Day Twenty-Five – Rawlins to Saratoga, WY

Day: 25
Day Mileage: 43.7
Total Miles: 1,447.4

I have been watching the weather the past few days because of my last run in. I saw that the weather could turn ugly this afternoon so I unfortunately had to get out of the hotel room a little earlier than I wanted to and couldn’t take full advantage like I wanted to. Today was a day that I was nervous about. Though a short day with just over 40 miles, some of it was going to be on interstate 80, the only road leaving Sinclair, WY east. Literally the only road. 

I road past the Sinclair Refinery and I wanted to see more dinosaurs than there were. It was quite a set up in Sinclair, Wyoming and there was a terrific looking hotel in town. About the only thing in town apart from the refinery. Once past it, I was on I-80. For the first 2 miles, I was on a wide shoulder with really. O worries of the truck traffic, but then I hit construction. After spending a 1/2 mile nervously, I saw may way over to the under construction side of the interstate. It was beautiful. A well paved, not yet painted entire side of the interstate to myself for the remaining 10 miles. It was great. So great. Easy going. So little stress. And then I was off the interstate heading south to Saratoga for 20 miles.

I arrived in town just after noon. I had lunch while watching some nfl action. I had some time until I was to set up camp. In town, there are hot springs so I made my way to them. The hot springs were enjoyable and popular, even with s storm rolling in. I hung out in them for 45 minutes to an hour chatting with others who were enjoying them just the same. The weather was becoming increasingly worse and the wind was picking up. I made it back to my lunch spot to wait out the storm and eat again. 

After about 2 hours, the storm passed and it was gorgeous outside. Calm, sunny and cooled off. I found a place in town, copper line ridge, who offered a grassy area to camp for $10, the same as the city campground. This place however had showers, wifi and a covered area for my bike, which turned out necessary. As I was going to sleep, it began raining again. Nothing heavy but persistent rain. The tent was holding up and the sound of the rain on the rainfly put to sleep quickly. 

Day Twenty-Four – Jeffrey City to Rawlins, WY

Day: 24
Day Mileage: 67.6
Total Miles: 1,403.7

Waking up in the empty church in the middle of the night is pretty scary. I slept in one of the back rooms but kept the gym lights on and the bathroom lights on. You could hear every single thing, including the animals in the walls, one of which I saw as I prepared for the day at 5:45am. The sleep I did get was terrific however. I did wake up early in hopes to get a beat on the sun and the wind. I made coffee in the coffee pot in the church kitchen and cooked ramen on my camp stove. As the sun came up, I was nearing ready to go and by 7:10, I was out the door.

I ended up having to walk my bike up to the main road because the road to the church was mostly sand. Sand and bicycles don’t mix really well. I stumbled upon many antelope in the field and not one of them seemed to care that I was there. The first qt miles flew by as I had a tailwind. Initially I was in my rain jacket to cut the wind and pants but both of those immediately went in the bag and I was in shorts and a jersey in no time. I was the only one on the road for the majority of the time coming upon Split Rock where it was used as a landmark with the pony express. As I approached Muddy Gap Junction, I was welcomed into a terrific wind that I’d come to know well. 

From muddy gap, I was to head almost directly south to Rawlins. With the wind at 19mph out of the west, it was hard to keep the bike heading in the right direction. Getting blown off the shoulder into the lane and leaning into the wind was extremely tough. There some climbs into the wind that add things slow going and once I caught the downhill, I couldn’t relax thanks to the wind. From mile 15 to the end, wind played a large factor in my mentality for the day’s ride. 

As I was approaching my final climb for the day and reaching the Continental Divide for the final time in Wyoming, a car was pulled with a blown tire. It was an older lady in s Toyota Tacoma whose front tire completely blew out with the car sitting on the rim. The jack wouldn’t fit where it’s designed to fit because of the blown tire so we had to get creative. Once up and the tire off, the spare tire was about 1/2 too tall from where we were able to get the car up with the jack. I had to keep cranking not knowing if it would go and then finally, with digging out some gravel and a little angling of the tire, we were able to get the spare on. Billy/ie offered some tea she had in a small cooler and a homemade rice krispy treat. I took her up on her offer and enjoyed every bit of it. She offered a ride into town which I probably should have taken but I needed to muscle it out on my own. 

The last little bit wasn’t too bad of a struggle but again the wind was persistent. As I rolled into town, I made a stop to see what the college football scores were. I ran into some cyclists on the a Great Divide trail who were resupplying in town. We chatted for a bit, mostly about the storm from the previous day that they got caught in and I was able to wait out. I had some snacks before heading out to wal-mart where, on our maps, allowed cyclists to pitch a tent in a grassy area near the store. I read about people doing so also on CrazyGuyOnABike. I called to get permission, which apparently was my first and only mistake. The lady on the other end said that the maps were outdated and that’s no longer the case. I got upset knowing that I would have to pedal on or find something else and pay for a place to sleep. I called the sheriff to see if any park in town allowed camping and she said that all parks had curfews and the best bet would be the KOA. I called and for $35, I could set up my tent. So I looked on Priceline and for $30 additional dollars, I could get s cheap hotel. So I did that. Upset initially with spending that money that wasn’t planned, turned into relief quickly as I was able to shower and enjoy the indoors while the wind was still howling outside. 

Day Twenty-Three – Lander to Jeffrey City, WY

Day: 23
Day Mileage: 59.2
Total Miles: 1,336.1

I woke up at 10:30 last night to noise in the woods next to me. I couldn’t see anything but it was big based on the twigs breaking with each foot step. It took about 5 minutes before I was able to shine my headlight and see two beady eyes staring back at me. It was a horse shaped bear or was a horse. After catching a glimpse of what was making the noise I was able to get back to sleep easily and slept great throughout the rest of the night. 

I popped up and gathered and packed everything to head to town for coffee. I discovered that Lander is home to a small catholic college and teaches based off Good Books curriculum (which I will need to read more about). I couldn’t figure out why so many young kids were up early and at this one coffee shop called a crux Coffee. I refilled my water bottles and was off.

As I headed out under cloud cover, it was a terrific temperature but it took about 15 miles for me to really feel ok pedaling. As I began to find my groove, the clouds disappeared and the heat began to bring the pain. I had a bit of a tailwind and I was seemingly the only person on the road for good stretches of the morning . I discovered shortly that I had a big climb I was unaware of which made the heat seem more extreme. I knew I had only 1 water station on the way and that was 40 miles into the ride but I was fresh out of water after 30. Luckily, I had reached the top-ish of the climb and was flat-ish pedaling into the rest stop in Sweetwater Station the remaining 10 miles. I took a long break.p inside the cooler rest stop. Read up on some Wyoming history. Refilled my water bottles. Drank my water. Refilled them again as I convinced myself I should get going. 

I had 19 miles left for the day into Jeffrey City, WY so it was going to be an easy ride in to finish the day early. I finished the day early, but it wasn’t easy. 13 miles in, all of a sudden, I hear thunder and I look up and around me. Dark clouds loomed and rain was in the distance behind me. I had s touch of a tailwind so I figured that storm was heading my direction and needed to book it. The next 6 miles were fast and furious or as fast and furious one can get on a loaded bicycle. I tucked my head and pedaled hard for the next 25 minutes as I kept hearing thunder and smelled the rain coming. I looked back to see if it was catching me and could see where the rain was hitting the road a little ways back and saw a strike of lightning. That’s when my nerves were shaken. I had always read, when researching this trip, that in the afternoon, storms just pop up. So everyday around 3pm when in Wyoming, plan for it. Trouble with Wyoming, there isn’t anywhere to take cover. It’s desolate with towns scattered about so planning isn’t really an option. 

Finally, with sweat running down my face, I wheeled into Split Rock Cafe where I chatted with the person behind the counter before ordering a burger. Jeffrey City, pop. 58, used to be bustling as uranium mines were just outside of town. Roughly 4,000 people lived here at one time before the uranium market tanked and people moved to Casper or Lander, Wyoming. Now, it’s just the cafe. There is an old church in town that offers a place for cyclists to stop in to shower and sleep inside but there season officially closed August 31st. I called Rick, who leads service twice a month here, to ask if that was a hard date and he offered up the church for me to stay in, thankfully. 

I road from the cafe to the church where I found the back door to be unlocked. Perfect timing as another storm was looming in the distance and the winds were picking up. Rick and his friend a Ralph pulled in as I was taking pictures and I spoke to them as I helped unload a horse trough that is going to be used as a temporary baptistery because the main one is leaking. After they left, I showered and went back to the cafe for dinner. It was a trip as I sat at the bar and watched two younger guys cook my food, a two year old running around with an older dog and a puppy. What are you going to do, not eat at the only place that has food for 60 miles and eat the remainder of your ramen and peanut butter? 

I got back to the church, settled in and was done for the day. An easy day turned pressured, I was ready for bed.

Day Twenty-Two – Dubois to Lander, WY

Day: 22
Day Mileage: 75.4
Total Miles: 1,276.9

I haven’t really set my alarm this trip but I wake up early regardless. I woke up at 6:15 inside the church’s community room with the 3 other hikers. I walked down Main Street to find coffee and breakfast before attempting to get on the road early. Successfully finding a coffee shop open, I went back to the church to begin getting ready. I was al packed and ready to go, but the coffee and WiFi kept delaying me.  I updated the blog with a few posts and then finally, I was ready to head out for the day. 

The first 30 miles flew by. It was mostly downhill and I had a tailwind the majority of the time. I knew that the stops between destinations were few and far between but I needed to stop at each one to fuel up and replenish my waters. The scenery was pretty spectacular in its on way. Moving from Yellowstone to the Tetons to now high desert again, similar to eastern Oregon, it’s a dramatic change in just a few short days on a bike. I stopped off at the gas station in Crowheart and had root beer #1 of the day. It’s what I crave while on a bicycle. I was able to grab a few snacks for the road too knowing that I only had a rest stop between here and Lander. 

As I left, things got tougher. I had 45 miles to go and the wind changed directions on me. Not good. Terrain was still relatively flat but the sun began to heat things up and the wind continued to blow. About 20 miles down the road was the rest stop. I had been seeing ambulances go by the last hour or so but didn’t know where they were going. I found out as I pulled into the rest stop. Someone was being mediflighted out of there though I never did discover the reason why. I replenished my waters once more and noticed the blue stripe on my tire. When researching for this trip, I read on the Schwalbe Tire website that that blue stripe signifies when it needs to be changed. This tire had about 2,600 loaded touring miles and probably upwards of 3,500 in total so it proved its worth, including no flats on the rear wheel in two tours. I bought a new tire in Missoula and lugged it around for 700 miles thinking I might need it in the future but if not, I’d have it for when I got home. Well, I needed it. 

It didn’t take too long to change it out but while my rear wheel was off, I decided to clean the cassette and do some general cleaning while I was in the shade and not on the roadside in the heat. Once aired up, I was ready to go the final 25 miles. Turning out onto the road once more. Boom. Headwind.

For the next 3 plus hours, I tucked my head down and had to keep going. There isn’t much more you can do. I had s few steady climbs and a lot of road to myself during this stretch. I put in an earphone and just kept going. Finally, after being completely wind blown and completely worn out, I made my way into the Lander city center. I stopped in for a late lunch/dinner and the person behind the counter remarked that I looked like I had been out doing some stuff today. Indeed, sir. Indeed. 

After a sandwich and a well earned beer, I headed over to the high school indoor pool. Stay with me here. It’s listed as a resource on my maps and it mentions that showers are available. I walk into the main entry and there seems to be a swimming practice going on, so I walk back into the men’s locker room and find out where the showers are. I go back out to my bicycle, grab my items and then hopefully find someone to speak to. Nope. No one available. So guess my schtick is to now creepily ride my bike across part of the US and shower at high schools without speaking to anyone? It was indeed creepy on my part, but I was well showered and found my way to the city park where they offer free camping.

At camp, I spoke to Shane who just finished hiking section hiking the CDT this year a few days early and was waiting for a ride. He has completed the Appalachian Trail and will be starting the Pacific Crest Trail next year. Crawling into the tent, it was warm and only expected to get into the 60s so I left the rain fly off and was off to sleep.