Sunday, July 03, 2005

2005 Day 15

Start: Gillette WY (35916)
End: Gardiner MT (36345)
Miles: 429

Day 15 - Gillette WY to Gardiner MTI wake, dress, and get ready to hit the road. The young man at the hotel desk tells me the winds were gusting up to 60 mph last night. "Well, yeah," he allows when I ask him, "it's always windy here, but that was pretty bad yesterday." I am glad that I stopped when I did.

It's a nice morning today, however, and I'm soon rolling into Buffalo and looking for a gas station. Brr! It's actually cold! This is the first time I have been chilly on this entire trip, LOL, up 'til today it's been sweltering heat and humidity. Here, the air is bright clean and crisp, and I am only at the foothills of serious mountains, and the Tetons are ahead of me today. I break out the chaps (I had actually started to wonder if I was silly for bringing them on this trip, but at last I have a chance to don 'em) and get myself a nice big cup of coffee. Ahh, that's so much better. I study the map, examining two roads that look equally good on paper, and finally give up trying to divine the better route and ask the lady at Chevron. Should I take 14 or 16? Swing north, or south? Which is better? She tells me 14 is closed, which makes me chuckle. Well, that makes the decision pretty easy.

Leaving I-90, I travel west on a good highway through lovely, lonely country. Hwy 16 climbs rapidly and it gets colder fast. Having lost my heavy gloves on the first day of the trip, I make do as best I can ... I put on a pair of latex gloves under my lightweight leather gauntlets, which actually helps make the chill a bit less biting. Climbing. More climbing. Summer flowers dot mountain meadows around me, looking very scenic and alpine. Finally, a pullout and a sign announce I have reached Powder River Pass, at an elevation of 9665 feet. Brrr! No wonder I am freezing! The road is equally scenic on the descent to the town of Ten Sleep, and I am happy to start warming up again.

I gas again in Greybull, and get in a gas-pump chat with a couple riding two-up. She asks me, "Are you going to the rodeo?" Me: "Ummm, what rodeo?" Heh, I can be so clueless. Apparently I am riding straight toward the greatest rodeo in the U.S. of A., the Cody Stampede Rodeo. It is THE happening in Wyoming and I'm gonna pass right through town! This is so cool. I am reminded again why I love to travel this way, encountering happy unplanned joys along the road. The Rodeo is roaring for the 4th of July holiday long weekend; in fact, the big parade will be held today on the 3rd, in order to fall on Sunday.

Glorious indeed is Cody, "The Rodeo Capital of the World." The parade has just ended an hour or two previously, so the main street is open to traffic again but the sidewalks are still busy with families strolling along. Buildings are strewn with bunting; red, white, blue everywhere the eye turns. It's the sweet part of Americana & it's making me smile. The big rodeo arena is on my right as I pass through the west end of town. People are starting to gather and they'll be starting up in a while, looks like. I am glad I came through here, especially today. Sometimes I just get lucky like that.

Now, after Cody, I am treated to the most magnificent road I may have ever seen. Breathtakingly beautiful mountains and gorges surround me on my way through the Shoshone Nation Forest up to the East Entrance of Yellowstone. Oh, wonderful, wonderful! After the entrance, it's a perfectly wretched five miles to Lake Elenor, a treacherous mess of gravel, mud and single lane. How quickly conditions can change, LOL. They are repairing the roadway here and there is no way around, so I can do nothing but grit my teeth and ride it out. The cars that are stuck behind me (I must travel more slowly than they can in these conditions) can just kiss my big white happy butt. I breathe a sigh of relief when I reach the end of the construction zone, and pull off for a little while to take in the scenery. Welcome to Yellowstone, our first national park.

... almost ...
... there it goes!!
Old Faithful, July 2005
I stop at the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center, pretty much in the dead center of the park. I browse the visitor center, buy some postcards, and have my photo taken with some Buddhist monks in the parking lot. Their interpreter shyly asks if one of the monks can stand next to me while he snaps the picture, and I readily agree ... but almost commit a great faux pas when I step too close and make as if to put my arm around him. He shies away and even though he has no English, makes it perfectly clear that it's, ummm, not cool. I apologize, and we take the photo standing about three feet apart. Then, I bow to him and apologize again, and he bows and smiles, and demonstrates that he does have one word of English after all, "OK." I'm not entirely sure what happened there (I think maybe they are not allowed to touch women?) but it seemed to turn out all right in the end.

I ride the park, swinging south around the lake, and stop at Old Faithful. The next eruption won't be for forty minutes or so, but the crowd is slowly trickling in to wait for it. It's easy to spot the women heading to the WOW event in Boise. There are loads of women motorcyclists in the crowd. I hang with a group from Sacramento, chatting and making friends. Old Faithful blows. We all cheer.

An Amazon visits Old FaithfulI head north thru the park, just meandering. The critters are enormous! Buffalo, deer, a bear across the river ... any animal sighting causes a huge traffic tie-up, especially if they are close to the road. Good heavens, I grow to hate these animal-jams. The cagers drive like idiots (even worse than usual.) I eventually run out of time, and I haven't even stopped at the hot-water springs and geysers, and it's getting late. Dusk around here is pretty nerve-wracking, and I am even more watchful than usual as I ride out via the North Entrance. Dusk = Critter Time, and there are plenty of them here and they're likely to be on the road. I drop down into the town of Gardiner and get a room for the night so I can ride the park again tomorrow, just too much to see in one day.

They SERIOUSLY roll up the sidewalks after 8:00 pm in Gardiner MT. By the time I went looking for food, the only place open was the bar, and I content myself with noshies from the gas station. Hmm.

Next: Day Sixteen

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