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C2C Day 6: Wild Wild West July 7, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Being on the road for days on end can be a bit disorienting, especially while waking up in a different hotel in a different part of the country.  I awoke so comfortably nestled in bed I thought I must still be in the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, but it was the Lantern in Sturgis. 

I had planned to head for Rapid City and try to make it to Denver… but after lots of deliberation, instead decided to head straight west across northern Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park – my objective: to see the Old Faithful Geyser. 

Again getting a late start, I loaded the bike and headed out in search of a coffee stop.  I foolishly had a horrible cup of coffee at a Cenex gas station, only to ride past a coffee house a couple of blocks later on the way out of town.  The weather was sunny and chilly – which was again cold on the bike.  I rode I-90 west toward the Wyoming border. 

Reaching the boarder, pulled over in front of the Wyoming sign.  That is a great thing about visiting the touristing states in the west – they understand that people like to get pictures of these milestones.  A small caravan of vacationers pulled in right behind me, allowing me to actually appear in an ABCs shot.  Since bad lighting and timing thwarted my earlier opportunity at the South Dakota shot entering the state, I made a couple of “maintenance vehicle” U-turns to get my SD pic and continue west. 

me-at-WY

The ride was beautiful, showcasing the open expanses of northern Wyoming.  I again was a little bummed to be riding interstate instead of local roads, and kept wondering why I force myself into “making distance” for so much of the trip.  But as I entered Bighorn National Forest, I got the best of both worlds, rising up into the mountains on smooth wide switchbacks, the view became extraordinary — and the temperature plummeted.  Stopping regularly to warm in the sun, I made my way deeper into the park and higher into the hills.  Patches of snow getting larger and closer as I rose.

bighorn

Stopping at one summit, I came upon a vacationing couple in their Harley-stickered truck stopping to appreciate the view.  We talked about rides and breakdowns for a while, and they headed off to Cody.  I was feeling pretty tired through the switchbacks and the shivering, and started to think Cody Wyoming would be a good stopping point for the evening myself.

No wonder I was cold...

No wonder I was cold...

Pressing on, my route started downhill, getting much warmer wearing chaps multiple shirts and and jacket.  I pulled into Lovell for gas and a red bull (still looking for wings) and pressed onto Cody in the heat. 

Arriving in Cody I rode around looking for a hotel somewhere near potential nightlife and found the Comfort Inn on Sheridan.  Taking three trips to tote all my baggage up the stairs to my room (apparently only one hotel in all of Cody has an elevator – and this one was not it).  After a quick shower and change of clothes I headed downtown. 

My first stop was at the historic hotel, Irma’s, built (and named) for the daughter of Buffalo Bill Cody.  The place was nice enough, but the layout was not the most social, so I finished my beer and headed out to seek other venues. 

I had parked next to a blue Softail whose owner, Clint, had the same idea.  We saddled up and headed to the west end of town finding a steakhouse/saloon, which was almost vacant.  Figuring a Tuesday night would be a bit rough for entertainment, we opted to give Sheridan Ave another shot and ended up at the Silver Dollar bar, where a mediocre musician was playing on their patio.  We parked across the street and went in for a beer.  We sat talking about rides, travels, and work. 

Clint worked in a quarry, and was a little daunted by my work at NASA, but I explained to him that his experience could be very valuable in future space exploration.  There have been many studies exploring the possibility of performing remote excavation of the lunar and Martian surfaces to prepare for and facilitate human exploration — but the fact remains that remote excavation and mining is exceedingly challenging.  Here on earth we send people to dangerous places to perform dangerous jobs of heavy excavation, mining, and construction because doing it remotely is a huge engineering challenge.  Clint appreciated connection between our jobs and seemed to enjoy the comparison.  We sat talking for a while longer, when a poker dealer came in to set up shop.

I don’t know if it was only Cody, or all of Wyoming, but apparently they recently passed an odd law enabling poker in liquor-licensed establishments (only) but only if the game is not run by the establishment…  odd, but my opportunity to try my new Texas Hold’ em “skills” from the recent Florida trip.  Playing for money for the first time, I bought in for $60.  Clint wasn’t up for gambling but spent quite a while watching, until I saw him for the last time that evening over in the corner socializing.

The dealer, Mike, was very amicable and ran a great game.  ($2 single blind, $10 max bet) A decent sized win early in the night provided a good margin against my original buy-in leaving me to play the cards and the people without the fear of loss.  I was able to get a reasonably good read of most of my opponents very quickly.  I was very glad to profitably figure out the aggressive bluffer, Travis, at the dealer’s right hand.  I was never dealt a particularly good hand, but had a great run of wins on an inordinate number of 2-pairs.

A cattle hand from Texas, James, had lost his wrangler back at Irma’s and found his way into the Silver Dollar.  Though already one sheet to the wind, he was very personable and quickly became the high-life of the table.  Unfortunately (for him), James lost a lot despite having pocket aces and faces.  (I nicknamed him “ATM”)  But his drunken complaining remained charming, and he was set up with several comp’d drinks from the dealer.

The final stack

The final stack

As the evening wore on, I really wore down.  My poker face had become inscrutable, not from being good, but from being so very exhausted.  Despite having a great time, my face wasn’t showing it, prompting Mike to periodically ask if I was doing alright.  I really wanted to leave the table up an even $100 and kept building up to $98 profit only to lose the next hand.  Finally, I bought a small pot with a bluff putting me at $164; $60 original buy-in and a final $4 tip, and I left the table with my even $100 having had a great time all night playing poker in the Wild West.

The night was dark and the streets were clear.  A short ride later and I was back in the hotel and out like a light minutes later.

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