Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mile 6,883: Wonder How Far It Is to Key West?

I sat at a metal picnic table in Greybull, Wyoming waiting for my burger at an old fashioned A&W drive-in. No fancy intercoms here. You walk up to the sliding screen at the counter where a grown man asks what you want. I told him a small burger, onion rings, and the biggest cup of ice water money could buy.

Earlier that morning I left Estes Park, Colorado. It was 48 degrees, so I bundled up in everything with long sleeves I had with me, only to shed layers as I booked it up I-25 into Wyoming.

Once I made my way up the entrance ramp onto I-25, a group of 12 motorcycles flew before my eyes at what appeared to be breakneck speed. But since the speed limits vary between 75 and 80, I caught up to them sooner than I thought.

This will be the ride to Sturgis. Fast. Lots of bikes. Not really, come to find out. But that's what I pictured.

Going through traffic was easier for a while with the group of bikes. Much respect to the Castle Pines Motorcycle Club for inviting me to ride with them for a while.

Once we went our separate ways, it took hours to get to Casper, Wyoming on the highway. Wyoming is a big state with no shortage of wide-open spaces. This would turn out to be an all-day ride, but it had a few surprises that left me exhilarated and exhausted.

The 100 miles west from Casper to Shoshoni was an ongoing collection of grassy hills and open sky. Big, open sky. You could see rain at times that had to have been 20-30 miles away. A lone cloud with distinct lines where the rain started and finished. Just like a child's drawing. I kept thinking, "Why hasn't one of those clouds found me? They always do."

Just wait.

When I arrived in Shoshoni, I stopped for gas and a bottle of water, what would become a routine combination for the remainder of my trip. I had no idea when I headed north from Shoshoni what I was about to see.

A canyon runs for about ten miles, but it was some of the coolest riding I have ever done. (I will say that a lot in articles to come, by the way.) This canyon that popped up out of nowhere is cut by a fast-running river. And alongside the river is a set of railroad tracks. Just a stunning view.

But right before I made it to the end of the canyon, the sky in front of me transitioned from a powder blue sprinkled with clouds into a solid shade of gunmetal gray.

I have learned my lesson. Stop in a pulloff, put on your rain gear. Done. Get back on, and ride through Thermopolis, Wyoming in a pouring summer shower. Hot rain that makes you sweat and shiver. And then when it stops, you ride back into the sunshine where the world's biggest sauna steams you like overcooked rice.

Stop again. Peel the rainsuit. Get back on. Ride up to Greybull.

Check in to the hotel-cabins. Walk to the grocery store for some Fig Newtons. Walk to the A&W, which brings us full circle to this particular story.

Returning home last night after an epic 4000+ mile journey over two weeks, I could still feel my body moving as my head hit the pillow. Over 1,600 of those miles got covered over my three-day leg all the way across South Dakota, down the length of Iowa and Missouri, across Route 66 through Oklahoma, and then all the way down Texas. Plenty more to write about, but this is enough for the moment. Much more to come.

I woke up this morning still a little buzzed from all that time on the road. But I will admit that one of the first things I thought when I finished making coffee was, "I wonder how far it is to Key West?"

No comments:

Post a Comment