I’ve got a problem this week- Highs in the 80s and no rain forecast through thursday. And then a measly 20% chance of rain. Heck, if this keeps up I’ll have to buy a new front tire for the F800S before the month is over! And my next parade ain’t till friday, and the only meetings on the agenda don’t start ’til 7ish monday and tuesday… Hot Damn!

So yesterday I debate some socially redeeming and acceptable riding destination… Like being that I’m (by default) serving on the city council of a town of 39, maybe I should do a tour of every town of under a hundred within 100 miles? Turned out that’d be over 400 miles and almost all of them I’d already wandered through. Well, I haven’t been to SD much lately, where they let just about anything on the road, including ATVs and 17 axle hundred foot long 80 ton or so trucks… Yeh, that’s where I’m going, ‘specially ’cause most of  ’em will be parked for the holiday weekend!

So I ride northwest into the clear skies, following county roads that lead me right back into… Minnesota. Well, all is not lost…

Yawn, looks like mom’s ’64 or ’65 Fairlane, like mom, “well preserved”. And shouldn’t there be a couple pillows in the back seat, or did mom move them to the Minivan in the background that replaced the Fairlane? And those dog feeding dish wheel covers… Couldn’t mom afford some mags? Don’t laugh… Note the little cross flags emblem with the numbers “289” at the lower rear of the front fender? Yup, 289 small block, and even if it’s starved by a measly two barrel carb it’s got the sturdier axles, suspension, and just about everything else Ford had the foresight to install in it’s V8 powered compacts. a warmed over 302 will bolt right in along with Mustang disc brakes, and if you’ve got the money you could turn this into a homely and unaerodynamic GT350… But remember to leave the painted steel wheels and hub caps on to make this a perfect restored 60s sleeper!

Finding my way back into SD, I made my usual stop at Doug’s on the main street of Clear Lake to see if there’d been any changes in his outdoor “collection”, which seems to be shrinking of late. Need a Streiger style articulated four wheel drive tractor, but in a smaller economy size…


German made Holder diesel articulated 4×4 tractor. Not sure if this was a new addition or I’d missed it before. Apparently they’re still being built and sold worldwide, if anyone wants to make Doug an offer for it. Doug is the foremost (and probably only) restorer of Porsche Diesel tractors, just google “Porsche Tractors Clear Lake, SD” for further info.

Ended up at Culvers in Watertown for lunch, so guess I did accomplish something on this ride. Checked out the truck stops and elevators, biggest rig I found was a measly 10 axle doubles combination. A little background is probably in order here… South Dakota has no maximum truck weight limits, just a formula called “Formula B” that you input the number of axles and distance between them into and it spits out a maximum weight. SD limits the length of the two trailer “train” t0 81 and a half feet on most highways, and there’s no length limit on the semi tractor pulling all this, so these “centipedes” can stretch up to about a hundred feet long. There’s no limit to the number of axles, and each axle added increases the allowed weight by about 6000 pounds. An axle assembly takes about 4 feet of vehicle length, thought larger gaps must be allowed between the tractor, trailer, dolly, and yet another trailer. You can see where this is going… 20 axles is possible, and plugging that into the formula gives a legal (very) gross weight of around 200,000 pounds. For comparison, in most of the U.S. the limit is a mere 80,000 pounds. Now I’ve seen and photographed 13 axle combinations, and for grain trailers where some space must be left for the hoppers between all those wheels that’s probably the practical limit, allowing around 150,000 pounds and twice the payload of a 48 state truck. But for side dump gravel trailers, there’s no hopper in the way… And I’ve seen pictures of a 17 axle doubles combo that should be good for about 170,000 pounds. Even saw one from a distance in a gravel pit while hustling to a farm show last summer, figured I’d stop and get a photo on the way back. On the way back it was gone… My usual luck.

Sorry, ’twas the best I could do… A Michigan spec “train”, lost in a Watertwon used trailer lot. As you can see, it’s kinda scrunched up to meet MI law that only allows two 28 and a half foot trailers, so it’d lose around 20k pounds to the workings of the bridge formula. But give a SD gearhead with a welder and some steel the opportunity and another axle will get added to that dolly and about a 20 foot long drawbar!

Cruised down US 81 to Madison to check out a farm store, but they weren’t open sunday. Back up to Brookings in search of 17 axle centipedes, stop at Lowes for contact paper to cut out new stars for the ‘hack, then home… 17 axle SD centipedeless!

The hunt continues…

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