Distance: 58.79 mi
Average Speed: 12.5 mph; Max Speed: 31.8 mph
Elevation gain: 1,942 ft
Average Temp: 65.1 F; Temp Range: 41.0-86.0 F
Camping in the field next to the Walmart, with an interstate on one side and a train yard on the other may sound a bit sketchy, but it worked out well. Nobody bothered us, the lights on the parking lot weren’t enough to be disturbing, and walking to the store to use the restroom in the morning wasn’t any worse than walking to the restroom at a campground. I do wonder if I might make an appearance on the infamous site “People of Walmart” website, which is dedicated to mocking human beings for their appearance while walking around a store minding their own business, for walking around the store in my bike gear, but whatever.
I hooked up to the store’s wifi and checked the weather for Rawlins and Riverside, the start and end point of the day, as I do whenever possible. Cloudy, but no rain forecast for either place. Win!
It was a little after 9:20 when we set out, a bit cool but not unpleasantly so. From riverside it’s only a few miles to Sinclair, host to a refinery for the gas station chain of the same name. I don’t know which came first. On our way out of town we encountered one pair of riders who were headed west and who warned us about the construction on route 80. Then not more than a few minutes later we encountered a solo rider headed west who told us how wonderful the hot springs at Saratoga are.
We got to route 80 and at first everything was fine. Sure, it’s a high traffic road, but there was a very wide shoulder and I didn’t feel anxious at all. Then the construction started. One side of the highway was closed off and traffic funneled to one lane with the opposing lane right next to it. The shoulder there was the normal tiny shoulder found in the far left lane of highways, with a rumble strip and maybe 4-6 inches of ridable surface before a drop-off into gravel. After only a few minutes of that, I suggested we cross the road and ride opposing traffic on the wider shoulder.
It felt like a good decision. The opposite shoulder was four feet of rideable surface after the rumble strip. Except for dealing with the slipstreams of the trucks coming toward us, it wasn’t bad. Until the asshole who tried to run us off the road and succeeded. It was cloudy but there was no visibility issue, yet this truck drifted further and further over the rumble strips until I rode down off the shoulder and into the gravel. I just reacted, and it didn’t hit until after we had stopped how freaking dangerous that was. Jerk. I hope he was proud of himself. (Okay, maybe I’m being unfair, maybe he was just inattentive and failed to see us, in which case he wasn’t a jerk for running us off the road but he should not have been driving.
Greg rode ahead of me for the rest of that stretch of highway (another 12 miles of construction zone) and I spent a lot of time staring at the passenger side wheels of all oncoming trucks to make sure none of them were drifting towards me. When we made it out of the construction zone to normal traffic and a wide shoulder going with the flow of the vehicles, we stopped and high-fived each other for surviving. It is called adventure cycling, and I suppose we got some of our adventure.
Then it was on to a much smaller, much less travelled highway, where I spotted some baby pronghorns, the first I’ve ever seen—I wonder if, like baby deer, the mom leaves them hidden most of the day so you don’t really see them much until they get larger and start to be weaned—and may or may not have said something like “ooohhh, babies!!” An adult from that group, a real genius (that was written sarcastically, by the way) ran from us. Along the side of the road. Not thinking to try and cross to the other side of the fence for a mile and a half. When it did cross, it leapt over the fence, and an explosion of hair marked its passage. That must have hurt!
The clouds that were supposed to just be clouds started to look a bit rainy, so we stopped to put on rain gear. The storm I had originally been looking at passed, but another storm to our right loomed menacingly, dark as night with frequent lightning flashes. And we were far from the next town. So we booked it. Not really picking up the pace much because that wouldn’t be sustainable, but definitely riding more intently than we had been. We got a bit of a tailwind at that point, but it was a cross tailwind. I mean that in both senses of the word. It was blowing us sideways into the rumble strips and it was bringing an angry storm behind it. We managed to miss the worst of the storm, but did eventually get caught in some rain. And not just any rain. Cold rain.
Two women in a pickup stopped about 6 miles outside of town to ask if we wanted a ride, which was very kind. But part of the challenge of this trip for me is to not make forward progress by motorized vehicle, so I declined with a thank you. By the time we made it into Saratoga, the rain had all but stopped, but we were both wet and cold, so we hunted down a place to get coffee. Some not-quite-locals (in to work for the summer) directed us to a cupcake shop where we found two loaded bikes sitting outside.
Coffee and an apple fritter hit the spot as we chatted with a Scottish couple doing a loop of the western US. They’re on the TransAm for now, but started further south, have worked their way up north, and intend to make their way to the west and then ride back south along the pacific coastline.
At this point it was around 1 PM and we only had twenty miles to go, so we decided to visit Saratoga’s free hotsprings for a while.
The hot springs were divided into two sections, one really close to the origin and quite hot, over 100 F, the other slightly cooler at high 90’s I would guess. The runoff from the cooler one flows into a nearby stream where people have built up rock “pools” to create little gradients of hot to cold. Not knowing this when I arrived, I went right for the hotter pool because it was practically empty. The rain gear was left on the bike to dry in the sun, my jersey, socks, shoes and insoles were laid out next to the pool, again in the sun, and I got in—slowly because it really was very hot—in my sports bra and bike shorts. We easily spent about an hour there, though I got most of the way out after about 30 minutes, only dangling my feet in the water the rest of the time since I had started to overheat.
The persistent knot in my calf felt much better after that soak, and my muscles looser. I know the hot spring probably leeched more energy than it gave, but the rejuvenation of relaxed muscles was worth it.
On the road again, there was a bit of a climb, but not a terrible one, and then a nice downhill into Riverside. On the way there we spotted a bald eagle. Then I noticed the prairie dogs watching us. For the rest of the ride I kept seeing them scurrying away from us into their burrows.
There were two cycling couples at the campground with us, and we all ended up at the restaurant across the street for dinner. As expected, there was very little on the menu I could order, but I got a Cajun pasta without the sausage, and it was spicy and wonderful. We spent a long time over dinner, sharing tips about the road ahead, places to stay, dives to be careful about, funny stories. Tracy and Pam helped out a rider who had bonked hard on the ride up a pass and eventually arrived in town via a pickup truck so disoriented that they had to direct him to dinner and then help him out later after he got lost in town. Tom and his wife (she told me her name but I forgot it. Bad me) saved a dog when two girls collected their several dogs into their car and forgot one. It was exhausted and they gave it water and then, when the girls didn’t return, flagged down cars until a local stopped and knew who the dog belonged to. Crazy.
It’s dark now, and tomorrow is a 77+ mile day. Should be interesting.
Roadkill count: none