Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Chasing A Thunderstom Eastward

The day was already warm when we loaded up the bikes at the Holiday Inn Express in Caldwell, Idaho and headed out down I-84 towards Mountain Home.  I wore only a t-shirt, as the sun was up and it was nearly 80 when we left.  I have to say the run down I-84, while only 45 miles, was long and hot and boring as most freeway riding is.  At Mountain Home we exited and headed East on US-20 and up the Prairie towards the Sun Valley.  However as we climbed up from the lowlands, it got noticeably cooler, and the quiet ride east towards the junction with Idaho 75 (the main road to Sun Valley) was quite pretty.  We took our first stop of the day at the little rest area at the junction with the road to Sun Valley, and I'd wished we had time to buzz up there, but we didn't.  We spoke with an older couple on a Honda Goldwing trike who were headed West - on almost the exact route we came from, so we told them what to expect before heading out on the road.A few miles up the road we entered the fringe of Craters of the Moon National Monument -- with it's black lava flows and desolation making it appear like a Lunar landscape, and then turned south at Arco, Idaho and across the Idaho National Laboratory lands -- home of the first commercial nuclear power plant.  There is a reason they put that out here -- there is NOTHING out here.  The road is straight and long like many in the West, and there is very little to look at except the mountains on the horizon, and the road in the rear-view -- and the flashing lights of an Idaho State Patrol truck!  Apparently we were doing 79 in a 65 zone.  Albeit a straight, flat, in the middle of BFE nowhere zone.  The officer was kind and didn't write us a ticket, but followed us for 35 miles -- at 63 mph all the way into Idaho Falls where we stopped for lunch.

After a nice break we headed east towards Jackson, Wyoming (keeping an eye out for Dick Cheney and his shotgun).  It kept getting cooler the higher we got in elevation, and so at Jackson I actually pulled out my leather jacket for the first time on this trip and put it on!  The ride North and East from Jackson is spectacular -- I had just passed this way not two months ago on the US-89 ride, but it was Andre's first time and so we stopped for pictures at one of the overlooks.  He said he was hungry and had a bite -- the guy has the metabolism of a hummingbird as he ate at every stop -- het he's skinny as twig.  I'm jealous.  Of course after eating he had to relax a bit.  I've known Andre for a number of years, and we ride together on some trips with the motorcycle club, but this is the first time we've done a long haul trip together and it's wearing on him.
Where US-89 diverges from US-26 we turned east on 26 towards Dubois and Riverton, Wyoming where we had planned on stopping for the night.  It's a good thing we took time in Jackson to call ahead -- the Holiday Inn Express and Comfort Inn were booked up, so we had to settle on another "Choice" hotel (using the corporate term not a descriptive one), a Roadway Inn and "Suites".  Now Rodeway is a "Choice" brand hotel, but it's so low on the totem pole on their many brands it doesn't even show up on the Choice Points card.  Even they are embarassed as to how bad Rodeway's are, and this is no exception.  It looks like one too many bad 1970s porno films were produced here -- with orange carpet, and gold flecked mirrors, and it in no way is a "Suite", but I dirgress.

This road is one of the first "new" roads for me on this trip -- I've always turned into Yellowstone heading north on US-89.  I have to say the road up to the Continental Divide at Tagwattee Pass is spectacular, and if it had not been for the 15 miles of road construction, pilot cars, mud, gravel, and road workers relieving themselves off the side of the road, it would have been even more memorable!
We crossed the Continental Divide and started down the Wind River valley.  Far off in the distance we could see thunderheads, which are very typical in this part of the country in the late summer afternoon.  The ride down the Wind River was as nice as the one up, without the construction of course, and the air was crisp and clear and smelled like Western Mountain Air.  I don't know how else to describe it -- Lord knows I've tried in the past, but I can't.  I don't smell it in the mountains of the Northwest, or in the East -- only in the Intermountain West, and anyone who's been here knows it -- but I dare say can't describe it either.  If you've not, you  just have to come out to experience it for yourself.  Smell is one of the senses that is most acute when on the motorcycle, and you do smell everything -- good and bad -- including fresh fertilizer and roadkill.  But the good smells more than make up for it -- sagebrush, fresh mown alfalfa, pine, sawmills, and the smell just after a rain.

As we got down to the Wyoming prairie, the road was a bit damp and you could smell it had just rained, although the skies were clear. However we could see the tail end of the storm which was headed East just like we were -- although at a slower pace.  Some 20 miles outside of Riverton we started to get rather close -- enough to see the lightning and the road was still very wet, but we didn't have any drops falling on us. We chased the storm all the way into Riverton, where the aforementioned tacky Roadway Inn awaited us, along with a rather nice Italian dinner across the street at a small litlle joint that little towns seem to have.  In the morning we'll hit the road again, and hope the showers have cleared off and make it to Sturgis by nightfall.

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