Once again we were on the road early. Having witnessed some driving bordering on road rage the previous afternoon, I wanted to get out of Boise before the city woke up. Of course that meant riding directly into the rising sun for a spell, but with sparse traffic we covered a lot of ground very quickly. By late morning we were climbing toward the Wyoming border through scenic hills and some surprisingly productive high-elevation hay fields.
Lunchtime found us in Jackson, Wyoming. We pulled into a strip mall and shared a foot long Subway ham and cheese, refueled, replenished the ice supply, and pressed on. Jackson was okay, but I live in a tourist town. After a few years you get pretty jaundiced to the whole tourism thing and just want to be away from it all. Besides, Barley seemed to consider the archway of antlers some sort of enormous chew toy. So we pulled out of town and pressed north toward the Grand Tetons.
The Grand Tetons were, simply, magnificent! The grandeur was such that I could overlook the hordes of tourists – including the enormous woman who told her teenaged son to take a photo of a narrative sign 75 feet away so she wouldn’t have to walk that far – but there was the not so little issue of free-range bison. As one gargantuan specimen crossed the road in front of us I throttled back in an attempt to sneak past, but Barley sensed the change in engine sounds and peered around the windscreen. One glimpse of the beast and he roared his challenge! Time to move on.
We explored some dirt roads off the beaten path, shared a snack and some cool water, and enjoyed some quiet moments together. A few miles ahead I pulled over to examine my maps. Yellowstone National Park lay dead ahead. To go or not to go? We could spend two days exploring the park, but doing so would force us to take the Interstate the rest of the way home in order to be there before my vacation ended. I really prefer US Highways and secondary roads. In the end I decided Yellowstone deserved a trip of its own, and one taken in a less popular time of year. We turned east instead, refueling in the town of Dubois, Wyoming, where a very friendly woman named Darci fussed over Barley, thanked me for my service, and offered her brush to address my severe case of helmet head…before noticing my covering of road grime and retracting the offer.
East of Dubois the terrain became more interesting, and the vegetation considerably greener. We passed homes that artfully incorporated their lines into the surrounding sandstone. It was still very hot, though. We learned that out West flowing rivers are marked by cottonwood trees lining their banks. We left the highway several times, the big GS Adventure muscling down dirt and sand roads to reach rivers so Barley could soak and hunt critters in the shallows.
There were very few cars on the road, and no big rigs or motorcycles. We saw one train carrying a load of coal somewhere, but by and large we were alone. Cattle were our only company, and they ignored us.
Around mid-afternoon we crossed into Nebraska, shared a meal in the town of Chadron, and while checking the bike I noticed my oil level could use a drop or two. I’d used the last of my synthetic oil back in Boise and neglected to buy another, so I used the iPhone to search for more. As luck would have it, there was a Yamaha motorcycle dealer just down the road. We fired up the beast and drove there, parking in the middle of a bunch of brand new ATVs. Spotting Barley, the sales team immediately came out to introduce themselves. Barley, when surrounded by excited people, gets a bit wound up himself. He launched into his vocal routine, ran in circles, then disappeared into the store. I could gauge his progress by the delighted laughs of the people he met. Just then I heard the not-so-delighted shout of a teenaged boy, “Hey, that’s mine!
Barley came running back to me with a disgustingly dirty jockstrap in his mouth, all the while making excited sounds as if to say, “Look at the treat I found!” Chasing him was the teenaged owner of the jockstrap…and the boy’s mother who was absolutely delighted by this turn of events. “How many times have I told you not to leave your filthy gym clothes in my office after practice!” she gloated. “It serves you right!”
She then offered Barley a treat “To get the taste out of your mouth.”