Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
I got a late start out of Steamboat Springs since I had to pick up a package at the UPS store. They didn't open until 8:30 AM, and we're clear across town, a half-hour ride, from where I was staying. In the opposite direction of where I needed to go.
When I got there, they didn't have my package. Looking up the tracking number, we discovered that the package was at the UPS distribution center, only two blocks from where I stayed the night before. I rode all the way back and picked it up. But they didn't open until 9:00 AM, so while I tacked on an hour of unnecessary riding, I didn't lose any time.
Thanks for the trail mix, mom and dad! Trader Joe's is the best!
Task complete, I made good time for several parts of the day, in no small part because a lot of it was paved. It became clear that I could overshoot today's distance, to the point that tomorrow would be unreasonably short. Could turn three days into two?
Not long after crossing the Wyoming border, I was back to a gravel road, but a decently maintained one, and extra wide. With virtually no traffic, I rode straight down the middle and put the hammer down. 100 km behind me and I could still move!
With 25 km to go, the road didn't change, but the terrain did. Creek after creek, I was cutting across the grain. 100 m down into a deep arroyo, 100 m steeply up in my lowest gear. Repeat. For hours at a time. I was losing the race against daylight.
Just after sunset, I finally made it to a spot where my map/guide recommended primitive camping. There was barbed wire on both sides of the road, but on the opposite side that the map/guide recommended, there was a dirt road and a small clearing in the sagebrush, unfenced. I was only 50 m from the road and clearly visible, but perhaps for only a 200 m section of road, due to being wedged in another arroyo. And I'd seen a total of two cars in the past two hours. I didn't expect there would be many overnight.
After a short night of peaceful sleep, uninterrupted by a single car, I awoke and began riding again. Outside of sleep, I spent probably one waking hour doing anything but ride a bike, and most of that involved either setting up a tent, taking it down, or eating. But I'd get to Rawlins at 9:00 AM, with a whole day ahead of me to go only another 100 km and get a day ahead of schedule.
As a result of wildfires in the area, Rawlins was smoggy that morning. Knowing grocery stores could be sparse in Wyoming, I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Rawlins and stocked up. And received two free bananas from a pair of touring cyclists I met outside.
Both the Trans-Am and the Great Divide routes pass through Rawlins, then meet up again outside of the Grand Tetons. I already knew of Wyoming's famous wind and generally dull landscape. At one point, I began asking southbound Great Divide riders what they thought of Wyoming. Their responses:
Knowing that, I decided to jump on the Trans-Am route for a few days. I can put up with sand and washboard for a short section, but not a whole state. I can deal with headwind, but I'd rather not do that and sand and washboard at the same time. And it sounded like I wasn't missing much.
Rawlins to Jeffrey City was a solid 110 km, and I left the Wal-Mart at 10:00 AM. The first 70 km went great! Not too much wind, mostly flat.
Then I made the left turn into the west. The wind, in return, shifted around in the opposite direction, so it moved from a crosswind to right in my face. Then it tripled in intensity.
Hills I can deal with. You can always shift down and be patient. And for every hill, there's a downhill. Headwind does you no favor. Headwind has no mercy. Wyoming's empty landscape does no favors either.
After 35 km of torment, I arrived in Jeffrey City, a town with a bar, a church, a row of houses, and that's it. From what I could tell, no post office. Luckily, the church allows cyclists to stay, and even has a hot shower! As the Trans-Am is a popular route, there were seven of us in the church: four eastbound, two westbound, and me, northbound. Three of them were of the fairer sex. I was the oldest.
Intending not to get caught in the wind again, I got a somewhat early start (only just before 7:00 AM) and made a point of getting lots of miles in early. 33 km had passed before I bothered stopping to put on sunscreen. Arrival time in Lander was 1:00 PM, just about the time the wind usually picks up. Got a small amount of work done in Gannett bike shop, and they gave me an ice cream bar!
Camping in the Lander city park is free, and it's a nice park...but perhaps a little too popular. Tents and RVs everywhere, and not everyone gets up early to avoid the headwind.
Once again, an early start to avoid wind and get to Dubois at a reasonable hour. There was almost no wind, and on occasion, there was, unbelievably, tailwind! I managed to make it to Dubois at about 1:30 PM, but not before an afternoon storm caught me in the last few km.
Arriving at the church, I was shown inside by the minister. They were making homemade ice cream for the Fourth of July. Sad I didn't get there later! Once I'd settled in, less than an hour later, a group of seven young men showed up together.
Wait a minute...access to a full kitchen, a lot of men to cook for...I got an idea.
I picked up a ton of meat and some tomato sauce at the store, then made a big pot of chili for everyone. And I got some soda and ice cream for Wyoming's float. Cherry soda (not cherry Coke, cherry soda) and vanilla. Damn good, man.
The group of seven was originally a group of four, raising money for a rare form of cancer. Three more had latched on, and now this group had a Briton and a couple Tasmanians. They were doing the Trans-Am, I think, or at least they were going coast-to-coast, eastbound.
At 10:30 PM, once everyone had already gone to sleep, who should show up but John and Cooper, who I'd stayed with in Jeffrey City and Lander. It seems they never get started before 11:00 AM, and as a result, always get stuck in killer headwinds and afternoon thunderstorms. Even if that didn't happen, they'd be stuck riding in the heat of the day. Three-quarters of the way across the country and they haven't figured this out yet.
Glad to have escaped Wyoming without the worst headwind, and glad to be almost done with the state. Most of Wyoming is dull grey-green, dull grey-brown, and grey. It looks like a camouflage shirt that's faded in the wash too many times.
from Great Divide