Sunday, July 8, 2012

Bike America Day 19: Wyoming, Forever West

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day's distance: 63.45 miles
Average speed: 11.1 mph
Maximum speed: 25.5 mph
Overall distance: 1,166 miles

Because of the torture we’d experienced in the heat of the day before, my parents and I decided to wake up at 5AM on Monday and hit the road by 6:30. Well, 5 turned into 5:30 with some hitting of the snooze button and 6:30 turned into 7:30 with my dad’s tire that went flat overnight.

Still, this was our earliest departure yet and we were happy with that. We rode for about 10 miles and then stopped in a gas station for tea and coffee. The woman inside wasn't the most friendly. When we went to the counter with a full cup of coffee, a cup of tea, and a cup of ice from the soda machine she said, "Coffee and Tea are free, ice is 50 cents." My dad tried to give her a dollar and she wouldn't take any more than the two quarters. This still puzzles me. But, whatever the reasoning, we got a good deal. My tea bag was wal-mart brand but, on the road, I was happy to take whatever I could get.

For many parts of the trip, we've ridden right alongside railroad tracks, which we continued to do on Monday morning. It is always a good sign to be by the tracks because it implies that the course will be fairly flat and, where it's not, it will be steadily graded and not too steep. We have also camped in places where the trains go by throughout the night. It turns out not to be disturbing but something you get used to pretty easily. When the trains are coming, they sound several warnings. We have tried to count the cars as trains go by but they move so slowly that it is hard to keep an eye on them and the road for such long periods of time. So far we've succeeded twice: I counted 59 cars on one train and my dad counted 131 on another.

When we heard a train signal on Monday morning during a water break, I yanked out my camera to photograph it coming through the trestle. We rode on before we got to counting the number of cars.

On this same road, around mile 25, we saw two animals ahead of us on the left side. As we approached, we saw that it was a wolf and a coyote. The coyote crossed the road before we came to the pair but the wolf just stood around waiting for us. I got a little uneasy, never having been so close to either animal before. We slowed down to give the wolf time to cross before we got to it but he seemed to be waiting for us to pass. We slowly rode by with the wolf to our left and the coyote to our right, neither more than 5 yards away, and I thought about what a cool and unusual situation that was to be in. I'm not sure if I've ever seen either animal live in my life, let alone that close up. After we passed, I turned to watch the wolf cross to be with his buddy and my dad said "they were perfectly nice". They were but they didn't have to be, and the uncertainty of a situation like that is what made me nervous.

I wondered what Josh would have done had he been with me. Would he have been a trooper and stopped to take pictures? Would he have been scared too? I'm not sure but he was definitely jealous to have missed this wildlife!

Our day had been entirely flat and my dad and I discussed how hills, though they can be hard, really do keep things more interesting. He said he'd take rolling hills over this flat terrain, I said I'd take the mountain passes.

Then, five miles from the end of Montana, we started to climb. While I did like the change of pace (read: slowing of pace), the stress of climbing made my Achilles Tendon start to hurt again. I geared down as low as I could but it still hurt. My dad kept leaving me in the dust and I got a little secretly offended because of the times I've stayed back with him even though I could have gone ahead. I knew I was being irrational and emotional over my frustration with my body though so I didn't say anything. When we saw the "Welcome to Wyoming" sign, he slowed to ride next me so we could cross the state line together. Before we got to the sign, we saw a "0" mile marker and the pavement on the road changed. We were in Wyoming, our fourth state!

Having ridden 37 miles so far, we stopped for a quick lunch and an icing session. My mom and dad traded and she and I rode together for a ways. The scenery was beautiful, with mountains, some snow-capped, around us. We speculated about whether or not we could see the Grand Tetons in the distance but determined that we couldn't. The large, snowy peaks we were seeing were in Bighorn National Forrest, much more nearby. Unfortunately, they are hard to see in the pictures because of the haze from the heat wave.

Our overnight destination was Sheridan, WY. We were hoping to get in early so that we could pop into the local bike shop before it closed. When we came to a fork in the road, a mere 7 miles from our destination, we referred to my iphone map and our pre-printed google maps bicycling directions. They advised different things but both met up with the other about a mile in so we decided we couldn't go wrong with either. We followed the iphone and rode into some cliffy, deserted country with the sound of gunshots very nearby. After passing the shooting range, we passed the intersection where our other directions would have met up with this route. About half a mile later, we came upon a "closed" gravel road. Turns out we had gone wrong with both.

Our only other option was to turn around and hop on the interstate for 1.3 miles so that's what we did. At this point, my mom and dad switched back. Riding on I-90 didn't feel any less safe than riding on the smaller state and county roads. In fact, it felt safer because we had such a large shoulder. But it was ugly, loud, and full of exhaust, making it the most unpleasant place to ride. After exiting the interstate, we rode another five miles before rolling into our KOA campground. We went for a quick swim, decided that sufficed as a shower, and got dressed to head downtown. 

In town, we picked up some necessities at the bike shop, walked around some, ate smoothies and froyo, and then had dinner at a local chain which disappointed us all a bit. It was called Sanford's Pub and Grub and the food was a little too chainy and the servings were a lot too large. We shared nachos and I had a veggie and chicken quesadilla. The decor was very fun, however.

On our way back to the campground, it started to rain but cleared up quickly. We tucked into our sleeping bags, with the sun setting in a beautiful way outside, by 9:30 PM.


  1. Another great day! Congratulations on your fourth state!

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