Today is our second rest day! We pushed through the Great Basin in two days, and road 80 miles from Wamsutter, Wyoming to Slater, Colorado, keeping our eyes on the prize of the wonderful cyclist oasis that is the Brush Mountain Lodge.
But before that, we had chaos. We rode from Elkhorn into the paved, RV- and roadkill-splattered wasteland of Idaho. We were taken off track by mechanicals and the very real threat of fire. We created new routes and with trepidation on how things would work out, what awaited us in this true unknown of our new decided course, we came together despite our different needs and fears, our different wants and ways of working through problems.
We rode through towns that barely existed, through towns like Driggs and Victor, Idaho where people loved life and loved our adventure, and gave us helpful advice and needed pep talks. Gary, for example, at Fitzgerald Cycles, took out all his best maps and confirmed our new route with a glint in his eye, assuring us he takes the same considerations when making his own paths in the dry forest. We camped, bathed in a river, felt ready for this new alternate challenge of trusting ourselves.
Then we reached Alpine, Wyoming. We grabbed snacks and triple checked maps. I got a text from my coach, John Verhuel, and then another from Evan. 191 is cleared for traffic, our route had reopened. A fire fighter walked by at that moment and triple-confirmed, and stopped to answer my questions about smoke. We decided to ride back up to the junction of 80 and 192 and hitchhike to a Warm Showers host in Pinedale. Warm Showers, by the way (I can’t do links on my phone so Google it), is a community of people who host long-distance bicyclists. Our hosts, Sam and Jay, were incredible. But to get there, we rode almost 70 miles and then hitched the rest of the way, taking rides from a dog sledder and a sanitary products salesperson. Kevin, the latter, was such a nice guy and provided sanitation products to the folks working to control the wildfires taking over that region of Wyoming. We saw their camp and also saw the massive fire scars along the route, the fire still burning in the distance, and the smoke we avoided by taking a ride in his truck.
After leaving Sam and Jay’so place, we made our way towards the Great Basin. We rode along the ridge overlooking both sides of the Divide, views that stretched for 30 miles with no other human in sight, and millions of years of earth continuing to slowly evolve with no schedule or plan. Once in the Great Basin, it was two days of sun and no shade, of no water sources and very few people- in fact, we saw four people the whole time, all men, two of whom were creeps who were hiking the Divide and almost immediately started sexually harassing us, the other two being benign BLM workers who gave us water. But what it lacked in human interaction and water it made up for in natural wonder. We saw so many pronghorn (if you don’t know, the pronghorn is a species unto itself, unrelated to deer or elk or antelope, or any other animal on the planet for that matter, and it was a true gift to be able to share so much space with them, without fear of us, watching and running alongside us at close distance), a massive herd of wild horses, eagles and a giant eagle’s nest on top of a 50s-style refrigerator, and the tracks of coyote, elk, and mule deer.
Our path through the Basin was based on the official race route, not the maps, and took us through epic rockscape single-track before finally bringing us to the bumpy gravel road that led us first into Wamsutter (where we camped in the sprinkler-armed lawn of the public library) and eventually into Colorado.
And now we are here, loaded with the many gifts our family and friends sent us, as well as the rewards our past selves thought we would appreciate in the future now. Kirsten, who runs the Lodge, fed me homemade pizza, beer, and lots and lots of water. I took a shower and stayed up past dark talking with her and her friend Bill, a fifth generation cowboy in the area. The ranchers and cattle throughout this trip have made me think hard about the food choices I make in life, and it is something I will continue to ponder for a long time, I think, through supermarkets and dietary health needs.
This morning was a big breakfast of blueberry pancakes, fried eggs, and vegetarian sausage. A soak in the hot tub with coffee and my book (Desert Solitaire, again). Using some of yhe manu ointments, lotions, and salves on our saddle sores, sunbaked skin, and exhausted muscles. Stretching with friends, and mapping out the course for our future.
We are ahead of schedule despite our detour, so what now?