Weather: Sunny and warm.
Note: During times of low traffic volume, the traffic lights flash yellow here. Just ride to the intersection, look both ways, and continue on. That was a pleasant experience.
Part I: The Lodger
The people on the front desk at the Crossroads Hotel in Huron are going to remember me. I’m the guy who, like Goldilocks, had to try three different rooms before I finally found one that was “just right”.
The problem wasn’t that the bed was too hard or too soft, or the porridge too hot or cold.
No, the problem was that I couldn’t park Frogwing right outside my door. (That would have been in a carpeted hallway, and management kind of frowns upon that.) I had to park him across the street from the hotel, or in some underground garage where I couldn’t see him at all from my window.
The garage was out of the question. Nobody knows what goes on down there…
So, I parked Frogwing across the street, and went to check in. The first room they sent me to was on the second floor, on the other side of the building. No sale. The second room they sent me to was situated behind some big HVAC unit, and I couldn’t see Frogwing from there, either.
Frustrated, I walked outside to where Frogwing was parked, and took a careful look at the windows I could see from there. Then I went back to the desk and told them which rooms had sightlines to my motorcycle. I’ve got to give these kids credit; they showed remarkable patience with me. Finally, we settled on a room from which I could sit up in bed and see Frogwing leaning, ever-so-casually on his sidestand.
You guys and gals who used to park your bike inside the room at the roach motel will certainly sympathize with my plight here. Sure, he is covered by insurance… but Frogwing is much more precious to me than that. A brand-new, lime-green version could never replace my O.D. green veteran road-warrior. I couldn’t sleep unless I could see him from the window.
Finally at peace with my accomodations, I went to the unremarkable hotel restaurant for dinner. Then, party animal that I am not, these days… I went straight back to my room, and slept like a baby all night. (Anyone who has actually HAD a baby, knows that they wake up several times during a typical night.)
Despite my slight case of insomnia, I practically leapt out of bed on Friday morning. One more audit to go, and I would finally be free for the weekend! I didn’t even bother with the hotel-room coffee, but downed a Mountain Dew from the vending machine instead. Then I checked-out, reunited with Frogwing, and went out to shoot the photo you see at the top of the page.
The audit went smoothly and, after a nice brunch at the local diner, called “Ida May’s”, Frogwing and I set off down US Highway 14, headed west.
Part II: The Traveller
We wandered through Wolsey and Wessington, stopping here and there to look around. Then we came upon St. Lawrence, population 201, and I just had to stop. Something was tugging at my memory, and it was driving me just a little bit crazy, like an itch you cannot scratch.
Finally, I dug out my wallet, and rummaged through the old business cards stashed in there. Sure enough, I found one with “St. Lawrence Blacksmith Shop, Eugene Porter and Sons” printed on it. On the back, I had written “Porter Sculpture Park”. It all came together in a rush!
Last year, on our trip to the Badlands and Black Hills, my friend Mark Foster and I stopped at the Porter Sculpture Park along Interstate 90. You can’t miss the place, because they have built an enormous steer’s head out of steel, some four or five stories tall, on the south side of the freeway. We were lucky enough to meet the artist, Wayne Porter, and had a wonderful visit with him before continuing our journey west.
It was imperative that I find Wayne’s home here in the little town of St. Lawrence, because who knows when I will pass this way again.
Unfortunately, Wayne wasn’t home. Luckily, nobody else was either. Otherwise, I could have been shot for molesting the sculpture as you see here. At least, that’s what people told me, before I ventured out onto the South Dakota prairies.
But you know what? I don’t buy that. Everyone I met in South Dakota was decent, respectful, and as nice as Americans used to be, back when we were admired by the rest of the world. So much of this state seems frozen-in-time, in the best possible way.
A perfect illustration of this was the fellow I met in Miller.
Frogwing and I rode into Miller, South Dakota, population 1500 or so, in the high heat of the afternoon. We were greeted by this gigantic cowboy…
At first, I thought those were bullet-holes in strategic locations about his person. After closer scrutiny, I realized that they were anchor-holes for the many neon tubes which once glorified his visage and profile, back when this town was a happening place out here on the prairie. I wondered what it was that he was whoa-ing the traveller for, and directing his attention to. I guess I’ll never know, because the adjacent building was empty and devoid of any clues.
Across the street from this icon, however, was a place called Sommer’s Bar. This was one of four such establishments within a block radius of the giant cowboy. Now, you have to understand that I home-in on these places by pure instinct… and it happened that Sommer’s Bar is owned by a fellow rider named D.C. Herman.
When I walked in, I saw an older, bearded gent, sitting at the bar reading a newspaper. I almost felt sorry to disturb him. Then I looked around…
There was motorcycle paraphernalia scattered all around the place. Sure enough, I had found a home for the afternoon!
D.C. Herman has been riding longer than I have been alive. Much longer. In this photograph, he is straddling a 1947 Harley EL “Knucklehead”, which was only three years old at the time.
As we got acquainted, we realized that we shared one common distinction: We both gave up Harleys for Kawasakis, once Harley Davidsons became too expensive. These days, Mr. Herman has a garage on his property that he calls “D.C.’s Kaw Barn”. In there, he houses his whole family’s collection of Kawasaki motorcycles. The family that rides together, stays together, I guess.
He has a hat that seems to mean something significant to him, although I couldn’t get him to divulge the secret. But he has had a portrait taken of himself, wearing this same hat, over the course of the last five decades…
…he’s getting ready for his 2006 photograph. He always tries to grow the beard and mustache exactly the same way for each occasion. It’s almost eerie, the way the face never changes, isn’t it?
I spent way too much time in “Sommers Bar”, that Friday afternoon. But that is because I had found a kindred spirit, and a good friend. It’s not easy to leave that behind. He gave me his address, and I will be writing him, the old fashioned way. No e-mail for D.C.
I will leave you tonight with a riddle. This was printed on a piece of paper behind the bar at Sommers, and while I was there, I couldn’t decipher it! This was probably because I don’t drink too much when I am riding. It all became clear, once I was home and properly relaxed…
The sign said:
“VYSDER ZOMENIMOR ORZZIZZAZZIZ DENDERIZ ORZIZ?”
The first person to decipher this in the comments section gets… nothing more than my admiration.
Next time… Fort Pierre, and the ride to Mission Ridge!