I hear this term, epic, used often and wondered what would make a vacation epic? In my mind, it would have to be a vacation that would be fun, at a location that is exciting and new and it would have to be longer than just a day or two. Recently, my husband, Gene and I and seven of our friends, went on such a vacation. I have to say, it was epic. We started out with the best laid plans. Plans that we spent more than eight months honing and preparing. We had four meetings over the course of this eight months of planning, several meals, more than a few drinks and the laughs were endless. Even our meetings were epic. Our vacation finally began on August 6th at exactly 5:00 p.m. The week before the motorcycles were loaded into a trailer, (yes, this is something I said I’d never do, because, quite frankly, the ride is the adventure, not the destination.) But, we had to save time, we only had ten days to accomplish everything on a very long list. Trailering our motorcycles saved us a little more than two days of travel. At 5:00, our friend Dennis arrived at our house, we loaded his bags into a sweet little minivan Gene purchased just for this vacation. Not a new one, just a way to get us to Custer, SD. Loaded up, we drove down the block to pick up Dick and Kim, hitch their motorcycle trailer to the back of the van, and meet our four friends in Bonduel, WI, which is only a 30 mile drive or so. Needless to say, the van was loud and exciting as we made our way to Bonduel. Then, it happened, the first issue, though minor it was, still an issue. Dick’s brother, Mark and his wife, Pattie, our fellow vacationers called to tell us they had a flat tire on the trailer. Yep, the trailer with the motorcycles. So, the guys dropped Kim and I off in Bonduel at our friend Todd and Robyn’s house, and went in search of the trailer and Mark and Pattie. They were back in short order, with all parties involved and the decision had been made to drive the twelve miles to Shawano, WI to Walmart to purchase a new tire for the trailer. Off we go – again. After only a half hour, Walmart had a new tire on the trailer and we were once again off and running to begin in earnest, our epic vacation. The plan was to drive through the night and reach our destination early afternoon the following day, with only stops for gas and potty breaks. At one of our gas stops, we noticed a loud grinding sound coming from the van, and popped the hood to see what the issue might be. Nothing was decided except that we were going to drive it until it stopped or we arrived in Custer, and two short stops to reattach the safety chains on the motorcycle trailer we were hauling with the van, one more gas stop and a breakfast stop, we accomplished just that. Upon arrival in Custer, we located a mechanic, dropped the van off at the garage for the week and we had a two hour wait to get into the house we rented. We did what any normal Wisconsinites would do, we found a bar. Now, this bar turned out to be a blessing to us, because, not only did we have the opportunity to stretch our legs, but they allowed us to keep the truck and the big trailer there for the week, something we needed, since from Custer, we were biking to Cody, WY. Score! At 4:00, the designated check-in time, we made our way down a two mile gravel road on motorcycle and up a steep gravel driveway into the hills and we were home for the next three nights. The house was beautiful and we enjoyed our stay very much. While it boasted three bedrooms with private baths, a beautiful living room which hosted one of our couples, the basement had been turned into a theater room/bar. As awesome as that was, just one floor up, was a full wrap-around porch, where we spent most of our time while we were at the house. Nestled into the hills and over-looking beautiful rocky terrain and hills, we felt secluded and pampered. We purchased groceries and made our meals in the evenings and spent each day out on the bikes. Saturday morning, we were on the road by 8:00 a.m. and riding Needles Highway up to the top of Custer State Park to enjoy breakfast at Sylvan Lake Lodge. While there, we enjoyed a great breakfast, walked around on the rocks and of course, took a few photographs with the scenic Black Hills behind us. Then we were off to Sturgis to buy a t-shirt or two. We shopped at some of the vendors’ stores, walked around Main Street, and decided to ride out of town to the Full Throttle Saloon. In hind sight, I'm doubly happy we did because it burned down a little over a week ago. While there, we met of with some folks from home, and waited out a hail storm while watching pole dancers play. Leaving the Full Throttle we rode down Main Street, Sturgis. This was my third time coming to Sturgis for the rally but my first time being able to drive down Main Street. The streets were fairly easy to navigate because many of the bikers had left for dry ground. Sunday, we ate breakfast at the house and rode through a portion of Needles Highway. It rained again, so we suited up, but still found time to stop at Custer State Park, take pictures of a few Bison, and hand feed the wild burros on our way back. Monday morning, we cleaned the house, said good-bye to our temporary home and began our 457 mile trek to Cody, WY. The temperature was in the upper 90’s, but it was dry, the sun was shining bright and I will always be grateful, because the scenery is like no other. Truly. I told my husband that I could see myself living there. The mountains and vistas are views that inspire romance and adventure. I believe while riding through that scenery, a book or two were outlined!!! Yep, that’s right. Of course when traveling great distances, inevitably there will be mechanical issues. This time, going over the Bighorn Mountains, Dick’s brakes got hot on his motorcycle and became mushy - not working well, while pulling the motorcycle trailer. We stopped at the bottom of the mountain, to let his legs stop shaking and recover from the stress of engine braking his way down the mountain. Ahhh, good times! We rented another beautiful home in Cody, WY. Look at my view each morning!!! Tuesday morning we woke up and decided to ride into Montana and ride the Beartooth Highway through the mountains. Unfortunately, to get there, we had to drive down fifteen miles of gravel. Yep, through an oil field and down a gravel road to get to Beartooth. We stopped and asked an oil worker if we were in the right place. After all, the map showed us on a paved road. In some colorful language, he told us the map is wrong and it’s been wrong for ever and no we were not lost, it’s just a short drive down the gravel road, and most of the road is taken good care of, at least on the Montana side. Actually, what he meant was on the Montana portion of the road, it wasn’t washboard, but still gravel. Needless to say, it was stressful and we were all very dirty when we finally got off that road. The rest of the roads - Spectacular! We stopped every so often to take advantage of the picturesque views in the mountains, but, even these pictures just don’t do the area justice. We were all impressed and awe-struck at the scenery. Then, we hopped on Chief Joseph Highway to ride back to Cody. Chief Joseph Highway is a MUST visit destination. Gorgeous sweeping curves, looking over the mountain ranges and the beauty of the colors from the mountains, well, no words can describe how stunning it is on that road. We stopped again at a lookout point and as soon as I pulled the ever-present trail mix bag from the back of the bike, the chipmunks came running. They ate from our hands and entertained us for a short while. Then we made our way back. Once we were at the house, we showered, and grilled a birthday meal of steak, potatoes and veggies to celebrate Dick’s birthday and partook in many drinks. A fabulous end to a fabulous day. On Wednesday we started out to Yellowstone National Park, but on the way there, it began to rain. We were pulled over for road construction anyway, so we pulled on our rain suits and kept heading into Yellowstone. About 2 miles outside of the park, we stopped at a gift shop/bar to decide if we wanted to ride in the rain. We met up with some other bikers coming out of the park and they said it was pouring rain in the park and the forecast was calling for it to continue. We turned around and headed back to Cody and spent the day exploring all that Cody has to offer. We went to a rodeo in the evening and enjoyed it immensely. Thursday we made our way into Yellowstone National Park. As beautiful as Yellowstone is, it doesn’t hold a candle to Chief Joseph Highway or the Beartooth Mountains. I’m glad we went, but honestly, the next time I get to that area, I won’t bother. We rode about 300 miles through the park and other than seeing many Bison, I wasn’t that impressed with it. Friday we headed back to Custer to pick up our van. Oh, yes, the mechanic had it repaired and we were ready to make our way home. The ride home was uneventful, the weather was in the upper 90’s and I have to say, I was sad to leave Cody, WY behind. I’m already hoping we can go back next year. Thank you for letting me share my epic vacation with you. Where was your epic vacation? Show me some pictures and let’s talk about it.
About P.J. FialaI am a wife of thirty years, a mother of four grown children and the grandmother of three lovely grandchildren. When not writing a new story, I canbe found riding my motorcycle and exploring this fabulous country of ours. My writing revolves around people anyone would love to spend time with. No self-absorbed billionaires for me.Earning my Bachelor’s Degree later in life fulfilled a dream for me. Then, I found the courage to write and I haven’t looked back. Currently I have three published books, Designing Samantha’s Love, Dog Days of Summer and Rydin’ the Storm Out. Danny’s War will be coming soon. I also serve as the VPof Communications for WisRWA and devote a large amount of my time helping other authors slog their way through this thing called publishing. I love to hear from fans, so look me up and touch base.I come from a family of veterans. My grandfather, father, brother, two of mysons, and one daughter-in-law are all veterans. Needless to say, I am proudto be an American and proud of the service my amazing family has given.