Leg 36 – Across the Vast Emptiness of Inner Idaho to the Craters of the Moon

6/12 (posted late)

I made 86 miles today, to Craters of the Moon National Monument west of Arco, Idaho. Plus five miles for touring the lava cones.

Got a seven am start this morning after the best motel breakfast yet at Motel West in Idaho Falls. Real fresh eggs, sausages, tortillas, fresh fruit salad, and an enthralling pancake machine that made not half bad pancakes on demand.

I left Idaho Falls on US Rt 20, and old friend that took me most of the way across Iowa and Nebraska, and much of Wyoming. After a few miles of irrigated agriculture, the landscape opened up to flat open range. It’s a long way between towns out here – there are not even any place names on the map between Idaho Falls and Arco, some 70 miles west. The flat sagebrush range went on forever, and only the snow topped mountains in the distance reminds the rider that he is not in Nebraska.

At around mile 40 or so, you see the gateways to the Idaho National Laboratories, a nuclear energy research facility. The isolated industrial structures on the barren range look like the location for a James Bond villain’s desert lair.

Robin met me at the Big Lost River rest stop at mile 51 with sandwiches, cold lemonade, and ice cream from the dairy just outside Idaho Falls. I had to fix a hole in my tube – last night I changed the tube with a slow leak, but forgot to check the tire for thorn inside, and the new tube started leaking too.

I missed the shortcut and rode through Arco, famous for being the first city to be lit with electricity from a nuclear power plant. Robin drive ahead and got us a campsite at Craters of the Moon National Monument, the hopped on her rental bike and rode 15 miles downwind to meet me outside Arco and ride back with me, riding windbreak for this tired rider.

After setting up camp, cold beer, and short nap, we went exploring by bike in the lava flows – climbed Inferno Cone, checked out the spatter cones, and dropped into dewdrop cave, where a pile of snow kept things cool.

Tomorrow will be a big day – I need to make 104 miles to Camas Reservoir

Leg 35 – Over Pine Creek Pass and Across the Snake River Valley to Idaho Falls

I made about 70 miles today, to Idaho Falls, on an easy day for riding.

It was cold this morning, and It takes longer to break a two person camp, so I did not hit the road until after 8. After a short ride to the outskirts of Victor, and across some dirt roads, I climbed over Pine Creek Pass, which, at about 700’ of climbing and 6700’ at the summit, was a nothingburger compared to the other passes I have surmount in the past week. But the ride down the other side was nice, winding curves and views of snow dappled mountains, without the traffic of Teton Pass.

Robin caught up to me in the rental car about halfway down to the Snake River Valley floor, and Robin has a rental bike so we rode together the nine miles into Swan Valley. Then Robin stopped for coffee and the ride back up to the car, while at continued on down and across the Snake River Valley.

I say across the Snake River Valley because the Snake River, true to its name, snakes around several mountain ranges and ridges. The road just crosses them. So I was soon climbing out of the valley to a high plateau, which went on for twenty miles or so.

Robin caught up with me at a rest area and overlook for lunch. Then it was another twenty miles of gentle descent into Idaho Falls and the Motel West, which has a hot tub!

Tomorrow we hope to get to Craters of the Moon. I have most of the rest of the trip mapped out now, with distances based on the availability of lodging or camping. There are two 100+ mile days in the plan, but I will have to see if the wind cooperates

Leg 34- Over Teton Pass Into Idaho

6/10

Got back on the road again today and climbed out of Jackson’s Hole to Idaho, about 60 miles to the USFS Mike Harris Campground east of Victor.

I had a wonderful three day weekend in a Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We tried to tour Yellowstone on Saturday, and made it past the South Gate, but a snowstorm and multiple accidents lead them to close the park road and we had to turn around and go back to Jackson Lake lodge. So we got up very early on Sunday and did the whole Yellowstone tourist thing – geysers ✔️, bison ✔️, elk ✔️, watefalls ✔️, and the colorful Grand Canyon on Yellowstone. We made it back to Jackson Lake in time for our evening dinner cruise and catered picnic on Elk Island, and on the road back to the lodge a pair of young grizzly bears stopped traffic and capped our day.

This morning’s ride was just a pleasure cruise through Grand Teton, which has established bike lanes and bike paths for most of the route from Jenny Lake to Moose. The ride was studded with grand views of the Tetons, of course. From Moose to Teton Village, I rode the narrow Moose-Wilson road, partly upaved. In Teton Village, I met Robin for a tram ride to the top of Rendezvous Mountain ((the Jackson Hole ski mountain) and we lunched on waffles and beer at the summit snack shop.

The afternoon ride was more of an exertion – the 2400’ climb up and over Teton Pass. Fortunately, at least you don’t have to ride up on busy Route 22 – the old Teton Pass road has been converted into a biking and hiking path, so at least it was a peaceful two hours of exertion. And what a climb it was! This is the steepest grade I have seen since Pennsylvania, and it was relentless, with no breaks or drops. At least about a third of the way up there were sitting benches by a lovely emerald green pond and cascade in the wilderness. After that the old road began a relentless series of switchbacks, in view of the backside of some ski area still covered with snow. I was pressure breathing and taking it slow, stopping for pictures every half mile or so. A few mountain bikers passed me going up – they were riding up the paved path and riding down the steep single track mountain bike trails carved into the pass.

Eventually, the old road made one final switchback before rising to the grade of the busy highway right at the summit of the Pass, at 8500′.

The ride down the Idaho side was fast, but I had to ride the brakes to keep from passing the car traffic slowing for the curves. Eventually the road flattened out into Idaho, and, a mile later, the Mike Harris Campground nestled in the woods, where there were still plenty of sites left and Robin arrived soon with beer and food for dinner.

Leg 33 – A Morning Milk Run over to Jackson Lake Lodge

6/7

Today’s bike barely counts as a “leg” – 14 miles from Hatchet to Jackson Lake Lodge, where I will spend three days resting and touristing.

I slept late, for a camping night at least, and rose at 6:30, knowing I had a very easy day ahead. It rained hard overnight. I stayed dry, but the tent did not, which is always a pain for packing up and pedaling the extra weight of wet tent.

I pedaled down the road after breakfast, and was soon at the boundary of Grand Teton National Park. If my journey has any destinations, this was always to be the first one – the spectacular scenery and wildlife of GTNP was one reason to bike across the country. I always planned a few days for sightseeing here – especially with Yellowstone so near. This may be my only opportunity to visit Yellowstone.

Grand Teton did not disappoint. Even though the 14 miles to Jackson Lake Lodge were flat and easy, they took a while due to constant picture stops. I saw elk – one cow quite close, and a whole herd in a meadow with Grand Teton as the backdrop.

I made reservations at Jackson Lake lodge back in March when it looked like Robin could join me here on here way back from China. So I will not be journeying again until Monday, I’ll be just one more National Parks tourist in a rental car with Robin. Besides giving my legs a few days to recharge, I have to review the copy edits for my book, and I can’t think of a better setting to do so than the great room at Jackson Lake Lodge, with an ever changing view of Grand Teton in the clouds.

Leg 32 – Across the Divide and Into the Hole

6/6 (posted late)

Today I made it over the continental divide, miles to . Although this is the shortest mileage day since Maryland, the 4,000 feet of climbing added the equivalent of 20 miles to the day. Getting over the divide is a big milestone – there will be more plains and passes to come, but none as intimidating as the Great Plains and the Great Divide.

Last night I joined Tim and his family for campfire stories and s’mores. Tim and Kate had an awful day – with a broken axle on their van, they have no idea how they will get themselves and their gear back to West Virginia without eating up their life savings. But they were cheerful and optimistic and great company for the evening.

I slept well, and woke up at 5:30 this morning, broke camp, ate a big breakfast of oatmeal and a banana, and flavored coffee powder. I popped an ibuprofen pill and poured some ambesol on my toe for good measure. I was intimidated by climbing Togwotee pass at 9500 feet – I just did not know how my body would react to vigorous exercise at that altitude, so I was taking no chances. I planned to go slow, and take several rest stops, and be sure to caffeinate. Noreen stopped by my breakfast table at 6:30 to chat; she was in Dubois because she drove her grandson to a horse camp up in the pass. She wasn’t going to drive all the way back to Iowa and return to collect him, so she was staying at the KOA for the week. She checked how my toe was doing, and we talked about long distance biking and food. I got started around 7.

The first 15 miles or so were not particularly steep. A few miles out of Dubois, a highway roadside sign flashed “Grizzlies Near Highway/ Do Not Approach-Stay In Vehicle.” I made a partial strip stop in a few miles, then stopped again at the National Forest sign to take off my woolen base pants. My front tire was a little soft, so I put air in it. As I headed further into the mountains, the climbs became more frequent and extended, but always seemed to be punctuated by flat stretches or even drops. I hate the drops, they feel like wasted climbing effort. I started to feel winded on the climbs. I began pressure breathing – a high altitude technique I learned from mountaineering legend Ed Veisturs on a guided ascent of Mount Rainier almost 30 years ago. Every fifth breath, I would blow out hard through pursed lips to increase the pressure in my lungs.

Pressure breathing dries you out. I wasn’t sure my one bottle of water would be enough. And as I rode, I thought about grizzly bears. Not approaching was easy, staying “in” my vehicle would not be. I began to wonder if I was foolish not to have thought about bear spray in Dubois. Soon I came to the Lava Mountain Lodge and store – and a sign out front advertising bear spray. I was sold, and I stopped to fill my water bottle too. The shopkeeper demonstrated how to use the canister, and pointed out “it works on people, too.” I tried to picture how bear spray might have let me assert my right to camp on fences in BLM land, and couldn’t picture it.

I planned my first rest stop at the Falls campground, about 23 miles up. When I got there, I found an icy stream by the roadside to cool my Pepsi and had a second breakfast of donuts and soda. I haven’t drunk a Pepsi in years, but I figured I could use the caffeination and I would burn off the sugar.

The climb to Togwotee Pass came sooner past my rest stop than I expected. It was also less difficult than I feared. The grade was significant, but not as steep as the grades I have climbed near home and in the Adirondacks. I kept pressure breathing and took frequent picture stops. When the snow fields extended to the road’s edge, I stopped to make a snowball and throw it at a tree. My aim was good, but my arm strength was not. Clouds were filling the sky, I had noticed mares tails earlier that usually forecast bad weather.

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I had planned a lunch stop at Wind River Lake picnic area, which looked like it should be just before the Continental Divide. I figured I would rest up before the last push up hill. As I climbed closer to the summit, the sun disappeared and icy blasts of wind blew from the snowfields. So I stopped on a climb to put all my warm clothes back on.

It turned out that the summit of Togwotee Pass was actually before the picnic area, which was completely snowed in. Rather than post hole the 1/4 mile to the snow covered picnic tables, I crossed a thinner strip of snow to get to a dry ridge with a commanding view of both sides of the pass. As I ate lunch, it began to rain a cold rain. I put my rain pants on and got out my warm gloves for the descent. I moved the tent to the rear rack to make my bike more aerodynamic.

The Continental Divide sign was just past the summit, and I sped down the rain slicked road, bike shimmying in the wind.

My original plan was to camp tonight at Hatchet Campsite, but with a cold rain falling and possibly persisting, I began to consider other options. When I got to Togwotee Lodge, I ducked in out of the rain. They graciously checked the forecast for me, confirmed that the rain would end, and let me sit in the lobby charging my phone until their bar would open at 3 for a celebratory beer. I went to the bar at 3 and had a Wind River Blond Ale. The barmaid had an Eastern European accent, was interested in my trip and was full of information about the road ahead. There had been grizzlies near the lodge the last few days but she did not think they were down at Hatchet. Teton Pass would be steeper and tougher than Togwotee, even though it was much lower. At least the cars went slower there because the road was so full of tight curves.

I left the lodge at about 3:30, wearing all my gear because it was still cold. The ten mile run down to Hatchet was the most spectacular bike ride of my life! After about a mile, the spires of the Tetons glimpsed themselves in the road break in the trees. Glimpses became vistas, as the landscape opened up, and the Tetons spread before me in all their glory. All the while the descending roadway gently bent its curves to the landscape, as my cycling app called out the mile pace – one minute forty seconds, one minute thirty eight seconds, two minutes. I was at Hatchet in no time, with it’s sturdy bear lockers and plenty of available sites (though still close to Rt 26 traffic). I asked Pete the site host if there had been any bear activity at the campground. He said I missed the fun, since earlier in the day there was a sow and cub just over the hill east of the campsite, but the grizzlies had gone north and were well away from the area.

I took a wonderful nap, woke at 6 pm, and cooked most of my remaining food for dinner, with an after dinner campfire in the scented woods. I went to sleep with my bear spray next to my pillow, just in case.

Leg 31 – Across the Eastern Shoshone Nation to the Mountains

6/5

Made an easy 78 miles today, across the Wind River Reservation to Dubois, the gateway to Togwotee Pass and the Continental Divide in the Wind River Range.

As always in a hotel bed, I slept later than usual. The breakfast spread was awful – a self serve waffle Baker that claim to be “America’s Waffle” and cold cereal were the only choices. The waffles tasted like cardboard, but I ate them anyway because I hate to waste food and even empty calories are leg fuel. I had several helpings of Cheerios, and hit the road at eight am.

It turned out to be a splendid day of cycling, as I crossed the Wind River Reservation, each bend revealing ever more splendid views of the snow shrouded Wind River Range, and eventually buttes and bright painted canyons. The wind, though light, was favorable. The scenery made the ride go quickly and I stopped for more pictures than any other day – maybe all other days – on the trip.

Lunch was in Crowheart. Crowheart Butte, it turns out, looks just like the island of Corvo in the Azores. Corvo means crow in Portuguese. Go figure.

The Crowheart Store was well stocked, and the first independent general store I have been into since Maryland somewhere. The people coming and going were very friendly, and the store doubled as a post office as well as a local crafts outlet.

On the way up to Dubois, I met another cross country cyclist on a geared up but lightly packed bike. This one stopped; his name is Rick, and he said he was supposedly in a race across the country. In addition to the rider east of Casper, I saw two riders yesterday with racing numbers on. The non-stop Bike Race Across America is a thing, though apparently they dialed back the competitiveness after fatalities in the race last year. And for Rick, non-stop means aiming for 90 miles a day and quitting in Omaha, since a recent promotion at the Monterey Aquarium where he works would not let him complete the ride.

Seven miles short of Dubois, under a blue sky dotted with those cumulus clouds that sailors take as a sign of fair weather, it began to rain on me. Then it began to hail, chunks of ice bouncing off my hastily donned raintop. Then it stopped.

I made Dubois just before five. Bill Mayo told me that they let bicyclists camp for free in the city park. Looking forward to finally breaking bread with some fellow cross country pedaled, I went looking for information about the town park. The people at the outfitter store told me camping was not allowed at the park. By the time I got to the visitor center, it was unstaffed, though the woman in the parking lot said if I camped in the park no one would bother me. I was tired of gypsy camping, so I called the KOA (I had been avoiding them). At first they said they had no tent site left because of river flooding (the story of this trip), but they agreed to make a space available. KOA rate for a tent is $38, more than I paid for a motel room in Davenport.

As I set up my tent, Tim, a pastor and youth minister from West Virginia, came over to talk. He was very interested in my trip, and the sailing adventures I told him about too. We talked motorcycles, too. His family camping trip I being cut short because the axle on their car broke. I invited him to join me for a beer at the Outlaw Saloon, but he is a non drinker. At the saloon, no one made eye contact with me (still wearing my bike shirt, but with respectable pants). I drank my $2 Bud quickly, left a $1 tip, and went back across the street to KOA land.

I was doctoring my toe after dinner – trying some ambesol to numb the pain, hey, if you can drink the stuff it probably won’t hurt your skin. Tim’s wife Kate was walking by with another camper named Noreen. When I excused myself for not standing up, due to my toe, Kate smiled and said “the good lord provides.” Noreen, it turns out, is a foot specialist RN from Iowa. She recommended immediate surgery – on my shoe. I reluctantly put my new shimano’s under the knife. Noreen also soaked the foot and inspected it, cut off a flap of skin, and confirmed there was no infection. So if you are ever in Iowa and need a foot specialist, I can definitely recommend Noreen Johnston, RN!

Tomorrow I attempt the 9500 foot Togwotee Pass over the Continental Divide

30th Leg – Out of the Sagebrush and Into Riverton

6/4

I made about 90 miles today, from my roadside range campsite to Riverton.
I slept surprisingly well in my highways edge sagebrush nest. The traffic was just far enough away that the lights and sound did not startle me awake. The dawn bird chorus on the range were different from what i have heard before, but just as reliable a wake up call. I broke camp just before sunrise.

   

I had a long way to pedal today to get to anything but sagebrush range. Although there are a few towns named on the map, like Powder River, Hiland, and Moneta, google showed no businesses in any of them except for a bar in Hiland (pop 10). Some of these towns had boarded up bars and motels, relics of pre interstate and air travel days when families might drive down Route 20 to get out west. Surprisingly, the bar in Hiland also advertised rooms and a general store – google does not know everything.

  
After pedaling 30 miles of range, with 35 more miles to go to Shoshoni, I wasn’t sure I could handle the monotony of four more hours of sagey treeless green hills with occasional clocks of cattle or a few antelope. At a bend in the highway, though, the vista opened up to snow clad mountains on the horizon, which gave me something to pedal for.
More rugged terrain appeared as the road descended a broad draw towards Shoshoni. Shoshoni, the first town for 94 miles, had only one lunch option – a cheesesteak and ice cream place. I had a chicken cheese steak.

  
After Shoshoni, the landscape changed dramatically, as the moist valley had trees and green irrigated crop fields, and the ever closed mountains gave a backdrop. I checked in to the Rodeway Inn at 420 pm, and arranged to meet a friend from the Nyack Boat Club, Bill Mayo for dinner

  

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.

Leg 28 – Freewheeling Down the Freeway Into Douglas, Wyoming

6/2I rode my bike 86 miles today into freakin Wyoming. I rode a bike to WYOMING! Need I say more? Somehow, that is more impressive than the Mississippi River or Nebraska, as charming as the cornhusker state may be.

  
 It was a 30 mile ride to coffee in Lusk, Wyoming. There were some really interesting looking coffee shops, all closed for Sunday. So I got coffee and a roll of mini chocolate donuts, and took my shoe off to rest my left pinky toe.

  
Winds were light, but favorable, with Douglas at about 83 miles as the most likely destination. Newsflash: Wyoming is pretty flat, except for the pointy parts. I was really looking forward to seeing mountains again. Sailors know that you will see clouds that mark an island at sea scores of miles before you see the land itself, and sure enough, by Lusk, cumulus clouds in an otherwise clear sky marked the distant mountains. West of Lusk the hazy blue line of a high mountain rose from the plains.
Wyoming roads seems smoother than Nebraska roads, and the miles rolled by. I stopped at a shaded picnic bench at about 50 miles for lunch and a butt and toe rest. My legs and knees are holding up fine, but my butt is painfully sore after 30 miles or so, and the stabbing pain of the soft corn in my left pink toe is the only malady that makes me want to just stop. I saw a podiatrist years ago, she gave me a lifetime supply of foam toe separators that work well enough for ordinarily life, but are not up to ten hours a day of athletic activity. I generally avoid pain medications (hey, pain is just your body’s way of saying take it easy), but I would welcome a daily shot of Novocaine to numb my toe, which is trying to tell me “Stop Wearing Shoes!.” I googled topical analgesics last night, but nothing OTC looked like it would help much. But I have some ibuprofen with me, which I had resisted so far. But when I read that Vitamin I also helps protect against altitude sickness, I popped one tablet with lunch.
And the afternoon ride was much easier. They should ban the stuff as a performance enhancing drug. The pain was still there, but it just wasn’t painful any more. Even my butt pain was tolerable, and my finger numbness went away. 
In fact, I was rolling down the smooth Wyoming version of route 20, waving at the eastbound touring cyclists that were more plentiful here, and calculating whether I could stretch the day to Glenrock, when I realized I had flown past the Antelope Road shortcut to Douglas. I wasn’t going to pedal back uphill five miles, so I just rolled on down to Interstate 25.
Bicycles are allowed on the interstates in Wyoming, because many places that’s the only road. And as long as I was rolling on the interstate with the sun shining on my solar panel (despite the thunderheads over the mountains) I decided to play my cross country road trip playlist on my iPhone. Here it is, arranged roughly from east coast to west.

  

  
I could use some more western mountain road tunes. And River Driver isn’t really a western song, but it should be the anthem of the Riverkeeper/River Pirates ROGUE river trip that is the penultimate destination. Its refrain is also good advice for a long distance cyclist:
I’ll eat when I am hungry and I’ll drink when I am dry,

Get drunk whenever I’m ready,

Get sober by and by,

And if this river don’t drown me,

It’s down I mean to roam,

For I’m a river driver and I’m far away from home.
I pay close attention to what my body is telling me- when I feel the least bit hungry I eat trail mix from my handlebar cup. When I feel dry, I drink water right away. I haven’t been ready to get drunk yet (saving that for the Rogue), but a 24 oz single sure soothes the muscles.
So I found myself freewheeling down the freeway on the long grade into Douglas, to the sound of the Dead’s “Truckin.” 

  
Douglas has free camping by the North Platte River. With showers! A sign said “No Camping on the Lawn” with the explanation that sprinklers would come on at night, so I set up my tent by the gravel road to the river. Mike and Patience, and their two dogs, were sitting out the rain showers under the bridge. They didn’t know that camping was allowed at the park. They have been hitchhiking around with no particular destination. It was tough to get a ride out of Casper because there are so many homeless people. Mike said he knows how to ride the freight trains – you get in the unmanned pusher locomotive at the end of the train, and you can sit in the seats and put your beer in the fridge. One of the dogs has ridden with them

Leg 27 – On a Beautiful Day in the Nebraska Buttes You Can See Wyoming!

6/1
On a mostly sunny day with light, favorable winds, I made almost a century- 97 miles – to Harrison, the last town in Nebraska before the Wyoming border.
My night in the Gordon City Park was mostly quiet, though at 2 am some loud teenagers woke me up. It was, after all, Friday night in a dark corner of the city park. But after a half an hour their voices faded as they walked away, heedless of my presence.
Yesterday’s dawn bird chorus at 5 am CDT was today’s dawn chorus at 4 am MDT. I slept in a little before rousing myself and breaking camp, hitting Rt 20 again at around 6 am.

  
With a light easterly wind, i aimed to get s far west as I could, near or even across the Wyoming border. Early on, it all seemed possible, as the smooth a pavement and tailwind made for effortless 12 mph riding. Without bumps in the road, my but sores hurt less, and without pushing hard, my feet hurt less. But no good pavement lasts forever, and by the end of the day I was again an expert on trying to pick the best line through butt jarring lateral expansion cracks, seeking smoother pavement in the travel lane (when I could and when it was actually smoother), bumping across the rumble strips, and suffering the torture of another seven mile stretch of “milled pavement” riding into Crawford.

  
Today I saw the most dramatic change in scenery of the trip. The day started on a flat range that seemed to go on forever. But shortly west of Hay Springs, the road dipped into a valley that was surrounded by ridges covered with pines. West of a Chadron, the horizon had actual blue hills of some sort, and the first butte appeared to the south. By Crawford, there were dramatic butte spires on both sides.  

  
I had lunch in Crawford (72 miles) at Stanned’s Drive In, then spent some time researching my camping options for tonight and next week. Lusk, Wyoming, was way too far for tonight, but Harrison, NE had both City Park and RV site camping. I started plotting my strategy to get over Wind River Pass next week and discovered that although the distances were doable, camping options in the right places were not. I spent some time on the phone with the Latrona County Sheriffs office to figure out where roadside camping would be permissible.

  
By the I was done with lunch, it was two pm. I went to the Dollar General across the street to get something for dinner, since I knew it would be the last store before Lusk, fifty miles on. Thunderheads were forming as I left Crawford, so I ducked into the Fort Robinson historical site for shelter, though it turned out to be nothing but a sprinkle.
West of Fort Robinson, the road began to climb and climb and climb through another pine sided valley. A sign reading “Scenic View, 2 Miles” told me I had a long way to climb. When I finally reached the summit, I checked the altimeter on my cycling app – about 4600 feet. The last few days I have been steadily gaining elevation. Now I had reached the level of the summits of the high peaks of the Adirondacks! This is a good thing, since I have to start acclimating for Wind River Pass next week, at 9500 feet.

  
The top of the climb turned out to be a rolling plateau rather than a peak, and a climbed and coasted the hills on the rain slickened road into Harrison, where there was a sign with a tent and a trailer on it directing the camping traveler to a city park with unlocked restrooms with working outlets, covered picnic tables, and a tree grassy space for tents. I call that glamping!