Day Eighteen - September 20, 1997
The Big Bet
Casper, Wyoming - Bozeman, Montana
Tough decision last night. We are consulting TWC, and it is very clear that if we want to stay warm and dry, we will be changing our route once again. Some of the most spectacular scenery lies directly ahead in the Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, and Sun Valley; but to get there we have to pass through a 9800' pass on the way into Jackson Hole, currently under 6" of snow. The radar maps show clear and warmer weather to the north; rain and colder weather due west. This means that we have to give up our goal of staying off the interstates, but neither one of us is willing to ride in 40 degrees again, especially with rain. A mere 8 degrees from freezing! At our speed, the effective temperature factoring in wind chill is well below zero. Brrrr.
So, reluctantly, we decide to head north from Casper towards Bozeman, then Spokane, then home to Seattle on Monday. This means that we also will be riding longer days, which will be much easier on the interstates since we will be able to average higher speeds. But, we also give up the quaint little towns. We resolve to drive into town when it's time to encounter the locals.
It's once again 40 degrees outside when we load up, but way to the north we can see a glimpse of the clear skies that we're seeking. The Big Bet is that if we ride on the Big Road, we will get Big Skies again.
You know, it was only two weeks ago that I was whining about riding in 55 degree weather in Glacier National Park. 55 would seem like heaven about now, but I'm not complaining, because it's not raining. Mark and I have discussed the various ways to suffer on a bike, and it comes down the big three - wind, cold, wet. We can deal with any two of them, but all three is out of the question. Best case, you have none of the above and the worst problem you have is forgetting to put on sunscreen.
I neglected to mention yesterday that we have a winner for the "Help Greg Figure Out How To Keep His Hands Dry In His Many and Varied Gloves" contest. We actually have a tie, Darren from Kalamazoo and Carl Griffin from West Lafayette. When I was getting the bike serviced in Kalamazoo, I mentioned to Al the Mechanic that I was having problems keeping my hands dry. He told me to get some 'Sno-Seal', a mixture of bear grease and beeswax that you smear into leather, and then bake in. He said he used it on his chaps and it works great. On the way back from the service appointment, I stopped at a shoe repair place looking for Sno-Seal. Darren, the proprietor, normally carried the goop but he was out of it. Darren asked what I was going to use it on, I told him my predicament, and he lit up. "I'm a biker, and I use this spray waterproofing treatment twice a season on my gloves, works great." So, after three pairs of expensive gloves, what do I have to lose by buying a $6 can of spray?
Yesterday was the first major chance to try the treated gloves, and HEY! IT WORKS! My hands, although very COLD, were not at all wet. YIPPEEE! As I mentioned, Carl Griffin also suggested this approach, but we all know that Carl's a Jerk, and besides, he didn't have a product to sell me like Darren did. But it's still a tie. Are my hands happy yet? No, because we still haven't solved the cold problem, but we're halfway there, and almost all the way home, so it's nearly a moot point.
I notice several Gerry Spence books at a table as we come in, and I remember from watching Gerry on TV during the OJ trials that he is from Wyoming. Gerry Spence is a defense attorney in real life, and also plays one on television talk shows. If you've ever seen him, you know that he always wears a buckskin jacket with fringes, just like you'd imagine a genuine wild-west defense attorney would dress. I ask the waitress why all the books are here, and she tells me that he was born in nearby Sheridan, grew up here, and keeps a house in Jackson Hole. Oh, and also, Tom, the Tom of Tom's Main Street Diner, is Gerry's brother. As Tom serves up my order, I ask if I can take his picture. He asks if it will be published in 'True Crime'. I smile.
We saddle up again, and the clear skies are getting closer. I am getting to like this day.
Wyoming has a speed limit of 75 on the interstates, but most people around here seem to consider Wyoming and Montana to be all the same state as far as speed limits are concerned, so keeping up with the flow of traffic has us moving along at a mighty fine clip. At this pace, we get to Montana pretty quickly, and then we're legal, as we return to the 'reasonable and prudent' style of driving.
The skies are clearing up, the temperature is warming up, and we are elated. The Big Bet is paying off! Another yippee for the day. The Weather Channel rules! Now this is more like it. We begin to consider alternate routes home through Jasper and Banff. (JUST KIDDING, SUSAN AND JANIS!)
On the final leg into Bozeman from Billings, I pass a truck with a dog in the back. A dog in the back of a pickup truck is not an unusual sight (HEY! No Harley jokes!) but this dog is not your typical ride-in-the-back-of-the-truck kind of dog. I think it was a cockapoo. After passing the truck I think, I should take a picture, so I let him pass me and then I pass him again to take the shot. The driver seems very confused by my driving, but the dog takes it all in stride.
I am falling in love with this state, and it's not just the weather. This state is beautiful. I will be back.
Tomorrow - Montana, Idaho and Spokane. And then One More Day.