Day 12 - July 14th Friday
Distance travelled for the day - 824 km
Total distance for trip - 7056 km
Route - Bozeman, MT - Sturgis, SD
It was 75F (24C) in Bozeman at 6 am, it was going to be a scorcher of a day. I sat outside the motel with a coffee to catch up on correspondence and finish a blog post.
The plan for the day was to ride to Billings MT where I would have to decide which direction I would take for the next stage of my trip. I had originally planned to go north through North Dakota through Bizmark and Fargo, but more than one person had recommended South Dakota.
I got on the road toward Billings and figured I would decide when I got there. Montana continued to live up to expectations. The river continued alongside the highway and the ranches dotted the valleys with horses and cattle.
Billings is roughly 225km west of Bozeman and when I got there I stopped at Starbucks for lunch. There I met a woman, Lynn, who designs packaging. She recommended I go to South Dakota because it's very popular with bikers. She mentioned Sturgis, SD where bikers go to meet for the biggest rally in the USA.
I first heard about Sturgis in Golden, BC from other bikers at the hotel. 500,000 riders, concert fanatics, and street-food enthusiasts attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every year. This year the rally runs from Aug 4th to the 15th. She also suggested that I ride to Red Lodge and up around the glacier at Silver Run Peak. This would take me about 4 hours out of my way so I decided against it.
Lynn was very helpful with lots of information to share. She said she used to be the President of a Corvette rally club and would organize meet ups. The average age of a Corvette owner these days is 70. She also mentioned that I had to be careful riding through South Dakota because there were long stretches without cell coverage or anything else.
I decided on South Dakota because I imagined the scenery would be different than the Canadian prairies I had travelled through a week earlier. My target destination for the day was Rapid City.
As expected it was a very hot day with temperatures reaching 100 F (38C). Even the wind was hot. I stopped for gas about every 100 km and after I filled my gas tank, I drank a half litre of water. Gas and water. Gas and water.
I stumbled across a famous bit of history along the way. Little Bighorn where Lt. Colonel George Custer met his demise at the hands of Sitting Bull and the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes, otherwise known as "Custer's Last Stand". It was packed with tourists.
After a tour of the battlefield I continued east through the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Lynn was correct, there were long stretches of nothing, just me and the highway and I kept glancing at my odometer to see how far I had travelled on my last tank of gas. I made it through without any problems and crossed into Wyoming for a short distance before South Dakota.
When I stopped to refuel, the gas attendant mentioned that it was getting humid. The perfect recipe for a storm. Clouds were forming in the east. The thing about travelling through Big Sky parts of the country is that you can see the weather coming from a very long way away. I saw dark clouds in the distance and hoped I wouldn't reach them before I reached Rapid City.
Unfortunately this wasn't the case. I rode until the raindrops started sprinkling my helmet and stopped on the side of the highway to put on my rain gear.
The upside is that I got to chase this rainbow for 125km.
Just after the rainbow became a perfect arch it started to rain hard. The sky was dark grey and there were lightening flashes in the distance. I still had 2 hours to ride to reach Rapid City. The sun set, it got dark, it was raining and I was exhausted. When I made it to Sturgis at 10 pm I decided to find a hotel.
I found a Holiday Inn Express but in contrast to my experience in Golden BC, it was an old, worn out hotel that was overcharging because of the upcoming rally. I didn't have much choice and called it a day. It was another 3 state day and my longest day so far clocking 824 km.