The Road to Deadwood

Several weeks ago, while trying to complete an Iron Butt to Denver and back, the cam chamber in the Road King detonated at about the 150 mile point. I was pushing her to break 100,000 miles (we made a little over 98,000) without a major overhaul before a failed cam bearing started a cascade that eventually detonated the fuel pump spreading shrapnel throughout the engine.

To be honest, it’s difficult to tell which came first, but I think the culprit was a cam bearing that hadn’t been replaced somewhere over 80,000 miles ago and before I owned the bike when a new set of cams was added. I’ve been told the bearings should have been replaced with Screaming Eagle bearings when they updated the cam, but that didn’t happen.

She was running like a top, before she wasn’t.

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She and I have been all over the West—from the Oregon Coast, to California, into Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, and Wyoming. I even explored Southern Alberta from the saddle of this great bike. In the roughly 10 years we’d been together, we’ve seen most of the western states and I think we’ve been on every major paved road in Utah. I can’t count the number of times we’ve been up and down Highway 89 or the number of times we’ve been to Jackson and on to the Bear Tooth Pass and beyond. She is a great bike.

She’s sitting in the garage waiting for me to decide what to do with her from here.

Kelly and I were planning on a ride to the Black Hills the week of August 11 through the 17th the week after the rally in Sturgis ended, but there was no way I was going to get the bike up and running in time to head out. In fact, I’m still debating whether or not I can justify the cost of rebuilding the ‘04 Twin Cam.

I was feeling sorry for myself (since I’d had to cancel the trip) and was at the local Harley dealer here in Salt Lake the day before I had planned on heading to South Dakota. I had no real intention of buying a bike, when this Road King caught my eye.

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I had pretty much decided I was looking for something with the bigger frame and had been looking at Road Glides and Ultras thinking I would go that route, but this ‘17 Road King looked good to me. I imagined the 107, compared to the 88 I’ve been on for the last 10 years, would probably feel like a rocket ship—and I wasn’t wrong.

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Without going into the details, I think I got a pretty good deal and with Kelly’s help was able to get her home and ready for our planned trip to the Black Hills afterall. I had just purchased a tour pack I was going to paint and add to the ‘04, so after getting that installed, we were ready.

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We headed out about 8:00 am. And, although it felt like cheating on a blonde with this new and lusty brunette, she just ate up the miles on the Interstate to Rock Springs before making the turn on Hwy 191 headed to our stop in Riverton for the night. The 107 M8 power plant combined with the 6-speed transmission made those freeway miles easier than I think they’d ever been. Cruising at 75 or 80 MPH took no effort at all—with gobs of passing power.

I wasn’t there yet, but I think I was falling in love with the new bike.

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Kelly, Chris, and I stopped for the night at the Windriver Hotel and Casino. I have to admit it was the most effortless 350 or so miles I’ve ever spent on the road. I had no complaints and was perfectly happy with the blonde, but there was just something about this brunette. We were getting acquainted and enjoying the time we were spending together on the road.

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Riding the brunette was familiar, but different. The increase in power was palpable and the smoother ride facilitated by the updated frame and longer wheelbase were making this ride a brand new experience. She also seemed to run a lot cooler and she just wanted to dive into the winding canyon road or two we went through on the way to Deadwood.

The miles from Riverton to Newcastle were the longest of the trip. There’s not much in the way of scenery and we ran into some road construction that caused us some delay, but after Newcastle the roads were perfect and I couldn’t help but blast past Kelly and Chris on Hwy 85 heading into our destination for the night.

It could have been the excitement of a new ride, but this bike accelerated better, handled the corners better, and was a blast rolling from one twist in the road to the next. Despite the fact that this bike felt quite a bit heavier than my ‘04, she gripped the road incredibly well and took every corner with aplomb. Surprisingly nimble for a bike this heavy. I couldn’t have been happier with the performance and was glad we weren’t fighting the crowds during the Sturgis Rally.

I cleaned up the bugs as I waited for Kelly to mosey down the canyon, register for the night, and rest up for the next day’s riding. I have to apologize for anything I may (or may not) have said about South Dakota in the past. The riding here was shaping up to be some of the best I’ve ever experienced.