Distance: 73.53 mi
Average Speed: 11.3 mph; Max Speed: 29.7 mph
Elevation Gain: 1,860 ft
Average Temp: 70.1 F; Temp Range: 50.0-87.8 F
The end of week 4! Wow, I have been on the road for a (lunar) month. It doesn’t seem like that long.
I slept last night in the fellowship hall of the church, which was lined with windows on one side. Unsurprisingly, I woke up around 6 as it was getting bright in the room. One of the perks of sleeping indoors, it’s not hard to convince yourself to get out from under the quilt because the room isn’t cold the way it would be outdoors. Another perk, a coffee maker!
Greg had stayed out late talking to the locals at the Split Rock Café in town, and only woke up when Phillip walked in. He had initially planned to stay at Sweetwater Station near the rest stop, but ended up riding to Jeffery City before setting up by some abandoned buildings. Jeffery City was, Phillip told us, once a town of several thousand people with the economy centered around a uranium mine. The town population crashed in the 70s and it shows with the number of empty homes and storefronts.
Phillip stayed and chatted for a while, then went on his way. I was packed up by the time Greg was sitting down to eat, so I headed out as well, though we were both aiming for the same endpoint: camping in Rawlins.
I walked my bike over the worst part of the dirt road before carefully pedaling the rest of the way to the highway, where there was a pronghorn to greet me. Perhaps it wanted to wish me a good ride.
One of the awesome things about the landscape around here is the exposed granite outcropping. While soil washed away and other types of rock eroded, the granite persisted longer, often making interesting formations.
As opposed to yesterday, where it was cloudy and drizzly all day, the sun was out this morning, lighting the road with a happy, warm glow. But just like yesterday, there were miles and miles of scrubland with no sign of human habitation beyond barbed wire fences, snow fences, and the occasional grouping of livestock.
The Split Rock Café that Greg visited last night was named for a well-known formation. The Split Rock was used as a landmark by Native Americans, trappers, and settlers. There was even a Pony Express station nearby (for the year the Pony Express was in business before the telegraphs made it obsolete). No wonder, since it’s got a distinctive look to it.
Not too long into the day I crossed the continental divide into the Great Divide Basin, an area where the continental divide splits. Presumably, water that falls into this basin stays there, surrounded on all sides by mountains that do not let it flow out to either ocean.
Phillip and I leapfrogged each other a few times. I caught up with him, he passed me when I took a food break, I passed him when he took a food break.
A while after that, I noticed that my bike was riding a little oddly. I looked down and my rear tire was partially deflated. Crap. It wasn’t totally flat, so I pumped it up on the off chance that it was a result of too many bumps on the road the other day. Also, rain was threatening, and I didn’t want to be caught changing a tire in the rain.
The rain did come, only it was more than rain. It was a windy thunderstorm. The rain was cold, but that aws okay on an otherwise warm day. I’m not a fan of lightning on a steel bike, or any bike, really, but the lightning was infrequent and always more than a mile away, so I kept riding. What ultimately got me to stop was a combination of the wind and hail. The hail was small enough to not hurt unless it hit bare skin, but the crosswind kept blowing it into the side of my face. With the hail making it difficult to watch the road, I stopped and crouched next to my bike with my back to the wind for about two minutes until the hail passed and the wind died down.
Meanwhile, my rear tire had gone soft again. I rode to the next “town” which wasn’t really a town anymore, and found a place where the shoulder was wide enough for me to feel safe doing my repair. It took about 10 minutes to remove the tire and tube, patch the tube, replace tube and tire, and pump it back up. The pumping was actually the hardest part of it. My frame-mounted pump (Topeak Road Morph G) is very good as portable pumps go, but sometimes the mechanism that forms a seal between the pump and the valve is a bit finicky. Today it didn’t seem to want to inflate to over 60 psi until the 4th or 5th time I tried. While I was working, Phillip had caught up again and stopped to chat and help. He held the tire while I pumped, which was nice. While I was working, he told me about witnessing the immediate aftermath of a semi hitting a pronghorn. And I do mean immediate; he heard the collision and looked over to see the pronghorn rolling along the side of the road, rib cage exposed, and other gory things. He said it was awful and disgusting. He also said that he should have stopped to take a photo.
Riding with two full tires was great. Or maybe that was the tailwind that I picked up at that point. It was probably the tailwind. Wheeeeee. It feels great to not be battling the wind while riding. Once again I caught up to Phillip and we road together for a while on a section of road with an awful shoulder. His tires are a bit fatter than mine, so he didn’t mind the narrow area of semi-ridable shoulder. I found it treacherous and opted to ride in the lane. The cars, seeing only a 4 ft wide shoulder and not registering how unsafe it was for bikes, were annoyed, but without access to a sign that says “this shoulder sucks, please pass safely” I had to put up with a few honks. After a few people passed too closely, I started riding about 2 feet out from the shoulder. To some people that may sound like an asshole move, but what happens when you ride close to the white line is that cars try to squeeze past you, buffeting you with their slipstreams. When you ride in the lane, they have to cross the center line to get around, and so tend to pass more carefully. There is a method to the madness.
Phillip stoped about 40 miles into the day to set up his camp, and I kept riding, enjoying the shoulder when it improved, and always loving the tailwind. The wind was even kind enough to push me uphill a bit out of the basin. I stopped for some Gatorade before setting about climbing the last hill of the day when I realized I had dropped my knife at my last food/potty stop. Cue an additional 6 miles added to my day as I rode back to that spot, downhill but into a headwind, searched a bit, found the knife, and then rode back. I’d say I can’t believe I did that, but I can totally believe I did that. I’m just glad I realized it then and not tonight when I was making dinner and it was too late to go back. But it meant I got to approach the hill twice, which I didn’t mind too much since it looks a bit like what I imagine you would get if you could petrify an ocean.
Rawlins is a big town compared to what I’ve seen recently. There were a few RV parks, but the ACA maps also said that you could camp in the semi-grassy field next to the 24-hour Walmart. Free campsite with 24 hour bathroom access? Okay.
It felt as sketchy as it sounds and I was glad when Greg pulled up about 2 hours after I did. On his way out of town he had tried to visit this pottery shop/gas station that somebody told us about yesterday while we were riding. The pottery shop was closed but had a sign saying to go next door to inquire. He did, and ended up in a prolonged conversation with the man there. It sounded interestingly bizarre, but I think I would have felt awkward, so I’m not too sorry to have missed it. We talked to one gentleman who came over to this side of the store to return some paving stones he had bought, and it turns out that cyclists set up in this field is not that unusual a sight, so I feel a bit less awkward about it. Now if only I had taken the parking lot lights into account when setting up my tent. I’ll be sleeping with a bandana over my eyes tonight.
Roadkill count: 1 pronghorn, 3 rabbits, 4 unknown mammals, 1 snake
Flat tires this trip: 1