Article & Photos By: Heather Callen
Originally Published In The March 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
As if being part of history at the 75th Anniversary of the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally, the world’s biggest rally, wasn’t enough I was blessed at the end of it all to marry my best friend and the editor of this rag. On August 8, 2015 I woke up with more excitement and anticipation than any one person should be allowed. Soon that excitement turned to worry as I heard that not only was it supposed rain but that there were tornado warnings in full effect in Meade County South Dakota. Yeah, yeah I know rain on your wedding day is supposed to be good luck but tornadoes…c’mon?! As the time drew nearer and the rain and winds came (thank you to everyone that held down the tent for us!) I had an epiphany… If it weren’t crazy and chaotic it wouldn’t be our life. This is how it is supposed to be. And I was right, about 30 minutes before show A time, the clouds parted and Mother Nature bestowed the most beautiful rainbow above our wedding site and we knew we were blessed from the start of our journey together. With the I Do’s over and everyone on their way back to reality and the sleepy town of Sturgis recovering from record numbers Chris and I embarked on the most epic honeymoon trip ever.
Many of you are probably wondering where a motorcycle mag publisher and his bride will go… Italy? No. Caribbean? No. Ireland? No? Nope, not us we pack up The Black Pearl, our 2003 Electra Glide with 170,000 miles on her, with a tent and two sleeping bags and head west. Now, Chris has hundreds of thousands of miles logged in the saddle but me, the longest I’ve ever been on a bike is 200 miles in a day. This was gonna be a first for me and I was out of my mind with anticipation. Not only was I going to be able to feel the wind in my face for days at a time but I was going to see parts this great nation that I had only every dreamed about. Believe it or not the best part of our plan was that we didn’t have a plan! You see, we live our lives on a deadline. We always have to be somewhere or finish something… at least every thirty days. So we decided that we were going to throw that out the window for a bit and ride where and when we wanted to. If we wanted to stop and stay we would. I gotta tell ya, we had the trip of a lifetime! So much so that over the next couple of months Chris and I decided to share it with ya’ll in hopes that it inspires some of you to do the same.
Note from Chris. At this point I have to tell you that if there was ever a doubt that I had just married the right woman, the fact that she was excited about a tent and two sleeping bags with no real direction or destination in mind settled it.
On Tuesday, August 11 with no itinerary in mind we headed west to Wyoming. Our first stop was Devil’s Tower for the obligatory pictures in front of the 1977 sci-fi movie icon… oh yeah it’s a national monument too and definitely worth the ride. Without any close encounters we moved on to Gillette for lunch at Pokey’s BBQ, which if you’re in that neck of the woods, I’d tell ya to give it a try. As a matter of fact, this was a place that was suggested to us by some locals that were followers on Facebook. This gave us an idea that would set the pace for a big part of this trip. The best way to see any place is through the eyes of the locals so why not use social media and just ask for tips. We did and boy the tips came in in overwhelming numbers. From there on we found incredible roads, the greatest food and even met up with some people we knew only from Facebook or instagram. I guess social media is not entirely the devil….
As we were splitting out of Gillette we ran into a couple of readers, Jeff Quilty and Adam Stevens. They both recommended taking routes 14&16. This worked for us because before setting off we had decided to avoid the interstates as much as possible and focus on great roads more than miles covered. We had an amazing ride through cattle farm country. There was no lack of wildlife, so much so that I lost count. We saw a couple hundred Whitetail, at least 100 antelope (we don’t have Antelope were we come from so that was pretty cool). At one point as the sun was setting we had a near miss with a momma and her baby, thankfully both they and us were unscathed. After rolling for around 350 we set up camp for the night at KOA Journey in Sheridan Wyoming. This turned out to be a great choice. We started the evening with the hot tub, pool and muchneeded hot showers before setting up our deluxe accommodations; which included a movie theater and snack bar inside our little tent. Despite me losing a little fight with the tent door and the air mattress going flat it was a perfect first night of our honeymoon.
The next morning we got up and grabbed the KOA book, deciding that it might be a good idea to know where the closest KOAs where by the end of each day. As we planned the next day’s route it became obvious that friends and family back home were starting to get more and more irritated with the idea that we had no real plan. They all had places we had to go and people we really should visit. But this trip was ours and for once in our chaotic life the time of the day would be spent watching each other smile at the things and people we ran into along the way. Tune in next month for part two where this dynamic cycle duo head west….. and that was about the plan…..