This morning I got an early start for some reason or other; doesn’t matter but I was on the road by 8:30am local time and headed north on highway 385. Alongside the highway there were more trains hauling coal than I’ve ever seen before. Maybe it’s because there are lots of coal mines in the area?
The weather was as good as it gets; bright sunshine, moderate temperature not too hot, not too cold and very little breeze. I’m still wearing the Bohn outfit and my odd suntan/sunburn patterns are becoming more intense each day. I think I may have to fabricate some cock and bull story about being captured by rogue Hindus and tortured with firebrands or something…
Nebraska has quite a lot of historic places marked with sign posts so I’ve gotten into the habit of stopping to read them. The general mix is split between cattle drives and gold rush trails plus a lot of Indian skirmishes tossed in for good measure. I like what the state has done plus a lot of extra information has been posted by the DAR organization. All told it makes it easy for the tourist to learn a lot about the local history as you go along.
An abandoned church (I think) called out to me and I spent awhile going through it. Although the doors and windows were open I was surprised to find an upright piano still in place on the raised stage. Birds roosting in the rafters above have pretty well ensured the veneer is done but it makes for an interesting photo op.
Cowboys were out working their cattle herds and I paused to watch them awhile. Their cutting horses did most of the work and it was fun to see them react to any strays that happened to challenge them. It would be a momentary stand-off but the cattle always gave in and headed off in the direction they were supposed to. I liked the whole idea of what I was seeing; it’s great that part of our western heritage is still alive and well.
Moving on I enjoyed the solitude of western Nebraska’s open rolling highway system; posted at 65 mph I was able to cruise much faster without having to deal with the usual truck traffic. Maybe it was the out of the way route I was following but it was pretty darn nice. Ultimately I crested a hill and half way down, maybe a distance of a mile or so I noticed a small contingency of vehicles parked alongside the road. I throttled back to the legal limit just in time to recognize two of Nebraska’s finest were flagging vehicles over for a safety equipment inspection. I obliged and El Nino passed with flying colors.
Next I came to Crawford which was one of my way points and I toured the little town from one end to the other. It’s a neat place full of old west charm and the assorted fringe element citizens just like we have at home. Some of the signs were pretty entertaining so I took a few photos of them. My GPS has this odd quirk about it that once I’m into a way-point it seems to want to run me around and around the same circle until I ignore its instructions and break out on my own. Very strange thing indeed but I can live with it I guess.
After leaving Crawford I moved on to Lusk where I stopped for lunch at a café claiming to have “The best food in Wyoming”. Why do I get sucked into these things? The requisite hamburger I had was truly good, served up with a tiny bag of Lay’s Original Chips and black coffee. I’d rate the burger as very good albeit they left out the barbeque sauce which was why I’d ordered that particular version. The coffee was average restaurant fare and what’s to be said about a bag of chips? At $12.59 I doubt my old friends at the golden arches are quaking in their boots much but it was a nice lunch and the owners were friendly people.
Gassed up and back on the road to Casper I once more enjoyed a fair amount of solitude for a long distance. Then I hit Casper and that’s when my day started to get really weird. The city didn’t do much for me compared to other areas; it seemed stretched out in all directions seemingly without purpose or thought as to form or function and it was not a tidy place. Point in fact I found nothing attractive about it at all and I’m sad to say that as I like the people of Wyoming very much.
As I was leaving the general metro area I noticed what I thought to be a large whirlwind funneling down off towards the east a ways but when I got to where I could see better it was gone. The sky had darkened somewhat and the cloud structure was beginning to look a bit ominous so I expected either rain or more high winds. I got the latter just out of town; the air seemed charged with electricity and El Nino suddenly gave a severe jerk like I’d turned the key off and back on. Before I could react it happened again and this time it was a done deal, her fire had gone out and I was forced to pull off the road and park. I looked her over and could see no obvious issues and then I noticed the GPS had gone into a lockup format. All of its keys were dead including the off/on button. I tried all the tricks I knew to cajole it back into a normal operating mode but no luck, it was a done deal. El Nino however started right up and appeared to have suffered no ill effects at all; it was as though nothing had happened. I couldn’t guess what had occurred but I suspected there had been an electrical disturbance that had affected the electronics of both bike and GPS.
There are times when a solo rider has to decide whether to push on or fall back and regroup and I decided since the bike seemed alright I’d go on. I hadn’t the foggiest as to what the problem was; I’d seen similar things occur when the air filter had clogged on my Aprilia but I didn’t think this was the case, the filter was new and I hadn’t been riding in extreme dusty conditions.
Moving on westward I soon encountered the most violent cross winds of my ride so far, it actually became unnerving to continue but nothing would be gained by stopping. My only option was to ride slower and hope to find my way out of the area. Cars and trucks coming at me were swerving off the road and obviously having as difficult a time as I was. There didn’t seem to be any other traffic moving in my direction at all and I began to wonder if I was heading into an area of more violent weather. The severe winds continued for another hour or so until I must have reached the outer edge of their range and then things began to settle down to normal. I was thankful as it had been nerve racking to ride in those conditions but there was nothing to be done about it except go on.
Eventually I came to a rest stop and pulled over for a stretch and a drink of water. While there I met another rider from Michigan who had come the same way as I and although he had struggled with the winds he hadn’t experienced any issues with his electronics. His GPS mounting bracket had vibrated hard enough to break so he was carrying it in his jacket pocket but that was the extent of his damage.
I stayed long enough to look the bike over and tried to reboot the GPS but unfortunately couldn’t remember how to do it. Rather than risk screwing something up tinkering around I elected to run without the benefit of it and set out once again. Within a few miles the dreaded fuel reserve light came on and without the GPS I hadn’t a clue how many miles I’d traveled on that tank of gas. I knew I had around 35 miles on reserve but no idea how far it was to the next town wherever that might be. Eventually a signpost declared Shoshoni to be 28 miles away and given I’d already traveled 5 miles on reserve I knew it would be close. As luck would have it a slow moving group of trucks was holding a lot of cars up and the lower speed meant reduced fuel consumption.
As our group of vehicles approached Shoshoni there appeared to be an unusual dense cloud of dust whirling on the edge of town. The closer our group came the more intense it became and soon we were engulfed in high whirling wind gusts and rain splatters. Having no choice I rode through the middle of it and as soon as I cleared it I spotted the welcome sign of a Shell station. I pulled in without hesitation, whirlwind or not and parked the bike hoping the power was on and the pumps operative. By the time I dismounted the whirlwind had dispersed as suddenly as it had appeared and all that remained was a small cloud of dust particles falling on us. Grateful for not having to push her I pumped El Nino full to the gills with Shell’s finest and rejoined the fracas on route 26.
That was about as much excitement as I needed for the day and I pushed on to my ultimate destination of Riverton where I would spend the night. After splurging for a salmon dinner at the restaurant a few blocks away I returned to the Comfort Inn where I was staying and settled in. The good news for the night is the Garmin web site had posted a solution to the problem I was experiencing and my GPS is once again functioning.
Now if only El Nino behaves…