Day Seventeen - September 19, 1997
Pointers & Setters
Valentine, Nebraska - Casper, Wyoming
I am relieved to be able to bring you some authoritative information on the problems that we have been experiencing with insects. The front-page headline story in Thursday's issue of the Omaha World-Herald is "Insects Fat, Sassy, Everywhere These Days." Investigative reporter Veronica Burgher filed a terse account explaining this year's bumper crop of insects, many of which we seem to have met personally.
Look for this guy to show up as a bug expert on a TV talk show real soon now.
Last night we're out cleaning the windshields and a guy from Rapid City walks up, and if I had to guess, I'm guessing he's a farmer. Mark and I have a competition going. When people walk up to talk to us, they have been consistently polarized as either Harley folks or, uhm, the other kind. we keep score - a person who favors Harleys counts in my column, etc. So I figure this is a Harley guy. So I say to him, "Sir, you look like an intelligent man. If you had to pick, which of these fine bikes would you prefer?" Without missing a beat he says "the rice-burner. I've got a Gold Wing." Mark scores a point in his column.
We start out at 7am this morning, with an outside temperature of 46 degrees. This is the coldest day so far by 10 degrees! I mentally rename this state to Nebrrrraska, at least for today. It is so strange - yesterday afternoon we were baking in 91 degrees, this morning we are shivering in 46 degrees. Oh, and did I mention it's raining?
There is this terrible dilemma when you're riding in bad weather. Do you ride faster, which makes you colder, but you get there sooner? Or do you ride slower, stay slightly warmer, and take longer to get there? We opt for faster. I imagine that the extra wind buffeting is making me warmer.
In Nebraska, I learn, you take nothing for granted. There is nothing between the small towns, and the towns are very small. Midway to our planned breakfast stop in Chadron, we stop to take a picture of the big sky and the beginning of the rolling hills as we ease back into the Rockies.
This picture would not have made the cut except for one small detail - if you could zoom way in to see what's on top of my right saddlebag, you'd say "Greg! Make sure you don't leave your sunglasses on your saddlebag when you drive away! You've worn them the entire trip, every mile! To lose them now would be a real bummer!" Unfortunately, I do not hear your warning, and we are in Chadron, another 50 miles down the road, before I realize that I am not wearing them, nor will I ever wear them again. So far, we have the coldest day, the most desolate day, and now the most-items-lost day. I may have neglected to mention that I left my tiny shampoo and creme rinse bottles (with flip-open dispenser tops) in Benton Harbor, but I count that as one item, not two, and prescription sunglasses are harder to replace than shampoo and creme rinse. But there's no going back when you're on a Road Trip. C'est la guerre.
Our breakfast stop is in Chadron at The Olde Main Street Inn. We pick this place because it has the only espresso machine in town, possibly in the entire state of Nebrrrraska. As we pull up in front, I notice that the neon 'Espresso' sign is not turned on - not a good sign. Nevertheless, we have ridden over 100 miles already, and we need a break no matter what. A woman comes out from a side door, and asks if we are there for breakfast. We nod yes, and she tells us that she only does breakfast for her bed and breakfast customers, but she used to be a biker chick, so we should come on in and she will fix breakfast for us. We nod yes. She looks at my bike and says, "That is one fine-looking bike." Score one in my column.
It is wonderfully warm and dark inside this place. There are a couple just finishing their breakfast as we peel off layers of wet outer clothing. She tells us we have two choices for breakfast, a fruit plate, or the "General Miles Cavalry Breakfast." Whatever that is, it sounds worth ordering just to hear the story behind the name.
During the Wounded Knee Indian uprising in 1890, General Nelson Miles purportedly supervised the massacre of many Indian women and children. This building was then the Chadron Hotel, and during the subsequent investigation General Miles stayed here. Jeanne has done research into Miles' letters to his wife from this era, and assures us that Miles got a bum rap. She debated whether or not to name a breakfast after this guy, but does the right thing and defends his honor as a good and reasonable man. Based on the quality of the breakfast, we have no problem with this.
Mark is learning all about the area, and I excuse myself to visit the restroom. I am confronted by a pair of labels on the door that I have to admit I have never seen before, and I'm not quite sure how to parse them - 'Pointers' and 'Setters'. I contemplate this choice for a moment, then pick 'Pointers'. I win.
Jeanne's mother saved this building from destruction and experimented with a number of features, including rock bands and go-go dancers. Now, I have worked with rock bands as a professional, and I could tell upon visiting the bathroom that this was a place designed for rock musicians. Check out the instructions on the floor in front of the urinal.
Jeanne was born in Chadron, left to go to the big city of Denver in a law firm, and then came back to take over the bar from Evvva, her mother. She has been developing it as a B&B since 1990. It's now a real family affair, with Jeanne's daughter Laurie the chief cook (whose paintings grace the walls of the restaurant and saloon), Laurie's husband George the bartender (also a percussionist, who leads the last-Thursday-of-the-month "Jammin' With George" percussion jam session), and Evva still keeping an eye on everything. I'm not doing justice to the story of this place, but if I am ever through here again I will visit once more. Jeanne provided a warm, dry place and a wonderful meal delivered with delightful hospitality, and we needed it! As she told us the story of her family, she was nursing an infant cottontail that her cat brought in. She has named the bunny "Lucky". We left with huge smiles on our faces, and a warm feeling. This woman has a heart of gold.
We reenter the cold wet outdoors with 200 more miles to go today. It is raining. Unlike previous encounters with the rain, we are far better prepared today. We are cold, but we are not getting wet underneath all the layers.
As we drive along highway 20, we are parallel to a major train route for quite some time. We catch up with a very long train pulling car after car of coal. When we reach the engine, we wave to the engineer, who waves and sounds the horn. What a thrill!
The rest of the day's ride is wet, cold and pretty much unpleasant, especially compared to the last couple of days. Here's what it looks like to see spray from an oncoming semi, nicely set against the kind of clouds we've been looking at all day.
We turn on TWC (yes, The Weather Channel) and we learn that of all the places in the United States of America, Casper Wyoming, where we are at this very minute, is the coldest place. 40 degrees. And here we are. Our plan was to ride in moderate weather, and now we're in an area that is experiencing an early winter. Ahead of us on our planned route, there is 6" of snow. We have left Nebrrrraska, so I guess now I'm in Why-moaning mode. We evaluate our options to reroute around the weather and back to more moderate temperatures, even at the expense of more miles. We will decide in the morning.
Tomorrow ... ?
PS Tom - thanks for the nudge. You're a Jerk.