Given only rough guidelines and a new touring motorcycle, I set off to explore Wyoming on two wheels following the Sturgis Rally in August. My goal: bring home a “living with proof” report on what Indian Motorcycle calls the best of their best, the Roadmaster.
Impeccably suited to fit on a printed map, Wyoming borders South Dakota to its west with a near-perfect rectangular shape. Inside that box, you’ll find Yellowstone, America’s first National Park, and the natural landmark made famous by its depiction as a hidden spaceport in the 1970s classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Mountain peaks to grassy plains … cowboys to Indians … this state is quite remarkable and the subject of this eastside mini-tour.
Small Town, Big Rain
Taking the western spoke out of Sturgis on Route 34, I’m passing through Belle Fourche (avoiding the interstate whenever possible) on my way toward Sheridan, WY, tonight. But, my first stop is the famed Devils Tower along with some weather to hurdle. With no direct backroads between Sturgis and Sheridan, I pick a pair of northward arches that travel east to west north of the U.S. 90 freeway. Crossing the border into Wyoming, Route 34 becomes Route 24 just as the skies darken—time for lunch and a little radar detecting. I’m hoping to slip through a gap in the clouds upon my exit. Around these parts, storm clouds could mean serious trouble—lightening or road washouts—so it’s a good idea to keep weather apps on standby.
Traveling along popular rider paths between Devils Tower and Sturgis, traces of rallygoers and biker parties keep me connected to the bash back in South Dakota. In the three-block-long town of Hulett (population less than 400), T-shirt and patch vendors join the few standing brick and mortar restaurants in town and make for a friendly lunch stop. In the back alley, there’s even a stage entertaining the other partygoers with their own version of classic rock.
Motorcycle & Gear
I’m not 10 miles from Hulett when the rain falls heavy for only 15-20 minutes, but that’s plenty to soak me to the bone (carrying no rain gear makes for a dumb, drenched Alfonse). That said, there is no point in stopping for a hike around the Tower in this weather, so I press on toward the freeway (making a right at the T with Route 14) and grab fuel in Gillette.
The skies open up enough to clearly see the connection with Route 14 North (and piggyback 16). Sun shines down on me and the Roadmaster, and my clothing begins to dry out for now. Riding between rainstorms to my left and rainbows to my right, photographs were necessary despite my soon-to-be-wet-again future.
Orange Signs, Red Soil, and Green Landscapes
Long before Route 16 connects again with 90 in Buffalo, I peel off to the west following Route 14 toward Sheridan but not before I stumble upon a 20-mile stretch of road construction. I saw that orange sign warning me of construction 40 miles back but thought nothing of its magnitude. Meanwhile, riders going the other direction are waving me to turn back, but I’m stubborn and curious.
Not only is the road unpaved at this point, the line is so unrecognizable that a pilot car is necessary to help me navigate through the construction vehicles and sandy, busted up surface ... not a road for those looking to keep their chrome clean or for those uneasy with a little off-roading! Luckily the most difficult part was only three or four miles long. And with a little patience, navigating a machine this big is rather easy thanks to its wide contact patch and lower center of gravity.
The first day of my escape from Sturgis ends with a little more rain, but only after some spectacular rolling green hills, which dip down through the earthen crust, exposing the red soil beneath and back up to the high grassy plains of Wyoming. From here, the road climbs toward high-mountain browns and forested landscape via some of the best riding I’ve seen in the west.