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Thursday, July 21, 2011

On to the Cowboy Trail

 Leaving Moorcroft we paid a quick visit to a familiar location and I learned that Jan had never seen the movie.
 An extremely large camper passed by on the way to Sturgis, ND. Jan commented, "I would like to have a camper like that because I would have a king size bed, a bathroom and a walk-in closet."
 FWC at Sturgis, SD three weeks before the rally. Back in 1979 I drove over from Gillette to visit the rally. It seemed really crowded and rowdy back then. I don't really need to see it now.
 Sturgis Main Street. It will look much different the first full weekend in August.
Noticed this sign while leaving town.
 Headed for Nebraska through SW South Dakota. The sign was a discouragement for dry camping in the area.
 Entering Badlands NP. We drove south from here across the Pine Ridge Reservation and on to Nebraska.
 We disturbed this vulture from his aromatic meal of rotten road kill.
 Our site at Steer Camp in the Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest. It is a man-made forest of pines and doesn't seem to get many visitors. The register showed only six campers in two weeks.
  We drove on to Valentine, NE.
 Yep, the temperature reads 154º. The reporters should be arriving soon. The highest recorded temperature on Earth was 139º in Libya, 1922. The actual temperature in Valentine was 104º.
The beginning of the Cowboy Trail - the country’s longest rail-to-trail conversion. It follows the old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad right-of-way.
 The temperatures were 20 degrees cooler the week before but this is the week that I have to ride.
 I start my ride of the Cowboy Trail. Jan will drive ahead to our motel and monitor the ham radio.
About three miles east of Valentine is a quarter-mile long trestle crossing the Niobrara River.
On the trestle 140 feet above the river.
 These horses gave me a curious look as I rode by on the old RR grade. They were probably wondering why someone would be riding a bike in 100º heat.
Spotted what I think was a Western Ornate turtle (Terrapene ornata ornata) crossing the trail east of Valentine.
Jan, the FWC and an air conditioned Tacoma waiting ahead at a parking lot off of US 20.
After 17 miles I had had enough. I have ridden in 100 plus heat before in CA but the humidity did me in. The next day I gave it another go, thinking that it would be better the second day. It wasn't. It was worse. I had to stop every two or three miles and sit in total shade and hydrate. After 16 miles sweat was dripping off of my eyebrows and my clothes were soaked.  I radioed Jan and she drove back to pick me up. 
Notes on the Cowboy Trail:
Interesting when it follows the old RR grade away from the highway.
Boring when riding next to highway.
Very easy grades.
Crossing old trestles was fun.
Sometimes the trail is used as a road and while driving on washboard is annoying it is really a pain when on a bike.
On a few sections there were ruts from ATV's.
Riding through the small towns along the trail was refreshing in many ways. (I spent 1/2 hour at a Subway in Atkinson cooling down and eating lunch.)
The rider gets a different view of farms and fields.
Wildlife doesn't spook very quickly. (A couple of deer kept browsing until I was ten feet from them.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

East to Gillette

We departed Odgen, UT with no plan other than to drive to Flaming Gorge spending as little time on the I-80 as possible.
Photo of our retreat from Mount McKinnon back to Utah Route 39. Seemed like an easy half mile drive to the summit but once again snow drifts blocked our way.
Crossing under I-80 at a ranch exit in Wyoming.
Near Dowd's Hole, Utah.
Dusk darkens the clouds over Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
Dowd Mountain Overlook camp. Flaming Gorge NRA is a very beautiful area.
Cart Creek Bridge just before Flaming Gorge Dam. Jan and I both thought it odd that here we were visiting a huge reservoir filled with Green River water.  Several years ago we spent six days on a canoe trip paddling the Green River to its confluence with the Colorado.
Cart Creek Bridge and a FWC. We visited the Flaming Gorge Dam and then drove north to Wyoming.
In Wyoming looking south into Utah.
Spotted this buck pronghorn north of Rawlings. He was the first of many.
Visited Independence Rock because I had read about it many times and wanted to see the inscriptions carved by emigrants on the Oregon/California Trail.
The moon rises over Wyoming as we drive to our next camp.
Our Green Mountain camp. Five dollars a night, tables, toilets and water - great campground.
Looking back at our route leaving the Green Mountains.
Driving north to Lander when we stopped at the modern ghost town of Jeffrey City.
The stop signs are faded and grass is growing in the streets but 30 years ago 4,000 people lived in Jeffrey City.
Men's barracks.
Close up.
Crossing Boysen Dam.
Downstream of the Boysen Dam. While visiting the dam I wondered how the RR dealt with the problem of the dam. Found the answer here.
Boysen Dam spillway and FWC.
Boysen Dam spillway and Jan.
It was difficult to take this photo because of the mist flying up from the roaring water in the spillway.
We drove north through the beautiful Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis, WY. Jan bravely walked 30 feet out on the suspension bridge, Remember: She doesn't like bridges.
The hot springs in Thermopolis are an awesome place to visit.
Spotted this buck north of Thermopolis.
The moon rises as we drive east from Ten Sleep.
We camped near the top of old US 16 Ten Sleep Canyon road in the Big Horn Mountains.
The morning sun lights up the cliffs to the north of our camp.
Mr. Johnson entering Johnson County. Back in the 70's when I lived in Wyoming this always seemed worth a laugh to my friends.
Powder River Pass, Big Horn Mountains.
FWC and the Big Horn Mountains. We drove to Buffalo, WY where we both enjoyed a buffalo burger before continuing on to Gillette.
I worked at the Belle Ayr Mine back in the 70's.
When driving back to the main road we passed vehicles driven by gray bearded men going to work. Jan commented that I probably worked with a few of them more than 30 years ago. We drove on to Moorcroft and a motel.