My 322 mile itinerary for today was originally supposed to be completed over two days. I had to combine them to make up for the extra day I spent in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This was to allow me to reach the edge of Yellowstone by Monday night. Which in turn was to give me the best shot at securing first-come-first-serve camping in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons during the week. I had read that weekend campsites there were next to impossible to come by. And the sites that were bookable online were gone months before I even began planning my trip. So… yeah, today was going to be a long one. I woke to rain:
Fortunately, I had the bike tucked under the motel awning in front of my room, so it stayed dry. There was a little cafe in the motel’s main building where I ate breakfast. Scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. When I asked for tea, it was clear they didn’t get that request often, but they scrounged up a bag of earl grey. Which I drank for the caffeine despite not liking oil of bergamot.
When the rain stopped, I loaded up the bike and set off:
I tanked up at the only gas station around, Cowboy Corner. The pumps were old. They only had spinning dials for gallons and no price. After pumping, you went inside and told them how many gallons, and they used a calculator to work out what you owed.
When I got back on the bike, it took a few pushes of the starter to get it running. This made me worry. Had I gotten bad gas? Perhaps some rainwater had gotten into the underground tanks at the gas station? Who knew how old they were… The bike seemed to be running fine though, so I pushed on hoping it would not be an issue.
As I headed west, I saw a heard of bison:
And more badlands:
In Rapid City, I tanked up early to dilute any bad gas I may have gotten before. Again the bike took a few tries to start. I began to panic, but told myself to calm down — The engine seems to be running fine; just get through the new gas and see if that doesn’t fix it.
And so I headed on, into the Black Hills of South Dakota:
I passed through Keystone, SD, a touristy little mountain town where you could book helicopter tours of Mt Rushmore:
Everyone I knew who had been to Mt. Rushmore told me it wasn’t worth paying to go into the park — You can see it just fine from the road; The park is crowded and touristy; You can’t even get that close to the monument. Well, they were right. Especially because the path closer to the monument was closed due to construction when I was there. But I might never visit again, so I paid the $10 admission anyway:
I considered visiting Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. I had originally planned to camp there, back when this was a two day adventure. But, worried about time, I skipped it and went straight to the Crazy Horse Memorial:
I did a speedy tour of the museum at Crazy Horse, and wolfed down a hotdog for lunch. I wished I had more time.
Riding on through the Black Hills, I wondered what caused all the downed trees in Hell Canyon:
Maybe a tornado. Maybe the devil himself. (NOTE: Nope, it was the Jasper Fire of 2000, the largest Black Hills wildfire in recorded history.)
As I crossed into Wyoming, the scenery got even prettier:
My next destination was Devils Tower National Monument, and, along the way, I spotted a sort of mini version of it:
As well as some very dramatic clouds:
Then, eventually, on the horizon, Devils Tower itself. The climactic scenes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind were filmed here:
I visited the national park which allows you to go right up to the base:
The tower is made of igneous rock. Geologists have various theories on how it was formed, but the fundamentals are that it’s a cooled tube of magma and that the sedimentary rock which once surrounded it eroded away:
Somewhere, near the border of Montana, I stopped to take a picture of these big wooden fences I kept seeing along my route. They’re used to prevent snow from drifting across the road in winter:
Then this happened:
I dropped it. From standing still. Basically, I mounted the bike, looked over my left shoulder to pull out, and then the bike leaned a little too far to the right. I tried to hold it up, but with the hill (the ground was more slanted than it looks) and the weight of my bags (and probably me being tired) I couldn’t. I had to just gently lay it down on its side. Whatever, fine. The bike wasn’t damaged. I was bound to drop it at some point. But then I tried to get it back up, and I couldn’t. The hill had gravity really working against me. I started to panic. I exerted myself to no avail. I tried to remember the last time I saw a car — maybe 10-20 minutes ago? I freaked out. I was gonna be stuck out here. Would I die in the heat? Then, I remembered to stop, calm down, and take a moment to think. I realized what I had to do: spin the bike 180 degrees so gravity was working with me. And… sure enough, it worked.
I rode on to Montana and US-212, where I stopped at a gas station and took a long break. I drank gatorade. I adjusted and tightened my right mirror. I gave the bike a good looking over. Everything was fine. What’s more, the engine was starting on its first try now too. Perhaps the issue from before really was just bad gas.
I cruised on through Montana. Its wide open spaces had me really feeling the whole “big sky country” thing. I took the photo below in an attempt to capture it. I think I better captured the bug genocide being carried out by my windshield:
Finally I reached my stopping point, Sagebrush Inn & Suites in Broadus, MT:
The town of Broadus seems to exist mainly as a waypoint for people traveling across Montana on US-212. It has a population under 500. The motel was somewhat interesting in that no one worked there. You simply booked online and were emailed a door code to your room. The rooms were nice though and appeared to be recently updated. I took a short walk down to the gas station to get food supplies. I kept running into swarms of mosquitos. I talked to my dad about the starting issue and he agreed it could have been bad gas but it was tough to say. I’d have to keep an eye on it.
When I settled into my room, I realized my shirt had ripped under my jacket:
I remembered buying this shirt ten years ago at H&M when I was living in New York. I wanted something breathable and lightweight and protective from the sun. I called it my picnic table shirt because it made me look like one. Suddenly I got very nostalgic for all the adventures we had shared. In the morning I used it to wipe the dead bugs off my windshield and said goodbye.