The wide, clean shoulder…. gives me a flat: S. Brush Creek to Riverside
Tuesday July 23, 2013, 27 miles (44 km) – Total so far: 3,104 miles (4,996 km)
Plans for today are loose. Head down to Riverside. Get some food. Consider beginning the ride up into the Sierra Madres.
It feels so nice to have neither a long ‘to-do’ list nor a plan for the day that will be interrupted by numerous urgent emails and administrative duties. It’s nice to wake up and not feel dread. For the first month or so after I finished my work contract, I felt a bit guilty when I heard all the cars leaving for work in the morning while I was sitting there deciding whether I wanted to go for a swim or read a book. But I have successfully changed gears. I no longer feel any guilt; I’m happy that I followed my gut and got out of that lifestyle before it killed me. Oh, I’ll go back to work eventually, but never again will I get sucked into a stressful, salaried office job.
For the first 12 or so miles today, I have the road pretty much to myself. I also have a huge shoulder, after a short ride with no shoulder through a gap in the mountains near the campground. The road is downhill as we sail toward to the North Platte River. I don’t have to pedal much. It’s nice to have an easy morning on occasion.
The wide shoulder continues. A rancher pulls into a driveway and gets out of his truck to open the gate. He waves and tips his cowboy hat. I wave back and smile. I keep thinking, “wow, this shoulder is so wide”! Then, as I’m getting toward the bottom of the hill, I think, “wow, the shoulder is so clean, too”!
Thwack. Thump. Thump. Thump. “Oh, come on! That’s not even fair! I only thought it. I never said it out loud! I can’t jinx myself like that”!
My tire has rather dramatically gone flat. After the initial thwack, I can hear the air rushing out. My very clean shoulder contained an industrial staple that I did not see, but managed to find with the rear tire. Luckily for me, there is a paved driveway leading into a paddock where I can change the tube and be well off the road. It is sunny and cool with light winds – so at least there are nice conditions to work in. I use my pliers to pull the staple out. I then just put in a new tube; I’ll patch the other one when I get into camp. Amazingly, everything goes quickly and easily, and I’m back on the road in 20 minutes.
After the junction with Hwy 230, I stop just a couple miles down the road. I want to head down and check out the river. The dirt road has some soft spots that nearly cause me to wipe out, but I make it without dumping the crew and me. There is a large, grassy parking area. You can camp here, but there are a lot of gnats and the smell of dead fish. This morning there are also two campervans whose owners are running their engines so they can shower, cook, make a cup of coffee, or do whatever it is they do when they need power. It is not especially peaceful.
So I grab Verne and Kermit, my breakfast and my valuables and head down a fisherman’s trail. This eventually leads to a swing bridge over to “Treasure Island”. I eat breakfast on the bridge and let Verne and Kermit soak up the habitat. We first saw the Platte River back in early May, as it entered the Missouri River at the Nebraska border. We’ve followed the North Platte along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. We’ve camped beside it where it was impounded in the reservoir at Guernsey State Park. But Riverside is the furthest upstream that we’ll see it on this trip. It’s been nice to get to know ya’, North Platte River.
It’s about eight more miles to Riverside. The road undulates up and down the hills in the valley. There are some irrigated crops, some sagebrush-covered range, and a line of mountains down each side.
The woman at the visitor centre warns me that a wildfire started yesterday afternoon up in the Sierra Madre range where I’m heading. She doesn’t know much more, but she says the road is open, she hasn’t seen too much equipment heading up there, and she hasn’t seen any plumes of smoke.
Well, that makes my plan for the rest of the day quite easy. Stay down here, get more information, and see if conditions change. I’ve done enough research related to fire that I know that things can change very quickly and in a very bad way.
Unfortunately, there is no general store in Encampment or Riverside (the two towns sit about a mile apart). There are several places to buy liquor, but the only place to buy groceries are the two gas stations. Selections are limited and very expensive. So the guys and I go down to the park to eat stuff from the panniers and figure out what our options are if we can’t head over the Sierra Madre Range tomorrow.
Later in the afternoon, we head up to the museum at Encampment. This town was founded when copper was discovered in the Sierra Madres in 1896. A 16-mile long tramway carried copper ore from the mine to this town. From 1899 to 1908, 24,000 pounds of copper were produced. I particularly enjoy all of the old photographs in the museum.
I head down to the RV park at Riverside. Because it’s on the TransAm route, and the owners are both kind and savvy, they offer a reduced rate for cyclists. It is just under $9 to camp for the night. They also offer a very clean shower and restroom building, plus a clean laundry and game room. The older man is very kind to me. When he finds out I’m not doing the TransAm but wanting to cross the Sierra Madre range tomorrow, he says he’ll see if he can find out any info on the fire. Later on, he comes over to my tent and tells me that the fire is small, about a mile from the road and not growing. He thinks I’ll be good to go tomorrow. I thank him for finding out that info for me.
I’ve been using the RV park’s wifi and looked up the Inciweb site run by the USFS. I’ve located similar information. They’ve evacuated one campground, but only as a precaution. The fire wasn’t threatening it. The weather forecast seems pretty favourable. I think the plan for tomorrow is to start heading up the range. I’m pretty sure there will be plenty of fire folks on the road who will tell me if I’m being stupid. If so, I’ll turn around and come back down.
I’m really not ready to leave Wyoming. I’ve been having such a great time in this state. I guess it doesn’t want me to leave either – it’s even tried to thwart my exit by placing a forest fire in the way.