May 27, 2012
Lander, WY – Livingston, MT: 406mi
I was pleasantly surprised to wake up in Lander with a touch of blue sky, although it was still chilly around 40 degrees. Eager and hoping to make it to the Tetons and Yellowstone I walked over to the hotel office and asked if they had heard about the road conditions. Unfortunately there was a lot of snow overnight in the mountains and the roads were closed.
I still wanted to see the Shoshone reservation and Sacajawea’s grave however, which wasn’t far at Fort Washakie. I stopped at the Trading Post just before the cemetery and saw some beautiful Native American turquoise and beaded jewelry, woven baskets, and leather crafts.
Walking through the graveyard was powerful seeing the red grave mounds spiked with crucifixes randomly scattered over the hill surrounded by mountains of the Shoshone Forest. Many were surrounded with brick or stone and decorated with tacky fake flowers, plastic beads, candles, dolls, pictures and figures.
The tombstone of Sacajawea was the tallest amongst them and in the center of the hill. There was something peaceful about standing there. I felt as if her shadow was looking over the others like a mother stands over her child.
I backtracked to Lander and headed towards Riverton on 789. Unexpectedly I cruised through one of the most amazing canyons I have seen, the Wind River Canyon part of Boysen State Park. It was breathtaking.
Again I felt as if everything happens for a reason. This was a providential detour to my trip. Even though I was disappointed by not making it to the Tetons, this experience made it worth it. I followed the Wind River through the twisty canyon and stone tunnels that pierced through the mountains.
I was listening to music on my Bluetooth when one of Dan’s favorite U2 songs came on, Van Diemen’s Land. I saw a hawk fly over my head at this moment and couldn’t resist tears from blinding me. I pulled over and stood over the river feeling that Dan was with me.
Once reaching Thermopolis, I came to a fork in the road where a decision had to be made. I could either go right and follow the Bighorn River into Montana staying at lower elevations, or I could go left and take the Chief Washaki Trail scenic byway to Cody and get up to Montanta staying at higher elevations.
I could see rain clouds in the distance if I followed the river, but I also knew I could hit cold weather and possibly snow if I went towards higher elevations. I really wanted to stay close to the mountains and hopefully get a glimpse of Yellowstone from afar, so I headed to Cody and detoured around the large rainstorm I could see ahead.
Regardless of missing one rainstorm, I still suffered through wind and scattered showers the rest of the day while the temperatures continued to drop as I got closer to Montana. It was a beautiful scenic byway but one of the flat stretches got me pulled over for a speeding ticket. I was only going 9 miles over the speed limit, but I can imagine the officer must have been bored. I’m probably the only person he saw on the road all day and thought I was crazy to be riding by myself in the middle of nowhere with wintery weather.
I followed 120 into Montana and passed an orange sign saying: “Construction Zone Ten Miles Motorcycles Choose Other Route.” Not wanting to backtrack all the way to Cody and hoping there would be no construction since it was Sunday, I took my chances and kept going. Before long I ended up on ten miles of unpaved road with packed dirt, gravel, and pot holes everywhere. I tried not to panic and told myself, “You better not drop the fucking bike you idiot! Just don’t stop, don’t stop, keep going!”
Amazingly I made it to the other side of that construction zone after an hour of treacherous riding and I booked it to I-90 with the desire to make-up some miles. It was getting colder as it got later and the color of the sky did not look promising.
I stopped at a gas station to ask about the weather and was told unseasonal low temperatures, snow and strong winds were predicted overnight. Everyone kept saying how abnormal it was. I was planning on camping but after hearing this I decided to head for the next town wondering if the unfortunate abnormal weather was following me on this trip.
I filled up and headed towards Livingston and searched for another cheap motel. I found an old cute motel that looked like it hadn’t had any upgrades since the 60’s. There were bright colors, shag carpet, and an old fashioned TV. There wasn’t a hot tub but I had a bath tub in my room and enjoyed a hot soak after a long cold ride.
The gentleman at the desk told me they were calling for snow the next two days. I wanted to get to Canada tomorrow but that would depend on the weather overnight and road conditions in the morning. I really didn’t want to have to spend another day in Livingston. There wasn’t a brewery.
Quote of the Day:
I was at a gas station with all my gear on, bundled from underneath, looking like a blue and black marshmallow power ranger. A girl came up to me and said:
“I’m so glad to see you’re wearing gear. These other guys I see out there with nothing, I just shake my head.”