Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Post 043 - How did I get here? Part 2

It was a short distance from the fire scene into Buffalo, Wyoming. Nancy knew where the motorcycle shops were and gave me directions.

At a very small motorcycle repair place I was told they could easily get a spark plug from the auto parts store up the street. I said I could do that myself. They agreed and I went off to find a new spark plug. I found the auto parts store and asked them if I brought in my spark plug, could they match it? Sure they said. So, under a tree for shade, I dismantled Moto Fabini as much as necessary to remove the spark plug. It was all very hot.

Inside the store the owner had a hard time reading the numbers on the side of my plug. In time, with a little help and a lot of computer typing, he said he only had one in stock. I said that was all I needed. A few minutes later I had a new clean plug in a running bike. I repacked the bike and headed down the road. I told myself it was running better. A romantic, as I said.

After filling up on gas I headed out of Buffalo on Route 16 and into the Bighorn Mountains. These mountains were not on my landmark list. They should have been. They are a beautiful foretaste of the Rockies to come. Geologically, I have no idea why they rose out in the Plains as they have. I shall spend time doing research when I am settled again.

As I drove up the wide smooth Route 16 into the mountains the sky became darker and the wind picked up. I paused to put on my rain jacket. Two miles later I paused again to put on my rain pants. Buffalo, Wyoming sits about 5,000 feet above sea level. I was climbing the Powder River Pass to 9,666 feet. It started to pour. Lightening flashed in the black clouds higher up.

I have to admit, I loved riding in this storm. My rain suit is first rate. My speed was restrained by the elevation (lack of oxygen) steepness of the grade (8-10%) and Moto's general lack of compression. It was a welcome change from the dryness of the Plains.

I crested what I thought was the summit only to find myself in a pine laden alpine valley. The pass was another mile on. The rain stopped in the valley. It was an eastern storm. The west side of the Bighorn was in sunshine.

There is a large pull-off area at the summit. I rolled up to the elevation sign, parked, and extracted my camera. Across the parking area is the actual high point of the mountains in this area. It is a very rugged point of rock jutting another 100 feet into the sky. Wyoming has roadsigns informing the interested on the age of the rocks they are seeing. The ones at the summit are 2.3 billion years old. I handed my camera to a passing tourist to get a shot of me by the elevation sign. It would document 1/100 of a second in the mountain's history.

The ride down was cool and smooth. Off came the rain jacket. It was easy to think I was out of the Plains. The western valley of the Bighorn reminded me right away I was still in flat hot country. I pulled into the only town between the mountains and Worland, Ten Sleep. It is a small western town that farms and caters to tourists. I pulled up in front of the Ten Sleep Saloon, hitched my horse to the water trough, tugged my chaps up with my thumbs, and ambled through the swinging doors. That's what I was thinking as I sweated profusely while taking off my helmet.

The saloon gave up spittoons for wifi and I was able to locate a campground in Worland, about 25 miles away. It was hot and bright as I rolled west into the sun over barren grazing land. On one endless rise another motorcyclist came up to pass me. As he did he slowed down and gave me a hearty thumbs up. It was a particularly welcome greeting.

At the top of the rise this motorcyclist had pulled over and waited for me to arrive. He said he was impressed with my mode of travel. We introduced ourselves. He is Jim from Arizona. His company is in a new owner transition and all the employees were laid off for some time. As soon as he heard, he packed up his bike and hit the road. He is a kindred traveling spirit. We decide to share a campsite in Worland. He'll get there first.

We spend a talkative evening at the rundown site. Its saving grace is showers. Jim is a minimalist traveling on a sport bike. He likes to travel unpaved roads. Earlier in the day he was on the trail of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, looking for their Hole In the Wall hideout. It's hard to find and not on any paved road.

In the morning we have breakfast at McDonalds so I can check my route on the iPad. Jim will he heading directly north into Montana. I will head south for a short distance and then west and finally north to the town of Cody. We exchange information and wistfully part. It was a strong connection.

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