Big Bike Solo on the Pony Express Trail (MO, KS, NE, CO, WY)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Did a little riding around some of the range areas. The weather would threaten on and off.
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    Just outside of Guernsey is a camping area that emigrants used along the trail. There are some rifle pits identified at that site. No one seems to know how they got there or what they were used for. :scratch
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    I noticed some old abandoned rail road grades that had been washed out and I wonder when they were put in.
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    This BNSF locomotive was stopped nearby. I think the Burlington put some lines in here in the early 1900s so these grades may be a remnant.
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    Nice country.
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    I don't know how many of these cattle guards I crossed on this trip. This one is a pretty good one.
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    Nice mix of ranch horses. Later on I would get to see some wild horses.
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    I was very lucky with the weather. There were a lot of POIs off of roads that would be a real problem if wet. The light dots up and down the hill are antelope.
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    A little different freeway setup than what I am used to. Cross the cattle guard and you are on the interstate.
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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Pulled into Douglas, WY, to find a place to stay for the night. Douglas is a big jackalope hunting area.
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    Some people have harvested some nice mounts.
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    This one surprised me. Luckily it was a female and didn't have horns.
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    The visitor's center is at a depot that has an excellent railroad interpretive exhibit.
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    I never checked out a sleeping car before.
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    One side of the isle is tourist class. They really pack you in there.
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    The other side had the nice big stateroom type setup.
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    Checked out a dining car as well.
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    I wonder what it was like to work in this kitchen.
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    Bar seemed a little small.
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    With a big storm still threatening the area, I thought I might get a room for the night. All motels sold out. Went to a KOA and got one of those wooden cabins. Not bad. No plumbing. No linens. Three bunks and lots of room to dry my stuff out.
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    The electric heat was nice.
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    Warm and comfy shelter.
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    Looks like I only did a couple of hundred miles today. I'll have to check that.
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  3. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    Great job, Learning a lot here about that part of the country.
    Many times in my journeys, I sit on the bike and just vision coming across here in a wagon or just a lone trapper on horseback. Especially on my treak following the Lewis / Clark trail to a degree in '97 from St. Louis to Missoula and '04 from Missoula to the end of the Columbia river. .
    Reminds me of a phrase I read quite sometime back from an old hiker.
    " Expand your world,
    Walk slower "

    Makes sense in riding about the country also.
  4. WIthumper

    WIthumper The 610 guy

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    EXCELLENT ride report Bryan! It's very obvious that you took A LOT of time researching and putting this educational ride report together.

    Cool stuff!
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Woke up this morning to find a nearly flat tire. This is the one I already put a tube in. A careful inspection of the tire revealed a cut in it. Those ranch roads and cattle guards are hazardous I guess. I would see pieces of barbed wire and metal mixed in with the road surface. For the time being, I slimed the tube and kept an eye on it as I traveled. It held fine. But, I checked my list of cycle shops and decided to get a proper repair as I had a lot of travel, some in isolated areas, to go yet.
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    More antelope.
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    Another fort, Fort Fetterman, was built on the flat hill on the horizon. You can see how it overlooked the trail that ran along the river. These guys suffered during the winter.
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    You can see why people needed to travel along the river in this arid region. Grass was available for feeding stock, wood and water was available, and the grades were generally flat and easy.
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    Some of the old abandoned railroad grades and trestles were interesting.
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    When I was mapping out my route, it was difficult to tell what a road was like. Some of them were dried mud - not something you could ride when wet.
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    Ayres Natural Bridge park is a nice place to camp. The stone arch is 20' high and 90 feet wide and spans a trout stream in a sheltered red rock canyon.
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    This small hydro powerhouse was built in the very early 1900s to provide electric power to pump water out of the Platte River for irrigation. Power for irrigation was more important that rural electrification at the time.
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    Sometimes I would stumble onto a marker like this. Don't know the rest of the story but I would like to.
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  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Wind farms for power generation are pretty big in this area and some new stuff was being put in. This is a tower section.
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    Wind power generation is economically viable due to a 1.9 cent per kilowatt-hour tax credit from the federal government that enables the wind generators to be competitive with coal and gas plants. Some states have passed laws requiring that a certain percentage of their power generation be from renewable resources. Without the tax credit, rates would need to be raised to pay for the increased costs of these wind farms. The tax credit lapsed a few years back (before being renewed) and investment in wind power dropped 77%. The credit is up for renewal right now.
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    I didn't get a very good picture of it, but this is a temporary tower put up in an area to measure the potential for a wind farm. Two guys come and install this thing which has anemometers at different heights on the tower. Data is collected for some designated period and then used to determine whether it is a good spot for power generation or not.
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    A subdivision was built across the trail in Glenrock. The developers put in a city park that preserves a section of the trail.
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    There were a few neat sites in Glenrock, but the indians burned them down.
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    Here are some markers in a guy's front yard.
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    Unusual C-store and gas station.
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    The Rock in the Glen where more pioneers inscribed their names as they went through.
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    Looks like someone came across a rural race track and turned a few laps.
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    Three year old Ada McGill took sick as their wagon left Fort Laramie. At Deer Creek (Glenrock) she got worse. On July 3, 1864, she died and was buried in her "Sunday best calico dress". In 1912, A Wyoming highway engineer found the grave and fashioned a headstone marker for her.
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  7. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

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    I very much enjoy your reports, Bryan. I am looking forward to the next CannonTrek. I will see you at SLAP.
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Good to hear from you Steve. Yeah, those 1100-1200 mile CannonTrek dirt rides on smaller dual sports have a little more riding action than a big bike tour. :lol3
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  9. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

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    You know the trail is rough when you can't even keep a three-wheeled KTM upright! :lol3
  10. HOT DAMN!

    HOT DAMN! ♪ ♪ ♪

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    :photog

    Oh good lawd, that is some funny shite right there.
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Stopped by the National Trails Interpretive Center which is operated by the Bureau of Land Management.
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    Nice Pony Express sculpture of a horse swap.
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    One neat exhibit was a stone wall inside the center. They photographed actual engravings from some of the landmark rocks along the trail and then carefully reproduced them for this exhibit.
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    This would be a good stop to make (Caspar, WY) to get a really good orientation to the paths west. It covers pre-migration, explorers, trappers, wagon trains, gold rush emigrants, the Pony Express, the Mormon migration, and the railroad (among other things).
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    This is a Mormon handcart simulator. Some of the Mormons traveled in hand cart trains. They loaded their stuff onto this cart and wrestled it west. This exhibit is a handcart simulator that lets you wrestle the cart while on a treadmill.
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    This is a page from the trail guide the Mormons prepared for their follow on convoys on the Mormon Trail. It gives some really good information.
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  12. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Supporter

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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    I stopped into a dealership in Casper to see about a tire repair.
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    These guys had a new tire IN STOCK and were very accommodating about getting me back on the road. Keep this dealership in mind if you are in the area and in need as they keep a pretty good inventory of tires.
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    I stopped by Fort Caspar which was another fort put in place to protect the emigrant trails, the telegraph, and to try to keep peace between tribes.
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    Fort Caspar is named after Lieutenant Caspar Collins who died fighting indians nearby in a battle at the 1000' long Platte Bridge. They used the 20 year old lieutenant's first name because Fort Collins (another fort) had already been named after his father. There is a long and interesting story about Caspar Collins but here is a short version.

    Collins had been sent on an errand to Fort Laramie. When he was done, he hung around the fort for a while looking to hook up with some others that were heading west. The indians had left some staked down, mutilated, and scalped bodies around on the path home and Collins was using good judgement not traveling alone. The Post Commander at Fort Laramie got on Collins about why he had not returned to his post and asked Collins if he was a coward. This really stung. Collins had been serving in the west for some time, was from a military family, and had been enduring danger and harship for some time. Collins finally managed to head back with a group of soldiers going west for the 180 mile trip.

    When he got to a post at the Platte Bridge he stopped in at the fort. At that time the fort had been harrassed and attacked by indians. The next morning, the post had to send out a relief force to retrieve a convoy that was threatened. Some of the lieutenants at the post managed to make themselves unavailable. Casper, who recently had been unjustly accused of being a coward at Ft. Laramie, ended up with the job. He borrowed a horse, borrowed two pistols from another lieutenant that he stuck in each of his boots, and formed some kind of composite force of troops he never worked with before.

    He led his men out across the bridge and was soon attacked by an indian ambush force. The men fought their way back to the bridge. Caspar ended up being the only soldier between the indians and the retreating force. He tried to pick up a wounded soldier and carry him on his borrowed horse, but the horse wheeled and took off straight for the indians. Caspar, who had already been shot in the hip, was last seen with an arrow in his forehead, the reigns in his teeth, and a pistol in each hand as he rode fighting into the indians. Obviously he didn't make it. A cannon protected the bridge so no indians crossed. Meanwhile back at the post, there was an officer's meeting where another officer (Caspar's friend) punched out some other officers over this whole incident (and ended up in the pokey for it). Caspar Collins, 20 years old, from Ohio.
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    If you have the time and want to see more of how this stuff sometimes went, read this: http://www.historynet.com/lieutenant-casper-collins-fighting-the-odds-at-platte-bridge.htm
  14. 65bmwr50

    65bmwr50 Been here awhile

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    You amaze me at the amount of time you have put into this RR. The research alone is incredible. Thanks for sharing!:lurk
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    After Caspar Collins was killed in the battle at the bridge, the wagons were still out there without relief. As the wagons approached the fort, the indians sprang an ambush. The soldiers circled the wagons and fought off the initial attack. They then improved their position by building barricades (cover) with their cargo. For four hours these 20 men held off 1,000 indians. In fact, they were kicking ass. Most fought from under the wagons, but four guys in one wagon fired through slits in the canvas covers and put out some devastating fire.

    Eventually, the indians went and got some logs to use a mobile breastworks and worked their way closer and closer to the circled wagons by pushing the logs ahead. When they got close enough, they all stood up and rushed the 20 soldiers. The combat went hand to hand and it was soon over. In a bit the yelling and firing stopped and the soldiers in the fort saw the wagons on fire. These 20 guys made it four hours against 1,000 indians. The guy running the wagon detail was named Custard and this has often been referred to as Custard's Last Stand (no kidding).

    Even though they passed Red Buttes about 10 miles before they were ambushed, they call this the battle of Red Buttes. By they way, in June this year, the government had some people out trying to locate the graves of the twenty men killed that day. The bodies were buried at the battle site about three days after the battle (once the indians were driven off). Now they are out looking to find the graves so they can move them because of planned highway work and urban development.
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    Here is a little map to give some reference. Caspar Collins was on his way from Fort Laramie to his station near Independence Rock when he got hooked into the battle near Fort Caspar.
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    Kit Carson ate lunch here in 1842 while on a mapping expedition (prolly sat at the picnic table). Brigham Young camped here for a week in June of 1847. Brigham left some people here to build a ferry about a mile downstream.
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    This was a crossing point on the river.
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    Those Pronghorns sure like irrigated fields.
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    Speaking of irrigation. . .
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    Those 20 guys with the wagons came through here before they were ambushed. (Avenue of Rocks)
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    Devil's Backbone. They had to get their mules and wagons over it. Reminds me of a rock ridge that gave me grief later on.
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    Found two expended rifle cartridges here. Someone had recently been laying on the rocks whacking at something. (Another reason to wear hi-vis . . . even on the desert backroads.)
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    Some BLM markers were made of fiberglass by Carsonite Composites. They are often referred to as carsonite markers.
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    After the river crossing, it took about two days of travel across this dry, sometimes alkali, desert to get to Willow Springs for water. There wasn't much water flowing, but it was there as there were some damp, grass areas. I chased some mule deer or antelope out of there when I pulled up. A little oasis I guess.
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    Desolate country.
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    Original trail.
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    They galloped across this day or night, summer or winter.
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    Lets talk about the Pronghorn Antelope for a minute. Of all of the big game animals around here, only the Pronghorn cannot be traced back to Eurasia. Most stuff crossed the Bering land bridge. Anyway, this makes the Pronghorn a true native of North America.

    Pronghorns are not even true antelope. They are the head of their own family. Where other horned animals grow horns or antlers of bone, Pronghorns grow hollow horn sheaths composed of fused hairy fibers.

    These sons-of-guns go like rockets when they cross in front of you. They can get up to 70 mph. There are some warning signs around the highways warning of Pronghorns entering the highway at 55 mph.

    They eat sagebrush in the winter. Since there is so much sagebrush in Wyoming, it probably explains why most of the world's population of Pronghorns are within a 300 mile radius of a city in Wyoming.

    At one time there were estimated to be between 50-100 million Pronghorns roaming around. In 1903 there were about 5,000. They have been managed back to around 500,000 now. That 50-100 million sounds like a big figure, but there used to be 30 million buffalo too. By comparison, I think the Wisconsin deer herd runs around 1 1/2 million IIRC.
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  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    This is my favorite variety of rattlesnake - the kind that is already smushed.

    I ran across this guy (not literally) in the Rattlesnake Range (appropriately) which appears to be literally crawling with these pesky critters.

    This common Prairie Rattlesnake can grow to about 3 1/2 feet in length. They live in a variety of terrain. These guys can have a cranky disposition.

    Daylight vision is not important as he can still "see" a thermal image - at least one good enough to strike accurately. This is how they pick off rodents at night. By the way, rattlers don't bite, they gain penetration with their fangs by striking at you.

    In Wyoming, they come out of their dens between April and June. They need to start chowing down right away as their body weight will be down. They can't reproduce properly if they are underweight. They may cruise as far away as five miles from their den, but most stay within 2-3 miles. Once they locate a suitable area away from the den, they hang around there working their area. In September they head back to their dens (in WY).

    In the spring and fall they usually forage in the morning or afternoon. They spend the mid-day basking or cooling depending on the temperature. In the summer when it is really hot, they hunt at night and do their basking in the morning and evenings.

    These guys eat mostly rodents, but will take baby rabbits and birds. Sometimes they take other reptiles. They are not immune to their own venom and sometimes they have cannibalized their own kind. Predators in WY include badgers, coyotes, hawks, owls and man.

    To eat, the rattler strikes at it's prey and gives it a dose of venom. It then releases the prey and hangs loose for a bit. The venom starts to digest the prey right away. Rather than risk battle damage, the snake waits for a bit and then uses it's tongue to track the prey, later swallowing it whole.

    Between August and October (in WY), rattlers give live birth to 6-16 live babies (depends on the size of the snake). Winter kills a lot of them as they have to find a den site that will protect them from the cold.

    Rattlers defend themselves by first laying still and using their great camo markings to hide. Probably a lot of people have walked right past a rattler and not known it. If that doesn't work, it will try to crawl away. If further aggravated, it will coil, raise the upper portion of it's body to strike, and then will try to back away.

    Rattlers sometimes strike defensively without rattling. About 1/3 of it's bites are dry (no venom) - they don't waste it on defense. They can strike a distance of about 1/3 to 1/2 of their length. They live 15-20 years in the wild. Baby rattlers are more strikey because that ROM chip they are programmed with at birth has a big survival program in it. Rattlers shed fangs every month or so. If they lose one in combat, they have a replacement available. Ever seen a mount with three fangs? That explains it. The fangs are critically important to their survival - to hunt and eat. Like many snakes, they are good swimmers.

    There are about 6,000 rattlesnake bites a year with about 6 being fatal.

    Should you kill one? The often stated position is that in the wild, let them be. In areas where they are often around humans, it might be better to kill them because of the potential danger to people.

    Oh yeah, Brigham Young mentioned in his journal that as they came west they were "killing rattlesnakes like cordwood". Not sure what that means . . . maybe they were "whackin 'em and stackin' 'em".

    Too much information perhaps? Some say it is best to know your "enemy". :lol3
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    (Edit: This info is about the Prairie Rattlesnake as found in Wyoming. There are other varieties of rattlesnake and some are larger and more dangerous to humans (i.e. Eastern Diamondback). Different varieties have varying characteristics so don't apply the above info as a general rule.)
  17. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer Supporter

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    So how do they taste? :D

    :lol3
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Having attended a couple of round-ups in Oklahoma, I can tell you the chunk I ate was dry and bony. It also gave me goose bumps while I was eating it. :lol3
  19. achesley

    achesley Old Motorcyclist

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    You are making me realize I missed a lot in my previous two trips playing about Wyoming. I even did 16 and 20 exploring about the canyons, stayed in Worland for a bit as a base. Just great country. Just amazing country. And, I'll know a heck of a lot more of it due to your fantastic report next trip there. Thanks so much. :clap
  20. SScratch

    SScratch Somewhat Tolerable

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    Fascinating tale, Cannonshot. Who knew there was so much knowledge hidden away in information? Someone should post it up on the innerweb.