Keystone, SD is barely a stones throw away from Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Folks were having a good time at the bar down the road as it seemed to be karaoke night. The Goldwing I was chasing earlier in the day seems to have stopped at this same motel, unbeknownst to me until after I already check-in. A thunderstorm rolls through and sings me to sleep. The GPZ laughs at rain but Mr. GoldWing has placed a cover over his bike.
The next morning I awake to a wet bike but dry skies. Time to begin the two-full-day interstate trek home. Mr and Mrs Goldwing are about to pull out as I start loading the bike, so I give a quick "hi" and a wave and they are on their way. It is once again cold, electric vest cold, but the lack of rain makes it very manageable. I encounter a few very light sprinkles heading out of the Black Hills, but the Belstaff jacket keeps me dry. A few miles down I90 I notice that I'd forgot to fill the tank the night before. Good time to warm up anyway. I pull into a gas station 50 miles into the day in New Underwood, SD. An inviting name if ever there was one. I pay for my gas and the slightly sympathetic cashier girl can't quite understand why I'd be out on a bike in this cold weather. "Don't you have a car?" she asks.
Breakfast is sounding good right about now and luckily this gas station also contains the town restaurant. Lots of not-at-all admiring looks from the local townsfolk, all probably wondering why the hell I'd be so stupid as to ride a motorcycle in this weather. I'm kind of wondering the same thing. Back outside, as I'm getting situated (in the rain) to leave, the town motorcycle expert walks by and begins to tell me how damned uncomfortable my crotch rocket is, followed by a "Gee-sus Christ" of disdain and disbelief. Thanks, but I've done 3000 miles this week, how 'bout you?
Down the road a ways and the weather warms enough to be comfortable, but the wind has really picked up. I pretty much fight the wind for the next day and 900 miles, but crossing South Dakota is the worst. A very stiff crosswind that turns into a headwind as I make the right turn to head south on I29. I'm going 75 but it feels like 100+. This is the worst, most uncomfortable, most difficult riding I have ever done. I still have a bruise on my neck from the helmet chin strap. Not so difficult as exhausting I suppose.
From about Sioux Falls onward the motorcycle traffic picks up significantly. Probably just the weather, time of day, and the fact that it is Labor Day weekend. Five of us form an impromptu pack and we're scooting at a good clip for half an hour or so until I break away for a fuel stop. Riding with those four other folks really made things interesting for awhile and got my mind off of the wind. I also saw an older Goldwing towing a dirtbike. Cool!
Later in the day things really start to warm up and I'm peeling the layers and donning the camelback full of icewater. The crisp skies have been replaced by a thick, soupy, humid haze.
Getting into the evening I pull into an interstate rest stop and a young lad runs up to me, cell phone in ear, asking if I know of any bike shops in the area. Nope. Turns out he is riding a Buell Blast that I hadn't seen pulling in. He seems to be in quite the pickle as his rear tire is about shot and, like me, he is still a good 600 miles or so from home. I unravel the story to find out that he lives in Michigan, but spent some time in Seattle over the summer. Something in Seattle must have done him a world of good as he said, more or less, "screw it, I'm buying a bike and riding it home". Good boy. Only problem now is that tire. We chat for awhile and he seems to have the situation in hand, so I depart, riding into the night and stopping at the Hawkeye Motel in Atlantic Iowa. Cheapest of the trip at $27 and fine on-the-road accommodations.
The next day I awake and it is already warm and humid. The chain started making funny noises now and then which I solved each time with a liberal coating of WD40. Truth be told I neglected the chain somewhat, and the dirt and gravel roads didn't help. About 550 miles later I'm rolling into Indianapolis, by far the biggest town I've been in since Denver 7 days earlier. I pass a very sinister speed trap but make it through without incident.
The speedometer shows a final tally of 4142.8 miles. 9 days. 300+ pictures. No tickets. No drops or crashes. Some rain. Cold that I thought I'd never escape. Lots of interesting folks and some new friends. Greats roads, great scenery, great times.