About Lea's Foundation
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Friday, July 25, 2014
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
After our late arrival and we had a slow departure again. Leaving well after the sun had risen, the air was already quite warm when we left our room. The wind was light and not a factor and we cruised through the rest of Torrington before needing to repair a flat on Jonathan's rear wheel. Flat patched and we headed off towards the Nebraska border. The "Welcome to Nebraska" sign informed us that Nebraska is home of the "good life". I guess we'll see how true that is over the next several days.
A few rolling hills greeted us but in general we were out in the flatness that is the beginning of our Midwest adventure. We were excited to see some deciduous trees, and most importantly, some of them were overhanging the road and providing shade. With the exception of Grand Teton/Yellowstone, we've had close to zero shady rest spots along the roads since the first days of Oregon.
With Nebraska came more freight trains that I have ever seen. Interestingly, most of them are 100 cars or so long, and carrying only coal eastbound and returning empty westbound. As the train car count increased, so did the headwinds.
For the first time since California we were averaging under 10mph and pedaling our best, all to go barely anywhere. Slowly we crept along, amazed by how far we were able to see ahead of us. This fact and our slow speed led us to often stare at some taller landmarks for over an hour. It was clear that Nebraska was going to become more of a mental challenge than we had seen previously on this trip.
Soon we were staring at Chimney Rock. Stopping in at a combination RV park/café/gift shop we learned that Chimney Rock was the most often mentioned landmark in the writings of westbound emigrants on the Oregon Trail. We spent a while in this shop talking with the owner as we looked for any excuse to not go out and fight the wind again. After packing 8 pounds of ice into everything we owned, we headed back out to the wind/heat. My boredom grew and I devised games to play with the passing train car serial numbers. For those that are wondering, the numbers are 4 to 6 digits long, and on about 30% of trains there will be two consecutively numbered cars next to one another. Thrilling.
It became obvious that we weren't going to get past Bridgeport today. As we got closer, hills were added to the fun we were having with the wind. Getting to the top of the hills was tiring, slow work. Once there we had the "opportunity" to see even further in the distance, not exactly what we wanted.
Finally we got to Bridgeport. The motel had a unique self service check-in system. Following local advice we headed down to a local bar/restaurant and gorged on pasta. Going to bed we hoped the wind in the morning would be kinder to us than what we had just experienced.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles
Monday, July 21, 2014
We started the day off with bagels and peanut butter, along with delicious fruit/yogurt smoothies made by Kathy. On the way out of town we grabbed some supplies at the grocery store, then we headed past a power plant and onto I-25. Our favorable wind from yesterday was at our backs once more. Back on an interstate for the first time since Idaho we faced big uphill climbs followed by big downhill descents. Despite the rolling hills, we still averaged over 15mph, which is fantastic.
In Douglas we grabbed some breakfast burritos from Taco John's, which is quickly become a favorite food choice.
Fighting back against the winds to rejoin the highway traffic flow we realized how lucky we were they the wind would be pushing with us for most of the day. The prospect of future headwinds seemed quite demoralizing. The rolling hills continued as we passed through Orin Junction. Heading the opposite way into the wind was a Bike and Build team. We exchanged waves and I did not envy the headwind they faced. Their only hope was that their dozen riders could all take turns fighting the winds while the rest drafted behind the leaders. Also, their tour is supported and they did not have to carry their bags.
We pushed on over the hills and made it to Glendo. As I-25 turned south, the southwest wind that had been pushing us became more of a slowing crosswind, a sign of things to come perhaps. We refueled our bodies and cooled off. The radio station inside the gas station repeated how temperatures would be reaching close to 100 and listeners should avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day.
Heading south on the interstate brought bigger hills and stronger crosswinds that did nothing to help push us forward. 20 very long miles later we reached the turn off for Guernsey, and with it a rest area. Wyoming's rest areas are all air conditioned, have clean bathrooms with running water and water fountains with cold water... Take note Idaho. After a long rest and some electrolyte supplements to replenish the electrolytes that had been pouring out of our bodies, we went to leave, only to find that I had yet another rear flat tire. (90% of the time it's the rear tire that gets punctured. If it's the rear, then all the bags have to come off and the bike has to be flipped in order to remove the tire. This just adds to the ordeal of every flat.)
Finally we were off towards Guernsey where we were going to grab dinner and depending on how we felt, either camp at the state park there or push on another 30 miles to Torrington. While most of the restaurants were closed, we managed to make dinners out of items from the grocery store. Before a short rest out on the store's benches we decided it would be best to push on to Torrington.
The first half of this final ride was very hilly and greatly increased our ETA. To compound this, our tailwind had died and was replaced by a light headwind. As the road flattened out, the sun began to set leading to some phenomenal photos. A few miles later I hit the 2000th mile of this tour, meaning that half the mileage back to Connecticut had been covered. With the sky darkening and bugs swarming us we pushed on to Grandma's Inn in Torrington. Arriving well after 9pm, we were glad to see our room had been held for us and that we'd be getting to shower before bed after all.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
TL;DR: Wind, heat and more Oregon Trail. And wind.
Once again, we woke early and by 7am were grabbing drinks at the Shoshoni gas station and heading east to our 98 mile goal of Casper, WY. The first 60 miles today would be a slow climb, followed by a slow descent into Casper. Before we left, I let Jonathan know that the wind was supposed to build from our bags as the day and heat went on.
The climb was so subtle that we were making good time and barely felt the climb in our legs. The land grew so flat that we could see for mile and miles before a hill would interrupt our vision. Many elk grazed along the road as we rode by, and they scattered over the plains when they took note of us. 20 miles in, we stopped at the first "town" of the day. Monetta had two mailboxes, two dogs, two buildings, barbed wire and a Confederate flag. Despite the weird feelings we got from this place, it worked as a place to eat our improvised breakfasts.
As we ate, the Confederate flag flapped in the breeze, indicating that our much desired tailwind was beginning to fill in. As we left, our climbing became faster with the wind pushing us along. The scenery became rather routine and our music playlists were essential to get us through the morning monotony. Quickly we reached the 40 mile mark of our ride, and with it, Hiland, WY. Boasting a population of 10 and a 3-in-1 motel, gas station, and bar/restaurant called Bright Spot, the town of Hiland was a highlight of our trip to Casper. Entering the "restaurant" we ordered breakfast and sat down to drink expired Gatorade. We didn't know that Gatorade could expire, but I guess if you have as few customers as Bright Spot then anything is possible.
By the time we finished eating, the wind had intensified greatly. We screamed out of the parking lot, quickly accelerating with our bodies and panniers acting as sails. We reached speeds between 25-30mph on flat straightaways and over 35mph on almost every single downhill. Even climbs were typically close to 20mph. A few miles were even spent without needing any pedaling at all.
Shortly after mile 60 we reached Hell's Half Acre. This multicolored canyon shared a name with the lava fields we saw in Idaho, but not much else. This canyon was beyond my ability to describe and I'll defer to a picture that I'm sure Jonathan took. Interestingly, Native Americans used to drive buffalo into the canyon for slaughter, and more recently (a few decades ago) the canyon was home to dirt bike racing. At Hell's Half Acre we saw another group of touring cyclists hitching a ride westward to avoid fighting the headwind.
The remaining miles to Casper flew by with the winds howling stronger than ever at our backs. We slowed down by a flat tire for both Jonathan and myself. Constant tire changes is not something I've been missing from Idaho.
At Taco John's we decided to push on to Glenrock (about 25 miles more) for the night. We had met Mark and Kathy at McDonald's in Thermopolis. Mark has toured previously and offered for us to camp in their yard if we ended up in Glenrock. I contacted Kathy and they enthusiastically offered for us to head over. The route there was mostly flat with the exception of County Line Hill. But with the tailwind still blowing strong, we made great time. Arriving at Mark and Kathy's home we were very appreciative to be given their guest room and use of their shower. Kathy even offered to do some laundry for us! The generosity of the people we meet on this trip definitely keeps us going strong.
On the ride to Glenrock, Jonathan completed his first biking century! Very impressive considering we did 124 miles with full gear.
Photos by Jonathan Kobles