Location: Lander, WY (Lander City Park)
My sleeping bag failed to keep me warm last night. Early in the dark morning, I woke up to freezing feet. I pulled my rain jacket around my feet, and that warmed them up a little. I didn’t sleep well the remainder of the night. When the sun came up, I dug my socks out of my makeshift pillow and put them on. The commotion led Brian to think that I was getting out of my tent to start the day, but I really just wanted to sleep and be warm. I heard the sound of Brian rolling up his tent, and I dreaded the sound.
Brian finished packing before I exited my tent, and he went to the laundry room at the lodge for warmth. I unpacked my pillow, donned most of the clothes I had stuffed in there, and then crawled into the morning cold. My thumbs and fingers grew number in an instant, and then the pain of the cold set in as I rolled up my damp tent. The water in my water bottles had turned to icy slush overnight. I’ve slept and camped in colder weather, but this morning seemed to be the bitterest morning that I’ve endured.
I joined Brian for breakfast in the laundry room and then we hit the road. We had several miles of downhill before us, so I wore two extra layers to keep me warm since I wouldn’t be working up a sweat to start the day. As the sun climbed higher, the day grew warm, so soon I was wearing my normal cycling attire, black chamois and yellow jersey. We reached Dubois in no time, travelling downhill with a tailwind. We put twenty-three miles behind us by the time we pulled up to the library in town.
There were few people in the library, so Brian and I both had plenty of time to accomplish what we needed to get done. Brian set up the Wyoming page, and I sent the mass email to all the people following our trip. I also got the chance to call home and talk to mom and Katie.
After the library and lunch, we set out on the road again. We still had a strong tailwind at our backs, and the road was gently rolling. We were making great time until I blew out my rear tire. I was going so fast that the tube explosion was so great that I nearly crashed. I came to an uncontrolled stop, hearing the flapping tire beneath the weight of the bike. I was scared at first, but when I safely got off the bike I was irate. I walked the bike across the bridge to the grass just off the shoulder where I could safely change the bike tube. I got out my spare tubes, but after an hour, I found that both my new replacement tube and my patched tube were no good. The new one had a hole in it and the patch on the other wasn’t holding.
Just as I realized I was stranded, a black pickup truck from the ranch that we happened to be in front of came out of the woods and stopped on the road. He asked if we had all the parts we needed, and I said no, that I needed to get to a bike store to get some tubes. The middle-aged man with glasses said that he had tons of bike parts, and the he used to own a bike shop. I couldn’t believe our luck, to break down seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but at the ranch of a bike mechanic. I told him I’d buy two tubes if he had them. He left onto the property and I removed the busted tube. I noticed the name of the ranch was the Blue Holes Ranch and that the Schwinns lived there, but I didn’t think much of it.
The man returned with tubes and I paid him a fair price. He helped me change the tube and inflate it with his standing pump. In the course of conversation, he revealed that he was the great grandson of bicycle inventor Schwinn. After initial incredulity followed by a few questions to the man, I came to believe him. Amazing. We break down in the Wyoming wilderness in front of the ranch of the family whose ancestors practically invented the bicycle. The tubes, the bike pump, the sign on the ranch all said Schwinn. The man said that he used to run a bike shop in Dubois as a summer hobby, and that he still works extensively on bikes. Just as we were leaving, I got the man’s name. He said his name was Bob. He pointed to the sign and said, Bob Schwinn. Another unbelievable and strange trail miracle.
With the bike fixed and the tailwind still raging, Brian and I set our sights on Lander, still fifty-five miles away. Most of the miles were easy, with only a few climbs mixed in. The last sixteen though seemed to stretch on forever. They were miles in the eighties and nineties for the day, and I’m sure fatigue played a big part in me perceiving them to be incredibly difficult. We did make Lander though, completing our longest day yet. We didn’t break the century mark, but I think we will get our chance after Pueblo, Colorado, when we descend into the plains.
We are camped out in Lander City Park, on the outskirts of the town. The town has several thousand people, so it’s larger than the towns we normally visit. Tomorrow, we will be in a town that is dramatically different, Jeffery City, which has a population of less than fifty, no stores, and only one restaurant, which is reportedly in a family’s kitchen. We have fifty-eight miles to bike tomorrow, so we should have an easier time than today. However, I’ve learned out here not to assume anything will be easy and to take nothing for granted.