The Eclipse!

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Rolling out of wheatland, we soon got into the plains and dealt with a lot of sun and wind.  The scenery was absolutely stunning.  Once we hit the foot of the mountains the climbing started.  We were wondering why everyone kept offering us a ride when we said where we were going.  The hills were not horrible at the bottom of the hill, but at the summit, it was a different story.  As usual, there were your standard bike hating morons in big trucks intentionally blowing exhaust in our face at stop signs, but they were outnumbered by kind folks offering help or even a simple smile and a thumbs up!

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We took some refuge for the afternoon huddling in the shadow of a snow drift fence planning our next move.  We pressed on up the road and while debating how to get to a stream that was on private property to refill the water bottles, we were greeted by a nice guy who turned out to be an elk hunting guide.  He said we were cool to fill up our water and we should stop by the field where he and his friends were talking.  He also offered us a ride to the top.

We rode up to the group of tractors and trucks and they flagged us down so we turned into the field to say hello.  It was several ranchers and the guide who were collecting hay on a flatbed.  They offered us a beer and we gladly accepted an ice cold Keystone Light which tasted fantastic in the sun!  We stood there and BSed for a beer as they subtly poked fun at how ridiculous they thought our trip was.  We talked about hunting and how beautiful the land was.  Eventually electing not to take a ride in a truck and pressed up the hill.  Our spirits were high and the beer gave us extra carbs to tackle the mountain.

The next few miles were a big climb but do-able. We spotted a prarie rattlesnake under a cattleguard and were feeling good.  We chatted briefly with an older couple from New Mexico who had a badass Eurovan camper and some entertaining bumper stickers.  Our goal was to get to the top of the mountain to camp which was only a few more miles.  Those miles were tough!  The switchbacks started at dusk and were so steep that we couldn’t ride.  The cars that passed us were losing traction on the turns.  Calories got low and so did our spirits.  The hill was so steep we couldn’t stop and decided we did not want to turn back so we trudged along in the dark (With lights of course).  A random pack of starburst got us going again until we finally hit the top of the hill.

We threw up the tent and cooked dinner then passed out promptly afterwards.  The next day, our decision to press to the top paid off!  We met two of the nicest folks of the entire trip.  Bill, who was a game warden from Laramie, stopped by and talked to us for over an hour.  We covered everything from the outdoors to auto-immune diseases and diet.  He was assigned to the Medicine Bow National Forest for the eclipse as reinforcements.  As we parted ways, he insisted on hooking us up with M&Ms, Fig newtons and other goodies.  The best was peach iced tea Snapples which were amazing!  We thanked him profusely and thouroughly enjoyed talking to someone so passionate about his job and his state.

Next we met Marlon, who was the Pastor of Camp Grace.  The camp was a Baptist summer camp which was really nice with cabins and looked like a blast for kids who would visit.  He drove up to us in his polaris and subtely let us know we were technically on church property.  We told him the story of the night before and how we were looking for a spot off the road.  He smiled and said, “Do you have a few minutes?”  Umm, yeah we’ve got time.  We jumped in the Polaris and he took us down a path to a site the church had for campfires.  There were ruins from an old chimney from a homestead, a giant boulder to climb on, and a fresh spring that you could drink straight from the pipe!  Marlon asked if this would do, and we looked at him and smiled.  The spot was perfect!  We had piece and quiet and unlimited water, also a flat surface.

The next day we woke up and hung around waiting for the eclipse which was at 11:20 AM.  All I can say about the eclipse is if you missed this one, don’t miss the next one.  It was absolutely phenomenal!  Unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  The coolest part was the temperature dropping 20°F.  During the totality, the mountainside erupted with howls at the moon so we naturally joined in the fun.  What an amazing event!

 

Cheyenne to Wheatland

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The first day back on the bikes was another detour fest which eventually ended on Telephone “road”, a tractor path through some beautiful rolling hills.  We found a random Calf who was stuck on the wrong side of the fence and he was so scared of us that he jumped through a  barbed wire fence to get back on the other side.  Eventually, we decided to camp on the road in some beautiful country and had the howling wind and phenominal stars to keep us company.

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Canned tuna and rice… standard dinner.

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Telephone Road

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The next day was a big day of riding, 69miles total!  We don’t typically do a lot of miles per day, we are more in it for the experiences and serendipitous events like spending the night at a winery.

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After rolling to Chugwater, WY pop 212, we grabbed some chili dogs at the only place in town and met some less than kind locals who made it a point to speak loudly about how people travelling for the eclipse better stay the hell off their land.  We originally planned to stay in Chugwater but instead rode another 30 miles to Wheatland.  Along the way, we finally learned what the mystery fences were… Snowdrift fences.

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The ride from Chugwater to Wheatland was tough, there was some serious wind and not much in the way of scenery.  We passed some interesting compounds that were a mystery.  Originally we thought they were old rodeo rings, but then realized they were old underground bunkers for ICBMs.  There were constant Huey helicopters flying around taking the crews to the remote locations to sit alert waiting​ for WWIII!  We were dead tired and got caught in a big wind storm that knocked Lauren off her bike.  Also it caused a giant coal cloud to blow in front of us from the power plant.

Eventually we rolled into town and had some great dinner and brews at Windy Peaks.  Our bartender Stevie was awesome.  We talked all night and decided to go back the next day to get some more info from her and plan the trip up the mountain.  We camped for free in the local town park which had a few spots for RVs and a couple of tent sites too.  The next day we found out the park was closed for camping so they could charge for the eclipse, but the guy who took care of the park was cool and said we could stay for free.  We hung out in the park and hit up the public pool that was 200 yards away.  We did cannonballs off the high dive and rode the water slides because, why not!?!  It was a pretty relaxing few days.  By the time we left Wheatland, we were the talk of the town.  At breakfast on the way out of town, the waitress asked if we were the folks riding bicycles up to the eclipse.

There were a few bad apples who clearly were not interested in people visiting their town from out of state.  One guy at the liquor store said “I heard folks from Colorado were emailing ranchers saying, we are gonna camp on your land and there is nothing you can do about it!”  No… no that never happened.  There were some dipshits, but we met kind folks as well.  Stevie offered to drive us up the mountain but we politely declined and explained that the whole point of the trip was to ride.  When we got to the summit we realized why she offered.

 

 

 

Wyoming!

P8130664.JPGAfter the run in with the Ranger, we were not in the highest spirits.  The singletrack at red canyon was HARD!  We climbed literally the entire way which included a deep sand arroyo for over a mile and several miles of switchbacks going straight up the side of a mountain.  It was amazing scenery but challenging riding (walking).

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Eventually we made it to some railroad tracks which had an access road running next to them.  We did have to jump a fence that was locked but it was locked to keep people out of where we were so we figured it was ok.  Lauren started talking about hamburgers and we decided a detour to Cheyenne was in order.  We started heading east and discovered what rolling hills in Wyoming really means.

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We learned that railroad tracks are a great option for bikepacking and were not worried about getting yelled at because all of the train engineers tooted the horn and waved at us.  We saw tons of pronghorn and wondered what the hell these giant random 8 foot tall fences were for miles.

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There were ant attacks and debates about the route and it eventually ended with a glorious 8 mile downhill on a calm pavement road straight into Cheyenne. For the first time we spun out our highest gear.  We stopped at a hotel and took a Lyft into town to Sanford’s which had phenominal burgers and some well deserved beers.  We met a nice guy from Ohio who was travelling to Utah to help his son move into his dorm at college and proceeded to solve all the worlds problems right there at the bar.

One rest day turned into two due to an 80% chance of severe thunderstorms and we layed around and watched bad TV, ate at chain restaurants, and lived the American Dream for 48 hours.

Fort Collins to Red Canyon

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In true Orlosky Fashion we were late getting started.  We planned to leave the day before, but weather delayed us.  We spent the afternoon prior in a parking garage packing the bikes for 4 hours and had crap spread everywhere trying to decide what to take and not to take.  When it was all said and done, it was wet and cold and we decided to get a good nights sleep in a hotel and leave in the morning.  Also, great bikepacking and general travel hack – you can leave your car at a hotel for several weeks and no one seems to care.  I’m a fan of asking forgiveness not permission and it hasn’t failed us yet.

So we left the hotel and rode through Fort Collins to the trailhead where we were to begin…  and it was closed due to wet condions.  We took it in stride though and quickly made a detour which turned out to be pretty fun as it led us to a river walk path along a creek.  During route planning, I tried to stick to dirt/gravel roads which inevitably leads to locked gates and no trespassing signs.  We decided on a policy of if it’s not locked, we will go through a gate and try not to jump any fences unless absolutely necessary.  We hit a few roadblocks and had to backtrack, but that is half the fun.

We could do an entire blog post (and probably will) on all the incredibly generous and friendly people we met.  Our favorite thing about bicycle travel is probably the way strangers treat you along the way.  Something about bicycles is non-threatening and interesting to people because everyone used to ride a bike when they were a kid.  Also, having big tires and 30ish pounds of gear strapped to your ride is a great conversation starter.

We planned to do about 30-40 miles a day but had the openness in our schedule to allow for random stops.  On the very first day, after the third detour due to closed gates, we passed a guy and his son riding up a hill on a dirt road.  The boy was picking wild plums on the side of the road and they were going about the same speed as us even though the kid was about 7 years old.  After an impromptu drag race with his brother on a quad, we passed a sign with a bear on it which caught our attention.  We looked at each other and said, “Is this a winery?!?!”

We stopped in for a glass, which turned into three with the owner’s brother David.  We talked to Bill (the owner) and him for hours and ended up staying there all night.  They generously let us sample the good stuff and cracked open some champagne at the end of the evening.  We ended up accepting Bill’s offer to crash in their barn (The nicest barn I’ve ever been in) and slept like babies.  Mileage for the day was a grand total of 11, but we met amazing folks and learned alot about Colorado Wines.  Check out Ten Bears Winery if you are in Norther Colorado.  I promise it is worth the short drive into the hills.

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The next day we navigated our way through beautiful Colorado plains heading towards the Red Mountain Open Space.  We got caught by a few thunderstorms and learned that the middle of the plains of Colorado are not the best place to be during a storm.  We were going to stop, but had nothing better to do so like Forrest Gump, we just kept right on going.  Eventually at nightfall we hit the Red Mountain Open Space which apparently does not allow camping despite no signs or warnings notifying you.  The night was beautiful and we watched for a meteor shower that my dad told us about.  We caught a couple shooting stars, filled up our water bottles from the creek and hit the sack.  The next moring we got a late start and were greeted while packing up by a ranger who informed us we weren’t allowed to camp.  We said we were sorry and continued packing until her asshat of a partner came along and decided to give us a $50 citation for camping too close to a stream.  (The stream we were drinking out of.)  I’ll keep the ranting to a minimum, but we were pissed!  We were on bicycles and left not a speck of trash or evidence we were ever there.  I understand there are rules, but part of being a reasonable enforcer of the rules is understanding why the rules exist.  Needless to say we are not paying the ticket and will be fighting it to the bitter end.  Even if we lose, at least we can waste some of this idiot’s time.  

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