Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 40

Welcome to Wyoming!: Spearfish, SD to Sundance, WY

Friday May 24, 2013, 33 miles (53 km) – Total so far: 1,478 miles (2,379 km)

And so here we are. After 2.5 years of dreaming, scheming, route-plotting and reading about this state, we are finally at the border. My heart dances in my chest. I’m living out another dream.

Mile 0. We’ll end up doing about 1700 miles in this state. For awhile we have a 15mph headwind – our welcome into a notoriously windy state.
The big Welcome to Wyoming sign is out on the interstate – so instead of me and the bike by the sign, I get a photo of a guy taking a photo out there instead.

Wyoming doesn’t necessarily have a good reputation. For many, the state name conjures up images of vast quantities of sage-brush covered hills, wind, and little else. It is seen as a place of gales and god-forsaken broken, rugged country. Some people may think of cowboys and roughnecks – macho men chasing cows, coal and oil.

And maybe it will be those things. I don’t know. But I’m going to give it a chance. It does have outstanding examples of geological processes, and I’m excited to explore that, if nothing else. I’m going into the state open-minded and ready to learn.

The state’s reputation for being windy is proven right away. Almost right at the state border, I pick up a 15 mph headwind as I ride toward Beulah – the lowest spot in the state.

I’m using old Hwy 14, which acts as a frontage road for I-90. Sometimes it is near I-90, sometimes far away, but there is very little traffic and the freeway doesn’t really impinge on my solitude, so it all works for me.

We are unfortunately too early in the season to visit the Vore Buffalo Jump. During the survey stage for construction of I-90 in the 1970s, workers came across this important sinkhole. Subsequent excavations have shown that the sinkhole is massive – almost 200 feet in diameter. Bone and cultural materials are found throughout. Archaeologists suggest that the site was used by five or more tribes over about 300 years. They have discovered the butchered remnants of as many as 20,000 bison as well as thousands of chipped stone arrow points, knives, and other tools. As I ride by, they are working on construction of a tipi to be used for new exhibits and restrooms. If you’re here in the summer months, it may well be worth a visit.

Just after the buffalo jump site, we stop at the new state Welcome Center. This nice building has water, soft drinks, snacks and clean restrooms. I pick up a bunch of brochures and seat my stinky self in one of the nice leather chairs. I go through the literature, tearing out relevant pages and ditching the rest.

Welcome to Wyoming!
The guys are already harassing the wildlife.

As we head toward Sundance, we ride through several outcrops of the Triassic Spearfish formation. The Black Hills are a domal uplift with Precambrian rocks (all that granite we rode through in Custer State Park and surrounds) at the centre. Younger sedimentary rock dip away from the uplift on all sides. The Spearfish formation, which we saw in the canyon on our climb into the hills, encircles the whole Black Hills uplift. Because of this, it is known as the red racetrack. I love Triassic rock because nearly everywhere you come across it, it will be a bright red colour, whether it’s sandstone or shale. This period, between 245-208 million years ago, also sees the very first dinosaurs emerge in the fossil record.

The old highway can be ridden all the way from Spearfish to Sundance. There are a few hills to greet you and some gorgeous red rock cuts.
The Sundance Kid – Henry Longabaugh – was from here. Small-time crook until he got hooked up with Butch Cassidy. I’ll encounter history related to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as the Hole-in-the-Wall gang, all over Wyoming.

Once to Sundance, we head up to the Mountain View RV Park. The owners are very friendly and have put a lot of work into the place. They let me pitch the tent in one of the back-in electric sites for a tent price, since they aren’t busy. Apparently, Memorial Day weekend is still a bit early in the season for them. For me, it feels late. I’ve already been on the road for nearly 6 weeks. I’ve still yet to see fully leafed-out trees, though.

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 41

Not sure if I’ll make it back to camp: Devil’s Tower return ride

Saturday May 25, 2013, 65 miles (104 km) – Total so far: 1,543 miles (2,483 km)

I suppose there are bound to be stories when something so unusual and striking is found in the landscape.

Our American pop culture has a story about UFOs and a man making a model of the rock out of mashed potatoes.

A Native American legend tells the story of a bear clawing the sides of the rock in his effort to catch seven young girls, who are pushed up into the sky to become stars as the rock elongates itself. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 42

My first time… on an interstate: Sundance to Gillette

Sunday May 26, 2013, 63 miles (101 km) – Total so far: 1,606 miles (2,585 km)

Since the Sand Hills of Nebraska, people have been warning me not to ride through the southern Powder River Basin. According to these folks, I will get run off the road by gas trucks, or I’ll be run over by drunk drivers since there is nothing to do down there but drink when not working, or I’ll be taken advantage of by men on drugs who will see a solo female cyclist as prey.

People express these fears to me for just about everywhere I want to ride, so I don’t usually pay too much attention to such concerns. However, these sorts of concerns have been expressed to me by three guys whose opinions I respect and take seriously: ex-oilfield workers who have worked there. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Days 44-47

Waiting out more weather OR A long affair with Buffalo: May 28-31

Tuesday May 28, 2013

You know the saying that hindsight is 20/20. That is the story of this week. If I knew then, what I know now….

So when I arrived in Buffalo on Monday, I had some concerns about riding Powder River Pass. It involves a 35-mile climb with few services from a starting elevation of 4646 ft at Buffalo to 9666 ft at the top of the pass. I was unsure about where I might be able to find water along the way, or if any of the campgrounds were open yet. I have the gear to just camp off in the forest anywhere, but carrying enough water on a climb that long, if I needed to camp overnight between services, worried me.

So, instead of heading up the pass on Tuesday, I hang out in Buffalo so I can go to the Forest Service office and ask about water sources. This also gives me a chance to check out the town and the county museum. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 48

My goodness that was ungraceful, but we did it!: Buffalo to Tensleep

Saturday June 1, 2013, 65 miles (104 km) – Total so far: 1,740 miles (2,800 km)

It is dawn. The temperature hovers right around 32F. The winds have blown themselves out. The clouds have pushed themselves on. It is quiet on the streets of Buffalo as I head out under the bright blue sky in cold and calm conditions. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 49

Don’t let the blank map bits fool you: Tensleep to Thermopolis

Sunday June 2, 2013, 65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 1,806 miles (2,906 km)

My make-shift pillow is perfect. Whatever combination of clothes packing and stacking that I’ve achieved is just right. And my bed is so soft. The lush green grass provides a soft firmness that my body really likes. I really don’t want to get up this morning.

But up we get. Wyoming is a state that punishes late-risers. The first breaths of wind sometimes accompany the first rays of dawn. By noon, it seems like there is always some wind from some direction. It’s always good to get some good miles down before 9am. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Days 50-51

The flu hits hard: Thermopolis – June 3 and 4

Monday June 3, 2013

June 3

Uggghhh. Last night I slept. Sort of. I alternated between stifling hot and freezing all night long. I wake in the morning unable to lift my head. My throat is so sore I can barely swallow. I also am immobilized by a general achiness and fatigue that says we will not be doing anything at all today, let alone a day ride down the Wind River Canyon. The only thing I manage today is to slobber and snot all over my makeshift pillow and crawl out of the sleeping bag to go pee on occasion. I also manage to woozily weave my way to the office and pay for another night, since I know I’m going nowhere tomorrow. Read more

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. Read more

Range Roaming – Wyoming 2013 – Day 53

Nerd day at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center: Cody to Cody

Thursday June 6, 2013

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, now the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, contains five main galleries: Buffalo Bill; Western Art; Plains Indians; Natural History of Greater Yellowstone; and, Firearms. Admission cost is $18 for adults; a dollar off for AAA members. The admission cost is good for two days. In addition to the galleries, each day has a whole program of presentations going on that are free to attend. Read more