Monday, June 7, 2021

Black Hills, Thunder Basin National Grasslands and more

 We're back on the road today after a long weekend outside Deadwood, SD. Our route took us southwest on US 85 on winding roads with sweeping turns through the Black Hills National Forest

We crossed over into Wyoming and in Newcastle turned west on US 16 and rode out of the Black Hills. We followed train tracks for a few miles, and Mike was excited when the engineer blew the train whistle as the long train of coal cars rumbled past. Wyoming is the nation's top coal producer, and our route took us through the Powder River Basin where the top 10 producing coal mines are located. 

Just before lunch the odometer rolled over to 31,000 miles which mean we've ridden about 1300 miles so far on this trip. We were lucky today with our lunch stop - Remy's Diner in Upton, Wyoming. The owner told us today is the 21st anniversary of her business that features homemade foods, and we enjoyed fabulous chocolate malts along with our sandwiches in a friendly, inviting atmosphere. Don't miss it!

We turned west onto Wyoming 116 after looking at the map during lunch and realizing we missed our planned turn a few miles back. WY 116 took us through Thunder Basin National Grassland. The highway stretched straight out in front of us as far as we could see, occasionally taking a wide sweeping turn.

We saw cows, sheep, and plenty of deer but very few vehicles or houses.

WY 116 took us to WY 450 which was our original planned route. Listed on the Butler motorcycle map as a lost highway, or a road that has faded center lines and long miles without signs of people that make them seem lost in time. This is a semi-arid climate with few trees, and we could imagine settlers traveling west in covered wagons.

We felt lost in time until we passed huge coal mines and saw more trains ferrying cars of coal east. We took a quick jog for 3 miles on WY 59N and then turned west onto WY 387, passing a couple of small towns that support the coal and oil industry in this area. The Bozeman Trail, named after John Bozeman who established this route in the 1860's to connect the gold rush territory of southern Montana with the Oregon Trail in eastern Wyoming, crosses the highway and made us think of the vast difference between those early pioneers and us zooming down the highway on our BMW.

We picked up I-25 south for about 40 quick miles with the speed limit posted at 80 mph and unlike most interstates, very little traffic. Our stop for tonight is Casper, Wyoming, the second largest city in Wyoming with a long history of oil and cowboy culture. It was 93 degrees when we stopped late in the afternoon, glad to take advantage of air conditioning before we continue our ride tomorrow into Colorado.

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