Ride West: Day 9 to Laramie, WY

We had to make choices for today’s ride, a route that would eventually end  in Laramie, WY.  First, we could go back to Sturgis and walk Main Street again to see if any of the vendors had new and exciting products we hadn’t seen yesterday.  More shopping didn’t interest us, so we ruled that out.  Second, we could ride west and a little north to see Devil’s Tower and then ride almost 400 miles from Wyoming’s northern border to its southern border through flat grasslands.  I’d seen Devil’s Tower and Jon wasn’t particularly interested.  Third, we could spend the first three hours or so riding through the Black Hills again and then through a mixture of hilly/twisty roads and Interstate.  We took what was behind door number three.

A presidential profile. And George’s isn’t bad either.

Although both of us had seen Mt. Rushmore before,

Riding through the Black Hills produces amazing sites.

we decided to ride there again since it was not far out of our way and I knew the roads in the area were good.  Mt. Rushmore impresses me everytime I see it.  Not just because it’s a massive carving on the side of a mountain of four dominant figures in American history, but because the story of  the artist, Gutzon Borglum, and his sons and their goal of creating the Mt. Rushmore memorial is inspiring.  To have that vision and to complete it is an individual accomplishment  rarely equaled in American history.

Our three hour ride through the Black Hills reminded us we weren’t in Kansas (or Florida) anymore.  Long distance touring on a motorcycle is great fun, but when you add adrenaline-generating hours of traveling on challenging mountain roads twisting back on themselves and keeping you in a floorboard-scraping lean for a full 360 degrees you experience part of what motorcycle riding is all about.  Mountain riding is special because you never know what may be around the next turn (and stopped in your lane).

Unfortunately, we also rode through several areas devastated by drought-enhanced forest fires and areas where the pine park beetle has wreaked havoc on the forest,  turning lush green mountain sides to a rusty, deadly brown.  If you doubt climate change, come to the west and gaze sadly on dead forests and vanishing glaciers.  My advice:  Enjoy what we have while its still here.

Leaving the Black Hills behind, we emerged into the grassland prairie that typifies most of eastern Wyoming.  Those of us who grew up with Grade B Western cinemas are familiar with the landscape where evil savages/noble natives slaughtered settlers/defended their homeland.  The landscape, barren as it may seem, is nevertheless beautiful in its own right.

Two friends: Can’t help but grin.

One of the highlights of my Ride West is seeing old friends.  Two days ago you met the Mawbys.  Tonight Jon and I had dinner with Marilyn’s and my best friend from our Wyoming years in the 1980s.  Linda Croonberg, a third generation Wyoming rancher, has more stories and more interesting ways to tell stories, than anyone I know.  Living and working alone  on an 8,000 acre ranch 20 miles north of Laramie on the high plains of Wyoming, she does more  in a week than most people I know do in a month.  We spent  two and a half short hours at dinner this evening catching up on our lives and renewing old traditions that involve knocking back tequila shots and laughing at new and old stories.  It was, as you can tell, a great evening.  It ended with her promise to visit us this year in Florida.

Tomorrow:  Through the Rockies in Colorado and possibly to an old bone yard.

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