Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 52

Exceeding recommended drug dosages and expected mileage: Thermopolis to Cody

Wednesday June 5, 2013, 88 miles (142 km) – Total so far: 1,894 miles (3,048 km)

Verne, the trip Commander, demands we continue today. We’ll miss the Wind River Canyon ride, but we need to keep moving since we do need to meet my Mom at Grant Village in Yellowstone in a bit over a week.

I do feel a bit better today. By taking double the recommended dosage of the pseudoephidrine and Aleve tablets, my head feels pretty much like it’s part of my body. So off we go.

The flag man waves me through and just tells me to ‘be careful’ getting through the five miles of roadwork. I’d heard about how the surface was incredibly soft and grabby and had caused two motorcyclists to go down the day before, so I was hoping I’d get a ride in the pilot truck. I got to this point, with heavy vehicles passing me on both sides of this dirt heap, and thought: “Holy crap, how am I ever going to get through five miles of this?!”. Just then, the site supervisor comes by and says: “Stay right there. This is way too dangerous for a cyclist. We always take you guys through. I’ll be right back.” She goes and moves some safety cones, then we load my bike in her pick-up, and she takes me to the end of the roadwork. Along the way, we have a nice conversation. And if you’re curious – the flaggers make about $16 an hour.

The wind is calm this morning. It will stay calm all day. When the wind is calm in Wyoming, you have to treat it like you would a tailwind in other states. Take advantage of it and put in a bunch of miles. And this we do.

However, difficulties negotiating five miles of road construction gets the day off to a tenuous start right outside of Thermopolis. But then, a lift from, and nice conversation with, the site supervisor turns the day around. It is a most enjoyable day from this point forward, even though I’m not feeling terrific physically.

The beauty of the ride, and the outstanding examples of structural geology that look exactly like they were lifted from a textbook into real life, masks how crap I feel. The sore throat is dulled, the headache recedes and the cough dissipates as I absorb all of the scenery into my soul.

The road will gently climb and descend through the Basin’s shoulder zone today. There isn’t much traffic; most of the vehicles are associated with the numerous oil fields. The stillness and quiet between passing vehicles is enveloping – I soak it in.

At times, I reach a high point in the landscape where I can see the road curving and climbing between upturned layers of rock strata far into the distance. At other times, the road drops steeply away and I coast down into the unknown. All the while, the harshness of the landscape forces me to redefine how I see beauty. This is not the pleasant, park-like landscape of the Black Hills.

Looking back from where we came somewhere close to Hamilton Dome.
I’m a little cynical, but it kinda pisses me off that I’m warned to stay off PUBLIC land because some corporation leasing the land has poison gas present.
The Big Horn Basin is a big oil and gas area, and there are lots of associated vehicles on the road, but I still absolutely love this ride today.

Off to the west, there are steep anticlines forming unruly rows of hogback ridges. Cliffs of rock push up nearly vertically, facing west, while the east-side of these ridges gently dip away, covered by bright green grasses and blue-green sagebrush. Pinyon trees grow in cracks on the top of sandstone cliffs, the only plant life growing taller than knee/waist-high. From ground-level, the ridges and basins are confusing. It feels a bit like it’s all just been jumbled and tossed together – you’ve got to get high in the landscape to see the orientation of ridges, bulged domes and basins. In all of this, we pass by the turn-offs to Hamilton Dome and Grass Creek Dome – two major oil-producing areas.

Heading down into Meeteetse just after having an RV pass me within inches, with both his front and rear wheels in the shoulder no less.

We scream down the hill into Meeteetse around noon. The visitor centre is closed, even though the sign says it’s open. So I quickly lose interest in exploring the museums that the town website says are on offer. Instead, I check out potential camping sites in town. I’m not overly impressed. Since it’s only noon and the wind is so strangely absent, I decide to keep going after I eat some food and restock my Gatorade supplies. Gatorade seems to be a little smoother on my sore throat than straight water.

There is not much to Meeteetse, but the ‘downtown’ buildings do have nice, shady verandas. Out the back of Meeteetse is where they found the ferrets which were thought to be extinct. They were then successfully re-introduced.
Meeteetse has ties to Amelia Earhart, too. This plaque is on the old highway alignment if you are looking for it.

The road follows the flood plain of the Greybull River for several miles. It is nice to ride something flat for a change. Then, at Burlington Junction, the road begins a long climb. I’m ascending the western limb of the huge Oregon Basin anticline. I get into a groove as the grade pulls me up and up through rounded hills of sagebrush and grass. In the distance, the ridges rise up in angular anticlines, like waves about to break. In the far distance, the Absaroka mountains frame the edge of the Basin.

So gorgeous – the Absaroka mountains form a spectacular backdrop to the Big Horn Basin.
We are heading in the direction of that car. This is so much fun, the miles are just melting away today, even though I’m operating only at about 75% capacity.

Finally, we reach the high point. The oil worker back at the gas station in Meeteetse called it “the rim”. His description of the road and his mileage estimates for climbing distances have been spot-on. From the high point we can see pumpjacks, tanks, roads and vehicles in various places down in the troughs below. This field was found in 1912 and has produced enormous quantities of oil and gas. Even on a human scale, rather than a geologic one, this makes a person feel very, very tiny.

This is the high point on the road between Meeteetse and Cody. This dome is, and has been, a major oil producer.

From the high point we cruise down toward the junction with Hwy 14/16 to head into Cody. In the final few miles, we start to pick up a headwind. Not bad! I can’t believe we made it until 3.30 pm before there was even a wisp of wind today. I think it’s the only day in Wyoming to have this happen, but it just proves it’s possible!

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