River Racing

The scale of big sky country — where 300 miles of chasing horizon qualifies as a daytrip — demands a different system of measurement. We’re each invited to use our own.

As best as I can tell, the biker crowd marks off the mileage in saloon lengths, one watering-hole to the next. Alternatively, I’ve heard friends describe routes by podcast count: Shoshoni to Sheridan goes exactly three RadioLabs; Ethete to Worland, two and a half Longforms. Personally, I prefer to keep track of a road trip’s progress with creeks and rivers: Big Horn to Owl Creek; Owl Creek to Gooseberry; Gooseberry to the Greybull…

In this part of the world, the names alone can occupy your imagination for a good chunk of mileage. Poison Spider Creek? There’s got to be a story in there somewhere.

A nagging sense of urgency tends to collect along flattened hills and straight lengths of blacktop. Noting the slithering green contour of a watercourse every now and again is the perfect antidote. It’s a nice counterpoint, the way water chooses to travel. No clock, no speedometer, just the path of least resistance back home to the ocean.

We each have to fill the hours, however many we may get. Keeping eyes on the road and mind on the river feels like the best option some days. Or better yet, the next stream’s just behind the ridge… maybe I could pull over, spare an hour or two. Lord knows the asphalt isn’t going anywhere, and no matter how much I race, that horizon won’t get any closer.

Come to think of it, I’m not so sure why I was in such a hurry to begin with.

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