Category Archives: Lodging

Day 7: Riverton, WY and in which I drive a Unimog (Ryan)

Day 7 was actually a little sad, we had to leave Wall, our nice cabin, and the great people we’d met. We road out to the ranch again in the morning and Gerald had fired up the Unimog that I had looked at the night before so that he could move some gravel. He offered that if I wanted I could take it for a spin. That’s the kind of offer you don’t turn down! The Unimog 1200 has 24 gears in both forward and reverse: 8 gears on the normal transmission shifter with two more range shifting levers. The truck/tractor is definitely unique but handled comfortably although shifting gears takes a little while to actually get used to. All in all I walked away with a grin.

Driving a Unimog!

I couldn’t help but grin!

We traded their car back for my bike and after saying our farewells and thanks to our new found friends we headed back toward town to gas up and head out toward Riverton, WY. We cut back through the Badlands to catch hwy 44 on the south side of the badlands. Thanks to Gerald we saved a good 15 minutes and 10-15 miles by taking Conata Rd down to 44. It meant about 3 miles of dirt/gravel road but I was getting used to it by then.

In Rapid City we picked up hwy 16 and followed that through the edge of Custer State Park and through the Southern Black Hills. We hit Wyoming after laboring up a few mountain sides. The run through Wyoming was typical of eastern Wyoming. The sky is huge and the landscape nothing short of expansive. Riding across eastern Wyoming feels like you’re running in place. You look down at your odometer and notice that you’ve gone 10 miles and it looks like you’re just as far away from that mountain line you notice 25 minutes before.We took 16 as far as Newcastle and then turned onto WY450 and road across Thunder Basin National Grassland. We picked up I-25 just north of Casper and road it into town.

Entering Wyoming

Casper seems to be a disorganized and unwelcoming town (no disrespect to anyone who live there…I’ve just never had a great experience there)…it’s sort of just a passing through town for me. We grabbed a bite to eat, gassed up (which is very important for the next leg), and headed out 20/26 toward Shoshoni. It is a 98 mile run from Casper to Shoshoni with no gas except for one out of the way general store (or serial killer haven…take you pick) that advertizes gas and looks like they either sell it by the 5 gallon jug or from a rusty tank on the hillside behind the place.

We caught a gorgeous sunset just before Shoshoni:

Sunset on hwy 20/26 just before Shoshoni, WY on the road to Riverton, WY.

Just after Shoshoni we crossed the bridge over Boysen Reservoir and I did an immediate u-turn so we could go down to the boat ramp and take some more pictures of the last fading colors of the sunset.

Sunset over Boysen Reservoir, Shoshoni, WY

Another view of the sunset of Boysen Reservoir

We arrived in Riverton shortly after dark and spent the night at the Rodeway Inn. The room was clean although there were rowdy people hanging around we had no real complaints.


Day 3: Wall, SD (Ryan)

So I’ve realized that I’m utilitarian when it comes to titles…titles should tell you what your going to look at, they don’t have to be all that creative. Like in this blog, I use the destination town as a title, rather than some description like my wife does (not that she’s wrong…just different). Well, aside from titles, Day 3 was the hardest ride yet.

We got a little bit earlier start, around 10:30 AM…we’re getting better, another hour or two earlier and we’ll finally be on target. No city traffic this time. Forest City, IA is pretty small and laid back. The largest thing in town is the Winnebago manufacturing plant and headquarters (RV maker for those who don’t know or care to know).

At first things seemed to be going well…for like 7 miles heading north out of town. As it turned out that 7 miles seemed great because the wind was to our backs. Over the next few hours the wind kept getting stronger and stronger. It was coming out of the south and hammering our left side as we rode west. The wind was so strong that if I pulled off to the side of the road and dropped the bike on the side stand I had to lean against the bike to keep if from being blown over. It took all the energy I had just to keep on a straight and level road. We rode for so long with a leftward lean that I kind of expected the tires to show noticeably more wear to the left of center. Whenever the wind would let up for a second it felt like we were going to tip back to the right side. We battled the wind all the way across the remainder of Iowa and for the first while in South Dakota as well. Finally late afternoon the wind started to drop off as the temperatures peaked in the low 90s. The temperatures didn’t stay warm however. As soon as the wind died down some light cloud cover developed in the west and the temperature felt like it dropped 20 degrees and then kept falling.

Taking a break somewhere in southeastern South Dakota.

The overall ride was fair to great. Heading out through northwestern Iowa tended to be pretty tame and uninteresting. The main obstacles were the variety of birds that kept popping up and attempting to cross right as we were passing by. I had to duck at least twice and one bird nearly caught my right shin as it squeaked by the front fender. As we rode you could see numerous quail and pheasant flush out to either side. Somewhere in either northwest Iowa or southeast South Dakota we were passing through the center of a farm when a full blown male peacock came strutting across the road, massive tail feathers and all. Not sure what he was doing rambling around the roadside, but he was a sight to behold. A little further on again and there was a group of 5 or 6 wild turkeys hanging out in the road. They were so slow to move I had to honk a couple times just to keep them moving.

Suddenly as we approached the Missouri River the land got interesting. Hills started to become visible with rocks protruding through them. Then you round a bend in the road and the Missouri River valley spreads out below! The vista was really awesome after all the flat land. We stopped for ice cream at Dairy Queen in a town that turned out the be a close parallel to the “last homely house east of the misty mountains.” After we passed through Winner, SD we rode up 44 and saw nothing but the occasional frontier settlement like White River (pop. 581) until we arrived in Wall.

Preparing to cross the Missouri River

Sunset on the bike west of the Missouri River in SD.

Best sunset picture yet…hopefully many more to come.

Since we were taking the backroads we were routed up hwy 240 which looks like a nice straight route to Wall. However, in the real world it is a 35mph or less road through through the Badlands. Warning…riding through the badlands at night with no moon and you’re exhausted isn’t a great plan! Had we not been exhausted from fighting the wind it probably wouldn’t have been so bad. There was lighting off to the west which would silhouette the eerie hills from time to time, but I was too focused on staying on the road to be able to enjoy it.

We arrived in Wall at the Frontier Cabin we had arraigned for earlier in the day. What a relief and a surprise. The cabins are fantastic with amazing customer service! But more on that in a separate lodging review.


The Lodge, Knights Inn Resort, Forest City, IA

When it comes to a place to stay let’s be honest…some things really matter, and some really don’t. For instance, how many channels of cable are available to you should be pretty far down on the list compared to is it clean and is the staff helpful. The Lodge was clean and well kept although older and not “fashionable.” The fixtures were antique brass rather than chrome or oiled bronze. However, the innkeeper (for lack of a more specific name or title) stayed up until we arrived around around 11pm! He didn’t have to, we had already paid for the room and he had a note and key out for us in the office, but when I walked in he came out of a back room greeted me and told me that he had decided to stay up and wait for us. That made a tremendous impression on me, not many people would do that! From that perspective I can highly recommend The Lodge. However, if you are looking for every luxury and convenience you had better go to a bigger town. I don’t think I saw any high luxury places in town. The Lodge accommodations were basic (pillows were a little thin and hard, but then Beth says I’m a pillow snob) but adequate. The breakfast was cereal and toast with coffee, milk, and OJ to drink. For the price of around $67 a night with taxes and an NRA discount it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t much to write home about (except the innkeeper who personally cares for his guests). At the end of the day I liked the place, but manage your expectations.  4.5 stars out of 5 from me for outstandingly personable service.

–Ryan

The main building at the Lodge

Restaurant and dining area

The Grounds behind The Lodge

Our room: “Sir Barton”


Day 2: Forest City, IA (Ryan)

So I’m reading Beth’s posts as I put them up and wondering if anyone’s actually gonna read mine…her writing is much more interesting. I kinda just want to write: “we road to x, road was pretty, bike ran good, the end.” Oh well, I guess I’m gonna have to work at keeping up…so here goes!

Wednesday morning started out in Chicago. I went to get the bike out of the garage and had to pay the horrendous price of $25 to get it out! I wouldn’t feel so bad about it if they let me take up a whole parking space, since the fee was $25 for a car as well. I asked the attendant for a “2 wheel discount” since they had put the bike back in a corner next to a Vespa and a sport bike. All I got for my question was a slightly annoyed “no.” But at least I asked!

We started out with the grand idea that we would use backroads to ride to Forest City, IA. That was great in theory, but in practice it turned out dismally. We started late around 12:30. When I realized it was 3:30 I checked the odometer and we had only ridden 45 miles and we were still in Chicago suburbs! Beth was so tired she was about to fall off the back of the bike. I stopped and got her some caffeine (she was supposed to get off the bike and walk around to get the blood flowing, but after I came out of the store I found her lying on the grass in the sun taking a nap). At that point I ditched my ideal of riding backroads, made a right hand turn and headed for the highway. Most of the rest of the day was uneventful. We road hard (dropped my gas mileage down to like 45mpg) and made pretty good time. When we stopped for some dinner I asked Beth if I should call ahead to the place I had picked for us to stay that night and have them hold us a room and she reluctantly said yes.

It turned out to be a great thing that we kept riding. As we turned north onto I-35 the sun set behind old farmhouses to our left as steam rose from the fields. It forever changed the way we look at Iowa…it’s no longer just the state you have to cross, but we’ll always remember it as the place we saw “that sunset.” Sadly, we took no pictures, but I’m not sure that they could have done it justice.

When we next stopped for gas I was expecting Beth to still be in the “I’m tired and sore” mode, but instead she was practically giddy, so excited about the sunset we’d just seen!

As it got colder after sunset we began to appreciate having brought the correct riding gear. We donned our leather jackets, chaps, and gloves and kept riding comfortably. There is no substitute for the proper gear.

We spent the night at the Knights Inn Resort in Forest City, IA which I can gladly recommend as an inexpensive stopover with kind service if you are passing through (see the separate review). Our room was called “Sir Barton” and I think it was supposed to look like a horse stable. Still not sure if that was a good marketing idea on their part or not, but when your tired and starting to get cold…any warm shower and bed will do.

Our room: Sir Barton