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Article By: Charlie Weisel
Originally Published In The August 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
It wasn’t until we turned off of Hwy 28 onto Wyoming Road 131 that we came to the realization that we would not, sadly, be reaching our intended destination of Louis Lake, a small lake nestled snuggly in the Shoshone National Forest. Hwy 131 was, in fact, not only closed a mere half mile from the pavement we now sadly stood on, but it was also not a road intended, by any stretch of the imagination, for a chopper such as mine. Kayla’s, Honda Africa Twin, would have managed the loose and deep gravel just fine on the other hand, but, with a lack of a winch to pull mine from every ditch I would most undoubtedly be careening into, the fact that the road was closed proved to not only be a major letdown, especially after a 350-mile ride to reach it, but also a bit of a saving grace. I am by no means opposed to a challenge but often these things border on stupid, and I’ve worn the stupid hat enough times to know that those situations don’t usually end well.
Not all was lost though, a few miles back down the road we had just so excitedly come up, we had passed a sign that read “Atlantic City 4 miles” with an arrow pointing down a paved road and some of those cute little images implying that said town would provide both food and lodging. Both of these amenities we doubted the existence of, but we rolled the dice and went for it anyway. Needless to say, after 1.5 miles of pavement, the road very affirmatively turned to dirt, almost as if the road was angry about having been paved in the first place, if even for only a brief stretch, and we found ourselves lumbering across loose gravel towards a “town” that possessed more character then I’ve seen in some time. We slid our motorcycles to a stop a bit haphazardly on an off-camber patch of dirt parking lot, stopped to listen for sounds of banjos while exchanging glances of mild, yet legitimate, concern. After deciding that we didn’t hear anything but the wind howling, we made our way towards the only prominent structure in sight, up the rickety wooden steps and through the crickity saloon door that will, from this point forward, be known as the lost portal to 1885. The marble eyes of the taxidermy, most certainly of animals shot from the very front porch we had just entered from, stared at us with curiosity as the barkeep stared at us with the same. Again, glances of mild concern were exchanged between Kayla and me. We have a knack for getting ourselves in precarious situations, but fortunately, they always seem to end well enough. We took a seat, the two seats at the far end of the bar. I think it was some sort survival instinct kicking in with that move, knowing that at the end of the bar we were less likely to be surrounded by a band of unruly locals and become the next specimens adorning the walls in a taxidermy style.
I can see it now, Kayla and I packed full of stuffing and propped up in that traditional attacking bear pose, little kids begging mom and dad for a picture with the two “outsiders.” A ravenous hunger had set in by this point leaving us with little option but to give the local cuisine a fair shake. Once we ordered our icy cold sodas from the icy cold bartender, who at this point was beginning to de-thaw a bit upon realization that we weren’t a couple of city slickers looking to build a Marriott Hotel across the street, we settled on a double burger with bacon for myself and a chicken sandwich for Kayla. I figured if I wasn’t going to survive the night then I was going out with a stomach full of beef and bacon. Not to any big surprise, the meal was fantastic, the bacon was thick and smokey, and we both were left feeling more than satisfied with our decision to stay for dinner. It’s been my experience in the past that establishments such as this tend to have some pretty great food. I think the owners take a lot of pride in knowing that they are treating the locals right and surprising the occasional lost tourist with a delightful meal, assuming of course that you have a hankering for some classic American bar food. We wiped the ketchup and french fry grease from our fingers as a gal snuck in from the back room to grab our empty plates, paid our tab and headed for the door as the sun began to remind us that it was time to find a campsite for the night.
Slipping, sliding and bouncing our way back up the dirt road we had just come down, we rambled the easy two miles towards the Atlantic City Campground and pulled into a site that we would call home for the night. After going through our typical routine of setting up the tent, organizing our goods and walking the “loop” through the campground, a pastime favorite of ours as it always provides a bit of entertainment and a nice way to loosen up the legs, we began to study the map before laying our heads down for the night. We had begun to question our original intention of heading towards the Thunder Basin National Grasslands the following morning due to the high winds we had battled all day. Knowing that the following day would likely be worse, especially as we would be exiting the hills on the western side of Wyoming, we chose to go south, towards Dinosaur National Monument and avoid some sort of strange Wizard of Oz experience. This plan proved to be a refreshing plot twist to our original intentions. If you’ve never been to Dinosaur National Monument, you need to add this to your bucket list. We opted to stay on the Utah side of the park, mainly because that was the only side we could actually find a campsite. I point this out because the park is incredibly large and spans across the Utah/Colorado border.
What we did learn quickly though, was that the sights we had wanted to see were in fact 50 miles south of where we had just so neatly set up camp for the night. Fortunately, though, our ride south that day was by no means a long one so traveling the additional 100 miles round trip was by no means a stretch or anticlimactic. Climbing quickly out of the town of Dinosaur we almost immediately saw firsthand what all the fuss was about. The grand vistas were just that, grand. Overlooks that sent us peering into deep canyons across great expanses were, at times, almost too hard to wrap our heads around. It boggles my mind sometimes at how the magnitude of Mother Nature can make us feel so small and how that reminds us that we are just one tiny piece of this earth yet so impactful at the same time. That has to be one of my favorite attributes of Wyoming, the quiet, underappreciated and often dismissed state. The vast expanses of the eastern plains, the grasslands and starry skies creating a smooth harmonic symbiosis with the earth before reaching its exuberant crescendo on the western border, tantalizing onlookers with Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. If you haven’t given Wyoming much of a thought, or at least not a serious one, then consider giving it a try on your next two-wheeled adventure. Leave the naysayers at home and don’t tell them what they are missing. For more photos of this trip as well as others, feel free to follow me on Instagram @ charlietravelingchopper