There are a few different approaches to riding motorcycles cross country but having no real game plan other than knowing you have to head west and be in Orange, California in 8 days makes for some of the best memories in life. Yes, there was a general consensus on how many miles we wanted to do per day but nothing was set in stone. This thought process really left it up to the road and the bikes to make the decisions for us on where we would end up.
About eight moths ago, S&S Cycles asked Tyler if he would build a bike around one of their iconic motors. Naturally, Tyler said yes without hesitation. He also came up with the plan to not only build an amazing bike to show off at the S&S Cycle's booth for Born Free 8 but to ride it across the country to prove their motors work flawlessly right out of the crate and are extremely reliable - even when there are only 300 miles on a new motor and newly built motorcycle before hitting the road cross-country! With finishing the bike last minute the bike only got a handful of break in miles so everyone was a little worried in the beginning.
- The finished product, a 93" Generator style S&S Panhead styled for long distance trips and slaying miles.
Friday 06.17.16 - The Longest Day Of The Journey
Kickstands were supposed to be up by 8 am, which turned into 9 am due to the fact no one really had their gear together. Talking about the excitement of the whole idea we would be in California in 8 days made for some of the delay as well. After finally getting everything together we parted ways from the Lowbrow Customs World Headquarters and made our way on to I-80. This was the first time I had ever ridden with Tyler, Kyle, and Gorgeous Greg. Right out the gate I could tell they were a bit intimidated by how sketchy I ride with my camera always in hand.
- The beginning of I-80, long, straight, lots of farm fields and trees.
Jay's Gas Habits
As everyone got used to riding with each other, we also started to realize how quick each gas stop was becoming. Jay Cagney was on an old Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster chopper that was only getting about 55 miles to the tank. We tried to stretch it as far as possible but sure enough his engine would start puttering 55 miles in every single time. We ended up on the side of the highway more than I can count. Luckily Jay had a Fuel Reserve Bottle. Eventually we got a routine down which laid way for the rest of the trip. That first day I think a few of the guys were even wondering when the old Ironhead would give up and if it would be the first to go in the back of the van.
- Jay filling his gas tank under an overpass.
Lane Splitting Is Not a Crime
I have ridden to Chicago a handful of times now and you always know what to expect from the highways: traffic. Lane splitting is illegal in every state other than California and I'm really not sure why. I actually get a little giddy when I have the opportunity to lane split which we ended up doing for 30 plus miles. A Cop even yelled at Kyle and me for merging last minute. I thought we were busted for lane splitting but he was just mad because we cut everyone off. The cop signaled us to pull over and start to scream at us that we were the ones causing the traffic jam. "Ya dude our little bikes are the ones causing this humongous traffic jam, right..." I told him as we peeled off.
- Tyler and Julia
We rode through the night and eventually made it to Anamosa, IA. Everyone laughed at Kyle and Tyler who looked like they went head first into a pool of bugs. They were confused on how Jay, Greg and I were completely fine. I guess Tyler and Kyle taking the lead through the dusk and early evening let them clear all the bugs out of the way for the rest of us. After having a few celebration beers on the first day of travels with some of the random hotel guests, we hit the hay pretty late and exhausted.
Saturday 6.18.16 - The National Motorcycle Museum, Crowbar Highway Pegs, And City Park Campgrounds
Motorcycles enthusiast come in from all over the country to Anamosa, IA home of J&P Cycles and The National Motorcycle Museum. The town looks small and touristy but extremely rich in motorcycle history and culture. The museum asked Tyler a few months back to showcase one of his land speed bikes for a year in a new race exhibit. Tyler agreed to give the Salt Ghost to the museum on loan and thought we'd check in and see how she was doing.
- Just one of the many rooms filled to the brim with motorcycles at The National Motorcycle Museum.
- The Salt Ghost at The National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, IA.
Crowbar Highway Pegs
After everyone's minds exploded at the museum we decided to start heading north to hopefully get close to Sioux Falls, SD. Iowa is a pretty long and flat state with some really great country back roads. There are a ton of open fields, trains and quaint little towns that make riding through enjoyable. After a pretty long highway stint we stopped at the what felt like hundredth gas stop. Walking inside to grab a drink, I noticed Jay had a blue crowbar and some metal hose clamps in hand. He smiled looking at me knowing exactly what he wanted to accomplish and said out loud "Highway pegs!". With in 5 minutes Jay had a fully functioning set of highway pegs set up on his Ironhead Sportster with a little help from Greg.
- Jay and Greg clamping up the new highway pegs.
- Jay loving his new makeshift highway pegs.
Food Bar & City Park
Stopping at a gas station a little south of Sioux Falls we saw a Food Bar across the way. Everyone came to a consensus that gas station food for the past two days wasn't settling well in anyone's stomachs and we need a real meal in our lives. The food was just alright but at the time it tasted so good to everyone because we were all starving. The funniest part of the food bar to me was the man serving up the prime rib. He smiled the biggest grin while talking about the meat. So much pride in one man, all over some prime rib.
After the food settled, no one really wanted to go any further. Looking for campsites, we found a city park that allowed camping. None of us had ever camped in a city park before so we headed that way to check it out. Running water, huge spots, fire rings, and everything you could ever want. Next to a highway, it was surprisingly quiet at night and it was nice to just relax. Two days on the road and it already felt like five. Your body really takes awhile to adjust to that type of traveling.
- Tyler cruising around the fields at the city park we stayed at.
- My home away from home.
Sunday 6.19.16 Sioux Falls, The Corn Palace, Blue Skies, The Badlands, & The Cavs Win
The groggy feeling of waking up in a tent after a long day of travel is normal. With everyone packed and ready to go, we made our way to the actual Sioux Falls. The falls were beautiful and the Pan-American looked great next to them. Jay and Tyler found some fish close to the edges of the rocks and tried catching them by hand. That kept us pretty entertained for awhile. As the heat started to rise we decided to get the wind back in our faces and venture further west.
- Greg, Denny, and Kyle checking out Sioux Falls.
- The Pan-American with Sioux Falls.
The Corn Palace
Signs for The Corn Palace kept popping up on the side of the highway as we made our way further west. With smiles all around, we had to check it out. As you rode closer to The Corn Palace you could tell that's exactly what it is. A place dedicated to corn and all its glory. Corn cobs were everywhere in different colors making up murals of art based on musicians. It must have taken the artists months to put these pieces together. It was really an incredible thing to see. The photos just don't do it justice on how massive some of the pieces are. The inside of the building though was a complete let down. It's just a basketball court with a gift shop in the middle, wah-wah.
- Tyler and Greg rolling up on The Corn Palace
With the wind back in our faces and the sun over our heads, the day couldn't have been any better for riding. All of the bikes were running extremely well despite my bike puking oil out of the front pushrod tube. We stopped for gas on the side of the road a few more times as well but none of that mattered because the blue skies were incredible. They whole day was filled with white puffy clouds and open smooth roads. Everything just felt right and knowing we would be riding in the Badlands later in the day was exciting too.
- "Snake" making his Lowbrow debut. The Biltwell Exfil-7 bag was very useful on the trip for all the moto trip essentials: sunblock, snacks, pocket knife and basic tools.
All I can say about The Badlands is that it's an unreal place full of mystery and brilliance. The desolate and sandy mountain tops go on forever. Not only does the picturesque landscapes rule but the riding is even better. Long sweeping curves and breath taking views the entire time you are in the national park. There is a ton of wild life roaming around too. I swear every two seconds Julia was pointing at something in the distance and getting giddy on how cute whatever animal it was. Just a real magical day of riding and I got some of my favorite photos I have ever taken at The Badlands.
- Unreal roads in The Badlands. Maybe the named should be changed to the Goodlands.
- Jay, Greg and Kyle
THE CAVS WIN!
After spending most of the day in The Badlands, food and rest were calling our names. In the city of Wall is where we found a motel for the night. Famous for Wall Drug, there were tons of little bars, restaurants, and other things to do in the town.
We decided on a bar and walked in, our timing couldn't have been any better. All over the T.V. screens was the Cleveland Cavaliers jumping around like mad men. "No F***ing way" I thought to myself. The Cleveland curse has been lifted! I'm not a huge sports fan, but I pay attention to my local teams and that was a really cool moment in history to witness in a completely different part of the country. As a Clevelander, whenever someone asks where were you when the Cavs won the 2016 championship, I can say I was in random bar in Wall, SD.
- Epic sunset on our way back to the town of Wall.
Monday 6.20.16 Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills, Aladdin, and The Devils Tower
South Dakota is full of surprises and beautiful roads. I remember growing up and being in a car with my family going through the different national parks up there. Experiencing it all over again though on a bike was something really organic and a surreal feeling for me. We made our way to Mount Rushmore and seeing it from the distant roads on the bike was really something. Even the road to get up there was extremely fun to rip around on. We looked at the rock, took a hike around the park, and even had a little Ice cream. It was a good start to the day.
- This was a beautiful bridge on the way up to Mt. Rushmore.
- We were so far away yet so close.
The Black Hills
There is no wonder why Sturgis is an every year event and so popular, the riding in South Dakota is just too much fun. We were flying down mountain roads surrounded by pine trees and none of us were paying attention to the speed limit signs. At one point while in The Black Hills, Tyler even thought it would be cool to shut his bike off and coast down one of the mountains in an unusual silence for being on a motorcycle. We did have a few deer jump out in front of us but they were no where close enough to cause anyone harm.
- Open roads for miles, mountains everywhere, and beautiful skies. South Dakota is amazing.
- Took a break to skip some rocks at Pactola Lake.
The Town Of Aladdin
We stopped in Deadwood for some lunch and visited an Indian restoration shop, Jerry Greer's Engineering real quick. There were tons of great bikes in there and I couldn't believe it was in the middle of nowhere South Dakota. Tyler purchased some glass button bolts for his license plate bracket and then we decided to make our way towards The Devil's Tower. Which was the next stop on our list of things to possibly see. Not knowing really what direction to go, we took the first exit that said Devil's Tower and I'm really glad we did. The road was a scenic by-way that was over an hour and a half away from the tower.
- Stopped by Jerry Greer's Engineering.
We ended up needing gas and found this little town called Aladdin, good think too because there wasn't another gas station for 70 miles or more. The town consisted of a gas station, a pub, two gross outhouses, a courthouse, jail, post office, antique store and grocery store all in one. The sign said the population was 15 people and what was even more incredible is the town was for sale. "How much?" you ask, 1.5 million firm the sign said. It was just a super peculiar place and one I will tell stories about forever and ever. Kyle scored a bull's skull for $100 too which he had a big grin on his face while putting it in the van.
- The fields were super green and the skies were so blue. It reminded me of the movie Toys.
- Old school gas pump at Aladdin. Tyler just gassed up the Pan-American and filled it's WX Split Gas Tanks.
The Devil's Tower
Making our way to The Devil's Tower with absolutely no one on the roads was great. We could go as fast as we wanted and it was filled with jaw dropping views. At one point I think everyone separated from each other in our group, having to much fun in their own little worlds. I remember riding with just Tyler and Julia, just Jay, and just Greg for a little while each on the way to the tower. There also happened to be a random traffic jam due to some construction right before the main entrance of the tower. Tyler tried lane splitting not realizing there was a flag lady making people stop and wait for a chase vehicle to guide vehicles through the construction zone. I had a good laugh about that one, the lady not so much.
- Jaw dropping landscapes.
- Greg and I getting down and dirty around some corners together. It's really fun riding with him.
After arriving at the gate of The Devil's Tower we decided on skipping the park and getting some ice cream. Always a good call in my book. We looked up some campsites and were well off from the next available opening, so we hit the road fast. Have you ever road into the sun directly long enough to not see most colors? That happened on this leg of the trip towards the camp site. I think a bit of dehydration and fatigue set which had more to do with it then the sun. We eventually made it to camp where I ate my gas station salad and drank a few beers. We all hit the hay pretty early that night because we knew what was in store for the morning.... Yellowstone!
To Be Continued....
Words and photos by:
- Riding directly into the sun. Tyler and Julia traded bikes with Greg for a little while.