What a month, what a week. Lizzy and I have been trying to do as much riding as we can without listening to music, but sometimes you just need some tunes. The past month I’ve been listening mostly to classic rock on my AM/FM radio, but that can be interesting. I climbed Powder River Pass listening to an orchestra that was “written for infants by adults who are still children,” according to NPR. I’m not sure what that means, but I like it. I’ve been dabbling in some Fleetwood Mac, Beautiful Eulogy, James Taylor (although he makes me too sleepy), Vince Geraldi, old time AM radio gospel choir, and the Arcade Fire. A strange mix I know. Yesterday my iPod put on Beastie Boys ‘License to Ill,’ and I was struck into a fit of giggles by the juxtaposition. It is a funny thing to rock Beastie Boys (I don’t recommend it) while riding a bicycle through Wyoming cattle country. So that’s what kind of week it’s been.
Lizzy and I left Blaise’s house in Cody, WY around 1:30 in the afternoon with the goal of reaching Basin, a small town just out of Greybull that has an A&W, or in other words, a french fry opportunity. For the first time since we left we got a taste of summer, and we liked it. The road to Greybull is flattish, straightish, hottish, and quite beautiful. We saw antelope, cows, rocks, tour busses, an occasional dead thing. Riveting. We also happened upon some chill tourists named Martin and Lucas who have a very similar tour style to ours. They are currently riding around America, from Vancouver Canada to Arizona, and back up to Montreal Canada. (It’ll take them about a year, don’t know how far because they only speak kilometers) After a brief discussion regarding ditch camping legalities, the status of American rednecks and hospitality, and the road ahead in each our respective directions, we took off toward the possibility of french fries.
It was weird riding through that neck of the woods again. I’ve only been there once while riding to New York with daddy, but that was five years ago. I was kind of surprised by how much I remembered about the towns and the roads we were/have been riding through. Instead of stopping for fries we pushed on to a little grocery store and got a gigantic sack of Western Family double fudge sandwich cookies-a great value–which we of course are in front of the store with Beefy, making a special of ourselves.
Lizzy has been craving those little pocket pies that are sold at convenience stores and the like, but it is increasingly difficult to find the vegan variety. At one point, we went into the local Shopko to search for them. After wandering about the store in a stupor from both the excitement of being in civilization and our protruding double fudge cookie bellies, we gave up and filled our water bottles with the water fountain. As we were leaving, one of the employees asked us, “Did you feel strange getting water in there because you looked . . .” She trailed off but I ever so much wanted her to tell me what we looked like. We had a long conversation about what we were doing, how long we were doing it, how hard it was, and yes–we do take breaks. We both were hoping we’d instilled some sense of adventure into her because adventure is for everybody.
After a good long snack rest, we rode off to Basin, which turned out to be a really neat little town. We found some blackberries and decided to save them for morning oatmeal, and also decided to lock our bikes up in the park and walk around town. Small towns are the best, and there are few things that remind me of home more than warm evening town walks. We found a little Methodist church and decided to set up camp in their stoop so that we wouldn’t have to cover our bikes, or set up the tent. We meandered back to the park to pick up our gear when to our surprise, fright, and annoyance, the town mosquito fumigation truck blew past us. To those who don’t know, many small towns still have mosquito fumigation trucks that drive up and down the streets blowing a fog of filmy gas behind them. Oye and vey. I hope we don’t die from it.
We scooted our gear down to the church and after lugging Lizzy’s bike up the stairs we discovered that the stoop had a motion sensitive light. I knew that since I roll around a lot in my sleep, I would be perpetually setting off the light so we ended up doing our first cowboy camp in the church lawn. I might add that I did notice the grass was green and well watered, but decided that I was too sleepy to care about sprinklers. So when the sprinklers went off at 6, thankfully not 4, we were ready to hop up and move our gear back to the park to make oatmeal. And by golly, it was some darn tasty oatmeal.
When we left, we decided to stop by the town IGA to check for pies, and to my delight, I found a set of two, beautiful day old cake doughnuts for only a mere $.40. Deals like that don’t just happen anywhere, so of course I had to buy them. So though we were up and moving at 6, we got cookie munchy loiter and didn’t leave town until 9:30. In the process of eating a our junk food second breakfast, we met a man who is planning on riding his first tour, starting next week, from Wyoming to Alaska. We made sure to give him a hearty thumbs up, and some advice, which included: “put peanut butter on everything,” but more helpful advice would have been “find a way to laugh about everything.” Bike touring is a trick of the mind more than anything, in any circumstance, if you can lie to yourself and say “this is fun, and it’s really not that hard,” you will eventually believe it, and it will eventually no longer be a lie. That philosophy has gotten us over some chilly, steep, lonely terrain.
The ride to Ten Sleep was quite long, quite hot, and quite nowhere. To give you perspective, I gave Lizzy a scene by scene, near word for word rendition of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang complete with musical score and intermission, and by the time the ‘movie’ was over, we were about a third of the way to town. I’m fairly certain we were at the most remote of places we have been through since leaving. Maybe 30 cars passed us before we got to Ten Sleep.
Lizzy found the carcass of a 4 ft. rattlesnake which was exciting. I obtained my first real sunburn, and we also rode through a cattle drive. The cowfolks were not too impressed with us, and we’re not enthused with the prospect of us riding our loaded bikes, neon flags flapping in the breeze, through their herd of cows. One yelled at me to sign a waver before riding through, I wanted to yell back, “Maybe you shouldn’t park your cows in the road,” but that’s not really a fight you want to pick. Wisdom at work.
By the time we reached Ten Sleep–did I mention we had a head wind–we were both sore and tuckered. Also, we needed lunch badly. Neither of us was excited about the prospect of staring the Powder River Ascent, so we decided to loiter. I fell asleep eating half of my peanut butter banana bagel. I’ve become an expert at instantaneously falling asleep. We met a nice couple, Mandy and John, who talked to us about a famous Ten Sleep left handed guitarist, and life in Wyoming. Mandy told us about a brewery a mile away that was holding a pig roast. I told her Liz was vegan, so we probably wouldn’t go. She laughed and said she was vegetarian, and that John was Jewish, so they wouldn’t be there either. I really liked them.
We left to take on the Powder River Pass that the both of us had been dreading since we left. I knew what was coming, 40 miles of slowly creeping up to the 9,666 foot summit, and then a climb on the other side. The Powder River Pass–for reasons I can’t comprehend, nor do I think is physically possible, but is– has a steep climb on both sides. Also, it tricks your mind. Downhill looks like uphill and vice versa. I don’t like it. The first night we made it a little bit passed the switch backs before darkness and tireliness forced us to stop. We camped on the side of the road, and not a moment to soon. The sound of the zipper closing the tent marked the beginning of a long and steady drizzle.
The next morning we pushed to the top. The weather could not have been better, it was not to hot or too cold, but a true goldilocks morning. We ate the celebratory mandarins that Lizz had been packing since Washington, and met Britt and Shannon, a couple of traveling, retired teachers from Oklahoma (shout out to Owasso) who encouraged us with pistachios and gum!!
We made it to Buffalo somehow. A man approached us at the grocery store, and told us that the Bible said if we ever fall in love with someone, we should force to him to give us a toenail. More great love advice from the road. Also, not sure he ever read the Bible. . . We got some great discount items and decided to have a post PRP celebratory curry feast. Since that grocery store had no frozen veggies, we went to the next and Lizzy found a WHOLE WATERMELLON in the the dumpster (clean, no bruises, just sitting on top of a bunch of corn husks with some nectarines of similar condition) BooYah!
The park system at Buffalo is expansive, impressive, and hospitable to cyclists traveling on the cheap. We slept in the amphitheater, and went to IGA in the morning to get some bagels, which are a mainstay. I saw several people walking out that joint with doughnut boxes, so I knew I had to get one. (It was bomb) While outside, an awesome retired PE teacher/former bike tourist/back in the day unicyclist/petrified wood enthusiast invited us into her home to take showers and cook our oatmeal. Thanks Deb! You are soooooo awesome! Also, I used your syrup in my oatmeal without asking. . . Instead of a bike, she rides a Eliptigo bicycle and she let us try it out. My legs are still burning.
Though we woke up at 6, we didn’t leave Buffalo until 1 as we were delayed at McDonald’s. I did a lot of map work, while Lizzy did all of our Watsi admin. obligations. June 1, we sent out our first pledge fulfillment emails. Thanks everyone! We’ve travelled over 1,200 miles.
The road from Buffalo to Gillette is not flat. I don’t really think that there is a flat place on earth, but I guess I should have just taken Euclid’s word for it. (Sorry, math) At a rest point, Lizzy saw an add for the Gillette City FREE swimming pool, so of course we had to go. Deb warned us that we were expecting golf ball sized hail and severe thunder storms, so we knew that it was unlikely the pool would be open that night, but we pressed on anyway.
The thunder hit us about 10 miles from town. At first, I remarked to myself how lazy it was of a thunder storm, not that I wished it any more intense. It quickly picked up gusto and blew us haphazardly into town, but we didn’t get too wet. Long story short, we found a Walmart and got chocolate soy milk and cookies, and then slept in a safe, dry spot of grass between the Gillette Welcome Center and a Flying J. It was a good night.
In the morning, we got groceries, went to the Welcome Center and got some great Wyoming stickers, and headed out to the pool. Lizzy also got us an interview with the local paper so we were able to meet some really nice people-Grant and Tim. Thanks guys. Now we are at a McDonald’s, abusing free refills on coffee and wifi.
Thanks for all your support everyone, it’s been fun. We hope to be in South Dakota tomorrow, so hopefully next time you hear from us we’ll only have 42 states left.