Day 4
June 14th, 2002
Scottsbluff, Nebraska


I was sleeping good when my watch went off at 5:15 am.  I remained in my bed, listened to the wind for a minute or 2, then got moving.
I unzipped my tent, and was treated to a cool refreshing morning.  The sunrise in the wide open spaces of the American West  have a unique flavor.  For the first time this trip I am not dealing with a cloudy, rainy dawn.  On this morning the sun is rising, tinting the clear sky orange and yellow.  I estimate I have 30 minutes to get on the road, if I am to witness the sun clearing the earths curve from my bike, so I hurry and pack.
A couple traveling in a Aztec van is stirring about but no one else.  They HAVE to get started early to load ALL the stuff they are carrying.  They had boxes and boxes of junk.  Food, coolers, stoves, their equipment swamped their table and was spilling over on the surrounding ground. They steadily loaded boxes in the Aztec the 30 minutes it took me to pack, and when I pulled out, they had hardly made a dent.

The 2 girls with the big tent, never made it back to the campground.  Their car was still out when I got up.  I guess they found something better to do, then camp out.

I fired the ST up at 5:40am and rolled out to US 26 West, and set my sights on Yellowstone, and the rendezvous with Dennis Ryan.  Dennis is from the Bay Area ,working his way back west from a trip to Kansas City.  We will ride together into Montana, and Washington before heading south.

I was riding west in the pre dawn light, when I glanced at the sunrise in my mirrors.  The sun was clearing the earth and streams of light were brightening the landscape.  What happens next is one of the most unique, and fun experiences I've ever had on a motorcycle.

The long open highway westbound was still dark, behind me the road was bathed in a white light.  I pulled to the side and looked to my rear.  I could see the sunlight moving down 26 as the sun came up.  The light steadily working its way west.  I dropped back into gear and sped off, to see how long I could out run the sunlight before it caught me.  I charged west on 26 at 85 mph gaining ground on Mr. Sun.  My first goal was to beat him to the bluffs in the distance, and I do.  I can see in the mirrors he is getting higher and higher, lighting the day.  The ST and I have the road to ourselves.  We are the only guys playing this game with the sun.

The air is clean and fresh.  It is cool, and pleasant.  I think about hot and humid Alabama as I race the sunlight across Nebraska.  Suddenly, I am cast in a intense bright light, as if someone used a flashbulb, and it stayed on.  The light has captured me, and put an end to my game.  It over takes me, and keeps moving across the land.  It is high now, and I back off the throttle.  I will never forget the morning I raced the sunlight.

I have a picture of that sunrise, but I want each of you to have your own picture of that moment.  It will be better then mine anyway.

US 26 traces the Oregon Trail.  I think about the early pioneers, and how tough it must have been for them to make this journey.

I follow 26 to I-25.  It will take me to Casper.

The speed limit is 75 so I put the ST on 85 and figure to be safe.

Cruising along at 85 I see a big bird eating road kill up ahead.  I think nothing of it at first, and go back to my mind games.  I close down on the beast, not backing off  the throttle, he will fly off soon enough I think to myself.  I take my eyes off to the side, and when I come back, he is really close.  He still has not heard the quiet ST, so I beep the horn, and close down the throttle and veer to the left.  Geezus! This is gonna be close! The buzzard takes off with his 6 ft wing span, my mind instantly records his size and weight relaying back to me if we hit him there's going to be damage.  His size makes him slow, I HAVE to guess correctly which way he will go to avoid him.  He flies off to my right as I cut it to the left and we miss, but not by much. 

I ride non stop into Casper and begin looking for the exit that has the Wal Mart.  I came this way in my Prelude in 2000 and remember it.  I need to pick up a few supplies.

After some searching I find the exit, take a break, get gas and pick up a few things from Wally World.  Recalling how the dry air chapped my lips last year, I made sure to get chap stick. 
 
A man drove to the pumps in a 56 Ford.  Pristine condition.  He has NY plates.  He speaks with a tough city accent, and tells me he is on a summer long road trip to escape wife #3 who is making his life miserable.  A colorful, but eccentric individual.





















          Casper, Wyoming-You can find many characters on the road.

"you drove that all the way from NY?"

"of course, I just talk sweet to her and she will take me anywhere"

"I found that out myself last fall about yankee girls"

I remind him to be safe, and watch him drive off, while I sip Mountain Dew.

I called my son and wife.  I almost always do each time I take a break.  I left Dennis a voice mail, and got back on the road.  I stayed on 26 west out of Casper.

The landscape is now range land and rocks, and after a few miles there is nothing to see.  There is a steady stream of RVs going west.  This section of 26 is a main connector to Yellowstone.

Riding I sing a few country songs, it fits when in this part of the country.

I was in the middle of nowhere when I came across a cafe called, "Hells Half Acre."  It is located near a canyon with the same name.  I pull off the highway into a dusty, wind blown parking lot.  Not one car is out front.  Is the place open?

I shut the ST down, and take off my gear.  When I remove my Oakleys, I have to cover my eyes with my hand till I can get them back on.  The sunlight was that intense.

When I go in I am pleasantly surprised.  The atmosphere is friendly, and I am warmly greeted, and taken to a table by the window.
I guess the ST in the parking lot broke the ice, and a few more cars came in.


















  
                 The cafe at Hell's Half Acre, Wyoming.  Great Burgers.

An RV couple came in and were seated at a table that rocked.  The man took a napkin and stuffed it under the leg to stabilize it.
A 30ish blonde mother with her son were seated a few tables away.  I did not pay much attention, till I heard her give their order to the waitress.  Southern accent, and a thick one.  Her son looked to be about 9 or 10.

I spoke to her from my table-

"Hey! where y'all from?"

"Savannah, Georgia! And you??"

"Alabama!"

"good to see someone from home"

She introduces herself as Denise. I find out she has a daughter in a rodeo back in Casper. She and her son are taking the day off to explore the area. He said he wanted to see some dinosaur bones.  She invites me to her table to eat my hamburger.  We speak about home, people, and horses.

"so how far west are ya goin?"

"California"

"my husband wants to go there"

"so do it, not that much farther, almost there in fact"

Southern people get lonely for other southerners when we are far from home.  I guess its our need to be understood.

The burger at Half Acre was one of the best of the entire trip.  Nice, friendly service also. Check it out if you ever ride through the area.  I can't promise you will meet a attractive southern lady from Georgia, but the food won't disappoint. 

"well I gotta get goin, have to meet someone in Yellowstone"

"WHO?"

I laughed back at her "well dang sweetie gettin kind of personal aint ya?  But to ease your mind, a rider from the Bay Area, old friend.

"I didn't mean it that way"

I wished them a safe trip and loaded back up.

I do the balance of 26 at 90 mph and soon find myself in Shoshoni taking a break.  I later find out Dennis was pulled over somewhere out here by a trooper for doing a lot less.  I was lucky.

From there I go to US 20.  Traffic is picking up the closer I get to Yellowstone.

US 20 takes me into Wind River Canyon.  The road starts to twist, and and I lean the ST.  Its a fun road.  The highway follows a river as it winds its way among the canyon walls.   A great ride.


























                            U.S. 20, west bound.  Wind River Canyon.  Great riding.


I'm thirsty, so stop for fancy water in Thermopolis.

It's been fun on a picture perfect weather day.  Not a cloud in the sky, 81 no humid degrees, and riding a motorcycle seeing the country, meeting people.  Man, I'm a lucky guy.  I have no one to answer to but myself.

Other then the first day, this has been a relaxing trip.  No pressure to make time or distance goals.  I just ride, stop when I want to, and set my own agenda.

The ST and I take 120 into Cody, where we go back to 20.  Cody is the jumping off point for East Yellowstone.  The city is a tourist hangout.  T-shirts can be found by the thousands proclaiming - "I was in Yellowstone."

I stop in a Dairy Queen for a vanilla cone.  I called my wife and spent my break with her.

Its a slow go from Cody to Yellowstone.  RVs rule the day and they choke down traffic.  I get behind one spewing something out the rear.  I back waaaaaaaaaay off.  Not taking any chances on what it might be.

Finally, I reach the entrance and taken aback at the 15 dollar entrance fee.  The ranger says-

"yeah but that gets ya in Teton also"

"well that's a comfort"

The meeting place for Dennis and I, is the Canyon Land campground.  A long ride on the RV infested roads of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone.  I always dreamed of coming here.  I remember watching Disney on Sunday nights when I was a boy.  Sometimes, they would have a nature show about some lonely coyote.  I would sit in amazement at the scenery I saw on TV, even if it was just black and white.  I never thought I would actually make it here.

TV and books fail to do the Park justice.

I stopped in Fishing Village for a break.  The lights are flashing on and off in the store.  It was quite annoying.  I got out some lemonade and hollered over to the cash register.

"Hey! Can y'all still check guys out without power?"

"oh yeah, they are on battery back up"

It begins to get chilly, and a light rain begins to fall.  I ride out of it quickly.

On the way into Canyon Land a bison is meandering the shoulder on my side of the road.  I slow way down and crawl past him.  Did not want to startle him, and get taken out.
























                   Dances with Buffalo.  That's him just above the windscreen, to the right.

I rode past valleys, forests and mountains.  It was another great ride, and a fitting way to end the day.

I reach Canyon Land and go in to find out where brother Dennis is camped. 

"I can't give out that info"

" look here, he ain't a secret agent"

"maybe so, but I can't tell ya"

"if I gotta cruise all 300 sites to find him I will.  So if any jokers come back to ya complaining about some guy on a  bike stalking them, you know who it is"

I begin surfing the sites and get lucky.  He's in site 63.

We greet each other warmly, and I unload the bike. It's good to have some company after so many days of solo riding.
It was really good to see him again.

I rode 506 awesome miles today.

He tells me he has had 3 encounters with LEOs so far on this is trip.

Laughingly, I say, "damn brother I dunno if wanna ride to the Hotel California with a guy that's been busted 3 times in 3,000 miles."
I set up camp, and we catch up on things.  Before we know it, supper time rolls around, so we ride over to the cafeteria.  

I went down to take a shower, but they closed at 8pm.

I have the spaghetti and meatballs.  It wasn't bad.

When we get back to the campground Dennis has a warning ticket from a ranger.  He left a water bottle out, and that's a no no in bear country.  Make that 4 encounters with the law.

It started to get chilly so we hiked back down to the office for some firewood.  After much consternation we got the fire started, but by that time we were too sleepy to enjoy it. 

Tomorrow would be a easy day.  We plan on sleepy late and spending the day riding the park. After several consecutive 500+ mile days, I was ready for a break.

The night would be cool at this elevation, so I wore a shirt to bed. 

Great ending to a great day.


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