June 25th would have normally been the weekend of the Bohemian Alps Rally in Verdigre, but the BMWMOA ON magazine and website reported earlier this spring that the rally had been canceled. By the Monday of June 20th, I knew I was going to need a ride on Saturday and was thinking about camping. Folks had been talking about an informal campout at the Verdigre City Park and Campground, so I called the City of Verdigre to see what was going on. The lady there told me there would be 40 to 50 families camping in the city park there that weekend for a family reunion so I decided that I didn’t want to camp there.
I woke up Saturday morning at 6 AM and it looked fantastic outside… for the first 15 minutes of the day anyway. I still needed a ride. A few minutes after the Big Sioux Rider breakfast with it being heavy overcast, I called Dale Nordlie on his cell phone. Dale said Gary Johnson and he were heading over to look at the Fort Randall Dam, but Gary had to be home by 7 PM. Dale also said that Larry Hawes and Bill Claussen were heading to Verdigre to camp. The weather to the south looked worse so I told Dale I would ride that way from Sioux City and try to run into them somewhere, then maybe drop down to Verdigre to see Larry and Bill.
I got the GS ready and left home about noon. The water from the Big Sioux and Missouri river were nearly touching I-29 as I headed through all the road construction to the Vermillion exit. Figuring I was running late, I hurried to Yankton where after searching around a bit, I went down to the river side park and took some flooding photos. I also got to look at the new and old bridges. From there I followed all the traffic to the Yankton dam where I got a front row parking space below the dam to see what 160,000 CFS looks like leaving the dam. The force of the water coming through the gates of the dam was impressive, but it’s was also one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Dakota at the time.
After taking some photos and looking around for a few minutes, I left the crowds and the water behind and headed towards Pickstown. I pulled off at the Fort Randal Casino to look for Gary and Dale’s bikes and found that the new Casino was open. The new casino looked nice, but I didn’t go in. There was a Pow Wow going on down the hill behind the facilities. I didn’t see any BMW motorcycles in the parking lot, so I headed on.
At the Fort Randall Dam there were signs asking people not to park by the roadway, but to use the visitor’s area. From the visitor’s area one could hike down the dam and watch the water go down the spillway. I decided I would get a better look of the spillway from the Fort Randall Recreation area below the dam. At the gate there was a young college aged gal sitting in a chair, reading a novel, and watching out for people like me… people without a SD park pass. I was able to sweet talk her to let me into the park for a few minutes without paying. I got some nice photos of the park shore and the spillway and generation station in full action.
Next I rode up to the overlook area just west on the south side of the dam were I got some more great photos. After that I headed west on Highway 18 and then down to Spenser, NE, where I intended to take Highway 12 (the “Outlaw Highway”) east to Niobrara. When I got to the turn, the sign said that Highway 12 was closed. I headed south on the detour a few miles and then exited the detour and took the next paved road west, which was appropriately called “Old County Road” on my old GPS. After about 12 miles the pavement, “Old Country Road” ended abruptly. It was only about 22 more miles to get to Verdigre, so I decided to take gravel and hopefully get there in time to have dinner with Larry and Bill. After about 6 miles of really bad gravel, the road was paved again. After this it was a great old road with lots of curves which went directly to the east side of Verdigre.
When I got to the campground the first people I saw were Dale, Larry and Bill. They offered me a beer and a crushed beer can for my side-stand. Well, one beer can was not enough to keep my heavy GS “Pig” from sinking into the soft ground, so the guys threw down 4 more crushed cans and it held. I was guess I was lucky they started without me and had plenty of beer.
After drinking a beer (or two... as I was really thirsty by this point of the day) and some talk, the four of us headed up to what was the Flyway Café in Niobrara. The café was under new ownership and they are still working on a lot of things, including a larger menu and new name. They had built a sandy bank around the restaurant, but it looked like the water still had a ways to go before it would cause any problems for them. We all ordered burgers and had a nice meal. The new owners were really friendly. After dinner we went into town, filled up the bikes, and took some photos of the flooding there. Afterwards we headed back to the campground in Verdigre where we talked for a bit. I didn’t have any camping gear so after saying hello to George Forst, (prior years rally chair) I got back on my bike and headed home.
Riding though Nebraska at night can be… different. Near Verdigre I saw a car which had spun off the road for no apparent reason and slid against a steep embankment. There were plenty of people there and it didn’t look like the car had rolled, so I kept moving. With the 6 lights on the front of “Pig” I was able to see deer out feeding but they were all some distance from the road. I did encounter a raccoon at an unsafe distance, but he quickly got out of the way. Shortly before midnight, somewhere in a flat area of Highway 20, pretty much out of sight of any human dwellings, I passed a 6’ man in a white t-shirt, heading west… on a skateboard. I cannot imagine what the explanation for this would have been had I turned around to ask!!
I got home about 12:30. It was nice sleeping in my bed, but I missed a great night of camping in Verdigre with the Autobahn.
(Check out Brion’s Picasa site with all his flood pictures and more at: www.picasaweb.google.com/brion.hase