Worland to Buffalo, WY

Today’s route offered a unique challenge logistically. When the router had scouted the route yesterday, he found that there were two ten-mile sections of construction, where the road surface was virtually non-existent. Traffic was limited to one lane on these stretches, where a pilot truck led vehicles over gravel, dirt, and at time, mud. So, the two SAG vans would wait at the beginning of each construction zone, and shuttle the riders to the end of it, twelve at a time (the most bikes that could fit on the roof rack). Some riders ended up hitching rides in the back of the pickup trucks of strangers, and had interesting stories to tell of these experiences. But now, no riders on the tour are able to say that they pedaled continuously all the way across the country.

The middle of the route, between the construction zones, went through the town of Ten Sleep, and over Powder River Pass, both of which I remember from the road trip in 1991, when I help my brother Jeff and his wife Marianne with their move to Port Angeles, Washington. I remember that the summit of the pass itself was very desolate and rocky, but for some reason, I didn’t remember much else about it. The canyon leading up to the pass was absolutely amazing. It involved a switchback climb that lasted at least 18 miles. Partway up, the lunch stop was in a campground situation next to yet another beautiful, cold mountain stream. The ride down the other side was shrouded in a thick morning fog, which most of the cyclists did not have to deal with, as it burned off as the day warmed up.

Two riders, Len and Bob, stayed in the van with us after the first construction zone, and we dropped them off at the top of the pass. Both are older gentlemen, I believe in their sixties. Len is from England, and has one of those accents where you can never really quite understand him, even though he is speaking in English. But he wears this constant bright smile, and is a very strong cyclist, both of which make him a continuous inspiration to everyone on the tour. We refer to Bob as Montana Bob, as he now lives in Montana, joined the tour in Missoula, and is riding to finish in Wisconsin for his 50-year high school reunion. As we dropped them off and they got ready to ride again in the cold, driving wind at the top of the pass, their excitement reminded us that it doesn’t matter how many miles you ride, or if you can make the complete, continuous trip. The reason they and all of us are here is for the joy of the riding that we are able to do.

I didn’t do any spinning today, since I figured it would be best to keep things simple with all of the shuttle runs that the vans had to do through the construction. I figured I could use the time once I got into the town of Buffalo to catch up on writing this journal, which I had gotten behind on by about a week. But Buffalo turned out to be such a surprising fun town, with so much to do. There were many interesting shops, including a store called Sports Lure that had a little of everything, from outdoor clothing, bikes and accessories, camping gear, to guns and bows. Robert, Alis, and I went to a nice place for lunch, then stopped in the Occidental Hotel for a drink. This place turned out to provide the most amazingly fun evening that we’ve had on the tour so far. This historic hotel is over 130 years old, and is a historic landmark. Go to their web site at www.occidentalwyoming.com if you want to read more about it. Since they provided our dinner for the evening, we ended up spending the entire afternoon and evening there. During the afternoon, we chatted with the bartender Steve, who had an interesting story of how he ended up there. He is originally from near Annapolis, Maryland, and recently graduated from Yale University. About a month ago, he was driving through the area, and had planned to spend some time camping in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, then on to Seattle to visit his girlfriend, then head down the west coast through California. Outside of Buffalo, his car broke down. He hitched a ride into town and wandered into the Occidental. For whatever reason, he asked if they had any work he could do, and they asked if he could paint. So, he proceeded to start painting one of the wings of the hotel (actually, the former brothel), and eventually got recruited to tend bar as well. His car has since been fixed, but I don’t know if and when he will resume his journey west.

Tomorrow in Gillette, the parts are supposed to arrive for Jeremy to make some modifications to my bike. He is going to add a stem extender, which will make me able to ride in a more upright position, hopefully friendly to my collar bone. It has been feeling good the past few days, although I still need to watch how much weight I put on it. Once the bike is fixed, I’m going to try a little spin on it this weekend, and if it that feels good, I may starting riding the route again on Monday. I can alway just ride for part of the day and take the SAG van in if necessary.

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