A KLR to Sturgis - Kawasaki KLR 650 Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 11-30-2013, 11:55 AM Thread Starter
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A KLR to Sturgis

OK so the subject may have got your attention but in reality this was motorcycle ride to the Black Hills to do some dual sport riding.

I have been through the Black Hills area of South Dakota before and always thought I would like to go back with a dual sport bike and was looking for a decent excuse to go. Last year on our trip to Alaska we had met up with a fellow ADV inmate and had kept in contact over the winter. He sent out his summer ride plans back in December and one of them was to meet in the Black hills near the end of July before bike week to do some dual sport riding.

He explained that some of his relatives would be there and that they were all great motorcycle people. I had met some of his friends at the D2D the previous year and immediately starting making plans to go.

I put the plan out to a few of my buddies to see if anyone else was interested. It was a ways off and most of them have to work so their level of commitment was iffy at best, but I was going so I started to make plans.

I have 2 bikes available for this trip. One was a BMW F800GS that would do the trip with no effort whatsoever and the other was a higher mileage ‘06 KLR that would need to be fixed up for a long trip.

I really wanted to take my time on this trip and enjoy some slower travel so decided that the KLR would be the bike.

I started to get it ready and take a couple of shake down rides. You can ready about my process in a previous ride report.

A friend that I had taken the trip to Alaska last year had indicated that he would be interested but had to work until the 19th of July. I was thinking I would leave earlier head out a few days before we were scheduled to meet Paul but once he committed we decided that we would leave on the Sunday. That would give us 3-4 days to get there and that would be a pretty leisurely pace.

I wanted to choose a route that avoided major highways and the flattest part of the prairie, so thought we would travel down through Minnesota as far as the trees lasted and then hook into the Dakotas.

Here is a map of the planned route.

Day 1


Of course as per tradition of any trip a ride back home was needed. We went for coffee with some friends and on the ride over it noticed that there was a distinct wobble in my front end at slower speeds. I had put a brand new Heideneau K60 tire on the front a day earlier. I thought that the tube may not had not centered in the tire well so after coffee we returned home and I let the air out of the tire and blew it back up again. It seemed that the tire had not set up on the bead on one side. I filled it to 60 lbs but still no “pop”. I decided to just put 36 lbs of air in it and try it like that. We headed out and the tire seemed to be running fine so we continued on our merry way.

It is funny that we do not take pictures of places that we frequently travel, or take many on the first or last days of a journey. I have driven the day 1 route or at least parts of it a couple times but never took any pictures this time.

It was a very nice ride. The area we went through is all forested and the roads are noted as “parkways” on the road map. Although this region has a lot of tourist traffic due to the number of lakes etc it was a pleasant ride without incident.

We ended our first night in Akeley MN. I saw a sign for a community camp ground so thought we would be able to get some cheap camping. Once we got in we found out that it was $25 a site but for 2 tents on one site would be $40. We did not want to go look elsewhere and it was a tourist area so assumed that was about as good as it was going to get.

It was pretty warm out and one of the fellows who was there when we were paying had a nice cold beer. We asked him where we could get some beer but they explained that you could not buy beer in Minnesota on Sunday (who knew?) but the VFW was open and if we went there the barmaids name was Rene and to tell her Len sent us and we would be treated right.

Now who could resist an invitation like that?

We set up camp and headed down to the VFW.


We went inside and asked for Rene. The girl behind the bar said “I’m Rene” so we said “Len sent us” and she laughed out loud and immediately bought us a beer.

Wow what hospitality!

We spent the better part of a few hours sitting with the clientele who were coming and going and had a blast talking to everyone. We left there and I will admit that we could have been legally over the limit but we took some back trails and made the short trip back to the tent safe and sound.

I went and took a shower and went to bed. It rained overnight with a few good claps of thunder but by morning the sun was back up and except for a heavy dew we were dry and on loaded our heavy heads into our helmets and our way by 9ish.
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post #2 of 22 Old 11-30-2013, 11:56 AM Thread Starter
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Day 2

Day 2
We continued on our way along some nice roads and stopped for lunch at Oakes ND.


The place we stopped is Clines Guest Haus café which is rather unique interior. It was obviously the place to be in by gone days.





We continued on through some really nice rolling country



and ended up on the Missouri River a the West Whitlock campground in Gettysburg, ND


Day 2 map
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post #3 of 22 Old 11-30-2013, 11:57 AM Thread Starter
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Day 3
The next morning we got going and it was beautiful out and the riding was just about perfect with the wind at our back.



A few minutes later I had one of those magic motorcycle moments. You know it is like hitting the sweet spot and a perfect golf shot or the perfect pass and rise into the top corner of the net. This is what I wrote about that

“Lewis and Clark could have camped where we were on the banks of the Missouri. We rolled out of the campsite and climbed through the breaks and coolies. The sun was bright in the sky, to our left a small group of bison dotted the hillside. As we broke over the ridge and pointed to the west the horizon seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see and before us the Missouri River valley. The air was cool and still and at that very moment through my headset comes Tom Petty's "into the great wide open, under a sky so blue, into the great wide open, a rebel without a clue.

Pure motorcycle magic!!!



We continued on through the never ending big skies. To the south was a line if cloud but in front of us just more horizon

The perfect ride was disrupted by a house on the road. I don’t think I have ever driven across the prairies without coming upon someone moving something gigantic like a house.



We continued along some great roads and finally came into the Black Hills area. We decided to stop in Sturgis to have a look around. Bike week was a couple weeks away but the traffic and souvenir sales were starting to build already.



Stopped by the Easy Riders Saloon for a bite to eat. Great food and decent prices along with a few waitresses that were pretty easy on a road weary eye.






Paul and his family were still a day away so we took our time getting to Custer. A stop to the Mount Mariah cemetery at Deadwood was on the list. It was very hot out so walking around there still in riding pants was not the most comfortable way to spend the afternoon but it was interesting. We never took the guided tour but as I look back I think it would have made the visit far more interesting.

Saw Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane’s grave site.


along with a few other interesting places. The climb to Mount Mariah is steep. I am thinking in the old days if you wanted to get back at your friends you named them pall bearers.

Wild Bill’s grave marker


We left Deadwood and made our way to Custer Campground where Paul had reservations. We did not have reservations but the folks there accommodated us nicely. Recommend the campground if heading that way.
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post #4 of 22 Old 11-30-2013, 11:57 AM Thread Starter
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Day 3 Cont'd
We set up camp and went and got some food and firewood and settled in





Day 3 ride map

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post #5 of 22 Old 11-30-2013, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
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Day 4

We decided that we would go take a ride into the back roads of the Black Hills. Neither of us had been there for any length of time so we were not really familiar with the country so we stopped to look for a map. There was a basic tourist map sheet that you got at just about every restaurant or gas station so we decided to try from there.

We headed up to Hill City. I saw some names on the map that others had talked about in ride reports . Places like Deerfield Rd, Mystic and Rochford. The plan was to start there and then branch out as we saw fit and target for a break at Rochford.

The road started out as hard top but then changed to a well groomed gravel. It was a great ride but one thing soon started to make it self very apparent.



All of the roads on the map had names but when you got to a road on the actual sign it had a number. There was no legend that related to the 2.

That in itself was not a big deal. We thought we would just ride and explore and not be concerned as long as we had our basic bearings. We had KLRs so lots of gas, the weather was near perfect and there was a ton of summer daylight.

We made it to Rochford and had a break at the infamous Moonshine Gulch.





We drove most of the day and came upon a young fellow working for the Dept of the Environment or something liker that. He had a flat tire and a Chevy truck and there was no cell service for a few miles. If any of you know about where the spare on late model Chev is located under the box, and have had any experience with tit you know that sometimes the tire get locked up under there. Well this guy was having the same problem. We worked on it fir quite a while but could not get the tire to come down. We left him there and called his office to get him help at the next phone.

We continued to drive around but could not make heads or tails of the simple map we had. Nothing related to the roads. Eventually we came upon a sign saying we had entered Wyoming. Long story short we found our bearings and made it back to hill city.

It was a great day so we called it a day and headed back to the campground to see if our friend had made it .

We got back to the campground and found them. There was Paul and his wife along with their 2 kids and Paul's aunt and uncle from Tennessee. They were getting ready to head out for dinner so we all headed into Custer to the “Purple Pie Place” for some great food and of course pie, along with some great conversation as we caught up on the last year of our motorcycle lives.

Purple Pie place


One of my favorite pies


Great food and great friends


Paul had a new to him Super Sherpa and his aunt and uncle had larger cruiser bikes. We made plans for the next days ride that would take us on a couple of the paved loops in the area. Not really what I came down for but you should be able to find adventure and fun as long as the weather and company are fine..

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post #6 of 22 Old 11-30-2013, 06:13 PM
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Great start. Keep it coming. I love the Black Hills.

My Kaw Barn - 2004 KLR, 2006 Concours (sold), 1997 Bayou 400.

"It's a friggen motorcycle, it's not supposed to be comfortable, quiet or safe. The wind noise is supposed to hurt your ears, the seat should be hard and riding it should make you shit your pants every now and then. "

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post #7 of 22 Old 12-01-2013, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
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Day 5 The Wildlife Loop

Day 5

Well as I said today was going to be a ride through a loop in Custer State Park and visit a few locations that Paul’s aunt and uncle wanted to show us. Paul’s wife had to return home for business so he drove his Super Sherpa and his son rode on the back with him while his daughter rode with his uncle.



Little did I know how relaxing and fun that day would be with near perfect weather and great company.

We left the campground and headed down Hwy 16. We actually stopped and paid out entrance to the park (which was probably optional for a ride through but hey if you don’t support them they will be gone). The plan was to turn on Hwy 87 and ride “the wildlife loop”



After turning onto 87 we went to a lookout area at Mt Coolidge and then made the long climb up to a fire tower/antennae array.





Except for the guy wires spanning everywhere that you wanted to take a picture there were some nice views to be had



We continued down Hwy 87 which would make a loop through the park. It was the right time of day that we thought maybe we would see a few Bison



The bison were out but in a different location We did manage to see a few antelope



The road was near perfect fro a relaxing pace and we just basically cruised along at leisure and enjoyed the day through the high open mountain meadow type country.

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post #8 of 22 Old 12-01-2013, 12:45 PM Thread Starter
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Day 5 Cont’d

Day 5 Cont’d
We finished the wild life loop and got back onto Hwy 16 and once again the signature forest of the Black Hills.



We rode up “the Needles” Hwy. I had never been through that way so it was going to be a new ride for me.

On the way up we made a couple “rest” stops that were not really needed but it really made the whole experience a very relaxing.



We continued up to the needles area



Lots of tight traffic through that area with narrow windy roads



We came up to the one lane tunnel and actually met a large “Greyhound” type bus that took up 75% of both lanes . Not a real issue on a bike but sure did not want to be one of those old buggers in a 35ft RV or trailer.



Tunnel was tight for large traffic





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post #9 of 22 Old 12-01-2013, 12:47 PM Thread Starter
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Day 5 cont’d

Day 5 cont'd

Lots of neat rock formations in this area

Needles Eye





We stopped at the visitors center for ice cream and to pick up some stickers then made our way home.

We made a mix dinner of BBQ and some chicken we bought down town.



After washing it down with cold beer and good converstation we retired to our tents.

I must say that day was one of the most relaxing and nice days I had riding for a long time, and made me actually reconsider how I would treat rides from then on.
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post #10 of 22 Old 12-01-2013, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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Day 6

Day 6

There were some huge overnight thunder storms that rocked the tent for a bit. You could hear them come in and leave all night.

Todays plan was to do some more back road type rides so Paul’s aunt and daughter decided it was a good day for a girls day in town.

We drove into Custer and had a great breakfast at one of their favorite restaurants and it did not disappoint.

We headed down Sidney Point Rd and after getting a bit mixed in directions made it to the gravel cut off road. We followed it through some great scenery. The rain from the night before left a few muddy spots but Pauls uncle on his big Gold Wing had no issue running through them.

Actually did not take a lot of pictures through that road. Not sure why because it was really nice.

One of the great things about the black hills area is the history there. We came upon an old grave yard and decided to take a break and see if we could find any unique grave markers.

The Cold Spring grave yard




There was an old one room school on the same sight. I am sure these halls served as community hall church and school.



One of the things that was really cool was the fact that all veterans graves were marked with a fresh American flag and a small brass marker

From the Spanish American Wars



Some unique bird houses near the school



We left there and hooked up with hwy 87 and rode down to Hot Springs for ice cream and burgers.

From there we got back on the main road and followed Hwy 87 back towards Custer.
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