Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Worland Wyoming to Deadwood South Dakota

It was nice to park at the motel room door. I know they say that inside hallways are safer, but this was way more convenient. We had to give the Days Inn in Worland, Wyoming two thumbs up. The staff were extremely friendly and solicitous, the room was large, spotless and comfortable and the WiFi was fast and reliable.

My plan to highball it home mellowed overnight. We decided to stick with the original plan for today, so there was a little more time to enjoy the morning before we left. I had a complimentary microwavable omelette and two biscuits with sausage gravy for breakfast. I should have nuked the biscuits as well, but it was better than the usual continental fare. Sandy had the usual.

Worland to Tensleep Canyon

We left Worland at 8:15, heading east on US 16. This route wandered through Tensleep Canyon before crossing the Bighorn Mountains at the Powder River Pass and descending to Buffalo, Wyoming. The first stretch after leaving Worland was flat and agricultural. Then the hills started. The road was mostly straight until we reached the canyon. The weather was a mixed bag, threatening rain for a bit and then letting the sun peek through.

This route, albeit in the opposite direction, let us experience our first pass and canyon back in 1978 when we took our first really long motorcycle trip. It was hard to believe that was forty years ago.

Tensleep Canyon

It was hard to believe that little Tensleep Creek was responsible for carving this beautiful canyon. The multi-coloured rocks tower over the roadway and we paralleled the creek for the same distance that took the Native Americans ten days to walk.

Powder River Pass

Eventually, we started to climb. The fog/cloud started at 6,300 feet and was pretty dense by 6,500. We met two groups of motorcycles with an exceptional amount having LED headlights. At 7,900 feet we broke out of the cloud layer.

Meadowlark Lake lies above 8,500 feet. It was created by a dam built in 1936 by Company 841 of the Civilian Construction Corps (CCC), part of FDR's New Deal during the Great Depression.

 Meadowlark Lake

Men from the Tensleep CCC Company responded to assist fighting the Shoshone Forest Fire (aka Blackwater Fire) in 1937. They made up the majority of the 15 firefighters and bosses who died and 38 who suffered injuries. This was the worst forest fire casualty count between 1910 and 2013, and led to revised firefighting procedures including the development of the Smokejumper Program.

 Memorial to Tensleep CCC casualties of 1937 fire

Unlike most other passes, gaps and notches which go up and down, the Powder River Pass gets above 9,000 feet and stays there for quite a while.

 42 F at 9:26 AM

 The GPS elevation is a tad generous

The descent on the east side of Powder River Pass was interesting. They did give a lot of warning.

 Somebody needs an emission inspection

Usually, truck runoff ramps are directed back up the hill but that wasn't possible on the right side here. Instead, the ramp ran downgrade and used arresting cables to stop the truck. The Wyoming DOT says this was one of only four in the USA. Several uses have resulted in no injuries and only minor damage. Oddly, I found a video of a test done by MTO in North Bay, Ontario (not far from our home).

 What happens if it is not open?

 This was only the second big truck we saw

Powder River Pass to Devils Tower

We descended into Buffalo, Wyoming and stopped at McDonald's for a smoothie and a coffee. Then it was on to I-90 East towards Devils Tower.

 The RV was going uphill in a 30 MPH zone

 Not taking any chances with the local constabulary

 Follow me, I'm the Pied Piper...

 Smoothie time

 The blue skies were short lived

We stopped for fuel at the Flying J in Gillette, Wyoming. The cashier was girl-next-door pretty but had a large spiderweb tattooed on her arm. I guess my thoughts on this classify me as old fashioned. She said it had been raining off and on all week.

Just east of Gillette, we saw the Wyodak Coal Mine. The open pit mine (the oldest continuously operated surface mine in the USA) was on one side of the highway and the handling facilities were on the other. The conveyors ran under I-90. Coal was shipped by rail to customers, although a significant consumer was the Wyodak Power Plant right next door.

 Wyodak Mine loading facilities

We saw an electric sign that said,

You snooze, you lose
Don't drive drowsy

I was tired at the time and thought of other words of wisdom:

I want to die like my grandfather,
peacefully in his sleep.
Not screaming in terror 
like the passengers in his car

Devil's Tower

We left I-90 at Moorcroft and followed US 14 north to Wyoming 24. This took us to Devils Tower, although the Native Americans would rather it was called Bear Lodge. Regardless, it was a volcanic intrusion through sedimentary rock. As the sediment eroded, a huge butte was revealed. In popular culture, it was the point where we met the aliens in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

 It is impressive

 Damn, I was looking forward to it

Yesterday at Dead Indian Pass Overlook, we met a KTM rider with an English accent who lived in Louisiana. He was riding north heading for Beartooth Pass. We told him about the closure notices and signs. Today we met him again at the Devils Tower Visitor Center and he told us that the sign announcing the barricade was gone by the time he got to Highway 212. He rode the pass on dry pavement but said the snow removal equipment looked like it had been heavily used.Oh well.....

 British Louisiana KTM rider

The first time I was here in 1980 (with 1,200 other AMA riders from Sturgis Bike Week), I spent an hour watching the prairie dogs. They were pretty subdued today, probably due to the rain, but we stopped and watched for a while. As we pulled out, we also spotted a couple of deer.

Devils Tower to Spearfish

We followed Wyoming 120 back to US 14 and took it southeast to rejoin I-90. In 2000, we had followed this route running our Kawasaki Nomad on fumes looking for an open gas station. We made it. Barely.

 Visiting Devils Tower in a rented RV with Devils Tower on the back

I missed the Welcome to South Dakota sign. I noticed when I saw the speed limit sign informing me that I should be doing 75 MPH, not 80. Oops.

We were going to travel through the Spearfish Canyon on our way to Deadwood. The GPS tried to get me to take a shortcut in the town of Spearfish. It proved even a GPS can have an off day.

 My garmin thought the street went through this building

Spearfish Canyon

As with Tensleep, it was hard to believe that Spearfish Creek could have carved this path, leaving towering walls on both sides of the canyon.

 Bridal Veil Falls

 This might be a nice place to stay sometime

 Cheyenne Crassing

Spearfish Canyon to Deadwood

We headed north to Deadwood on Highway 14A. This was the area where the 2008 VROC Aztec Rally was held. I don't remember this many signs on the road back then.

 Home of the 2008 VROC Aztec Rally

 I don't remember this many signs but I remember the curves

Deadwood South Dakota

The Travelodge used to be the First Gold Casino. The rebranding was new enough that my GPS did not know it. The old Building 1 was familiar. We had breakfast there when we were passing through in 2000. I thing I paid $2.00 or so for chicken fried steak.

I had reserved a king room and they assigned us to one on the fourth floor of Building 3. There was an underground parking lot. After we got the gear up to the room, we went to Building 1 to try their dinner buffet. It was more than $2.00, but it was very good.

Sandy did well. Less than 400 photos today. Not a lot less, but it took a little less time to sort them

We had hoped to see friends Jamey and Trouble today. I hadn't contacted them earlier because our travel plans were fluid. If I had, I would have realized that I only had an Email address for Jamey. I sent him an Email this morning bit got nothing back. Sent another when we got here. I totally forgot Trouble was on Facebook. Bad planning/execution on my part. I'm sorry because Sandy really wanted to see them (me too but I don't apologize t myself).

The Canadian dollar had been dropping relative to the US currency since we left home but this week had been particularly nasty. I should have bought more US before I left because I don't have enough to settle the upcoming VISA bill and will have to buy at about $0.75.

It was midnight when I finished and headed off to bed.

Today's Route (314 Equinox miles):

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