Friday July 10, 2009, 77 miles (124 km) – Total so far: 2,956 miles (4,757 km)
There were a number of things I was worried about today. (OK, maybe I’m a chronic worrier, but still!) First was the length of the ride today. There were two bailout points, one 15 miles in, and the other 74 miles from the start. Hmm. Then there was the name of the river we would be following, Wind River. After the other day, I jump if someone mentions passing gas. Our route (US 287) joined US 26, so I get to worry about all the extra Yellowstone traffic. The road signs did start to list the distance to Yellowstone today. And to top it off, there was a display at the rest area shortly after we joined 26 about how the bighorn sheep came down into the Wind River valley every winter because the wind blows snow off the vegetation so they can eat! Gee, thanks.
A retired trucker in Colorado mentioned he never saw snow in Wyoming the day after it fell. He assumes it’s because the wind blows all the snow down to Colorado.
We got an early start; the McDonalds across the street from the hotel lost some business because they didn’t open until 6:00, by which time we were riding. Virginia, who normally eats anything that doesn’t eat her first on this trip, was picky about the convenience store bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, and only about half of that.
The Popo Agie river valleys were all well watered and irrigated, meaning we saw lots of green! We stopped at the Fort Wasakie (reservation) store for some O.J. and fruit, then had to go back because Virginia forgot her gloves. The kind folk at the store had them, wondering to whom they belonged. Finally, we set off for the rest of the ride. As we passed Fort Wasakie and headed north to the Wind River valley, it turned to desert again.
It was pretty calm this morning, and we were passed by a fair number of the Adventure Cycling supported group. Apparently Virginia and I are famous; east-bound cyclists have been tantalizing this group with reports of a father-daughter duo just a day or two ahead of them for weeks. Makes me feel like a Frank and Ernest punch line is in the works, I just can’t think of it. (Contributions welcome!)
We had a nice view from the top of the Wind River Valley. Again, pictures just don’t do justice to what we saw. There did seem to be more haze than we’ve seen for a while; some of it could be the 100+ mile vistas to the mountains, some could be dust that was kicked up the other day.
We watched Crowheart Butte get closer for five miles (ten, if you count the downhill; we saw it from the top, then dove down into the descent). It stands up in the middle of nothing, with some similar height buttes further across the valley. If you believe the story on the “Point of Interest” sign, Crowheart was Chief Wasakie of the Shoshones, who celebrated a victory over the Crow Indians for hunting rights by dancing with the heart of a Crow enemy on the end of his spear.
We dined in style at the Crowheart General Store a few miles on; pre-prepared refrigerated burritos, in preference to similarly prepared sandwiches. I’m a bit surprised that choice hasn’t come back to haunt me. We met some of the ACA group as we sat on benches out front and ate our lunch; they were eating snacks instead of their PBJs.
After lunch we picked up a slight tailwind, maybe 5-10 mph. I started to relax, no headwind today! Well, for a while. We had been paralleling the Wind River on a plateau between the narrow valley (a quarter mile to maybe a mile across) the river was in, and the hills or mountains to either side. There were some interesting pink strata across the river off and on, enough to keep the ride interesting. After another ten miles or so, we dove downhill (and that was a great downhill!) into the valley. Pretty soon afterward, we hit what I think is called the Red Canyon. There was a postcard at the motel last night, but I haven’t seen one of this in Dubois tonight. The rocks were really red, even more striking than the picture makes it look.
There were signs of agriculture from about Crowheart up until we dropped down to the river, and then again a few miles upriver. (Actually, there were lots of log cabins across the river, like there was a log cabin dealer in the area!) I think every hay mower in the vicinity was active today, so I’d guess the mosquito season is almost over. After all, you have to dry hay, which is kind of difficult when it’s laying down in running water!
At Red Canyon the wind shifted to a headwind and started to pick up a bit. We were riding into the headwind for the next 15 miles. It was enough to get my blood pressure up, worrying that it would turn into a repeat of the other day. It seemed concentrated by the narrow valley we were sharing with the river, but there wasn’t much choice — that’s where the road was, that’s where we rode.
The rocks on either side of the river were enough to keep the ride fun. I caught this one at a river crossing (I think we crossed it thrice). Note that, despite appearances, the telephone poles indicate I was holding the camera pretty nearly straight up!
The strain of the last few days is catching up to us, so we’re going to take another rest day tomorrow. Maybe it was that funky food at the store in Crowheart that got to Virginia, as she has a nasty fever. Or maybe it was starting this morning at breakfast. In retrospect, we should have stopped in Jeffrey City two days ago in the wind, but we didn’t, so we’ll have to recover.