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GPS HELL– Let the water rise.

June 20, 2011

This is a another in a series of trip reports from my ongoing ride around the northern and central United States.  My netbook died and the new HP Pavilion G4 laptop that I bought on the road is already having problems with characters and capitalization – grrrrr.  Anyway, I’m in Spokane, WA right now and trying to catch up on ride reports.  Heading to the Oregon/Washington coast tomorrow and then south and turning east.  If you are a reader and have tent space, or want to meet for dinner or a beer, e-mail me here.  If you are a reader and want to support the blog and my ride reports, you can donate via pay pal HERE  my e-mail account for donations is  The cost of gas on this trip is KILLING ME.  Anyway, here’s the next ride report.

June 6, 2011 – 14 miles east of Fargo, North Dakota

The alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.  I had a long ride today.  I had to ride across all of South Dakota to get to Rapid City.  I packed up the tent, sleeping bag, and gear and got rolling in the early morning North Dakota sunlight. 


I let the GPS pick the route this morning, mostly because the ride today was point A to Point B.  Not much for sight seeing except for a planned stop in Wall to visit Wall Drug.

I rode for several hours through flat, monotone landscape.  Not much to look at, just thousands and thousands of white lines down the center of the interstate.  The weather had been hot over the past week and today was no exception.  As long as I kept moving, I was cool enough.  Sometimes I question my decision to wear all leather – all black leather at that.  Then again, if I kiss the pavement at 80 MPH I want all the protection leather offers and not the smell of burning, melting, textile.


I noticed the Caponord was idling poorly and decided that I must have gotten some crappy gas in the tiny town of Hawley. I’ll get rid of that by running down to reserve as far as possible and try to burn it all.  This is maybe not a particularly good strategy when you are zooming along the wilds of South Dakota – it’s not the most heavily populated place in the world.  Thirty miles after the low fuel light came on, I was seriously worried that I was going to be in trouble.  Thankfully, I saw a gas station sign on the horizon and rolled down the ramp to fuel up.  Just in time too.  I pulled up to the pump and the bike died.  I added an entire bottle of Sea Foam to the tank and got back on the road.  The bike ran much better after adding the fuel system cleaner.

Some time later, I was riding along zoning out, thinking about nothing much when I noticed the water levels had flooded several homes that were fairly far back, from the lakes they were near.  I took note and went back to daydreaming. 


About an hour or so later, in the absolute middle of nowhere, the road was blocked with a “road closed” sign.  No detour, no explanation and absolutely no work around on the GPS.  Road closed?  what?  I rode around the sign and took a look.  Sure enough the roadway was flooded. 

From this point forward, I would make a series of bad decisions that would ultimately end up with me riding over 600 miles.  How to get around?  First bad call, hit “detour” on the GPS.  It took me back a few miles, to a dirt/sand farm road marked RR 13021 or something like that.  What the heck, I thought, I’m riding an adventure motorcycle and I can handle a dirt road or two.  Well, let me tell you, the dirt was ok, but the sand was not.  There were several occasions when I was absolutely sure I was going to lose the front end and crash. 


After several hair raising miles, I came to the end of the road.  Why the end of the road?  See the picture below. 


What to do?  Bad decision number two.  I thought I might be able to ride through the mud.  Blissfully ignoring the fact that I had zero experience doing this on an adventure bike, the bike was heavily loaded with gear, the cell phone had zero reception, there was nothing around as far as the eye could see in every direction and so on an so forth.  Thankfully I decided to turn around.  Mistake number three, I allowed myself to get very close to the muddy  section of the road.  I was unable to turn the bike around in the soft soil.  Luckily I was able to get off the bike without it collapsing in the mud and toss it in gear, and walk/drive the thing out.  At this point I was out of breath, shaking, and sweating like crazy.  Now all I had to do was ride back through the dirt and soft sand without crashing.  It was a pucker festival for sure.  I had two very huge, very close calls on the way out and was never so glad to see tarmac as when the front wheel crossed on to the road. 

Upon further examination of the GPS, it would have routed me back to the closed road.  All that struggle and I’d have been back at the same spot. Lesson learned, think about what you are doing, don’t put blind faith in the GPS and THINK about what you are doing first.  Which brings us to bad decision number four.  I was so scrambled by my close call, I decided to just zoom out the GPS and find a way around the road.  Without thinking, I took a quick look and made another serious mistake.  I just picked a new route and went with it.  Almost an hour and a hundred miles later, I hid another closed road sign. 

Completely ignoring the lessons learned earlier that morning I rode around the sign and blindly rode another 20 miles in the hopes that I could get around.  Pavement turned to dirt and packed dirt turned again to sand/gravel/loose dirt.  NOW, I really had my hands full.  For whatever reason, I kept going and was eventually rewarded by a totally destroyed section of road with absolutely no way around.  To get to this point I had ridden two or three times the length of the earlier dirt road.  Wonderful.  I turned around, tail between my legs, and rode back to the closed road sign.  There aren’t enough keys on the keyboard to capture the cursing and pissing and moaning I said on the ride back.


Trying to get West from anywhere along Route 83 was virtually impossible in northern South Dakota.  Hopefully, the map below gives some idea of the directional challenge.


Back on pavement, I finally got out my road atlas.  Here is yet another of what seemed this afternoon, to be an endless series of mistakes.  Somehow, I was almost back to the North Dakota border and had given up a significant amount of my forward progress.  Enraged, I took a look at the map and picked another route.  As I was stowing the map a local Sherriff pulled up and asked me if I was ok.  I said I was looking for road that wasn’t closed and was going to ride up to 122 and cut across.  He blinked at me, and said “There ain’t no 122 around here.  Lesson learned – UNDERSTAND WHERE YOU ARE BEFORE YOU GO BLUNDERING OFF IN A RANDOM DIRECTION.  He got out and we looked at the map together.  I had completely misjudged my location – even with the help of the GPS.  “GPS are useless out here, and some maps are wrong too” he said.  He gave me a series of directions that took up almost an entire page and sent me on my way.  The GPS gave such conflicting and insistent counter instructions that I turned it off. 

Thankfully, although the rest of the day would be hot and uncomfortable, the scenery along this part of northern South Dakota was some of the most stunning I’ve ever seen.  Just amazing and beautiful.  It also gave me a bunch of “road running to the horizon” vistas that I love so much.





The Caponord running at a perfect speed.


Breathtaking scenery.





Arriving at the famed Wall Drug after a brutal day of detours, high speeds, high temperatures and frayed nerves.


I’ll make this as kind as I can.  Wall Drug is tourist trap filled with poor suckers spending money, ogling a mind boggling array of over priced Chinese imported goods. 



Stuff I don’t want, stuff I don’t need.


More of the same……..


Back on the road. 


Fantastic scenery.


Setting up camp in Custer State Park, South Dakota. 




I woke up the next morning to find this big fella nuzzling the Caponord.  Animals roam freely in the state park.  It’s very difficult to relax while riding through the park and there are herds of Deer crossing the roads. 


NEXT: Mt. Rushmore, Deadwood, Sturgis and the Needles.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mordechai Y. Scher permalink
    June 20, 2011 3:01 pm

    Perfect speed, eh? I agree. My speedo is a steady 3 – 5 mph optimistic, so that would put you right in the zone. I find at that speed the ‘Nord is moving along, but stays firmly planted on the road.

    As for bad decisions? Tired, pissed off, probably mildly dehydrated all contribute to that. I try to make tired, pissed off decisions only when they’re shooting at me.

    Looks like you’re having a great trip!

    I don’t see NM on your pannier. How’d you miss us?

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