Friday, June 23, 2006

Custer South Dakota - Wind Cave And The Buffalo

It rained overnight. Since the bike wasn’t covered, I took advantage of its soaked state to get out the magic microfiber cloths and scrap off some of the worst bugs and dirt. When I got done it was about, as my friend Ted Boyd likes to say, good from far but far from good.

We caught up with Auggie and Sue, along with our good friend Willie Wonka of Illinois and our new friend Mike aka Silverbiker of Utah. I found the chicken fried steak breakfast to be excellent but a little too much.

The weather looked threatening so, after breakfast, we decided to limit ourselves to a short run and then we would see what was going to happen. Sandy and Sue swapped rides with Sandy on Auggie’s Nomad and Sue on with me to see what the wing rode like. We decided to go north on US 16 and come back south on US 89. The pavement got wet just as we got to. The ladies switched back to their real bikes and I led up the twisty road taking it easy for the first few miles until the pavement dried out. We stopped at the gate to Custer State Park, the entrance to the Needles Highway, but chose not to pay the $5 each today. We continued back to Custer on 89 and stopped at the Rocket Motel where the rest of the crew were waiting.

I had called Bushtec before we left to talk to someone about the FUBAR relay box for the trailer lights. They took my number and said someone would call. I now checked my voicemail and found that, for some reason, my phone wasn’t receiving incoming calls. There was a message from Andrew Preston, CEO of Bushtec. He was at the Honda Hoot in Nashville and left his cell phone number. I called him and explained the situation. He said a new relay box would be in the mail to Sudbury today. I continue to admire these peoples’ dedication to customer support.

I also took a few minutes and called my high school French teacher, Del Weber, to see if he could do anything about getting me registered for the reunion next weekend since registrations and fees were supposed to have been in by the 15th. We had a pleasant chat and he offered to register Sandy and I and I could pay him when I got there. He remembered way too much about me since I haven’t seen him in 35 years, but that’s the kind of guy he is. Anyway, that is now taken care of.

We gradually migrated back to Reunion HQ at the Rock Crest. When we arrived, we were pleased to find that the infamous Scorpion and the famous Dutch of Washington state had finally arrived after being delayed by weather in Gillette, Wyoming. A few of us wandered over to the purple pie facility next door and ordered various kinds of pie and ice cream. After finishing, we departed while Scorp was in the men’s room. Nothing is too good for the Arachnid.

As we were hanging out with Willie Wonka, the skies cleared. Willie said Mike wanted to go to Wind Cave National Park. We couldn’t find Mike, so we chose to go ourselves. I took the lead and we rode south until I saw a sign that said “park” to the left. It took us eight miles up a very twisty road and then across some open plains full of buffalo, antelope and prairie dogs before we discovered it was the wrong park. We were heading north back into Custer State Park. I really need that GPS. We turned around and headed back.

On the return trip, we were on a two lane road with deep ditches and then hills bordering both sides. As we came around a corner, we saw two large buffalo RUNNING TOWARDS US. They were coming up the right side of the road so I pulled far left and stopped. Willie and I conferred quickly on the CB’s and determined that turning around and backing up were out of the question. One buffalo ran down into the ditch, but the other one stopped about 100 feet in front of us, set his front feet, lowered his head and stared at us. Our response was to not move a muscle. He stared for what seemed like three days but was, in reality, a minute or so. My mind kept replaying the story from the night before about a buffalo flipping a Harley with its horns. Then, he started to walk on down the right side of the road. We waited until he was almost even with us so he wouldn’t have a chance to turn on us when we started moving. Then we dropped the clutches and hauled out of there.

Back at the main road, we found Wind Cave park about a mile past where I had turned. Again we stamped the Passport book and talked to a ranger about the buffalo. She had no better idea about how to handle the situation, but told us that buffalo really don’t like motorcycles. Now we find out!

On coming out, we looked north and saw black clouds. Ugly black clouds. We asked an NPS lady cleaning the parking lot which way Custer was. She pointed at the cloud and laughed. Willie said she sounded just like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz. I can’t disagree. We laughed back, dithered about about whether we could make it the 20 miles back without getting beat up by a storm the weather radio was now describing as “severe with damaging winds and hail”. Then we went for it.

The run north was done at speed. As we got closer, we could see lightning bolts. Then, as we got closer to town, Willie told me on the CB that the radio said they had cancelled the thunder storm warning. As he was telling me this, there were five lightning bolts and rain started to hit my windshield. My opinion of weathermen remains unchanged.

It wasn’t a hard rain, but when we got to town, there was a line of cars at the traffic light we needed to turn at. We could see the Rock Crest, but the first green light only allowed three cars through and then there was a lady who seemed afraid to turn right on the red light. I could just visualize the downpour catching us stranded within sight of our goal. The rain was picking up so we pulled off the road under an awning at the car wash on the corner. When the traffic cleared, I pulled back onto the street using the pedestrian wheelchair ramp and made a dash to the Rock Crest, pulling the bike under the overhang. We beat the downpour by five minutes. Others weren’t so lucky.

We sat around under the awning watching those riders with less luck than us straggle in. Stories were shared, jokes were told. The rain ended and, eventually, Sandy and I headed back to the Dakota Cowboy Inn for a bite to eat. Paul “Slots” Manske, a friend from Reno Nevada joined us. Slots was heavily involved in the casino business before his recent retirement and told us some stories about the inside workings of the business. It was fascinating. Time spent with Slots is always a pleasure.

We returned to the Rock Crest and mingled with the hordes of VROCers in the parking lot. A while later, Barb Foree (4E) of Holbrook Arizona found me and said she needed $15. I can never refuse Barb anything so I forked it over without question. It seems I had bought Sandy a moose hat. I expect she will be in a lot of pictures.
After parading her new hat around for a while, Sandy went to bed. It was cold and damp, but I stuck it out for a while longer before hitting the hay. It had been an interesting day.

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