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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.)

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