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Old 05-05-2004, 10:37 PM   #61
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11th April

I wake to find the storm has blown through and there isn’t a cloud in the sky, although it’s not warm… I set off and turn towards Bryce Canyon. Unfortunately, the data card in my camera containing all the early pics of Red Canyon & Bryce, corrupted and (unless I manage to get it to recover the data) the pics are lost…:(

I get in to Bryce Canyon, named for Ebenezer Bryce, who lived by cutting timber on the plateau here in 1875. It is a spectacular location…



…with breathtaking scenery wherever you look…



…it has a natural arch…



…the snow on the slopes shows that it’s not warm. The highest point in the park is over 9000ft, and you really feel the lack of oxygen if you do anything strenuous (like get on and off the bike, for instance :P). I’ll bore you with one more shot…



I leave the park and head off along Highway 12, a ‘Scenic Byway’ which fully lives up to its name. It winds its way through Escalante…



… Boulder (Utah, not Colorado ;))…



…Calf Creek…



…Torrey…



…Cainville…



…before I end up at Hankville, at the Slick Rock Motel, where I sit out on the verandah and write my journal…



…and share a couple of beers with Russell, a retired software engineer, who comes here every year and tries to get stuck somewhere in the canyons in his 4x4



…today he was unsuccessful - though, looking at the state of his truck, not for lack of trying



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:38 PM   #62
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12th April

After a good breakfast, I face the prospect of another 300 miles of scenic roads in perfect weather… I suppose there are worse ways of spending a Monday :…:P

The mountains to the South have snow capped peaks, although I’m still in the high desert – I take a short detour on a dirt road but, finding nothing terribly exciting up there, rejoin Highway 95 heading South East.



I reach Hog Springs, a spectacular overlook…



The river you can see supplies Lake Powell, where I crossed the bridge by the dam a few days ago.



Russell told me yesterday evening that the lake’s water level is a hundred feet low at the moment – the legacy of a continuing 10 year drought…



The road winds its way down into the valley, crossing the bridge you can see in the centre of the previous picture.

I divert into Natural Bridges National Park. These are formed by streams cutting into the soft sandstone, eventually forming bridges which, in time, will be undermined and will collapse…



…except this one – the river has actually naturally diverted away from the bridge, which should ensure its survival.



Pressing on towards Moab, where I intend to spend the night, I divert once again into the Canyonland National Park, another of the seemingly endless ranges of buttes and mesas which Utah has in abundance…



…this is ‘Wooden Shoe Arch’ (on the horizon). I ride down a 5 mile dirt road to find scenery which, anywhere else, would be spectacular – here it’s almost run of the mill…:P



I rejoin Highway 191 and, after a quick picture of Wilson Arch…



…arrive in Moab at 1630.

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:39 PM   #63
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13th April

A fine morning. I continue the ride North - via some more scenic routes - life is hard...

I turn up the 128 , which follows the Colorado River upstream...



...it looks deceptively calm - further downstream this is the same river that provides the rapids in the Grand Canyon. I eventually cross the river on a new concrete bridge - the old suspension bridge has been presevered as a monument alongside...



I join the Interstate 70 East for 30 miles or so, before turning North again on the 139, just inside Colorado. The road winds its way up through the Douglas Pass...



...which tops out at just under 8500 ft...



...before descending onto the Roan Plateau, and heading towards the town of Dinosaur...



Dinosaurs are big business in the area - as is raising extremely well-endowed cattle, if this one is anything to go by...



I stop for the day in Vernal - how could I resist?



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:41 PM   #64
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Phosphate Mines, Rough Tracks & Sparky the Beaver Retriever...

14th April

A beautiful morning. I spent yesterday evening doing my laundry and re-arranging the kit in my panniers. The left pannier leaks worse than the right, so I’ve put the stuff which will be less affected by this in the left pannier…

I set off and enter Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area (a bit like a National Park, but intended for serious leisure…:P)



…like all these parks, it’s vast…



I ride on up the 191 – almost immediately, the road starts a long series of switchbacks, as it climbs into Ashley National Forest. It would be scenic, were it not for the huge phosphate mine which forms a huge blot on the hillside. The scenic overlook at the top of the hill has an earth berm bulldozed up around it, so the view is obscured…:(



A little further down the road, I see something lying in the gutter. As I approach, it moves…



…and takes up a defensive position in its roadside burrow. I believe it’s called a Marmot…

As I clear the last hill, Flaming Gorge Reservoir comes into view – breathtaking…



As I enter Wyoming, the landscape changes again. I’m reminded of the high desert, almost heath-land, that I rode through in New Mexico.



I ride through Kemmerer, a small town famous (?) for being the birthplace of the department store JC Penny, in 1902…



…and for having the most confusingly signed Motel in Wyoming…



I follow the route which I programmed into the GPS at Arch’s house. It follows a ‘County’ road – the equivalent of a ‘C’ class road in the UK. Except ‘C’ class roads tend to remain surfaced… :eek:



…never mind – it’s a lovely day and I’m in no hurry – I continue up the track.



Even when it gets a bit wet…



…until I meet Chet Alexander coming the other way. Chet’s been up the track using his ATV trying to put bait out and has been unable to get much further than where we are now (12 miles up the track), because of thick snow banks.



Chet was a policeman for 20 years and then worked for BP, but was recently laid off. He’s considering going back to work for them again, but it will mean moving to North Dakota. Chet is reluctant to do this, as he likes his life here. He and his huge Labrador Sparky go trapping (Chet traps and shoots beaver – when he shoots them, Sparky retrieves the 40lb beavers from downstream). But most of all, Chet likes to hunt. Bear. With a bow and arrow. The last one he killed weighed 400lbs. Gulp. :eek

I turn around and ride up into the attractively named Jackson Hole and check into Motel 6 in a sleety shower. Time for a hot shower and a cold beer…;)

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:43 PM   #65
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15th April

The weather was fine when I got up, but forecast to clag in later in the day. After a quick ‘surf’ at the Hard Drive Café, I pack the bike and head up the 26 towards the Idaho state line…



…the road starts entering some serious mountains…



…this pass tops out at 8200 ft.

I ride over the border into Idaho, heading towards Idaho Falls. I ride through the city, remembering why I try to avoid large conurbations :( Eventually I’m out the other side heading West on the 20. There is a strong wind from the South West, with very strong gusts. It makes riding the bike very uncomfortable, especially when oncoming traffic causes a sudden ‘gap’. The wind is blowing the top soil off the fields to the right of the road – the plume of dust is visible for over 30 miles…



Eventually I reach Pickle’s Place in Arco – a restaurant and very welcome refuge from the wind. I ask the waitress if it’s always this windy… ‘No, honey – sometimes it gets real bad…’ :P



After lunch I continue North West, sheltered from the wind to a large extent by the range of hills which now line the road…



I turn right up the 93 towards the town of Salmon, where I intend to stop for the day. The road gets more picturesque the further I head North…



…as it follows the course of the Salmon River (the longest undammed river in the continental USA)…



…to the small town of Salmon - population 3000, elevation 4000ft - which apparently survives on fishing and tourism…



In the evening I go to the local cinema, The River, to see Hidalgo, which proves to be a disappointment – I was hoping for something a little less “let’s show the Arabs we Americans can do it best, especially when the deceitful British are concerned” :P – beautifully photographed – but subtle, it wasn’t ...

The cinema itself was like a trip back in time – it was clearly a traditional ‘one screen’ cinema when built – the current owners must have spent literally hundreds of dollars converting it to the poorly focussed, badly ventilated hole with terrible acoustics that it is today.
It also seems to be culturally acceptable to continue conversations throughout the film, if the middle aged couple behind me were anything to go by – still, at least I now know where to get the best value oil change done on a Durango… ;)

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:45 PM   #66
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16th April

Set off at 0905 on a beautiful, crisp, clear morning heading North towards the Montana State Line...



...the scenery is superb, particularly as the visibility is so good on this clear, cold morning - thank goodness for Gerbing heated clothing :P

I soon start climbing into the mountains, a great series of switchbacks...



...I cross the State Line and enter Montana at just after 1000. I continue to ride North, eventually entering the outskirts of Missoula - and find the scruffiest, dirtiest internet cafe on earth :P.



It actually advertises itself as 'Student Operated' - was last cleaned sometime in the late 60s and is full of geeks in their late teens killing mutants. It costs me $5.25 for an hour's upload time and a foul cup of coffee - the things I go through for you guys...

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:46 PM   #67
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16th April

After leaving the ‘Cyber Quest’ café :P, I ride North up US93, past Missoula Airport…



…where they train Smokejumpers. These are people who parachute into forest fires to put them out – on days when they’re not alligator wrestling or wing-walking on the Space Shuttle, I expect…:eek

A few miles up the road, I see a sign to the National Bison Range. I ride the 12 miles off my route to the Visitor Centre to find that motorcycles aren’t permitted in the park :P…
Not that it makes much difference – there’s nothing to see this early in the season, all the Bison are up in the hills, rather than down by the scenic loop road. There is a collection of antlers from deer, elk, moose & caribou stacked near the entrance…



…and a small, wooden trellis railway bridge – the kind of thing Indiana Jones would climb down, if it was 10 times this size :P



I ride back towards US93, with the spectacular Rocky Mountains beginning to fill my field of view…



…and followed it North to Flathead Lake…



…and stop for the day at a Super 8 motel at Polson.



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:47 PM   #68
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17th April

I set off bright and early – on the road at 0815. It’s cold (34º) and overcast – the Rocky Mountains have their tops removed by a layer of cloud. I ride along the Eastern shore of Flathead Lake, which looks cold, calm and beautiful…



The water level is low, though – it almost looks as if the tide is out. When I get to Big Fork, the effects of the drought show in some lakefront accommodation…



…where the jetties provided for residents' craft are high and dry.

I continue North towards Hungry Horse, when my attention is distracted by something in the mirror…



…it’s Officer Lerrette, from the Montana Highway Patrol. He tells me that he’s just clocked me doing 70 in a 60 limit. I say I’m sorry. He says he’s going to have to ‘cite’ me. I say OK and give him my licence and other documents. He does some checks, then asks if I’ve any money on me, as this is an ‘on the spot’ fine. I have $35 but the fine is $55. No problem, he’ll follow me to the next town where I can use an ATM. He sits in his car for a few more minutes, then gets out and asks if I know where I’m going – I say I don’t (true on so many levels :P) and that I’ll follow him. He gets back in his car, then gets out again and, inexplicably, says he’s changed his mind and has ‘voided’ the ticket and is going to give me a warning instead. I thank him and we chat for a while about how his job differed from mine when I was a cop and I look around the spectacularly well equipped patrol car…



…as well as video recording, he has a wireless microphone on his uniform to record conversations with evil miscreants like me, a very advanced radar system (it has 2 transmitters & 2 receivers – one measuring the patrol car’s speed, the other an approaching car - or bike's : - relative speed – allowing him to detect someone doing 70 in a 60, for example…), shotgun, huge coffee cup, doughnuts etc etc.
I ride on, at 60mph, past some spectacular sculpture…



…to Glacier National Park



Unfortunately, Going to the Sun Road, the main road through the Park, is closed at the 16 mile point. I ride along the South Eastern shore of Lake McDonald, which is eerily quiet and still…



…unlike McDonald Creek, which feeds into it from the North East…



The low cloud keeps clearing and giving me tantalising glimpses of Mount Brown (8560ft)…



…but soon, the road closed signs appear…



…and it’s time to turn back. Mount Brown is still being coy…



I ride the long way round the South of the Park, which has some great views of the Flathead River and the mountains of the Lewis Range…



…the road follows a railway line, which crosses a slightly larger version of yesterday’s ‘Indiana Jones’ viaduct…



Where there is a particular avalanche risk, the railway line is protected by a wooden shelter…



The railway is very busy – I saw 3 trains in the short time I was riding alongside it. I also saw this rather odd sight…



…a pick-up truck adapted to be able to drive on the railway line :

I re-enter Glacier National Park from the Eastern entrance. Once again, access is restricted because of the snow and ice…



…and it is cold – Two Medicine Lake is frozen…



I head off towards Great Falls, where I plan to spend the night. As I head South East away from the park, the landscape changes to low undulating, grass covered hills, which remind me, for some reason, of the Outer Hebrides.



Or the Falklands (*shudder*).

I check into the Hampton Inn at Great Falls and warm up…

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:49 PM   #69
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18th & 19th April

Since the Hampton Inn (sounds like a Carry On title :P) was exceptional value, very comfortable and had High Speed Internet access, I decide to take a couple of days off

I ride down to Helena and pick up some mail from Laura Paxton, the long suffering sister of James Weg, an Adventure Rider from South Carolina.

It's like my birthday - BMW Navigator II, a MiGSel 'speedo'GPS mount (thanks Marion ), Wrist Rest cruise control, my newly repaired 'Ultimate' earplugs, which Judge has got fixed for me (cheers Andy ), RAM mount (the wrong one :P), some business cards (dirt cheap on line & a nice way to leave my Email & Journal address) and my Canon S45 digital camera, back as good as new from Canon USA.
After thanking Laura (I'm coming back this way on Tuesday, to pick up Judge's Airhawk seat pad), I ride the very pretty 85 miles back to the hotel, dodging rainstorms.

My hotel is just down the road from the local Air National Guard (ANG) unit. ANGs are like a 'Territorial' Air Force - manned by locals who defend their state, or, more commonly these days, get deployed abroad. They have an impressive array of 'Gate Guards'



and, mounted on a revolving pylon, an F86 Sabre...



Unlike regular air forces, apparently pilots aren't required to turn up for duty at ANG units - well, not if they've got rich fathers, anyway :...

Enough aeroplanes - I return to the hotel and spend a couple of hours fitting the MiGSel mount and Wrist Rest. As I'm doing this, I'm visited by Kurt Baltrusch, riding a 1981 R80 G/S. He's seen me turning into the car park of the hotel and has come over to find out what this Brit is doing here... We have a chat as I fit the bits (he helps me re-attach the nuts to the back of the speedo, having smaller hands than my shovels :P). He has to go, and leaves me his card - he is the first recipient of my new business cards...

I spend the evening getting used to using the Navigator II.

This morning, I take the bike to bits - no pics, sorry...

Seats, side panels, tank, underscreen all come off to allow me to replace the power wire for the SPIII with that for the Navigator II. In all, the job takes about two hours and, amazingly, everything works as advertised first time :eek: :P

I then package up my camera, the GPS and its mounts and send them off to Houston, the first stage of a journey which will, eventually, get them to my mate Paul, back in Norfolk, who has bought the GPS and will (probably) sell the camera for me on EBay...

I get a text message from my Estate Agent - my tenants moved into my house today - which is another load off my mind (the agreement I have with my Estate Agent means I'm now guaranteed rent for 12 months ) - the extra money will ease the pressure a little...

South tomorrow, to pick up mail from Laura in Helena, then towards Yellowstone...
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:50 PM   #70
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20th April

A fine morning and - nice though the Great Falls Hampton Inn is – it’s time to go. I packed the bike, set the new GPS up and rode down US15 towards Helena. For a divided highway, it is a beautiful road to ride, as it winds its way through the Big Belt mountains. After a quick photo-stop at a lookout point…



…I leave US15 and ride down a road which follows the Missouri River – probably the original highway before US15 was built. The road is great, but deep into the ‘do I ride fast, or look at the view’ territory…



This bridge is built on a slope – I can’t remember seeing an ‘uphill’ bridge before :



Some interesting architecture :eek.



Too soon, I rejoin US15 and then arrive back at Laura Paxton’s house to pick up Judge’s Airhawk seat pad. I re-wrap it & post it to him from the local PostNet office, before joining the 287 South East towards Bozeman, where I intend to stop for the day.

Montana is called ‘Big Sky Country’ and it’s a good description – the vast flat bottomed valleys, surrounded by fantastic mountains in clear air gives you the impression that the sky is bigger – trouble is, the Big Sky is full of Big Clouds – it rains hard most of the way to Bozeman. I stop at another Hampton Inn, settle in for the day – and dry out :P



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:51 PM   #71
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21st April

I pack the bike and am on the road for 0945, heading East along the I90 towards Livingston. I turn off and join US89, heading South towards Yellowstone National Park…



…the mountains of the Absaroka range line the road to my left…



US89 winds its way along the Yellowstone River…



Past the Devil’s Slide…



This picture sums up Montana to me – soft rolling hills in the foreground, with a velvet like covering of prairie grasses, in sharp contrast to the snow capped mountains in the background…



Eventually I come to the entrance to the park itself. It’s still early in the season and the Ranger on duty cautions me to beware of icy patches on the roads. Many of the roads within the Park are shut, due to bad weather, but I start off heading South towards Old Faithful, a famous old geyser…;)



The scenery is great - I have to keep stopping & taking pictures…



I get to Mammoth, where there are some hot springs.



Geo-thermal venting takes place here, causing a strong smell of sulphur. The water, when it first reaches daylight, is very hot. By the time it has run over some rock, it cools considerably, but all over the Park, geo-thermal vents produce clouds of steam, as if there were some great subterranean factory working here…



Further South, I pass by Bunsen Peak (8564ft) and then ride past the frozen waterfall…



…before the spectacular view, across Gardner’s Hole, comes into view…



Yellowstone teems with wildlife. I come upon the first Buffalo I’ve seen. (I realise these are actually North American Bison, but ‘Bison Bill’ wouldn’t sound right, would it? Sounds like something you’d be presented with by an Australian plumber…).



There are large herds of these animals throughout Yellowstone (where hunting and firearms are banned ).
The story of the North American Bison is quite a remarkable one. In the 16th Century, there are estimated to have been 600 million bison roaming the plains of North America. By the end of the 19th Century, there were less than 450 animals left. The wholesale slaughter of the buffalo – a resource on which the Plains Indians were almost wholly reliant, was a major factor in the defeat and subjugation of native Americans. The recovery of the bison is remarkable, though they’ll never regain their former numbers…



The speed limit in the Park is 45mph – and there’s a good reason for it – as I found out rounding a right hand bend…



…to be confronted by a female Elk, apparently using a hands-free mobile ‘phone . She wanders off into the undergrowth, completely unconcerned. I pass Gibbon Falls…



…before coming across more Elk…



…which are now moving in herds, completely ignoring traffic…



…as are Bison.

I eventually arrive at Old Faithful, which, true to it’s name, performs right on time…



It didn’t make a lot of noise, which was a surprise. It just bubbled a lot and then sent out a huge (at least 75 ft) jet of super-heated steam & water – very impressive…

All rubbish bins in the Park look a little unusual. It’s because…



…they’re bear-proof – apparently Bruin can’t deal with sprung hinges :P.

I start heading back up towards Mammoth Hot Springs. It’s my intention to ride through the Park to the North East exit and get to Cooke City to stop for the night. The weather is intermittently showery and, at this altitude, that means snow…



I come across a male Elk on the ride back up to Mammoth – as well as a pair of Coyotes, eating carrion at the side of the road…



The more I look at these creatures, the more I become convinced that I saw a fox in Big Bend, not a coyote…

I continue riding up to Mammoth, through some pretty unpleasant falling snow – I’m really glad of my heated jacket & gloves. I turn right at Mammoth, towards the Eastern entrance. There have been fires here in the past couple of years and, unlike other parts of the park, where the trees are recovering, the damage here is only too evident…



…and it’s snowing again :P. It clears eventually and I press on through the Lamar Valley…



…past Barronette Peak (10,404ft)…



…and the Thunderer (10,554ft)



…before arriving in Cooke City and a room (& hot shower!) in the Alpine Motel…



I find out that the onward road, the US212, otherwise known as the Beartooth Highway, is open – which is a bonus, as I thought I was going to have to retrace my steps tomorrow – further South & East tomorrow morning then!



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:52 PM   #72
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Beartooth Pass, Chief Joseph and an unexpected Gobble...

22nd April

After a great night’s sleep, I get up to a clear crisp and cold day…



…you just know how cold that seat’s going to be, don’t you? :P I ride carefully out of Cooke City, through clear roads, with snow banked 4-5ft high either side, before descending from the 8000ft Colter Pass, heading towards Cody…



The road is called the Beartooth Scenic Byway, named after the Beartooth mountain range, just to the North. I know the Beartooth Pass, which is on my planned route, is closed, and not scheduled to reopen until May. When I reach the junction with the 296, which heads down towards Cody, the signs confirm my expectations…



I decide to ride the 17 miles, then return and continue towards Cody on the 296, also known as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The road climbs steeply, with some spectacular views to the South…



Before long (and before 17 miles), the road, which has often had patches of snow on the surface, is completely blocked by snow…



…as well as frozen slicks of ice, from refrozen melt water. I decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and return to the junction. A scenic pull out shows a great view of Clark Fork…



The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is a great road.



I notice a flash of colour in the woods to my left and turn the bike round. I’m challenged by an indignant wild turkey (wild? He’s livid :P).



He fluffs, gobbles and postures at me until I restart the engine and turn the bike round again. It’s probably the only gobble I’ll get from a redheaded bird this whole trip…

Regrettably, the weather is now getting to be far from good, with squally snow showers blowing in from the North East. As I approach the high bridge over the Clarks Fork River Canyon…



…I notice that a squall is covering the exact area I’m headed for. This road was only re-opened 2 days ago (in fact, the Park Rangers at Yellowstone thought it was still closed) – so I need to get over the next range of hills (via Dead Indian Pass, 8048ft) now – in case the snow starts settling. The road is a series of sweeping switchbacks and, in good weather, would surely attract bikers from miles around…



…today, however, it’s just me. The snow is getting heavier as I take the picture from the top of the pass – you can just make out the road, but on a clear day the view would be spectacular…

I descend the other side of the pass into completely different scenery…



...with the re-appearance of the red sandstone I last saw in Utah…



…however, my old friend the snow squall has not given up looking for me :P – time to go…

I join the US120 heading South East, and the road surface improves – I make good time. I refuel in Cody and, finding nothing of interest to delay me there (it’s the home of rodeo, apparently : ), head south towards Thermopolis, where I intend to stop for the night.

I stop for lunch in Meeteese, where I met Everard Jones and his wife Joan, a retired couple who have a daughter who’s a doctor in the army and is due to leave for Iraq shortly. We talk for a while – they’re good people, like so many I’ve met on this trip. Much as I enjoy the scenery and the riding, the people I meet are the high points of any day’s travelling…

I arrive in Thermopolis, which sounds like it should be populated by super-heroes and villains – but turns out to be the biggest mineral hot springs in the world. In case you arrived at the town unaware of this, there’s a reminder…



I check into the Plaza Hotel, which is in the throes of changing from a ‘Quality Inns & Suites’ to a ‘Best Western’. As a result of this, I ‘m offered a suite for the room price – result . I celebrate by having Alaskan King Crab for dinner :eyebrow…

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:54 PM   #73
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23rd April

I’m on the road for 0930 on a beautiful clear blue morning – a change after the last few days of squalls. I’m heading south towards Riverton, the end of the planned route that Arch and I plotted in Katy – it seems an age ago.
Almost immediately I enter the Wind River Canyon. The road runs down the eastern wall and the railway down the west…



By an odd optical illusion, it seems like the river is running uphill :P. I think it’s something to do with the way the rock strata are angled down on the sides of the gorge - the river's flowing towards you in the picture above :...



It’s a beautiful morning, although still not warm.



Visibility is excellent.



I soon reach Riverton – a nondescript little town – and continue towards eastern Wyoming. I join the US136 – Gas Hills Road. At first, the road is straight and pretty boring – the landscape similar to that of New Mexico…



Soon, though, Betty tells me to turn left at a T junction – the road isn’t surfaced. What the hell…:P



It becomes apparent that the dirt road goes for some way – it’s 15 miles to the next turn…



Eventually, after a few slides but, happily, no drops – I come to asphalt again…



…at the junction with the invitingly named Poison Spider Road :eek …



Breathing a sigh of relief, I start to make a little faster progress – my respite is short-lived, however, and in 3 miles I’m back on dirt :P.

I eventually get back onto asphalt after another 12 miles, fill up with petrol (the light had been on for the last 10 miles :eek: ) and make my way to Caspar, where I check in to the Quality Inn …



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:56 PM   #74
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Close Encounters in Wyoming...

24th April

I’m on the road at 1020, heading north up the I25 for 50 miles or so, before heading east towards Devil’s Tower, my destination for the day. After leaving the Interstate, the view starts getting more interesting, but there is a strong, gusty wind from the north, which makes the ride uncomfortable…



I stop for lunch at the town of Wright, a coalmining town. It’s the home to the Black Thunder Mining Corp, the largest open-cast coal mine in North America…



…which is difficult to see from the road. What is easier to see is the amount of coal being shipped out. These two trains…



were both moving at walking pace, whilst their trucks were filled, in turn, from the massive hoppers at the railhead. I checked the odometer – each train was1.4 miles long… :eek:
I press on north and east towards Devil’s Tower, eventually arriving at about 1530 – or maybe 1630 – I may have gone through a time zone…:P



Devil’s Tower was constructed by Stephen Spielberg’s production team for the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. Work commenced in 1976 and was complete by 1977 – the production costs exceeded $20 million, making the film the highest ever budget at the time. The main tower, which Spielberg apparently designed himself, was criticised by film buffs as being ‘too much like an upended bucket’. It was originally made entirely from earth-filled glass fibre, but since cracks appeared in 1984, it has been sheathed in reinforced concrete. It rests on a base of bulldozed landfill. The film was such a success that the then president, Ronald Reagan, asked to see the ‘National Monument’ where it was set. Rather than cause embarrassment to the administration, a ‘cover story’ was constructed to make it appear that the tower was a natural landmark. The visit was a success and the story was adopted by the Governor of Wyoming, as the state has few natural monuments. The ‘landmark’ now appears on the Wyoming licence plate…



Actually, it’s a natural ‘plug’ of igneous rock, exposed by the erosion of sedimentary rocks which surrounded it. It was designated the USA’s first National Monument by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906…



On the approach road is a ‘town’ of prairie dogs. There are dozens of them, and they seem totally at ease with humans, although there are signs everywhere warning you not to feed them. They stay very alert, though and are always within easy bolting distance of their burrows…



I get back on the bike and set course towards Mount Rushmore. It’s too late to visit this afternoon, so I stop at the town of Newcastle and check into the Fountain Motel.



By the way – this is the Ford Thunderbird – I really like it…:)

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:58 PM   #75
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25th April

Woke at 0845! Best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks!

Unfortunately, as I pack the bike, I notice a large storm cloud in the direction I’m headed…:( Never mind – I set off, fully prepared for rain… Thankfully, apart from a short flurry of snow, I manage to dodge all bad weather and, after a stop for a superb breakfast in the Wrangler Café in Custer, arrive in Mount Rushmore National Monument by midday…



The Black Hills of South Dakota are very beautiful, and I slowly ride down towards the visitors centre. The place is obviously designed to deal with vast numbers of visitors and parking is carefully controlled. There is a $8 charge for parking and entrance, whether you are solo on a bike or driving a fully laden SUV... This lack of differentiation between bikes and cars is something I’ve noticed a lot in the USA – tolls on Turnpikes, for instance, are charged ‘per axle’, so a bike and a light truck will pay the same – ah, well…



The carving, when I get to see it, is a surprise. For some reason, I’d pictured the sculpture as being at the top of a low hill, with a flat plain in front of it – in fact it’s in the middle of the hills and the visitor centre is built into the side of the hill facing it.



There is an enormous amphitheatre, stage and extensive lighting – all unused today…



I go and watch a very interesting 20 minute film, mostly contemporary newsreel footage, about the carving and the man who did it, Gutzon Borglum…



…the narrative is a little ‘gung ho’ and full of terms like ‘Shrine of Democracy’, ‘Freedom – America’s Lasting Legacy’, but the film is still interesting.

The construction (if that’s the right word) took 14 years, between 1927 and 1941. 90% of the rock was removed using dynamite and Borglum himself died 6 months before the monument was completed, leaving his son to finish off the work…

Another thing that struck me about the sculpture is its size… It’s smaller than I expected. It’s not that it’s not big, you understand, but, perhaps because you never see it with anything to compare by way of scale, I expected it to be much bigger…



I then returned to the souvenir shop, via the corridor of stone columns, each displaying 4 state flags…



…to find it’s the worst collection of money grabbing tat I’ve yet seen in the USA (and remember – I’ve been to Graceland:P)…
What do you want, to celebrate the ‘Shrine of Democracy’?



Frisbee?



Beer can holder?



Hat with electric flashing lights :eek:



Placemats?



Christmas Decorations

Good Grief : - time to leave…



I’m at a bit of a loose end now – I decide to head off to Sturgis, as it’s not far. Sturgis is home to a large bike rally in August each year – a bit like Daytona Bike Week.



Daytona has sunshine & the sea – Sturgis has… well – wind and dust, actually… It’s a hole :P. I refuel and set course for Gillette, where I intend to spend the night. The route leaves me through Deadwood which, spookily enough, is nothing like the HBO TV series…



…in fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think it was a crap town full of ‘casinos’ stuffed with one-armed bandits…

I arrive in Gillette and check in to the Holiday Inn.

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