Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Rain, Sleet, and Hail (Oh my!)

On a day that broke the all time heat record in Seattle, I really can't complain that we froze our butts off today riding across Wyoming or I'm likely to face the wrath of my Seattle friends when I get home.  I've ridden in some lousy weather before -- a blizzard in Utah in May of 2008 tops the list for one, but the wind, rain, and hail today put this as probably the second worst ride I've done.  It started out with rain in Riverton, WY when we woke up, and so I jumped on line and pulled up the weather channel to see what the day would be like.  Thank goodness for live radar.  It looked like we'd be in bad weather all day on the route I'd originally planned, so over the freebie breakfast we plotted a new route that would take us North and then East more or less around the stormy areas, and getting us to Sturgis quicker by virtue of 180 miles of freeway.
I dug the rain gear out of the saddlebags and struggled into it -- I've put on a few pounds since last I wore it, and it's not easy to get into anyway. Picture putting on rubber pants over thick Carhartt jeans and big motorcycle boots -- like putting a kid into a snowsuit who doesn't want to get into a snowsuit.  The stuff is miserable to wear too -- hot, and it doesn't breathe, but it does keep you dry -- or at least drier than not wearing it, as you ride through what amounts to a giant carwash.  One of the most irritating factors about rain gear is that it doesn't "slide", so when one adjusts position on the seat, the pants don't move with your body which then causes the inner pants and underwear to move with your skin, and after a day of riding in it my underwear tends to ride so far up that if I sneezed my boxer-briefs would come out my nose.  This is why I'm not happy wearing it as you can tell.

We headed Northeast out of Riverton on US-26, and rather than turn east when it joined up with US-20 a few miles up, we continued on US-20 West.  It took me a minute to realize we were in fact going on the right road, as we'd been on US-20 in Oregon going East, and this felt like we were going backwards.  But US-20 at this point is going more or less North, and we left US-20 at Yellowstone Park, where it loops through and then comes down into Wyoming, and if we kept going the way we were this morning we'd actually go back towards Yellowstone -- so while we were going North, this was the right road although the signs sure made it feel wrong.  The Wind River canyon was very pretty as we climbed up towards Thermopolis, WY -- I was unable to take pictures as we were in and out of ran showers all morning.  I will say that the canyon and river were appropriately named, as the head and side wind were fierce.  I was worried about Andre, who was riding with no windsheild for protection (he forgot it), and no rain gear (he left it on a friends bike).  He was one miserable wet rider by the time we got to Thermopolis where we stopped to dry off for a bit.  One of the things I love about riding in the West are the lonley abandoned structures that dot the landscape -- each one with a back story to tell if you could figure it out. This old building was outside Thermopolis and looks like something from a movie set.

We continued on up US-20 until Worland when we turned East on US-16 towards the tiny town of "Ten Sleep".  This turned out to be a charming little town with old-west fronts and a nice saloon with a row of bikes parked out front like horses used to be in the old west.  We decided to stop for lunch.  The other bikes belonged to a group of Canadians who were also headed up the pass and asked if we'd come down it as they too were worried about the weather, and then recommended the onion rings (they were right, and the meatball sandwich I had was even better).   It was here at the saloon that Andre noticed a stuffed "Jackalope" on the wall, and commented "thats a good model".  I told him it was real -- that in Wyoming you'd find a crossed Jackrabbit and Antalope called a "Jackalope".  He laughed, but I got the bartender to help me out, but try as we might Andre wouldn't fall for it.

We finished lunch and got back on the bikes and headed up Ten Sleep Creek Canyon -- the Canadians pulling out about 20 minutes before us.  Like most of the roads in Wyoming, this was very quiet, and very little traffic -- and we could see a layer of clouds far up on the mountains.  Before we left I told Andre we were going to get rained on going up the mountain and he said "no we won't -- it's not gonna rain."  As we left town there were several "warning" signs saying "US-16 closed if lights flashing" and "If lights flashing, return to Ten Sleep" -- all of which reminded me of the warnings in the forest Dorothy came upon as they searched for the witch's broom in Wizzard of Oz.  Maybe we should have paid attention, because as climbed up this very pretty, and very lightly traveled canyon, it kept getting colder and to me it felt like a late fall/early winter kind of storm -- where you can just feel that it's going to snow high in the mountains.  Sure enough as we approached the top of Wind River Pass at 9960 feet, it started -- not to snow, but to hail!  Little tiny gnat sized hailstones that hurt like hell at 40mph.  I at least had a windshield and some protection -- poor Andre had none and by the time we got down the other side and into the town of Buffalo, he said that was the most painful thing he'd ever experienced.  He also reminded me he was right -- we didn't get rained on.   We stopped at the Kum and Go market (yes that is the correct spelling of the name) and I changed out of my rain gear, and then hit I-90 for the 180 miles to Sturgis. 

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, and rather boring as we roared up the Interstate for two hours.  We made it to Sturgis -- after 360 miles, the shortest of our days so far, and checked into the Holiday Inn Express where we'll be for the next six nights.  The rally doesn't get started until Saturday, but all the vendors are setting up now and the crowds are less, and we'll get to sleep in since we don't have to hit the road early tomorrow morning.  At dinner tonight everyone was complaining of the cold -- but they say it won't last.  It was in the 90s when Tony and I were here last year -- and it's supposed to get up to the mid 70s tomorrow!  Sorry Seattle -- don't hate me -- if I could box up some of this deliciously cool air and FedEx it to you I would.

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