Crashes, Beers, Cougars and What Not

Laramie was pretty uneventful.  We took a rest day and mostly hung out in the hotel.  The next day we found some railroad tracks leading out of town and followed them off and on for the whole day.  Railroads with a nice access road are a really great bikepacking tool.  We never ran into any issues with the railroad employees.  We did hit a few spots where the road stopped and we had to improvise either riding on the rocks supporting the tracks or detours on some ranch roads.

We had proper food now and finally found a groove with eating healthy on the road.  Nuts, jerky, and dried fruit are an awesome combo.  Also we took some fresh produce that lasted a day or two.  One of the big goals of this trip was a shakedown of our gear to see what we needed and didn’t need.  Also trying to figue out food etc. along the way.  We learned that rice and canned meat is ok, but cleaning burnt rice off of a stainless steel pot is a giant pain in the ass and uses a lot of water.  Our MSR Whisperlite stove is awesome, but it has one heat setting… Really frickin hot!  It’s awesome for boiling water, but actual cooking can be a challenge.  I’ll do a full post on gear and cooking in the near future and hopefully remember to link it to this post.

Anyway, we found a pulloff on the railroad and set up the tent.  Dinner was beef jerkey and raw broccoli.  As we waited for it to get dark, a train decided to stop on the tracks which were about 20 yards away from us behind some trees.  It just hung out there for about 40 minutes while we tried to figure out what it was doing and if someone saw us.  Our best guess was that it was waiting for another train that was utilizing one of the many switches up ahead.

The train moved on and we set up camp.  Right before bed as Lauren was getting her toothbrush out of her bags, I spotted a set of eyes in the bushes and said, “Oh look honey a critter.”  Lauren replied, “Umm that’s not a critter that looks like a cat!”  We both started staring at the two giant glowing dots with our headlamps trying to see what it was.  Being the adventurous (idiotic) folks that we are, we moved a bit closer to get a better look.  A silouhette soon emerged and started doing a telltale horizontal move like a cat following a laser pointer.  Holy shit, it’s a mountain lion!  We stopped, but the cat started creeping forward.  We spoke loudly and backed away slowly.  I had the Ruger LCP .380 in my hand and backed right into a tree.  We shuffled quickly into the tent and hoped like hell that the thin layer of nylon would protect us.  After sitting there indian style looking at each other with a gun on my lap for half an hour, we had to get out to pee before bed.  We carefully climbed out of the tent and covered one another Navy SEAL style while we took care of business then scrambled back inside the relative safety of the tent.

Aside from the trains coming by every few hours 20 yards from our heads, we slept surprisingly well and did not see anymore of our feline friend.  In the morning, I stood where the cat was and Lauren paced out the distance.  It was 10 yards away from us!  We’ve always wanted to see a mountain lion, but I imagined it from a few hundred yards away, not right in front of us!

See video below for an artist’s interpretation of the event.

The next day included more than a few verses from “The guy on a buffalo”.  And lot’s of “Geet outta here KittyKat!”

We started riding in the morning and a few miles in the day got interesting yet again.  I was cruising down a hill on the access road and my side of the road started to get a bit rutted.  I moved towards the center but there was a giant baby-head sized rock sitting in the middle of the road.  Like an idiot I stared at it going about 20-25 MPH and BAM!  The next thing I new I was laying in the dirt with the wind knocked out of me and pain all up my left side.  Lauren ran back and tried to help.  I bruised my left hip and right knee pretty badly and burped all the air out of my front tire.  Luckily my pride was hurt the most and I was able to ride the rest of the day.  Somehow some rocks managed to get into the bead of my front tire and it wouldn’t hold air for more than 30 minutes.  The rest of the trip included a lot of stopping to pump up the tire and went pretty slow due to my hip.

We pressed on and picked our way down the mountain roads.  We hit a new top speed of 37 MPH and eventually hit Colorado Route 287, also known as the deathtrap with a 70 MPH speed limit and limited shoulder.  We rode it for about 10 miles and found some respite on back roads for the rest of the way to Fort Collins.  The last part of the ride was mostly downhill and fast pavement which made for a nice break.

From the beginning, we had a glorious plan to head straight to a brewery when we got back to town which worked out perfectly.  We booked a tour at New Belgium right as we rolled into town and took a great bikepath to the brewery.  If you are in Northern Colorado and even remotely interested in beer, go to New Belgium and take the tour!  It is 90 minutes of history/science and it’s free.  Oh and free beer…  like a lot of free beer.  We were actually pretty tuned up when it was over with.  The best part was the sour beer room which had giant 15 foot tall oak casks where the sour beer aged.  Our tour guide was great and we had a good group who didn’t seem to mind that we smelled awful and were covered in dirt and blood.

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We left the brewery and headed to the hotel with just enough time to get cleaned up and hit up B-Dubs (Not our normal kind of place but they had the boxing match) for the big Mayweather/Macgregor fight.  It was a cool experience.  We got lucky and a nice guy named Mack let us sit at one of his reserved tables because some friends didn’t show up.  We bought them a round of shots and watched a great fight.

It was a great ending to an amazing trip.  There were a lot of ups and downs (pun intended).  The wind was a bitch in Wyoming but the scenery was fantastic.  What never fails though is the people.  We met some amazing souls who didn’t even think about hesitating to help a couple of strangers on bikes.  I’m convinced that bicycle travel is the best way to travel for this reason.  There is just something about a bike loaded up with camping gear that makes people want to talk to you.  Free food, offers for rides, a quick “You guys ok?” or even just a smile and a thumbs up, give you the energy to keep going when you are facing 30 MPH headwinds on a washboard road, running out of food and just wishing for some shelter.  Hopefully we changed at least one person’s mind about cyclists and they will think twice and slow down the next time they pass some crazy couple on bicycles.

 

The Way Back

Technically, I guess we are on the way to Thailand now.  Once this trip is over, it’s Tucson, then back East!

The next day after the eclipse we stopped by the church camp and thanked Marlon.  We went a bit further up the mountain and then had a marvelous downhill speedfest for 4 miles or so.  The climbing was not over, however. We had some rough mountain roads to contend with but we were having a blast.  We decided we will take hills over wind any day because at least you can see what you are up against!

We were covered in dust from all the traffic coming off the mountain but the scenery was unbelievable.  On the west side of the range, it looked like Rohan from Lord of the Rings!  Wyoming in the mountains is some beautiful country to travel by bike.  We found a beautiful campsite hidden behind some boulders and watched the sun go down with a delicious IPA and some canned chicken and rice.

The next day was a pretty big mileage day with the destination of Rock River, WY (Pop 245).  Our food stores were running a bit slim and the wind in the plains made the going very slow.  Are you sensing a trend yet?

Luckily along the way we met a Wildlife Biologist who stopped to talk.  He was heading home after several days in the field and hooked us up with bagels, chips, cherries and gatorade.  We gladly accepted and housed several plain bagels.  On the road, food becomes fuel and you get to know what your body needs.  Also you can pretty much eat whatever the hell you want and still lose weight.

The road to Rockwater soon turned into a washboard bump fest with blazing hot sun and you guessed it… wind!  We trudged along and eventually rolled into “town”.  The motel said you need to register at the general store across the street so we went over to inquire.  Honestly a room could have been $300 and we would have taken it, luckily $77 was the price.  We dropped our stuff in the room and hit the only restaurant in town (twice).  There was no hot water so we took cold showers.  We spent $55 at the general store on absolute garbage food (Canned beef stew, combos, snickers, etc.)  The next day the owner shut the water off completely to replace the water heater without telling us.  We had to go next door to use the bathroom and brush our teeth, but they agreed to refund us half the price.

We rode out of Wheatland and followed an access “road” for powerlines.  It was semi-sketchy, running through a lot of ranches, but none of the gates we went through were locked and we never got off the road.  We had a close encounter with a big bull at one point.  The cows in general were not used to people and definitely not bikes.  Instead of running away they would square up and stare us down.  One big ass bull stood up and looked at us menacingly.  We calmly talked to him and backed away and after a tense 30 seconds, he lost interest and wandered off.  After that we were very careful to check for the telltale sign that the male cows were not steers!

The path continued and we saw some thunderstorms forming in the distance.  We kept moving to stay ahead of them and got caught in some serious wind at the top of a ridge.  We kept pressing until the road we planned to take was not there at all.  We jumped a fence only because we had no other choice and basically rode straight through a field until we found another gravel road.  It led to a ranch where we met Kyle who had a strong northern accent.  We asked for directions and he helped us get the bikes over a fence.  He offered us his house to wait out the storm, but we elected to keep moving.

We pressed on toward Laramie and took shelter under a highway underpass waiting for the wind and rain to die down.  Cold beef stew and pedialite was our lunch as we huddled under the bridge like a couple of hobos.  Eventually we got to Laramie and Lyfted from the hotel to a steakhouse/brewery for dinner.