It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. Riding out of Island Park, we gassed up at the Chevron station, then turned south on pavement to NF road 150, which left the pavement at a bank parking lot. It looked like a fairly nice road at first, but within two miles we encountered our first water crossing. The main track looked to me like it was deeper than the track off to the left. We hesitated for a couple of minutes, at which point I decided that as the lead bike, I should make a decision one way or another. I was not aware of an alternate route, so plunged into the creek where the left track entered. It was about a foot deep and probably sixteen feet wide, and the last half looked somewhat soft. It was real soft, and I almost bogged down, but just as my left foot went into the water I gassed it and powered out the other side. It seemed like getting one foot a littel wet was a small price to pay for making it across. I advised my brother, Jim C that he was most likely going to get wet.
Meanwhile Jim C was pondering how he was going to get across, so knowing he was going to get wet anyway, he waded out into the creek with a stick to find the underwater hazards and move any rocks that might cause him a problem. Once he got back ashore and advised everyone where the problems were, Charlie powered through the water and made it just fine. Then Jim C got on his DR and powered through, and like me, got somewhat bogged down near the end, applied more power and launched himself out of the water just fine.
Phil did not want to take the risk of falling down in the water with his BMW, so began looking at the GPS for an alternate route. Between Phil and Jim R they found a real good alternate route that intersected the planned route about two miles up the road. So Phil, Jim R and Rick all rode back to the highway, then south to the alternate route and met us at a crossroads about two mile into the forest. During that time Jim C was taking his boots off, wringing out his socks, and drying things out as best he could under the circumstances.
NF road 150 was a pretty good road, with a fair amount of washboard, rather dusty, and had a few cabins or homes along the way. Eventually we arrived at Hwy 47 and rode pavement into Warm River. From there we headed east on Flagg Ranch road, which was paved, then NF 261. 261 was a fairly wide, well-travelled gravel road, with a lot of dust and terrible washboard. The bumps just about jarred our teeth out! Going slower just made it worse, so I eventually got the speed up to about 50 mph, at which point we were just skittering across the tops of the bumps and it was not particularly uncomfortable. I quickly left the group behind, as Phil did not want to push himself or the BMW as fast as me.
We had no idea just how many miles of this torture we were in for, but it seemed endless. After awhile I stopped to let the group catch up. Grabbing a drink of water, I talked to Phil a little, explaining that going faster actually made the bumps less of a problem. Obviously the down-side risk was the fact that a crash would be considerably worse at 50 than it would have been ad 30! I was careful not to insist he do so, as I believe everyone needs to ride at a pace they are comfortable with. However I suggest he at least give it a try, which would expand his experience base and perhaps allow him to get there sooner in a more comfortable manner.
Taking off, I quickly left the group again, so after a few minutes I slowed down to let them catch up. They were not far behind now, as Phil had decided to give it a try and liked the more comfortable ride.
Once we got through the washboard, we encountered a BiGod forest road, complete with mudholes, rock slabs, rocky and steep sections, and eventually a back-country lake. We stopped to eat lunch on the dam while we drank in the exquisite scenery. Leaving there we ran east a few more miles until we came out at the John D. Rockefeller Parkway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
We got back on pavement on Hwy 287 at Flagg Ranch, then headed south along the shoreline of Jackson Lake. Spectacular scenery with the Grand Tetons in the background! Eventually we arrived at Colter Bay and checked in to our quarters for the night.
Best Western in Pinedale
It's a race to the restroom......
Day Seven: Colter Bay to Pinedale
It was fairlly cold when we rode out of Colter Bay, but the crisp air was invigorating! Jim C knew of a place along the highway where we could get a great picture of a stream with the Grand Tetons in the background, so we stopped there and took pictures as it warmed up. After that we stopped again at the top of Togwatee Pass, where the scenery was almost as good. At Stoney Point we turned off the pavement and started south on road 240, which was gravel. This road wound around through forested areas with more traffic than we had encountered before, so it was fairly dusty at first. However once we got to the top and started down the south side, there wasn't as much traffic and the views opened up into a big valley with sceninc mountains all around. The road did not improve any, but the riding was easier and less dusty, with very little traffic from here on.
Eventually we got back onto pavement for the last few miles into Pinedale, where we stayed at a Best Western. I had hunted in Pinedale back in about 1969, and the motel, cafe, and shack where we skinned a deer were all there, almost like they were 45 years ago.
Day Eight: Pinedale to Rawlins
This day was anticipated to be the toughest, both in terms of heat, distance, and fuel. It was supposed to be a 220mile day, about 75% of which was out in the boonies with no available fuel or water. Again, it was chilly when we started off, and we rode pavement on hwy 353 for about twenty miles, during which we encountered another small cattle drive. The person in charge of the drive was a woman of about 35, and her helper was a boy about 8-10 years old. They were doing an impressive job.
Eventually we turned off and took road 132, which was the Lander cutoff. At South Pass we got back on pavement at hwy 28, where we waited for construction delays and then continued north to Atlantic City, where we once again turned onto dirt, then stopped to look at the ghost town that calls itself Atlantic City. Leaving there we took road 22 to the southeast out into the prairie. This was to be the real test. The road was fairly good in most sections, although there were a few areas that were marginal along the way. This road eventually turned into 3216 and then 3217. Navigation was tricky, since there were a number of "new" roads going to gas wells which did not appear on the map or GPS, and the map and GPS did not always agree.
In some ways this was the most scenic part of the trip, since we could see mountains on all sides, albeit a long ways away. Also we saw several herds of antelope and came upon several nice bucks hanging out by themselves. We crossed the Continental Divide at least six times and at one point ran right along the divide itself for at least five miles. Finally we got back onto pavement again on Hwy 63, "Mineral Exploration" road, which took us to Hwy 287 into Rawlins. Amazingly no one ran out of gas or even came all that close.
At Rawlins we stayed at the Pronghorn Motel. Not long after we arrived Jim Mokler and Nick Ores showed up as planned to ride the final day with us into Steamboat Springs.
Day Nine: Rawlins to Steamboat Springs, CO
It was our understanding, based on input from Jim Mokler and Nick Ores, that the road south from Rawlins to the Colorado border was under construction. It was also our understanding that it would be closed after 0800 each morning. The implication being that if we were to enter the road prior to 0800 we could ride the entire distance without being stopped for construction. Having ridden with Jim Mokler for a number of years, I suspected we were in for a pretty wild ride!
We gathered at the road construction sign fifteen minutes to eight and took pictures of the group. Then we mounted the machines and boogied toward Steamboat, trying desperately to keep up with Mokler. It was definitely a wild ride! Not long after arriving on the construction section, we passed a road grader and had to avoid being bogged down in the berm he was forming. Then we encountered a water truck with a spray most of the width of the road, causing all of us to swerve and duck to reduce the severity of the dousing we would surely get! Then we came upon a ditch all the way across the road, which was about eight feet wide and four feet deep. Certainly nothing we could cross! Guarding the ditch was a female "flagger" of sorts, and in the ditch were several laborers, who encouraged us to jump the ditch for their entertainment!
It was clear we were going to be stuck there for longer than we would prefer, so Mokler, in his inimitable way, dismounted and approached the flagger lady with his usual disarming smile. After a short, amusingly animated conversation, Jim re-mounted his bike while the flagger lady approached the laborers. Whereupon the laborers quickly fashioned a ramp along between the ditch and the embankment on the left side, just wide enough for us to sneak through. It was also narrow enough that an error in judgement would cause us to contact the embankment, which would then deflect us into the ditch......
We all made it through okay, then had to wend our way between several pieces of construction equipment parked rather close together. This of course caused us all to put the hammer down and rip the rest of the way through the construction section and into the forest roads, eventually coming out onto the pavement of Highway 70 between Slater, CO, and Encampment, WY. Since it went over the Continental Divide between our location and Encampment, we decided to ride to the top of Battle Pass on the divide to get another crossing.
Mokler and I had road-raced together in the '80's, in addition to having a number of very spirited rides on public roads, but had not ridden together for at least fifteen years. Needless to say, the competitive spirit arose in both of us, causing us to "race" to the top of the pass, leaving everyone behind. It was great fun, although I realized my riding had slowed down considerably since our earlier riding days, and he easily beat me to the top.
The remainder of the ride to Steamboat was split into two groups, as myself and two others were fairly worn out, while the others followed Mokler and Ores on some fun back roads leading into Steamboat. In town we met my sister Deb, who is Rick's wife, and stayed at the Rabbit Ears Motel, which had been there since I first got to Steamboat Springs 43 years ago.