Day 4 740 km/444 miles (Cody WY to Spearfish SD)
When I left Cody at 5:30 am, the air was warm and comfortable. I had planned on spending the day on big highways to make up for some mileage, and had expected a full day of boredom. However, I later learned that I was wrong with my expectations.
There was something magical about riding long distance alone. The early mornings, the fresh air, the sun rise, the curious strangers, the sense of freedom and control all became very addictive.
The road was not very exciting between Cody and Big Horn. However, I was kept amused by the sunray coming through the clouds for over an hour.
So far, I have not been bored. I was pleasantly surprised again when I entered the west side of Big Horn National Forest on Highway 14. The road became twisty, with steep walls of rocks on both sides of the road. From the drop of temperature, I suspected the gain in elevation as I continued in the Forest.
I saw some deer bouncing across the pavement, and some open range cows. The road provided lots of corners and curves for good riding fun. There were dark red ancient granite and lofty red cliffs to all over the Forest.
The good part of the road ended before hitting Burgess Junction. Since I did not expect any good riding all day, this was a pleasant bonus. “This is great! I’m loving this!”, I thought to myself.
I continued on the highway, riding towards the Devils Tower. I was once again entertained on the highway when I hit a bird for the first time. There was no time to avoid the bird, and I felt a little bad for it. It flew head-on into my head light, producing a loud “thud!” I saw it fall to the side of the road from my rear view mirror.
At the entrance of Devils Tower, I flashed my National Park Pass and got in quickly, and padded myself on the back for the smart move of buying the pass.
The short ride up to the base of the Tower was pleasant, but restricted by a low speed limit. I parked the bike, and sat down to read the park pamphlet and admire the Tower. Next to the Old Faithful, this was my second favorite spot on the whole trip.
The Devils Tower was formed from molten rock being squeezed out of the earth, made up of hundreds of hexagonal columns. It stands 867 feet high, and the local natives claim that it has sacred powers. All I could think of was, “Awesome!”
I stopped at a gift shop at the bottom of the Tower, bought some post cards and an over-priced ice cream cone. I sat down to enjoy my ice cream and write the post cards. A gang of six bikers started walking towards me from the other side of the parking lot. Being a pessimist, I wondered if I was in trouble. Then they proceeded to ask me where I was from, what bike I rode, why I was riding alone, etc. Each like a little boy showing off his toy, they took turns telling me what bike he rode, how they met, and the plan for their whole trip. They all went and checked out my bike and said some nice things about it. We wished each other a safe journey, and they were on their way.
As I was about to finish my post cards and ice cream cone, a couple with a child sat down beside me. They asked me why I had a Canadian flag patch on my hydration pack. I told them I sewed it on before I left home, because I am a proud Canadian. They got very excited, because they were from Ontario and were happy to see another Canadian. They proceeded to tell me about their riding experience in the area, and told me about some good roads through Black Hills.
I was amazed to learn that people are willing to tell you their life stories, just because you are riding a motorcycle. This family told me about their house in Ontario, about their jobs, and about their child’s school. As they spoke, I envied them. I envied their frank speech, their journeys together, their hard work, and mostly, that they have each other.
An hour later, I was on my way towards South Dakota. I wanted to get as close to Black Hills as possible, so I can spend the next morning playing in the area. I stopped at Spearfish for the night and found a KOA site to set up camp.
Some campers in a neighboring site came to chat as I was cleaning the bike’s chain. They invited me to their site for a visit and a beer. They were at the tail end of a Yamaha bike-meet in the area.
After I finished all the dirty work, I took a shower, and bought a bag of chips at the KOA store. It won’t be polite to visit without bringing something, and I couldn’t just bring my cans of tuna. I was feeling a bit apprehensive visiting some strangers. Sure they appear nice, but what was I suppose to talk about?
It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights I have spent at a camp site. Five middle aged men, all on their Yamaha Venturer, and one had his wife with him. They treated me like I was their daughter. They all showed me their bikes, their trailers, gave me advice about the roads I should take, and gave me beer. One of them gave me a park entrance ticket for Black Hills, and another one gave me a sticker for their club.
We chatted about bikes, jobs, where we lived, families, trips, etc for over two hours. At the end of the night, they extended invitation for me to come back the next morning for coffee and breakfast. I crawled into my sleeping bag that night, thanking God for the kindness of strangers.
Thus far, I was loving the new things I got to see, and enjoyed most of the roads.