After two days of shorter mileage, albeit some superior climbing, it was time to pick up some miles and head east. As I mentioned before we’ve decided, based on Rory’s recommendation to visit Devil’s Tower. There is a warm shower’s host there named Frank Sanders. His profile states “I own a bed and breakfast at the base of Devils Tower Wyoming, I am a climbing instructor. I have camping and indoor rooms. I have ridden over 1000 miles on my bike and also have done kayak and marathon activities”. Sounds like good digs. I honestly can’t remember who contacted him, but we got the affirmative we could stay Saturday so today, after looking at the map we decided to chug our way to Gillette, WY.
Many times my involvement in our decisions as to where we are going and what that place is like is very minimal. I get involved from time to time and like it would probably be for any group of three people spending so much time together, I stir up the occasional argument. There are only two ways to get from Buffalo to Gillette, either by interstate 90 or route 16. Route 16 is longer by about 27 miles, but riding 90 for 70 miles would just be really boring.
So we headed out and stopped in Clearmont first to get some food and lunch for later. The boys grabbed their standard gas station burritos and I rounded up some canned fruit and a sandwich. Outside, typical of our many stops, Ryan, Erik and I worked out some push-ups. I believe this is the first time Rory got a taste for our upper body development routine. After some banter, Rory got down to show us his best push up impression. I seem to remember him stating he could do 50 after I had told him that I still had not gotten to my quest of 50 unbroken military style push-ups.
Rory’s attempt at a push-up would be like if Ryan told someone he could dunk a basketball and honestly believed he had done so even after coming up 2 feet short of the rim.
We continued on from Clearmont until we arrived at Spotted Horse. This town has a population of two. They even have a sign that documents it. When you get to “Spotted Horse”. There is a house that is also a bar that is also a… I’m not quite sure, but there is nothing else as far as the eye can see so you would have a hard time calling BS on their census claim of 2 people.
I left Spotted Horse ahead of the group feeling good and slightly restless. Along the way I answered the phone, my Dad was calling and unlike most of the time when it’s someone from work and I just ignore it, I take his phone calls. We chatted for a little bit and when I hung up the phone rang again. This time it was a work related call, well at least someone I know through work, none other than the legendary Tim Scharnagle, or as we call him Shark-nagle. I am planning on meeting Tim in Chicago so I picked up.
Things went south quickly when talking to Tim. My left hand was starting to bother me from holding the bike with it while I talked on the phone with my right hand. I’ve had problems with numbness and loss of strength in my left hand for over a month now so I attempted to shift the phone into my left hand and take over steering with my right. This proved more awkward than I would have anticipated so I told Tim “Let me call you…” #THEYCALLMECRASH. I failed to notice that the curb cut off quickly, dropped a foot and leveled back out but only onto loose chip seal. My inability to keep the bike straight resulted in my back tire sliding off the road and before I knew it my phone was flying one way and I was going right over my handle bars.
I got up quickly and waited for the pain to set in but luckily it didn’t. I found my phone, which Tim was still on and told him to hold on while I collected my bags that had fallen off my bike. Tim was definitely confused when I told him I had crashed my bike and that I would call him back. Meanwhile this giant tractor had stopped next to me. An older gentleman leaned over from his seat, seemingly a good 8 feet above me and promptly asked in a slow, smooth voice
I laughed on the inside and responded “No, but I was on the phone trying to tell someone I would call them back”
“Yeah, I’m good”
Upon this the man stayed stopped in his tractor for what felt like a minute. I looked back up at him after getting my panniers back on the bike, I had broken another one so now only my front two are fully functional. He asked me if I was ok again and I told him I was but that if he kept staring at me that my pride was likely to start hurting.
I noticed my left elbow was bleeding pretty well so I got out some swabs to clean it up. About 5 minutes later Erik and Ryan came ridding up, Rory was still a little ways back. I got on my bike and road next to them.
After a few seconds I finally got asked what was up, wondering why I had been stopped on the side of the road.
“I…..might have crashed my bike again”
We all started laughing and as we rode and I recounted the story to them.
I think this is a good it time to reflect on what it’s like to ride alone as I have had a few days now where I’ve spent large chunks of my time riding a head or behind the group. It’s not lonely and as the landscape becomes vaster, with less signs of civilization in my peripheral I find it to be more peaceful, less lonely. The ride today, if done in car, would probably be described by most as in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around. It feels the total opposite to me. Yes the land can be appropriately described as barren, but its natural feel, its landscape barely scarred by human interactions, feels welcoming in a way. I would argue that I’ve felt more isolated in a city of millions, more alone than I do out here. I wonder what it will be like when I return then, for I do miss my family and friends. Hopefully I can find a balance between the two.
The ride to Gillette started to get long and we started to encounter some decent elevation. When we finally got to the outskirts of town we rolled by a giant coal mining operation. Turns out Gillette is the energy capital of the nation and it’s as blue collar as it gets. We watched a bunch of the coal trucks do work, dumping large volumes of stone and carrying coal out of the deep mine.
We tried getting a campground but after investigating a few places it ended up just being cheaper to get a hotel room. So we got settled in the hotel and went out to a bar/ restaurant called Mingles.
This post is getting long but let’s just say Mingles was a blast. We had the rudest waitress who knew nothing about what was on the menu, got Rory’s order wrong and argued with him about it, but ended up being a hoot. I crushed Ryan in Big Buck Hunter, the original, and won the bet where I get to fart in his face. We then went to the Mingles part of the restaurant, where Ryan and Rory got to mingling before we all called it a night.
Miss you Muppet,