I seldom read stories about a rider’s experience on a Backcountry Discovery Route. There are a couple of reasons why. First, I’m jealous. I want to be riding the route, not reading about it. Second, every BDR experience is unique. Just because Lance (that’s Lance Sallis of Central Texas Restorations) and I saw a massive herd of elk (well over 60 of them) and one moose (that wasn’t mounted over a fireplace), cleared all the water crossings, cheated multiple thunder storms (sometimes by mere hours) and attended a Monster Truck event at a county fairground, doesn’t mean you will.
So instead of boring you with details of what an awesome time we had riding the newest addition to the ever-expanding Backcountry Discovery Routes, I’m going to pass along tips, tricks and hacks that just might make “your” Wyoming adventure as much fun as ours was.
THE LESSONS LEARNED
Ride the Red Desert Loop: The folks at BDR are adding one-day, loop rides to their multi-day rides. Think of it as a warm-up or stand-alone ride. The Red Desert Loop is 155 miles (a little less the way we rode it) and will add a day to your Wyoming BDR adventure. It is worth it because you will see vistas that you won’t see on the rest of the Wyoming BDR.
Stay in Wamsutter for the Red Desert Loop: Not much more than a truck stop off Interstate 80, we stayed at the Sunset Inn and ate a great dinner at The Hacienda Mendez Bar & Grill. The Sunset folks had no problem with us leaving the truck with them when we rode the Red Desert Loop. Doing the loop from Wamsutter (instead of Baggs) cuts off a good amount of pavement. Leave early and you’ll have time to ride the loop, load up and get to Baggs, Wyoming, before the store closes.
Base yourself out of The Boyer YL Ranch: Adventure bike pilots can ride the freeways to the start of the Wyoming BDR but Lance and I use dual-sport bikes. Hands and butts go numb after too many freeway miles. We trucked the bikes to The Boyer YL Ranch and stayed in the very affordable and comfortable barn loft for the night before the ride start. The ranch has no problem handling groups and trucks and trailers can be left at the ranch during your ride. Unless you’ve made arrangements, you need to bring provisions for dinner and breakfast.
Don’t cut Section 1: You may be tempted to start the ride from The Boyer YL Ranch (the route goes right past the ranch’s entrance). Don’t! You’ll miss great riding and spectacular views. The first 30 to 40 miles offers a unique riding experience different from the rest of the ride. You want to ride from the ranch to Savery, Wyoming, and then head west on Route 70 to the official start in Baggs, Wyoming. Do this and you’ll ride past The Boyer YL Ranch again on your way to Centennial.
Ride the “extra-credit” sections: The BDR route offers a number of detours that take you off the route for a viewpoint or even petroglyphs like in Medicine Lodge. Budget the time to explore them. We hit all of them and never rode away thinking that was lame. Click any of the photos to make them bigger.
Carry the BDR Wyoming map: I recommend that you download the BDR tracks into your GPS and that you carry the BDR Wyoming map by Butler Motorcycle Maps. I know riders who carry back-ups of their back-ups and more power to them. I’ve had good luck with a GPS on the bike and a map in the pack. I also carry a Garmin InReach Mini but I think I’m switching to a Zoleo Communicator because it is more intuitive. I needed to pay for a course to figure out the InReach Mini.
Cable the bikes: The locals laughed at us for throwing a cable lock around the bikes. The most common question was, “Where are you boys from anyhow?” While crime along the Wyoming BDR is not a concern, my feeling is that the cable will slow down kids goofing around (a pro thief will cut through it in seconds). I did lose my bike to a joy rider a few years ago so I’m still a little paranoid.
Keep your eyes on the sky: Much of the Wyoming route is impassible after a rainfall. Be aware of the weather conditions once you move away from pavement and onto the more remote segments. Wet clay is my least-favorite riding surface to navigate. I don’t know how adventure bike riders do it.
Take the pavement: If you do get caught in a heavy rain, look at your map and figure a way to ride the pavement to your next accommodations or stop where you are at for the night. One rider in this group ended up with a broken ankle and a helicopter ride after pushing on and throwing it away on a slippery section. You can always come back to ride a section when it is dry.
Stretch out Section 2: The BDR plan calls for section 2 to start in Centennial and end in Elk Mountain. That’s only 68 miles. We modified the day’s ride to end in Medicine Bow. That probably added around 25 to 30 miles to section 2 and took the same amount out of section 3. Medicine Bow doesn’t have much in the way of provisions but it does have the Virginian Hotel, a beautiful slice of history.
Use this hack at the Virginian Hotel: Medicine Bow’s Virginian Hotel is a must-visit location, but book your room in their Scotts’ Cedar Street Addition. Why? The Virginian rooms are tiny, you have to share bathrooms and the electricity and WiFi is hit or miss. When I come back with Gail (my sweetie), we will stay in the Virginian. With Lance, I’ll choose Scotts. Bonus tip: Save room for a slice of pie after dinner.
Alcova closes up early: Sloane’s General Store in Alcova (the end of section 3) closed their cabin rental office and general store at 7pm. Riders who wandered in after 7pm couldn’t get a room even though there were a bunch of cabins available. Make your reservation in advance and get to the place early or you’ll be sleeping under the stars or in Casper.
Casper the friendly host: Speaking of Casper, since you’ve got to get to Alcova early, check into Sloane’s and then take a ride to Casper. We found the most friendly people of our trip in Casper. Have dinner in the lounge at the Silver Fox Restaurant. Tell Tracy at Okes Jewelry in downtown that Lance and Jimmy said hello. She saw us wandering around and offered assistance (including recommending the Silver Fox). I’m sure there are grumpy people in Casper, but we didn’t meet any of them.
Delight at the Miner’s Delight Inn: Highly recommended. The end of section 4 dumps you in Atlantic City that is not much more than a ghost town. Plan ahead and reserve a cabin from the Miner’s Delight Inn. It is walking distance from the town’s only restaurant/saloon (no drinking, kids or pets at the Miner’s Delight Inn) and the crew serves a hearty breakfast (7am sharp).
Skip Shoshoni for an overnight stay: Section 5 ends in Shoshoni and the town does not have much to offer. Especially hotels. The highlight was a used truck lot that Lance found. You’ll need to head southwest on Highway 26 to Riverton that offers a ton of hotel options, provisions and plenty of places to eat. This adds 30 miles of highway to your day. Trust us, it is worth it.
Sleeping recommendation for Ten Sleep: We found a real gem at the end of section 6 in the town of Ten Sleep. The Carter Inn has relatively new owners and they are working hard to make a good impression. We give the place two thumbs up. Like most of the Wyoming BDR, there is not a lot of town in town. BDR claims this is the most-remote of all their routes. If you don’t camp, don’t wing it. You need reservations in these small towns. Turn the last day into a longer ride: The Wyoming BDR ends on a short (only 43 miles) yet spectacular high-mountain section that dead ends into Native American Land. We turned around, rode to the ALT 14 and headed west. Once down the grade (and into the blazing desert), we jumped on the Crystal Creek Road (road 68) and followed it to Greybull where we called it a night. Crystal Creek Road follows the Bighorn River for a bit but turns left, away from the river. Don’t freak out, you will get out of the desert near Greybull. This is all on the Butler Map.
Heading back to the YL Ranch: We stayed at Greybull’s Maid Marian’s B&B with matching La-Z-Boy chairs and fell asleep watching the Forensic Files. Hit the road early, ride the pavement to Riverton, take Route 135 southeast to the 287/789 and turn left. Ride to the scary town of Jeffrey City and hang a right to the unpaved Route 318/23/701 to the start in Baggs (this is all on the Butler Map). We did it in one day. It will be a cakewalk for you Adventure Bike riders.
The expert sections: I can’t tell you if you should or shouldn’t ride the expert sections. We rode all of them but our dual-sport bikes give us a distinct advantage over the Adventure guys. I struggled more in the sand whoops of section 4 then in any of the expert sections. My advice is to only ride the expert sections if you have a riding partner. This rock garden (near end of section 7) was so slick and slippery that I wondered how the Adventure Bike riders handle it.
Bottom to top: Logistically, the Wyoming BDR works best riding from the bottom to the top. If you ride it top to bottom, it will be tougher to find a rhythm because section 8 is the shortest of the route and trying to combine section 8 and 7 into one day is over 160 miles (and includes the toughest expert section). Plus, you’ll be tempted to blow off the Red Desert Loop on day 8 because you’ll be tired. If you can, ride South to North.
SIGHTSEEING AND SIDESHOWS
I hope the above tips help you out when you attack the Wyoming BDR. The rest of the photos are simply leftovers that I felt like sharing.
Fellow Travelers: I have never encountered so many other riders on a BDR route. My theory for the increased traffic is that this is the first year of the Wyoming BDR and Summer is the prime time to ride it. Was it an issue? Nope. Riders are encountered at the beginning or end of a section. It was rare we met riders on the trail. Still, it does happen so stay to the right.Jail time: I couldn’t raise Lance’s bail so he needed to spend the night in the Medicine Bow jail. Another tip: Don’t pop wheelies on Main Street in Medicine Bow.Then and now: Looking down Main Street in Medicine Bow.
Missed opportunity: I so wanted to see inside of Tennellis House of Wonder in Shoshoni but it was not open on either day that we passed through town and my phone call pleas went unanswered. I think Lance was stoked the place was shut.
Potential hotel investment: This amazing, abandoned mercantile building is on the BDR route north of Shoshoni. An enterprising entrepreneur could turn it into a must-stop destination hotel and restaurant just for BDR riders. Getting the place up to code might be tough. An oil company wanted to convert it to a bunkhouse for workers until they figured it was cheaper to construct an all-new building. I can still dream.
Fair warning: The lights weren’t flashing so we continued the mission. My throat was kinda raw that evening.
Falling rocks: Section 6 may have been the most diverse day starting in desert terrain, carving through this pass and climbing into the clouds. I figured the ride would throw cold temps at us. Turns out that Central Wyoming in August is as warm as Ventura County (my home territory).
Ride insurance: It makes a big difference to ride any BDR with a friend. Having Lance along gave me the confidence needed to ride the expert sections. If I screwed up too bad, this guy would have my back. Luckily, I didn’t screw up and neither did Lance.Some places: Views that made every day of the trip worthwhile.
Click here to watch Lance flash by.