Oh, Cheyenne, how bike unfriendly you are!: Pine Bluffs to Cheyenne
Saturday July 13, 2013, 46 miles (73 km) – Total so far: 2,958 miles (4,761 km)
Cheyenne was never in my original plans. However, the heat has forced me out of Nebraska and back to higher elevations. Riding south from Gering to Kimball and then over to Cheyenne made the most sense of all of my options.
So this morning, I stand outside the library in Pine Bluffs to pick up some wifi to book a motel room for two nights. If I’m going to ride through the place, I might as well take a day to see it. The only problem seems to be the hotels. They are either really expensive or have horrid reviews. In the end, I book an okay-priced La Quinta with only a few horror stories.
I’m able to find frontage roads or old 30 all the way between Pine Bluffs and Cheyenne. I never have to get on the interstate. At one point, just out of Pine Bluffs I fear the county road I’m on might never hook back into the frontage road, but eventually it does. Phew! We even pass by an old motel with a concrete tipi from Hwy 30’s hey-day. From Exit 386 on into Cheyenne, though, the frontage road carries quite a bit of traffic and has no shoulder. It is just a taste of things to come.
Old 30 into Cheyenne is one scary piece of road. Suburbs of earth-coloured, box-shaped homes have stretched eastward along the old highway. On a Saturday morning at 10.30 am, there is nearly a constant stream of traffic in both directions. Soccer practice, trips to the hardware store, or whatever it is mainstream America does on a Saturday morning has the road full of people… trying to get around the touring cyclist who has no shoulder to ride in. Oh dear. It’s the worst riding since northern Yellowstone.
Eventually, the road becomes a 4-lane, divided thoroughfare with shoulders. I spot a bike path, but it seems to curve away from where I want to go. So I stick on “Lincolnway”. I pull up to the intersection with College Ave in the right-hand lane. A pick-up truck behind me revs his engine and takes off hard on the green light. He is so close to me as he goes past I can see his girlfriend’s earrings in the truck’s rearview mirror when they pass by. Sheesh.
I keep looking for a better alternative but don’t see one until I’m up the hill and well into town. Just as I spot some roads that are paralleling this one, I see a McDonalds. I dart over, get a parfait, and use Google to figure out a way to stay alive.
I’m able to use neighbourhood roads to get over to Holliday Park where I rest and pull out the tent to dry. The park is an interesting mix of people playing basketball, hosting birthday parties, doing drug deals (I saw two go down while I’m sitting there), strolling by the pond where the geese have crapped everywhere. There are a lot of teenagers just hangin’, too. Just about every race and ethnicity you can think of are represented here. I’ve never thought of Cheyenne as a melting pot – but this park is definitely a mix of society.
More back roads take me past the small Martin Luther King, Jr Park where a group of Hell’s Angels is having a gathering. They’re grilling burgers and drinking beer. Several of them wave, and one yells out, “Ride on, tough girl!”. I wave back and smile.
I laugh to myself – the only person I know from Cheyenne is an ex-bike gang member. He was one of my bosses back in college. He used to take me for rides up the Big Thompson Canyon on his motorcycle, and boy did we get the looks. Skinny white chick on the back of a motorcycle driven by a Mexican guy with long, braided hair, chest-length beard and Mom tattoos on his fore-arm! Ah, those were the days….
From the park, it’s back on Hwy 30 past run-down, old motels from the 1940s and 1950s. Many of them appear to have a permanent clientele. The looks I get from several older, scummy men sitting on the doorsteps of several old motels make me feel incredibly dirty and self-conscious, the only time on the whole trip I feel this way.
I finally make it out to the hotel. Man, Cheyenne, my first impressions are all incredibly negative. I’m not leaving the hotel the rest of the day – that was way too stressful!
In the end, the day turns excellent. One of my old friends from CSU days drives up from Ft Collins to hang out for the night. We missed each other in South Dakota, but I’m close enough he can make the drive tonight. It’s great to see him. We chat long into the night. It’s just like old times.