Brent Allen, author of Motorcycles, Life, and… and The Elemental Motorcyclist and his wife, Julie, are on a road trip, two-up. They are heading to the AMA Superbike races in Elkhart Lake, WI, riding their Honda ST1300 from their home town of Nampa, ID (just southwest of Boise). They will be our guest bloggers while on the trip, and each will give their own impressions on their travels and give us a look into each of their own individual ways of looking at the same experience.
First, from Brent:
May 26/Rock Spring, WY to North Platte, NE/7:13MST to 17:30CST/510 miles to 1006 miles
Good day. Went like this:
And Crash looked at Stoobie (ST1300) and thought, “HOLY MOLY, look at all them bugs! How am I going to clean that up?”
And the Motorcycle Gods said, “Get a wash cloth and a hand towel from the dive motel’s bathroom. Wet the washcloth, put it on the bugs. Bugs are water soluble. Wait a moment and wipe the bugs off with the hand towel. Housekeeping won’t care. They didn’t care about the odd molds growing in the bathtub and they won’t care about this.”
And Crash said, “Cool.” The Motorcycle Gods said, “Hey there Bunkie, clean the head lights too.” And Crash, being lazy, said, “Later…”
Then it was later and the Motorcycle Gods said, “Cheyenne, Wyoming is far enough Crash” and tired of waiting for Crash they opened the skies and it rained. It rained like unto biblical apocalypse. Verily it rained so that Crash could not see the pavement it was so swamped. And the Motorcycle Gods looked and the bugs were still adhered to the front of Crash’s motorcycle and they said, “Mo’ rain is betta rain!” And it deluged like unto Russell Crowe as Noah.
Yet mightily did the bugs hang on. And Crash thought, “I should have listened this morning”.
And the Motorcycle Gods said, “Yes, you should have…but a little, no A LOT of hail will dislodge those pesky bugs.”
Then did all hail break loose. And Crash regretted his lazy ways but was thankful he and Mrs. Crash had put on their rain gear and that Crash had put the waterproof cover on the travel bag on the back of the bike.
Finally Stoobie was clean and the Motorcycle Gods said, “Let’s have some fun!” And the clouds parted and the sun came out. Crash, in his rain gear, began to steam, to stew, verily even unto poaching like a cheap egg or bad trout in a bad gastro pub.
Sensing his own growing ripeness Crash pulled over and like an oyster shucked himself out of his rain gear. Mrs. Crash, being wiser and having a much, much later sell by date, stayed in her rain gear. And Crash fixed the rain cover to the tail bag on the back of Stoobie and said, “We’re off”.
The Motorcycle Gods then elbowed each other in the ribs and said, “Check this out.” And a great and foreboding black cloud appeared in front of Crash and with every turn of the highway the great and abominable cloud moved to stay directly in front of Crash, Mrs. Crash and Stoobie.
“What the flipping flapjacks?” asked Crash and he stopped again and put his rain gear back on. And while putting the gear on he hopped on one foot and nearly fell over and even Mrs. Crash was entertained.
Back on the road Crash plunged into the rain under the black cloud and, sure enough, it hailed too.
When the rain stopped and the path cleared Crash asked Mrs. Crash, “Is the waterproof cover on the tailbag OK?” She checked and said, “Yes.” Then finding an exit Crash pulled over, Mrs. Crash unloaded and Crash dismounted and went to the tail bag and the cover was gone, gone, gone.
And Crash turned to Mrs. Crash and asked, “Did you take the cover off the tail bag?” and she said, “No, is it gone? It was there a minute ago!”
Then said Crash, “Oh come on, give me a break!” and the Motorcycle Gods laughed and laughed.
Yes, it was a weird day. And yes, I said “Check the cover” and then stopped maybe two miles later and POOF it was gone. Inexplicable. I’m hoping if someone was behind us it was spectacular, all Dorothy and Toto cool but somehow I doubt it.
We had a good ride, crossed the continental divide, sailed along on the great sea of grass that is the American Serengeti wondering where all the ding dang Pronghorns came from and worried that they might suddenly decide to commit mass suicide by springing over the five foot fence that runs along the highway in eastern Wyoming. We did lose the tail bag’s waterproof cover which gave me an excellent excuse to stop by Cabela’s world headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska (very cool, and where else do you hear a PA announcement like this: “We have a large St. Bernard running around the parking lot”. I eventually went to Wal-Mart and bought some 33 gallon garbage bags that worked just fine. Stoobie did end the day much, much cleaner than he started it thanks to rain and hail.
The day started with that pulled, layered taffy look of red rocks in central Wyoming, segued into pretty average high desert before showing a truly unique mix of forest and granite rock formations by Medicine Box. We then rolled down off the continental divide and entered that sea of grass. It is a sea; a rolling, swelling sea of green grass and brown muddy creeks and rivers punctuated with small towns and huge grain silos that are the ports of commerce. I’ve been in Kansas and it’s the same but somehow rolling down the beach of the divide onto green plains was different than driving from Missouri west, there’s more of a birthing sensation, a feeling of gradual but permanent change. I enjoyed wondering what a monster herd of bison would look like on the move out there, a rolling tide of brown with shining hooves and horns; a running swarm of life. Woof.
Odd thoughts: what’s with all the snow fence is eastern Wyo? It’s crazy. The oil and natural gas fields of central Wyoming feel like some strange industrial planet where aliens have all these working parts but no one seems to be around to tend them. There are wonderfully large, clean buildings in the middle of nowhere with huge roll up doors, great big windows and no sign of human life. It’s an odd, well kept but not used but well stored, mothballed kind of feel.
End of the day and we were sick of the interstate and tomorrow we will turn north and will take US30 east to Iowa. Should be fun all small towns and rural. I’ll let you know how it goes.
And, from Julie:
This morning started early. Earlier than I think either of us had planned. Let's just say we didn't choose the cleanest or most comfortable hotel in Rock Springs. Ok. ok. Let's call a spade a spade here. It was a freakin dive, and worse than the filthy, hair ridden bathroom was the lumpy bed with a nasty blanket. Sleep was fleeting at best, we were up by 5 and on the road by 7:15am. The sky was blue and clear and the air was a brisk 45 degrees. That's isn't taking into consideration moving at 85 miles per hour. I was a human Popsicle wrapped in a blue and black rubberized nylon wrapper.
We kept a motivated pace hoping to move to lower elevations and warmer temperatures, but the minutes turned into hours. Hours of sailing along on sleek blue jet boat in an ocean of undulating sagebrush waves dotted by hundreds and hundreds of oil well buoys and an occasional refinery or two thrown in to break up the monotony.
As I was examining the quickly passing scenery a large rectangular green sign with white retro reflective lettering appeared on the side of the road ahead of us. It read, CONTINENTAL DIVIDE. Amazing! Small town born and bred Idaho girl crosses the Continental Divide! No way you may say? Hmmm. Not as exciting as one might think. First of all, when you see state line boundaries on a map they look like you could step across them when in reality they are fifty feet wide? The Continental Divide is like crossing all fifty state lines all bunched together. In plain English it went on for what seemed like an eternity. Not through grand mountains like the Sawtooths or the Tetons but gradually wound higher and higher over gently rolling hills. Until we were above 8000 ft. amid low hanging clouds that looked close enough that I could have reached out and stirred them like whipped cream in my hot chocolate. Cold, heavy mist hung in the air and road was wet. It was the coldest point of the day but one of the best smelling; rain and fresh sage. It took us what seemed like a good hour to cross the Divide. I'm not sorry to say good bye.
As we began to drop down the other side of the divide the weather began to change. More clouds began to pop up in the blue. To my left were white popcorn clouds and fluffy lamby clouds to my right a dark blue and gray mass with long curved tentacle clouds that seemed to spin like an angry galaxy that had dropped from outer space and landed in Eastern Wyoming. It's long curved arms seemed to be like magnets for the friendly little fluffy white clouds luring them in for a closer look and when the little white clouds came to close they were doomed. For the rest of their short puffy lives they would be a part of the wet, seething, angry mass.
Close to the Nebraska border the landscape began to change again, instead of gray, green sagebrush and dirt, everything became lush and green. Small farms and ranches began to appear. Nebraska...the good life sign came into view. On we drove determined to make it to North Platte come hell or high water.
At this point I must make an aside. For all you people who told me that Nebraska was flat? You need to go back to school and learn what flat means. Nebraska is not flat! It's rolling hills covered with lush green prairie grass mingled with sections of prairie that man has harnessed and forced into service as farm land like a mustang on a ranch. Acre after acre, the deep blue green of wheat, tender little corn plants and small (by Idaho herd standards) herds of cattle scattered in pastures across the green palate.
From the back of the bike I was mesmerized by the many (all stereotypical yet charming) midwestern towns on either side of I-80. Every little hamlet had their name painted across the enormous grain elevators that towered above all other building in town. Each elevator sat next to the railroad tracks that ran through the middle of said town. Each, had a variety of century or near century old buildings that accessorized their Main Street and in many of these towns a cemetery. The perimeters lined with flag poles each one proudly flying an American Flag. (Today was Memorial Day) I was filled with emotion, pride in my country and it reminded me of old John Cougar Mellencamp songs.
There was more. But I think that's a good note to leave on. Tomorrow is a new day. No freeway, scenic byway. I'm all tingly with excitement. Maybe I'll even get to take some pictures with my camera.