Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Aug 1, 6 pm Dinosaur National Monument

FLASH! – Lightning lights up everything in the tent like I’m surrounded by paparazzi and less than a second later – KRAKA BOOM! Thunder shakes me and I can feel the sound go through my body. I’m camped on BLM land with the closest people 7 miles away. Rain is pummeling the tent and I’m laying on my sleeping bag and pad. If the tent takes a hit, maybe the aluminum poles will shunt it to the ground. Just an hour before, I had decided to not ride 20 miles to Rangley for food – the overcast sky had turned darker and I could see the gray out of rain under clouds in several directions. I raced back to my campsite up 5 miles of pavement and 2 miles of dirt road with the first drops hitting my face shield during the last ½ mile. With the bike covered, rain fly tied to it and my gear thrown inside, I had made it just in time. Celery, a handful of trail mix and a cup of yogurt would be dinner tonight. Tomorrow I can get food in Vernal, UT on my way to Flaming Gorge.

This has been a fun day of riding into the Yampa Canyon to Echo Park at the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers down a steep dirt road of 24 miles round trip. Going down was less controlled feeling with the back tire sliding and most of my weight on the hand grips, but the return trip up was so easy that I was surprised to reach the top as quickly as I did. This was much different than riding a bicycle; I could not have made the trip in only a couple hours. It would have been a day from my present camp to the road head and down the dirt road to Echo Park, spend the night there and ride/walk back out. Turning the throttle and going up a hill still seems delightfully magical.

The road down the mesa and into the canyon went past the old Chew Ranch with several apricot trees still alive, but too late for the fruit.

(click on this picture to see the petroglyphs)

On past Pool Creek petroglyphs pecked into the cliff face and finally to the campground and white water craft take out point at Echo Park where the monolith Steamboat Rock stands 800 feet high.

Returning, I stopped at Whispering Cave where a cool breeze washes down through cracks in the wall. Thirty miles later I was in the town of Dinosaur deciding what I should do for dinner.

… Going back to the last 3 weeks, I was at Robin’s much longer than I had anticipated. I was only going to stop and say hello, but it turned out there was a project for me to do there. Her father, who was a famous wildlife painter, had left several thousand prints of his work as her inheritance and I volunteered to photograph them for her so she could sell them on line. I set her up with an eBay seller’s account, PayPal and posted them on Flicker as well. We had to go to

Montrose every other day and fiddle with it on the library computer, but finally we finished about July 25th and I was ready to go. But, a friend of hers, Andras had arrived about a week or two before and he wanted some similar help. So, on the 26th I was off on my journey again, taking a scenic route to Grand Junction and camping in the forest on the way. Food, bike parts and a visit to AAA for maps and then on to Dinosaur where I’ve been riding around and getting back in travel mode after a month break.

Monday Aug 2 Dinosaur to Ashley Natl Forest

Waking up with the scent of wet sage, I packed feeling hungry. I was eager to get to Dinosaur and buy anything they had to eat. I had to rest between stages of packing like Survivorman conserving his energy to keep from boinking. This was a laundry day in Vernal, meaning that I was wearing just a tee shirt, swim trunks and moccasins during the process. I could charge my phone while I waited. After a quick stop at the Forest Service office to get a suggestion for a camp spot and I tore off to get to a cooler altitude. Too soon, as it turned out. I was just in time to get wet the last 2 miles before my camp site. I guess I should have taken the time to look at the museum in Vernal – lots of dinosaurs. Just as I got the tent up, the rain stopped. I was in a beautiful spot, though. Aspens, fur trees and flowers everywhere. Sorry, little lupine. I had to put my tent somewhere and you got squashed. Pollination should be no problem for the rest of the flowers, there were plenty of flies. None made it into the tent, but I could watch them from inside where they were trapped between the mesh top of the tent and the rain fly. I’m easily entertained.

Tue Aug 3 Cache Natl Forest

The tent fly was wet inside and out this morning but I couldn’t wait for it to dry. I need to ride about 220 miles to get to the next forest. I stopped at a scenic turnout and almost dumped the bike turning through some gravel on the road. Both feet were out like training wheels and if the bike had been heavier, I might not have been able to stay up.

I was at a pretty view of Flaming Gorge. Later I stopped at Fossil Butte Natl Monument and admired their display of fossilized sea creatures and plants. Bear Lake was a treat with its turquoise water, then up into the forest and down a dirt road to find a good spot.

Wed Aug 4 Jackson WY

I saw my first moose cow and calf in a field as I left Montpelier, ID. Big. I collected my replacement Therma-rest sleeping pad from the post office in Jackson, asked directions to dispersed camping at the FS office and made it to a gas station to wait out a rain shower. I met another biker staying dry there who was on his way to a motorcycle rally in Sturgis. So, that’s why there are so many Harleys on the road. He went across the street to inquire about a motel room and offered to split it with me. He would pay $100 and I would pay $50. Sorry, that’s out of my budget of $20 per day and I already had directions to free forest camping with a view of the Tetons. Showers provided by the sky. 10 miles of dirt road and I was on the slope across from Teton with the National Elk Refuge below.

Aug 5 & 6 Thur Sheffield camp ground.

I stopped at the Jackson library on the way out of town to see where to camp using the FS info and Google maps. Sheffield was just a mile or two from Yellowstone; perfect for a dash through the park and time to get to a Natl Forest on the other side. This was grizzly territory and the other 4 sites had bear boxes, but none on mine. Dusty, across from me shared his bear box and I stayed an extra day for personal grooming. Shared a campfire with Valerie from Lexington, KY.

Aug 7 Sat Quake Lake CG

Yellowstone Urban Wilderness was predictably crowded on my way through, with the camp grounds full and lines going into parking lots to see the geysers. The cheapest food to be seen at Old Faithful Village was a prepackaged burrito for $2. I rode a side trip through Fire Hole Canyon, recoiling at the crowds and on to West Yellowstone for groceries.

There was an Old Time Photo studio there and I chatted with Holly as I waited for the storm I could see to the north to blow by. She recommended a for-pay CG that I went for. It was the first time I used my mosquito headgear as I sat at a picnic table eating an apple.

Aug 8 Sun Beaverhead Natl Forest

I nearly ran out of gas before Ennis, MT. I had neglected to refuel in West Yellowstone and stopped at an invasive weed control station to bum gas from some guys with ATVs on a trailer. I stopped in Virginia City to see Holly’s husband, Grant. He runs their other Old Time Photo studio there. Business was going strong and he barely had time to talk. I didn’t want to wait 2 hours for him to take lunch and ended up waiting 1 ½ hours in Dillon until a storm passed. I had to ride all over town to find the road out that I wanted, 387. Pizza and beer in Wisdom and a referral to this campsite past Big Hole Battleground. I missed the rain that fell here this afternoon and got a good site where I am 10 feet from a babbling brook. $3.50

Aug 9 Chief Joseph Pass to Harper’s Lake State Camp Ground

147 miles today, with rain off and on up US93 to Missoula where I stopped at REI to buy a new down sleeping bag and a raincoat. $274 (ouch) and on to camp at a Montana state fishing spot and campground. $12 Pretty expensive day I got $10 for my old bag and camp backrest at Play It Again, Sam.

Aug 10 Tue West Shore State Park CG

I had a great ride up Swan Valley on State 83 – a little tail wind sweeping curves and gentle hills past lakes and woods. I stopped in Lakeside to buy binoculars from Dan Baldwin for $10. He is one of only two people in the USA who does authorized repair and restoration of binoculars. We met in Twin Bridges as I was eating lunch at a streamside park. A room in his house is dedicated to his repair business and he happily works when he wants. During our conversation I started to think about going back to work as a dental technician. I had passed a denture lab in Lakeside and was thinking and imagining working at that now that my knees are shot. I went on to the campground and worked on the computer, listening to music while talking to friends on the phone and typing blog. Camp was $15, an all time high.

Aug 11 Lost Johnnie Point CG USFS $13 for 2 nights.

I stopped by the Post Office in Lakeside to check general delivery for my replacement phone from T-Mobile, then more cherries from Cherry Haus, yum. Leaving to go to Glacier, I rode past the denture lab and after a couple miles I turned back to see if they needed help. When I left the lab biz 20 years ago I thought it might be something I returned to when I got old and feeble. Well, I guess I’m there, kinda. My knees won’t let me do massage any longer and photography seems to be too hard on the knees as well. So, they didn’t need help at the denture lab, but it got me thinking about pursuing a lab job when I get to the West Coast. There must be a lab between Seattle and San Diego that would work out. I can rent a room while I work. I find I’m spending more money on this trip than I had planned and a layover for the winter while I make money would work fine. “Motorcycle Tramp/Itinerant Dental Technician” My lifestyle evolves. I went on to the Hungry Horse ranger station and got directions to this great CG. It’s densely wooded and each site is isolated. No worries about bears, they are busy gorging on huckleberries. Dinner was fresh fish from the supermarket cooked in aluminum foil that the ranger gave me. We were talking and found we are in the brotherhood of ex-military.

Aug 12 Thur Lost Johnnie Point

Rode Hwy 2 to East Glacier – another beautiful day. I was going to take the circle route and go through Glacier on the way back, but it was too cold, windy and wet, so I came back the same way and still caught a little rain. Back to the supermarket in Columbia Falls where I bought the usual fried ½ chicken and a couple pounds of cherries. This is cherry country and they are great; my favorite food.

Aug 13 Fri Trout Creek, MT

I stopped at Cherry Haus for the 3rd time. The first 2 were for 2 lb of cherries each time. Well, these were about the best cherries this side of Hood Valley, OR and I bought 10 lb for $10 and ate them all today with no ill effects. The PO in Lakeside had my gen del package with my UPS drop. They wanted the phone returned within 7 days of signing for it or I pay for a new phone. With the 5 days from Caballo to Lakeside, I could make it in time. I stopped at Trout Lake for the huckleberry festival and a burger, then on to a forest road to find an unused side road with a campsite.

Aug 14 Sat Tiger, WA

Stopped in Sandpoint for library computer access, shopped for a frying pan in the thrift stores, but could only find a pie pan. It works with my pliers for a handle. I got a 7” kitchen knife and sharpened it on a rock after dinner. I stopped at Walmart for a spatula, ground beef, tortillas, taco sauce and eggs. I’ve used my backpacking stove only once on this trip and I thought I’d start. I found a good spot by a FS tree nursery and dump for chipped wood and branches. It smells like a cedar closet and there are few bugs. Dinner was quick to cook and I could hear bulls bellowing several hundred yards away. A deer walked past my site and stopped to look. I stayed still and she was there for about 30 seconds. Deer hooves make a distinctive clop. Eventually that night the cedar closet smell became a little much.

Aug 15 Sun Lake Wenatche 280 miles

Happy Birthday! I’m 65; feels like 64. I was going to stop sooner, but it was too hot and I had plenty of daylight left. Saw some deer by the road both alive and dead. One of them was a freshly killed fawn. L I treated myself to dinner out: jambalaya and Hostess cupcakes.

Aug 16 - 20 Seattle

I’m staying with a fellow ARAMCO Brat, Danni for about a week. I slept in a bed the first time in about 2 months. It’s great to get laundry done and caught up on sleep and post my blog. We went to the Seattle Aquarium and then had to have fish and chips. My replacement phone doesn’t work right either, so after 2 hours with T-Mobile, they decided to send a new one.