Location: Muddy Gap, WY (Franks house)
Brian and I rose early this morning after a restful night in Lander City Park. Dew had settled on the green grass in the cold dawn, so my sleeping bag was damp. We dried our gear in the warm sunshine while we ate breakfast, and then we went to the Safeway in town to load up on food and supplies for our next few days through backcountry Wyoming. I ate an entire box of Corn Pops cereal while waiting for Brian, and I ate or drank every drop of a quart of milk. We headed off into the warm morning, set on reaching Jeffery City, about fifty-eight miles away.
We were making great time with a tailwind. Most of our ride was downhill, though few descents could we merely coast on. Our heavy bikes and bodies require a significant amount of energy to maintain a descent speed. We generally must pedal on slight declines or we will coast to a stop. As we neared the twenty-five mile mark, we caught up to an older man in a recumbent bicycle. He had very little gear stowed on his bike, and he seemed fresh and clean. His name was Keith. He had white hair and white mustache. A patch of athletic tape was mashed to his nose to keep the sun off, and he wore a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He said he was biking from Florence, Oregon to Baltimore, Maryland, and that his wife was supporting his trip in an RV. She would stop every so often to meet him, and she would have a snack or lunch waiting for him. She drove around a bit to see the sights, but she also parked on the side of the road and helped map his route across America.
After a pleasant conversation with Keith, I let him go first since he had just said how fast he was downhill, and he had several miles of downhill to go. He was fast, but I kept just behind him. At the bottom of the hill, I saw an RV towing a Honda CRV. There were two bikes on a rack on the back of the towed car. Keith stopped momentarily to say something to the woman, which I immediately assumed to be his wife. I approached the RV shortly after and said hello to the woman. She said that Keith said she should offer us a beer, and that he didn’t stop because he didn’t want us to catch up to him. He wanted to stay ahead of the young guys. I accepted her offer for a beer and Brian and I joined her in the cool shade and air conditioning of her RV, which was parked on the shoulder of the highway.
The woman was Judy, and she was motherly and organized. She had her maps laid out on the table, and she had everything around the RV compartmentalized in clear plastic bins with blue lids. They were stacked on top of each other, and they were full of clothes, medicines, foods, and snacks. Judy gave us both a beer and a cup of black cherries. We chatted for a while about topics related to biking, to politics, and finally to Outdoor Hams. Judy was fascinated that we could be so young and so attuned to the importance of education. She thought it wonderful that we already recognized the value of education and that there are others who aren’t as fortunate as we are. Without our soliciting, she said that she and Keith would donate $100.00 to the organization. I was surprised when she said so, and she said that they support organizations dedicated to improving or enriching education.
We left the comfort of the RV after a haft hour or so with Judy. The heat of the day had come on, and I sweated out the beer, cherries, and water on the long hills we climbed through barren Wyoming mountains. We stopped for a long lunch at a rest area at Sweetwater Station, and afterwards decided we would go to Jeffrey City, 19 miles away, and then decide if we wanted to push on since we had a tailwind and easy terrain.
When I arrived at Jeffrey City, a town so small you might blink and miss it as you drove along the highway, I passed right through town. I continued down the road, cruising at high speed. I pedaled several miles and rested on the crest of a hill in the vast expanse of Wyoming. I could see for flat miles in every direction, and I noticed Brian wasn’t behind me. I could see miles down the road, and I couldn’t even see a little black speck on the shoulder that could be Brian. I watched and waited and was growing concerned as the minutes passed. I considered several times going back to look for him, but after thirty minutes I spotted him coming.
I was a bit angry when I saw him, thinking he must have stopped in town for a drink and a snack, but he was fuming when he reached the top of the hill. He had been looking for me in Jeffrey City since I had said we would get there and decide if we wanted to continue. I must have blanked and blew through town, not remembering that we would have a consultation before moving on. He looked at the few stores and a couple churches, and finally decided I must have left. He found me at the top of the hill several miles outside of town and was quite disgruntled to see me there. It was good he had a few miles to cool off before finding me. He got over it after an apology from me, and we pressed on to Muddy Gap, an additional sixteen miles.
The last miles were tough. The terrain changed from downhill to rolling, and the wind shifted almost 180 degrees so it was blowing at us. We pedaled against a quickly setting sun and reached the gap at dusk. We coasted to an intersection of two highways where there was but a single gas station. I asked the cashier at the gas station if we could camp nearby and she pointed to a yellow house across the empty highway. There lived an old man names Frank. He had dirty fingernails, bad teeth, and he wore a blue denim jumpsuit. He let us sleep in his side yard, which was hard packed dirt with just patches of brown grass. He had a picnic table for us, gave us water from the hose, and he even had built a privy. He has taken in cyclists over the years, but he chooses not to have his services advertised. He is simply friendly and happy to help. I offered him money, but he wouldn’t accept it.
I have laid my sleeping bag out in the dark Wyoming night and am looking at a vast spread of stars. The cloudy Milky Way streaks the sky. The temperatures are dropping and we’re in for a cold clear night. I’m full, happy, warm, and drifting into sleep.