June 21, 2001

6/21/01 Lander, WY

64.8 miles

Didn't waste much time getting on the road. The wind was all quiet, and for that I'm grateful. Not much traffic this early, either.

Today was a pedal-pedal-look up-pedal some more kind of day. Just me, the bike, and the open range. A few pronghorn greeted me, and I even saw some new offspring playing in the distance. Otherwise, aloneness.

The highlight of the ride was a five-mile downhill with portions at least a 6% grade. It was nice not to pedal, but, for some reason, I didn't build up more speed. Near the top, I said hello to a couple of riders on their way up. I couldn't really blame them for not stopping. I yelled encouragement and let gravity take me down the hill.

At the Sweetwater Station rest stop, I talked with a large group from one of the universities in Utah. They were following portions of the Mormon Trail. Today they were even going to walk a portion of it using hand carts, just like their ancestors did long ago.

After that, it was another 30 miles of - you guessed it - open range. The only difference was I could see snow-covered mountains in the distance. Eventually pulled into Lander a little after noon. Passed a tractor graveyard that would be the envy of a thruhiker friend, John, who is retired in Ireland and works on restoring antique tractors.

But what is the first business I spot coming into town? Pizza Hut and their AYCE lunch buffet. I couldn't resist.I just couldn't. After that gastronomic experience, I pedaled up and down Main St. Despite the terrain, the city is very flat and easy to navigate for a town of 7000 plus.

A tractor graveyard

At the city park, talked with Tom Kaiser of the park staff. He told me a few stories of other cyclists past. Like the one about the guy who, after battling head winds all day, just sort of collapsed in the grass. Or of the Swiss couple that was crossing America on their honeymoon, so Tom bought them a good bottle of wine. "You would have thought that was the best thing to ever happen to them the way they carried on," he said.

After setting the tent up, Lori directed me to the city pool for a shower (Jacuzzi later) and then on to laundry. Talked to a few college-age kids while waiting for our laundry. One guy couldn't say enough about Wyoming and Lander as great places to live. "I'll be watching for you on Good Morning America," he said, enthusiastically.

And because there are so few bike shops along the way, I like to stop and say "Hey" whenever they appear. Mike Young, who owns "Freewheel," took the time to chat with me.

Lander is also the world headquarters of the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, for short. I'm an alumnus, having done their Semester in Kenya course back in 1987. They have 2-week to 3-month courses in places like Alaska, Kenya, the Rockies, Baja, and Patagonia. Someone was nice enough to tell Bruce Palmer, head of marketing, about me stopping by. Because a meeting was taking place, I took a break to go buy some ice cream. Mmmmm.good.

Back at NOLS, Bruce was very interested in my trip, the fund-raising, and my connection to NOLS. Another staff member, Pablo, stopped by briefly. He had biked from Tierra del Fuego (tip of South America) to Alaska. He highly recommended I stick with the Continental Town & Country tires, even for the dirt road portion of the trip. "But make sure they're the ones made in Germany," he said, "instead of Taiwan." He got 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) out of his first tires. Bruce said they would be happy to put a piece on the website highlighting my trip.

Although I wasn't very hungry (at least I thought so), the "Gannett Grill" came highly recommended. Finally, a restaurant that caters to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. You gotta love a place that has things on the menu like "Cluck Boob" (chicken breast), "Fungus Among Us" (mushroom sandwich), and "Branding Iron" (meat pizza). I had the mini "Popo-za Pizza," a pesto-based pizza with cheese and tomato. And, remember, things are bigger out here, so that mini was the same as a small in Kansas City.

Lander has a college-town feel, but doesn't have a college. And it doesn't seem to cater specifically to tourists headed to Yellowstone. There's a hospital, county library, plenty of restaurants, and even a theater (tonight was "Shrek & a Knight's Tale"; tomorrow "Pearl Harbor"). And because it's so flat, a lot of people bike -- both young and old.

The park is a busy place tonight. I watched Bruce's little league team play, but there are tons of kids making noise (like only kids can make). Nearby is a German couple car camping, and there are several RVs in the parking lot.

Play ball!!

Depending on my errands tomorrow, I hope to ride out to Sinks Canyon State Park (only 7 miles, but uphill).