I know what you are thinking. This blog has been missing two things: Cute kids and strangers from the internet. Let’s see if we can take care of both of those deficiencies as we roll across Wyoming.
Wednesday, July 19 (continued)
I was tired, missing the sleep of which the bear had deprived me. Still, I knew I had a long day. Nothing else to do but to press on. Wyoming was the goal for the day. I was going to be staying with my second cousin in Casper. Additionally, I wanted to see a place on my list: Glenrock, WY.
If you were to consult my initial North American map, you will notice that no stops are listed in the state of Wyoming. Glen Rock, New Jersey is the destination in Verse 2 Line 4. How the place changed is an interesting story:
As well as doing my blog, I’ve also been posting on a motorcycle forum called ADV Rider. My purpose for doing so is twofold: 1)I want to give back to the community that helped inspire and prepare me for this trip and 2)I want to tap into the vast knowledge base of this community. My posts there have been much less verbose than my blog (though you could argue that a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica is also less verbose), mostly factual and brief. I would really like to invest more in my thread on that site, but just don’t have the time or the internet access.
An early comment on that thread was from a user called “WYO George” it read like this:
I was excited at first, but then I saw that you picked the other Glen Rock instead of Glenrock, WY. After getting over my disappointment and the associated depression with the fall of mankind I realized that this will still be a good ride so I’m in for the duration. Have fun and ride safe.
When I read that comment, I realized I had overlooked a place. I had never heard of Glenrock, WY. The reason for this is that Glen Rock, NJ is two words. I had never searched for the place as one word. I replied that I could be convinced to change my destination, were I persuaded to do so. Truth be told, it did not take much persuading. Wyoming/Montana represented the greatest area of unrepresented space in the US. Adding a Wyoming stop would “fill in” my map a little bit. To date, it remains the only change I have made to my selection of places.
George had invited me to grab a burger when I went through town. I intended to take him up on that offer this day.
The last miles in Idaho were a winding mountain road. I had seen some wonderful scenery here. It was still early in the day when I crossed the border into Wyoming.
Wyoming was named for the questions surrounding the Houston Rockets 2002 first round draft selection. Namely, “Why Yao Ming?”
(Am I trying too hard?)
I came down the other side of the mountain and arrived in Jackson, WY. It looked like a really nice town. Far too nice for a guy like me. I did not spend much time there. I was eager to move on to Grand Teton National Park. It did not take long for the scenery to get fabulous.
Time to address an elephant in the room (hey, at least it’s not a bear): I am not going to Yellowstone, nor have I ever been there. Yellowstone was always going to be a family vacation destination during a year when we did not have very much time. Unfortunately, our family just kept taking more epic road trips. On my trip through Wyoming, I just didn’t have time. I maybe could have spared a couple of hours, but that would have been woefully insufficient. I have to have something to see when this trip is over, right? As I often say: Next trip!
Before leaving Grand Teton, traffic stopped. The man directing told me that there had been an accident up ahead and that no traffic would be allowed through for around 3 hours. I pulled off into the Moran post office parking lot and did some calculating. I could detour back through Jackson, but that would take almost as much time as the expected delay.
After about 90 minutes I noticed some traffic being let through. I walked over to the ranger and asked what was going on. He said that only off road capable vehicles were being let through since there was a detour available over a rough gravel road. A detour on a rough gravel road? Sounds like a normal Wednesday to me. He remembered my bike and said that I would be allowed through. (Annie must have had her “tough face” on)
The route was bumpy, but passable. I took an even worse road to get a good photo of the area.
Because of the stoppage of traffic, I basically had east bound highway 26 all to myself. I really enjoyed the variety of scenery along this route. So many different kinds of rock formations.
I reached the abode of my second cousin, Heidi, around 5pm. I was greeted first by her mother, Nancy (my mom’s first cousin). Our families have always been close, so it was a treat to see some familiar faces. I was also greeted by a pair of Weimaraners (that’s a dog breed, not me phonetically typing out a sneeze). They did not want to rest until my presence had been announced to the whole neighborhood. They were not too sure about this strange smelling, leather-clad wanderer.
Heidi’s son, Breccan, introduced himself with his full name. He seemed to have a gravitational attraction towards Annie. (But let’s be fair, who doesn’t) Heidi’s daughter, Avelyn, was really shy at first, not even wanting to make eye contact or be in the same room. We sat and talked for awhile and as we did the dogs calmed down and the kids gradually became my new best friends. I’ve never had a chance to meet Heidi’s husband, Mike, and he just happened to be out of town. Next trip!
Before I left to meet George in Glenrock (about 30 minutes from Casper), I asked the kids if they wanted to sit on Annie. I let them spin Sonic’s legs (he tried to look ambivalent, but I could tell he was enjoying the attention), beep the horn and “feel the power” (revving the engine). Avelyn’s enthusiasm caused her to ping the red line. (The girl has potential!) I was still thinking I might leave early in the morning, so I told the kids goodbye before heading out to Glenrock. It was an easy drive down I-25.
Avelyn appears to be reaching for the throttle again in this picture. 🙂
George was waiting for me, standing next to his Suzuki DR650 (close to Annie in engine size, but more off-road oriented). He greeted me with a handshake and by asking me how Annie was doing. I liked him already.
We ordered a couple cheeseburgers and started chatting. We talked about the winding paths of our vocational history, both of us ending up in some unexpected roles. George’s main occupation is as a mechanic. He has his own shop which mainly works on motorcycles, but also does some other vehicles too. Besides this, he also works at a fabrication shop which one of his friends runs and teaches motorcycle safety courses across the state on the weekends. If you want to see what he looks like, just consult the encyclopedia entry for “motorcyclist.” He can ride, fix and teach. A true triple threat.
I enjoyed picking his brain about mechanical things. Soon we were talking about shifting techniques and stroke/rod ratios. He expressed some confidence about Annie’s potential to complete the full trip, which was good to hear from a real mechanic.
Somewhere in the course of the conversation it came up that he was one of those crazy Jesus people, even displaying John 3:16 on his front fender. I had had my suspicions. He is probably full of joy and lives his life with purpose. Absolutely sickening, right? 🙂 It seems that I’ve met a lot of people on the road who share my faith. I always feel there is something extra special about these connections.
Daylight was waning and I still needed to get my iconic picture of Glenrock. He said there was a new mural that had just been painted which commemorated Glenrock’s role as a stop along the Pony Express. The mural is awesome. Time has caused a shift from horses to motorcycles as the adventurer’s preferred method of travel, so I feel that there is a real link between the two. I probably treat Annie more like a trusty steed than as an inanimate machine anyway. I absolutely love this picture:
The next order of business was crossing off Glenrock from my sign. George accepted this monumental responsibility:
A front was moving in as we said our goodbyes. He invited me to call or text him with any mechanics related questions that I would have on the road. This is one of the best gifts anyone could give to me. 🙂 I made a point to say “see you later.”
“Here, in Nebraska or in the next life,” was his reply. Amen! 🙂
Raindrops began to fall and I put on my rain suit for the first time in 19 days (Zebra Cake day). As I rode out of town the storm began in earnest. The wind whipped across the plains and lightning struck in the distance. I had to smile a bit. It was nice to see a “real” storm again, none of this namby-pamby day-long drizzle that you get along the coasts. 🙂
I wanted to get my obligatory sign picture at the edge of town, but I was worried about Annie being able to stay on her kickstand long enough to snap the picture. The wind was somewhere in 40-50 mph range, straight out of the south.
I headed west back towards Casper, struggling to stay on the road. 40 mph seemed to be about the fastest I could travel while mainting some semblance of control. I sat with only the bottom of my right thigh on Annie’s seat, the rest of me hanging off of her port side. This put me at about the right angle to counteract the crosswind. For some strange reason, I really enjoyed this ride. Probably because this sort of weather feels familiar to me.
Heidi was still up when I arrived back at her house, which was now uncharacteristically silent. We talked for a while longer until my body’s requests for sleep turned into demands. It had been a long strange day, beginning with the chilling bear encounter and ending in a warm, safe day.
Thursday, July 20
My original plan was to try to make it to Bemidji, MN this day, some 850 miles away. After my short night with the bear, I decided to take a leisurely morning and catch up on some sleep.
Heidi cooked an amazing breakfast. I tried to chip in by making a pot of my Swedish egg coffee. I ate so much that my “lunch” for the day did not take place until around 4pm. Nancy came over again and we had a great time together.
As I began to pack up, I realized that I now had a shadow. Avelyn, who had been so cautious upon my arrival, was now making sure that I was not going to forget anything. She pointed at my chapstick and asked, “When are you going to do your makeup?” Being with these kids made me miss my role as “Uncle Brett” to my pair of nieces and nephews.
I really wished I had more time with them, but I eventually had to be moving on. What a perfect stop.
There seems to be a bit of debate in the state of Wyoming about it’s nickname. Though the official one is “The Equality State”, it is often referred to as “The Cowboy State” as well. I must express a strong preference for the first one. Whether it was by family or by a complete stranger, I was really treated like I was one of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more refreshing.