This is the fourth part of a series. This is kind of like a soap opera. If you haven't been following along so far, you might be lost. I suggest that you beg your cooler friends for some back issues.
We were all still recuperating, or I should say attempting to, after Chad's accident. It wasn't easy to get back on our bikes and continue on to Sturgis. Spirits were pretty low, the weather forecast wasn't looking good, and we were all emotionally drained. We definitely had our fill of Colorado-we did have some fun, some tragedy, and at least a couple of guys managed to find companionship. I had just gotten off the phone with my pregnant sister. She was turning 40 and squeezing out her first baby. She is a super anal-retentive, bossy, high-end rich lawyer-the absolute opposite of me. In hopes of freaking her out, I asked if she was finally growing a chest. Somehow the conversation backfired. She then engaged me in a detailed conversation about the scar on my forehead, which she claims is from my dad while I was still in my mom's womb, whatever that means. Our heartfelt talk got much worse from there, but I will spare myself-and the rest of you-from having to relive it in text.
The reason I bring this all up is that like my sister, Mother Nature can be a real bitch. Unlike my sister, though, you have to learn to respect Mommy Earth. I'm not talking about recycling and all that green shit. Of course, you have to take care of the environment, but what I mean is that if Mother Nature is going to have a fit, you just have to stand back and let her have it. If you try to fight it, she'll rage even more. Let me explain.
DAY 8 I-76 to US-138 to CO-113 & on to NE-19 to US-385 to Carhenge
All I was able to think about was Carhenge (carhenge.com), the ultimate in American roadside attractions located right outside of Alliance, Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere. Not many things are radder than a bunch of old cars stacked on end to resemble Stonehenge. I always wanted to go there, but Brad was whining about some ominous dark clouds coming in from the north. A storm in Nebraska is like being forced to face your demons...nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. "Hey Jackass. Screw your stupid Carhengey thing and let's beat this storm." Brad admitted to me later that Carhenge was cool for the first three minutes-basically about two minutes longer than he usually lasts, or so I hear. After his timer went off, he thought it was just a bunch of cars buried in the dirt. "Maybe in Chicago you don't have dirt, but in Cali we have lots of it." Cali has a lot of dirtbags, too, I thought. That dude has no sense of pride for American culture. He'd probably want to take a piss on the Corn Palace. I am ashamed to call him my friend.
Photographing Carhenge had my excitement RPMs running over 8,000. The locale seemed so mystical, and I felt just like I did when I was a kid on Halloween night after eating 10 pounds of sugar and finding my first nudie mag in the alley behind a friend's house: stoked! Brad was checking the forecast on the Victory Visions' weather radio. Brad, "Mr. I Hate Cool Shit," wanted to get going, but I insisted on getting "just one more photo." (In photo-geek speak, this means at least another 100 shutter clicks.) The squall line was getting closer, and the wind started to pick up, but I had to make a final stop in the gift shop for my lady.
We busted out north towards Sturgis, South Dakota, on Highway 385 hoping we could beat the storm or at the very least get to Rapid City to hunker down for the night. The gods of Carhenge didn't want us to leave and bribed Mother Nature into giving us a beat down. They must have heard Brad talking shit about their spiritual grounds. We thought about going back. As usual, we did the stupid thing and kept marching forward into the battle. You just don't mess with Mother Nature.
At twilight, Brad was in the lead, keeping us in a well-buffered staggered formation. Suddenly, the sky turned off. No night light or glowing stars on our ceiling. I was riding sweep as I watched the mountains in Nebraska State Forest get sucked into the black hole.
Mother Nature sent out her second assault of heavy winds. Really heavy crosswinds attacked us from the east, then to the north...we were surrounded. The platoon's only chance of escape was an old barn less than a mile away. She then sent her third round of artillery in the form of heavy rain. Brad, the squad leader, pulled over. A tornado, hurricane, tsunami, or whatever, was blasting 70-mph winds at our large motorcycles donning plastic sails. The decision to turn around came quick. The problem was, as the wind kicked up, we had trouble maintaining stability. The winds got so strong we couldn't move the vehicles. We had to bunker down alongside 385 about 40 miles north of Alliance. The rain was coming in sideways. We had to hold the bikes up from the kickstand side or they would have flipped. Junior's bike toppled to the ground with no one able to come to assist him.
A robotic voice (*) blared from the mighty Victory: "This is a severe thunderstorm warning...tennis-ball- to baseball-sized hail...damaging winds greater than 58 with gusts reported at 70 mph...tornadoes spotted...take shelter. Stay off the road and away from windows." Umm, stay off the road? We had no choice. No shelter, no light poles, trees, ditches-nothing.
We kept our helmets on to prevent any hail, cows, or wicked witches from pummeling us. There was no way we could have made it to the safety of the barn. All we could do is hold on to our bikes. (Note: Robot voice again): "Severe weather is expected until 9 p.m." It was only 7:30. This is what touring is all about. Pure adventure. Luckily, the hail never blasted us. Hail that size could break bones.
An hour later, the storm relaxed a bit. We didn't know if we were in the outskirts of it or in the eye. Who cares?! Let's get our asses back to Alliance.
We made it to Alliance and found a cheap place with a vacancy. The front desk girl gave us a sweet deal and empathized with our situation. We got a room all the way in the back, put our bikes on the leeward side of the hotel and headed out for some much needed booze and food. Our options were a McDonald's and a Quicky Mart. Hmmm? An establishment that sells hard alcohol, beer, gas, and guns in the same place that sells slushies. It's like you buy a bottle of Jack and get a gun for free.
Any store that is operated by two hot high school chicks selling porn, wrapping papers, and ammo is a cool place for me. All that was missing was a stripper pole, which I figured was in a repair shop being fixed from overuse.
Day 9 Nebraska to Sturgis
The next morning we left the Cornhusker State and headed into South Dakota. The roads were littered with bike trailers and newbies who dropped their rides at stop signs. We weaved our way through the scenic back roads between Rapid City and Deadwood. The riding was amazing-picturesque and steeped in America's history. The Wild West's traditions and secrets were to be found everywhere, from Deadwood, to Lead (and the giant mine), and Spearfish. I never made it to Mt. Rushmore or Devil's Tower but figured I had already had enough close encounters during the trip and just decided to hang out with the boys.
Another storm came, but this time, we found a little shelter underneath an I-90 overpass outside of Sturgis with the company of 100 other bikers. We blocked the whole street. More bikes fell. Cars could not get through, and the party began. I just hope that none of the newbie kooks tried to make any babies while under the bridge. When my sister's baby finally escapes the womb, I will make sure he takes a motorcycle safety riding class.
At Rapid City H-D I finally was able to ditch my travel partners and ended up hanging with Toph (the boss man of this magazine you're reading). It ended up being a long night. I got booted from the HA's clubhouse. I was just trying to get in to check things out. I got stopped at the door and some big guy asked if I knew anyone there. I shook my head and told him I just wanted to see the bikes. The gentleman kindly said, "We're closed," and he said goodbye. I never felt in any danger, but apparently the camera hanging from my neck and my photo-geek appearance made the brothers a little nervous. They surrounded me and gently herded me back to the street. After the hellacious L.A. to SD ordeal, he offered to share his bed with me, at least I hoped so, but he showed me to the couch when we got to the house.
The night ended after a quick "testdrive" in someone's rental car. It was drizzling again and the driver was practicing his best drifting exercises around the backstreets of Sturgis. All I remember is something about jumping a curb, spinning down a steep embankment, and helping the driver to push the car farther down the hill in hopes to hide it. For some reason he thought if the car was hidden that no one would find out about the damage. He even attempted to stuff all the deployed airbags back into their compartments in the hopes of hiding the accident. The axle was broken; the car wasn't going anywhere. As we all walked from the scene we were passed by emergency personnel in search of the screeching, sliding, and now smoking Camry. I walked back to the rental house where we were all staying and dry humped the rocking horse in the basement for a few laughs. Poor family...they were nice enough or dumb enough to rent their furnished house to a bunch of dudes for a week, and some asshole gets it on with their child's favorite toy. I am for sure going to hell for this one.
Day 10 Time to Move On
I hate crowds and have no patience to wait in line to get food, gas, or booze from a bag of cottage cheese stuffed into some skanky leather bikini. As for photography, there wasn't much talent around with a 10,000-to-one ratio of fat dudes to fat women. I had to bail and look for finer pastures up north. I could only hope Mother Nature had gotten over her PMS, as I had a long way to go, and from here on out, I'd be flying solo. She and I would certainly have to learn to get along.
His Name Is Tom *
In 2002 the National Weather Service hired some new blood to improve the voice you hear on the weather band. They called it the Voice Improvement Plan (VIP). What they came up with was to slightly improve upon the voices of Craig and Donna. The robot couple sucked and was replaced with the current voice of the NWS, Tom. The NWS offices use Tom for the majority of broadcast products, but who knew there were other characters such as Donna, Paul, or Harry?
All Hail Mother Nature
You always hear folks claiming they saw hail the size of golf balls. The National Weather service actually uses golf balls and other items to describe hail size. Check out the chart below and amaze your friends.