Featured Title - 'No Return Ticket' 2 People, 2 Years, 1 Motorcycle -
--> You can click ahead to some action and the exotic photos,
--> Mexico: --> Guatemala: --> Honduras: --> Nicaragua: --> Costa Rica: --> Caribbean: --> Panama: --> Belize: --> Return Ride:
--> or start at the beginning here:
Where will we go? Where will I take her?
Here We Go -->
There are many miles and many roads to travel. There are many lives to live.
Of course, skip all the dribble if you like and just check out a few photos
The Start: I call Heidi at work to schedule a trip planning / brainstorming meeting. From our Minneapolis uptown apartment we jump on a city bus running up Lake street getting off a mile latter at Lyle's Liquor Lounge on Hennepin Avenue, the best two for one happy hour in town. While heavy into discussions about a next big adventure, the topic about what motorcycle to ride came up. We have been looking at new bikes for a while now but they are more then we want to spend, especially when we have a couple motorcycles already. The bottom bike is over ten grand, and to us that equals 6 months 'living large' in some exotic foreign country. Anyway, to make this next adventure happen soon it became obvious that we need to outfit one of our present set of wheels for two-up adventure travel. We pick the Sportster, it's our newest and most reliable bike, a 1995' Harley Davidson XL1200. OK, somewhere while talking about schedules and destinations came out the need for a shake-out ride to Las Vegas. "Sounds good!", we do a pinkie-pact (now it is set in stone) here we go....
Here We Go -->-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Continued ride preparation details -> Two years is a long time to be away
Preparing for a new life I first should have a graceful exit from the old. (Just in case I need to return some day) I started working at this company in 1982 (Wooh) and the place feels like home. I love the people I work with and the work I do, but if I want to pursue this dream there is no getting around it, I need to say it "I Quit" (!!!) Now everything can just happen.
Start Date: July 12, our anniversary date, 18 years (I hope it's not our last) Ugh... (Inner voice: "I need to pilot this expedition right") We waffled about the date for a long time. Heidi is always ready to go now (ya gotta love her). Financially we should have waited for October but that's too long to wait.
Enough buildup, on with the ride->
This is the final pack, it's like we are on autopilot. Our eyes meet, we start to yell. This is the first time I try to pack the laptop, it seems to fit, I hope it holds up to the extreme abuse of being strapped to a motorcycle. Heidi seems to have her packing system down, a lot more then me anyway. I have the right pannier, Heidi the left. We share the backpack. It looks like everything will fit. Now we're yelling a lot, "This is it, ahhhh!" Moments before finally locking the door for the last time I go to put on my boots, wrong feet, duh.... Guess I'm a little more frazzled than I thought. We are finally off. This is Unreal… 2 years, it doesn't seem possible.
The best worst day:
I am hoping to make up for forgetting our wedding anniversary day the last couple of years by making reservations at a beautiful little motel overlooking Lake Superior, Bayfield WI. This is where I proposed and Heidi finally says yes. This can't go wrong; the reservations are on my credit card (I won't forget), the area is filled with magic, we're in love and this is the first day on the road of our adventure of a life time.
We tried to get on the road early so we could eat breakfast at Seeley, WI Sawmill Saloon. Too late for breakfast continue on, from here, it is only a little over an hour to Bayfield.
The scene in Bayfield is nautical, sitting on the shore of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands. We proceed to get into the scene and park the bike near the ferry dock. It's a scenic walk along the shore of the lake. We can't believe this is happening, everything is perfect. The timing is just right to be at the motel at the 3:00 check in. Not even off the road yet, a guy is waving at us. I wave back. We park right in front of the room I reserved six months ago. Heidi is elated. The guy who waved at us greets us promptly. I tell him we have reservations for room 17 for tonight and tomorrow. He hustles me inside the office and I think says something like "Impossible". The next thing he's telling me he has no reservations for us and asks if we have the right place. Back out to the bike I return with my address book which has an entire page devoted to this reservation. My address book has "Bayfield, SeaGull Bay Inn, July 11 and July 12. Room 18" I say "O! my mistake, it's room 18" He says that's impossible, Captain Ron has room 18 all month. (My eyebrows rise) He asks if I received a reservation card. I remember receiving the card but I don't have it. The clerk rambles back and forth that this can't happen but if I had my reservation card with me, he would get us a room at another motel in town. I say "I see, Captain Ron has room 18 all month so we got bumped on our anniversary" I knew we are hosed without the reservation card and no matter what, we can't spend the night here.
I come back out of the office. Heidi is gleaming "We have a screened in patio!" she exclaims. I explain the situation, she cries. I say s!
Back on the bike, we can't believe it. There is a little motel in another town that has vacancy. Heidi says "It's a dump, I'm not staying there on my anniversary!" We need to get somewhere ASAP, we're loosing daylight and it's starting to storm. (great) The clouds are dark ahead so we find a nice secluded pull off spot in the woods and wait for the storm to pass. We have fun talking about our situation and plan strategies for communication while on the motorcycle together. Three quick taps means Heidi sees something in the road. One solid tap means Heidi needs a gear change, like it's going to rain now and we need to suit up.
We wait for dark storm clouds several more times. Then I get one solid jab. Yes, time to pull over and put on rain gear. We're riding along in hard rain now. I get 3 short jabs, 3 more, 3 more. I pull over. There is an almost perfect rainbow behind us.
It's Wednesday evening and that's the potluck and $2 cheeseburger night at the VFW post in Springbrook, WI. We hope maybe our friends Don and Colleen will be there. They are not but the place was a buz. We told our anniversary story and everyone has a big laugh. This is for sure the best worst day we ever had.
Hold on! This is just the start. We have two years......
We're on the road before noon. The weather is perfect for riding. The bike feels super heavy, I've never ridden anything that feels this big. The county road we exit on is bumpy and dippy and is a good example of what we should be able to handle. The bike is bottoming out and I have to take it real slow. I just say to myself "Slow is good, this is OK" (holy crap).
Our first thought is ride through Minneapolis and do the Joint bar scene where the slogan is "Where the ride begins and ends" It would have been cool but we've 'been there, done that'. Heidi wants to do something new (liken' that) We shoot for North Dakota, neither of us have ever been there before. Our goal is to do VFF (Very Few Freeways) but that calls for a lot of map reading and looking at the sky, the type of travel I like and am use to but it kind of freaks Heidi out. Ya know, getting lost and all that.
I stiffen the rear shocks all the way at a gas stop. I thought I had them midway but they are only slightly stiffer then the lightest setting. I don't mention it to Heidi but she notices the riding difference right away. (I like that A Lot…..) The bike feels a lot better now. We still dip down low but we don't bottom out. This is good to say the least. Heidi and I try to get into the motorcycle travel philosophy right away. We don't want to push too hard the first day and not like it, so I constantly look for places to chill in a nice country scene. I prefer this to a gas station or restaurant.
The first stop is a golden farm field with plenty of crickets. Heidi thinks it was weird but she did enjoy the rest in peace. I do a better job finding the nest rest place. Heidi is into it, she knows just what to do. We throw out our leathers on the grass in the shade. A bottle of water, 'This Is Good'.
We do not make it to Fargo the first day but do find a great state park (Carlos State Park) on a small lake just north of Alexandria, Minnesota. The place has a nice swimming beach right in front of our tent. This is a popular spot and has campers all around. As always Heidi and I engage in some intense and slightly heated discussions. I say "Stop yelling at me" and bring up that other campers are probably hearing us and thinking we're fighting. Heidi says "I'll stop yelling at you when you stop doing stupid stuff!" We laugh. We are really hammering out our system (I hope).
It got a lot colder the first night then we anticipated. The new light weight sleeping bags were supposed to zip together but they don't zip the way they should, or the way we think they should. It is a challenge staying warm, we aren't ready for this being it's the middle of August. Immediately our plans shift from riding through North Dakota to riding straight to the South Dakota Badlands where the temps should be at least 10 degrees warmer. Heidi and I like to make 'On the fly' changes, I hope this works with biking.
We get started late again today waiting for it to warm up, plus we don't have our camping act down 'at all' yet. The ride starts out cold. It wasn't too long we start getting hot, than we are hotter then heck. We are seeing temperatures in the high nineties. We drive long and hard, not wanting to stop because of the heat and no shaded spots to pull over to. We are toast. I am looking hard for any place to pull over and chill, then I get a firm single jab. We were at a 'No horse' town exit. Heidi says she doesn't care if we have to lay under a cow for shade, we are stopping here. We pull off at a nice unmarked wayside rest that doesn't even have a parking area. The park isn't maintained much but it has nice grass and shade to lay out our leathers and rest. Heidi gets a lot of attention from locals while she is up at the bike alone. We love spots like this.
We ride late into the day trying to get to a camp spot in north central South Dakota that looks nice. The place is a little challenging to get to but is worth it. It has a lake with a nice beach and we were the only tent there. The thought of a long swim kept us going. Again, a lot of map reading and turning around, Heidi is getting more freaked; she's used to me having it all together. I assure her that this is all normal for back road traveling. ??
We park the bike at the camp spot. It is hot with a capital H. Heidi wanders off in a daze looking for shade while she takes off her gear. We get the tent set up then immediately head for the beach. We have the whole beach to ourselves and we are in the middle of nowhere. I ask a park ranger if there is any store in the area. I get a definite "No" but he did say there is a restaurant up the road. That's all we need. The restaurant has tables with a view of the lake and a rustic little bar. We watch a boat pulling 4 water skiers at the same time. Kids sure know how to have fun here. Cocktails and a fabulous meal, Heidi and I are talking about the temperature fluctuations we have experienced and how we should deal with it. We talk about camping protocol, techniques, what we should have 'At the ready' and what we should stow deep. I never dreamed I would ever meet such a compatible travel partner let alone be married to her. Lucky is not even the word….
We are packed to the gills and it's getting to both of us. I shift things around a little. Heidi hands me something else that's needs to be packed. I say "There's no room". Heidi says "It was in there before!" The discussions are heated. We both keep assuring each other that we have so much stuff that we will use up or throw away. It's tough, I constantly think I'm going to break a zipper, Heidi keeps thinking she's getting short changed on space. Heidi suggests we need to have the straps loosened on the backpack while filling it, she is correct of course.
We can't believe it, its cold again this morning. After the 100 degree stuff yesterday we didn't think being cold today was possible. We slowly get going. I'm having trouble getting our new international camp stove to do anything but scare Heidi. I miss my propane stove. We talk more about communication while on the road. 3 little pokes, Heidi sees something in the road like a hazard or something. A 2-handed chop, lets stop for a photo or a rest. One swift jab, we need to stop and pull off the road for equipment change or whatever as soon as it is safely possible.
At 1:00 PM the heat starts to rise again in a serious way and the wind is picking up. The wind is strong but at least it is on our rear quarter. It is fatiguing fighting the wind. We push hard again today wanting to make it down to the badlands, I know a camp there with a pool, cold beer and a tree. We are driven.
Cruising the back roads of South Dakota. 'Double chops' from Heidi. Good call.
The back roads of SD are beautiful. Heidi tells me that these round bales of hay are now illegal in Wisconsin. (Do you know why? Cow are entitled to a square meal. he he) I love a girl with a sense of humor ?
Fabulous, the tent is up, a 6 pack of ice cold Coronas pool side and we are liken life. The sun is up red the next morning. I thought that was weird. Later I hear on the radio that it's because of the forest fires in Wyoming. One fire is in the Big Horn Mountains, just where we are planning on riding. Interesting…..
We pay for 2 nights at the Badlands camping spot, Circle Ten. Today is devoted to exploring the badlands, a little hiking and just R&R, a perfect day in our world. Heidi is actually admitting she likes this type of camping. Am I imagining things?
Heidi and I theorize how this weird landscape was formed. We are experiencing feelings of mystery and magic. The colors, shapes and vastness of the land are moving.
The colors of the landscape are like out of some sort of weird dream.
Interior, South Dakota
We head up into the Black Hills, down Spearfish canyon and stopped for lunch at Cheyenne Crossing. We like this area. Heidi lived in Colorado once and says this area has the same feel.
We score a great camp spot in the Black Hills. White Tail Court, camping, RV, motel, $12. The new owners are very friendly and the facilities are unbelievably clean. We ride across a footbridge over a creek to get to our campsite. We have the place all to ourselves. We pitch our tent right on the babbling brook. This is super. There are hiking trails here leading up into the hills. We devote two days for some mountain hiking and outdoor chillin.
A serious game of Gin: I'm starting to feel the Dharma, I think we both are. Our minds are freeing. We are focused only on our reality and what is important to us now, at this point in time. We find ourselves looking intensely into each others eyes while nearly bursting with emotion. We are falling more in love. We are discovering ourselves and each other, all over again, as if for the first time. This trip has already been a journey in more ways then one.
The sun is red again this morning. We need to find exactly where those forest fires are. Heidi had a dream that my head burst in flames while I was lighting the camp stove. I can see why. I re-read the stove instructions, which helped a ton.
We have big thunder storms moving through the area overnight. We purchased a small short-wave radio for this trip. It's the size of a cigarette pack but thinner. We tune into a local station and receive constant updates of two storm cells, one cell is reported being capable of producing ping-pong size and baseball sized hail. Then a tornado watch in the same cell. We are near the smaller cell and I keep assuring Heidi that it's at a city close to us but moving the other way. I don't tell her that the city is only two miles away. We stay up during the storm listening to the radio, counting how long it takes for the thunder to reach us. We calculate it coming toward us, being close to us, a second away at the closest, and moving away. This is great. I love this kind of stuff And it kept Heidi from running and hiding in the shower room.
Heidi is having some bad pains in her hip and is up crying in the tent in pain. She doesn't think it's from riding or camping or hiking, none of that bothers her. She noticed the pain first after a long 'jump-roping' session over a week ago. She's worried it's something serious. Doctor Tom jumps in and diagnoses it as some type of inflammation in the hip caused by a marathon jump-roping session. The prescription is for anti-inflammatory medication (Ibuprofen) and time. I need to take care of my riding partner and get her better. She's part of my soul, my zest in life.
Wyoming - We get an early start. The temperatures are expected to be in the mid nineties today but were perfect all morning for riding.
While riding west from New Castle Wyoming we ride over fifty mikes and see only one shade tree, it is out in the middle of nowhere. We pull over and park under it, just to chill. A rabbit is hanging out under the tree with us. An antelope looks on 200 feet away. Our conversations are focused, the topic is loose. I like to talk scenarios, Heidi loves to play along. Dream, plan, change plans, change dreams, it is a constant thing we do now, everyday.
Tooling toward Casper Wyoming Heidi sees some rain way ahead. She comes up with a new signal for rain. It does not look good and we are going to ride right into it. We pull over near some cool rock formations to evaluate the situation. Eyeing a high rock, we observe the direction the clouds are moving. The rain is moving away. A 15 minutes break sounds good, we are warm and dry and happy. Back on the road we run into just a little wet road surface and a few sprinkles. That was a good move to wait. We are developing and honing good touring skills early on in the ride, this is good..
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