June 23, 2001

6/23/01 Debois, WY

78.3 miles

I'm exhausted. Today the winds of Wyoming and I, a mere mortal, did battle for 10 hours. Although there never was a question of who was stronger, the wind gods made sure I paid the price for every mile. And paid dearly I did.

The day started out innocent enough. I was able to get some day-old cinnamon rolls from the bakery for 75 cents. Then I bought some soup to add to my Ramen noodles. Total cost for dinner - about $1. Not bad for someone who has let his budget take on a life of its own.

Headed out of town towards the Wind River Indian Reservation. Along the way I watched some cowboys round up a herd for something. Already the morning was heating up, so I'm glad I got my usual early start.

Now this is 'cowboy' country!

Some hills as I went through Fort Washakie and after, but nothing I wasn't expecting. Then, about the 20-mile mark, I could feel the winds pick up. You guessed it, a cross headwind. But, hey, I'm an optimist. I mean, I've 3,400 miles under my belt. What's a little wind?

There was actually a nice rest stop between the two towns (which are 30 miles apart). While taking a break, I met the Grant-Peranowski family, Jen and Dale and their two girls, Kara and Lauren. They were headed east from Oregon to Vermont, their home, on tandems, pulling trailers like mine. We compared notes on what's ahead and wished each other well. While we were talking, a pair of girls heading east passed the rest stop. Later, I also met Khander, also heading east.

Dale and his daughter Lauren

By the time I reached Crowheart, the wind was relentless. When I talked with a couple of cowboys about the possibility of their hats being blown away, one said, "I grew up here and this is a mild wind, nothin' really." All I know is that wind was kicking my butt.

A lot of irrigation going on in the Wind River valley, with huge ridges and buttes on either side. This must be horse country, because that's all I saw in every pasture. Despite the wind, the scenery was great when you added the horses, the trees along the river, the red cliffs, and the snow-capped peaks.

Now, I know I've claimed other days as being the "windiest," but today I have some objective data: 1) Several times the wind brought me to a complete standstill, even though I was going downhill. 2) Bike parts, such as my fenders, sounded as if the wind was tearing them apart. And, 3) a couple of times wind gusts tried in vain to blow off my helmet (sometimes with head attached). Add to all of this the fact that I followed the river "upstream" the entire way, and you might get a little bit of an idea how exhausted I was becoming.

To top it off, as I approached Debois, a thunderstorm blew in. I saw the lightning, but my only thought was to get to town so I could stop. On some of the last few hills I had to stop every 100 feet or so. I just couldn't keep pedaling.

Even though I only got a few sprinkles, you could tell the town got a lot more, because the pavement was still wet. The first thing I spotted in town was "Bob's Bike Corral." Bob is the great grandson of Mr. Schwinn, who started his business in 1875. And you guessed it. Bob sells Schwinns.

After talking a bit about my trip and his shop, I asked Bob for a few recommendations for dinner before I headed over to the "Circle Up Campground." You see, I was just too exhausted to do much of anything, least of all cook.

After checking in and forcing myself to put up the tent now instead of later, I could barely walk, I was so weak. As I headed toward the showers, another camper and I got to talking. Jim had battled leukemia and now they were doing things that they would have otherwise left till retirement age. He seemed glad that I had a similar attitude.

After a wonderful warm shower, I put one foot in front of the other to get to the Cowboy Café. Even though the special of the day was Wild Boar Chops, I was surprised to hear the staff speaking French. Severine Murdock opened the place 8 years ago with her husband. And some of the staff are relatives, including a young waitress who is French Canadian. "But she speaks good English," Severine said. When I told her about my trip, she said her husband (who was busy in the kitchen) had hiked the Appalachian Trail years ago. Small world, isn't it! I ate a little, but still felt weak. It's great when the owner waits on you because they, of all people, want you to be happy. Finally, we decided a bowl of ice cream might revitalize my battery.

Always welcome!

Still a little shaky on my feet, but better, I walked a bit along the main street. Almost all the storefronts were built in a log style of the old west. The "Outlaw Bar & Grill" was overflowing from a wedding reception. (The couple had gotten married under the gallows out back.) There even was a health food store called "Mountain Health." Another oddity on Main St. was a 20' high cow skull over the veterinarian's office door.

After that, I spent some quiet time listening and talking to people on the benches outside of the campground office. I'm tired and sore, but, oh so glad I took a complete rest day yesterday instead off going out to Sinks Canyon. I don't know if I would have made it without every ounce of energy reserves I could muster.

I'm told I'll have trees tomorrow, which should lessen the wind's effect considerably. Plus, it sounds as if bear activity is up in a few campgrounds I'm headed for. Oh, goodie!