September 5, 2001

9/5/01 Lander, WY

77.3 / 7232 miles

More sprinkles this morning. I took the hint, putting my rain gear within easy reach on the BOB (trailer).

Grabbed a few cinnamon rolls at Daylight Donuts, and got on the road early. A big difference heading east instead of west is the bright morning sunlight in your eyes. Had to use sunglasses just to get out of town.

Local veterinarian's office

For the first forty or so miles, I followed the Wind River (downstream!). Overhead, the sky was covered with a high altitude blanket of clouds but I could see blue on the horizon all around me. So the temperatures stayed cool all morning. It's still amazing how little traffic there is after the summer holiday is over.

My ride from Lander to Dubois back in June was by far one of the most grueling because of the winds. I was hoping for a hellatious tailwind on this return trip. So those first miles flew by, me cruising between 15-20 MPH with a light tailwind. Add the cool temps and it would be hard to beat this kind of day on a bike.

Oh, how quickly things can change! At the Diversion Dam Rest Area, I had a bit of sad déjà vu because this was where I met the Grant-Perzanowski family in June. Kara was the girl seriously injured in Illinois when hit by a semi. I need to check on her and wish her well.

Kara is doing well, back in school. After 3 months of keeping the weight off her leg, the external pins have been removed and replaced with a cast or 'moonboot' as her friends call it. She has been given the go ahead to put some light weight on it. "Kara continues to be a true inspiration to us all. Her teachers regularly comment how impressed they are with her ability to buzz around the hallways in her wheelchair and always with a smile on her cute little face!"

As I was leaving the rest area, I met Glenn, a soil engineer out for a week, riding from his home in Boulder, CO, to Yellowstone. We talked for a while but he was a bit concerned about the weather moving in from the northwest. "Do you think they'll be snow at the (Togwotee) pass?" he asked. I didn't know but after yesterday, I thought a cold rain likely. I knew he'd be fighting an afternoon headwind to Dubois, so I said good-bye.

As the road split to Riverton, I began a long climb away from the river. But as I neared the top, the crosswinds became increasingly difficult to handle. The bike seemed to be a bucking bronco as I fought to keep it in a straight line. When I just thought I had everything under control, a powerful gust would try to blow me out onto the road.

At the top of the plateau, it only got worse. I was just entering a dust storm that seemed to swallow cars as they entered. In Lander, I found out the area had been the site of a super-hot brush fire that literally burned the entire area to ash. Not thinking, I just plowed on. I had to shut my right eye and remember to breathe through my nose because of the choking dust. The grit hitting my legs felt like hail, abrasive enough to damage a car paint job if sustained. Lucky for me, as I entered the dust cloud, I could see the other side as I began to make out the landscape beyond.

After several miles of this crosswind, the road began to descend among the hills and turn with the wind. By now, the entire sky was filled with storm clouds and the temperature was dropping. I was glad to finally have a tailwind but almost too exhausted to enjoy it. Besides, the darkening sky kept my mind on getting to Lander fast!

That is when I met Ben Kull and Brian Flatley who had biked from Washington, DC, on their way to Oregon. Probably the last TransAm riders I'll see. They hadn't got much sleep at the city park in Lander because of some kids drinking and making noise at all hours of the night. So, to make matters worse, they got a late start. I almost told them that my Lander-to-Dubois day was my hardest the whole trip because of the winds. But the look in their faces told me they understood the nightmare ahead of them. They were hoping to at least get to the rest area. If the weather got worse, they'd camp inside the restrooms and get to Dubois tomorrow. I wished them safe travels and luck. They'll need it!

Ben & Brian

I rarely took a break, instead trying to get closer to Lander despite my fatigue. The miles seemed to pass agonizingly slow. Lucky for me, I only had a slight rise before a long downhill into town.

It's nice to come into town and know where most everything is. I headed to NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School first. Bruce, whom I met on my first rip to the NOLS offices back in June, was on a work retreat so I popped into the Alumni office. (I'm a NOLS alum - Semester in Kenya 1987) And I met Jason Buchovecky.

Showing my route in the NOLS Alumni office

Jason remembered when I was through town last. After we talked a bit, he offered to let me stay at his place if I wanted a couch instead of the hard ground to sleep on. How could I refuse! I told him I'd run some errands and meet him at home after he got off work.

After my grueling workout on the bike today, I needed food, and badly. I'm so glad I stopped at Judd's Grub. This family-run burger joint warmed up to me real fast. I felt as if I'd been a long-time customer. While eating, the storm that had been dogging me all day hit the city. The sky turned black and rain came down almost horizontal as the wind broke tree branches.

When there seemed a break in the rain, I dashed the few blocks to the library to check on my email. Turns out Mike and the Great Divide gang were still in Montana waiting for a replacement for Todd's cracked bicycle rim. He said things were going well, but with the delay, I won't see them as I cross paths with the Divide later. Bummer!

Afterwards, I stoped by Freewheel Ski & Cycle to talk to Mike. "Not a great summer." he said, having just laid off his only employee besides himself. But even so, he kept a smile and was pleasant to talk with. It's got to be hard running a small business, even in a town like Lander.

Met Jason back at his place. After a quick tour, he had a bunch of errands so basically gave me run of the house. After a quick shower, I too, went on a quest along the streets of town looking for food. Tony's Pizza had been recommended to me but I didn't try it when I was here last. A busy place, but my waitress, Erin, sat me at a big table so I could spread out while I was writing in my journal. Had a Sausage Pizza Roll, basically a variation on a calzone. Pretty good but I can't wait to get back to Kansas City and eat at Minsky's again. Spent a long time there just writing. Some days it just pours out.

Back at the house, Jason and I sat in the living-room with a few beers. He has a degree in graphic design but his passion is backpacking, being a NOLS instructor for the last ten years. If I didn't know better, I could have been walking into 'my' home. He plays the guitar but is more into his pennywhistle and bamboo flutes. He had awesome banana chips drying in the food dehydrator. On the bookshelves there are "The Tao of Pooh" and the "Anatomy Coloring Book". So between the art, music and the outdoors, we had all sorts of things to talk about.

Jason's girlfriend, Andrea, came by. She does water sampling for the state and just got back a few days early from a field trip. She has a big, loving black lab who was starved for attention since she was back. The wonderful thing about this trip is how many people I get to 'really' meet just because I'm on the bike. I'm so grateful for the small friendships I've had over these months on the road.

I got comfortable on the couch, listening to CD's and watching a bit of TV. When I finally turned the lights out, I could hear the rain outside and see flashes of lightning. Definitely a good night to be under a roof. Jason said someone, a complete stranger had done a helped him out years ago in Alaska. He's just passing it on. I don't know how I'll be able to pass on all the unselfish generosity of so many people that I've experienced on this trip.