Togwotee Pass, WY > Steamboat Springs, CO:
I woke up the next morning to an alarm around 6:45am for the first time in I'm not sure how long. The ride was going to be another pretty long one with the rest of Togwotee pass to cover first thing so I wanted to get going. The lodge had a buffet breakfast and I definitely made the most of it: several pancakes, a lot of bacon, a big slab of egg casserole, yogurt, orange juice and probably something else. I grabbed a biscuit and some sausage links to go for later too, oh, and a cheese danish.
Remember when I said I wanted to get an early start? Well, I took an hour nap after breakfast due to my oncoming food coma. I then packed up the rest of my stuff which involved 3-4 trips from my room to the front porch to bring all my stuff down the stairs. It was about 11a before I started moving and since it was directly uphill without any warm-up miles, it was slow going until I reached the top. The downhill was awesomely steep and fast for several miles, despite the road construction. The following terrain made my late start acceptable as the road really didn't flatten out for a good 70-80 miles. Plus I had a good tailwind for most of that. It was/will be probably the fastest day of the trip. After three hours of riding I had covered almost 60 miles I think. It was awesome!
I wrapped up the half I didn't eat and kept going and wound up in the most spectacular red-rock territory I've ever seen! And since the sun was getting lower in the sky, everything seemed even more colorful than normal. That's somewhat of a misleading sentence because I had never seen red rock cliffs before and I didn't expect to see any on this trip either. It was seriously amazing.
Eventually I made it through the Wind River Basin and Indian Reservation where I stopped at Ft. Washakie (said Ft. Wershiky) to get a snack to go along with my pizza. I wound up getting a day-old cinnamon roll that was about 10" in diameter for $1. Score! It was getting dark by this point and so with lights installed, I made my way out of the Reservation into Lander, where I camped in the nice little city park along with a few other cyclists and a motorcyclists.
I actually did get up "early" the day I left lander. The motorcycle guy was the closest camper to me and the sound of his bike starting up woke up me with a jolt. I ate the rest of my pizza for breakfast and got out of there by 9am. Woot! It didn't take long for the route to start heading up and I found myself walking, biking, walking, biking during the toughest part of the climb. I saw a state trooper trying to hide behind the one tree on the road and saw a nifty Mondrian-themed mailbox. I also saw a road-kill kitten still clinging to a piece of yarn. =((((
Later in the day I was getting lowish on water and stopped at a very fancy rest stop sponsored I think by the state. There was another bicycle sitting outside that rivaled mine in terms of rarity and I wanted to meet the person who was riding it. Eventually a gentleman named Nat came out and we struck up a conversation about what we were doing. He was following a North-South route from Canada to Mexico, loosely along the Continental Divide. Since our routes were overlapping for the next few days, we rolled on together, talking about life, our mutual hatred of Harley Davidson motorcycles, and a host of other things.
Nat told me to motor on ahead because he felt he was slowing me down (false), so we said our goodbyes and took off. The next possible stop was a junction called Muddy Gap. I considered staying there for the night but there was literally nothing there except a run-down gas station, a series of huge snow fences, and a literal gap between two rows of low ridges. There was a little bit of day-light left so I just kept going, hoping that the next listed place to stay was a little more inviting. It was... kind of. About 10 miles farther down the road, there was another junction consisting of a very run-down and very closed cafe and a trailer home property with a teepee. Not seeing anything else in sight, I rolled over to the driveway of the teepee property and then saw the "Bicycle Camping" sign. Relieved, I continued down the dirt driveway to find the owner of the place. She called herself "LB" and gave me the low-down on the place. Two other guys about my age were already there for the night and were finishing up an awesome chicken-veggie dinner provided by our host. Mateo was on his way from Colorado Springs to Washington State before school started and his buddy Matt just wanted to come along. We all "camped" in the teepee that night and woke up way to early to a couple of strangle-worthy roosters.
After getting over the roosters, we all got up and started packing up our stuff. LB was heading into town, whatever that meant, but she had left out a bunch of breakfast stuff, including a package of bacon, a bunch of eggs, and some home-made bread that was still baking in the infrared oven she had. There was also coffee, a gallon of milk and a host of condiments for the bread. Everything was great except that we didn't have a good place for the bacon grease and after eating a few eggs scrambled in a pool of grease, we all felt a little weird. It took me an hour or two for my stomach to settle down.
I passed through the town of Rawlins where I stopped at the City Market for a few hours to let the heat of the day go away. Originally I was going to find a Thai place that I saw a sign for several miles back, but it turned out to be a bit too far out of the way. I was really needing something cold to drink and eat, so I bought a family-size box of Lucky Charms because they were on sale, a half gallon of milk, and a SoBe coconut water drink thing and ate I think 4 bowls of cereal. After tanked up, I went back inside to actually shop for smarter choices and finally continued on my way.
Not too far down the road was the small town of Sinclair. I didn't make the connection until I saw the oil refinery there but it's where Sinclair gasoline is from, you know, the company with the dinosaur for a logo. The refinery was a massive tangle of pipes and tanks. It was impossible to make any sense of it, but was really cool to look if you didn't worry about the smell... the route out of Sinclair put me on a type of road I'd never thought I'd ride on a bike: the interstate! I80 to be exact. I thought it was great actually. Huge shoulder, really loud rumble strips that let me know when cars were wandering (none actually did) and a tailwind that made the vehicle speed discrepancy not quite as dramatic.
I found a really cosy Italian place called Bella's and barely made it before they closed the kitchen. After I stopped for pizza at Payá and rediscovered a cookbook they had there called French Laundry, I've been craving some kitchen time. Bella's only heightened the frenzy in my head and I loved hanging out there, wondering how to make everything on my plate at home, including the pasta. Back to camp after a little wifi action at the restaurant and then bed.
I say almost because I didn't quite get there... more on that later.
Packed up, and rolled out to the nearest place to get some more milk, the local Kum N Go service station. I was pumped to break my fast with more Lucky Charms. I wandered across the street to the local real-estate office because they had a picnic bench outside. It was Sunday, the office was closed and I figured no one would care. They didn't.
The next tiny town was Riverside. The sign said 49 people live in Riverside. Fine. The weird thing is that there's another town less than a mile away called Encampment with a population of nearly 500 people. I don't know why these kinds of towns don't just join forces. Anyway, I stopped at the gas station/convenience store/library in Riverside to get a cold iced-tea and a can of Pringles. While I was munching away, Nat showed up again! I was so pumped to see him! Naturally we sat in the air-conditioned store for a while talking until we were mostly done with our snacks. This time it was likely a final goodbye and I headed off towards the hills and storm clouds.
After playing Tiny Wings on my phone, snacking, and generally just waiting around for a while, I decided to suck it up and roll on. It was mostly done raining, though still very cloudy in all directions, but the combination of clouds, rain and sun made for a collection of some of the best skies I've seen in a while. It wasn't long before the rain started again and once it did, I think the sun hastened its setting process because it got dark pretty quick. And then the rain really showed up. And so did the lightning.
It started raining with the intensity of a hurricane, the kind of rain that makes it impossible to see more than 100yrs and I got instantly soaked. Then I got cold. So I quickly chose to forgo trying to make it the extra few miles to Cowdrey and veered towards the only building in sight. It turned out to be a log cabin that belonged to a man named Don. He cautiously opened the door to see who I was and what I wanted and after I explained myself, he offered me a towel and a chair in his living room. After spending a little while in his house, I asked if I could pitch my tent on the porch or in the yard and his response was more than welcoming. I was allowed to stay the night in the guest room, take a shower and do laundry. He even offered me a sandwich for dinner and had a boot drier that I used to dry out my shoes! What a God-send! There was no way I could repay this guy and after showering and drying out, I fell into a great sleep.
Since Don is a logger by trade, he gets up early and goes to work early. Around 6:30, he woke me up and said he had coffee brewing. I quickly packed up the rest of my gear, ate the rest of my Lucky Charms while sipping on coffee and woke up slowly with the sun. Don had packed a few last-minute treats for me too. Don's son and another co-worker showed up around 7:15 and after meeting those two, the three of them loaded into the truck and headed off into the forest. I snapped a few pics and headed out on my merry way, happy that my laptop wasn't fried from the rain. People are generally good. It's comforting to know that.
I got to Cowdrey shortly after I started moving and was instantly very happy that I knocked on my new friend's door. I wasn't sure where I would have stayed in that down, especially getting there at the time I did. Up next was a larger town called Walden. They had a neat park that allows camping and I easily would have stayed there if I could have made it the night prior. It was here that my desired route split from the Adventure Cycling maps and I jumped on to Hwy 14 then to County Road 24. This stretch was awesome, minus the dive-bombing falcons. I guess they don't see many cyclists along that road and didn't like me getting as close as I did to their nests? After about 10 miles of riding down a paved CR24, it turned to dirt. It was the nicest, smoothest dirt road I've ever seen though, and it didn't really slow me down at all.
Eventually I entered Routt National Forest and started climbing. And climb I did for a long time. I'd say it was the steepest climb of the route so far but I was feeling really good and was determined not to walk any of it. I texted Corey at Moots, my contact in Steamboat, and told him where I was. He told me the top might get epic. I didn't know what that meant but it was only a matter of time before I found out.
The hill started flattening out the closer I got into town and by the time I did arrive in town, it was only a matter of minutes before I fell in love with it. Steamboat is like a slightly bigger downtown Franklin, TN but much more picturesque in all directions. I found my way along the bike path to the other side of town (which is only a few miles long) where Moots is. As an aside, Moots is the company that made my bike and they have an apartment above their factory where guests can stay. So, I rolled up and went up the stairs to find Corey. I knew it must be a cool place the second I saw a bunch of dog hair on the stairs. I got upstairs to learn that Corey was in a meeting, but he came out and found me when he learned that I was there. My bike and I were home!