Leg 29 – High Noon In Casper, Sunset on the Range

6/3 (posted late)

Made 85 miles today, from Douglas to a rough roadside campsite on Rt 20 between Natrona and Powder River.

The day posed several challenges, but the pieces ended up fitting together, mostly. A strong 20 mph headwind was forecast – but not until after 11 am, and dying down after 5. I had a Waterkeeper finance committee call at 3 pm, som8 had to be someplace indoors and with a good cell signal at that time. And, of course, I needed to make my miles for the day, so I wanted to make my call as far west as possible to get back on the road and make my miles before dark.

img_5288So I set out early, hoping to make Casper, at 48 miles, before the wind picked up. The straightest way was on the freeway, so a picked up my sip and ride coffee at the Shell station and rolled onto the shoulder. Riding on the freeway here actually feels safer than the secondary roads – even though the speed limit is 80, you have so much room on the smooth shoulder that the cars and trucks don’t come close.  Except for the traffic noise, it is less hair raising than the two lane roads with little or no shoulder and a 70 mph speed limit.

To the south, a ridge line rose, while to the north, the vast range spread out. As I went west, patches of snow began to appear on the ridge, In Glenrock, Rt 20 split from the freeway and I was on back roads again. As forecast, the wind was light, and I made good time. Just before I got to Casper, another cyclist, packed light, passed me, going East. “Transam?” he asked.”Yes, you?” “Nonstop” he said, and then he was gone before I oiled get an explanation.

I got to Casper at 11, just as the west winds were beginning to gust. I had a list of things to do in the big city – mostly to get better cold weather clothes for the mountains, and to get my hair cut if I had the chance. I saw a barber shop, but it was closed. I stopped at a coffee shop to get my bearings – and some cappuccino.. 

All the barber shops seemed to be closed, but there was a bike and outdoors shop about 3 miles into town, so I headed to Mountain Sports and got a warmer base layer, a warm hat, and cold weather cycling gloves – things I will need for the continental divide. I also put air in my tires for the first time since Pennsylvania.

img_5296I found a barber that was open, but could only see me at two, and I decided to chance it. I killed time in the city park until my appointment. Dan the barber has a sister teaching English at a university on Long Island in New York, and his parents have moved there too. He cut my hair and trimmed my beard meticulously, so I was in a hurry to get to the restaurant I had picked for my call,

So I sped down Casper’s rail trail along the North Platte, with no time t appreciate it. I was heading for the Beacon Club, which appeared to be the only restaurant open west of town. Just as I topped the overpass before the restaurant, my nose started to bleed, just gushing. So I showed up with a bloody nose and asked for a bunch of napkins and a menu and a quiet corner to make my call. It turns out the Beacon Club was more of a video poker joint than an restaurant, but they had food, and it all worked out.

 

But 55 miles was not going to be enough for the day, The problem is that there is no town or lodging or camping on Rt 20 between Casper and Shoshoni, 94 miles west. I was going to have to camp rough again. Now the Sheriff had to,d me two days ago I could camp on BLM (federal) land, and I found a public lands map online than seemed to show large blocks of BLM land around 20-30 miles west of Casper.  It when I got there,  it all looked like the usual cattle fencing. I stopped to look at the fencing around the place I had hoped to camp, to see if there was a way through. A pickup truck slowed down and stopped on the road. “What are you doing messing with that fence line?” the woman inside shouted at me. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I thought this was BLM land.” “No, this is private land. My boyfriend owns it.” “I’ll move on,” I said. “You’re just lucky it’s me talking to you and not my boyfriend, he would fix your ass if he saw you messing with his fence.”  “I’ll move on”, I said, and I mounted my bike and started riding towards the setting sun. 

img_5302

The pickup truck followed a little, then headed down the road. I stopped to check my options. There was a highway rest area, but it was another 18 miles away. I looked at the map of BLM lands – it seemed that the block was mostly on the other side of the road, where the cattle fence was perhaps 100’ from the roads edge. So I went about a half mile down the road and waited on the south side of the road for dusk to set up what I hoped was an inconspicuous camp in the sagebrush, fearful that the woman’s boyfriend was going to come looking for me to set my ass straight. The sunset was beautiful, and my campsite smelled of sage.

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