August 5 – Spearfish Canyon, Devils Tower, and Rain
Wow – it’s already been a week since Tony, Jen, Paula and I (and about a gazillion more bikers) went to Wyoming to see the Devils Tower National Monument. Time flies when you’re on a motorcycle!
According to the local map we were using, the best way to get to Devils Tower from Sturgis is to go north on SD 79, west on US 212, and then take a couple more roads. We didn’t have any trouble following the map, but before we hardly got started, I had already caused a minor stir.
There’s a small town north of Sturgis called Newell. We fed the bikes there, and then found (with help from the locals) a small restaurant called the Blue Line where we had breakfast. I was wearing my Minions t-shirt that day – it shows 3 Minions singing (to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”) “Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Banana!” Jen commented that everyone was wearing Harley t-shirts or something equally burly & masculine, and here I was wearing a Minions tee. I told her I didn’t care. I’m an individual. 😉 When the server came to take our order, she did a double take and then told us I was the *second* one that morning to come in with that particular t-shirt on! Go figure. You try to be different, and find out someone else has beat you to it.
After breakfast, we headed west to see Wyoming. We didn’t go directly to Devils Tower (which, by the way, is named as plural Devils instead of possessive Devil’s because of a typo in the original documents creating the Monument),
but instead went south from Belle Fourche to Spearfish in order to ride through Spearfish Canyon before riding back north on WY 585 to Sundance. It was really crowded on that route, especially where there were scenic stops – we decided we were lucky to be riding the direction we were, because most of the pullouts were on our side and we didn’t have to cross any oncoming traffic to park or to get back on the road. It was tough enough fighting our own side!
From Sundance it’s 21 miles to Devils Tower Junction, and in that 21 miles I think we saw *maybe* three breaks in the oncoming bike flow. It was unreal.
We missed the turn to Devils Tower and continued on US 14 all the way out to Moorcroft (25 miles) before finally figuring out that we should have turned at that traffic light back there. So we fed the bikes again and turned back. By this time it was midafternoon and the storm clouds were building, so when we got to the entrance road to Devils Tower itself we decided not to go in to the Monument, but just to take pictures from where we were and then beat feet back to Sturgis.
With Jen in the lead, we raced the storm back to South Dakota and Sturgis. The consensus was that we would go directly to the Broken Spoke Saloon, since it was on the way to camp from where we were. Since “saloon-ing” isn’t my cup of tea, I let the others know that I’d be heading back up to the Blue Line to have dinner, and then would ride back to the Iron Horse.
I got to the restaurant before the rain did, but not by much. About 10 – 15 minutes after I sat down, the sky just opened up and sheets of rain came down! Naturally, I had left my rain suit on the bike, so I couldn’t ride back to camp – if I tried to get the rain suit, I’d be totally soaked by the time I got to the bike (all of 50 feet – maybe – from the front door of the Blue Line). So I ate my dinner and decided to wait it out. I asked permission to sit at my table until it blew over, just so they wouldn’t think I was loitering unnecessarily. Since they weren’t packed, and there were empty tables around me, they agreed. The rain kept coming down, accompanied by much lightning and thunder. I’m actually glad that I left the rain suit on the bike, because that forced me to wait until after the storm had passed. If I had had it with me in the restaurant, I might have been foolhardy enough to try riding back to camp in the worst of the downpour.
At one point the power went out for about 5 minutes, but when it came back on it stayed on. The storm lasted about an hour, or maybe 90 minutes, after which it was safe for me to get my rain suit, suit up, and ride home. It was still raining a little when I left the Blue Line, but in the course of the 22 miles back to camp, the rain stopped and the road started drying out. I got back to camp about 9:30; the others arrived a bit later from the Broken Spoke. They told me they had gotten there about 10 minutes before the deluge. I don’t think they would have made it back to camp before the rain hit, because they had been riding south and the rain was coming up from the southwest to meet them.
In spite of the rain, it was another good day of riding and sightseeing.