Day 44 Cross Canada Ride (aka CCR): Thoughts from Home

I only encountered an hour and a half of rain on the final run to Maggie Valley as I went through Nashville and Knoxville, and finished the final 310 miles in a little less than five hours. Gaining an hour as I moved into Eastern Daylight Time, I rolled into my driveway a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. still wearing the rain suit I put on this morning.

As I planned the CCR during 2021, I estimated the ride would cover around 11,000 miles, depending on how often I got lost and how many intentional and unintentional detours I took. I took several intentional detours and only a few unintentional, and the total mileage from driveway to driveway came to 11,857 miles. It was a hell of a way to celebrate my 75th trip around the sun.

Now it’s time to pour myself a final (for this trip) glass of Jack Daniel’s magic Tennessee elixir and consider the past 44 days and 11,857 miles.

I knew what to expect when I embarked on this journey. And, just as importantly, I DIDN”T know EXACTLY what to expect. I expected long days in the saddle. I expected occasional adverse and challenging weather. I expected mechanical, bike-related issues to intrude. I expected new roads and new sights. I expected to meet interesting people. I expected to learn about Canada–its land, its history and its people. I expected to think deeply about the last 75 years. I expected to learn more about myself, even though I’ve been trying to discover that self for many years. I expected to have fun. All my expectations were met. And then some.

I’m not sure in what order I should consider those met expectations, but I’ll try to put them in order of importance, which, as I reread the preceding paragraph, seem to be from last mentioned to first mentioned.

So, yes. I had fun. How can a 74-year-old person not have fun on an adventure like this? Down times? Of course. But the good times, the exciting times, the life-affirming times, the joyful times, the heartful times, the pleasurable times, the gratifying times, the delightful times, the FUN times vastly outmatched any unpleasantries. Belly laughs, small chuckles, gleeful chortles, big grins, wry smiles, even contented Mona Lisa smiles dominated this trip. How does one describe fun? Like Justice Stewart Potter said when trying to define obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” Well, I know fun when I see it and when I experience it. And I had fun on this six-week northern adventure. Maybe, as I continue to write tonight’s blog, that will become more apparent.

I’m not sure one can ever truly know one’s self. Maybe because one’s self is always changing and one has to relearn it every day. But, as in the past, I enjoyed learning more about my self, about redefining my self, about discovering niches within my self hidden or obscured for many years. It’s amazing what hours of alone time on a motorcycle can do for the study of self. Sure, you have to watch for critters in the road, ginormous potholes, cars coming at you, road signs directing you to go here or there, but there is still time to think about who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished, who you have impacted, what good–or bad–you have done, and what, if any, will be your legacy. From ancient Greek philosophers to every young person coming of age today, the difficulty of “knowing thyself” has been problematic. And no one seems to have come up with an ultimate solution to life’s biggest puzzle. But we all try, and I seem to try hardest and best when I’m on two wheels with wind going in one ear and out the other, blowing away the detritus of my mind. At any rate, I haven’t solved the puzzle either, but it sure is fun working on it.

I know I’ve forgotten more about my last 75 years than I remember. But fleeting memories may be all we have. Memories are like the LaBrea Tar Pits. Every once in a while, something bubbles to the surface and it’s important to grab hold of it when you can in case it’s important. When I don’t have to think about quotidian chores like weeding the garden, paying bills, painting a house, cleaning the garage or even about larger things like the collapse of western civilization or the demise of democracy, I have more than enough time to reflect on my personal past–the good, the bad and the ugly. Rather than list some of those disjointed parts of my past, suffice it to say that a clear mind on a motorcycle allows many memories–good and bad–to be considered and reconsidered. It’s all part of solving the puzzle referred to in the previous paragraph, but on a very personal level. Years ago as a college senior I wrote a paper on solitude. I still believe time alone offers a chance to exercise memory muscles that atrophy in a too-busy life. Six hours a day straddling a motorcycle for six weeks offers a lot of alone time. I recommend it.

But it’s not all about me, even if the preceding three paragraphs seem to suggest that. The trip really was about Canada, its land, its people and its past. I could have ridden across the United States. Again. But something about Canada attracted me. I couldn’t learn everything about Canada in six weeks. Hell, I couldn’t even learn very much about it. But here’s what I did learn: The land is very big and very beautiful. There are probably some ugly parts, but I didn’t see any. From the forested lands and rocky shores of the Maritime Provinces to the hundreds of thousands of lakes in Quebec and Ontario to the rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield to the bountiful agricultural paradise that is Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta to the magnificent Canadian Rockies to the island pocked shores along the British Columbian coast, Canada is a beautiful county.

Just as I didn’t see any ugly parts of Canada, neither did I meet any unpleasant people. More importantly, folks like Amber the happy waitress in St. John’s and Elise the knowledgable francophone guide in Montreal and hospitable Don and Susanne from Flin Flon and friendly Carole Savage at Moose Horn Lodge in Saskatchewan and interesting photographer John Schwartzburg visiting Victoria from Quebec and hundreds of others whose names I forgot or forgot to ask made this trip, like previous trips to Canada, memorable, pleasurable and unforgettable. I can’t quantify it, but I believe Canadians as a whole are nicer, more polite, more accommodating, more accepting, more civil than Americans as a whole. I’m not comfortable saying that and many Americans would vehemently disagree and suggest I go elsewhere (hence making my point), but I believe it to be true and I believe that’s why I enjoy my Canadian visits so much. I will make an offhand and unscientific observation to support my point: In Canada, when a car needed to pass me because my tourist speed was too moderate, it passed and then pulled far in front of me before retaking the lane I was in. Back in the states, cars impatiently rode my bumperless fender, then sped around me, only to pull back into the lane as quickly as possible, often causing me to brake to increase the distance between us. Silly example? Perhaps, but it typifies the subtle differences I noted between Canadians and Americans. Americans could lessons in civility from our northern neighbors.

I definitely rode new roads, many of them under repair or in need of repair due to long months of frigid weather. But the Canadian road crews do their best. There are still many miles of asphalt in Canada I haven’t ridden. Maybe sometime I’ll ride them. Sure would be fun trying. As for new sights, they were in abundance. Natural sights like serene lakes and cascading waterfalls, endless miles of forest and farmland, sandy and rocky beaches welcoming the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, soaring, snow-covered mountains and the many critters that inhabit them. Human-made sights like the memorial to heroic Terry Fox; the incredible Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg; the amazing art exhibits in Red Deer, Alberta; the well-preserved cityscapes in St. Johns, Montreal, and Victoria.

Mechanical issues? Like a new tire in Winnepeg? Like a flat tire in Montana? Like Steve’s fork seals in Winnepeg and new tire in Victoriaville? Like a passenger pillion that wouldn’t stay in place? Sure, there were issues. But that’s part of being a motorcycle rider on a not always reliable but still iconic and irreplaceable Harley-Davidson.

The weather? I expected rain from time to time, but not nearly ever day the first two weeks we were in Canada. And not so severe that it saturated and leaked through my ancient rain suit. And not 36° with snow moving in near Jasper. And not triple digit temperatures in Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. But that’s also part of being a motorcycle rider. Weather on a motorcycle is like life: You take what you get and ride through it the best you can.

Long days in the saddle were something I was accustomed to from previous rides. Accustomed to but not necessarily enjoyed. So this trip I cut the mileage and the speed. That was a good thing, because while my new Heritage Softail performed well, it definitely was not as comfortable as my previous three Ultra Classics. Six to seven hours a day astraddle the Harley this trip was definitely preferable to the eight to nine hours typical of earlier weeks-long motorcycle rides.

I originally planned for a solo ride, but when Steve Lee said he wanted to go, I quickly agreed. We were compatible and he understood my need for space and time, especially at the end of each day when I was writing the blog and selecting and editing photographs. He said he had a great time on the ride, and I believe he did. He said he saw things he would otherwise never have gotten to see. That’s a good thing, and I’m glad the trip expanded his motorcycle horizons. But like me today, I think he was glad, at the end, to return home–to Ruth and his nomadic home on wheels.

So, this ride is done. Everyone is home safe. Life will return to it’s pre-ride normality. For me, there will probably be more long rides. They’re too much fun and too important to my definition of “quality of life” not to continue doing. Where? I haven’t decided. I’ll work on that after I weed the garden, pay the bills, paint a house, clean the garage and prevent the collapse of western civilization and the demise of democracy.

If you know me, you know I can’t wait to get on the road again.

Day 43: 400 Miles Closer to Home

Rain had just ended in Columbia as I packed my bike this morning, so I ate a leisurely and much too large breakfast as I waited for the storm to move eastward ahead of me and clear St. Louis. By the time I rode through the city dubbed the Gateway to the West and glimpsed again the majestic arch on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, roads were drying and the remaining clouds were dissipating. Blue sky appeared to be the order of the day as I rode east for about 60 more miles and then turned south on Interstate 57.

But the good news that the rain seemed to be gone, was quickly offset by rising temperatures as thermometers along my path edged into the 90s. Traffic wasn’t terribly heavy, and I could lean back, put my feet up and listen to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and friends on the “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” series of albums produced during and shortly after my college years. Since I had feasted on a large breakfast, I didn’t feel the need for lunch and I motored contently down the highway. But as the miles accumulated on my odometer, and as the mercury continued to climb the further south I went I felt the need for something. I needed a sign. And then I saw one and pulled over.

A sign, not from heaven, but from somewhere in Illinois. A cold respite from the heat. The Queen of all things Dairy. And a new weather phenomenon to counteract the calefaction all around me. A chilling Blizzard. Aahhhh. Oh, and some blessed air conditioning for about 15 minutes.

And then, back on the road. Somewhere in Kentucky I began to see a few dark clouds popping up in front of me and to the west. Soon, they were bigger and darker. I stopped briefly, checked weather radar and saw that a small summer thunderstorm was indeed in front of me moving east but likely to be finished soon, leaving me at worst some wet pavement.

I restarted the bike, reduced my speed to allow the storm to pass through without soaking me and continued. But I had miscalculated the storm’s speed and worse, hadn’t taken into account the road bending eastward into the center of the squall. Swishing windshield wipers and obvious headlights on north-bound cars bode no good. Topping a hill, I was in the edge of the storm. No problem. The rain would actually cool me off a little. But soon and for about three miles, it was can’t-see-thirty-feet torrential rain and there was nowhere to pull over on the Interstate. So I kept track of the tail lights in front of me and rode through it. I was pretty well soaked in five minutes, but as quickly as it appeared the rain was gone, the sun returned, and the cooling effect of evaporating moisture at 70 mph felt good. I dried (mostly) in the final hour of my ride to Clarksville, Tennessee, and I was 400 miles closer to home.

Tomorrow, I’ll ride the final miles of the CCR. About 300 of them. If the expected rain isn’t too bad, I should be in Maggie Valley in time to have lunch with my best friend. I’m looking forward to it.

Then, after 44 days on the road, I’ll write the concluding blog post of the 2022 Cross Canada Ride and close the book on this year’s adventure.

Day 42 CCR: Six weeks on the Road

Six weeks ago Steve and I pulled out of my driveway in Maggie Valley. Since then, I’ve ridden more than 11,000 miles. I’m down to two more riding days and about 700 more miles before the CCR of 2022 is complete. These final riding day blogs will be short. The day I get home or the day after, I’ll do a longer, reflective summary of this year’s adventure.

Today Jaylene and I were supposed to meet with my junior high/high school best friend for brunch and reminiscing. But at 7:00 a.m. he called to say he couldn’t make it. He’s been having physical problems lately and last night was particularly bad. He didn’t get any sleep and didn’t feel like he could or should go out, so my much anticipated reunion with my old friend was cancelled. The ravages of age take their toll.

Jaylene and I tried unsuccessfully to fix a problem with her storm door, then went to have brunch by ourselves. On the way home from the restaurant, we stopped at a home repair store to pick up several bags of rock that I spread in her front garden when we returned. That was the extent of my helpfulness at Jaylene’s. I delayed leaving our dear friend as long as I could, but about 1:30 I gathered my stuff, packed my bags, and loaded the bike for the 42nd time. At 2:00 p.m. we said our goodbyes, for now, and I rode away from her house, headed for Columbia, Missouri. A relatively uneventful and not too hot ride (at least it wasn’t triple digits) brought me to the home city of the University of Missouri Tigers by 5:30 and I checked into a beat-up and disappointing Suburban Extended Stay. You buy cheap, you get cheap. Oh well.

I’ll leave Columbia in the morning with temperatures in the low 80s, but will arrive in Clarksville, TN, tomorrow afternoon with the thermometer approaching 100 and a heat index at about 110. I’m glad I decided not to try to ride 500-600 miles per day on the final leg home. The Canadian rains which plagued the early weeks of the CCR may actually look inviting tomorrow.

Day 41 CCR: Nice Visits with Family and Friend

Before I get into today’s activities, let me make one thing clear. Today was hot. While the Weather Underground screen shot of Andover, where Jon lives, only shows 98° at 4:30, I’m pretty sure that sometime today I was working or riding in triple digit temperatures. It was hot.

OK. The weather report is out of the way.

When I travel, I like to be helpful when I can, so this morning I helped Jon string fencing for what will eventually be a chicken run encircling his large garden and will be attached to a yet-to-be-built chicken coop. It wasn’t terribly hard work, but sinking and aligning seven foot fence poles and attaching the screen-like fencing to it becomes harder as the temperature approaches 90° and the morning sun rises higher in the sky. By the time the thermometer reached 90° we had had enough fun and quit for the day.

Several hours after lunch, I strapped my luggage to the Heritage one more time, fired up the Milwaukee 8 engine, said goodbye to Jon, and took off for the short but hot ride on the Kansas Turnpike from Wichita to Topeka. The ride lasted only a little more than two hours, counting a brief hydration stop, but by late afternoon when I reached my Topeka destination, I was ready to park the bike and enjoy some air conditioning and a tall glass of ice water.

Topeka, where I grew up and lived from age 2 to 17, doesn’t have a lot of attraction for me and I could have made the final leg back to Maggie Valley shorter by nearly 100 miles by taking a more direct route. I said Topeka doesn’t hold much attraction, but I have a dear friend from grade school, junior high, senior high and first real job, who still lives there. I couldn’t miss seeing her, just as I couldn’t pass through Laramie without spending time at Croonberg Ranch. Jaylene has been in Topeka most of the time since graduating from high school and nursing school, and, for more than a decade, Marilyn and I have stopped in Topeka to see her whenever we’re in or near Kansas.

After cooling off and enjoying a quiet dinner, we spent four hours looking at pictures I took on the CCR and, more importantly, at old pictures from our grade school years at Stout Elementary. The school was brand new when we entered in the third grade and, as of last year, is now closed. We have outlasted the school where we first met. We identified the majority of third and fourth graders in the ritual, black and white, hands-folded-on-the-desk class pictures and tried to remember specific things about them and what part of our neighborhood they lived in. Although, we knew where some of them have ended up, we wondered about the lives of the 40 or so children who were our comrades in arms as we went through the trials and rigors of our Topeka school years.

We talked, as we always do about our lives, about our children and of course about our 13 (six for me, seven for her) wonderful, beautiful, amazing grandchildren.

About three years after we graduated from Topeka West High School in 1965, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded “Old Friends,” which included these lyrics:

Can you imagine us
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy

How terribly strange to be seventy-four. Jaylene and I didn’t share a park bench, but we did share laughs and memories and stories from our younger days.

Tomorrow Jaylene and I will meet my best friend from junior high and high school for a long breakfast. And we’ll laugh over more faded memories and reminisce about our younger days and, no doubt, think about how strange it is to be seventy. And about old friends.

Day 40 CCR: Family Stop

I left Nebraska as early as I could, in part, to take advantage of the cool morning temperatures and, in part, just to get out of Nebraska. The temperatures were cool for the first three hours of today’s 300-mile ride, but as the sun rose, so did the temperatures, and by 10:00 a.m. it was above 90°. I could see rain clouds dropping their load off in the distance in front of me and weather radar indicated that I might get wet. With only 40 miles left to ride to brother Jon’s house, I put on my rain gear, just in case. I encountered some light rain and wet roads but nothing significant and I was dry by the time I pulled up to Jon’s property in Andover.

Jon bought this 1956 Chevy dump truck for $500. He got it running, but it’s not street legal. Someday it will be a giant flower pot.

The last time I was here, Jon provided tornadic entertainment (see below) but today all he had to offer was temperatures in the 90s. And tomorrow will see triple digit temperatures. Weather seems to be more important to me when I’m on two wheels than when I’m on four-wheels with air conditioning.

This picture was last May at Jon’s house. Not really relevant to the CCR, but it’s a great picture.

We relaxed most of the afternoon since it was too hot to do much outside, but I went out later in the afternoon to look at Jon’s several unfinished projects, some of which relate to his growing menagerie. He used to have a dozen chickens but a coyote nabbed eight of them, so he’s down to four with more on the way via U.S. mail. Really. You can order chicks and have them sent through the mail. Who knew. Since I was last here he added three turkeys and four guinea hens. For now, they’re in a pen part of the day, but he lets them roam the yard most of the time. He’s building a “chalet” for the turkeys with an enclosed run. I guess the guinea hens will stick with the turkeys, with whom they seem to have bonded. The chickens, when he has a full complement, produce more eggs than he can eat. I think he gives the extras away. He also has a dog, Harley, and his daughter’s cat visits often. No large animals. Yet.

Here’s Jon with one of his turkeys.
Guinea hens looking for something to eat in Jon’s garden.

Jon’s daughter Janice is using part of Jon’s 10 acres to develop a flower farm to sell cut flowers to florists and for special events. The flower farm is in the early stages, but she has several rows of flowers blooming this year. A rainy spring followed by a hot, dry summer, makes growing a flower farm challenging. Flowers always make good photo subjects, though.

Tomorrow I’ll wash some of the Canadian grime and bugs off my bike while temperatures are still comfortably in the 80s. And I’ll probably help Jon do something on the property. Then, when the thermometer tops 100°, I’ll load my bags on the bike and head for Topeka for a reunion with old friends.

Day 39 CCR: Nebraska: Hot, Brown and Stinky

I don’t have much to say about my afternoon in Nebraska except, as the blog title suggests, that it wasn’t particularly pleasant. I saw one thermometer about two hours after crossing into Nebraska from Wyoming that read 103°. It felt like it. And since my visits to the dermatologist often result in cutting away benign skin cancers, I wear long sleeves. So, yeah. It was hot. Nebraska must be in the same drought that Linda is experiencing because, other than scraggly green trees next to various waterways, everything was brown. And it frequently smelled like one long stockyard along I-80, even though I only saw a couple of feedlots.

No travel pictures. One recommendation. Avoid western Nebraska, even if it means going through Kansas or South Dakota. The best thing about my time in Nebraska, which will end tomorrow morning when I dive south into Kansas, is that it made me so much more appreciative of the Canada I enjoyed so much on this trip.

I dawdled for a couple of hours this morning at Croonberg Ranch, getting a detailed tour of Linda’s new ranch house, which she and Doug largely built, and enjoying a couple more hands of three-way cribbage. Linda’s house project, built with an amazing degree of repurposed materials from structures on the 100+ year old family ranch, clearly reflects who she is, and Doug’s building skills were clearly in evidence. The house still has a couple of features left to finish, but as Linda said, “I don’t want to do something until I’m sure it’s right.” And when she does something, it’s “right.”

I helped Linda with a trail camera we set up yesterday and a hand-me-down laptop that was “intimidating” her. We looked for photo evidence of a pernicious beaver gnawing trees near where we were wading in the river two days ago. Unfortunately, no beaver showed up last night, but she’s now prepared to document his nocturnal activities, which will almost certainly lead to the beaver’s demise.

I took a bad goodbye selfie of Linda and her July 4th hat, Doug, and an old man reliving his youth on two-wheels. There was no rain in that cloud behind us.

Finally, I packed my bike, said goodbye, and made the 28-minute (I timed it) ride to an asphalt road and head east. I stopped briefly as I went through Laramie to use an unnamed fast food establishment’s McWifi in order to post the two blog entries written while I was internetless on the ranch. I’m sure the handful of people still following along were waiting breathlessly for news of my homeward bound adventures. Or maybe just to see if I made a successful ride back to asphalt.

Tomorrow I’m off to Kansas for a couple days to visit family and friends. Then there will be nothing between me and home except miles.

Day 38 CCR: Not Enough Rain

The title of today’s blog post may seem odd, given my frequent complaints earlier in the Cross Canada Ride about too much rain.  But on the Croonberg Ranch, the problem is just the opposite.  Not enough.

As expected, the day began with more oil changes in tractors and other mechanical work that needed to be done to keep machinery safe and operating.  And there’s a lot of machinery on a ranch.  Linda has, I think, five tractors and twice as many implements needed for a haying operation such as mowers, rakes, bailers, loaders and more.  And  they all have to be maintained and repaired.  One of the biggest tractors that got serviced today took more than five gallons of oil to fill the crankcase after it had been drained.

The attachment on the front of this just-service tractor picks up large hay bales and loads them on a truck or trailer.

And one of the mowers needed to have the blades sharpened.  And the connections on another tractor needed to be tightened to keep the three-point hitch attached.   And one of the headgates on an irrigation ditch needed to be checked.  And on and on.  I mostly tried to stay out of the way as Linda and Doug took care of business, but occasionally I helped by fetching tools or cleaning up as their chores were completed. Or fetching a cold beer.

Oil changed, blades sharpened, this tractor/mower is ready for the long days of haying season.
Linda’s off to check the headgate on one of her irrigation ditches.

This afternoon, clouds started to build and darken, and weather radar indicated  small pop-up storms in southeastern Wyoming.  But would any of them pass over Croonberg ranch and release much needed moisture onto the the hay meadows?  Normally, by the first of July the ranch would have recorded 6-8 inches of moisture (snow and rain).  So far this year, Linda’s personal weather station has recorded 2.44 inches, and most of that came in the form of winter snow.  Spring and early summer has been dry.  Very dry.

The afternoon clouds held promise but precious little rain.

So we watched the sky.  On the plains of Wyoming one can see for miles, sometimes as much as 50 miles.  We could see rain falling on neighboring ranches, but the storms seemed to be bypassing Linda’s place.  Then, from the direction of Sheep Mountain we could see a cloud headed our way with rain.  It came and it went, leaving behind only .04 inches of rain.  Less than a tenth of an inch.  But Linda was grateful for what little she got and looked forward to Wednesday when weather forecasters predicted there might be more rain.  In the meantime, she goes about her business, taking care of what she can and trying not to worry about the things she can’t control.

In the evening, when the ground had dried and there was no evidence of the brief rainfall, we talked about life on a ranch.  Linda remains optimistic, as most ranchers and farmers must be in order to move from year to year not knowing what lies in store.  It’s a life Linda loves and won’t give up.  She is a rare breed and I admire her tenacity and dedication to the land.

Tomorrow, I’ll pack my bike again and ride into the rising sun.  But I’ll come back to Croonberg Ranch whenever I get the chance.

Day 37 CCR: Laramie Layover

An easy three-hour ride brought us to Laramie where Steve and I parted paths, he heading home to Colorado and me heading for a two-day stopover at the Croonberg Ranch and good times with Linda.

About 15 miles south of Laramie, I turned onto a dirt road.  No, make that a rock road.  No, make that a bumpy rock road.  In fact, make that a washboard, loose gravel, cows-in-the-lane, antelope-crossing-zone. bumpy rock road.  I rode down it at 15 miles per hour for about four and a half miles.  Then it got worse.

If you look up Croonberg Trail on Google Maps, it will actually show up.  I think trail is pretty descriptive.  I cut my speed from 15 to 5 miles an hour, weave around curious calves standing on the two-track trail, look for a path with the smallest rocks and putt my way for an additional mile and a half.  But that only brings me to a locked gate, for which I don’t have the combination.  Linda had texted me the combination, but since I was riding I didn’t get the text.  So I called her and, fortunately, her phone had at least one bar wherever she was on the 8,000-acre ranch because she answered and gave me the combination.    I open the gate and it was only a quarter mile more to the house.  I made it.

I describe the roads to her house in painful detail so that everyone knows that I like spending time with Linda so much that I would put my bike through such torture.

Marilyn and I have been friends with Linda since our years in Wyoming in the 1980s.  There’s no way I can be anywhere near Wyoming and not make a stop to see her.  Over the years, as I travelled western roads, I’ve made many stops.

About 30 minutes after I got to the house and surprised her 89-year-old mother who didn’t know I was coming, Linda and her friend Doug returned from the fields and we had our anticipated reunion.  Doug fixed a great lunch of scallops and mushrooms, and then it was back to work.  Because, you see, work never stops on the ranch.  She currently runs about 150 pair of visiting cattle (a pair equals a cow and calf) but her main business is hay.  While the hay grows slowly in the drought-stricken Wyoming fields, there is fencing to fix, cattle to move, equipment to maintain and ditches to clear.  There’s always something waiting to be done.

Whenever I’m on the ranch I try to find some way to to help  The last time I visited in 2019, for example, I drove a tractor with a hay rake, raking fresh cut hay into long, neat rows.  Well, they were supposed to be neat, but my equipment operating skills left something to be desired.  I did well enough, though, that I think she would let me do it again if I was here in July and August during haying season.

Linda replaces the oil in one of her five tractors while Doug looks on.

Today’s afternoon task was changing the oil in farm trucks and tractors.  You can’t just drive these tractors to the nearest Jiffy Lube for an oil change.  You do it yourself, and that’s what Doug and Linda did while I did my best to stay out of the way.  Today, they finished two trucks and two tractors.  Tomorrow will be spent finishing two other larger tractors and several other miscellaneous pieces of haying equipment that I can’t begin to name, unless “haying thingy” is a name.

Linda maneuvers one of the tractors to attach a mower.

While today wasn’t terribly warm, it was warm enough to go to the Little Laramie River behind Linda’s house after the oil changes were done.   We waded in the cool, clear water and threw rocks for the dogs to chase but never retrieve.  It was a nice end to my first half-day on the ranch.

Cool clear water, but each rancher can only take a limited amount for irrigation.

For decades Linda and I have a tradition of doing tequila-shots when we get together.  So tonight we continued that tradition with a shot of the best tequila ever.  “Agavero” by name.  Stored in the freezer.  I’m getting a bottle when I get back home.  We had our toast.  And then she poured one more.  And then one more.  And we talked and told stories and had a wonderful time.  Time on Croonberg Ranch is always memorable.

Tomorrow will bring more work, more laughter and more memories.

Day 36 CCR: Just Riding

Out of Montana; into Idaho. Out of Idaho; into Wyoming. I’m edging closer to home everyday, but I still won’t see Maggie Valley for another week. I’ve got a couple stops along the way that will fill up a couple days.

The first few hours of today’s ride were spent on a concrete slab–Interstate 15–from Dillon, Montana, to Idaho Falls. Those rides are quick but not terribly exciting. Unless you see a coyote loping along the road in the tall grass. Which I did. And later, as we rode through Wyoming, a pronghorn antelope buck stood on the shoulder of the road, inches away from a cataclysmic confrontation with cars or motorcycles. He may have crossed the road later, but he held steady while Steve and I whizzed past and the bike/buck confrontation was avoided. I’ve seen a lot of pronghorns on various motorcycle trips, but that buck was easily the closest I’ve been to one. Today was a good day for viewing a number of animals, in fact. Several bald eagle sightings, a couple deer, a coyote, prairie dogs, and hundreds of antelope. Unfortunately I was always on the bike and didn’t get a single photograph of any of the critters. Or anything else, for that matter.

We saw or rode through three mountain ranges today: The Bitterroots, the Grand Tetons, and the Wind River Range. But the air was hazy (smoke?) and the most spectacular mountains were at some distance away from us. Any photographs of the mountains today, I’m afraid, would have been second rate.

The roads were crowded as people started their July 4 Weekend early, towing their boat trailers and campers to the many lakes, campgrounds and other recreational sites in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Stopping along the road as I often to do take pictures didn’t seem to be a good idea with so much traffic on the roads.

So, today we just rode, except when we were stopped for 20 minutes by a construction delay along 10 miles of road next to the Snake River in Idaho. I always appreciate good road surfaces, but I’m a little impatient when road crews are actually doing their job to give me those surfaces. There were also several shorter delays by smaller projects such as bridge repairs that reduced traffic to a single lane.

We almost made it to Rock Springs without donning rain gear but ultimately we gave in. I stopped several times to look at weather radar and each time it looked like the storm on the horizon in front of us would go through before we got there. Twenty minutes north of town, however, I began to see a few drops on my windshield and several cars coming toward us had windshield wipers on, clearing away the remnants of the rain they had just gone through. So we stopped and put on rain gear, which naturally gave the storm enough time to move through the area so that we didn’t need to suit up after all. Bikers know what I’m talking about.

Tomorrow I make a detour to see a remarkable old friend who still runs an 8,000 acre ranch near Laramie by herself. Previous blogs have featured Linda and her ranch and there are always great stories to be had by visiting there. But the stories will have to wait a day or two until I leave the ranch, which operates without any internet service. I’ll write while I’m there, but I won’t be able to post until I leave.

When I detour to see Linda, Steve will continue riding and be home again in Colorado sometime tomorrow afternoon.

A visit with one of my brothers and a mini-reunion with childhood friends remain before the CCR is over and I complete my 11,000 mile loop back to Maggie Valley. Sure hope everyone stays with me to the end.

Day 35: The Blog Falls Flat

Blue skies. Cool but decent temperatures. And a ride on a well-paved road that hugged a beautiful mountain river. The day was off to a great start.

I had ridden this road through and over the Bitterroot Mountains several times and knew we were in for a great ride. And it was. Only moderate traffic meant comfortable cruising at the speed limit. In the past I pushed past the limit, but today I was content to enjoy the mountains, the gentle curves in the road and the fast flowing river. Adjusting for the time change, we were in Montana about 1:00 p.m. and headed into another climb up the Bitterroots before turning east and descending into flat ranch land. And then . . .

Clearwater River along Highway 12.
This view lasts for several hours.

Just as we were about to enter the small town of Hamilton, Montana, I felt an odd wiggle in the bike and pulled into a convenience store parking lot. The wiggle worsened as I came to a stop and the cause became quickly apparent.

FLAT TIRE. The rear tire I had replaced in Winnepeg was flat. With no tools and fewer motorcycle tire changing skills, I made a couple calls looking for help. The woman at the Motorcycle Garage in Hamilton at first was hesitant to commit to working on the bike because their shop was covered up. But she conferred with the chief mechanic/owner/husband and they agreed to try to help. They sent the only other mechanic with an air compressor to try to put enough air in the tire to get the bike to their shop. No luck. The air came out nearly as fast as it went in.

So the mechanic went to his house, attached his trailer to his truck, returned, and we loaded the bike on the trailer for the four-mile trip to the shop. Motorcycle Garage in Hamilton is a small operation but because the mechanic is so good and the attitudes are always positive, the shop is crowded with mostly dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and older model street bikes. And they have a perfect record of five-star reviews on Google. I will add to it.

They stopped what they were doing on other customers’ bikes and, at 2:30 p.m., immediately started to disassemble mine and find the problem. The problem, as it turns out, was that the new tube inside my new tire had a large tear by the valve stem. Cause? Don’t know. Perhaps a small nail had punctured the tire somewhere else and when the air escaped and the tire was running near flat it pinched the tube. Perhaps there was a faulty installation in Winnepeg pinching the valve stem. We’ll never know.

They had a replacement tube and promised to get me out by the end of the day. I was thankful and relieved. A big shout-out to Cass, Jodie, and Louie at Motorcycle Garage for getting the job done. Removing a rear tire on a big bike is labor intensive and 90% of the cost of the repair was labor. By 5:30 we were on the road again, headed for our motel in Dillon, Montana. We arrived here at 7:45, had some dinner, and settled in for the night.

But no internet service in the room (despite advertising to the contrary) meant no blog post.

I’m currently sitting in the lobby the next morning where there is wifi service and will post this now, about 12 hours later than expected.

Not all days are good days and sometimes the adventure is not what you had in mind. But it’s still an adventure.

%d bloggers like this: