Thursday, July 06, 2017

Casper Wyoming to Glendive Montana

I was up before 6:00 AM, not having slept too well because of the pain in my ear. I put some more drops in and took a couple of my candy coated Tylenol 500's before heading down for a breakfast, which consisted of a reheated little cheese omelette, biscuits and gravy. Sandy, as you might have guessed, had Raisin Bran and yogurt. We were on the road by 7:00 AM.

Like Utah, Wyoming also had an 80 MPH Interstate speed limit. We drove north on I-25 at substantially less than that speed limit before getting off on Wyoming 259, also known as the Black Gold Byway. We would again spend most of the day on roads we had never seen before.

I-25 one mile above sea level

Wyoming 259 was a decent two lane road with interesting scenery along the way.

As we neared the intersection of Wyoming 259 and 387, I saw there was a Sinclair gas station at the junction. The Driver Information Centre in the car said I had just enough range to make the next fuel station. But what if we got poorer mileage or the station was closed? The wisdom of our dear departed friend Chuck Burt came to me. "See gas, buy gas." We filled up at the Sinclair station. Then we turned onto Wyoming 387 and followed it to Wyoming 50, which took us straight north to the city of Gillette.

On this stretch, I was reminded of Sisyphus, the guy in Greek mythology who was condemned to roll a rock uphill forever. It seemed like we were forever going up long hills, yet every time I looked at the elevation on the GPS we were not gaining any elevation.

The big empty spaces caused m to look up the population of Wyoming. The Land of Longmire (I know the show is filmed in New Mexico) had 586,107 people in 1915. In fact, 31 US cities contain more people than The Cowboy State.

In Gillette, we stopped at a Kum & Go for snacks and McDonald's so Sandy could get a smoothie. Then the GPS went nuts. You can see that all we had to do from the stops where 50 met the Interstate was to go north on 14. However, Garmin had apparently not received the word that Wyoming 59 had been relocated. It took us to the closed road sign and then tried to direct us to some non-existent routes. I was forced to actually read the signs, something I was told to do yesterday by the nice policeman. Using a GPS is an art, not a science.

Our wander through Gillette, Wyoming

Wyoming produces about 39% of America's coal and Gillette is dependent on the mines, however, the production has been declining and mines have been laying off.

An open pit

Outmoded mining equipment

No idea what this was but there were four trucks

Loading facilities at Eagle Butte Coal Mine

Eagle Butte operations to the rear with rehabilitated land in the fore

Amidst the mines was a coal burning power station. Dry Fork Station appeared to have about the same design capacity as California's Ivanpah solar facility. It was a relatively clean operation and delivery of coal by conveyor eliminated most of the transportation costs.

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away
(John Prine - Paradise)

Wyoming 59 was another two lane road that we had never traveled before today. The scenery was interesting as we drove through the Little Powder River Basin. It was 91F as we crossed the border into Montana just after 11:00 AM.

There was a Rest Area in the town of Broadus so we took a few minutes to stop, use the facilities and read the interpretive offerings (including Bob Fletcher's Don't Fence Me In) before pushing on. The elevation dropped as we went north. It was only 3,300 feet when we reached I-94 and stopped in Miles City for fuel. One sure sign that we were lower was the 87 octane regular gas.

We followed I-94 northeast to Glendive where we would be spending the night at the Days Inn.

Why Glendive, you might ask, when there were many more direct routes home. Three reasons. First, getting there took us on a number of roads we had never traveled before. Second, I find I-94 to be much more interesting that I-70, I-80 or I-90 to get across the Great Plains. And finally, I spent five nights in Glendive in 1988 on my way back from the Rider Rally in Cody waiting for a new driveshaft for my GL1100. Lets just say I was nostalgic.

When the driveshaft splines let go about 25 miles outside Glendive, Leo stayed with me while the others went on to Glendive to find a trailer. We were pushing the bike up the shoulder to the shade of a farm road overpass when a man in a pickup truck stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. He had a ramp and tie downs and drove into the ditch so we could load level. We got to the Honda dealer in Glendive just as they were getting ready to come and get me. The shop was great. It was late Friday morning and they went right to work. By early afternoon, they had the required parts list that they sent to the Honda warehouse in California with instructions to ship rush overnight. Honda shipped rush overnight on Monday morning. John (who stayed with me) and I were on the road Tuesday morning. Later, John got me a shirt that said "I'm in Glendive for a long time, not a good time".

This startled me...

...but not as much as this did

This looks like the overpass where my driveshaft failed

Things are greenest where the Yellowstone River flows

The Yellowstone River

We stopped at a Subway in Glendive where Sandy got a ham and Swiss sandwich (first time I can recall seeing Swiss in a US Subway) and I got a roasted chicken breast chopped salad. The girl who made our food was pretty and was very personable as well. I was distracted enough that I forgot my cookies (probably a good thing).

At the room, we settled in and I uploaded all these photos. The WiFi was blindingly fast but got progressively slower as more guests arrive. I think more and more people are streaming things while the installed bandwidth is limited. Still, I got some things done. My ear was a little better and I gave it some more drops. I would give a lot to have a nice broad spectrum antibiotic but I don't want to use the US medical system unless I really need to.

It was off to bed early. Tomorrow, we lose an hour to the time zones.

Today's Route (378 Equinox miles):

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