Friday, August 31, 2018

South Dakota to Colorado: prairie to mountains

We started the 34th day of our cross-country motorcycle trip in Hot Springs, South Dakota in the Black Hills, and as we headed south of out of town quickly descended out of the mountains into the flat prairie. It seemed like we could look across the prairie for miles until the grass met the horizon, with no buildings or hills to block the view.

Mike zoomed along U.S. 18 and then U.S. 85 as we headed south from South Dakota into Wyoming along the traffic-free highways. Periodically we would see a herd of cattle or an isolated windmill that made me think about the people who originally settled this part of the country and how difficult their lives must have been. We passed through one town, Hawk Springs, with a population of 45 people.

Soon after we crossed into Wyoming the BMW's odometer rolled over to 10,000 miles. We've traveled almost 8000 miles on this trip, and it's difficult to wrap my mind around the number of miles and the places we've been to accumulate those miles.

It's windy here on the open prairie, and we saw miles of snow fences along the west side of the highway. The snow fences must not be very effective because there are also large signs and snow closure gates that look like the red and white striped gates at railroad crossings outside of every town that warn motorists to turn around and go back when the winter road conditions are unsafe.

We were looking for the Rockies as we continued south into Colorado, but we first rode through the Pawnee National Grassland, a 30 by 60 mile area important for wildlife and especially migrating birds.

U.S. 85 south of Greeley, Colorado becomes more congested with semi-trucks associated with agriculture as well as the booming oil and energy activity in this area. The closer we got to Boulder, the more traffic grew. The good news was that we also started seeing the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that rises almost 10,000' above the plains.

We're in Boulder through the weekend to visit our son before we start the final 3 days home to Arizona. We're looking forward to mountain riding after the hundreds of miles of prairie over the past few days.  Here is today's route

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