Sunday, July 25, 2010

Billings Wednesday/Thursday

Wednesday morning was mostly sunny. We decided to ride to Pryor to Chief Plenty Coups Park at Pryor, Montana, then to the Little Bighorn Battlefield near Crow Agency. We took the frontage road from the host hotel to South Billings Road and headed south. This was all rolling plains and later open range. About half way to Pryor we stopped at a historical marker which told of a battle between the Crow and Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in 1864. Something that struck me as unusual was that the women and children watched the battle from a nearby hillside. The Crow were hopelessly outnumbered but were saved by herds of buffalo and elk!! The herds kicked up dust in the distance, which the Lakota and Cheyenne thought were reinforcements coming for the Crow, and they fled.

The Crow Chief Plenty Coups was compared to George Washington because he led his people through difficult times and helped them transition to new ways. He built a house on his land, but also maintained ways of the Crow. He visited Washington, D.C. and designed his house after what he saw at Mt Vernon. Chief Many Coups died in 1932 and is buried on the park grounds. This was a very interesting place to visit and somewhere that many hours could be spent. It gives a new perspective on the struggles of the Indians in the 1800’s.

While riding toward prior, I pointed out to Mikayla that we were riding trhough an Indian reservation and the people we saws outside a ranch house were Indians. She informed me they were not Indians, but Native Americans. We had a short discussion about why they were called Indians and how times have changed since I grew up.

One of the ladies at the museum mentioned that we would see a quarter horse ranch if we would be traveling east. Mikayla wasn’t sure what a quarter horse is until I explained to her that it’s one quarter horse and three quarters cow - or is it the other way around?? The lady then set us both straight!!

We actually spent more time at the museum than I’d expected but it was actually a pretty short visit for all there is to see. We headed east toward Hardin, where we topped off with fuel and grabbed a Subway before riding south to the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Even though it was the middle of the week, there was a good crowd.

I’ve seen several movies about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and read several stories about it. None do justice to the actual location. It is hard to imagine the events on that June day in 1876, but a tour of the battlefield puts things in perspective.

The cemetery near the visitors’ center is a National Cemetery. I had always thought it was where the soldiers who died in the Battle of the Little Bighorn were buried. Most of those soldiers were buried in a mass grave at the base of the monument on Last Stand Hill. U.S. military veterans are eligible to be buried in the National Cemetery. This is another place a person could easily spend an entire day at and still not see everything. We got back on the Gold Wing about 4 PM and headed back toward Billings as there was a meal planned at Beartooth Harley Davidson at 6 PM.

The BBQ was a bit of a disappointment as we all got a hot dog on a bun, a small bag of chips and a bottle of water. We browsed around the Harley store but didn’t buy anything. Mikayla rode a motorcycle simulator and I decided she would not be driving my Gold Wing any time in the immediate future.

We checked in at the hospitality room for a few minutes and then rode to downtown Billings in search of a place to eat. We found a Perkins across the street from the local baseball park and decided to have something there. I got coffee, and for the first time since we left home, they brought the WHOLE pot!!

The 50/50 drawing back at the hospitality room was to be at 10 PM and I wanted to be back for that. We finished up and went to the register to pay our bill and saw that it was POURING RAIN and the wind was blowing the doors open. Our helmets were on the motorcycle, so I ran out and grabbed them, getting plenty wet in the process!

After an hour’s wait, the wind had gone down and it was raining lightly. I got the rain suits out of the saddlebag and brought them in, where Mikayla got her first lesson on putting on a rain suit. Once we were both suited up, we made our way to the parking lot. Although wet, the trip back to the hotel was uneventful. Needless to say, we missed the 50/50 drawing. A check of the winning number at breakfast Thursday morning found that I did not have the winning number.

The motorcycle parade through downtown Billings Thursday afternoon kept us in town that morning. I stopped at WalMart for bottled water to put in the cooler for the ride home, then we went to the host hotel where the motorcycles were starting to line up. At 1 PM, we pulled out of the parking lot, following a Billings Police Department police car. All the intersections were blocked as we rode through downtown Billings to the Metra fairgrounds in the east part of Billings. There were TV cameras along the way, so I’m sure we got some press time.

After a quick lunch, we headed back toward the hotel. The day before we had seen a fun center with a go kart track and I challenged Mikayla to see if she could beat me. I told her I’d already beaten her dad and her uncle, and now it was her turn!

We located the track and went inside to get our tokens. The first session was just a learning experience for Mikayla. After some “expert” tips, we had another session and she did a lot better, really making me work to get around her. At the end, she did beat me across the line. I’m getting a rematch, though, as when we get to Estes Park next week, we’ll have a go at it on their tracks to see who gets bragging rights.

Thursday evening’s banquet was well attended. I heard the figure of 880 being thrown around. Colors were presented by the Billings Police Department. International President Mulford read the names of the members who transferred to Heaven I in the last year. Meritorious Service awards were presented and the buffet style meal was served. At the conclusion of the program, we started to filter back outside to find a light rain just beginning. We moved the Gold Wing to the front of the hotel, under the awning, to keep from getting wet. Talked with a few Blue Knights, then when it stopped raining, headed back to our hotel to get packed and ready to head to Rawlins on Friday morning.

Blue Knights at Billings - Monday & Tuesday

Monday we decided to explore the Billings area. There were some rides scheduled but after riding the two previous days, we decided to stay close to home base. I got a map of the city from the front desk and we started looking at it. We decided to take a look first at Boot Hill and then the downtown area.

Once we located the Boot Hill area, we found the road has deteriorated and is not being maintained much. After riding part way, I parked the Wing and we walked…. And walked…. And walked. Got some great pictures of the city and located the grave of Yellowstone Kelly. However, we did not find the Boot Hill Cemetery. I’m sure if we’d have walked farther we would have found it.

There has been a Gold Wing Touring Association convention in the downtown Billings area. When we found our way back down from Boot Hill, we made a stop to see the Gold Wings. I talked to a couple of guys who were in Billings for the GWTA convention, but are also Blue Knights and are making trips back and forth between both conventions.

Having found a parking place and not wanting to lose it, we elected to walk to a downtown cafĂ© for lunch. Found a place called “Hog Wild” that had good sandwiches, then walked back toward where the GWTA convention was. Across the street and just to the east is a restored railroad depot so we stopped to look around. It reminded me of the old Burlington depot in Crete and brought back a few memories. I told Kayla about some of the things I remembered and she acted like she was listening. There are a lot of times I wish we could go back in time about 50 years so the grandkids could actually see and understand what we are talking about. There were 3 old cabooses outside and I explained what I could remember of them. We were able to look inside one of them from one end and she could see what I was talking about. As we were getting to the end of the “lesson” we were approached by three women from the GWTA. They were having a scavenger hunt of sorts and needed a Blue Knight to sign cards that they had. He had a nice conversation before going our separate ways.

Monday evening’s hospitality room gave me a chance to connect with a few old friends and meet some new ones. We had 4 Nebraska I members in attendance - Clyde, Roger, Jack and I. It had been several years since I’d seen Jack even though we send e-mails back and forth all the time.

Tuesday we went on a group ride of about 275 miles. We left the hotel and rode 12 miles west on the Interstate, then headed south. We went through an area that looked a bit like home, but you could see some mountains in the distance. We stopped at Red Lodge, Montana and topped off with fuel. From there we began climbing the foothills and got into the mountains. We had a couple of stops along the way to take in the view and get pictures. At one stop, hungry chipmunks swarmed anybody that had foor for them. Kayla fed them her entire bag of dill flavored sunflower seeds. She could get them to sit on her leg as they ate, but they were entirely too fast for her to touch.

We continued climbing to an elevation of almost 11,000 feet when we went over Beartooth Pass. There were a lot of signs warning us that we were in grizzly bear country. Our guide told us that a grizzly bear can run 35 MPH. I’ve never been much for running, but I’m thinking I might be able to run 36 MPH for a short distance!

We were able to get through the entire day without seeing any live animals on the road or near us. We crossed into Wyoming, then back into Montana through absolutely beautiful scenery. We stopped for lunch at Cooke City, Montana, which was our turning around point. The little town was busy since not only were there a ton of Blue Knights there, but a large number of the GWTA people were also there. On a side note, gas there was $3.40 to $3,80 depending on what you wanted, which was the reason for topping off at Red Lodge. On leaving Cooke City, we backtracked to Hwy 296 which becomes the Chief Joseph Highway. When we got to the top of Dead Indian Pass (elevation 8,060 ft) we took another break for pictures. We were able to look back in the direction we came from and see Beartooth Pass about 15 miles to the north. It is hard to imagine how Chief Joseph and his Nez Pierce tribe were able to travel through these mountains while fleeing the Army.

There was a lot more great scenery from Dead Indian Pass to Hwy 120. We took Hwy 120 back north and eventually ended up back on I-90, which took us back to our home base for the week. We got a ton of pictures and saw a lot of great country while getting a little bit of history.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Billings trip day 2- Greeley, CO to Billings, MT

Sunday started out about 74 degrees and sunny. We were out of the driveway right on time - 7 AM. It was a great ride to Cheyenne where we stopped at a new Denny’s at the Flying J for breakfast. That was a real busy place!

Back on the road and northbound around Cheyenne. I’d forgotten it was the beginning of Cheyenne Frontier Days. We crested a hill and saw a couple of patrol cars with their emergency lights on and hit the “slow down” button. Coming our way on the road along I-25 was a herd of longhorn cattle and cowboys following them. Kayla was able to get a couple of pictures of the longhorn cattle.

Farther north on I-25 we saw the first antelope on the east side of the interstate. There was a vehicle pulled off to the side and I slowed a bit to see it they were having mechanical problems. Then I noticed they were out taking pictures and I saw the antelope out a ways.

As we continued, I thought of the “Home on the Range” song. Remember the part about “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word?” That’s because there is nobody there to hear it!

Our next fuel stop was at Douglas. As we rode between Cheyenne and Douglas, I realized how big and wide open this country really is. We’d top a rise and see the highway go as far ahead of us as we could see. What looked like it might be a couple of miles turned out to be 10, 15 or even 20 miles! It was just an ideal day to be riding, with the temperature around 85 and only a light breeze most of the time.

As we got to the south end of Douglas, we encountered road construction which made traffic one lane in each direction. A mile into the construction area is where I pulled off for fuel. I filled up and remembered I wanted a Wyoming map that was bigger than the road atlas I had so I could show Kayla where we were easier. I’d wanted to get a map at Cheyenne and completely forgot about it while looking for something to put on a bee sting.

When we were getting ready to get back on the Gold Wing, a car pulled up on the other side of the pumps. As it was stopping, I could hear the brakes grinding. When the woman got out to get her gas, I told her what I heard. She said she would have the brakes looked at, and we took off. Our next stop would be at Casper to grab a quick sandwich and top off with fuel.

I don’t know if it’s just because it’s Wyoming, or what, but everywhere we stopped for fuel had lines. Maybe it was because it was Sunday and a travel day? Even McDonald’s had a line out the door when we stopped for a couple of sandwiches.

While we were eating, I looked up to see the same car with bad brakes pull in the parking lot!! I’d thought those were some local people before, but now I’m thinking they were not planning ahead on their car maintenance. Depending on what their destination was, driving that car was fast becoming dangerous!!

The weather out of Casper was still great. Checking fuel mileage, I was doing better than the day before, and was going about 7 MPH faster. Maybe the weather not being 106 has something to do with it?

What a great couple of days!! No phone calls, no nothing!! My only worries are where will my next fuel stop be, and what kind of place can I find to eat at tonight.

We took a break at Sheridan and topped off with fuel. Once again, there was a long line at the gas pumps. Had another bottle of water while we waited in line.

When I plotted out this trip, it figured out that I should be in Billings about 6:15 PM. We took more time when we stopped at Cheyenne than we expected; however, we were within 15 minutes of being where I thought we would be. However, as we approached the Montana state line, the skies were increasingly cloudy, with very dark clouds building to the west-northwest. It was really hard to tell if we’d get any of it or not because the highway isn’t straight anywhere. One mile it’s going north, the next it’s going west. We stopped at the state line and took a couple of pictures, then took off again. About 12 miles south of the Little Bighorn Battlefield, we rounded a curve and ran smack dab into the storm with no warning! I don’t believe I’ve ever ridden in a wind that strong! I’d just checked the temperature and it was 88. In less than 5 miles it dropped to 64. I slowed to about 25 MPH and hit the emergency flashers as there was absolutely no place to pull over at. I felt like a drowned rat, and just about as cold! Then, as fast as it started, it stopped and the wind calmed down. We pulled over at the Crow Agency exit for a break and to regain our composure. After a 15 minute break, we started the final 65 miles into Billings.

As we neared our destination, the skies once again started to darken. The host hotel was the Holiday Inn and Convention Center at exit 446. We no sooner got turned in and under the canopy than the wind and rain hit again. However, once again it didn’t last long. It was shortly after 6:30 PM and my trip meter showed 1,032 miles since we left home. Judging from the number of Blue Knights already there, this Convention will be a large successful one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Billings trip - Day 1 - the ride to Greeley, Colorado

We were on the road at 7:27 AM - earlier than I initially planned but later than I wanted. Started out in 81 degree weather. As we rode west on Hwy 4, there was a cloud in the northwest and I was thinking if it came our way it may cool things off a bit. We must have been on the edge of it because by the time we got 75 miles, it cooled down to 73. At that point, the road was damp and there was water on the shoulders. However, a bit farther and the temperature started coming back up.

West of Campbell, Nebraska, Hwy 4 had a detour. It was a gravel road that went north 3 miles to another blacktop, which went 2 miles west to Hwy 10. Anyway, the detour must have been a mud road that the county just dumped gravel on. I had hardly gone 100 yards when I could feel how soft the road was. Shifter down into low and tried to go at a crawl, but that did not even help as the Wing tipped over. Fortunately, we weren’t hurt, but Mikayla was pretty shook up. It was her first time out of town on the Gold Wing and this had to happen!!

It was 96 when we stopped at McCook for lunch and when we left, the temp went to 106 for the next 200 miles.

We tried to keep drinking water and taking longer, more frequent stops. At Wray, Colorado it was still 102, and we took about a half hour break. With the next towns only being about 30 miles apart, we were in good shape. We stopped for more water before getting on I-76 at Brush. From there, it was just 12 miles to where we were going to take a break at Ft Morgan.

It was a good thing we didn’t HAVE to have fuel, as when we got off at Exit 80 for Ft Morgan, the Conoco right by the interstate was OUT OF GAS!! I went another block and a half to the Shell …. OUT OF GAS!!

Back on I-76, then off onto Hwy 34 to Greeley. About half way to Greeley- “Grandpa, we have to stop, I got stung by a bee!” Got a good place to stop and took a look - sure enough, she had a bee sting on her right forearm. I got the tweezers out of the First Aid kit and got the stinger out. Check for antiseptic - could not find it in the kit. I used a cloth to wrap up some ice, then put it under the shirt sleeve and buttoned it up. Makeshift - yes, but effective.

The rest of the drive into Greeley was uneventful, We got in about 6:30 PM. Miles - 488.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Final preparations for Billings

I finished my last work shift at 6 AM Wednesday and headed for home. It stayed warm and humid all night. When I put my helmet on as I got on the Gold Wing, the shield immediately fogged over. Just like my glasses did every time I got out of the car or came out of the office. Then again, after the winter we had, I will NEVER complain about warm weather again!

Of course, when planning a motorcycle trip in hot weather, I may need to alter my original plans a bit. I had planned to strap a small cooler with ice and water on the trailer. Plans have changed to putting a bigger cooler on the trailer. I usually drink a pot of coffee in the morning to get myself going; I’ll try to cut back on the caffeine for the trip, It is said that a person dehydrates more in hot weather when they drink a lot of caffeine.

The long range forecast shows the temps will probably be in the 90’s the next two weeks. Being on the road during that kind of weather means not only being mindful of heatstroke, but sunburn as well. I wear a long sleeved shirt in this kind of weather to keep from getting burned. Cool collars can be purchased at motorcycle shops and soaked in icy water. I’ve used them while racing stock cars in the heat of summer and they work great.

We need to remember to take a lot of breaks when riding in hot weather. When we rode to Spokane in 1998, we ended up stopping at almost every exit to drink more water and even wet our clothing down. In a few miles, we were completely dry.

I plan to take a lot of pictures. One good thing, in the age of digital photography, all I need is to be sure to have a good memory card and a way to download it to my laptop. No need to worry about film, but I will have to be sure I have batteries and/or have all my rechargeable batteries charged. When Jan & I got back from our honeymoon, we had 11 rolls of film to get developed. Now, I just download the card to the computer.

I’ve located the extended warranty for the Gold Wing and bought an extra oil filter. Maps and reservations are being packed. Suntan lotion and chap stick, meds, ect all being packed. Maps and atlas. Bike has been checked over and ready to go.

Hopefully the race car is ready for Friday night. I got everything I could think of done on Monday & Tuesday. I always have nightmares about what could go wrong.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marshall County Deputy recovers; Why wasn't the suspect STILL in jail?; Ride to Billings coming up

Marshall County, Kansas Sheriff’s Deputy Fernando Salcedo is recovering at home from wounds received in a shootout in Blue Rapids, KS last month. Deputy Saldedo was released from the hospital on June 15th. That is great news, as since that incident several officers in other parts of the United States have lost their lives in similar incidents. It‘s a tragedy when these incidents happen; what’s an even bigger tragedy is when it should not have happened in the first place.

Since the Blue Rapids incident we’ve learned that the shooter is a career criminal. Steven Macomber, at 43 years of age, has already spent 23 years of his life in prison. Bill Miskell, spokesman for KDOC, said Macomber was convicted of aggravated battery in Sedgwick County, Kansas in January 1986,three counts of aggravated robbery in August 1987 in Sedgwick County, and aggravated battery in Reno County in 1992. Macomber was paroled in February 2009, but was returned to prison in May 2009 for a parole violation. He was once again paroled on September 9, 2009.

Macomber is also a suspect in a homicide in Topeka that happened about 4 hours before the shooting in Blue Rapids and a May bank robbery in Omaha. He is facing Federal charges in the bank robbery.

Everyone’s question in this case should be - WHY WAS THIS IDIOT NOT STILL IN JAIL?? Looking at his record, he was obviously not rehabilitated! Maybe their parole should include having to live with the judge who gave them a light sentence or a parole board member who voted to parole them! Enough said - if I get started on this I will never stop!

Four more shifts to work until I’m on vacation and on the Gold Wing for 10 days or so! I’m really looking forward to riding and getting some sightseeing in. I’ll also get to race a couple of times before I take off, the first time on July 9th and the next time on July 16th.

There’s nothing like being able to pack up the Gold Wing and take to the road. It’s not like being closed up in the car. You’re at the mercy of the elements, kind of like the pioneers when they traveled through all kinds of weather. If the weather is hot, I can’t turn up the air conditioner. If it’s cool, we have to put on a little extra clothing; if it’s wet, add some rain gear. If it’s TOO wet, hopefully we can find a spot to pull over and have some coffee until it blows over. You can smell the freshly cut alfalfa and the wildflowers as well as the feedlots when you go by them. Most of the people you meet on the road are friendly, and it’s interesting to chat with them for a while.

A tank of fuel doesn’t last as long as with the car, but it will far out last my butt. Depending on how and where I ride, the Gold Wing will get between 37 and 47 MPG pulling the little trailer behind it. I’ll be watching gas prices to compare them to what we’re paying at Beatrice. I’m guessing it will take about 26 gallons of gas to get to Billings. At even $3 a gallon, that’s just under $80. Probably can’t go that far in the car for that price.

Talking about gas prices, gas in Beatrice went up a dime the middle of the week before July 4th. We rode to Grand Island of July 1st and gas there as a dime less than in Beatrice. We stopped at Git-N-Split on West O in Lincoln on the way home to clean the bugs off the windshield and gas there was 17 cents less than at Beatrice!! So much for “buying locally!” By the way, on July 6th, gas in Beatrice went down a dime.

Looking ahead to my trip to Billings, I’m probably going to stop in Cheyenne on Sunday morning for breakfast. I was going a Google search to see where there might be a Village Inn, Denny‘s or Perkins is in the area, and I found the Flying J website. They list their gas prices on their website. Their current price for unleaded regular is $2.539, while ours is at $2.699.

I made a quick run into Lincoln Saturday morning and when I turned around to come home, I filled at Git-N-Split on West O for a dime less than I would have paid in Beatrice. It’s only 40 cents for a tank of gas, but it eventually adds up, especially when you’re on a trip or are there anyway. I’m wondering how much gas is east and south of Nebraska. My brother and his wife went to Camp Lejuene to visit their son, but I haven’t heard anything from them on gas prices.

I have the week left to get ready to go, but too much to do. I think the race car is ready to race on Friday. The National Special Olympics Torch Run will be in Beatrice Friday afternoon, I have 2 more shifts to work, and still have to get my bags packed. Gotta take more than just a few things for a couple of nights. I plan to take a lot of pictures and post them in a new album on Facebook every night.