Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Western Mountain Ride - Day 4

This was going to be a busy day for national parks and AMA "I've Been Everywhere" photo opportunities. Fortunately, once I get onto I-25 I'll be able to make some good time. So far I've covered almost 1200 miles (Nearly 630 miles the first day and 570 miles the second day). This morning I'll be off the interstate, ridiing north out of Sidney, NE to US 26, and taking it west all the way to WY and I-25. The adventure started when I took a wrong turn 30 miles after leaving the hotel. How the heck did I manage to do that? I found myself on SR-88 heading due west. I needed to be on US 26 headed northwest. Well, it was a nice road and the view to the north was of high bluffs the entire way. I zoomed out on the GPS and could see that it would ultimately run into US 71, which goes north to Scott's Bluff.

I had planned to get Chimney Rock national monument, but this little unexpected diversion will mean I'll miss it. But there's another national park - Scott's Bluff - at the intersection of US 71 and US 26, so all was not lost. I headed straight for the cancellation station (I'd already been to this park before, ridden to the top of the bluff) and there were two older women standing there, wondering what it was. So, I pulled out my passport, showed it to them, and explained how it works, how people collect the stamps. They were enthralled! We chatted for quite a bit. One was from CA and used to work at the Yosemite national park many years ago. She now lives in OH, but really misses CA. I'll bet that before they left, one of them bought a passport.

Back on US 26, again, I could continue on track. Once in WY, this road was spectacular. Hilly, fast sweepers, very little traffic. I stopped in Fort Laramie and got the multiple national park stamps.there, and then got back on the road to continue west to I-25.

This part of the day was all about getting the miles done. The road is unremarkable and the scenery doesn't change much all the way to Buffalo WY. I needed an AMA photo of my bike, the little flag, and the town name of Buffalo clearly visible. I had researched the town on the internet, looking for something unique or unusual to use for the photograph. As luck would have it, there's a wonderful painted mural on the side of one of the buildings in the downtown area. Now, all I have to do is find it. As I entered town on Business 25, I passed a typical city limits sign, with town name, populiation, and elevation. I stopped to get a photo, just as back-up in case I don't succeed with the mural. A few blocks later, and there it was, on the right side of the street. I pulled over into a parallel parking spot, but the angle was not good. So I rode up the little dead-end side street, but trees blocked the key part of the mural, the word "Buffalo." Doing a U-turn, I stopped and thought a minute. In the meantime, one of the two cars parked in the parallel spots pulled out and drove away, leaving me a good spot to pull in and get a better angle. So I pulled out of the side street, and pulled into the spot headed the wrong direction, then jockeyed the bike so that it was more or less backed into the spot. Perfect!

Now it's back onto I-25 and head for Little Big Horn national park. More interstate, but there's a definite change in the landscape, as the elevation continues to increase, and there's more vegetation, even pine trees here and there.

Everyone told me I must ride SR-14 or 14A to get to Billings, avoid the interstate, but I really wanted to see Little Bighorn. Custer faced the same situation that Travis did at the Alamo. Both Custer and Travis and their men fought bravely to the end, in the face of overwhelming odds. I get goosebumps thinking about such bravery in the face of such terrible fighting. I was not disappointed when I arrived at the park and could see the battefield first-hand.

Now it's only 60 miles to Billings, so I have an easy remaining ride, and I arrive at the hotel at 6:30 PM. . Total for the day: 560 miles. This morning I ride down to Yellowstone, though, judging from the crowds I'm already seeing at the other parks, and the tour buses at the hotels, I'm worried about heavy traffic. We'll see.

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