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South Dakota to South America, and wherever else

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SturgisChick, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Please forgive me for forgetting to finish posting this series of posts from last fall....

    We ride back over Targhee Pass, and while it’s still chilly, it’s much better than the day before, even if only that it’s not snowing. I’m still navigating, and will for the entire 8 days that I get to ride with Molly and Tammy. I lead us to Ashton where we stop for hot tea and some souvenir shopping, or at least a laugh at the souvenirs for sale. The Teton Scenic Byway is a stunning road that carries us southeast toward Driggs and Victor and Highway 22 that will take us over Teton Pass to Jackson, Wyoming. We catch brief glimpses of the peaks under the thick blanket of clouds lingering on the ridge line. Our bikes slow and strain on the long climb up from Victor to Teton Pass. But persistence pays off with a sunning view from the top.

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    Molly has friends of her family who live in Jackson, and they have generously offered us a place to stay for the night. We stop in town for some lunch and a wander before going to Kate and Brad’s.
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    On the way to Montana, my Dad was telling me about a time when he and my mom were first married, and they went to Jackson for a few days of vacation. They stopped at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. It’s a sweet story, so I stop by to see it and send a photo to my Dad. It makes me happy.

    Late in the afternoon, Molly leads us out of town to her friends ranch, just a few miles away. A sweet Corgi and a giant slobbery bloodhound greet us.
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    I ride back to town and pick up some groceries for us since we have been offered the most beautiful cottage, complete with kitchen, for the night. Wine, salmon, Swiss chard, yams and a green salad all taste especially good after a few days of dehydrated camp food.

    After a luxurious nights sleep, we each enjoy a lazy morning in the cottage and ooh and ahh over the incredible view of the valley and Tetons from the windows. Our bikes were parked in individual horse stalls in Kate’s barn last night and I walk over to say good morning to the barns normal occupants. Loki trots along, keeping me company.

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    We dry our tents in the sun and repack them. Molly has another friend, who lives and hour away and has invited us to come listen to him play Bluegrass music at a local bar. Sounds fantastic to me. As we start to shape our plans, Kate generously offers us the cottage for another night. Molly suggests we stay here for another night, and since it’s such a lovely oasis, we all agree.
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    Max Wedge, juno, mbanzi and 2 others like this.
  2. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    After two nights in Jackson, thanks to the generosity of Molly’s friends, we pack up and move on, riding north on the “Jackson Spur” part of the Continental Divide Trail maps (that I bought from the Adventure Cycling Association). Molly wants to ride a little further east of the set route though, toward Kelly, Wyoming, where another friend of hers says we should be able to see more of the local wildlife, including bison. As we ride toward Kelly, we spot a lone male buffalo off to the side of the highway moving along at a decent pace, obviously on a mission to somewhere. A few miles ahead, I think I spot what he was heading toward. Nearly a mile off the road, we spy a dark grouping of animals gather together out on the golden horizon of the grazing fields. There are a half dozen vehicles parked among the speckling of herd. Molly turns off the highway and wants to take a closer look.
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    In South Dakota, there’s a fairly large herd of buffalo, maybe 1300-1400 of them, roaming freely in Custer State Park. And while I think of them as being fairly wild, I can tell an immediate difference between those buffalo and the ones were are seeing here in Grand Teton National Park. These animals are much more wild.
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    I point out to Tammy and Molly that this is mating season and the males are very aggressive, so we need to be careful. I can actually see a few of the males watching us, apparently set on edge by the rumbling engine noise of the bikes. We shut them off and stay close to a pickup truck whose occupants are quietly enjoying watching the herd. We take a few photos and try to enjoy the show, but even with no people or vehicles moving around, the bison are edgy and milling around. A large male approaches a female and another male isn’t happy about it, so some pushing and shoving starts, and turns toward us. These guys aren’t predictable enough to trust, and I’m not finding a place where we can be safe here. So after only a few minutes, Molly turns her bike around and I follow suit, heading back to the highway to carry on along the Divide. A dozen or more female antelope are being herded by a protective male while another male loiters by himself in the tall grass and sage nearby. Love is in the air these days and all the animals are acting strangely.
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    We ride through the National Elk Refuge Valley, and near Gros Ventre Wilderness. After Kelly we turn north following the paved two lane road until it turns sharply west and returns to the highway. Instead we continue riding north on a forest service trail that leads out across the prairie. We stay off road as much as we can until we get closer to Moran Junction.
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    The CDT joins (or closely parallels) the highway from near Moran Junction almost to Dubois as we ride east. We ride over Togwotee Pass on the way and stop to admire the contrasting view of bright blue sky ahead of us and dark clouds rolling in behind. There’s snow in places near the pass, and snow falling on the higher elevations around us as we ride.
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    Molly takes a moment to make and throw a snowball before we carry on a few more miles to our southward turn. To the north is the Teton Wilderness and the land looks rugged and wild.
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    Less than a mile off the highway we find a small clearing and decide to stop for a short lunch before we begin the climb up the mountains toward Union Pass and a long stretch of road that will fill our afternoon.
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    Tammy settles into a nice spot in the sun for a nap, but then the wind picks up and the temperature drops. The storm is catching up with us. We decide to get moving. We have no plans as to where we may camp tonight, only that we will ride south as far as we want, and as long as the weather and sun hold out. Our dirt road climbs and winds up steep pine and spruce-covered slopes, doubling back on itself to press further up the mountains. At one outer bend, I stop to look back at the highway below and Togwotee Pass in the distance. We seem to be nearing the same altitude, somewhere around 9000 feet.
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    The dirt road is in great condition when we first start out, and for many miles. Although no motorized vehicles are allowed in a wilderness preserve, our route takes us so close to the edges of both the Fitzpatrick and Bridger Wilderness areas. But as we continue to climb higher toward the pass, and beyond it, we find that the road gets wetter and bumpier. Washboards are filled with standing water and the dirt road turns to mud in places. We see a warning sign for Grizzly bears and start to feel less excited about camping. In fact, after the sign, we don’t stop much, and when we do, we don’t dismount the bikes. And we seem to be riding more closely together and intently, instead of sightseeing and lolly gagging as can sometimes happen when you have no agenda.
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    We see a few campers on the high plateau but only one or two vehicles on the trail itself. And the day continues to wear on toward dusk very quickly. Each few minutes I’m becoming more mindful of the dwindling daylight we have left and the miles we have to cover before we get out of bear country. Make that Grizzly country. Most of the blogs and notes I’ve read say that Grizzlies aren’t seen very often south if Pinedale, Wyoming. Even though I know the bears can’t read maps and won’t pay attention to popular misconception, the idea of reaching Pinedale becomes an unspoken goal.

    I stop taking photos in the bumpy and muddy sections, worried that any hungry Grizz could just snag me with a single claw as I putter by at our snails pace. We press onward, hoping to at least get out of this more rugged mountaintop stretch of the road. If we’re lucky, maybe we can reach Cora.
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    We ride up on a Jeep filled with a family of six, the youngsters clamor for peeks at our bikes. The gracious young father offers to snap a picture of the three of us before encouraging us to pass him and keep moving.
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    Finally, after winding through the forest and high meadows for hours, the road emerges at an open ridge line, extending for many miles into the distance to the Green River. The road is open and clear and should be fast for us. It’s getting toward dark, and I’m glad to see a fast stretch of road in sight.
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    We reach the river and carry on, now following the river’s edge as our road winds along the valley floor. The sky dissolves into lavender and salmon-colored cotton candy clouds. We see a sign for a saloon and lodge and decide to stop for a hot beverage and warm up before carrying on. The trail has reached a paved road, part of the CDT, that leads to Pinedale. I’m within reach of my imagined safe place.

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    As Molly tries to get cell service back out on the highway, Tammy and I settle into the lodge of the Kendall Valley Lodge and I splurge on a cup of soup to go with my hot tea. I look out over the valley to the mountains east of the lodge and admire the silhouette of a sunset cast by the western ridge line’s shadow on them. The backlighting of the sunset is painting them beautiful colors.
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    After a half hour or so, Molly arrives, fresh from her phone call. It’s late into dusk, but since the road is paved, we could easily carry on to a campsite somewhere ahead. The Kendall Valley Lodge doesn’t offer camping, but they do have cabins, and an incredible view to match the sunny dispositions of the friendly staff. We decide to settle in for the night and have a hot breakfast before getting back on the trail in the morning. What a beautiful place to land.
    Max Wedge, Scooter22 and c-zulu like this.
  3. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    Kendall Valley is as gorgeous in the morning as it was the night before. Dawn breaks cold and clear with cloudless pale blue skies. We take advantage of Sparky and Dave’s (the friendly staff) hospitality and enjoy the availability of hot tea and anything including bacon. Don’t get me wrong, Molly’s oatmeal is divine…but bacon is a sinful and welcome treat on a cold morning. I skate across the frosty surface of the wooden boardwalk from our cabin to the bunkhouse and say hello to Chubbs the one-eyed blue heeler and his companion Jack Russell on the way to the lodge for breakfast. Molly and Tammy take advantage of the wifi and pork products too. We pack up and load bikes, checking oil, chains and small details before getting out on the highway. I spy a clump of sage leaves caught in one of my saddlebag buckles, testimony to the tight corners I took late in the day yesterday.
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    The map leads us from here to Cora and then to Pinedale and further southeast before getting off the asphalt again after Boulder. As we ride south toward Cora, Molly pulls off the road to check out a roadkill badger that has dried to the appearance of an old cowpatty. Tammy and I pull over and wait and then each walk back to see what she’s up to. Molly has decided to take his lower jaw bone and skull along with her to add to her collection of animal skulls back in Maine. It’s just one of many interesting things I love about her, her fascination with nature.
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    We fuel up in Pinedale and since I’m still navigating for our group, I check my maps to have an idea where we turn off the highway.
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    I lead us to Boulder and turn there taking the 353 into the desert foothills of the Wind River Range. We stop at the Fremont Butte marker, one of dozens (if not hundreds) of historical markers along the CDT route, to take a look.
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    Big Sandy-Elkhorn Road leads us away from the river we have been following and up onto a high dry plain, winding all the way. The mountains to the north are stunning.
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    We each stop for photos now and then, or for a roadside tinkle, and slowly make our way across the plateau. The sky seems enormous today. And without any wind, the conditions for riding are perfect. Molly rides ahead while Tammy stops to pose her bike for a photo, and when we catch up she is waiting at the side of the road with an idea. I’ve pointed out a sheep wagon somewhere along the trail in the past few days, and shared with them that my paternal grandparents lived in one when they were first married. Molly has spotted another not far off the road, perched on a knoll with a breathtaking view of the blue mountains in the distance. She wonders if we are interested in going to take a look. I definitely am. Molly rides ahead while I turn on the GoPro and bring up the rear. We ride off the main gravel road to a dirt road and then over a small burm to a pair of wagon ruts that leads out to a small camp. As Molly parks, and Tammy and I ride up, I can see a small Hispanic man step out from behind the sheep wagon to see who has arrived.
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    Molly greets him while I take my helmet off and I can immediately hear him reply to her in Spanish, to which she replies by calling my name. Thankfully, one of my favorite souvenirs from my two-year motorcycle trip through the Americas is my ability to speak a little Spanish. I introduce myself and find out the shephard is named Hernado. He is here watching over a herd of 1000 head of sheep with the help of his two horses, Rojito and Blanco, and a half dozen dogs. Two Border Collies are here with him and seem very wary of the new visitors. Three or four large white dogs are out with the herd.

    I explain to Hernado that we are traveling by motorcycle and saw his camp and hoped to take a closer look. I try to explain that my grandparents lived in a sheep wagon 60+ years ago, but something is lost in translation. He thinks I’m telling him they lived right here, but they lived in South Dakota. Anyway, he is pleasant and polite, if a little (understandably) reserved. Molly suggests I cook up the Indian curry that I had packed for our camp dinner tonight, so I ask Hernado if it would be alright if we stopped for lunch here at his camp and wondered if he would be interested in sharing our meal with us. He politely nods and accepts. As I return to the bike to get my stove and the curry packet and fresh zucchini and tomatoes for the meal, Hernado disappears into his wagon for a few moments. Later we find out he has straightened things up in advance of offering us a tour, and he has stoked up his wood stove so that we can use it to cook. I tell him we have our own stoves, but the fire is already blazing away so we thank him and take advantage of it.
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    Tammy treats us to Newfoundland moose jerky while I cook up the curry and stretch it by adding a packet of Indian Lentils and some ready made rice. Hernado invites us inside, one at a time, to see the sheep wagon. I’m really impressed by how well insulated it must be, because it’s very quiet inside and very hot with the wood stove roaring by the front door. The view from his summer home is simply stunning.

    Hernado is here for three months during the summer grazing season and will be returning to Colorado in mid-October when the owner comes to get him and the herd. As we visit, we find we are peeling back the layers of an onion, finding an even more interesting one beneath each last layer.

    Hernado is from Huancayo, Peru. I explain that I have been to Peru and think his country is very beautiful. He seems surprised to encounter someone who has been there and we talk about Peru for a few minutes. He has been working in America for two summers and has a wife and several children back in Peru. We ask many questions, while I try to do my best to translate the conversation. We each find some food in our panniers to offer him for his hospitality. I make gifts of a banana and a slightly dented apple, as well as some oatmeal and chocolate-covered almonds.

    Somewhere along the way we find out that he played in a band in Peru and when I ask which instrument he says, surprising me, that he plays the saxophone. I ask if he has it with him and he does. Perhaps being a bit too forward, I take a chance, and ask if he will play for us. Our involuntary host obliges us and goes inside to retrieve his shiny Italian sax to entertain us, perhaps his gift to us, in exchange for our offering him a small plate of rehydrated foreign food.

    He plays us a few tunes, one of which Molly recognizes as similar to a Simon and Garfunkel song she knows. I wander around while he plays and snap a few pictures of the whole scene from a distance. For a moment, I pause, and try to take in the surreal afternoon playing out in front of me. All the makings of a good bar joke (a Canadian, a Maine-iac, and a South Dakotan are traveling by motorcycles in the mountains of Wyoming and pull off the side of the road at the camp of a Peruvian sheepherder who plays an Italian sax while they dine on moose and Indian food…) have instead come together in a way that moves me to tears. It’s an overwhelmingly beautiful brief moment at the intersection in the lives of four random members of the human race…and I’m so grateful to be one of the four. Molly jokes that “you can’t make this stuff up” as we pack up, and I know she feels it too.
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    I linger for a few minutes while putting away my dishes and closing up my saddlebags, to thank the higher power and universe for the gift of this beautiful experience, a momentary gift within the gift of this trip, within the gift that is my life.

    We thank Hernado for his music and his hospitality and I give him a hug before we go. Gracias, amigo, and thank you for this beautiful day. And on we go down the road…
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    Miles of sage-covered altiplano carry us further east, finally delivering us to a highway which we have to take north for 5-6 miles before turning east again toward South Pass City.

    As we get back to the gravel after the short stint of asphalt, our road passes a small knoll of rock outcroppings, windswept scrub and tattered trees. We pull off the road to explore.

    The afternoon is getting on, and we debate briefly about whether or not to camp here or carry on a bit. Tammy has had a short nap and suggests we keep moving, so we do.

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    We ride through South Pass City and stop briefly but find no services. We need fuel before this next long stretch of trail which will take us more than 130 miles through barren wasteland.
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    We keep moving, past the Carissa Mine and on to Atlantic City, where Molly jokes she hopes we can get lucky like people do in the other Atlantic City.
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    There’s no visible services in Atlantic City either though. But a quick stop at the pub leads Tammy and Molly to getting a tip for us. If we ride back to Wild Bill’s gun shop, which was back at the bottom of the hill as we rode into town, he might have some to sell us. Sure enough he does. And he and Carmella are a wonderfully fun diversion for a few minutes of our day.

    They direct us to the road that runs just past their place to lead us into the Great Divide Basin, which they refer to as the ‘desert’. The Continental Divide, is itself an imaginary line where the watershed of our country splits between water running west toward the Pacific or east toward the Atlantic. The Great Divide Basin is an anomoly on this trail in that it defies the watershed issue. All rain that comes down here stays in the basin by flowing into a handful of small lakes and streams or evaporating, thereby not shedding water to either side of America.

    Bill suggests we camp near the Sweetwater River about 10 miles up the road. We thank them, buy some water, and head out to make camp before dark.
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    We ride down to the waters edge and find shelter between tall bushes and set to working making camp. There’s plenty of wood for a fire which Tammy promptly gets going. Everyone tears into canned sardines and beef jerky since we are safely out of bear country for the moment. Molly plays us an imaginary tune on the empty can left behind from her dinner and we giggle. Tammy tries a few fun perspective photos with the full moon rising in the east, and finally we each tuck in for the night.

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  4. Mofrid

    Mofrid Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2012
    Oddometer:
    300
    Location:
    State of Jefferson
    Thank you. Splendid!
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  5. Sleddog

    Sleddog Ridin, again:)

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,046
    Location:
    SE South Dakota
    "Traveling through the people, not just the country"

    Good stuff
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  6. Max Wedge

    Max Wedge ADVenture mowing

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,214
    Location:
    Lwr Mi
    Indeed! Thanks!
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  7. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    We wake to frost-covered tents and steam rising from the slow-moving Sweetwater River.
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    Tammy starts a fire, Molly makes oatmeal, and I reorganize some gear on my bike to better distribute weight. Between using food and oil, leaving food with the Peruvian shepherd, and wearing more layers in the cold, my saddlebag weight is off balance. We have 130+ miles to ride today to Rawlins, and it’s all through the Great Divide Basin with no services between here and Rawlins.

    The sun warms the land and I watch as frost crystals dissolve into droplets on my tent fly. We drape our belongings over the shrubs and trees to catch more sun and dry them out before packing up.

    I enjoy another batch of Molly’s oatmeal, and am sad to think this will likely be the final time I get to do so on this trip. It’s Saturday and I’ve planned to turn toward home from wherever we are today. The way back will be through the Basin ahead.

    We get a fairly decent start to the day and make good time, despite having to lace our way through several road choices. This place is barren, but it’s not entirely empty. Several campers are parked across the land and we stumble across a scattering of ranch buildings and oil wells here and there. We happen upon a pair of cyclists, a Québécois woman and a German man, making their way south. Hard to believe this long day-crossing of ours will take more like two or three days for them.
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    At one turning, a black truck races up and a man hops out with a hand-held antennae and asks if we have seen a falcon. We haven’t. It’s windy and has been for more than an hour, and blowing hard enough that the bird may have landed to save energy. Off they go.
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    The road gets rough in places, washboards giving testimony to the amount of traffic that must pass through here.

    We find monstrously large piles of horse shit every few miles and joke at one stop that we’ve never seen a horse big enough to make them. But it occurs to me later as I ride that these are where horse trailers get cleaned out after they’re unloaded. The whole center of Wyoming has been marked with “open range” signs, so maybe these are from gatherings.

    It’s not the most scenic place, but I still find it very interesting and almost meditative. Hard to believe this big flat basin is at a high enough altitude to be part of the Continental Divide, but it is.
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    We finally reach the far eastern edge and come out at the black top and turn south toward our next fuel stop. According to the map there should be one only a mile or two ahead but it’s closed. So I will have to carry on to Rawlins to get fuel before turning for South Dakota. As we hit town, we are all hungry and stop for an early afternoon lunch, and wind up chatting with two couples on big bikes. The wives comment that they feel silly about having complained about long pillion rides or bad hotel rooms after seeing what we are up to. They’re all really nice.

    All during lunch I debate about carrying on. I check my phone and find (incorrectly as I later find out) that I still have 80+ miles to ride to Aspen Alley on the Wyoming/Colorado border, which was where I had hoped to get this week. It’s been on my Apocolist to see it some day. A burger and a soda have revived me enough to want to carry on to there, if I can. Molly and Tammy say they plan to ride another 50 miles or so before they call it a day, and I decide to tag along. Maybe I will ride the last thirty miles to Aspen Alley in the morning before I turn for home. Tomorrow is Sunday. The further I carry on from here, the further I will be going from my home, and the more riding I will have to do to get back there. Oh well, I will worry about that tomorrow. So I announce to the girls that I’m “in for a penny, in for a pound” and I will try for Aspen Alley. Besides, I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. Something feels unfinished.

    We ride over to a gas station and fuel up and buy water before I lead us out of town on the trail. The paved highway dissolves into a wide gravel road a dozen or more miles out of town.
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    I stop a few times to recheck the map, because we are covering more miles than I had expected to. We are getting close to the mountains on the southern border of Wyoming and can’t be far from Aspen Alley.
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    I turn over the map to Tammy and let her and Molly decide where they want to camp tonight. I have wanted to be careful not to influence their pace in this ride just because of my short timeline, and I’m afraid I may be doing that today.

    Tammy scouts a couple of campsites and leads us through 10-15 miles of Medicine Bow National Forest towards one that might work for us. But she announces at one stop that we’ve already passed most of them and are nearly to Aspen Alley. So now she aims for a campsite just past it.

    As we ride a few more miles I rethink my use of Pocket Earth at lunch to find out how far it was from Rawlins to here. I think it must have routed me on paved roads which incorrectly exaggerated the distance. I can’t believe it, we’ve almost reached my finish line.

    With dwindling daylight we ride on for a few more miles until we see the road narrow from a standard gravel road to a single wooded lane…and perched on both sides are tall shimmering Aspen trees. We have arrived at Aspen Alley.
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    We make a few runs back and forth through the trees. They aren’t at peak color, but it’s still a beautiful place. Traffic actually backs up in either end as couples in side-by-sides race up and down the alley, kicking up dust and gravel until the tunnel between the trees is filled with a choking cloud. That’s it for me then, I prefer to leave and remember it as I first saw it.

    We carry on less than a mile up the road to a camp site just off the road. The small clearing has a stone fire circle and trees on three sides for protection from the wind. But it’s apparent this isn’t used much for tent camping because the ground is rough and full of undergrowth.

    As I unpack my gear bag to set up my tent, I find one of my gas cans has sprung a leak and my tent bag looks saturated. Thankfully, even though it is, only a little bit of my tent floor has fuel on it. I hang it and my other gear up to air out for a while.
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    The girls start a fire and we hang out for a while before calling it an early night. There’s a bright moon overhead and a gentle breeze rustles the Aspen leaves, lulling us to sleep. I’m so grateful for this one extra day with Molly and Tammy.
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  8. SturgisChick

    SturgisChick Born and Raised

    Joined:
    May 26, 2012
    Oddometer:
    309
    Location:
    Black Hills, South Dakota
    It’s Sunday morning, and I have 450 miles to cover on my little XT250 to get home tonight. Not at all sure I can actually do that, I’m going to give it my best try.

    Tammy and Molly are already up and Molly calls out that she is making oatmeal as I start to pack up. One last batch of Molly’s magic oatmeal will be the perfect way to start my day and my journey home.

    I emptied the last of my leaking fuel can into my gas tank last night and got some on my hands. An immediate sting on my left thumb revealed a small but deep crack that I decide to clean up and doctor this morning before putting my gloves on. Thankfully, it’s the only time I used my first aid kit on the whole trip.
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    After breakfast, I get hugs from both girls, and thank them for letting me be a part of this incredible experience. I try hard to keep my tears in check and focus on the joy and laughter we have shared. I’m going to miss them. But at the same time I am so excited to follow the rest of their trip.

    I ride south less than a mile to turn onto a paved road that meanders along the southern border of Wyoming. My path leads east toward Encampment where I hope to find fuel.

    Just as I turn onto the pavement, I see the road ahead is blocked with hundreds of sheep. While I assume they are being herded somewhere, as I ride closer I can see they are only grazing. A half dozen large white dogs are peppered through the herd and a couple come over to inspect me.
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    I’ve gotten a later start than I had hoped. That fact and the lovely fall colors and clear blue skies (which make me want to stop for lots of photos) will make covering all my miles today more difficult.

    The road winds through the forest and climbs over a few mountains before beginning a longer, steady climb up to a pass. I pull in to get a photo of the golden autumn colors splashed across the mountainsides and in a moment of bittersweet surprise find that I am crossing the Continental Divide, no doubt for the last time of this trip.
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    To my right I can see Colorado, and to my left is Wyoming. A line from one of my favorite movies pops into my head- John Wayne said in The Cowboys, “you’re burning daylight”. I’d better get moving.
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    At Encampment I am able to buy fuel, a nice surprise, which allows me to take the scenic byway up and over the Snowy Mountain Range and into Laramie. I’ve always wanted to drive or ride this road, so it’s a bonus from having stayed an extra day with Molly and Tammy.

    The colors along the road are gorgeous. Oranges and a few reds have been added to the mixture of golds and various shades of green.
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    At first, the road winds along a beautiful valley dotted with ranches and hunting lodges. But as it climbs, the road becomes more exposed and the colorful deciduous trees give way to more hearty evergreens.
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    As I feel like I’m cresting the range, the road curves gently to the left. Rounding the bend I can see a rock wall and some on my left, with a small lake in front of it. Dozens of cars are turning into a small parking lot and I can see hikers speckled across the paths that criss cross the entire area. These are the crowning heights of the Snowy Range.
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    On the ride down, I catch sight of more bright fall colors. It’s a great day for a ride. The wind starts picking up by Centennial and gets downright annoying by the edge of town.

    In Laramie, I park behind a gas station and buy a dime’s worth of diesel to clean my chain. Since I’m headed home anyway, I use my toothbrush to scrub my chain, rolling my bike backwards to get it all. I use engine oil to lube the chain since I will be on asphalt from here on out. As I clean up, I finally stand back and see the extent of the mess I’m leaving in the area behind the store and I feel bad. I’m not exactly a neat mechanic. Or for that matter, any kind of mechanic.
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    Trying to avoid main roads and the interstate, I plot a route toward Wheatland via a canyon that runs along the north side of Laramie. But to get to the road, I have to ride northwest, completely broadside against the wind, for several miles. My poor, heavily-laden, but still too light for strong winds, bike struggles and maxes out at about 45-50 mph. Ugh. This is going to be a long day.

    I finally make the corner and turn to my right, effectively launching me forward now with the full power of the wind at my back. The canyon is beautiful.

    At Wheatland I turn north on a two-lane road, aiming for Manning, and eventually Lusk. It’s getting late in the day, and as I stop for fuel and a short break, I debate about getting a room here for the night. I think I have nearly two hours of light left which would get me less than an hour from home, to roads that I know well. Although I know the risks of riding after dark, I think I can be careful, and am certainly slow enough, to be a little safer.
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    A man approaches me at the station and says he and his wife are on a Goldwing and just rode down from Newcastle. He says the wind is really strong and he thinks it’s too risky for me to carry on. I check an online wind app, and find out that indeed the wind is blowing at 25mph with gusts to nearly 35-40mph. Sounds horrible. But then I look at a map version and see I’ve already crossed the worst of it. Turns out Wyoming has had wind warnings out all day. No wonder it was such a miserable, slow ride.

    I decide to push on and camp along the way if I get too tired to keep riding. At Hot Springs I fuel up and take a breather. It’s completely dark, but thankfully, the wind is gone. I only have 45 miles to get home and I’m not tired at all, so I carry on. It’s a long hour and more to get home, my poor bike struggling against the low grade of hills, and me watching for deer. But it’s worth it. As much as I love travel, I equally love coming home. It’s gonna feel so good to sleep in my own bed.

    An hour and a half of riding in the dark tops off my long day with a little cool riding, but thankfully the wind died off at the South Dakota border. I pull into the garage and park the bike, listening to her poor hot little engine ticking as it cools off. My baby has done well. But I still haven’t decided on a name for her. Maybe next time. Twelve and a half hours and 442 miles since I left Molly and Tammy.

    Thank you, Molly and Tammy, for the adventure of a lifetime. Looking forward to the next one. Love, Michelle