The Badlands awaited us, along with the burning sun. Determined to avoid her killing rays, we got up at five… much to the annoyance of the tent dweller in the next space, I’m sure.
On the road at 6:30 through the touristy town of Keystone. No breakfast for us, as everything was still closed. In addition to being a day of miles, today would be a day of oil changing, and we had no oil, and no oil pan. A Walmart was needed. Fortunately Dachary spotted one not far out of Keystone. “It’s probably closed.” we thought, but as we rounded the curve we saw a bunch of cars out front. What we didn’t see until later was the row of porta-potties, the craft paper behind each window, or the construction workers out front… back on the road.
Just outside the Badlands we came to the town of Scenic, which was recently up for sale at the low, low price of $799,000. The last time I came through Scenic the doors were not boarded over, there were a couple cars in driveways (of which there are only a handful), and general signs of life, if not actual people. Now, it’s a ghost-town in the making. Kind-of sad really.
We pulled over because we weren’t sure we’d make it to the next gas station without adding in the spare gas. We decided there was no way we could make it if we took the scenic route (Scenic, the town, deserves its name in much the same way Greenland does) through the Badlands, so instead we took the main road to Interior (the town, and presumably the location). We passed through the entirely disappointing five foot section of Badlands National Park that intersects with that road, and spent the next few miles rather depressed. I had really wanted Dachary to see the “real” Badlands; the incredible weathered formations that, as far as I know, exist nowhere else in the United States.
The GPS claimed we had to get to the next major town to find gas, but Interior surprised us with a gas-station still sporting old-school analog-dial pumps, which I got a great kick out of. We even got to pump first, and then pay. Crazy Talk!
They had some pre-made sandwiches inside, and with this unexpected turn of events we decided to sit down, and see if we could make it back through one of the “real” parts of the Badlands before heading off towards… wherever again.
First though, we had to address the Hornet situation. One on Dachary’s windshield, one on the Ural’s spare tire, and one on the F650. I found a discarded broom head in a nearby pile of… debris? Discarded metal things?… and set to work.
After breakfast, and more Hornet visits, we set off for a slight backtrack through the northern section of the Badlands National Park. This section, being more than five feet long, required a $10, per bike, entrance fee. In the end we both agreed that it was a far better value than the $11 Mt. Rushmore parking fee.
Many photos were taken, and along the way we briefly met Malangi who was spending a month on his own Corporate Runaway and riding from New Jersey to Oregon… the lucky bastard.
At our first encounter I just asked where he was from and going as we made our way back to the bikes. The dogs were getting some strong sun at this point and we didn’t want to leave them there without wind for more than a few minutes, but as we rode off I regretted not offering to take his picture. We never get pictures of ourselves together, and when you’re riding alone you never get pictures of yourself, just the things you see. Road construction would set things right. A line of parked cars, behind a man with a stop-sign, waiting for a pilot vehicle, gave me my chance. I grabbed my big camera, hopped off the bike, ran back the few car lengths to where he was waiting, snapped a few shots, yelled our domain at him (we were both wearing helmets and earplugs) and told him to e-mail us for the pic.
A couple scenic outlooks later and we met again, this time face to face, well… his face to my helmeted one.
As we left the Badlands National Park the billboards for Wall Drug started up again in earnest this time. We’d been seeing them, probably since Wyoming, if not farther, and by the time we came to Wall SD, we had no choice but to go in. We were compelled. We couldn’t say no.
We found a parking spot, and got the dogs out of the tub. I found a bit of shade against a wall and squatted over a little mound of sand to pour out some water for the dogs before we explored. “There are ants by your feet.”, Dachary said, “In fact, you’re standing on an ant-hill.”
I wasn’t just standing on an ant-hill. I was standing on a fire-ant hill. I quickly moved, pulled the dogs with me, and stomped my feet a lot, hoping none had tried to climb my boots. A little ways down the way we stopped again and gave the very parched beasts some water, but then Dido started chewing at his foot. This in-of-itself is not unusual. Dogs get itches, and chew on bits to address them, but he wasn’t stopping. He kept going at it, with somewhat increasing vigor.
I told him to stop, grabbed his foot, and looked, sure enough, there was a little fire ant in between his toes doing its best to bite off ’Dido’s foot. I pulled it out with my fingers, and hurled it away before it could get me too. The damage was already done, and now ’Dido was limping on both back legs (his left one is permanently damaged from a car in Puerto Rico). There wasn’t much we could do though. It’d be hurting him if we left him in the tub and he’d get sun-stroke, better to limp some more.
Wall Drug isn’t so much a store as it is a mini-themed tourist town, but it does it so obviously, and with such self-humor that you just don’t mind.
When we got to the main(ish) entrance Dachary suggested that she’d stay outside with the beasts while I went in and checked it out, but “Excuse me mam…” a man had overheard us from a bench and informed us that dogs were allowed in the main part, just not the part farther down where they served food. Whoot!
In we went, and subjected Ben to about 15 minutes of sheer terror, or… at least a good deal of stress. The problem was that we had to pee, and peeing takes time. Meanwhile there were people everywhere, and noises, and more people, and lights, and and and and… Ben spent the first half huddled against Dachary, and the second half huddled against me. Dido spent both halves chewing on his foot in a vain attempt to address the pain of the bite. For being stressed and in pain they both did exceptionally well.
Meanwhile, we saw the most awesome music-machine ever. We had it play a song from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and then then the Imperial March from Star Wars, because it was too awesome to pass up and Ben wasn’t going to get any more stressed than he already was.
The moment we got up to leave Ben was pulling us to the exit. Once outside we went and found the food part, where Dachary went in to inspect the “homemade” donuts that the billboards promised us, and get us some drinks. I sat with Ben’s head poking up between my legs while ’Dido sat under the bench, chilled, and occasionally chewed on his foot.
The donuts weren’t bad.
We saw a Harley Davidson store on the way in and decided to swing by on the way out to grab oil. I walked in the front door and stared in disbelief. T-shirts, hats, vests, doo-dads, doo-hickeys, leathers, and all sorts of assorted other things with Harley Davidson on them, but not a single thing that you could actually use to fix, maintain, or improve an actual Harley Davidson Motorcycle. There was, however, a Harley in the window, which is apparently their rightful place…. either there or being trailered to Sturgis. Later in the day I saw a number of flatbed Tractor-Trailers with ten, or more, Harley’s strapped on the back headed for Sturgis. Wouldn’t want to ride them there, that would be silly.
Oil-less, and back in the bikes, we passed a Napa Auto Parts store before leaving town. They had oil, but not an oil pan. I’m not sure what it is but this is the second auto-parts store we’ve stopped in that has not had an oil-pan with a cover. How do people get their used oil to a recycling place without a cover? What do they put it in? I don’t get it.
Gassed, up, and back on the… er wait… no “Problem… I need to pull over” So, we did. Found some shade along side of a two story chochky store where Dachary removed her helmet and informed me that the clutch wasn’t engaging properly. The cable adjuster had come loose. Silly us for lubing the thing as instructed by the service manual. The lube made the locking finger-nut-thing come undone too easily.
Adjusted, and on the highway the Ural had no power even though it had been pulling great all morning. The clutch must not be fully disengaging now. Pull off at a… pull-off thing (not quite a rest area), adjust, test, pull back on the highway… still no power.
Eventually, we realized that Dachary was encountering what I had encountered on it the day before. Severe Headwind. Apparently when you encounter a severe headwind in the Ural, while sporting a windshield, the Ural ceases to be capable of doing anything more than 50Mph. No joke. The exact same thing happened to me yesterday but it just seemed sensible to me because of how hard I could feel it fighting just to go forwards.
Soon thereafter an hour of our day literally disappeared. It was 2PM, and then it was 3PM. No minutes transpired between the two. This could really add up if we went Eastward around the world. Good thing we’re heading Westward. :)
After a while we approached Al’s Oasis, we didn’t particularly want to attend another tourist trap, which judging by the billboards it surely would be, but it did promise food, and we’d already had one gas-station meal today.
Just before we pulled off the highway, my new headset died. I tried restarting it and it complained about low battery, let me get a couple words to Dachary and shut off again.
We found shade for the dogs, parked the bikes so as to make it damn hard for anyone to attempt to pet them, watered and walked them, and set them back in the tub. They didn’t really want to go and we couldn’t blame them. The past few hours had been hot and tiring for everyone involved.
Inside though, we found air-conditioning, and surprisingly good food. Dachary got a Prime Rib, I got a Bacon Cheeseburger, and we both got the salad bar, which was worth every penny. It wasn’t a particularly notable salad-bar. It was just exactly what our bodies needed. I was… exhausted.
During dinner I grumbled quite a bit about the Ural’s excessive maintenance schedule. Oil changes (and other maintenance) must be performed every 2,500 kilometers, or roughly 1,500 miles, which for us is every five days. EVERY FIVE DAYS. Now, the service manager at Ural of New England had mentioned this to us, but he also is the type of person who really can’t get his head around serious travel on the scale that we do it. He thinks that going to Colorado is a big trip. So, to him 2,500 Km involves quite a bit of time.
I thought he must be mistaken, either that or he just wanted to get people into his shop more often. Most people barely ride their Urals (or motorcycles) so 2,500 km is probably once or twice a year for them. Back at home Dachary had done the research and confirmed that yes, the maintenance schedule is… well, let’s just say “high”. I had either forgotten this, or chosen to not believe it. Today it hit home hard. How the hell are we going to go around the world in a vehicle that requires this kind of maintenance? I think we are literally going to have to pack an entire pannier of Ural oil filters because you can’t buy them anywhere. Either that or pay crazy money to have them shipped to us along the way.
I was not a happy camper… Dachary just kept repeating “we knew what we were getting into”. Well, she did at least. I think she’s right about me living in denial.