I spent the night in the no-so-elegant Wind River Motel mostly because I like it. The rooms are old and the furnishings are scant, but it just felt right for me to be there. That and the rate was super cheap!
I slept longer than I should have and once up, went across the parking lot to the Village Cafe/Daylight Donuts. I ate a huge breakfast plus a couple donuts and waddled to my bike for what I planned to be another big day. I was on the road by 7:00AM.
The ride was easy and before I knew it, I was in Crowheart. I stopped at the general store for a quick snack and was back on my way. I was trying to keep my stops quick and stay moving as much as possible.
In Fort Washakie, I was a bit taken aback when the reservation sheriff pulled out in front of me from a side road. There was no question he had seen me. I guess he wasn’t much of a cyclist fan. Oh well.
As I approached Lander, I was getting pretty excited. In 2014 Phil and Linda Cardinal came through my hometown touring the Trans Am. My wife and I happened upon them and spent an evening hanging out together at Country Days, a fair the city puts on the first weekend in June every year. Phil and Linda had since moved to Wyoming and we had stayed in contact via Facebook. They were coming to meet me in Lander, if just for a moment, and say hi! We texted a bit and it was decided I should look for them at McDonald’s.
When I got to the golden arches, much to my surprise I found race director Nathan Jones and his partner in crime Anthony Dryer in the parking lot. They were out on course, taking pics and video of racers and had backtracked from the front of the pack to catch some mid-pack folks. It was great to see them!
Inside McDonald’s I found Phil & Linda. We sat together chatting in a booth while I stuffed my face with burgers, fries and apple pies. All too soon, my food was gone and I needed to hit the road. We said our goodbyes and I went across the street to a gas station for, you guessed it, supplies. 🙂 Added to the extra food I had gotten at McDonald’s, my plan was the supplies would get me the 80 miles to the gas station at Muddy Gap, where I would supply up for the next push to Rawlins. I left Lander a little after 2:00PM.
Not far outside Lander I could see the sky turning dark to the south. I figured I would have to deal with a storm and a check of radar on my phone confirmed it. It looked like a pretty nasty little bugger too. I remembered Scott McConnell’s tale of being stuck in a storm in this very valley the year before. Granted he did it at night, but I had no intention of riding through it if things got dicey. I felt I needed to respect the mountain weather.
I rode on, crossing over the Beaver Creek valley, hoping I could make it to Sweatwater Station (where there is a rest area) before the cold rain hit. As I reached the base of the climb up to the Beaver Divide, I could tell that I wasn’t going to make it. The wind was picking up and the air turned cold quickly. I was still about 9 miles and a pretty good climb away from the rest stop. The storm was bearing down on me and I was in the middle of nowhere in a desolate part of central Wyoming.
The storm was nearly on top of me and I was looking for anything for cover. I noticed a guardrail up ahead. I figured that meant a bridge. Maybe I could get under it and have some cover? I rode up to it, leaned my bike against the railing and bailed off the side of the road to inspect what was there. It was a big concrete culvert, likely designed for drainage after spring storms and snow melt. There was also a gate in the adjacent fence, making me think that it was used for livestock crossing under the highway too. About 10’x10′, it was plenty big and I felt that it wasn’t going to be a danger of flooding. I went back up, grabbed my bike and ducked into my “shelter”.
At first, I was disappointed in my holing up. The wind blew a bit and it looked nasty, but not much else was happening. About 10 minutes later, as I was about to “man up” and head out into the fray, the rain came. Due to my limited perspective from the culvert, I hadn’t see the massive black cloud coming overhead that brought fat drops of icy rain. I got cold with the wind whipping through the tunnel and put on my warm gear. It absolutely poured for 10-15 minutes. Rain was coming down hard enough to make it difficult to see. I was very thankful for my hiding spot!
As the rain let up, the wind died down as well. After a bit, I got out and back on the road. All total, I stayed holed up in my spot for about 45 minutes. 45 minutes well spent in my opinion. I stayed safe and didn’t have to deal with wet clothes robbing body heat afterward. I finished the climb and the remaining few miles to Sweatwater Station, where I stopped for a quick nature break and to fill my bottles in the rest area. A quick check of Trackleaders showed that the pair of Jay Petervary and Mark Seaburg were closing in on my pretty quick. I really knew nothing about Mark, but Jay is an icon in adventure bikepacking races. If there was any way at all that I could remain in front of them, I wanted to make it happen.
I left Sweatwater Station with a vengeance, aiming to put down miles and do so quickly. Despite being exhausted with tired legs, I found the energy to push out near a 25mph average for the 15 miles to Jeffery City. As I rode, I decided to eat my food from McDonald’s in Lander. I didn’t plan to stop in Jeffery City and I figured just about everyone in the race did plan to stop there due to it being the only spot for supplies within a 80 mile stretch. A check of Trackleaders as I rode out of Jeffery City showed I was making a little bit of ground, but only just staying in front of Jay and Mark. I kept the “gas pedal” mashed.
I became a bit obsessed about wanting to stay in front of Jay. Then I realized the time of day. If I stayed hammered down, I would make Muddy Gap a little after 9:00PM. Would the station be open? I didn’t know, but I was about out food and had nowhere else to go. I kept pushing hard and had my sites set firmly on that station. Of to the south, big black thunderheads were soaking the mountains and providing a spectacular lightning show. At Muddy Gap, I would turn south and likely have those storms in my path. Then I felt the mush of a slow leaking front tire.
I tried to be in denial for a bit, thinking that if I rode with more of my weight toward the back of the bike I could limp the 10 miles or so to Muddy Gap, but soon enough I had to stop. It was a slow leak and I didn’t want to take the time to change the tube to only end up with the station closed when I got there, so I pumped the tire up and went back to riding. Just a few miles down the road and it was about flat again. I ended up having to stop and pump it up three times.
When I got close enough to the station at Muddy Gap to see it, I could tell it was a ghost town. It was 9:15PM and I had missed it. Come to find out, they had closed at 7 or 8, so the entire plot was for not. I wouldn’t have made it anyway. I sat down next to the gas pumps and opened up my front tire. I planned to patch it and save my last spare tube for an emergency. I had used my first spare when I flatted coming out of Kooskia, ID and hadn’t replaced it yet. When I opened my patch kit, the rubber cement was completely dry. Nothing at all. I was gutted. I scoured the inside of the tire to do my best to make sure there wasn’t a small thorn or piece of wire stuck in it, then put my tire back together with my only spare tube.
I now had no spares, no patch kit, no food, little water and about 50 miles to Rawlins across some of the more desolate parts of the route in Wyoming at night with storms looming on the horizon. It was now 9:30PM and the temps were dropping. It was shaping up to quite possibly be a really interesting evening.
All I could do was ride. I quit checking Trackleaders and radar. If someone caught me, so what. If the rain came, I would get wet. If I bonked completely from lack of food or I had a flat, I would walk. I had no choice but to just ride. I put my headphones in and rode across the dessert in the dark. On and on, just keep moving. Up and over a climb. Down into the Great Divide Basin. Then the climb out of the basin. I was hungry, thirsty and tired, but I just rode on.
Once out of the basin, I knew it wasn’t far to Rawlins, but all down hill. I was cold and ended up putting on everything I had. I even had my puff coat on with my rain jacket over it. As I started to see the lights of town, I was getting excited. I had made it! It was 1:30AM.
Upon reaching Rawlins, I was gutted again to find nothing open. Every gas station and restaurant was closed. Nothing to eat at all. Later I would have the chance to chat with Jay and he told me about a diner on the bypass that stays open all night. I had followed the Trans Am route through town and missed it. Dejected, I went to look for a hotel.
I stopped at the same one I stayed at in 2015, Rawlins Western Lodge. The door was open, but to my surprise, there was a note that said they were closed and would be open at 10AM. There was also a note that said that if guests needed someone, to push a doorbell button there. I needed a room and wasn’t going anywhere until I had one. I pushed the button…and then again….and then again. Finally the woman came to the desk, sleepy eyed. I had obviously woken her. I apologized and said I need a room and asked if they had vacancy. She muttered things and began checking me in. In her frustration, she said something to the effect of, “can’t you read?”, referring to the sign that they were closed. I said, “do you want my money or not?” She finished the transaction and gave me a key. I thanked her and found my room down the hall. I felt bad about the way I reacted to her, but she had been a bit rude. In the end, I guess I was at fault for ignoring the sign. It is easy for me to get snippy when I am exhausted and hungry.
After having wandered around town looking for food, then the checking in process, it was getting pretty late. There was guest laundry facilities just down the hall from my room. I put my clothes in then went to shower. I came back then and put clothes in the dryer and set an alarm to get up and get them when they were done. Then I went to sleep “for real”. What a day. I finished the day with 210 miles. I was good with that, thinking that the next day I would be in Colorado!!!