With the Covid-19 shut down I've been working from home since mid-March like many people have. "I was getting cabin fever & since I couldn't go back till June 1", I thought I'd take advantage of the down time & take off for a couple weeks. I love cowboy shit and always wanted to ride to Deadwood, SD & through the Badlands, Black Hills, etc. (Avoiding Sturgis at all costs. Ha). Then over to Yellowstone, down into Moab, UT, spend a few days exploring back roads ghost towns of AZ & NM. I try not stack my route with too many destinations because the road & weather has a tendency to scrap whatever you had in mind anyway. I knew with the shut-down just starting to open up it would be hit or miss in some places but I underestimated how much would be a hard shut down in the west. While the south is fairly open, I didn't actually get to eat inside a restaurant till I hit SD; every meal was on the curb by my bike.
Badlands was my first official destination on the route and it didn't disappoint. While the park was technically closed, you could still drive through it and camp. I had one of the nicest sunsets at my campsite that night.
From there I road through Black Hills & Mount Rushmore. I stumbled upon Needles Highway & Custer State Park, SD. It wasn't on my list of places to ride but I'm so glad I did as it was probably my favorite ride. Needles Hwy was a incredible: a narrow highway that winds through the mountains, caverns, & valleys of Black Hills and has 3 different holes / tunnels in the rock you have to take turns going through. That put me on Wildlife Loop Rd in Custer State Park where you see hundreds of wild buffalo, some of which are standing in the middle of the road posing for pictures.
Much of the trip was chillier than I expected given it was almost June. Yellowstone was a high of 40's & low's in the 20's with snow so I had to scrap that & head straight down Wyoming towards Moab, UT. Wyoming offered me a long, cold ride with virtually nothing around for hundreds of miles except 40 mph gusts of wind in an insane prairie storm. Unfortunately the National Parks of Moab (Arches, Canyonlands, etc) were all closed completely. Campsites were sold out everywhere & it was becoming a shit show for my plans considering it was one my primary destinations on this ride. I got lucky though when I took a half day horseback ride along the Colorado River and told the owners of the ranch I couldn't find any campgrounds open; they offered to let me camp on their ranch down by their abandoned horse stalls. The view was epic and a great ending to Moab.
The further south I went in UT & down into Arizona become mostly Navajo Nation lands and were under strict quarantine with curfews, barricaded roads, etc. Town after town were all but abandoned & shut down. Gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. were all completely closed. No one even on the streets...Like a modern ghost town. Pretty surreal. It made getting gas tricky; fortunately I always found something before I ran out. One thing I enjoyed in AZ though was the graffiti I found on abandoned buildings & vehicles, water tanks, etc.
Ultimately the trip was 5,600 miles with the final 550 miles home in non-stop pouring rain. My rain gear gave up & died on me about mile 200 (not FMCo rain gear) so I was pretty well water-logged by the time I finally got home. It was a hell of an adventure and I look forward to going back to see some things I wasn't able to see this time around.