Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Rough Day In Badlands

Yesterday I had my first, and hopefully my last, experience biking on an interstate highway. Given the lack of paved roads out here, Interstate 80 was the only available road heading toward Rawlins for thirteen miles. Fortunately, the shoulders were wide. As I navigated through one shredded tire after another, I contemplated how I would avoid the shrapnel if a passing truck blew one of its tires.

I exited the highway and rode through Sinclair, WY, a true company town. It shares its name with the Sinclair Oil Corporation and consists mainly of an oil refinery. A town hall, police station and former hotel, built in the 1920's in the Spanish Colonial style, make up the rest of Sinclair.

The hotel, which according to a plaque had once set the standard for luxury in the region, now appeared to be a church mission.

After a lunch break in Rawlins, I decided to push on to Muddy Gap, where there was supposedly a gas station and camping. I was barely out of town when the sky darkened and light rain began to fall. Somehow I managed to thread the needle and avoid the storm clouds to the east and west and ride under the brighter skies to the north. In the afternoon, I continued to see many pronghorns grazing.

When I arrived at Muddy Gap, there were no signs for a campground and the clerk at the store didn't know of any official campsites. She directed me to a residence down the road where she had seen people pitch their tents. I rolled up to the house and rang the bell. The woman who answered said I was welcome to camp on her property. It appeared to be a former RV park. There were still a few numbered posts, electrical outlets and outhouses on the property. The only caveat: "We have rattlers, so watch out." I did, but fortunately, I never saw one.

Today, my destination was Lander. The day started off well with light winds during a twenty-two mile stretch into Jeffrey City, where I had breakfast. After not seeing any eastbound cyclists for a week, I passed eight on my way to Jeffrey City, a group of three, a pair of women, and three guys doing solo trips.

Jeffrey City was a former uranium mining site, but now had the feel of a ghost town. The cafe in town served a heaping breakfast and a surprisingly good homemade cinnamon roll. But the glass of milk I ordered was terribly sour. After I asked the waitress to check the date on the bottle, she didn't share it with me but quickly whisked away my glass. As I was finishing my meal, a Wyoming health inspector came in to take a tour with the owner. I heard talk of improper temperatures for food storage. As it's over twelve hours since I ate there and my stomach hasn't revolted, I think I'm in the clear.

The ride through southern Wyoming takes me back to Kansas and eastern Colorado. Wyoming isn't as flat as Kansas but it often provides wide-open vistas and the desert-like vegetation is similar to Colorado. At one point I crossed over the Oregon Trail and Pony Express route.

Not to be outdone by Kansas, today Wyoming showed me what its wind could do. Thirty miles outside of Lander I was blown off the road for the first time. Luckily, I managed to stay on my bike and the ditch by the side of the road was not too deep or steep. As I continued on, storm clouds began to form to the northwest and the winds became more fierce. Some gusts practically held me in place. I stopped several times because I couldn't stay upright. It was almost humorous until I got my second flat tire of the trip. I hurriedly changed the tube as thunder rumbled and lightning flashed around me. Again I lucked out, because the storm was all bark and no bite. Only a few rain drops fell. After what may qualify as three of the toughest hours of the trip thus far, the route turned due north for the last nine miles to Lander, turning headwinds into sidewinds.

Surprisingly, I had a tough time finding a place to stay in Lander on a Tuesday night. I managed to get the last room at the eighth place I tried. From the looks of it, this will be a nice town to spend a rest day.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Lander WY sounds like one happening place. Hope you're not keeled over with food poisoning from that nasty-sounding milk. Oh and by the way, Grand Teton National Park is definitely worth a side trip - it looks like it's an optional fork on your map.