Day Eight – Oregon Trail

Despite the trouble I was about to face we headed out for what turned out to be my favorite of the trip.  We thought the weather was going to be warm again but as we headed out east on I-80 the temperature was below what we had anticipated.  Once we exited the interstate the sun began to warm things up and we were no longer traveling at speeds of 80 mph.  We exited at Thayer Junction (122) and took the service road running parallel to the interstate.  We headed north on Nine Mile Rd past the Jim Bridger power station.  The area was full of large trucks, rail lines, and was not terribly scenic.  Once past the power plant the scenery started to improve.  We could see large buttes off in the distance (KMZ).  Soon we were in the Great Basin area and we found Freighter Road which we took us into the Jack Morrow Hills.  We quickly found a trail raising into the bluffs high above the road (KMZ).  Once on top we had a clear view of the entire valley, and was it ever immense.  We could see many roads/trails off in the distance.  We got our bearings and continued north.  We came upon the Tri-Territory Monument (KMZ) where we spotted some wild horses.  We stopped and read the plaque at the monument and discussed our next move.  We took off in a direction we thought was towards the Oregon Buttes but it dead-ended at an oil well.  We backtracked and finally found our way.  It was about this time I realized I had a problem with my shifter, it was getting more difficult to change gears as the crack size increased.  As we rode down a bluff we came upon the straight and long section across the basin (KMZ).  We hadn't seen a soul since we had gotten past the power plant.  As we were traveling on the basin road we came upon a huge mud puddle in the road where we had had to go off road to traverse it.  We had just passed a family out the trails riding dirt bikes.  A Father, Mother and their two boys.  Once around the mud puddle my shifter finally broke, I was in first gear.  As we stopped to assess the damage the other bikers came back to try and help, but there wasn't anything they could do.  Fortunately Steve had the same type of bike, so I replaced my broken shifter with his, got my bike in third gear, and then replaced it back on his bike.  I continued on the trail not being able to shift out of third gear.  We finally reached W28 after traversing the Oregon Buttes.  There we stopped at a rest stop (KMZ) and repeated the procedure this time shifting into 4th gear.  We knew there was a Kawasaki shop in Lander about 40 miles away.  So I managed to get the bike started in 4th and wound her out the 40 miles to Lander.  Fortunately we hit all of the lights in town and made it to the Kawasaki shop no worse for wear.  After a quick purchase we were on or way again.  Apparently the broken shifter was somewhat of a common occurrence on the KLR.  We decided to loop around to W28 by way of Louis Lake (KMZ).  We had made this trek before but were on street bikes.  This time it was much more fun.  We wanted to ride up to Shoshone Lake on a trail we had spotted the year before.  As we rode past the Sinks Canyon lodge we decided not to stop since we had already seen that.  We continued to look for our trail but we could not find the entrance.  Once on top of the mountain in Sinks Canyon we could see our mistake.  We debated turning around but we decided to continue on.  We got off road in the Canyon and found some great trails to ride.  These were true dirt paths and it taxed our skills.  We continued on around and passed Frey Lake and Louis Lake.  We spotted some moose off in the distance and stopped for some pictures.  Back on W28 we headed back toward Rock Springs.  As we approached US191 we could see a major storm in the distance.  It looked at one moment that it would blow to the south and miss us, and the next moment like we would get drenched.  In the end we only got a little rain, missing the bulk of it.  We continued down US191, through Eden, and were quickly losing light.  We got back to the campground and readied as best we could for our exit the next day.  We set Adair IA as our destination for the night.  We had stayed there on two other previous trips.  There really isn't anything special, but we like tradition.  At the motel we got our corn hole set out and played a few matched.  This typical mid-western game drew a few onlookers as Steve gave me a lesson in the game.  As we were playing, a pick-up truck pulled up trailering some bikes, and come to find out it was Paul Taylor; the winner of the 2003 Iron Butt Rally.  We drank a few beers with him and listened to his stories about the event, and dreamed of doing it in 2005.  I doubt if we will, but we will be trying to acquire a couple of the patches by riding 2000 miles in 48 hours.