Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons to Denver

September 6, 2014

Immediately on exiting the park I made a wrong turn. On the map, it looked to me like I needed to make a right and within a few miles I’d make a left. Clearly, I was deranged. I stopped at one of the many scenic pullouts for a picture and to ask which way to US 287. A biker had come from where I was headed, but he was unable to tell me where to go. He was from St. Louis, and he was so enthralled by the mountains he didn’t really know where he was or where he was headed.

I got my navigation straightened out. Here, US 287 and US 26 are conjoined, By now, US 26 was an old friend. And, in theory, I could take US 287 to within a few miles of my house. The road in the first 30 miles or so east of the Tetons is quite interesting and scenic. But we are in Wyoming, where most of the interesting bits are on the borders. The terrain quickly transitions to high desert.

The speed limits in Wyoming are a bit higher than in Idaho, but I didn’t really want to chance another ticket so I kept to my 5-8 mph over the limit strategy. Soon a big diesel pickup towing a Wells Cargo trailer passed me, so I sped up and followed him at a respectful distance. We made good time until a construction zone where they were essentially rebuilding the road. I was at the end of a line where we waited for a pilot car. A few miles later we arrived at the junction where US 287 headed south and US 26 continued east. Obviously, I’d be in Riverton well before dark and wouldn’t be stopping there. So the argument could be made that I should have followed 287 to Lander. But the pickup stayed on 26 and I followed him.

I stopped for an early dinner at the Arby’s in Riverton. There was a high school girls athletic team still ordering, so I had a long wait. That’s okay, it was time to figure out my navigation. I didn’t want to backtrack to Lander and didn’t want to follow US 26 to Casper and I-25. So I brought the atlas in from the car. That led to a conversation with a farmer from South Dakota. The unfortunate fellow was in Riverton with his wife when she had to go to the hospital. That left him in Riverton with a few days to kill. We talked about a number of things, but I was curious what he planted, how he decided what to plant, and so on. He has corn and beans now, and rotates his crops with peas or whatever the canner will give him a good price for.

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Seismic Crew Ahead

I decided WY 135 was the way to go. Fuel was the next stop after food, and at the gas station I talked with a local. I asked him if WY 135 was a good road. He said yes, and directed me: right at end of Main St., go across the bridge, make a left turn at the green sign, keep to the right at the junction with WY 136. At the junction with US 287 there’s a rest stop. His directions were spot on, and it was as good a road as he said. It was well travelled but not crowded and passed through some interesting landscapes.

After a few minutes at the rest stop, I continued east and south on US 287. I went slightly under speed limit until a faster guy came along. I tried to keep a good distance from him, a quarter mile or so. We made good time. After a while another car came up from behind, going about five miles per hour faster than me. She wouldn’t pass until I slowed down to about 60, then she sped up to 75 again. Now I’ve lost my pace truck, so I went back to slightly under the limit. To the east, several thunderstorms were in progress, maybe 20 miles away this way, perhaps 25 that way. Not real active, but throwing a nice lightning bolt every few minutes.

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I soon caught up to the last car to pass me. She had caught a truck and was unwilling to pass. I passed them both, and she followed me past the truck. I knew she’d be on my tail for a while as she wanted to go faster but seemed to have difficulty passing people. Luckily I caught another truck and managed to peel her off. The car is so low, tailgaters are particularly annoying after dark.

I arrived in Rawlins not long after dark. I was not tired at all. The drive has been pleasant, interesting to watch, and with little traffic. I won’t stop for the night here and head to Laramie where I’ll again decide whether to stop or continue.

It’s I-80 from Rawlins to Laramie. Now that it’s dark, I don’t mind the interstate so much. I know there’s not much to see, and I already saw it two weeks ago. I find night driving less tiring on the super slab than on two lane roads. There were two 10 mile stretches of construction where we were down to one lane, but otherwise easy. Those stretches were tough, though, as the pavement was so dark as to be invisible.

At Laramie I was still feeling great. I grabbed some munchies to eat while I drive, which I generally don’t do. I could have taken US 287 south to Ft. Collins but decided to stay on I-80. I didn’t want to drive any two lane road at night and if I got tired, there was no place to stop. (Don’t confuse me with the facts that 287 is four lanes much of the way).

Staying on I-80, my next decision point was Cheyenne. There were two more construction zones between Laramie and Cheyenne, also quite black. I was still going strong at Cheyenne, so I kept going. Next stop: home. Sitting on the beach at Leigh Lake, I had guessed that I could be home by midnight if I left the park by two. That turned out to be a pretty danged good guess. I pulled into my driveway at 12:06.

The whole trip was fantastic. I had one day where the weather interfered, but I can’t really complain about one bad day in a two week trip. This will be a hard trip to top. I drove a bit over four thousand miles, had a fantastic time for three days on the Deschutes River, enjoyed the challenge of learning three race tracks in four days, made three very interesting hikes, and even managed to get in a few days at the office.

Next I’ll put together three time lapse videos and at least one video from each track day. I hope to get all this done and posted by next weekend.

Wow. What a blast.

1 thought on “Portland Trip: Day 15 – Grand Tetons to Denver

  1. Finally got to read the whole trip – fantastic!! (sorry about the ticket though). You’re right – it’ll be a hard one to top but there’s a lot of beauty out there (and race tracks) to experience! Thanks for sharing…and for inspiring!

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