Sense of adventure draws dirt bikers to Greybull

Nathan Oster

In addition the PEAKS to Conga cyclists and the Harley owners passing through on their way to and from Cody, there was a third, far less visible group of two-wheeled adventurers in town last weekend gathering like they always do at the Green Oasis Campground.

This year’s “Yellowstone Rally” attracted 40 dirt bikers from around the world who spent the long weekend riding the backroads and seeing the sights of the Big Horn Basin, guided every step of the way by road books mounted on their bikes.

It was the seventh rally to be headquartered at the Green Oasis and 80-something Mike Carson of Dubois has organized every one of them.  With its wide-open spaces and thousands of acres of public lands, the Big Horn Basin appeals for obvious reasons. 

People come year after year for the camaraderie, not for the competition, he said, comparing it more to a “weekend trail ride” than a race.  But the inspiration behind it just so happens to be one of the most well-known endurance races in the world: The Dakar.

According to, the adventure began back in 1977, when Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice Rally. Saved from the sands in extremis, he returned to France still in thrall to this landscape and promising himself he would share his fascination with as many people as possible. He proceeded to come up with a route starting in Europe, continuing to Algiers and crossing Agadez before eventually finishing at Dakar. 

The founder coined a motto for his inspiration: "A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind."

Carson said the “vagabond trip” that Sabine conceived was originally called Paris to Dakar. Now it’s just The Dakar. Carson describes it as “a grand adventure.” Starting in about 2008, it was held in South America for about 10 years. It has since moved to Saudi Arabia.

The same spirit that motivated people to enter that race can be found in the “princes and princess” who show up in Greybull every year.  Carson referred to them that way because “they’re great people who enjoy each other’s company and participating in this sport in one of the greatest places on the continent.”

Forty-people attended the rally this year, arriving on Thursday for a practice ride and orientation before embarking on three backroads trail rides Friday, Saturday and Sunday and breaking camp by midday Monday.

The youngest rider “just barely got a driver’s license” while the oldest was 86.   Carson mentioned a young lady who came up from Mexico, plus six more from southern Alberta. Most of the western states were represented.

Carson said the rally isn’t promoted on the Internet or social media. They don’t want it to become too big or alter the chemistry of the group.  And they don’t want to do damage to the trails or overwhelm the community.

Following the backroads, this year’s trail rides took them to the Lovell area on Friday, the Ten Sleep area on Saturday and the Cody area on Sunday before finishing up in 15 Mile Creek area southwest of here.  Each day when they reach their destination, they stop for lunch, buy gas and return via a different route. 

“We’ve shown them desert and snow on consecutive days,” Carson said of this year’s adventure.

For navigation, riders don’t use GPS or printed maps, but rather road books.  Carson explained that a road book is a roll of paper, 6 inches wide, that gets mounted on a fixture on the bike’s handlebars. Riders use buttons on their handlebars to control scrolling.  From the Green Oasis, Carson can monitor each rider’s progress using the Iridium satellite system.  Each green arrow icon on his computer monitor represents a rider so he can see where they are at all times.

One of this year’s attendees was Robert Mann.  In all, there were 13 people from Kansas in his group. “You guys are especially kind here,” he said. “We try to reciprocate by being especially grateful.  Restaurants here are fantastic.  From this very spot, you can easily reach thousands of miles of public lands on which to ride.  There are very few places like this – especially east of here.”