Total Day: 430.4 km (267.5 mi)
Total Trip: 3653.5 km
Today we woke early, earlier than we would have thought. We once again congratulated ourselves for choosing to have a cabin at Sturgis. We had a good night’s sleep, and were able to get packed and ready to move on. Not having to pack up two tents was certainly helpful, but having only taken out a limited amount of gear from our panniers meant that it was easy to reattach them, stuff them, lock them, and head for breakfast.
We got to breakfast just before the appointed hour, and were some of the first in line – that let us enjoy an extra cup of Bivouac Coffee while we waited. Once we had breakfast, there wasn’t anything for it but to get on the bikes and get moving. This, again, was another Beginning of the Long Dash. We were starting our journey west, our journey home. We had been travelling east for over 10 days, and now it was time to turn around and head back. This was the start of the end of our epic journey.
We had an amazing day planned – yet another day of destination riding, this one having been in my brain since I was a little kid: the amazing monolith of Devil’s Tower, This had been in my consciousness ever since it was featured, nearly as a character, in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (Bah-bah-bah whomp whomp. You’re welcome.). I didn’t know what to expect, although I did expect a large interesting promontory with nothing else around it.
We had also heard that getting to Devil’s Tower fairly early was important, as it’s a much-visited site. We hoped to get away by 8:00 am and arrive by 10:30 to try and avoid most of the traffic. We managed to leave just before 8:00 am, and once again found ourself on lovely, quiet, curving roads through farmland and outstanding scenery.
We made a quick stop in a very small town, pulling over so that RRP could futz with his GoPro. It had been giving him a lot of intermittent trouble on the trip, something that I’ve always experienced with GoPros of each generation. As we did, a couple of Harleys – it was mostly Harleys in the vicinity of Sturgis – pulled in to have breakfast at the spot we were stopped at. We got moving again, and continued on towards our goal… and then, there it was. Out of nowhere. The Devil’s Tower. Looming over the landscape, and calling to us. We would twist and turn away and towards it on this fabulous, curvy road, each coming nearer as it hove into our line of site, drawing us towards it, calling to us. I heard the Close Encounters motif over and over as we moved closer.
We arrived at the Devil’s Tower entrance by 10:15 am. We had a roughly 12 minute wait at a makeshift stoplight that was there to control traffic, and then up to the parking area. The parking area with dedicated motorcycle parking right up front. Infinitely civilized. It was already hot, and we stripped out of our suits and did our trinket shopping before exploring.
Pushing up the paved hiking trail, we stopped at one or two of the photo opportunities. It was an amazing sight, awe-inspiring. The unique strakes on the side of this mountain are due to the fact that it’s a volcanic extrusion, and the strakes are caused by the crystallization that occurred as the lava cooled. It was, essentially, a lava plug, the rest of the surrounding earth eroded over aeons, leaving the Tower to stand on it’s own.
As we walked down the hill towards the parking lot, we were stopped by a woman who asked about our boots. Specifically, she asked if we were climbers, as there were several on the mountain that day. We told her we weren’t, and that they were motorcycle boots – and how far we had ridden so far. She was perhaps more amazed at that than she was at the climbers.
Having seen the sights, we returned to our bikes. It was hot, and we slowly got back into our gear. As we rode back down, some time around noon, it was clear that our early arrival was worth it – I estimate that the wait to get up to the parking lot was now over an hour. Stopping at the booth at the exit, I asked if my America the Beautiful Parks Pass was valid – and it was, so that meant it was another free visit to another cool place.
Pulling out of the park, we turned west and started our journey to our overnight stop. We were headed to the Sheridan / Big Horn Mountains KOA in Sheridan, Wyoming for the night. We made our way to Moorcroft, WY and stopped for a bite of lunch, then continued on towards Sheridan. Thank goodness we had water.
I have named the highway we were on the Desolation and Dehydration Highway. It was 233 km (145 miles in the Measurements of Our Oppressors) of lovely asphalt that was devoid of other traffic, devoid of services, beaten on by the sun, oppressively hot, and hard to get through. The temperature gauge on my my dash read 39° C (102° F), and it was a slog. We finally reached our campsite at about 5:00 pm, and we were a bit shattered when we got there.
The Sheridan KOA was lovely. I had some misgivings at first as I thought they put us in a site directly beside the pool, but that wasn’t true – we were down just far enough from it. We had a lovely grass area to set up our tents, and while it was hot, it wasn’t windy. I elected to set mine up without the rain fly to maximize the airflow overnight, and that turned out to be a good decision. RRP was a hero and went out to buy food (ravioli and sausages!) and adult beverages, and I took the role of launderer. We both had a swim and a shower, and as the evening cooled, we relaxed, having had an amazing day.
Of all the things that we have seen on this trip, I think Devil’s Tower has impressed me the most. Perhaps it’s that vestigial memory I have of Richard Dreyfuss constructing a replica out of mashed potatoes. Perhaps it’s just that, once you see it, it’s so awe inspiring – how did that get there? No matter, it was worth the ride out to it and the hike around it, for sure. Had the weather been cooler, we likely would have spent more time there, but at least I can put the sticker on my bike – been there!