Wednesday, July 11, 2007


It's late in the afternoon and I'm finally on I-80 headed west toward Sidney, NE where I have a room reserved for the night. But I can't resist a short detour. I'm so close and there's no telling what my return trip might bring. So I took advantage of this opportunity and took the left fork onto I-76, which would take me in just a few short miles over the state line into Colorado.

The dreaded orange construction barrels appeared very shortly after getting onto I-76 and we were all routed across the median into the opposite lanes. Just as I feared, there went the "Welcome to Colorado" sign, off to my right, made inaccessible by the construction going on in the right lanes. The town of Julesburg was coming up and there was a sign beneath it saying there was travel information at that exit. This was my only hope.

The travel information turned out to be a major visitor center. Merci! I pulled into the parking lot and just as I did, my eye caught something sitting precariously on top of the rather large rock outcropping in front of the visitor center. It was a motorcycle. More than that, it was a dual-sport bike and that was a very knarly, rocky hill it was sitting atop. I pulled over and got my camera out of the tank bag to get a photo. It was actually quite intriguing. Just as I did, an Aerostich-clad rider came around the side of the promontory and I waved at him. He clambered down and we chatted for a bit. He was from Montreal, riding the U.S., and was headed toward the Tetons and Yellowstone. I jokingly asked him if he would ride my bike up there for a photo. We wished each other safe travels and I pulled around to the entrance to pose my shot before departing.
I was able to cut through this very small town, where the main street was gravel (thank you, Jill), and pick up a road that would take me back up to I-80 very near to Sidney. I was quite thankful that I had booked my rooms ahead, as many times on this trip I arrived at hotels that were turning walk-ins away. Sidney was no exception.

The next morning would begin a day that would be largely off of the interstates. It would also be a day when Jill got lost....AGAIN. Poor girl!

I headed north from the hotel on a very pleasant secondary road that would take me to U.S. 26 and two national parks before crossing into WY. One of those national parks was not to be, and Jill and I are arguing about it to this day. But Jill and I are still new to each other at this point, still learning each other's idiosyncracies and bad habits.

I swear Jill told me to turn left, so I did, and no sooner did I straighten the front wheel and Jill started re-calculating. What the h---? For a while she kept directing me to turn left...onto gravel roads. Then when I ignored her long enough, she started telling me to turn right....onto gravel roads. Zooming the display out a little, I could see that I was running parallel to US 26 and would miss Chimney Rock National Park. But I knew where I was! I was here last year and if I continued straight, I'd run into NE-71 which would take me to Scott's Bluff. This was okay by me. It wasn't the park I was intending to visit, but it was still a National Park in Nebraska and, besides, I really liked Scott's Bluff and would enjoy getting back there.

I pulled into the visitor center parking lot, got off the bike, and collected the things I needed to go inside to get my stamps. Two women were standing at the cancellation station: a woman about my age and another woman who was clearly her mother. They were trying to determine what this cancellation station was for, so were glad when I walked up. They asked me to tell them about it, so I showed them my passport, the stamps that were already in it, and a little bit about the National Park Tour I was undertaking. The younger woman wandered off, but the elderly woman stayed with me, comparing notes with me about other national parks we'd both visited, and we learned that we'd been to many of the same. I was surprised that she didn't know about the stamps.

When I finished stamping my passport, she and I walked to the front door and she stopped there and bought a passport book. Good for her! We walked outside together and it was then that she truly realized that my mode of transportation was a motorcycle. She became very animated and was sincere when she wished she were young enough again to do such a thing. She gave me a little squeeze and wished me safe journeys.

That was a lovely encounter and it had me glowing for miles, so many miles that I completely forgot to stop in Glenrock WY for the AMA tour photo, leaving the first 3 of several points on the table through stupidity.

Next entry: Buffalo and Custer

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