Update from Ten Sleep, WY

I slept very badly last night. The temperature dropped to about 40 degrees and I kept tossing and turning trying to get warm. My sub-zero rated Marmot sleeping bag must have been taking the night off. I think I kept drifting in and out of that semi-sleeping, semi-awake state and finally fell asleep after a few hours. There went my plans of waking up early and seeing Devil’s Tower in the cool morning hours. It kinda sucked because next to Lake Champlain, this was by far the nicest campground I have slept in. It would have been nice to have gotten there early in the evening and enjoyed the place thoroughly. Ah well, if you ever come out this way, make sure to check out Horsethief Campground and get a spot in the big green field.

I did manage to wake up a little after 8AM but by the time I packed up my stuff and headed into town for breakfast, it was almost 9:30Am. This is what I really dislike about camping. It’s nice when you have all the time in the world to relax and enjoy the camping experience, but it is really aggravating when you just want to be on the go. Setting up and breaking down camp, including walking over to the washrooms and back takes so annoyingly long as compared to just a few minutes if I were in a motel room. I try to keep a balance in the interest of saving money, but there are times when camping is just a lot of work that I don’t want to do at the end of a long day of riding.

I rode out to Hill Town to get breakfast. This is yet another town that reminded me of the Gold Rush towns out in Alaska. I stopped at a cafe that offered a breakfast buffet and loaded up on eggs and sausages and fruit. Fresh fruit! All the strawberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew I could eat. I’ve eaten very badly all the time that I’ve been out on the road with barely any fresh vegetables and fruit.

By the time I was out on the road on Hwy 16, it was past 10AM. I aimed towards Devil’s Tower, which oddly enough didn’t show up on my GPS (same as Crazy Horse the previous day), so I had to rely on good, old-fashioned maps. I wonder how I ever functioned before I got my GPS.

The roads getting out to Devil’s Tower were so brilliant. I got stuck in some traffic at the really winding, twisty parts, but even so, it was a heck of a ride. Maybe I’ll get around to getting rid of some of those chicken strips before it comes time to change my tires.

This time I made myself stop a few times to take pictures. I love how the landscape changes so much as you move across the country. This time it was tiny little mountain cabins nestled up high amidst tall green trees speckled with red rocks. I don’t know how the rocks get that dark red hue, but it’s unlike any I have seen thus far. Strewn throughout the countryside were herds of grazing buffalo and occassional cows and horses.

I saw Devil’s Tower from a distance about 10 miles away and even in the bright morning sunshine, there seemed something a little unnatural eerie about it. No wonder it was shrouded in myths and legends.

Of course, all traces of eerieness vanished as I neared the tower and came upon a slew of tourists inching their way to it. To make things better, the speed limit in the last 3 miles was 25mph in the now 90+
degree heat. I all about screamed with frustration. Once there, I called Jake to see if he was around, assuming that he had gotten there long before me. I hit his voicemail though. It turned out later that he had slept pretty badly too and hadn’t set out that way at all, heading north to Sturgis instead.

I took a few pictures of the tower before escaping from the onslaught of people surrounding me. This is the one thing I loathe about travel. On the one hand, it makes sense to stop and look at amazing national monuments while I am in the area. On the other hand, I wonder if the tradeoff of dealing with the crowds and the terrible traffic is worth it.

By this time, I had a bad headache from the overpowering heat and not having eaten. I stopped at a local KOA restaurant which really needed more servers to deal with the crowds. Normally I would have gone crazy at the poor service, but instead I used the time to charge my Cardo Scala which had died on me, and took advantage of their free wireless to go online for a bit. My meal was an unremarkable chicken sandwich.

Having downed lunch, I retired to the bathroom with a cup of ice water and did the dousing my tshirt trick again. No matter how often I do this, I still don’t fail to scream as the ice water makes contact with my skin. And I still feel relieved that I did it after I emerge into the heat and don’t feel myself spontaneously melt.

To give you an idea of how hot it was, my shirt dried out completely after just 20 miles of riding. This meant that I had to stop more  often to rinse and repeat, a necessity that was not entirely unwelcome because I also had to keep cleaning my visor and taking off my helmet, this latter being because the helmet speakers I had installed keep grinding into my ears making them unbearably sore and painful. Every day I swear that I was going to take out the cheek pads and rip slashes in them to make them thinner, and every night I forget. It’s the one single thing that is really hindering my riding though, and I need to figure something out and fix it. I stopped at the towns of Gillette and Buffalo, mostly riding on I-90. I hate to admit it, but I felt like it was already so late in the day  that I really just needed to keep going in a straight line. I had gotten a good amount of twisties in the morning after all. The landscape this time was very similar to the first half of the day in South Dakota the previous day – miles upon miles of empty arid desert. It was a struggle to keep going, especially after my music cut out on my for good and I made it to Buffalo by sheer willpower alone.

I pulled over at a gas station and refueled. By this time it was almost 6:30PM and I was super overheated and figured I would just stop there for the night. The motels I looked at and just the town alone looked so dismal though, that I hated the thought. A closer look at a map revealed that a national forest was just west of here, including a 65 mile long National Scenic Byway. I knew I needed to just stop and relax but I couldn’t bring myself to stop there. The thought of the coolness of a forest was too tempting and I couldn’t leave that for the next morning. I had the energy to keep going so I got back on Hwy 16 and headed into the Big Horn National Forest.

The ride was scenic with long, sweeping curves and I could keep going at a steady 70mph on a mostly deserted road. The light was a little  strange. The sun shone brightly overhead and the glare made me squint a lot. My sunglasses helped with the glare, but there were many sections that were shaded and completely dark. After a point, it came down to just keeping on going until the next town marked on the map – Ten Sleep. (I’m not entirely certain why they do.)

I made it to Ten Sleep within the hour and it turned out to be a tiny charming looking mountain town. The population was 405, although I think that might have been a slight exaggeration. I saw exactly one motel and one restaurant and beautiful red mountains in the distance. The motel did not have wireless internet, which made me pause, but the thought of going on to the next big town 26 miles away in boring terrain to stay at an impersonal Best Western didn’t sound very appealing. I gave in, got a room and walked to the Crazy Woman Cafe a couple of blocks down.

I did stop at a Pizza place a block before because their menu sounded really good and the music made it seem pretty lively. As I walked past the patio, every head – a few adorned with cowboy hats – turned to look at me. I wondered amusedly if I was the first non-white person that had walked onto the premises. I ended up not staying because they had stopped serving. As I left, I felt every head turn again and I tried hard not to giggle.

The Crazy Woman Cafe was deserted but the server was super nice. She made me a fresh pot of decaf coffee which I downed gratefully. The meal wasn’t much if taste and quality was your chief concern, but it was satisfying.

Now to return to the motel and sleep, sleep, sleep. My eyes are red and dry and I badly need a shower and rest. Tomorrow I head to Yellowstone. My GPS says that Seattle is only 780 miles away, which makes me optimistic. Of course, this is via I90, which I wouldn’t dream of taking, but even with detours and scenic routes, it shouldn’t be more than 1500 miles. As long as my rear tire is up to it, I should be in Seattle in good time.