Monthly Archives: May 2012

Days 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16: The Masterful Clump (Beth)

Ok!  Buckle in your seat belts…

Day 11: Ryan and I said tearful goodbyes to Moab.  We really loved it there and would’ve stayed longer, but there were no more places to stay, it being Memorial Day Weekend and all.  Sadly, one of the downfalls of taking a rather flexibly scheduled road trip.  No booking too far in advance, because you don’t know where you’ll be.

We made our way towards Bryce Canyon National Park area and settled in for the night there.  (On the way, we did ride through Captial Reef National Park, which neither of us had every heard of.  It was pretty.  We stopped once to snap some pictures of petraglyphs, but otherwise basically rode on through.) We hit up a local pizza place for dinner that was really good, but I couldn’t help but feel for the lady waitressing that night.  I guess someone called in an emergency and there was only one waitress trying to handle the entire restaurant (not small).  And it was a busy night.  I felt so bad for her, I actually offered to help bus a few table and take some drink orders, but to no avail.  I kind of wish she had taken me up on it, because I think it actually would have been fun to pitch in, but oh well.

Day 12: We rode through Bryce today, but I can’t lie… it was a bit miserable.  The weather was nasty, cold, and windy.  Unfortunately, while all the National Parks are gorgeous, Ryan and I were also getting a little burnt out on them.  We decided we needed to be around some people, give our eyes a break from the National Parks, and be refreshed for the next natural wonder.  All that being said, after Bryce we skipped Zion and headed straight for a campground in Nevada where Ryan’s brother, Matt, was staying for the weekend.

Thankfully, Matt had packed enough gear for us for just such an occasion.  We got in and got to spend some time with him and some of his friends who were hanging out there for the weekend as well.  It was a nice night.

Day 13: Most of Matt’s friends had to leave mid-day today, so things quieted down pretty quick.  Ryan and Matt spent most of the day fishing from a canoe and I got a chance to catch up on some reading.  The evening was pretty quiet with just the 3 of us at the campsite.  The guys cooked themselves some steak over the fire, we played some cards, and I demolished a very large percentage of some tortilla chips and cheese dip that we picked up in town.  Very satisfying.

Chips and dip. Perfection.

Day 14: We had to head back to Matt’s house in Las Vegas today, but before we left the guys got to do some shooting.

What a good redneck picture!

On the way to Vegas, we had to cross about 40 miles of gravel road on the bike, so that was interesting.  The bike handled it surprisingly well though.  After some paved road time, we grabbed some lunch at “J&Js fast food” (we learned that fast is a relative term…) and then pretty much parted ways.  Matt took his jeep across some “off-road-vehicle-only” terrain, and we took the highway back to Vegas and met up again at Matt’s house. (For those of you who don’t know, Matt is an off-roader, bull-rider, and 5 time skydiver, to name a few of his exploits.)

Didn’t do much for dinner. Just threw together some fruit salad, busted out the cards again, and then called it a night.

Day 15: Matt had to work today, so Ryan ended up running around town to buy parts to give the bike a tune-up and I got dropped off at Barnes and Noble to read to my heart’s content and slurp on a delectable mango smoothie.  Ryan might write more about this day later, but for me it was pretty laid back.

After Matt got off work, we went to go see the Avengers in 3D.  Good movie!  And a good one to see in theaters.  The theater with the best time for us was actually in a casino, so I have now officially step foot in a casino in Vegas!  Granted, I didn’t gamble at all (I’m not a gambler) and it wasn’t a casino on the main strip in Vegas, but still noteworthy.

If I recall correctly, we had a very good dinner and then came back to Matt’s house to play cards. I lost, again.  *sigh*

Day 16: Today is the day Ryan will blog about later, I’m sure.  He worked on the bike ALL day.  I took the time to make some sorely overdue calls, catch up with some people and work on blogs, which were obviously way past due.  Surprisingly, the day went by fast though.

Funny quote for the day:

“Two-stepping is the Nascar of dancing.  A lot of left turns and the occasional spin.”

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Day 10: Hiking the Arches (Beth)

Today= Arches and Canyonlands

Ryan and I decided to hit Arches National Park first and then Canyonlands, but it turns out we made a sandwich of Arches, Canyons, then Arches again.  At the visitor’s center for Arches, one of the employees suggested starting at the furthest point of the park and working our way back, so that’s what we did.

The furthest point of Arches is the Landscape Arch that you have to hike back a half mile or so to see.

Landscape Arch

I did want to see the Delicate Arch…until I found out you had to hike a mile to see it. I admit, this is a once in a lifetime trip and I have no idea when I would ever come back, but it was lunch time and I lack conviction. I believe my exact words to Ryan were “Eh, my Dad came here a few years back.  I’ll get him to email me a picture.”  I got a picture from a distance though.

Delicate Arch. Far Away.

For your viewing pleasure, I did get a sort of close up.

Delicate Arch

After lunch I was much more amenable to going on adventures again.

Promotional Insert (for Christy): McDonald’s has nearly everything.  For cheap.  And their advertizing has been excellent lately.  I’m a fan.  (Except has anyone else noticed that soups are sorely lacking?)

Next we drove up to “Island in the Sky” to see Canyonlands from an aerial viewpoint.  Awesome!  This section also included a large arch plus some fun vegetation.

Canyonlands

I’ve discovered an easy way to make friends during travels.  Traveling as a couple, it’s very difficult to get pictures of the both of you together, so I’ve taken to volunteering myself as a picture taker for people.  This day alone, we met 3 sets of very cool people that way: a couple college guys on a road trip, a couple visiting the States from Austria, another random couple that I can’t remember where they’re from. Very nice way to meet people.  In fact, almost all of them took pictures for us as an exchange, so it worked out well.  The last couple even invited us to join them later at a restaurant called “The Broken Oar.” (cool name)

Before it got too late, we decided to swing back by Arches and catch the “Windows” during sunset.  Ryan and I walked through a couple of them and plopped ourselves down to watch the sun go down since there weren’t many people hiking through.  Good weather, great view, exceptional company, fabulous evening!

 


Day 9: Glowing Trees (Beth)

After stuffing ourselves with a tasty breakfast, we left the border and dove right into Utah.  Only a few miles after we started, we hit Sheep Creek Geological Loop.  Great sites!  Although, we realized it was about 20 miles of on and off gravel roads and we had a longer trek to make today, so we saw a few miles of it and turned around to the main road again.

Okay, I’ll let you in on something:  the route we took in Utah today housed some of the most spectacular sites we’ve seen in the US to this point!  Every time we banked a turn, the scenery was picture worthy.  The most surreal tidbit I saw included mammoth mountains in the background, stately evergreens in the near background cradling a piece of pasture, and in the pasture, tall, skinny Dr. Suess-like trees with white trunks and little tufts of green hair on top.  Those trees were surrounded by thick green grass and the occasional stowaway shrub.  And all of this was on a mountaintop to begin with!

Unfortunately, we could only stop so often or else we would never finish our trip!  Here’s a taste:

We covered such a varied patch of terrain today.   One of my favorite stretches was in Ashley National Forest.  The mountains/ridges sucked in their guts and a squished together to make some remarkable valleys.  It was like riding through a good action movie where any way you turned your head, something new was unfolding.  To our right and our left would be mountains, with the road crammed in between.  Just next to the road would be a narrow patch of land and in the middle of that were long snake-like stretches of natural trench where water used to run high.  The colors were vibrant all around; the mountains were mother to hunter green evergreens, dead, leafless purplish trees, and neon green trees.  Honestly, these bright leafed trees looked so radiant against the mountainside canvas- they looked like they were practically glowing.

We ran across what looked to be old honest to goodness homesteads in one of those valleys.  This was too good to pass up; we had to explore!  Going into the “house,” it looked like someone actually had a bedframe in there at one point, but it was broken up and mangled by this point.  There was debris inside and out, but somehow it still managed to look awesome in this setting!

After leaving Ashley National Forest, we continued on our way to Moab, our destination for the day.  The land opened up and you could see for miles and miles and miles.  At one point, I could see a 105 car train (I counted!) from beginning to end in my line of vision!  Riding into the Canyonlands… I can’t even describe it.  I’ll tackle that chore when I write the blog post later.

Once we reached Moab, we got settled in, had to do the mandatory laundry run, and got a late, late dinner.


Day 8: South Pass, $4,000 Bill (Beth)

We got a mid-morning start to head out of Riverton, WY.  Ryan used to work out this way, so as we were riding through town, he’s half regaling me with stories and half reminiscing out loud.

There’s something you should know about Ryan: he was make for lots of space.  He grew up in the country and when he worked out here, fell right in step with the expanses of WY.  Cowboy hats, guys working from sunrise to after dark, directions by generalities and landmarks, that’s paradise to him. Seeing him here, it’s like seeing him in his natural habitat.

We rode by his old boss’s place, but he wasn’t there.  His daughter told us he might be at a nearby glass shop, so we headed over there and found him.  It was nice; He and Ryan caught up for a few minutes.  After their visit, we moved on out of town.

A few hours after that, we hit a mountain pass in Wyoming that gave us some grief.  Approaching the pass, there was a sign that gave a 45mph wind gust warning.  Okay, gusts of 45, not great, but we’ve done them before over extended periods of time.  It is more taxing and harder work for the driver, but doable, so we readied ourselves and headed in.  Ok, half way through the pass, it was more like a base wind of 45 with gusts of 60+.  We hit the bottom of the pass and the wind was so forceful, we pulled off the side of road to gear up.  At a standstill, the wind was so bad it was literally moving us and the bike back against our wills.  We got on the bike again and momentum helped a ton.  Our dear Abram chugged through and we came out on the other end a little shaken and ready to have words with the guy responsible for the information on the road sign.   It will not hurt our feelings to never go through that again.  Lesson for the day: take rain over wind if you have a choice!

We decided to end our trip just on the Wyoming/Utah border.  We’re discovering that tourist season starts earlier than Memorial Day in this area.  We’ve had a rougher time figuring out places to stay.  The first place we looked at to stay for the night literally had bugs crawling on the bed.  Strike 1.

This was a small town we stopped in and there was really only one other place that looked decent that we saw.  Ryan went in to check it out.  I stayed by the bike thinking it would only take a second.  Ten minutes later, I’m wondering what’s going on so I make my way in.  It turns out that the rooms looked decent and Ryan was trying to book one for the night, but the proprietor messed up the bill.  She charged us the price of the room PLUS $4,000!  “How???” do you ask?  ME TOO!  She ended up calling her husband to come reverse the charge and 5-10 minutes later everything seemed to be resolved and we got in our room.

The rest of the night mainly consisted of grabbing some dinner, figuring out our new route, and trying to catch up on blogs.


Day 7: Unimog Day, from SD to WY (Beth)

After we got all our stuff packed up, we headed back to the ranch to swap vehicles.  As we were pulling up, Gerald was moving some gravel with his Unimog.  Perhaps Gerald sensed Ryan’s soul aching to give it a try, because he offered for Ryan to take it for a spin.  (Just in case you’re wondering, never heard of a Unimog before this visit in my life…)   While the guys were out playing, Sharla and I were chatting and she started describing her husband to me.  After she finished, I just started chuckling because it sounded like she was describing Ryan.  No wonder those two got along so great.

Ryan driving the Unimog

Ryan, having a grand time.

Just a few minutes later we packed up the bike and said our goodbyes.  We were both sad to leave South Dakota after that visit.  It was definitely the best part of the trip thus far.

Honestly, the rest of the day was not too eventful.  We rode from Wall, SD to Riverton, WY.  It was a long haul, but hey, sleep is sweet after a day like that.

A nice sunset view riding through Wyoming.


Day 6: Badlands and a Ranch (Beth)

As we were out and about town today, we met up with some awesome folks from the area: Gerald and Sharla.  Gerald is a rancher and he and Ryan hit it off like they were old friends.  He and his wife ended up inviting us up to their ranch. As I understand it, first he had to go move his cattle to another pasture and that worked out because we still needed to get to the Badlands, our whole reason for this stop in SD!  So we all parted ways and were reunited later on…

The Badlands are awesome!  I remember my Dad taking us on a trip to the Badlands when I was a kid and all I could remember was a split second of one of the views so this was almost like seeing them all again for the first time.  Here are some shots:

Looking over the Badlands

Ryan gathering momentum for the steep path back up

This was my favorite section.

The loop that you can ride to get a good view of them all is approximately 20 miles long and everywhere you look is another fabulous view!   You can’t tell in these pictures, but the general layout of the Badlands is particularly unique.  Imagine a spiral staircase with 5 steps, give or take.  We started out on the top step, and from that step we could see the “badlands” or “badland formations” below.  Well, if you keep driving the loop down, you find yourself on a lower step/plain, and from that plain you see the land dip down again to show you yet more formations.  Imagine this happening several different times and each step was a variation on a theme.  Sometimes the mounds were sharp and looked like ancient castle ruins; sometimes they looked like someone took a nail file to them and painted them with stripes of red.  We enjoyed the loop so much, I believe we rode through it three times.  Great experience!

Now back to our previous storyline.  After the Badlands we headed straight for Gerald and Sharla’s ranch.  We got there around maybe 5ish and I think we didn’t leave until 9:30 or 10pm.  They were so friendly and hospitable!  We sat around and talked for a long time, then they showed us around their ranch.  Sharla was telling me that her grandfather was a homesteader in 1908 and settled on land only a few miles away from where they are now.   We got back to their house after the tour and Sharla fed us dinner too!

Just before dinner Gerald pulled up some pictures of their recent cattle branding and filled me in on the basics of the process.  Really interesting.  Didn’t realize this, but SD requires branding by law.  There’s no chance of theft that way.  If you tag an animal, the tags are easy to swap out.  This month seems to be the branding month and everyone pitches in for the process at their neighbor’s ranches.

By the time we set out to go, it was dark and they were worried about us getting back safely on the gravel roads so late at night. They insisted on us taking their car back into town and just coming back in the morning to pick up the bike. What gracious and giving people!

Seriously, anyone else want to move to SD?

This is Gerald riding in the bed of their truck helping to give us a tour.

Their horses

Our gracious hosts.


Day 7: Riverton, WY and in which I drive a Unimog (Ryan)

Day 7 was actually a little sad, we had to leave Wall, our nice cabin, and the great people we’d met. We road out to the ranch again in the morning and Gerald had fired up the Unimog that I had looked at the night before so that he could move some gravel. He offered that if I wanted I could take it for a spin. That’s the kind of offer you don’t turn down! The Unimog 1200 has 24 gears in both forward and reverse: 8 gears on the normal transmission shifter with two more range shifting levers. The truck/tractor is definitely unique but handled comfortably although shifting gears takes a little while to actually get used to. All in all I walked away with a grin.

Driving a Unimog!

I couldn’t help but grin!

We traded their car back for my bike and after saying our farewells and thanks to our new found friends we headed back toward town to gas up and head out toward Riverton, WY. We cut back through the Badlands to catch hwy 44 on the south side of the badlands. Thanks to Gerald we saved a good 15 minutes and 10-15 miles by taking Conata Rd down to 44. It meant about 3 miles of dirt/gravel road but I was getting used to it by then.

In Rapid City we picked up hwy 16 and followed that through the edge of Custer State Park and through the Southern Black Hills. We hit Wyoming after laboring up a few mountain sides. The run through Wyoming was typical of eastern Wyoming. The sky is huge and the landscape nothing short of expansive. Riding across eastern Wyoming feels like you’re running in place. You look down at your odometer and notice that you’ve gone 10 miles and it looks like you’re just as far away from that mountain line you notice 25 minutes before.We took 16 as far as Newcastle and then turned onto WY450 and road across Thunder Basin National Grassland. We picked up I-25 just north of Casper and road it into town.

Entering Wyoming

Casper seems to be a disorganized and unwelcoming town (no disrespect to anyone who live there…I’ve just never had a great experience there)…it’s sort of just a passing through town for me. We grabbed a bite to eat, gassed up (which is very important for the next leg), and headed out 20/26 toward Shoshoni. It is a 98 mile run from Casper to Shoshoni with no gas except for one out of the way general store (or serial killer haven…take you pick) that advertizes gas and looks like they either sell it by the 5 gallon jug or from a rusty tank on the hillside behind the place.

We caught a gorgeous sunset just before Shoshoni:

Sunset on hwy 20/26 just before Shoshoni, WY on the road to Riverton, WY.

Just after Shoshoni we crossed the bridge over Boysen Reservoir and I did an immediate u-turn so we could go down to the boat ramp and take some more pictures of the last fading colors of the sunset.

Sunset over Boysen Reservoir, Shoshoni, WY

Another view of the sunset of Boysen Reservoir

We arrived in Riverton shortly after dark and spent the night at the Rodeway Inn. The room was clean although there were rowdy people hanging around we had no real complaints.