Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Going Home the Long Way - Getting to Colorado

Today was hot...very hot! It would also be another long day, 670 miles, as I wanted to make it to Greeley for the night. I was packed and on the road by 8:15 AM, and it was pleasantly cool as I headed west from Miles City on I-94.

My next stop was Pompeys Pillars National Monument along the Lewis & Clark Trail.

This area of Montana was beautiful! The highway generally follows Yellowstone River and to the north of the river I could see a ribbon of green with high buttes and bluffs beyond. Some very pleasant elevation changes and sweepers led me 115 miles toward the national park exit.

The "pillar" was easily visible from the highway. NPS have built a beautiful new visitor center and I was intrigued by the landscaping and walkway that led to the building. Inside, I got the stamp, talked to the ranger a little bit, and then left. There's a several hundred yard walk to the rock formation itself, and I debated whether to take it, but in the end decided I had too much ground to cover to get to Greeley.

I continued to Billings, rather than take a shortcut down to I-90. The gas station choices were few and far between out here, and I didn't want to take a chance. So, fueled and fed, I got onto I-90 toward I-25. I'm seeing many, many cruiser-style motorcycles, mostly Harleys, and mostly loaded down with all sorts of luggage. They are no doubt headed toward Sturgis to get an early start on that rally. Surprisingly, I found that I was passing most of them, and I was pretty much going the speed limit, or maybe just a little over.

Many long stretches of I-90 and I-25 were down to one lane due to construction. This slowed me down quite a bit, as the speed limit through these zones was 45 mph. It meant that I would not make it to Greeley by 6:00 PM as I had hoped.

A few miles beyond Casper WY, I had an AMA Grand Tour point collecting opportunity, so I took the exit and was immediately dumped into a very confusing mess of construction. Access to any gas stations or other businesses was through a maze of orange cones and gravel drives. I did need gas, but opted to continue on to my AMA photo op and seek gas on the south side of town. I was looking for the world's largest jackalope and rode to the supposed coordinates at 3rd and Cedar, in the center of town to find nothing. I circled a few adjacent blocks and still could not find it. Then, finally, just as I was about to give up and get back onto Business 25 to leave town, I saw it on the corner of that road and 3rd Street, about 3 blocks off from it's supposed location. Thank goodness!

All afternoon I could see large rain cells off in the distance and I began beg them to head my way to cool me off and wash the bugs off my visor. I did run through one brief bit of rain just north of Cheyenne which cooled things off nicely. I would be meeting a woman and fellow rider in Greeley for dinner, but was about an hour behind my projected arrival, so I stopped in Ft. Collins for gas and gave her a call to let her know where I was. Once at my hotel in Greeley, I had a few minutes to change clothes and freshen up before walking to a nearby IHOP to meet her. We had a great dinner together, talking until 9:30, when the restaurant staff subtly let us know they were trying to close.

She rode her bike over to the hotel where we continued to chat for a bit before saying our goodbyes.

Tomorrow: Bent's Fort and riding back into Texas. It's going to be very hot!

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