July 10, 2005 – Sunday – Day 15

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 183 – Total Miles: 3843 – Daily Average: 256.2
11:30AM-6PM – 5.5 hours
Buffalo, WY to Cody,WY
(-stayed at The Western 6-Gun Motel-) (WY – 17/48)

It was the longest sleep of the trip – not unexpected after yesterday’s night time ride. Arose at 8am and felt reasonably good. Spent the next couple of hours getting the journal notes in order and typing out a reasonably put together story of yesterday’s experiences. This motel was another place that advertised in-room high-speed internet, but it turned out to only work in the office.

We had brunch at Toca John’s. Also filled up on water and lemonade before heading out into the moderately warm day. Headed toward the gas station by the big highway but turned around when we saw gas there was $.12 more per gallon than at the in-town station. And that turned the whole day around because we got different directions there from a local woman who knew a beautiful route that would also cut 40 miles off the ride!

So after leaving Buffalo we eventually took Route 16 through the Big Horn Mountains. We began rolling over them at 1pm sharp. From this point on and for the rest of the day, we enjoyed mountain panoramas beyond description and defying grandeur.

On the downside of the tall range, there was another scenic byway. This one was jaw-dropping and neck-craningly gorgeous. This one made the Spearfish Scenic Byway mountains still glorious but like thimbles in comparison! We had great swooping road swings that presented vistas that reached as far as vision would go – all presenting colorful mountain and sky scenery.

For me it was mostly tough, careful riding in the mountains. Even at stops the slant of the roadway made it uncomfortable for me to keep control of the bike. I admired the riders who could zip around the sharp curves with seemingly little thought. I needed to tentatively approach them. We were getting so high there in elevation that we rode abreast crests that had snow patches on them! It is horse and cattle country here for sure. Passed one barn with the name proudly on it, “Horse Hotel.”

At Ten Sleeps I saw a motorcycle come into the place where we were getting gas and the cycle had a trailer with a dog in it! I asked if I could take a photo and was told “sure,” but that I should wait for the next one. I didn’t know what he meant until a few minutes later when another Harley roared up with a trailer that had 3 dog heads coming out of the specially devised dog trailers!

Also struck up a conversation with Peggy. She and her husband drove in on black Harleys and wearing leathers with quite a number of Remember the Vietnam vets patches on them. We chatted quite a bit about routing and had pictures taken. The couple was from Casper and rode quite a bit. She was very proud of her bike and it’s components.

We set out toward our goal of Yellowstone again. We rode through several small mountain communities, some numbering in only the low hundreds. One town, Emblem, Karen noticed had a population of TEN! We passed Greybull and then headed toward Cody.

Along the way the cloudscape became just magnificent. At one point, covering more than a quarter of the sky, an enormous white open claw-shaped cloud beckoned us into its pincer. Then off to the right of the pincer, covering at least half the sky before us was a cloud of enormous dark depth that resembled a shelf almost. It was very grey and made me think of the rolling clouds that were formed over Devils Tower in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The “shelf” here reached almost to the horizon where it was still light grey, but with thunder bolts occasionally arcing down. It was such an amazing scene that I pulled the bike over to the side of the road for picture taking and video.

While we were there, cars passing maybe once every ten minutes, a bike with a trailer went by. A dark-haired woman in a tank top was riding with the guy. (Karen had talked with both of them back in Ten Sleeps.) She flashed us a huge smile and waved as she passed. I covered my tank bag just in case and suggested the opportunity was there for us to put any other rain gear on. But it was sunny ahead, so we elected not to do more.

About five minutes later, as we were approaching 100 miles since the last tank-up and actually hoping for a gas station soon, it began to get darker and darker and a gigantic splat hit the windshield, It was quickly followed by more splats and the air got noticeably very much colder. Then it got noticeably very much colder again. And then the rains REALLY began to cascade. So fast were the drops that it made seeing past the windshield almost impossible. Rain was waterfalling into my right boot!

And THEN the hail began falling – first, two or three minutes of smaller hailstones and then ping-pong ball sized hailstones bouncing off the road, pinging off the windshield, ponging off our helmets. Karen and I both wondered what that poor woman in the tank top in the passing cycle must be going through. The hail was hitting my ungloved hands on the handlebars so hard that it really hurt and the ice pellets were crashing into our legs with great force. My speed decreased in relationship to the lessening vision – both of which soon became almost zero. I pulled off to the side of the road best I could and we came to a dead halt. For a few minutes we just sat there as the hail continued pummeling us unabated. I wondered, “how long would it last?” I thought about how it had at least cleaned all the dead bugs off the windshield!

I could make out about 25 yards in front of us the man and woman who had passed us. He came over to me and said he had seen us on the side before, presumably putting on raingear, but that he was going to try and make it to the sun. We laughed. In about 10 minutes it began to lessen and then stop enough for us to begin traveling again. We saw other motorcyclists off to the side. In about ten more minutes the rain subsided and within another short space of time we were riding in bright sunlight.

We came into Cody only somewhat damp and tanked up at 107 miles. I’m fairly certain we could get 130 on a tankful, but always aim to get gas at 100 or so. Out here, where things are so far apart, I’ve been gassing up between 60 and 90 miles.

We casted about all the options and whether it would be better to stay here or move on to Yellowstone, but after checking out a few motels (with rates way too high into the $100+ range, we did settle on one for about $60, knowing that the rates in Yellowstone would be a lot higher.

The Six Gun Motel was run by a slim cowboy straight talkin’ guy, who moved here from Florida a number of years ago to cure his asthma, which was now gone. It had a guest laundry room, which was perfect, but it did not have a modern enough phone system to allow internet capability.

After checking into the room I headed out on the Shadow myself to find dinner. Went clear to the other side of town and to a Subway there, but they were out of bread! Then went to the Albertsons grocery next door and to my delight they had soy cheese – which I haven’t been able to find since leaving home. Got all the fixin’s for a cheese hoagie – and more stuff, too. On the ride back was a huge rainbow arching over part of Cody just past the Buffalo Bill museum, but on the other side of the road. It was thick and colorful and dynamic. I was sorry Karen was not there to enjoy it with me, but on our run, the rainbow was still colorful as ever.

I made the sandwiches while Karen showered and we ate them on the bench outside the room with a cool western breeze blowing upon us under cloud-strewn skies.

It was the start of our third week on the road. What sights we’ve seen! And what sights still to come!

Author: Joel Perlish

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