Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mountain View, Wyoming

Friends: The first historical marker I came upon in Wyoming just across the border from Utah outside of Burnt Fork paid tribute to a rendezvous in 1825 of 800 trappers and folks who lived in the vicinity. It was an annual event until 1840 when the beaver population had diminished and towns were established.

Burnt Fork is no longer much of a town and had no stores with supplies. It was along a 48-mile stretch from Manila, Utah without services, one of the shorter stretches I've experienced since leaving Telluride six days ago. At least it was relatively flat. The 62 mile stretch from Vernal, Utah to Manila included a long steep climb with eight per cent grades to 8,400 feet. A couple of ranchers in Rangely, Colorado had tried to talk me out of going that way, advising me to take a longer, flatter route that would have added fifty miles to my ride. I asked if it was worse than the 3,700 foot climb I had just come up. They said it was a "baby climb" by comparison, but they couldn't tell me how long or how high it was.

It was indeed a brute of a climb, but not as hard as many of the Tour de France climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees. The worst of it was hitting a hail storm just as I reached the summit. I could see forboding black clouds moving in as I finished off the climb. When they unleashed, blue sky still lay ahead. I quickly put on my rain coat and charged ahead hoping to outrace the hail. It was only a gradual descent so I could keep pedaling and generate some body heat. Still I was pelted for twenty minutes until I escaped.

Though I was able to keep my torso dry, I had cooled off considerably. When I reached a sheltered picnic table ten miles later I was shivering cold and needed to put on a sweater and vest and wool cap and gloves to warm up. It was my first taste of winter. It will be nipping at me for the next month or so as I pedal back to Chicago.

But the cycling gods are looking out for me already. I scavenged a Marmot fleece jacket that fits me perfectly along the road today. It is a prized item that will make for a great pillow if nothing else. I found it shortly after the historical marker. I accepted it as a reward of a sort for an offering I left at the marker. I had picked up a couple of wrestling medallions dangling from red, white and blue ribbons earlier in the day. I could only speculate on what they were doing along the road. Had some wrestler pitched them in disgust or had they inadvertently fallen from a pick-up truck or had some wrestler's girl friend tossed them out of spite. They at one time had to have been some one's prized possessions. So I left the two of them dangling at the historical marker for someone to recover.

I have yet to find a bandanna along the road, but I have found a top-of-the-line Camelback water bottle and also a Bell handlebar basket. The basket has been dangling from my heap of gear behind my seat, awaiting either someone to bequeath it to or perhaps making it all the way back to Chicago. David, the German I cycled the Tour de France with this past summer, had such a basket on his Bianchi racing bike. It served him well.

I am still up on a high plateau over 7,000 feet in the southwest corner of Wyoming. I will follow the western border for a hundred miles or so before crossing into Idaho, bypassing Jackson and Yellowstone. I have the roads almost to myself. Though I am at high altitude, it is desert terrain. Bears are no worry, just rattlesnakes. Deer do abound, usually in groups of two or three. A solitary one today kept me company for a mile or so bounding along on the other side of a fence, scampering up mounds that he could have easily bypassed, evidently for the fun of it and for a view.

Twice I've had to open a gate to camp down dirt roads that showed no tire tracks. Not all of the terrain is fenced though. There have been stretches of open range with cattle grazing at the road's edge. A cluster of black cows in the distance gave me some concern, as early in my ride I came upon a black bear cub along the road. I let up a bit hoping a vehicle might come along to scare off the bears, but as I neared it was clear they were no threat. It was as if I was back in India where cows are considered sacred creatures and mosey about everywhere.

Just 43 miles to the next supply point in Kemmerer. I'll be passing under interstate 80, but I'm told there is no service station at the intersection, so I need to fill all my water bottles.

Later, George


T.C. O'Rourke said...

Haha. I love to scavenge, but the thought of carrying roadside junk through the mountains to gift to some unknown person at a future date is well beyond where I draw the line.

Also: I am confused about the cows/bears. Was this a group of bears? Or do groups of cows attract bears? Otherwise, female bears are 'sows', like pigs.

Yonder Vittles said...

george - i strongly agree with your decision to haul any crap you find anywhere along the road from one place to another. keep it weird man. @tc - try imagining them as cows with heads of bears and see what happens.

george christensen said...

From Don Jaime in Ecuador: I tried to respond with this on your blog but it's a pain in the ass.

George, you are amazing! I wish I was with you. Dammit, when are we going to ride together again? Was imagining you were with me on my recent ride through the Bible Belt. You would have had some good writing material!


george christensen said...

T.C.: The black critters foraging along the road looked like bears from a distance, but they were merely bovines. I still gave them a wide berth, unsure if they might charge.