WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderRockies 10 - Kremmling, Colorado
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 17:50:53 -0700

    First a little catch up. In an email from Rebecca she says the biggest difference she notices back in the business world is the feeling of being hermetically sealed indoors. After the great outdoors and the open horizon, breathing nothing but conditioned air is stifling. Well, she has about 1400 miles of open air waiting for next week.
    And several people wrote to correct me on the Wind River. Jerry Forney says it is the Wind River in the canyon, but becomes the Big Horn when it exits the canyon. DeVern Gerber gets closer to the real story. He reminded me of the "Wedding Of The Waters", an old legend of how the Wind River had to give up its stream bed and was 'wedded' to the Big Horn to join it in its bed. Whatever you want to believe, it is the first river with an identity crisis I've ever crossed. The road is still lovely.

    Southwestern Wyoming is more arid plain. Just when I was mumbling I had enough of this, the road crested a rise a few miles south of Blazon Junction. The world from Wyoming to Colorado to Utah was spread before me. And what a spread. The long view to the distant mountains held the promise of cool, of climbs, and of curves. I could wait. Wyoming 412 and 414 are a beautiful way to approach Flaming Gorge if you happen to find yourself in that isolated area.
    I've written so much of the isolation, what must I and my motorcycle look like in this scene? To the rare car approaching me, am I an sudden apparition summoned from the depths of a gully? Does the apparently unmoving mannequin positioned on the bike even look alive? Do drivers think it is strange to see a lone motorcycle clearly hundreds of miles from the 'tourist' spots? Do drivers think at all?
    The land here grudgingly gives way from the plain and becomes a rising series of plateau buttes. Each butte begins at a level outcrop from the fold of the foothills, and ends in a precipice, as though bookends were slid against the mountains to keep them from falling into the valley. What is most unusual is the color of the buttes. They are a grayish green, similar to tarnished copper but not quite as bright - somewhere between dull teal and smoke. The muted tone gives the hills a soft look, as though these are textured, comfortable rocks. It is a welcome difference from the prevalent red.

    Deep near the Wyoming/Utah border is a spot with a name called Burnt Fork. It has a historical sign proclaiming the location of the "great mountain man rendezvous" where the trappers would congregate for their summer vacation and, um, business convention. This is the *third* place I've seen in three days to stake that claim, albeit each for a different year. Riverton claims the 1838 rendezvous and holds an annual reenactment. Red Lodge claims to be the 'original' rendezvous. And Burnt Fork lays claim to 1825. What I want to know is - without the Internet, how did they notify everyone where the meet was each year? Get the message wrong and you could end up several months away by foot. :)

    Vernal, Utah lived up to its name. It was 103 degrees when I passed through around noon. I must be getting used to being in the desert. When I saw the bank sign I said it didn't feel that hot. Flannel serves me well up to about 110, after which it needs external soaking in addition to the soaking I expel. Seemed downright cool later under a thundercloud when the temperature fell all the way to 78.
    By now I have really had enough of mountains and plains for a while. I was ready for a good river run and decided to follow the Yampa River across the northern third of Colorado on US40. It is a scenic wandering series of valleys, just the sort of change I needed.

    Dumb luck.
    Stopped for an ice cream in Steamboat Springs, I glanced at the map and smiled smugly at the thundercloud drenching the mountain at the edge of town. It looked like my road went down that valley to the right and I would miss the storm. I should have looked closer. Five miles out of town, the road turned left and climbed over Rabbit Ear Pass, right into the storm. Had it not been for my dumb luck in ordering two scoops, I would have had my first rain event on this trip. As it was, I rode through coursing rivulets coming down the roadway, but I was right on the tail edge of the rain veil. Technically, still a dry ride at 3,000 miles and counting.

    Christmas tree green.
    Every now and then, the magical forces of motorcycling and the environment converge to cross the wires of your sensory perception. Something stimulates you and instead of hearing, seeing or smelling, you get the right stimulation in the wrong sensor. You may hear an aroma. You may see a sound. You may smell a color. That's what happened to me.
    After the storm, with the ruffled winds still swirling about and the fresh heavy dampness pressed against the earth, I rode though a pocket of sensation near a stand of pine trees. What I inhaled did not come through as a smell - it was the aroma of the color green. It particularly smelled like the color of christmas tree green. Not like a tree, but like its color.
    Motorcycling is a drug that can twist your senses by enhancing them beyond traditional reality, not by impairing them. If you don't ride, maybe you should try ... you might like the flavor of what you see.

376 miles
Frontier US189 WY412 WY414/UT43 UT44 US191 US40 Kremmling
(In the truly quaint 1930s Eastin Hotel with cowboy rooms and bath down the hall.)
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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