Four weeks. Four states. 2,369k biked. Two days ahead of plan.
Back on the road Sunday, through the southern part of Yellowstone, passing by Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Lake. I started early to avoid the crowds. Yeah, right. In two hours, more than 500 cars passed me, going in my direction. They’d stop and take photos of anything that moved. One tourist even took a picture of me riding by! I have a radical idea that I know will never catch on. How about banning motor vehicles from Yellowstone, except for old people and people with disabilities? If people cycled through the park, they’d see so much more, and be so much healthier.
Yellowstone runs right into Grand Teton National Park. Now this is a gem! I can only conclude that Yellowstone had more money to spend on PR, because the Tetons are absolutely stunning!
If only I had known the night before, that clear, warm, beautiful Jackson Lake was only a five-minute walk through the woods. Stunning! And did I mention it was warm? This is one place I definitely have to come back to!
A big climb awaited me this day, and I had to get going. What could possibly be better than starting the day with a 3,000-foot climb to the top of Togwotee Pass? At 9,668 ft, it is the second-highest pass on the TransAmerica Trail. It gets an average of 300 inches of snow every year, and looks like a snowmobiler’s paradise. The views were so magnificent, I had to stop around every corner and take another look. At the Togwotee Lodge, about 5 miles from the summit, I was flagged down by a couple of cyclists heading the other direction. “Have you seen the Norwegians?” they asked. Max and Amy are a brother and sister duo, riding from Colorado to Seattle for their cousin’s wedding. “I bet that will make a great story at the wedding,” I told them. We each shared highlights of what lies ahead in the direction from which we had come, and then carried on our way. “Oh, and there will be a couple of guys coming behind us, looking to catch up to a Norwegian pair, who sign in to every guest book but continue to elude their persuers, keeping just that bit ahead.”
Myrna met me at the top of the pass, where we shared a picnic lunch. By the time we finished, the sky behind had darkened, and it looked like a storm was approaching. Back on the bike, I pedalled faster to keep ahead of the approaching storm.
We rolled into Dubois (pronouned “DeBoyce” by Wyomingites — yes, I looked that up — as in “De Boyce aren’t here. De’re out fishin’ on the Wind River.”) We stayed at the KOA in Debois and, in a moment of weakness, I purchased a KOA annual membership, thinking we’ve got a lot of nights left to find camp spots. It was ice cream night, and we gleefully indulged in “New York vanilla” with butterscotch topping. (Wendy, I don’t know if there is such a thing as New York vanilla, or if it was just marketing by the ice cream guy. While we enjoyed our treat, dry and cozy inside the van, there was a crackerjack thunderstorm overhead.
Falling in love with Lander
From Debois to Lander was a fast ride up through the Wind River Canyon, with its towering red rocks. The snow-topped peaks of the Wind River range were on my right and what looked like the Alberta Badlands on the left. Deer are plentiful here, and they watch me go by with curiosity, not fear. Unlike the Hawaiian deer, who will just run a cyclist over!
Lo-o-o-ong stretches of lonely highway through the Wind River Indian reservation, with wide open land on either side — and the temperature keeps climbing. In Fort Washakie, we visit the grave of Sacajawea, the famous Shoshone woman who guided Lewis and Clark through the Indian lands. More battles are recorded here, between the Shoshone and the Crow, the Arapaho and the Sioux. Chief Washakie, who is also buried here, is revered as a great warrior, a great leader of his people, and a friend to the white man.
A short 15-minute ride from the Reservation to Lander, a city of 7,500 where the camping is FREE at City Park. And the park is gorgeous — right on the Popo-Agio River, with lots of trees and green space. What a great service they offer. There was another thunderstorm rolling in, so I thought I’d ride downtown and get a video to watch. Instead I stopped in at the bike shop, which Amy had recommended highly. It was 5:50 and the shop closed at 6. I didn’t really need anything, but thought it would be a good idea if they could check the bike over, now that I was a third of the way through the trip.
“Congratulations,” said Thomas, the young owner. “Please sign our guestbook (presumably next to the Norwegians), and we offer an ice cream sandwich to all TransAm riders. Well, I am not one to turn down an ice cream! Then he and his colleague, Ed, set to work on my bike. The two of them were like surgeons operating on a patient that had just been in a car crash. They took off the rear cassette and thoroughly cleaned it; installed a new chain; tightened the brakes; checked the tires and put in a new front tube;adjusted the shifter cables; and lubed every contact point. It was 7:30 by the time they were done, an hour and a half after closing, and Jake was gleaming like a brand new bike. While they worked, they talked about the ride they had coming up this weekend –FART – the Fremont Annual Road Tour (Lander is in Fremont County.) The mountain bikers have a similar event in the fall that they call BARF, but I can’t remember what that stands for! I wish I could have stayed. It sounds like a great biking community in Lander.The people are friendly, the town is well kept and with some gorgeous homes. A nice place to live, maybe.
On to Jeffery City (Population 58)
So, it’s about 150 miles (240k) between Lander and Rawlins and in the heat and the wind, that’s too far for me. There are precious few campgrounds along that stretch. Hardly even any trees, if you need to heed the call of nature. And the rattlesnakes are huge (I know that because I’m seen them squashed on the road), so I wouldn’t venture too far off the highway. Once again, the thunderclouds were lining up behind me.
The map said that camping was available in Jeffery City, at about the halfway mark, at the Lions Park in town. Well, the place looked like a ghost town. Everything was boarded up. There wasn’t even anyone in the bar, where I went to inquire about the Lions Park. To my delight, there was a sign in the window that read:
“Welcome, Cyclists. You can camp behind the Jeffery Community Church. Showers. Kitchen. Look for the white steeple. Go around the back. The door’s open.”
Sounded good to me. Myrna wasn’t sure. She said she saw a sign for an RV Campground. “OK, let’s try it, I said.” It was a guy with a gravel lot and a few electrical outlets. He wanted $25 to park there. No showers, no shade, but plenty of hungry mosquitoes and a pack of four barking dogs. We didn’t have a lot of time to think. If you stood still for a moment, the mosquitoes swarmed over every exposed piece of skin. “I’m going to the church,” I said, and headed over a sandy back road in the direction of the white steeple.
The door was indeed open and inside was a large, cool space. There was a big board where cyclists could write their names, where they were from and where they were headed. They were from The Netherlands, the UK, Austria, Australia, and all over the US. I added our names with a Canadian flag, then hit the showers, cooked dinner in their fully stocked kitchen, and felt like a new woman. The view out the back of the van that night was priceless — gnarly rock outcrops from the wide Wyoming grasslands, set against a brilliant spring sunset. Ahhhhh. This is the life!
I got up early this morning to make the final 104k push into Rawlins before the heat of the day and the storms of the late afternoons. The first 30k were easy. And then the crosswinds hit. The next 30k was tough slogging, getting better just as a never-ending hill came in to view. Tough day. I’m tired.
I’m looking forward to a rest day tomorrow, a visit to the prison museum in town and then some good Mexican food at Rose’s Lariat — apparently the best Mexican food anywhere along the TransAmerica Trail. My overall impression of Wyoming is that it has changed little over the past century, and that for almost everyone, apart from the native Indians, it was a “passing-through” place — the settlers on the Oregon Trail; the gold miners headed to the gold fields of Montana and California; the railway builders; the Mormon settlers; the fur traders, the cavalry and the Pony Express.And, of course, the TransAmerica cyclists of today! It’s beautiful, wild, rugged country to enjoy as you pass through it.
On to Colorado
Saturday we set off on Week 5, into Colorado and the might Hoosier Pass. Willy, I hope we can meet up for a ride when we come close to Denver — I’m thinking early to mid next week?
Just before I close, I’d like to give a shout-out to my colleague, Greg Doram, who celebrates 5 years with Golder this week. Greg, I am proud to work with you. You are one classy guy! I’m sorry to be missing the party.
Til next week then. Colorado, here we come!