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Badlands - July 2020


Staff member
I belong to several motorcycle groups.  The ST-Owners group had their national rally June 24-27 over in Spearfish, SD.  I had originally planned to go to it, but our youngest daughter came into town for the first time since the coronavirus hit, and then we had a virtual birthday party with the oldest daughter who lives in France on that Thursday.  I decided to stay home for that, and simply postpone the trip for a week.  I still wanted to see the Badlands, which I had missed the last time out there.  So on June 30th, I headed east.

Day OneSeattle to Kamiah, ID. 

I had originally planned to stop elsewhere, but as I was picking my stops for what I thought I could feasibly do, I settled on Kamiah.  There's a nice KOA resort there with both the campground and a motel.  I stay there for a Kawasaki event, the Bun Cooler, so I wanted to stop there for the night. 
Even the open areas of the Palouse were in great colour.

 The ride over took me on Hwy 12 from Lewiston to Kamiah.  It is over 60 miles of twisty road in good condition following along the Clearwater River.

Day Two.  Kamiah to Ennis, MT.

My route would take me out of Kamiah on Hwy 12 to Lolo Pass.  If you haven't ridden the highway to Lolo Pass, put it on your bucket list for when you're out this way.  It is over 100 miles of twists and turns as it follows the Lochsa River.

And then you're in Montana.  You can see why they call it Big Sky Country.

I thought for sure that I'd get caught in this one, but the storm moved on and I stayed dry.

Day Three.  Ennis to Cody, WY.

The trip was beautiful before, but now it would get interesting.  Another bucket list ride for people, is to go to Yellowstone National Park.  I'd been there before, but there were some things I didn't see and here was the opportunity.
I believe this was Gibbon Falls.  Pretty.

Next up, was the Artists Paintpots.  It reminded me a lot of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

One nice thing about riding a motorcycle to these places, is parking is never an issue.  ;)

And what I came to see this time...the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Look close and you can see a rainbow.  :)

Lastly, Yellowstone Lake.  It is huge.



Staff member
Day Three.  Cody, WY to Wall, SD.

There are two more bucket list rides you can take in this area.  One is the Chief Joseph Highway.  The other is Beartooth Pass.  Stunning.  Jaw dropping.  Before I'd ridden over Beartooth Pass a couple years ago, I'd thought nothing could equal the beauty of the Cascade Mountain Range.  All the while I'm riding along on the road up Beartooth Pass, in the back of my mind is that Carpenter's song, "I'm on the top of the world".  You feel like that.
Chief Joseph Highway.

Take a close look at this picture.  In my next life, I want to be a geologist and understand why you have so many rock formations in one area.  You have a deep canyon on the right.  And in the middle, seemingly tiny...but not...is a plateau.

Beartooth Pass.I stopped here because it seemed like I wasn't going to escape the rain storm ahead.  And it was getting cold.  My last trip to Beartooth Pass was cold and extremely windy.  So I put on some more clothes to get ready.

As it turned out, by the time I got ready to go again...the rain had moved on and the rest of the way was dry and beautiful.

There is a town at the bottom of the valley.

Social distancing.  The other bike was at least six feet away and moving along.

And then things got interesting.  I had hours to go to get to Wall, SD.  For those of you not in the USA, the "city" of Wall is famous for Wall Drug Store.  There are signs telling you about it a hundred miles away.  If you've never been there, you have to go, just to say you did.
I'd missed the rain all along, but I wouldn't now.  For those of you who say, "I would never ride in the rain"...well, you do if you have no choice.  Some would say that you'd find a gas station covering or something else to wait under till the rain stopped.  There was nothing.  I would've spent the night in a different motel and called myself fortunate for losing the money on the motel reservation I already had.  But there was nothing out here.  Not even farm houses.

And out ahead was some of the worst thunderstorms I could imagine.  My Garmin Zumo XT (and the 595 before it) has a weather app.  You can overlay your route with the weather radar.  Ahead of me was a massive thunderstorm, and my route would take me directly under the red area of the worst part of it.  The clouds were black and you could see lightning arcing across the sky and to the ground.

Perhaps you've heard the phrase, "the Peace that passes understanding".  Well, I had that.  I figured I'd either make it through, or die.  Either was okay.  The worst case scenario to me, was to go off the road and lie there in pain in a bunch of water with the storm going over head.
I didn't bother changing into rain gear.  The temperature was in the 90s F, and I figured that when I got out on the other side, I'd dry off pretty quick.  In minutes, the temperature dropped 30 degrees.  The wind came from the side and tossed the bike to the other lane before I could do anything about it.  Luckily, there was no one else there.  I put on my flashers, hoping that would help others see me.  Besides the rain, it was so dark at 5:30pm, that it seemed hours later.

I don't know that I've ever been in rain that hard.  It didn't come down at an angle at all.  It was coming down sideways, and there was at least an inch or more on the roadway.  And then the hail started.  Marble sized, and it stung when it hit.
And when I thought it couldn't get worse, it did.  The rain came down so hard at one point that I don't think I could see more than 20 feet down the road.  And the hailstones became about the size of ping pong balls.  Ouch!  I have a black and blue mark from where one hit.  I tucked down over the tank bag keeping my head down behind the windscreen as much as possible and my arms and legs in.  Why my visor or the windscreen didn't get shattered, I don't know.  I figure my guardian angel was working overtime, just then.  :angel:
And then I was through.  Soaked, but through the storm.  I stopped at a gas station down the road, and a couple came up and asked if I was the BMW rider who had waved them by in the storm.  Yup, I was.



Staff member
Day Four.  The Badlands.

This was the "reason" I took the trip.  Though really the reason was the journey, not the destination.

Obligatory motorcycle picture.  ;)



Staff member
Day Five.  The Way Home.

I decided to head home through Yellowstone again.  I had been tempted to take my route north and ride the "Going to the Sun" road, but it still isn't open to the really scenic parts.  And besides, there were still things to see.  :)

But first, I decided to take a side trip to Devil's Tower.  I looked for the lights and aliens, but didn't see any.

I've been to Yellowstone in the past, but there's always more to see.

This is at West Thumb Geyser Basin.  I thought this was it.  What I didn't realize, was it extends into Yellowstone Lake.

From there, I stopped at another place that isn't a major attraction for tourists, but is quite nice on its own merit.  Biscuit Basin.

This pool below reminds me of the volcanic rocks you find where the outside looks crusty and uninteresting...but when cracked open, there's this beautiful crystal inside.


Road Runner

BrianD said:
Wow!  What an epic ride.  Thanks so much for sharing these stunning photos. :great:

Yes, beautiful! My wife and I went there a couple of years ago, but unfortunately not on a bike. Maybe again someday, via bike (e.g. fly and rent/ride or something).

Thanks for sharing!!!


Southeast Area Director
Wow. I'll have to go back through that again just to absorb it. Thanks!


Thank you, Chris, for sharing your photo album.  Interesting route.  Good write-up.  Brings back memories.  Takes the sting out of not being able to get out there this year.