So it’s actually June 2nd (or very early on June 3rd) and I’m finally sitting down to write about the events of May 22nd! I’ve been busy working on the bike at my brother’s house so I haven’t been updating the blog. This stop has been longer than anticipated, so I’ll use the next few posts to catch up with the narrative and then try to be better about keeping current.
A little background is in order to make some sense of the days events. I love Riverton. Back in the spring of 2004 as my sophmore year in college was drawing to a close I signed up with Weber Harvesting of Riverton, WY for a summer job. They were a custom combining crew. They and many crews like them travel all summer from town to town following the wheat and barley harvest. We started the summer in Southwest Oklahoma (Duke/Altus/Lone Wolf area) and worked our way up through Kansas, Nebraska, and Wyoming. Towards the end of the summer we spent well over a month in Riverton working the local barley harvest. I fell in love with the pace of life and access to wilderness living in the city of Riverton provides. It was really cool on this trip to be able to revisit the city and share with Beth some of the experiences I had during a very formative summer.
Anyway we started the day in Riverton, WY and got a later start, as has often been our habit. Actually, we started fairly early, but we needed more sunscreen so we stopped at Walmart and picked some up. Then we road around town a bit and tracked down my old bosses Dad who had always been very kind to me when I was on the harvest crew. We spent a little while with him at his auto glass shop and then finally hit the road. We went about 30 miles down the road then stopped for lunch in Lander, WY before heading out into South Pass. While we were eating lunch at a cool sandwich shop the wind began to pick up. Nothing like the Day 3 mind you, but a bit of wind. We got back on the road and I braced for what I figured would be another tiring day of riding in the wind.
As we began to get closer to South Pass we saw some wind warning signs: “gust 45+.” We’d ridden in that before so I braced for it and we went on. About 20 or so miles south of Lander we reached the narrow space between two mountains that marks the top end of South Pass (one of the lowest passes through the Rockies at around 7700 ft.). These two mountains serve as a funnel. They took the 45 mph winds and greatly amplified them! We made it to the bottom of the first grade which was a construction zone. The winds were so bad that we were forced off into a tire chaining area we couldn’t even stand up. Beth had to hang onto the bike because the wind was blowing her off of her feet and I had to try to prop the bike because the wind was moving it. We put all our layers of leather and gear on and figured we’d just keep going…if we turned around the wind would be blowing us into oncoming traffic instead of just onto the shoulder. We kept our speed manageable and the rpms high and muscled on (low gear high rpm has seemed to be the best answer to extremely high winds…even cross winds). I was very thankful that we didn’t have a windshield, or especially a fairing, because it would have just acted as a sail. Overall it was probably gorgeous through south pass (if I remember I rode a bus through there in 2004 and it was very pretty), but all I really remember is the wind.
Most of the rest of the day was just tiring winds. As we came through the top of the pass near the old remnants of South Pass and Atlantic City there was actually snow still on the ground beside the road. We stopped in Green River, WY and got a Wyoming sticker for the tank since we crossed the state on a diagonal in two days. In Green River we picked up WY 530 along the west side of flaming gorge and headed for Manila, UT. The parts of flaming gorge we saw were pretty but not spectacular. I suspect that if you were to boat up the gorge you would probably have a very different opinion from what I have. There was a company (Lucerne Marina if I recall correctly) that rents house boats for trips up the gorge, but they were well out of our price range so we stayed landlocked for the night. Would have been fun though.
The night before I had started looking for a place to stay near the gorge so that maybe the next day we could hit Dinosaur National Monument. It turns out that the closer you get to Memorial Day the harder it is to find hotel rooms in eastern Utah on short notice. We picked Manilla UT as a stopping place so I found a reasonably priced place, but it seemed a little too good to be true…kitchenette suite for only $70 a night. I decided against paying over the phone and waited till we got there. When we checked out the room there were at least two visible bugs crawling across the bedspread…we walked out and went down the road to a place we saw on the way in, R-Hideout. R-Hideout was everything the first place was not…clean, new, and expensive. We did not find the place welcoming and would not recommend anyone stay there, but more about that when I get around to writing the lodging reviews.