Rawlins, Wyoming, Mile 1187

P1030490.JPGRIDING THE WYOMING ROADS

I love the mornings! Mornings it seems I have forgotten that I ever rode a bicycle and it is like the first time when I start pedaling – so new, so exhilirating. The bike feels so responsive first thing in the morning but, of course, it is I who am so responsive after a night’s rest and a good meal.

A few mornings ago the riding was particularly memorable. The air was frosty. We rode through a silver sea of wispy prairie grass, illuminated by the morning sun, low in the sky. The illusion of being adrift on a vast sea was further heightened in all directions by the gently undulating Wyoming landscape.

We passed several herds of pronghorn antelope grazing on distant hills. Cresting a slight rise in the road, we chanced upon a small gathering of the pronghorns not 200 feet to our right. They immediately took flight but instead of distancing themselves from the road, they foolishly ran parallel to it, keeping just ahead of us. Since the road now began a gentle descent, our speed increased to a respectable 20 mph – about the same as the pronghorns’. Speeding down that slope in close pursuit of those graceful animals, I felt a surge of excitement. “So this is what the thrill of the hunt feels like” I thought. “This is what it is like to be a wolf running down his prey!” WE ARE THE WOLF PACK! I howled my best imitation of a wolf. I pedaled furiously.

P1030494.JPGTHE THRILL OF THE HUNT

The fleeing pronghorns must have sensed their pursuer was closing in. They shifted into high gear and quickly outdistanced us despite my best effort (pronghorns have been clocked at 60 mph.) They crossed the road and joined a larger herd that I had been unaware of in my frenzy. Now I could understand why they had run parallel to the road. They had believed I was trying to separate them from the main herd – a very wolflike tactic.

After taking nearly three weeks to bike Montana north to south, we have put most of Wyoming behind us in less than a single week. Early day after tomorrow we enter Colorado.

We have just completed a four-day marathon across a 220-mile section of Wyoming in which we saw not a single house – unless you count sheepherder wagons as houses:

P1030491.JPG

We stopped for lunch yesterday and allowed our bicycles to lie on their sides in the dirt – something we try to avoid. The reason was that the Wyoming plain is so featureless, so treeless, so bush-less that not even a single fencepost could be found to lean the bikes against. In desperation, we finally just laid the poor machines to rest:

P1030492.JPGREST STOP – WYOMING STYLE

Wyoming has been beautiful in its own way but rather unnerving too. Services are so few and far between as to be seized upon when they are encountered. After pedaling sixty miles the other day, we were looking forward to a restaurant meal in Atlantic City. Well, let me tell you, Atlantic City is no city. It’s not even a town. It is a gathering of about twenty buildings in a deep ravine. The single store and restaurant were closed for the season when we arrived so we left disappointed. We were not nearly as disappointed, however, as the poor fellow we met a few miles out of town. A young man from Austin, Tx, he had ridden his bicycle from the Mexican border and was low on rations, expecting to resupply in Atlantic City. He had been riding into a fierce headwind for days (the same wind that had been pushing us merrily along) and he looked exhausted.

We camped that night at Diagnus Well, a mere pipe sticking out of the ground a quarter mile off the road. There was no sign indicating its location along the road. We had only a “mile 26.2” notation on our map. Luckily, the young man from Austin had warned us to look for a “green patch in the distance,” which we did after missing it on the first pass. Michiel and Margo rode ahead several miles before realizing their error and returning. The water was much appreciated but the wind was not. Oh, how the wind blew at Diagnus Well. Everything in our tent was covered with a layer of dust a mere thirty minutes after we set up camp. We had to move everything to a new location in the sage brush.

The challenge the next day was water. It was a sixty mile ride with water supposedly in the middle of the ride at Arapaho Creek. The creek was bone dry. At day’s end lay a cattle reservoir with water – maybe. Our map noted that some earlier riders in years past had been unable to get water there. It was with great trepidation that we rode up the dusty side road to the reservoir at day’s end. We had barely two liters of water between us and another sixty mile ride ahead of us if the reservoir was dry. It was not. In fact, it was a charming little 5-acre lake from which we drank our fill and washed away the day’s grime with glee. It reminded me of Silver Lake from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books:

P1030493.JPGBY THE SHORES OF SILVER LAKE

The sixty mile ride into Rawlins today was a snap – so hardened to this life are we after a month of non-stop pedaling. Or perhaps it was the anticipation of the luxuries of civilization that propelled us so enthusiastically forward. All of which raises a good question: namely, if we like civilization’s luxuries so much, why do we intentionally deprive ourselves of them by riding through the back country? The answer is one of life’s great lessons: ONLY THROUGH DEPRIVATION CAN WE TRULY APPRECIATE THE SATISFACTION OF A NEED. Such mundane activities as drinking water or resting in the shade are deeply satisfying on these rides to a degree that the pampered denizens of the city can never appreciate. Food, rest, a bath – all of these are sources of intense satisfaction on these rides. There are others and I’ll probably tell you about them in future posts to this blog. Right now, I need to soak in Hampton Inn’s luxurious bath tub.

P1030484-0.JPGHOW TO ENJOY THE PLEASURE OF A COMFORTABLE CHAIR

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