Huron to Fort Pierre, on US 14

Weather: Sunny and warm.

Good Morning Huron!
Early Morning on Main Street – Huron, South Dakota

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.

St. Lawrence Blacksmith Shop
Interactive Art at the St. Lawrence Blacksmith Shop

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…

The Miller 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.

D.C. Herman, circa 1950
Sailor D.C. Herman, circa 1950, Diamond Head, Hawaii

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…

D.C. Herman: Over and over again.
D.C. Herman, 1956, 1976, 1986, 1996… and now?

…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!

13 Responses to “Huron to Fort Pierre, on US 14”

  1. Bill Sommers Says:

    “Sommers Bar” huh? I think I’d find myself right at home there too. If nothing else, it’s got a cool name. Bill Sommers

  2. Morini Chris Says:

    Why is there so many more or is that all there ever is?

  3. Bob Says:

    Ha! Had to read it out loud slowly a couple times…but an excellent question posed there, Gary. It would seem to be an impossibility, unfortunately, it ain’t! Why indeed? Love the pix and the stories. My Dad’s from central North Dakota…love the wide open spaces. Today happens to be his 86th birthday…Happy Birthday Dad!

  4. Rob Tsou Says:

    I get it..indeed, why? Of course that’s only my opinion. Sounds like you’re on a great trip. Your hotel experience reminds me of the time some friends and I tried to stay at a hotel in New Orleans. We were riding to San Antonio and thought we might spend a couple of days in NO before heading on. The only trouble was that no hotels would let us park our bikes in the hotel lots. Didn’t matter if we were staying in the Presidential Suite, no bikes. So we didn’t stay in NO and spent our extra time in San Antonio instead. I think we got the better part of the deal (although I would have loved to have gotten to eat some of the many different foods available in New Orleans).

    Rob

  5. Steve Williams Says:

    I’ve always wondered about leaving a bike outside unattended on a trip. In my mind I have myself sneaking the Vespa into the room….

    South Dakota seems like a riding paradise from my vantage point in Pennsylvania. The idea of a place where time stopped is appealing.

    steve

  6. Dick Aal Says:

    Gary,
    Have the times changed so much? I remember in North Dakota NOBODY had a key to their front door. ( Or back door either ) We never locked anything including the car. I can remember walking past a pickup in town in the ’70’s and it had two rifles in the rifle rack, sun glasses on the dash, checkbook on the dash and the keys in the ignition. Nobody ever (rarely) touched anything of someone elses.
    Now you got me worried, I am riding with overnight stops in Washington, Canada, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. I am sure I can’t find a room close to my window in every place. Is bike theft that big a deal there??

  7. Ron Johnston Says:

    Why is there so many more horses asses than there is horses?

    Cheers…

  8. Dan Flittie Says:

    Gary:

    Glad your trip went well – and that you found no errant rounds labeled “To Whom it May Concern…”

    Yes, you have found some of the nicest folks around – as I’ve told you – and your readers have discovered – you have found “SD nice” – similar to “MN nice”, but a different breed all-together. Life is a bit slower out that way – too bad it can’t be that way everywhere. I wish my wife understood why I like to find places like this on my bike. She just doesn’t get it. I’m glad you do.

    Ahhhh Huron, SD. My college (SDSU, just down the road on 14) roomate was from there and was in the Army National Guard. Once a month when he did his drill, we’d give him $100 for beer. You see – Busch Light was $8/case. He and I being former Jarheads and our other roomie being an ex-flyboy, well you could say we drank our fair share of pi$$ beer… Ahh the good old days…

    Alas, I’ve rambled again – sorry Gary.

    Great photos – great story – great everything.

    Thanks for bringing back a little bit of me. Sometimes, I think that part of me is lost for good. Glad it isn’t.

    Oh, I’m about 3/4 the way through your riddle.

  9. irondad Says:

    Dang, I get busy for a few days, come back to the blog, and find I’ve missed a bunch! There’s a compelling element to your travel tales. I think you’ve mastered the “write about the highlights, not the route” thing. Some of what I see in magazines seems dry. Not so, here.

    Reading about your weekend almost makes me want to quit teaching. You’re out strafing roads and getting cultural enrichment. What do I do? Mentor new riders. Different rewards, I guess. How about popping over and covering a couple of classes for me while I go play? If the students disobey you could have them detail an area of Frogwing. Not sure how their riding skills would be but your bike would be clean!

  10. Steve Williams Says:

    Oh, by the way, the quote on the sign is Maltese or Turkish I think. It says something like “If you do something tricky or bad then the management has the right or obligation to ignore or get rid of you”.

    Or something along those lines…..

    It appeared in the New Yorker Magazine with this translation:

    “IF SOMEONE GETS TICKET BY DOING TRICKY, BODRUM AIRLINES HAS RESERVED THE RIGHT THAT THERE IS NO MUST TO GIVE A PERMATION THAT PASSENGER GETS ON THE BOARD.”

  11. Gary Charpentier Says:

    Yeah, you guys get it. I really like Steve’s interpretation, if only because he reached so far to get there. But I’m pretty sure I didn’t see any Turks or Malteses (?) out there, so I’ve got to go with the drunk Norvegian angle.

    Dick, the times have changed everywhere, and the current generation of youngsters all get their indoctrination from the same dubious sources. Yes, even in Huron, you have the little pocket-rocket cars with the thousand-watt stereos thumping and the coffee-can exhausts. Drivers wearing backwards baseball caps and yapping on the cellphone… it’s Generation MTV, nationwide.

    I don’t know what the bike-theft rate is, but I certainly don’t take any chances with Frogwing. Last time I was in town, the hotel manager at that time let me park on the sidewalk, right near the main entrance. No surprise, he was a rider too.

    Dan, feel free to ramble all you want. That’s what we do in here.

    Irondad, I think we both do what we do for very good reasons. I’m not a patient man, so I couldn’t make good on my end of that swap. You’re always welcome to take a break from teaching and join me on the road, however.

    Well, tonight belongs to my girls, so I had better get back downstairs.

    Tomorrow, I’m going to wrap this thing up, and we’ll get back into the daily grind next week.

    Ride well,
    =gc=

  12. jim Says:

    Ok, I’m turning Susan loose on that question.
    jim

  13. jim Says:

    Gary, it took Susan maybe four seconds to come up with this answer…grammatically incorrect as it is:
    Why is there so many more horses asses than there is horses…..
    She remembers hearing that one when she was a kid… and seeing it written… must have just triggered something. Plus having heard all those Norwegian jokes over the years…..
    What can I say, I married up.:)
    jim