North to South Tour - Day 3207/26/2008 13:00:00 by Administrator
From: Lander, Wyoming
To: Lamont, Wyoming
Today: 101 miles - 1804 miles total
We got up, and got on the road by 6:00 am. We were trying to beat the wind and high temperatures, we thought we could pull into Jeffrey City at an early time. The key word today is ADVENTURE. Are we cycling on the moon? (see the above photo). We met a tourist from Dillon, CO yesterday that described it...."We never landed on the moon, they just took pictures of Wyoming".
It was a chilly start, but that did not last long. Route 287/789, all the way to Muddy Gap, was quiet with very little vehicle traffic....and why should there be any traffic...because THERE IS NOTHING OUT HERE but barb wire, sage brush, snow fences, road kill, prairie grasses, and an occasional pronghorn antelope. There are few trees (you don't need a calculator to count them, just use your hands). Being from New Hampshire, where we take trees for granted, it is hard to say that our scenery today was beautiful. The scenery did have a beauty it, but seeing it over and over again, is draining on us. We pulled into the rest area in Sweetwater Station for some shade, the rest area's picnic tables are inclosed in a concrete roof and have two brick walls that are positioned to block the wind. Wyoming has some nice rest areas, and in our case that was a good thing. They have water and restrooms and are a very nice place to take a break. The wind today was, for the most part, a 15 mph crosswind. It was coming out of the south west and we were traveling east for the majority of the day. Sweetwater Station was supposed to have a small grocery and camping....it has nothing...I don't even think anyone lives in Sweetwater Station. We are glad for the water at the rest area.
We followed part of the Oregon Trail while cycling on Rte 287/789. You could see some of the original trail heading off in the horizon. The sign at the rest area that talked about the Oregon Trail best describes our views for the day. ..."For weeks emigrants plodded this stretch of high altitude, semiarid desert. Everyday, more of the same alkali, sage and sand...a continuing American Sahara. How I long for a timbered country wrote one traveler. . . . In a thousand miles I have not seen a hundred acres of wood. All that comes near to arborification is a fringe of cottonwood and willows along the banks of creeks and rivers. These everlasting hills have an everlasting curse of barrenness...". So you can see our opinion of this area is not unique.
We continued cycling into Jeffrey City our final destination for today, with hopes of having a meal at the restaurant listed on the map. This "city" once had a population of 5000, in 1983, it now has a population of 50 (maybe). It is quite literally a modern day ghost town. There was supposed to be a cafe, motel, and grocery. It had a motel (maybe), no grocery store, and the cafe/bar. After walking into the bar side and sitting down, we explained that we were looking to have something to eat. The lady in charge, shuffled us over to the cafe side, where we were offered beef stew (self served out of a crock pot) with white bread, and slices of watermelon (which should have been tossed the previous day). They don't normally serve food on the weekends but the lady told us to eat as much as we wanted, "Because no one goes away hungry." I keep telling Mary "While in Rome" So we ate, the stew was ok and filling. While we ate we asked the owner/hostess/ waitress about the history of the town. She was proud of the fact the the cafe is the only business in town that has been open for 50 years and never closed down. Jeffrey City was an active uranium mine, but in 1983 the mine closed. They still have a school, grades 1-12 all taught by the same teacher. In the bar there were about 5 guys, two dogs and one younger woman, who was blind in one eye (could that be due to some environmental hazard?) and the owner shuffling around in her slippers. It was a bit surreal but were treated well and fed and they seem to prefer that the boom is gone.
After lunch, we shrugged our shoulders and headed to Muddy Gap, there the map shows groceries and camping. The Muddy Gap convenient store was a bright spot in our day. We highly recommend stopping there. We had a Gatorade break, and asked about camping in Muddy Gap. The proprietor told us that kitty corner from the store is a place where cyclist stay. So we went back down the hill, to the ...um....camping site. This was probably a campground, in the early 90's. It has fallen on hard times, it had 3 permanant guest (their trailers have been there a long time, but where the owners are...is anyone's guess, probably abandoned from the looks of the trailers). There is a place to set up a tent (next to the prefab fire station), and two outhouses. I knocked on the door of the house, but nobody answered. Now what? The sky was turning it's usual dark color, in preparation for yet another afternoon wind or rain storm. So up the hill to the convenient store we went to wait out the storm. We cooked a frozen pizza, and read the Wyoming hunting regulation pamphlets while waiting the afternoon storm out. This is excitement, yes?
About an hour later, it was back down to the "campground". I knocked on the door, and nothing. It was time for an executive council and to consult the Adventure Cycling map, it said there was a cafe in Lamont called Grandma's cafe. Grandma let's you set up tents behind the cafe, and if the cafe is open...you can use the restrooms. It was about 5pm and the sun was still pretty hot. Also based on the condition of the out house and the Rear Admiral's proclamation that she wasn't goin within 20 feet of that thing. Off we went. We climbed over the Continental Divide (our ninth for this trip) after Muddy Gap. The climb was painless and the elevation of this crossing is 6,638 ft. (Muddy Gap was at 6,250 ft.). Then into Lamont and Grandma's cafe where we were greeted by a closed cafe. Not to worry, we drove past the cafe and around to the rear of the house where we were greeted by two of the prettiest dogs (boxers). Mary quickly jumped off the bike and armed herself with her trusty water bottle, noting that the female clearly looked like she just had a litter of pups. There was no need for defense because Grandma's grandson (age around 14 ) came out to rescue us,. We asked the grandson (who was very nice, and talkative) if we could put the Prince of Wales II up. He said sure, but let me walk you over there...we just killed a rattler today, and I just want to make sure there aren't any more snakes. Well he had fun filling us in on his days adventure with the rattler that almost bit his Aunt as she was going into the cafe. After confirming that this was in fact the only rattle snake they ever killed on their property, and they don't have anymore slithering around out here, we set up the tent as we chatted with the boy about school (40 mile commute one way per day), snow, cattle drives, and the pesky badgers in the yard.
So here we are, in the back of Grandma's cafe. The Prince of Wales II is up, there are two boxers who think we are their new best friend. We are camped amongst an acre of old oil drilling equipment ( we think Grandpa is a collector). We are tired, dirty....and pretty much beaten up. Crossing Wyoming is very mentally tough.