Day 17: Wall, South Dakota to Sioux Falls; Badlands; Harley Has 98,000 Miles on Her; Free Heimlich Maneuvers; Native American Flute played at McDonalds; Nearly Out of Gas.

I headed south on Hwy 240 and got to the Badlands where a cute park ranger took my cash. I was about to ask her if there was a Mr. Park Ranger but I’m too old for that old rigmarole. Besides, look at me.
Here’s a photo of one area in the park.
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The park has “sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles, and spires blended with the largest undisturbed mixed grass prairie in the United States.” (Wikipedia). The beauty of the layered colors got to me – tan, orange, limestone colored, the immensity of the place, as well as the silence of the wind blowing across the prairie. I saw grazing buffalo, vigilant prairie dogs and wandering bighorn sheep.
Leaving the park I caught up with scenic highway 44, which was scenic and also bumpy, offering what was tantamount to free Heimlich maneuvers every ten yards. I drove back up to I 90 and found it much smoother. I rode it until I needed gas and after crossing the wide beautiful Missouri river I exited at the town of Chamberlain. While there, I went, of course, to McDonalds. While I was having a coffee, I heard a guy playing the flute and walked over to him. He stopped and handed me the flute. He told me he had made it, described its features and pointed to the inlaid crushed turquoise. “That’s what took me the most time. It’s a pentatonic scale in the key of F.” He told me that his grandfather taught him how to make them but that his children didn’t want to learn. I thanked him for letting me see it and that it was beautiful. I could tell he was proud of it. He should be. I drifted back to the table and listened more to the dulcet, warbling tones of his flute. The sound of the Native American flute is so soothing and ethereal.
I had only 136 miles to go to Sioux Falls and a full tank of gas. The speed limit was 80 and I cruised at that speed, forgetting how much gas Big Red drank at high speeds. At about 115 miles I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I cut my speed to 75 and started looking for gas. No Luck. My warning light came on. Then I went down to 70mph and then 65. Still no gas. Finally, after about five more miles I spotted a sign and coasted down the long exit. I managed to get her over to the nearest station without her conking out. I filled her up and then asked the clerk about the bar across the street – Big J’s Roadhouse. She said the food was very good. So Big Red and I moseyed on over and got some fries and a nice Bell’s lager. The waitress kept calling me “sweetheart”. I don’t mind that. In Georgia I get called ‘honey’, ‘darling’, and ‘sugar’. I like it. Last night, the male bartender kept calling me ‘Captain’ in what I assume was a response to my rugged and commanding bearing. Or maybe he was thinking of Captain Crunch?

Day 5: Williams, Arizona to Barstow, California; 318 miles; Total miles – 2174; Someone always does more; Stardust Motel; Pit Stop Bar and Grill; Wind Advisory Again.

I’m approaching 95,000 miles, which is a lot for a Harley. I probably will surpass 100,000 miles on this trip. But the other day I ran into a guy with 138,000 miles on his bike. Today, I met a fellow who was celebrating 250,000 miles on his 1992 BMW. Someone always does more.
My son Colin is working tonight so I decided to not drive all the way to El Segundo and instead to stop somewhere not far away. I chose Barstow, and the Stardust Motel. I’ve always loved the song and lyrics to “Stardust” and they are eerily relevant to my soul on this trip.

“And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we’re apart

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of love’s refrain.”

Checked in to the Stardust and talked with the kind, cheerful owner, Sunny Patel. Changed and rode through the gusting wind to the Pit Stop Bar and Grill. From the parking lot I noticed the bars on the windows. Always a good sign. Inside, concrete walls red, white and azure blue. Nascar and race car signs all over the place. Ceiling fans. 2 pool tables. Mismatched chairs at checkerboard Formica top tables. Cute waitress called Nikki served me a wonderful IPA. NBA basketball playoffs on, along with a LA Angels and White Sox game. Dark brown metal folding church chairs in the back near the band cave. Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl on the jukebox, followed by the unmistakable riff of Smoke on the Water.
Wind advisory again – 20-35mph. One more day and then all sorts of advisories will come into play.