Bike USA: June 28-July 4, 2000 – Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Sylvan Pass, Cody, Greybull, Granite Pass, Sheridan, Ucross, Clearmont, Spotted Horse, Gillette, Newcastle

Grand Tetons

While biking thru the Tetons (which was really cool), we met a woman cyclist named Lisa who was biking from Arizona on her way to the Rainbow Gathering. We met her again on our way to Grants Village, so we biked and camped out with her there. At Grants Village we met 4 more cyclists doing the TransAmerica Trail. The next morning we all shared Lisa’s special oatmeal and then parted ways.

The Great Divide
The Great Divide
West Thumb
Bo Bike Yellowstone
Mark Falls
West Thumb, me, and some waterfall

After touring through Yellowstone in a day by bus on the 28th (because we knew we didn’t have enough time by bike), we met up with Sarah and Stewart (friends of Vicki’s who’ve offered us a place to stay in Newcastle on the east side of Wyoming), who were visiting Yellowstone with their two kids, Klaus and Nathalie, and their friend from down under, Rizz. We quickly confirmed by sight that there was no way for us to fit in their car, so we left the next morning out of the East Entrance. Going up Sylvan Pass wasn’t too fun, but riding down was great. We did 93 miles by the time we reached Cody, beating our previous record of 86 miles. By sheer coincidence, we were passing by the motel my bro stayed in last time he was here when we decided to look for a motel. That night I uploaded all that stuff that was posted on the 29th.

our stay in Cody

We biked to Greybull the next day, and then decided that we had to make it to Sheridan if we wanted to see Devil’s Tower before going on to Newcastle. Seeing that there was quite a steep pass between Greybull and Sheridan, we finally accepted our destiny and hitchhiked for the first time. A nice family got us to almost the top. We biked for about 5 more miles and camped by the side of the road right at Granite Pass. Dee woke me up at 2:30 so we could check out the stars. Dee showed me where Delphinus the Dolphin is!

Granite Pass
Granite Pass
coming down Granite Pass
view coming down the Granite Pass

On the 1st we made it to Sheridan by noon, doing a record 60 miles before lunch, 40 of it the longest downhill we will ever do. We stopped at a KFC and hung out there for about 2 hours assessing the situation. Since we were supposed to be in Sheridan the day before we were still behind schedule. We saw that there was a train going from Sheridan all the way to Newcastle, passing Gillette and Moorcroft. Unfortunately, we found out it was not a passenger train. We decided to hitchhike again. While we were at KFC we met quite a few people. Forget youth hostels; forget hiker/biker campsites; if you want to meet travelers, nothing beats the 11 herbs and spices. Another nice family (on their way to Montana) chatted with us, took our photo, and then gave us a little book of excerpts from the Bible and $20. While neither of us believe in God, we do believe in kind acts and good deeds, so I convinced my brother that we should accept the gift as a kind gesture and not worry about the motivation.

Before we hitchhiked, Dee convinced me that we should bike another 40 miles so that we could say that we had done 100 in a day. The biking map showed that the best route to take would be thru Ucross along a country highway instead of along the Interstate thru Buffallo. We couldn’t have chose a poorer time to leave. There was a little 5 minute hill right at the start. I sweated more in those 5 minutes than I had the previous 5 years. Our entire bodies were drenched with sweat. You know how Shaq looks by the 4th quarter, with beads of sweat dripping down his face? We had sheets of it. It was the weirdest thing. After the hill we stopped and looked at each other wondering, ‘what the hell?’

We made it to Ucross (97 miles) and decided that hitchhiking was out of the question since there were no cars on the road! We couldn’t stay in Ucross (no places and we hadn’t made 100, yet), so we continued on to Clearmont, but this posed a slight problem because we had run out of water and it looked like some rainclouds were behind us catching up fast. Dee stopped by a house and asked for water. ‘Cold right out of the well,’ the nice lady said. He filled up one of his bottles and came to pour half of it in one of my bottles. We took sips then left. It was the most godawful, foul smelling, sulfur laden water we’d ever tasted. No time to mix in Kool-Aid; the clouds were right behind us and Dee was being a bastard. Four miles from Clearmont I got a flat tire. I was hurriedly fixing it when my brother was able to get a pickup to pull over and offer a lift right as the thunder and rain started. We threw everything in the back and got in ourselves since the cab was full of people. My front wheel was still being worked on and unattached. We still got wet since we’re in back. We arrived at Clearmont and Dee’s hurriedly setting up the tent in 50 mph winds while I fixed my tire. We were able to camp out right next to an RV park for free. To my horror, I realized that, in my haste, I must have loosened the nut for my skewer too far and it fell off. In other words, I lost the axle part of my front wheel, and we were 50 miles from the closest bike store.

stop sign
Stop signs aren’t safe from us if we’re between cities.
typical day in Wyoming

The storm lasted all of 10 minutes and everything dried up after an hour or so, but by then it was dark so we waited until morning before deciding what to do. I woke up a 6:30, put the skewer from my trailer on my front wheel, and biked back the way we came while Dee cooked and ate oatmeal. Four miles down, to my astonishment, I found the nut; I guess it was heavy enough that the wind didn’t blow it away. We put every thing in order then continued on our way. We ate breakfast around 9 at RBL Buffallo Ranch. They told us that 30 miles down was a cafe where we could get lunch and 30 miles after that was Gillette. We fought headwinds the whole way and it was around 2 when we reached the cafe, Spotted Horse. Apparently, a single cafe is enough to put you on the map in Wyoming. There was nothing else there and it was closed. By now, we’d eaten all of our food for the last few days and again we were out of water, but luckily we found a garden hose and filled up that way. Around 6 we started nearing Gillette while watching a thunderstorm rage on ahead of us. Our second thunderstorm! I guess they’re all the rage in Wyoming. We watched lightning and heard thunder for a good 40 minutes before we started getting really close. When we started to feel rain we paused to discuss the situation.

‘We could pull over and cover ourselves with a tarp until it blows over,’ Dee spoke but then said, ‘Ah, let’s just go for it.’ And with that he started pedaling again. I follow.

Then we were hit with harder rain and a sudden burst of wind which nearly knocked our bikes over. I’m guessing it was around 50 mph, but I’m not a very experienced judge of wind speed. I do know that it was fast enough to make cycling impossible. We were putting our jackets on and getting ready to dive to the side of the road when a white sedan pulled over. The teenager asked if we wanted to stay in his car until the storm blew over and that he wasn’t in a hurry to be anywhere. Dee said no, but I yelled heck yes, so we piled in after laying our bikes down. Nathan turned out to be a really nice guy whose father used to cycle quite frequently. We asked him questions about Gillette and laughed at the storm once in a while, like when the rain turned into really heavy rain and when the really heavy rain turned into hail. ‘Even under a tarp,’ Nathan said, ‘you’d definitely feel that hail.’

Huge tire
Huge tire

Half an hour later, we’re back on the road to Gillette. Gillette isn’t where they make razors, but it is one of the richest cities in Wyoming due to relatively new coal mines. Environmentally speaking, it’s quite unfortunate how much coal there is, but from a visitor standpoint, it’s pretty neat watching all that heavy machinery. Those dump trucks must be kind of fun to drive. Each tire weighs more than 3 times my car, and I have a Volvo 240 which weighs more than many SUVs, 2 tons. Each tire of one of these dump trucks weighs 6.5 tons and costs $36,000!

We ate at a Chinese restaurant, where they made us dishes that aren’t on the menu. Most white Americans have no idea what they’re missing. Unfortunately, we were so hungry when we entered Gillette that we also ate at a Burger King before we saw the Chinese place, so we ended up with tons of leftovers.

The next morning (the 3rd of July) we were ready to ride to Devil’s Tower and then to Moorcroft and maybe all the way to Newcastle. We went about two blocks when we stopped for groceries. I went shopping while my bro tried to lube up his rear derailleur since he was having problems shifting. When I exited the store, it looked like my bro’s bike exploded; he had decided to overhaul the derailleur since lubing it wasn’t working. Two hours later, we decided to go to a bike store to get them to fix it since we weren’t having any luck. We biked to the first one. Closed. We called the second, and last, one. No answer. I guess the 3rd is also a holiday, giving people a nice 4 day weekend. To make a long story just a little bit shorter, Stewart came to Gillette and picked us up, and we had a lovely view of Devil’s Tower from the road.

While in Gillette, I had time to think a little about Wyoming. Two things that I think give it character: fireworks stores – actual stores, not just little seasonal shacks – and drive-up liquor stores – which probably account for 60% of the litter on the highways. I guess the bison are neat, too.

July 4th
July 4th Thanksgiving dinner – Rizz, Max, Mark, Klaus, Stewart, Sarah, and Aunt Nat

We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Sarah and Stewart, the kids, Rizz, and Aunt Nat who brought the turkey. They wanted to give Rizz from Australia an extra dose of American culture. Stewart and Sarah got married in Japan while on their 6 year bicycling tour of the world. They met Vicki while on that tour (in Thailand, I believe it was) and they met Rizz and a bunch of Rizz’ friends in Australia who were also touring. I cannot imagine ever having better hosts. They make cool friends, too, and Klaus and Nathalie are so easy to get along with. We then checked out fireworks at one of their friend’s places. It seemed like each block had at least one very patriotic homeowner. All through the night, we were surrounded by fireworks displays. Fun.

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