Saturday, July 15, to Kemmerer, Wyoming
49.15 miles. Maximum 39 mph, rating: 5
Got up and saw thousands of stars. Packed up stuff after eating bagels and OJ in tent. We left before 6 AM without waking our hosts. I took a pain pill for my sore butt.
Laketown is right at the foot of a grade as steep as anything we’ve yet encountered. At least 7% for two miles, with another two miles of easier grades.
Very steep hill out of Bear lake – I think we did six miles in two hours. Then to Sage Junction and into Wyoming. I am riding ahead four miles on the flats – a chance to rest the butt, and it feels good to ride at my own pace.
Headwinds of 30 mph, using the criterion that 30 mph is strong enough to move branches on the trees.
Women drivers are less likely to wave to us. This may be part of a posture of impersonality they adopt in sexual defense.
My idea of four miles between regroupings hasn’t happened yet. There is always some reason to stop sooner than that. The longest has been about three miles.
Guard rails in Wyoming are box section. I don’t recall seeing that elsewhere.
Wildlife: two deer, two rabbits, lots of cows outside their fences (does that make them wildlife?). We saw what we think are flycatchers [we checked a bird book later – definitely not flycatchers, don’t know what they were]. Jacky saw a two foot snake crossing the road. First woodchuck of the trip.
A bra along the road! This sounds like a re-run of an R-rated scenario we saw earlier on. Another bra! Slips, panties, dresses – either this was one hell of a wild party, or the J C Penney delivery truck had a severe wind problem.
We stopped at Fossil Butte monument, about ten miles west of Kemmerer. The visitor center has a number of good specimens, gar fish and such, aged about fifty million years. My favorite was the crocodile turd! (I had never heard of coprolites before.) There must have been lots of material around – how did this particular one get selected to become a fossil?
Up another hill and into a very strong headwind. Crawled along. Dave was really down. No café at Sage – ate groceries till we finally reached Kemmerer at 2 after starting to feel really yuch. Very frustrating ride.
My new bike short liners (Trek) were cutting me in two. Dave’s bottom hurt.
We met a westbound solo cyclist a few miles out of Kemmerer. How different from home, that it’s worth mentioning when you see a cyclist!
Logan was at 4000′, Bear lake 6000′, Kemmerer 7000′, as we work our way toward the continental divide.
Wyoming is also desert, but the soil is gray rather than white, and grass dominates rather than sage.
The reason I never think of Rocky mountains in Wyoming is that all you see in southern Wyoming are hills. Of course, that’s precisely why it’s a good route for the Oregon trail, Mormon trail, California trail, Emigrant trail and bicycle tourists.
We decided to stay at Kemmerer. Not many miles today, but the next stop was a long way, and we were both tired from the headwind and the altitude.
Kemmerer’s claim to fame is the First Ever JC Penney store. There is a (small) mother store on JC Penney Drive in the heart of town.
The sleaze factor in Wyoming is a little worse than Utah, but far better than Nevada.
The cross-country bike tourists came here yesterday, with a tailwind. They are still here with a broken down sag. They said they’ll not ride tomorrow (respect for Sunday?), so we may see them again later, since they’re faster and ride further than we do. [But they didn’t catch us, and we didn’t see them again.]
They invited us to sleep at the Catholic church, where they were staying. We declined and grabbed a second rate motel room after pastrami subs for lunch.
We walked to Diamondville and did laundry. Oh, for a million dollars to renovate its historical but boarded up downtown. Came back to the motel and ate cold canned food we had carried as emergency rations through the desert.
We tried to schedule a reasonable objective for next weekend, with the idea of meeting Mike Peterson. It looked as if we might be running fairly short days through Wyoming.
Topics for a photo-journalism essay (should have taken pictures, but didn’t):
- Lariat motel in Fallon: cowboy neon sign and marquee “God bless America.”
- Logan: a dry cleaner offering free cleaning of American flags
- The cop in Diamondville who didn’t get his paper from the newsbox, beating on the box just like any other ordinary citizen.
People look at our bald tires, unable to believe that’s how they’re supposed to be.
Sunday, July 16, to Rock Springs
91.07 miles, 10:04. Maximum 32 mph, rating: 5
Easy riding – seemed to be mostly downhill with a tailwind. The first 45 miles were on Highway 30 – good road. Lots of trucks for a Sunday, but a wide shoulder.
The deer story
East of Kemmerer, I came upon a deer, grazing by the road. It didn’t run, so I stopped to try for a picture. Fumbling for my camera scared it off, over by the fence. It turned out to be a fawn, inexperienced and unable to jump the fence.
There were a doe and a buck a little further along. The doe was also on my side of the fence. The fawn crossed the road, then came back, causing a truck to brake to avoid it. This left all three at the fence, right side.
As we rode along, they ran in front of us, for maybe half a mile. Finally, we came to a gully, with a culvert under the road. The deer disappeared down the edge, the doe jumped the fence, and she and the buck ran off down the valley.
The fawn had disappeared from sight down the embankment. I heard thrashing and put down my bike and walked over to see what had happened. It had its head caught in the square mesh fence, had gone frantic.
Not eager to get down with the deer and get kicked, I flagged the first vehicle that came along, thinking a CB radio might get a game warden out there with a tranquilizer gun, or at least someone who knew what the hell he was doing. It was a Bronco-style car, with four men who looked as if they might be oil rig roughnecks.
They didn’t have a radio, but one of the men had a tool box with a heavy wire cutter. He climbed down in front of the fawn and cut it loose. With each cut wire, it jerked and thrashed and made a loud braying sound – I always thought deer were mute.
As he cut the last wire, the deer bounded through and disappeared down the valley.
One of the men commented that the culverts were supposed to be unfenced, explicitly as deer highways, but the cattlemen fenced them over.
At the same site were the bare bones of another deer, caught in the same way, with no Samaritan to rescue it.
Great ride from Kemmerer. 72 miles from 7:00 to 12:15, to Green River for lunch. Vastly improved from yesterday’s headwind.
Rode through the shadow of an airplane contrail. As well as the shadow on the ground, there was a visible plane of black in the sky. I didn’t know there could be shadows in the sky!
Our return to I-80 was worth a couple of pictures of the badlands. Little America has 10,000 road signs, 150 motel rooms, 65 gas pumps – so we skipped it.
I took three more pictures at Green River, where the road goes through some beautiful cuts. The town of Green River seems to be a no op. Even the Mexican restaurant in the ex-post office was closed (Sunday).
Green River was great. The river really is green, and the Flaming Gorge comes right into town – spectacular. We ate bad Mexican food, napped on the lawn of a bank, then rode on to Rock Springs.
Rock Springs is a small town devoid of charm and interest. Oh, well. Big disappointment. We passed through the usual motel and shopping center area and went on to the blighted downtown area – sad. Went on out Business 80 against the wind, and stayed at the Nomad inn, whose restaurant’s pretentious name Kasbah was just a front for more good-ole-boy middle America.
Bare rock may be beautiful in a rural setting, but towns built in the middle of bare rock are phenomenally ugly.
At the beginning of the trip, we tried to find motels near downtowns. But our no-backtracking policy made it difficult, because by the time we found the downtown, we had sometimes passed all the motels! Finally it occurred to us that in towns of up to five or ten thousand, everything was within walking distance anyway, so it didn’t matter where we stayed. That simplified matters greatly.
Monday, July 17, to Rawlins
110.80 miles, 9:02. Maximum 45 mph, rating: 9
Since 6 AM, we rode 26 miles with a tailwind into breakfast at Point of Rocks. It’s starting off to be a great day.
Downtown Rawlins is full of empty businesses, with no foot traffic – same old story. Some nice residential areas, including Victorians. We dared Chinese food once again (not Szechuan this time).
We’ve been seeing posters for a traveling Chautauqua for several days, and had been hoping to intersect its route. Turns out it’s here tonight. Because of the wind, they moved from the originally scheduled tent into St Joseph’s school gymnasium.
It was excellent. The evening consisted of a couple of local folk singers as a warm-up act, and monologues by Jim Bridger and Aunt Patty Sessions.
Bridger was a mountain man and explorer in these hyar parts (1822 – 68?). He came west when Laramie peak was still a hole in the ground. He made some very negative comments about the Mormons screwing him out of his fort, which is well inside Wyoming; yet Utah calls the northeast corner of their state Bridgerland. Maybe because the Mormons won, there’s no bitterness on their part. A story it might be worth hunting out.
Bridger also had distinctly uncomplimentary words about Frémont’s abilities as an explorer, mapmaker and guide. I have heard similar comments elsewhere, perhaps in Beth’s book on the California trail. Or they may have been Kit Carson’s opinions.
Patty Sessions was a Mormon midwife, who emigrated in 1848 at age 52. She was her husband’s only wife originally, then had to learn how to deal with sister wives when the Mormons adopted polygamy and her husband married two more wives.
She delivered 4000 babies in her lifetime. An orchardist, she developed the Sessions plum. She was a shrewd investor, and became rich. She learned to dance at 59 and could party all night with her grandchildren in her 70s.
She entered into a second marriage, also polygamous, “to have someone to chop my wood.”
Very interesting evening. We talked with the organizers/performers afterward – they were as interested in our story as we were in theirs. Too bad we didn’t have time to stay for the rest of the workshops and performances Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tuesday, July 18, to Laramie
102.68 miles, 12:04. Maximum 33 mph, rating: 8
Railroads are alive and well in the west. Lots of long trains, each with three or four locomotives.
We agreed to ride all the way to Laramie, thinking we’d get a third easy day. Wrong! A very hard day. It seemed to be mostly uphill, with no help from the wind until late in the day.
This must be play.
It’s much too difficult
to be work!
We rode a couple of miles from Rawlins and found a good chain restaurant called Country Kitchen. Then we crawled along for 11½ hours. Few clouds. Interstate the whole way.
We rode the closed half of I-80 during several construction sequences today. Most of the closed parts have no construction activity at any given time. You just have to keep in mind that there can be sudden lips, holes or transitions in otherwise new, perfect pavement.
The construction people tolerated us, didn’t kick us out. I suppose they can imagine the liability (or at least publicity) if we got damaged riding over in the middle of the concentrated traffic. Or maybe they’re just humane. It happens!
We had a bad lunch at a Conoco truck stop, and good ice cream at a Chevron stop twenty miles out of Laramie. From then on it was flat with a tailwind, but we were both tired and sore. Laramie is a nice little town, but no Lincoln – glad I didn’t go to the U of Wyoming.
Laramie is a nice town, the perception reinforced because we were on our last legs when we finally got here. There is a Presbyterian church whose architecture is unusual in the west.
Staying at a Rodeway – expensive ($45), but nice and clean after poor motels Saturday and Monday nights. No time for naps. Showers and Tour de France results from TV (Lemond and Delgado), then off to the laundromat and Safeway.
Dave called the Logan pathologist to get an okay report on the cyst. I called Pat Sunday, and mom this morning. I called Marian, got instructions for how to find her house in Alliance, Nebraska.
We ate at Grand Avenue Pizza. Excellent, but we should have ordered a smaller size. We could eat less than half of it. Should also have skipped the jalapeños. Laramie is definitely more sophisticated and prosperous than Rock Springs or Rawlins. Nice Safeway (what an observation! – evidence of brain rot).
Wednesday, July 19, to Wheatland
78.74 miles. Maximum 33 mph, rating: 7
We ate breakfast at the Village Inn pancake house, came back to the motel and packed up, then stopped at the Safeway super store and pharmacy for an elastic bandage for my ankle. That, plus icing it last night, worked great.
We left at 8:30. Fast going, the first twenty miles, then we got into the hills.
We got a late start, but it’s easy going. I think we should have taken highway 30 from Rawlins yesterday, instead of I-80. 30 goes around the hills, has an adequate surface, and low traffic. One reason we didn’t was our policy against backtracking, which served us poorly this time. We crossed Morton pass (7300′) about 11 AM after several rollers.
Wildlife count: four antelope – they limbo under the fence, rather than jumping over! I read later that these pronghorns are not related to true antelope, which are African beasts.
Tamelife count: five elk, in an experimental farm. Big racks. We chatted with two motorcycle tourists who were trying to photograph the elk.
We arrived in Wheatland about 4:30 after fighting a headwind. I sought out a clinic, across from the hospital, and got my stitches removed. No charge. The doctor and his nurse were impressed by our venture. I sent a postcard to the doctor at Logan, thanking him and assuring him I was doing well.
We ate at Gringo’s, a Mexican restaurant run by a Korean couple. The menu also listed Chinese food. Then we went out to an RV campground and pitched the tent.
After showering, we walked back downtown for a drink. The bartender was snoozing – no customers. Insight: Christian Brothers has the brandy concession for all of middle America.
He knew who we were – we were the bicylists who had ridden into town late that afternoon. No secrets in a small town. He knew the people running the campground where we were staying, said he hoped they would make a go of it. There was a free municipal campground; the city fathers had promised to shut it down when this guy opened his, but hadn’t done so.
Our bodies are falling apart. Me: cold sore, cold, cough; Jacky: swollen ankle, sore knee. Time for a rest day.
Thursday, July 20, to Torrington
63.91 miles. Maximum 23 mph, rating: 8
I am losing something from the midsection. Cinched up my belt pack a long way today, and it’s still loose.
According to a historical marker, Laramie was named for Jacques La Ramie, a French fur trapper.
We missed our intended road out of Wheatland, and ended up riding thirteen miles on I-25. There was no sign of the little town alleged by the map to exist at the exit. We ate granny bars and dried pears and rode on to Guernsey, about thirty miles, for breakfast. Omelettes, toast and hash browns.
The elevation here is 4300′; Dave says Torrington is 4100′. The North Platte river below the dam is really full – will it be the same in Scottsbluff? The woman and the cowboy at the boondocks lounge yesterday said there was very little snow last winter.
We stopped at a historic point with half a dozen arrows pointing to places of interest, each with a description. The North Platte river itself, of course, was a major factor in the migration, with water and grass for livestock and the wild animals that provided meat for the settlers. In the distance was Register cliff, where the migrants carved their names in the rock. Another arrow pointed to an area of exposed rock where the ruts worn by the wagon wheels are visible (though they couldn’t be seen from where we were).
Someone should do a horror movie called Invasion of the Irrigation Monsters! The walking pipes look like giant centipedes.
Fort Laramie was three miles out of our way, so we snacked, napped and stretched in the town of Ft Laramie instead, and skipped the historical fort. We figured we could talk Mike Peterson into taking us there the next day.
Ten miles further on was Lingle, whose big attraction was the city park pool and bandshell. We had lunch at the Stagecoach Inn.
Ten more miles to Torrington. Most of this was against a headwind, so I went 7-8 mph unless I drafted Dave at 12-13. Mentally exhausting, but cut riding time.
Torrington is pleasant and prosperous. Stayed at King’s Inn, one of about five motels in town, and the only one with an indoors pool.
The owner of the bike shop across the road was very interested in our trip.
The motel had a restaurant that did a moderately good imitation of yuppie cuisine. Even with its deficiencies (too much fat, waitress didn’t know how to serve wine), it was a welcome change from good-ole-boy cuisine. Still too many smokers.
I should write a training article for the Flat Tyre. Some thoughts about expressing the fundamental idea:
- pick up the back foot
- push forward with the back foot
- “think circles”
- beware of spinning out and not noticing (you can spin out even at low rpm (Jacky doesn’t believe this!))
Friday, July 21, Rest day at Torrington
Slept in – got our promised free cinnamon roll and coffee from a surly waitress. Strolled around town. The Bureau of Reclamation building is in the wrong place (downtown) and too small to be the one where I worked.
Played at both playgrounds – one at the pool (which I remember going to with Tommy Marks) with the draglines, and on the merry-go-round and swings near the Chamber of Commerce. Bought broccoli, grapefruit, etc, at Jack and Jill, and ate cereal for second breakfast. Sunbathed, waiting for Mike Peterson.
Mike was late. At 2, we gave up and went across the street to Deacon’s for lunch. He joined us there, then got a room near ours. Because Mike was late, we didn’t get to go to Fort Laramie. We should have detoured there yesterday.
We ate at José Paizano’s Mexican-Italian-American restaurant. It was okay, but Dave and I shouldn’t have had the cherry pie – too much.
Back at the motel, Mike showed us a coffee table book of mountain photography – California, Alaska, Nepal, China… Spectacular.