August 10 – Farewell to Sturgis
Would the last one leaving please turn out the lights?
That’s how I felt the Monday I left Sturgis. I also had a flashback to my college days, when I would frequently have one of the last finals on the last day of finals week. By that time, everyone else would have left campus, and formerly-crowded buildings, sidewalks and open spaces were *empty*. Sturgis was the same way, and in particular, the campground felt that way. I had intended to take a shower Sunday night when I got back from the Badlands area, but when I stopped at the shower house on my way to my cabin, I found it was locked! I went back to the entrance and asked if it could be opened (I thought it had been locked by accident, maybe) and they told me it had been shut down because the water tank was empty and there was no point to filling it again. They said the other shower house (and bathrooms), which was about a half mile from the cabin, was still open. I thanked them for the information, went and took care of my urgent needs, and decided to skip the shower altogether.
Monday morning I packed and stacked the Honda and headed north to Newell for a last meal at the Blue Note Cafe. Since I was headed (sort of) west anyway, I had decided to take the long way around to Casper and visit Devils Tower again. We had been chased away by rain on our group visit earlier in the week, and I wanted to see what I had missed.
On the way, I rode through a tiny location called Aladdin, population 15 – and proudly displayed on the village’s sign:
The whole town was for sale last year, but there’s nothing I can find about its current status.
Farther west, of course, is Devils Tower itself. Fun fact: the name has no apostrophe in it because of a typo in the original establishing documents that was never corrected. According to the signage at the visitor center, the tower is what’s left of a magma column that may or may not have reached the surface, which was about a mile and a half *above* the current Tower’s top.
Today, the Tower tops out about 867 feet above the elevation of the visitor center. It’s still emerging from the surrounding terrain, albeit slowly, by the erosive action of the Belle Fourche River.
It’s an awesome hunk of rock, and many adrenaline junkies like to climb it. I counted at least four climbers while I walked the path around the base. this shot shows the southwest quadrant of the Tower. Believe it or not, there are people up there, and if you know where to look, you can also see the remains of the wood ladders that the first successful climbers used to ascend to the top.
Zooming in (a lot) brings a pair of climbers into view.
The original wood scaling ladders are far to the right of these gentlemen, but again, if you know where to look…
And, if you can turn *away* from the Tower, you’re rewarded by this panorama.
After leaving Devils Tower, I headed vaguely south toward Casper, using good-quality state and county roads. Along the way I learned more about the Teapot Dome Scandal than I had previously known – for example, that the Teapot Dome itself is in Wyoming and not Texas (somehow, I had thought that all the big oilfields were in Texas or Oklahoma – maybe because the major players were from outside Wyoming). In fact, I took a picture of what I *think* is the Teapot itself (I inferred this from the roadside display I saw and the fact that I crossed the Teapot Creek shortly thereafter).
I also learned that oil claims were being filed in Wyoming five years before Casper was even founded (and seven years before Wyoming became a state).
I was lucky to make it to Casper. When I filled the Honda’s tank the last previous time, I knew that Casper was more than a tank’s ride away, and that I’d have to use the reserve. But I kept riding, and riding, and riding, and finally pulled into Monday night’s motel parking lot, all without going on reserve at all. I was amazed at the great mileage I had gotten – until I filled the tank that evening and discovered I had forgotten to switch back to the main fuel line before! If I *had* run out, I would have been *really* out. (I’ve been there before and it’s no fun.)
I stayed in Casper for two nights. This was actually planned into my trip, because I needed time to take care of some computer-related stuff that I hadn’t been able to deal with in Sturgis. It was a relaxing interlude and gave me some time to decompress. I even had a two-room suite! It wasn’t something I had anticipated, but it was the only non-smoking room they had for Monday night. They offered to move me to a (less-expensive) regular room for Tuesday night, but I decided that I didn’t want to schlep my stuff from one room to another on Tuesday, so I stayed in the suite both nights. Very luxurious!
So the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is now history, and I’m on my (leisurely) way home to Tucson. Don’t fret; there are more adventures to come!