They say the adventure starts when things stop going as planned. That point was reached very early in our recent trip across South Dakota. We had initially planned on doing the Trans South Dakota trail and then meet up with the Dakota Dual Sport Riders rally near Deadwood, this plan didn’t go well!

We all know how much planning goes into a big trip, from the actual planning  to the prep work on the motorcycles and chats with your friends about your upcoming trip. Plans are nice, but often things don’t go the way you want, so you just have to roll with it.  What we didn’t realize is that there were lessons for us waiting out on the road…

Last year, Collarbone and I did most of the Trans South Dakota Adventure Trail (TSDAT). We had a great trip, some difficulties, but we had a good time.
RR here:

So this spring my buddy Killswitch Bill surprised us by purchasing a sweet 990R off the ADV Flea Market. Bill wanted to go on a trip with me, but at the time most of my vacation for the year was already spoken for, so I suggested a long weekend doing the TSDAT.

The plan was hatched and a few other riders were invited including inmates “Hipster”, Twin Headlight Ernie”, “Killswitch Bill” and a couple other friends from the motorcycle industry.

We decided to take off on a Tuesday after work and try to make it as close to Sioux Falls South Dakota as we could. Bill stopped by my place and we took off and picked up Ernie and hopped on I90 and blasted across Minnesota.


After about 280 miles we pulled into Worthington Minnesota and met up with Hipster at the city campground. We got there after dark and were tired and the bugs were terrible, so we called it a night early.

Sunrise in Worthington MN

The other 2 guys were waiting for us in Sioux Falls, so we headed out early to blast out the last hour of freeway and get this show on the road! Pulling off the interstate in Sioux Falls showed us our first issue, my KTM 950ADV had no back brakes. We topped off with gas, had a little breakfast and then took a look at the brakes.  It turns out my rear master cylinder was leaking, so I added fluid and blead the brakes.  There really wasn’t much ealse we could do besides keep topping it off.

We meet the other guys and take off, or so we thought!

After we left Sioux Falls, I headed us towards the route, and soon we were on some good dusty gravel.

I was keeping an eye on the GPS and navigating us towards the tracks. We got on the route and found a nice narrow gravel road. Once we hit the stop sign at the end of the road, I was behind a big slow farm truck. I decided now would be a good time to air down the tires and give this guy a head start, of course he pulled into a field about 1/2 mile down the road!

Problem #2.  BMW 1150 GS wouldn’t start!


The road we were on turned out to be a super busy stretch of road for farm trucks, they had a job to do and didn’t need a bunch of motorcycles sitting around in their way, so we knew we had to do something quick.

It was determined that is was probably a dead battery. Phone calls were made with minimal success. One of the farm truck drivers stopped by and told us we should head to the nearest town, Menno South Dakota, and see if someone can help us.

We decided to try to pull start the BMW with my bike, and we got it started a few times, only for it to die a little further down the road. Eventually we got back to pavement and he took off for town.

Menno, South Dakota.
Unfortunately, no photos from this quiet farm town. Our group of 6 rolled into town and the hunt was on for someone with a battery that would work in the GS. We had no luck, but a call to “local” dealers found one back in Sioux Falls at our friend Jims shop, Power Brokers.  Rob (GS owner) stayed in Menno and Chris (KLR) went back to Sioux Falls to get the battery. Rob insisted that we continue on, and we would meet at the end of the day in Pickstown.

We headed south and got back on the route towards Yankton.

We got to Yankton and we had several options. First, we were now about 2-3 hours behind schedule for what was going to be a long day. From Yankton there are two options on the route, one is the more scenic and technical Nebraska side that you can see from last years ride report, and an option to keep it all in South Dakota on the north side of the Missouri River.

Since it was hot and late, we opted for the easy side.

The Dakota side did have some nice scenery though!


Photo by Twin Headlight Ernie

Twin Headlight Ernie and his BMW R100GS

Killswitch Bill and his 990R

Photo by T.H.E.

Me on my Ninefiddy

Photo by T.H.E.

Photo by Killswitch Bill

Hipster and his 990

Strange tree!


Hipster and I were going at a pretty good clip, so we stopped and waited for Bill and Ernie to catch up.

Bill informs us that his bike isn’t running right. It was running and we weren’t too far from our destination, so we kept on.

Bill stops and tells us that he barely had enough power to pull this hill! Luckily, we were close to pavement and made it safely to the gas station in Pickstown to fuel up and figure out what to do with Bills bike.

Also, I had received a call from the guys in Menno, the GS was up and running and they were on their way to meet up with us. They met a cool local that had a GS, and if he would have known we needed a battery, he would have sold Rob his!

[B]This was the start of the next lesson on the trip, the kindness of strangers[/B]

Hipster is certain that the problem with Bills bike is the fuel filter. A text message to the previous owner tells him that the filter has never been serviced, so its a good possibility. We decided to set up camp and think about our options.

Fort Randall Recreation area, nice campground!

We head back into town for some supper and a 12 pack for camp. Bill finds a KTM dealer in Sioux City Iowa and decides that he going to take off early in the morning and ride there to see if they can figure out the problem with his bike. He really didn’t want to get even further away and run into more serious issues, I can’t say I blame him!

Sunset above the Fort Randall dam

Morning comes and Bill heads out towards Sioux Falls to see if he can get his bike running right.  The rest of us gas up and head out on the route. A few miles of pavement and we are back on the gravel, it feels good to be back on the actual route! After topping off our tanks in the town of Bonesteel, we head out on some of the more scenic sections of the route. Hipster and I talked about the GPS file and his was showing some roads that mine wasn’t since he was running the route and I was running tracks. I told him he better lead for a while and he got us on some great roads that I would have passed by.





This area is one of my favorites!


Photo by Twin Headlight Ernie (T.H.E.)


Photo by T.H.E.


Photo by T.H.E.



We head into some massive ranches and free range cattle were common.
We come across these amazing horses that were running around this huge ranch. Ernie tried being the horse whisperer.
Photo by T.H.E.
From here it was a short ride to Kennebec for gas.
Northwest of Kennebec, the route gets remote. It is a long ways to anything, in fact I think its 100+ miles to the next gas, which is the first town you go through after Kennebec.
Now here is where the trip takes a turn for the worse.  We got off these gravel roads and onto a dirt road. The road was in pretty bad shape, it appeared that a lot of machinery had gone through there recently and tore it up pretty bad. I was riding sweep after taking the above photo and following the 1150GS.  We had come down a hill and were about to go up another when the front tire of the GS ahead of me dug into the soft soil and literally flipped the bike forward! Rob, the rider was slammed onto his back at 30+mph and the bike flipped and landed on the tail section. I was close, and had to get on the brakes to avoid it, and even my front tire got into that soft stuff.
Rob was pretty messed up, had the wind knocked out of him and was in a lot of pain.  I helped him the best I could and eventually he was able to get back on his feet. The others were over the hill when the crash happened, so it was just us. THe bike was too heavy for me to pick up, so it was just a waiting game until the other riders showed up.
After the other guys showed up, we had to figure out how to get him and the bike out. He was in too much pain to ride on the back of a bike, so he decided to walk about a mile out to the gravel road. His bike was banged up pretty good, the rear rack was broken off, and the front fairing framework was bent so bad that the forks wouldn’t turn. We eventually got all the bikes out and I noticed a ranch a ways down the road. I rode down there and that is where we met a great guy that worked at the ranch. Once I told him that someone was hurt, he nearly jumped off the tractor he was on to come help. I told him to hang tight and we would figure out what our plan was. Rob said he would walk to the ranch and ask for a ride to the hospital.  The rancher was happy to help, and took Rob about 40 miles to the nearest hospital and let him store the bike.
So after we parted ways after the crash, we had a decision to make, do we continue on with the route, or do something else. THis particular day of the route is a seriously long day, and with the time we lost, completing it was highly unlikely. We were now down to 3 riders, Twin Headlight Ernie, Hipster and I. We decided to try to make our way towards Wall South Dakota, where we had initially planned to stay.
We ended up coming to a gas station that was on I90, and we topped of our tanks and Hipster was gung ho for finishing the route, Ernie and I weren’t so sure. At this point, nothing has gone right so was is worth it to keep heading further away from home. A few tense moments of thought and we all decided we had to try, we had to give it a shot even if it didn’t make sense.
We pull into Wall late in the afternoon, got cleaned up and headed towards downtown Wall for supper. When we were on the way to Wall, I got a call from Chris, the KLR rider who went with Rob to the hospital. He wanted to know what our plan was, and if it was to finish the ride, then he would meet up with us. Chris decided to put the hammer down and meet us in Wall.
Our campsite, the Sleepy Hollow Campground right in town, pretty decent spot!
Chris showed up after a very long day, and commenced to get camp set up in the dark and do a little bike maintenance.
The rest of the night went well, and we got up in the AM and packed our gear. Just as we got done packing, it started raining and rained hard. We decided we might as well hang out a bit in town and get some breakfast and see if the storms would blow over.
Rumors were that there was ping pong sized hail in the badlands where we were heading, so there was no hurry.
Goofing around at Wall Drug
With everything that had happened, tension was high and the weather wasn’t helping anything. Weather is crap, nothing is working out, and its really losing its fun factor.
We decided to take off, regardless of the weather.  Once we hit the “gravel”, the roads got bad. They had some serious rain out here and riding the gravel was like riding sand, anything under 45 is just about impossible. I stopped a few miles down the road and we were short a rider. I went back to the last place I saw him and he wasn’t there, I knew what happened, he bailed.
Now, here I sit, thinking if I should bail as well. This wasn’t fun, in fact it just plain sucked. We were on the last day of a 700+ mile route and had only really done maybe 200 miles of the route. The remaining two riders came back to where I was and we talked. We pretty much said, screw it, we are going to at least make it to the Dakota Dual Sport Riders (DDSR) rally in the Black Hills.
I was glad to make it to Scenic for a second time on the KTM.
Hipster in the Hoosegow!
On to the Black Hills..
Ah, the Black Hills. Amazing landscape with stunning views…Yeah, you really didn’t think we would get that did you? No, we ride through Rapid City and get on Nemo road and head into the fog and rain.
We arrive at the Fish-N-Fry Campground where the Dakota Dual Sport riders were having their rally.
Pretty cool rig here! I really need a 4Runner.
Next door to the campground was a pretty sweet vacation home.
Saw my first punk duck!
The rest of the day was spent BSing and hanging out. A few adult beverages may have been consumed as well :freaky
The next morning we woke to rain, and today was our scheduled departure day so we packed up in the rain, said goodbye and started the long ride home.  Hipster left about half an hour before us and was able to make it all the way back to Minneapolis that day.
Chris and I spent the day riding to Sioux Falls, pretty much a full day of this.
We got to Sioux Falls around 6:30pm and Chris said he was snagging a hotel room and going to relax. I could have made it home by 11:30, but a quick look at the radar showed that it would probably be all in the rain and heavy storms. We holed up in Sioux Falls for the night, then went our separate ways.
This ride certainly didn’t go as planned and it was a struggle just to maintain a good enough attitude to keep going. I have been out there enough that it really wouldn’t have broke my heart just to call it off on the 2nd day after Rob’s crash, but I’m glad we rode it out to the Black Hills.  During the whole trip, everyone we met was super nice, and I can’t thank Mr. Tough (yep, thats his name) for dropping everything he was doing to haul a stranger to the hospital that is 40 miles away

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