The 3000 mile mark: Curt Gowdy State Park to Laramie
Wednesday July 17, 2013, 28 miles (45 km) – Total so far: 3,013 miles (4,849 km)
The climb up the hill out of the park is a lung and leg-burner. A woman driving a large dump truck associated with construction of a visitor centre gives me a thumbs-up as she pulls out to crawl slowly up the road, too. At the top, she leans out the window and says, “Nice job, lady. I’ve seen people without bags on their bikes really struggle up that hill.” Awww… thanks.
The road curves and weaves into the hills. Even though we are climbing most of the time, it’s hard to believe we are in a mountain range, let alone the northern part of the Front Range. The mountains are rounded, the road gradient mostly a gentle ride in the park. Except for one long climb out of a creek, it just feels too easy to be crossing a mountain range.
Grasslands mix with forested slopes. Pine beetle kill adds an extra colour to the treed slopes. Pink, craggy granite juts upward in isolated outcrops. This Sherman granite crystallized about 1.4 billion years ago. It is found in the southern half of the Laramie Range whereas the northern half of the range has much older rocks.
We climb over a ridge, descend down to a creek and then begin a climb up through the Pole Mountain area. This whole area used to be an army training area and there is potentially a lot of unexploded munitions in the ground around here. One of my friends likes to go metal-detecting and exploring old bunkers and the like up this way. There are no obvious signs of this area’s history from the road though. Just be careful where you drive in a tent peg, I guess!
Eventually we make it up to I-80. There is a large visitor’s centre and rest area here. This is the transcontinental high point of I-80. After the quiet road this morning, all of the trucks, tourists and noise is a bit overwhelming. It’s just a warm-up for riding I-80 down into Laramie. There are no direct and paved alternatives.
So off we go. It’s a 10-mile ripping downhill ride to the outskirts of Laramie.
It is exhilarating- flying down I-80 at 35 mph, through a bright red canyon of 250-350 million-year-old sandstones, from the interstate transcontinental high point of 8260 ft. I even hit 37.8 mph at one point. The wind gusts are shoving me this way and that. The trucks are flying by two abreast 4-6 feet away, sucking me in/spitting me out of their wake. All the while I’m dodging gravel, rebar, tire treads and other shoulder debris. Snot is about to drip from my nose, but I can’t take my hands off the bars. Finally, I get a chance to wipe my nose and wave to the state trooper in the median, who just shakes his head. Oh, how I love adrenalin! Yee-ha! Can I do this bike touring thing forever!?
We hit 3000 miles as we ride into town. Yippee! After a stop to get my thyroid medication refilled at Walmart, we ride on into town. Unlike Cheyenne, I don’t fear for my life, and I can easily find a side-road that parallels the main road just as I hit the really built-up areas. I go check out the downtown area. It’s not really much more than a street and not really all that impressive. The train depot area hasn’t really been turned into anything special either. Oh well, tick that off the list of things to see. We’re going to spend a couple days here checking things out. Now, it’s off to find some food and somewhere to spend the night. Another great day – the adrenalin boost coming down I-80 on that thin, debris-strewn shoulder will keep my endorphins high well into the evening.