Friday, July 31, 2009
Glad that we had covered an additional ten miles the previous night, we decided to spent a little bit of time exploring Ft Collins, the next city down the road. It was a fairly flat ride, and we moved quickly. As we explored Ft Collins we were immediately impressed by the bike infastructure. They even had specially positioned buttons for cyclists to use.
We stopped for a while at the library, hoping to use the bathroom and explore. A good library is high on the list of requirements for wherever we decide to live. After waiting twenty minutes we realized that we didn't actually have the time and got back on the bike. We found a gas station, stopped for the bathroom and supplies, and got back on the road.
But just down the road we found an outdoor supply store. Knowing there wouldn't be much in the area we were traveling today, we stopped to see if we could find anything that was light, but would also keep us dry and maybe a little warm. After perusing most of their equipment, we decided on a Tube Tent. It's very thin, and it doesn't even have poles, but its very light. We also grabbed thin emergency bags and a trowel, just in case.
We followed US-287 through some very scenic, if barren terrain.
Our first stop was at Ted's Place, a little gas station and jumping off point for back country trekking.
Ted's place really was the middle of nowhere, and it was actually the most populated place we'd be in until the end of the day.
The hills we passed were jagged, with occasional cuts in them. It almost felt like the Wild West.
No, really. It was empty.
At Livermore we spotted a gas station at a distance and raced to it, excited to have found somewhere with some food and a bathroom. But when we got there we found the gas station long since closed. We stopped at a the Post Office, hopeful maybe they'd let us use their bathroom or tell us about a secret location where we could buy lunch, but the only open location was a ski resort over ten miles away and on top of a hill.
Saw an awesome creek going going underground.
Perhaps as was to be expected, the weather turned bad mid afternoon.
Worse, wind picked up significantly. We couldn't move, lucky to be traveling five or six miles an hour.
After struggling for several hours, we passed a church on our way to Virginia Dale. It met once a month. There was a hitching area for horses. There was a (We think) functioning outhouse.
Virginia Dale was rather underwhelming.
Soon the terrain got more rugged, shifting to broken up rock.
We then saw the best thing in the world: a rest area sign. It was shortly followed by a sign that said in big, black letters on a bright orange background: CLOSED. We nearly cried. It was cold. Windy. We struggled to make any progress at all. Virginia Dale marked the Rubicon for us. If we turned back it would take longer to get back to Fort Collins than it would for us to just press on to Laramie.
When we reached the Wyoming border we had a very, very short celebration.
We rode on, almost a quarter mile before we started to see lightning on the horizon on three sides. We turned around just as the rain started, making it to shelter at a highway barn. Judging from the fire pit on the ground and the markings on the wall, we were not the first to take shelter there.
It was pouring outside, and getting cold. Jillian and I both put on as much clothing as we had, wrapping up in our tights, wool socks, and as many shirts as we could muster. As the rain got worse, we stared long and hard at the emergency tube tent. I found anchors on the walls where we could attach the ropes. We took inventory of our food. But then the rain seemed to slow, and it started to seem like it might break, at least for a while. I called home for a weather update. The best my father could tell us was that it looked bad to our south, but that if we rode north we might be able to stay out of the weather. We climbed back on and continued our ride uphill into Wyoming.
US-287 climbs to over 8000 feet a couple of miles north of the Colorado border. We'd started at 5200. The good news is that we'd be dropping over 800 before we got to Laramie. We enjoyed a fast downhill over wide open terrain. Jillian took some shots of the sunset.
Soon construction started, and we were stuck weaving in and out of barrels. We rapidly flatted, due to a nasty piece of wire. In the rapidly failing sunlight and cold I changed the tire. I put a new tube in, but noticed damage on the inside of the tire. We ended up using a dollar bill as a boot.
By the time I finished changing the tire I was starting to freeze. Jillian wasn't much better. We climbed back on the bike and rode, looking and hoping for any kind of shelter on the way. Then it started to rain.
We froze. There was no light, only a drizzle and a cold wind. For miles we didn't see any buildings at all, we were lucky to even see the road surface. Miles later, far off in the distance we could just barely make out lights. We stared at them, still pedaling. The lights didn't look like buildings. They were shaped like weird triangles, with lights out at odd angles. There were no lights all the way to the horizon, just that weird pattern of lights in the center.
Over time they grew in size. With the cold, they started looking like some weird ice station. Since the Wyoming basin is so empty and flat, we could see forever. When we did arrive, we were frozen solid. We estimated temperatures were in the low fifties, since the whole previous week lows had been in the 40s throughout Wyoming. Sometime late, we pulled in the first hotel we came across, a Ramada Inn.
Inside we met the very openly gay hotel clerk, who was a surprising first person to meet in Wyoming. He was very helpful, but there weren't any first floor rooms. He directed us to the Motel 6 down the street. We rode back out into the cold.
At the Motel 6 we talked to a delightful young woman who let us know that there were actually no rooms at all, except for an under construction smoking room. We took a look, but between the lack of a bathroom counter top and the overpowering stench of smoke we decided to move on. The Motel 6 clerk called the Ramada Inn back, who agreed to hold a room for us until we rode back. We did, again in the cold.
Back at the Ramada Inn, we got a second floor room, and Jillian and I started the process of carrying all of our stuff upstairs. We ordered some pizza, which was the only thing available so late at night. I took advantage of the two free drink tickets and went to the hotel bar. Jillian tried to take a shower.
When I returned to the room I found Jillian shivering in bed. While in the shower she'd found that her feet were purple, and started to freak out a little. With my knowledge of very cold NY winters I calmed her down a bit, just in time for a pizza to arrive, which we promptly devoured. We weren't able to get to sleep until nearly one in the morning, which was much too late to get any sleep at all.
Today was a horrible day.
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