Well, discretion being the better part of valor, I did not slow down until I was up the road about a half mile around a curve an at a pull off on the southbound side of the road.

I am sitting there waiting to see Tony and I wait and I wait. Finally I spot Tony riding north on the south bound shoulder and a couple of minutes later here comes the buffalo still at full gallop on the south bound side. I pulled out in front of Tony and we do not slow down until we are well up the road. When we stop he tells me that every time he tried to come by this buffalo the animal would cut left and run right up to the edge of the road and he would have to slow down. After this happened 3 or 4 times he cut across the road and passed it on the southbound shoulder with the line of southbound traffic between him and the buffalo.

We stopped by several Geyser fields including Old Faithful but never saw any of them spewing skyward. We had missed Old Faithful by only about 10 minutes and it was going to be almost another hour before it went off again. We went into the Gift shop, bought some tee shirts and headed on up the road.

We rode some great roads, stopped at some pull offs for photos of great views then stopped for gas. About 10 miles from the gas station we pull off for another view and photo op and Tony tells me he left his gas cap at the station when we got gas. The HD has a small door on top of the gas tank that opens with a key kinda like some cars, with a regular non-keyed gas cap under the door.

Tony goes back for his gas cap and I kick back and enjoy the view for a while. A very weird looking tour bus comes by the pull off and makes a u-turn and heads back into the park.

Tony gets back and we head on out of the park to Cooke City Montana, a very picturesque little town where gas is almost $4.00 a gallon.

The dirt section of the road heading up Pikes Peak -



State highway 40 in Colorado heading up to the highest point –


Typical view along our part of our route –


Road Construction before the Tetons


The Tetons



We crossed the Continental Divide 6 times on this ride -


Traffic in Yellowstone -


Old faithful


Buffalo grazing by the road


A couple of typical views riding thru Yellowstone



Cooke City Montana

Aug 1, 2007
Fort Worth
Yep! Bison have the right-of-way. Always.

When we were there several years back we had one try to stick his head in through the window of the rental minivan. Those critters have loooong tongues!
Dec 10, 2005
Nice pics. Your description of your Yellowstone visit sounds like Chevy Chase at the Grand Canyon ... pull the family truckster over to the edge, get out, look for a second, stretch, get back in and go.

Sounds like a nice trip.
Mar 28, 2005
Houston, Texas
Sheridan, Wyoming
Deadwood, South Dakota
Wall. South Dakota

We had planned to Ride Chief Joseph Scenic Byway to Dead Indian Pass then come back and ride Beartooth Scenic Byway to Red Lodge. Unfortunately, Tony needed a front tire. We found one in Cody, at the end of Chief Joseph Scenic Byway so we had to skip Beartooth.

As discussed earlier we found out on this trip that all Harley Dealerships are not created equal. The HD dealerships in Jackson Hole, Red Lodge, Cody, Deadwood, and Sturgis (That’s right Sturgis) are clothes and souvenirs. No bikes, no parts, no chrome and no service.

Turns out the Cody “Dealership” did rent space to an independent mechanic that did minor service and tires. They had told us that the service guy had some appointments already but if we got there at 9 am he could fit us in.

Up and on the road at 7 am we had 75 miles of mountain roads and sight seeing to do in 2 hours. Chief Joseph byway was absolutely great. The weather was good (cool – 40 degrees), the scenery was gorgeous and the road was one of the best we had been on.

We got to Cody at 9:02 am but it took us about 10 minutes to find the place. When we got there it turned out the mechanic was not in yet and would not be there for at least another hour. We had some breakfast, did a bit of sight seeing and finally got back on the road about 11:30 and we still had a couple of hundred miles and several stops to go. Cody was basically nothing but a tourist town.

Luckily, the roads on the detour were as great as the ones we had originally planned to ride. We were crossing the Big Horn Mountains. At one point we came to a pull off and I had the clutch in and the front brake held tight.

The front tire contact patch was not sufficient to hold the bike. With the rear tire free wheeling and the front brake held the bike started sliding backwards down the hill and did not stop until I released the clutch. That’s a steep hill.

That was on the upside. We hit a rain storm just before the 9300 foot pass thru the mountains and it rained all the way down the other side.

It was wet and it was cold and it did not seem we were ever going to get back down to dry, reasonably warm weather. As slow as we were going we got behind this SUV that was moving about 15 mph on the fast sections and substantially slower at the approach to any curve. He finally pulled over and let us and the other 15 vehicles behind him got on down the road.

At one point later we pulled over for a break and sure enough this guy passed us again. We waited about 10-15 minutes before getting back on the road but still caught him about 2 miles down the road and, at this point had a park police vehicle behind us.

I guess he saw the light bar on top of the park police SUV because he pulled over almost immediately and we got on down the road. But no speeding. Luckily by the time we got down the Mountain we were out of the park and the nice officer pulled off and let us get on with our trip.

We pulled into Sheridan, Wyoming, had a pleasant dinner and early to bed.

Up early and heading east we were looking forward to Devils Tower. At one point we passed about the biggest coal strip mine in the country. The tires on the coal hauler in the photo are about 15 or 20 feet tall. It is huge.

Devil’s Tower was pretty interesting. My understanding is it was caused by an almost volcano. Magma came almost to the surface but did not erupt before cooling. Then over time (a lot of time) the land eroded from around it leaving this tower sticking into the air.

In one of the Photo’s you will see a climber scaling the side of this thing.

We were running a bit late and decided to hit the freeway into Sturgis. We found the Sturgis HD Dealership and again learned that it was a tee-shirt shop and not a real dealership. Still, we had to stop, buy a shirt and then head to Deadwood.

Deadwood, like Vegas, is the ultimate tourist town. Hotels, Casinos, Restaurants, souvenir shops and not much else, but we enjoyed the Casino even though we both lost a little money.

Up early we had lots to do – Crazy Horse, Custer Park, Rushmore, etc.

Unfortunately the weather had other plans. About 20 miles outside of Deadwood, the fog got so bad I was afraid to continue and afraid to stop.

I never lost sight of Tony’s headlight, but when we did stop he said there were several times he could not see me at all.

We pulled into this little country store, had some coffee and waited for the fog to clear a bit.

After we could see again we headed for Crazy Horse.

It was a bit of a let down. You could not get close to it without taking their tour and we did not have the time or the inclination to do that.

On to Custer State Park. From here on in the ride was a real treat. Custer Park is home to a 1500 buffalo free roaming herd.

First thing we ran into were prairie dogs begging for food. Obviously, they have been well trained to expect anyone on two wheels to keep them well fed.

Buffalo’s were everywhere. We saw several large herds, including a herd of asses (Donkeys not HD riders).

None really close to the road like in Yellowstone but the roads were good, the scenery was good and the ride was great.

We came out the north end of Custer Park headed up to Rushmore and thought we were done with the Buffalo.

Turns out the Buffalo do not realize they are supposed to stay in the park. We come around a curve and head up a hill and see an auto stopped in the middle of the road at the top of the hill.

We slow to a crawl because we do not know what is going on. Turns out the car has slowed to about 2 miles an hour to look at a couple of buffalo standing by the road. Since we do not want to creep by these guys at 2 mph and take a chance on them wanting to snuggle we waited until the car got tired of looking and sped up and around the next curve.

We did the same and just around the curve the car is stopped along with several others waiting on a herd of about 100 buffalo to migrate from one side of the road to the other.

All but about a dozen went across and those looked comfortable where they were so the cars started moving. We had pulled off the road and were sitting there waiting on traffic. When it started moving we got ready to pull out and just then two pick-up trucks came by. As soon as they passed we pulled out and what did they do. Stopped right in the middle to watch the buffalo. They sat there until the last dozen decided to cross. They then took off leaving us in the middle of these buffalo crossing the road. One baby got about half way across and could not seem to decide where it wanted to be. It went back and forth across the center line about 5 times never leaving the roadway.

Finally the last two adults decided to cross and then the little one went on across. These last two were only about 20 feet in front of the bikes and we did not move until they were well away.

Rushmore awaits. Highway 16 to Rushmore was the curviest road I have ever been on. (Don’t forget, I just came thru the Rockies and the Bighorn mountains and I have been to Deals gap and the Ozarks, so that is saying something) There were at least 4 places where it curved back under itself like a clover leaf entrance ramp to get up or down the mountain because there was just not enough room to loop back and forth. Several times it split to one lane roads with 20-40 yards of forest between the lanes. That was pretty interesting.

At one point we pull off at a roadside park with a view due north of Mount Rushmore. We take a couple of photos and get back on the bikes. When we pull out of the park there is an arrow pointing due south with a sign that says Mount Rushmore – 3 miles.

We finally get to the Turn off for Rushmore. It is a wide 4 lane road with a 35 mph speed limit and signs everywhere that says “Slower Traffic Keep Right”. I am thinking “Slower than 35?” when we come up on a Motorhome that is about 800 feet long and in the right lane struggling at about 20 mph trying to get up this hill.

About a half mile from Rushmore they have a pull off with a great view of the Mountain so we pull off and take a couple of photos. Back on the bike, I take off and am going slow waiting on Tony to pull out behind me. What I see is him leaning the bike over on the side stand and getting off. I pull over to wait and when he does not come into view in about 5 minutes I head back to see what is wrong.

His gear shifter has come loose and he can not change gears. Fiddling, he was able to get it into first and rode it that way the last half mile up to Rushmore. Once we got into the parking lot we discover that a set screw has come loose and allowed the rear linkage to slip on the shifting shaft (complicated hill toe shifter with floorboards) and the shifter is just flopping around loose. We got it tight enough for him to feel comfortable enough to get to the next stop and up to the park for touristy stuff.

We had waited lunch so we could have lunch in the Mount Rushmore restaurant where they filmed the Hitchcock movie North by Northwest.

They tore it down 10 years ago. I was so disappointed. We ended up having a hotdog in a chrome and glass cafeteria that had no atmosphere at all.

We are running late with the Buffalo and the shifter so after a couple of photos we are back on the bikes.

We had planned to ride thru Badlands National Park both going to and leaving Wall. Because of the late hour we hit the freeway and got into Wall just before dark.

We checked into the hotel and headed out for dinner and to visit Wall Drug. I have heard of Wall Drug for years. Everyone says you have to go there and they claim if Wall Drug doesn’t have it, they do not make it.

Very disappointing. With the exception of a few drugs, clothes and camping gear it was basically a 2 acre curio/souvenir shop. A waste if time.

Next installment. Last one. Badlands, Ozarks and home. (oh yeah, also Nebraska and Kansas).

The road leading up to and the view from Dead Indian Pass -


Cody Wyoming


Hill where the bike was sliding. Notice the Runaway Truck Ramp just before the hard left turn.


This is the strip mine with that huge coal hauler


My bike in front of Devils Tower


Prarie Dogs on the approach road to Devils Tower


Devils Tower


Some guy scaling the Tower


Sturgis HD


Deadwood fog


Crazy Horse


Prairie dogs expecting to be fed


Buffalo herd


The Trucks that stuck us in the middle of these beasts


The big one 20 feet in front of the bike


Highway 16 twisting back over itself


Mount Rushmore


Wall Drug