Thelma & Louise rode again.
During a pandemic. Through storms. And a breakdown.
‘Cause that’s how we do.
Kids, grab your beverage of choice. I’ve got some stories to tell!
Thursday, June 4th, Tyree and I took off on a South Dakota and Wyoming adventure. Coming out of a particularly chaotic season of our professional lives, we were ready for an escape from computers and responsibilities. As the miles between us and Omaha got longer, the weight on the shoulders became lighter.
I was living for it. Tunes on, throttle wide open, bug blasted windshield, perma grin, and a storm front looking all cool and refreshing on the horizon.
With only a few sprinkles felt and a welcomed temperature drop from the blazing 90 degree sun, we made our way towards Valentine, NE where the resident cat at the Trade Winds Motel would welcome us home for the night and the Peppermill and Lounge would serve us hot food and ice cold beer. The Peppermill had only recently started serving folks on-site so we were met with happy smiles and thankful servers.
Friday morning we set out for South Dakota by way of Highway 20 so we could drop in at the bottom of the Black Hills. We were going to get the most out of this day while we slowly made our way towards Sturgis.
First stop after crossing into South Dakota was lunch at Woolly’s Grill and Cellar in Hot Springs and then on into the Black Hills for some playtime with the buffalo.
A little Needle’s Highway history lesson:
Deemed “impossible” to construct by its critics, Needles Highway (SD Hwy 87)—a National Scenic Byway—was completed in 1922. The road lies within the 71,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City, and is an impressive 14 mile stretch that includes sharp turns, narrow tunnels, granite spires and world class views.
After Needles we ran on fumes to Crazy Horse and then on over to Mt. Rushmore.
Fuel light on? It’s fiiiiinne.
And then onto Nemo Highway where we stopped at the Nemo Mercantile to enjoy a beer and chat with the local UTVers.
In Sturgis we stayed with Bob & Janet, owners of the coziest basement apartment, outfitted in furniture and doilies that reminded me of great grandma Leora. Bob and Janet should be airbnb’s token couple for advertising a “Weekend at Grandma’s“. Absolute gems.
And let’s all pay our respects to that long telephone cord, y’all. That’s what we call 1997 phone privacy… landline style.
After unloading our saddlebags, we made our way out to the Full Throttle Saloon. If you’ve been with me long enough you know FTS holds a very special place in my heart as it is the location Clint proposed in August 2010. Sadly the OG FTS, where all our memories were made, went up in flames, but the rebuild is better than ever.
By this point in the night we were starving and the temps were dropping so we made our way back into the Sturgis City limits where we stopped for a beer at the Knuckle Saloon and dinner at One Eyed Jacks.
Saturday morning promised overcast skies, a rainy forecast, and a chill in the air. We needed a breakfast of champions and Red’s Grill & Pub DELIVERED!
A few friendly weather warnings and well-wishes from the locals and we were off to Wyoming. Not even 30 minutes later the skies were BLUE, the sun was out and it was looking to be a rock solid day of play!
Shoot, we even found a lonely golf cart on the side of the road. You know we pulled over and called our buddy Cyndi from the seat of that bad boy. Motorcycle rallies of the past would have come haunting had we not paid respect to Cyndi’s devilish ways.
On down the road to Hulett, WY where the Ponderosa Bar served up ice cold RBV’s and an opportunity for self-entertainment as there was literally no one else out in that town. June 2020 Pandemic vibes!
We left our mark and bid farewell to that one-horse town and cruised on down the road.
As we neared Devils Tower we pulled off for a few photo opportunities. We weren’t planning on going closer as we figured it cost $ and would be loaded with tourists. We aren’t tourists, ya know… 😉
Once back on the bikes we made a split second and unplanned decision to turn into Devils Tower parking lot, and in that very moment Tyree’s back brake locked up and her bike stopped rolling.
Y’all. This wasn’t a coincidence. We had our guardian angels riding with us that day. Ours wear leather, you know. We also had our mama’s at home praying for our safe journey’s. There were extra hands in this intervention. Had we kept rolling, I would be telling a different story today.
So, what are two girls in the middle of Wyoming with limited resources to do? Facetime Bill, of course. Bill is the husband of our dearest friend Tracy and owner of Spaz Cycle. Bill – THANK YOU for taking the time out of your insanely busy day to help us two idiots out. You went above and beyond. Thanks, friend.
While Tyree was on the phone with Bill, I went on a walk through the neighboring campground where I made friends with two fellas who had all the tools we needed and the hearts to give us a hand. We were surrounded by the best humans. I wish we could have remembered to grab their names or social media channels to give them a special thanks.
With a locked brake caliper piston, the whole thing had to be removed. While they worked, I was on the phone with Deluxe Harley-Davidson in Sundance giving them the 411. Once Tyree’s brake caliper was back on, we made the 30 mile trek to Sundance. Those 30 miles consisted of Tyree making continual conscious reminders to avoid the brake pedal. What could happen?
A locked brake at 65mph on winding roads is what.
Pro Status: we pulled into Deluxe HD at 2:00 where we would become BFF’s with three of the best HD employees. I mean, we did spend 3.5 hours with them, so BFF status was EARNED.
They took MORE than great care of Tyree’s bike. They even went the extra mile and serviced some other components while we were there. Shoot, we even got a few cold beers out of the deal.
And maybe a few laughs. We were tired. Hungry. Our afternoon plans to ride Spearfish and hang out in Deadwood had vanished. We had to get our jokes in somehow… albeit childish jokes, but hey. You get what you get with us.
If there is something I have learned from Tyree over the years, it is to always make the best of the situations provided. Always something to be thankful for, even when shit hits the fan.
And on this particular day, we were surrounded by goodness of all forms.
5:30pm and we hit the road for a 30 mile cruise towards Spearfish Canyon. And, unbeknownst to us at the time, here is a lineup of events that happened in our favor between 5:15-6:15pm:
- Last second clutch adjustment at the HD store as we were rolling out. 15 extra minutes.
- Wrong turn in Spearfish led us away from the scenic byway. 10 minutes.
- Decision to top off our tanks once back on track. 5 minutes.
Had any one of those events not happened, we would have found ourselves stranded on Spearfish Canyon Byway, no shelter, 55-60mph winds with 75mph wind gusts.
While fueling (#3) we scanned the radar and decided to hammer down to Sturgis to outrun the storm. Mother Nature would have very different plans as the wind and rain came in fast and furious while we prepared to merge onto the interstate. I’ve ridden in storms. We stood no chance in this one with nothing surrounding that stretch of interstate. The driver of the Wranger to my right motioned for me to take the open space in front of him while Tyree maneuvered around back. Squeezing our way across traffic we found quick shelter for our two-wheeled babes.
And there we sat. Helmets on and all.
45 minutes later and Mother Nature wasn’t giving up, so we grabbed some pizza and waited for a window of opportunity to hit the road. It finally came around 8pm, and with a stream of steady rain, we leathered up and headed out with white knuckles bracing for the lurking winds.
Shout-out to the Baymont by Wyndham front desk dude for letting us park our bikes under the awning by the front door and to the family of 6 eating at Pizza Ranch who were ready to give us a lift to Sturgis.
As I said… good humans were all around us.
Yo… props to Gr’pa Bob & Gr’ma Jan for the open garage door welcoming us home from the rain. The Real MVP’s!
Y’all still with me?
Let’s insert a commercial break. Go ahead. Refill that coffee cup.
Better yet, grab a beer. You deserve it if you’ve made it this far.
Sunday adventures included Spearfish Canyon Scenic byway, Deadwood, Nemo Highway, Rapid City, Red Garter Saloon in Keystone for beverages and small talk with the locals before cruising Iron Mountain Road.
After all the fun roads were traveled and locations visited, we found ourselves at the south end of the Black Hills again and a full day ahead of us.
J: “Hey, T… what should we do now?”
J: “Sold. Should we get fuel first? I don’t remember a gas station for miiiilllesss last time I was out that way”.
T: “Nah, we good”.
J: “Let’s get to it then.”
34 miles along Hwy 36 to Hwy 40 and we found ourselves a barricade outside Red Shirt due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on Tribal Lands in South Dakota. After a very disjointed conversation over loud running motorcycles, mouth coverings and an urgent plea for fuel, the barricade patrol hesitantly let us pass through with the agreement we were headed straight to Whiteclay, our nearest option for fuel. My quick calculations told me we’d be rolling into Whiteclay with about 5-10 miles to spare. Golden.
Thanks, good people. We best be goin’ then!
And, off we went, with no other traffic. Just me and T.
We stopped “for sweatshirts” and to catch a glimpse of the outer edge of the Badlands. About 15 minutes had passed when a truck traveling from TX pulled up wanting to know if we were still on the reservation, to which we confirmed. Come to find out this couple had been warned at the SD/NE border that they’d be hauled off to jail if they stopped at any point on the reservation.
Back on the road and I wondered if we had somehow landed ourselves in Kansas. That storm cell had me thinking I was going to be visiting Oz.
That beaut was traveling North with a vengeance. We mirrored that urgency by hightailing it South towards Whiteclay with just enough fumes to re-fuel and cross into NE, leaving the storm behind us.
We didn’t have plans mapped out for our Sunday journey home, unless you consider flying by the seat of our pants as plans. Since we were near Hwy 20 we decided Trade Winds Motel in Valentine would make for a nice home again.
It should come as no surprise that Mother Nature found us again just West of Cody, NE. We ditched the road for a nice little awning while the storm rolled through. We were starving, and wouldn’t you know it the awning we were under was coverage to the front door of a closed for the day cafe. Come onnnnnnn…
We had leftover Taffy from Keystone and two shooters of liqour in our bags.
Candy and Booze.
Remember that bit about us finding all the good people on our trip? Well, we found more. As we were getting ready to move on, no phone service to check radar, we noticed a truck pulled off the road and inside a mother, daughter and son trio. Come to find out, they were headed the same direction we were, but a phone call from her husband relayed the message that 60mph winds and golf ball size hail was in her path.
Oh and that storm cell we rode by earlier? It produced a twister just North of Sturgis. Our new friends missed it by minutes. Fun!
So, we waited a while longer, said our farewells, gave them a 10 minute lead before we hopped on and rolled out. We had 42 miles left to go.
…And the sailing wasn’t smooth. I think you expected that by now. Just East of Cody, with 34 miles remaining, the sun set and the 50mph winds set in. At one point we were leaning so far into the wind that gravity would have won had the wind let up. That 34 mile stretch saw us through wind gusts that sent us sailing over the center line, shot nerves, stress levels through the effing roof, many prayers, moments of exhaustion that had to be squelched because the wind never let the f up, and random bursts of uncontrollable laughter thanks to afore mentioned shot nerves until we FINALLY saw the city lights of Valentine. It was 11pm, the town was shut down (pandemic probs) and with gas station chips, cheese and water in hand, we fell into our hotel room, straight up delirious with the biggest smiles on our faces and new memories stored away.
The nonsense we get ourselves into… wouldn’t have it any other way.
Get you a Thelma to your Louise. Get yourself a friend that you can do nothing and everything with and have the time of your lives. Shoot… get yourself 20 of them. I am surrounded by friends from all walks of life who fill my cup in so many ways.
And this girl? Well, she’s my Louise.
And I think I’ll keep her.
You can find our last adventures to the Ozark Mountains here. Backroads, nightfall and nonsense. Standard.