Day 8: Freezing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Microbrewery, Custer, Big Red, Tao, Deadwood, Cadillac Jacks Casino, Number 10 Saloon, Old Havana Cigar Bar and Surprise!

The sky was overcast, leaden colored when I started out. It was cool but became decidedly colder. I managed about 53 miles before I stopped and had coffee at Dale’s Family Restaurant in Hot Springs. The temperature on one of those bank signs said: 49 degrees. I hadn’t really prepared that well for riding in such cold temperature. While the newer bikes have heated grips on the handlebars my 2004 Harley Road King (aka Big Red) doesn’t. I have heated gloves which last about an hour. After coffee I was back on the bike, the batteries on the gloves were dead and I was freezing. Nothing to do but keep going. I managed another 31 miles to Custer, pried my grip bent hands off the handlebars and sought more coffee. This time I found an old bank which had been converted into a coffee shop, called, surprisingly, The Bank Coffee House. I had a great Americano coffee and kind people that they were, they let me charge the batteries on my gloves.
Then back on the bike, the sun was out and it was warmer now. About 20 miles down the highway I spotted the Black Hills Miner Brewing Company. The folks back at Old Havana Cigar Bar in Rome Georgia would never forgive me if I didn’t stop. I went into the brewery tap room. Here’s a quote from their website: “In 1876, the Black Hills gold rush was in full swing. Most settlers during this time, including Brewmaster Sandi Vojta’s family, were European immigrants bringing heritage and culture from the Old World. People brought and shared food, wine, ingredients, recipes and of course, beer.
During this time, brewers were making beer for the miners. Train cars would come in and deliver special ingredients that were shipped over from Europe to make beer. Beer was instrumental to the Black Hills mining community and because of this important and informative time, owners Matt Keck and Sandi Vojta decided to pay homage to the early settlers and miners of Black Hills with the name Miner Brewing Company.”
I chatted with the staff especially one young, vivacious, blond-haired young woman who told me her life history, which was interesting. While I was there a man brought in a box of flasks/growlers (64 ounce), which he started unpacking. They had the name and logo of the brewery on it and I bought the first one! I asked for a discount since I was buying the first one. “Sorry”. Name on the wall or a plaque somewhere? “No.” Had to try anyway. While sipping on my Pilsner 02, a man came in and gave his business card to the blond waitress. She blushed and giggled. “That’s the second time this week some guy has asked me to call him.” Bless her heart.
I had them fill my growler with Pilsner, asked for directions to Mount Rushmore, tucked the growler in the saddlebag and hopped back on Big Red. I stopped by the side of the road to take pictures of Mount Rushmore, the sculpted heads of 4 presidents. Someone pulled up behind me, hopped out of the car and said: “Hey look there’s some carvings on the mountain behind Big Red!” (ha ha!). Next, I rode down some beautiful twisting, curving roads through the Black Hills. Signs announced: “Warning big horn sheep crossing”. The Harley rode beautifully leaning into the curves with balance and poise. A good Tao ride. I finally made it into Deadwood, got a place at Cadillac Jacks Casino, showered and walked the half mile into town.
I wanted to go see Number 10, the saloon where Wild Bill Hickok had been killed while playing poker. He was holding a pair of aces and eights, which has come to be known as “the dead man’s hand”. I walked into the rustic old saloon, which had sawdust on the floor, and ambled up to the bar. I slapped a twenty on the counter and said with a sorta mean looking grin: “I’ll have some rotgut whiskey.” The huge bartender just stared at me and crossed his arms. I said: “Okay, um, how about that Boulevard Wheat you have on tap?” He nodded and poured me a glass. He was a tall, huge guy with red hair. I said to him: “Hey, it’s funny, but my motorcycle’s name is Big Red!” He just stared at me, didn’t seem to get the joke and I figured that explaining would probably only get me in more trouble. I will say that the bartender and I got to be better friends as the evening wore on and eventually he even gave me a “buyback”, a drink on the house. Why don’t they start this tradition at Old Havana in Rome! Come on Perry, Kenneth, Cary, Elliot?
I pulled up a stool at the bar. Behind me, high on the wall was, purportedly, the chair Wild Bill was in when he was shot. Remembering my friend Marlin’s advice of not having my back to the door I turned a bit on my stool so I could keep a wary eye on the people coming in. I was just sipping my beer, trying not to cause any more trouble and these two women sat down and started talking with me. They were in town to surprise a woman (niece and friend) who was just turning 21 and was getting married. She was getting married nearby and was in town to celebrate turning 21 (the legal age for drinking in the USA). Apparently, she didn’t know that these two (and others) were waiting at the bar to surprise her.
So we chatted and eventually she came and I got to meet her and her fiancé and the rest of the family, including the grandfather, named Gene! That’s my real name, though I have many aliases. “Dutch” is my road name. I spent about two hours talking with them and it was great. A funny, loving, down to earth family, filled with great warmth and South Dakotan hospitality.
Eventually, I had to leave. I said good night to the bartender, who waved and cracked a smile and I ambled back to the casino/ hotel.
I even spent a little time in the casino on the slot machines. I wanted to win some money for a lady friend who needs it, back in Rome. I pledged that if I won any money I would give it to her. Well, needless to say with those one-armed bandits I didn’t win anything. In fact, now my lady friend owes me ten bucks for trying!

Planning the Trip: Harleys, Country Fried Steak and Gravy, Great Craic, A Trip to the Harley Shop, Beef Jerky and Cookie Selling Scouts and Zen

Our USA Rand McNally map was inaugurated successfully yesterday with coffee cup stains and bits of country fried steak and white gravy at Wes-Man’s restaurant in White, Georgia. Jeff and I unfolded the big map on the table and we began pointing at routes with our forks. “Can we get to Fort Smith the first day?” Jeff asked his fork hovering over Arkansas.  

     “Buddy,” I replied, “I think that might be a wee bit much.” I realized immediately and regrettably that I had used the Northern Irish vernacular “wee” in the sentence. Sixteen years in Northern Ireland leaves its trace in your language as well as your heart. The other day he had asked me how the Briar’s Club Night had been at Old Havana Cigar Bar in Rome and I had responded: “Terrific. The craic was great! Ninety.”

     “The what?” He had asked. “You boys using crack cocaine?”

     I laughed. “No, craic in Northern Ireland means…” I rolled my hands trying to think, “great banter, a really enjoyable time, good clean fun.”

     He eyed me suspiciously. “And ninety?”

     I raised my shoulders. “For some reason that’s the best the craic can get. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t make up the rules about it.”

     But now Jeff was shaking his head again and had a look on his face like he’d just smelled something bad. “Look here pal, don’t you start saying “wee” again. I’ve told you that real men don’t use the word “wee’! I don’t want to hear any of that Irish lingo. We’re Americans, tough bikers and we’re about to ride cross country on our Harleys.  We’re gonna look and sound like bikers!”

     I ignored him. “Jeff, Atlanta to Ft Smith would be about 700 miles. Unless, you’re practicing for the Iron Butt competition that’s a … bit much for our first day. Why don’t we stop in Memphis. I’ve never been there.”

     He shook his head in agreement. So at least we had our first destination planned: Memphis.

     After eating we drove down the road to the Cartersville Harley Davidson where a big shindig was going on. The place was packed with bikes and pickup trucks. Outside people were mingling, burgers were being grilled and music was blaring. We went inside and were immediately met by uniformed cub scouts and girl scouts selling beef jerky and cookies, respectively. The place was packed with people looking at the over 200 bikes on display for sale.

     I shook my head. “This is bad.” I said as I moseyed over to a magnificent looking bike. “This is a 2013 CVO Road King.” I drooled. “Says the color is ‘diamond dust and obsidian with palladium graphics’.

     “Palladium, I thought those were some of those people living in Sri Lanka?”

     “No those are Dravidians.”

     “No, those are them boys down in Waco Texas.”

     “No, those are Davidians.”

     “Purty bike.” Jeff said.

     “Yeah,” I replied, “and the list price is only $30,000!” I shook my head. “This is bad.”

     “Why?”

     “Cause I want it and I shouldn’t.

     “Why not?”

     “Cause Buddha says that suffering comes from a desire to be something or have something. I want that bike!”

     “Aw man! Don’t go all Zen on me. Bad enough you went Irish on me back at the restaurant.

     “God says the same thing.” I replied defensively.  

       He wandered off and I followed. Jeff looks every bit like the archetype of a biker. Strong, well built, tough sounding, thick grey hair (he was bald for a while), chiseled face, chin bearded, biker swagger, and he had this drawn out way of eyeing you up and staring at you that could make you want to confess sins you hadn’t even committed yet. If you ended up in a fight you wanted Jeff on your side. Even if you were assaulted by jerky and cookie selling kids you wanted him there to protect you.

     I didn’t look like a biker. I looked more like a mad professor, a tamer version of Doc from the Back to the Future films. Make him shorter, chubbier and take away his intelligence and you’ve got me!   

   I followed Jeff around as he pointed out things I needed for the trip. Before we got out of there Jeff had hooked me up with saddlebag liners, a three pocket windshield pouch attachment, a personal electronics magnetic pouch to hold my phone on my fuel tank, some Plexus plastic cleaner, Bugslide (“The Cleaner, Polisher and Bug Remover with Attitude”) and some beef jerky and cookies.

     With a handshake and a manly hug we said our goodbyes and agreed to meet next Friday at Old Havana in Rome to smoke a cigar and continue our planning.