A mad push through the desert

Trip Start Jul 15, 2009
Trip End Jul 15, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Friday, September 18, 2009

The burning man experience is a whole other story, I'll write about it soon. I think I’m still trying to figure out the true meaning of what it stands for. Right now, I’m still getting the desert playa dust out of my ears etc.. . It goes in you, and out of you, and sticks to everything!

Matty and I were back in Rexburg, it was almost a pleasure to see the beacon of God upon the hilltop, (the Temple). Not because we needed saving by the Mormonites, just because we could climb into our hotel beds and sleep some after the 18 hour bus ride from Reno. Reno is a try-hard Vegas and defo not worth the visit unless your passing through and have to rest. The flakiness oozes from every corner. The locals did seem to have a good kick arse attitude, a kind of fuck yeah type stance. Amusing for me, I like that rawness if it’s in the right hands coming with good nature.

We checked out late the following day. It was great to be back on the bike but I’d picked up a  hefty chest infection from my week at burning man. It made riding tough, but it was manageable.  The road was smooth, gentle elevation leading to out toward the mighty Tetons Range in Wyoming.  I much prefer this kind of beacon. The mountain range ripped up out of the earth’s crust millions of years ago, making a knuckle formation. What didn’t go up went down and the total moment from top to bottom of the fault was about 50,000ft.The grand Tetons are 13,775 feet high and no matter where you are on the road you can see it.

We ran out of day light and had to pick a road side camp before it was too dark. Passing a row of large trees and bushes about ten meters thick we popped into them to check them out. It had a 3 meter channel running through the middle which was perfect for a roadside camp. Didn’t even notice the massive trucks rolling by overnight.  In the morning we cooked up a pot of porridge throwing in dried fruit and nut, which we hadn’t had for a week. It was delish and after we hit the road. Idaho wasn’t too bad I though as we crossed the border into Wyoming. We stopped for lunch at a large lodge which had a huge picnic table area. Matty had to use the net to arrange a short trip to sanfran. He was going for 5 days, leaving the trail when we got to the town Rawlins. Luckily that lodge had no router protection like most country lodges and we were free to use their net. I wanted to give myself a trim with the hair clippers and so I went to work with matty’s set. I was having problems; the clippers didn’t seem to cut well at a distance.  So I lowered the number to 5. That worked a little better until, shit! The head fell off and I cut a good diagonal, skin flush, groove over the top of my forehead. Nice work! So now I look like a monk on a mission when riding. Lucky I can laugh at myself. That made for cool runnings up over the pass that afternoon but still my lungs were burning from the infection. Mouthfuls of aluminous green gunk were coming up. 

Our highest yet at 8429ft with a sweet of downhill on the other side. It was the old road left after the new highway was laid. On the way down a saw a few bikers, a guy on ski’s with wheels, and a few power walkers with dogs. What lay at the bottom was Jackson Hole. A ski town, summer town and expensive town. Mini aspen, not commercial but full of loaded people and a small community of working class. This town has a great feel to it, loads of funky café’s and art galleries. Shops still look old and authentic from the time of horse and cart. The locals look as much like tourists as the tourist, laidback. The camp site was 35d a night and matty and I said F that. We’ll cycle down the road and wild camp. Whilst hunting a camp site and almost setting up in trees by a golf course a girl stopped to ask if we were lost.  We chatted and Molly said to camp on her Lawn. Her friend had just come back from Burning man, and she lived down a real nice cycle path in the next town, Wilson. Wilson was like the cooler little brother of Jackson. The place was more chilled and quaint from the Jackson pop. 8647. We had dinner in molly’s rented chalet styled house then camped on the nice flat lawn. After showers the following day we headed up along the Jackson spur, a road that run’s along the bottom of the Tetons. It was awe-inspiring, and the camera stayed close by. There were moose along the way, some lovely lakes and this was one of the nicest stretches of road we have had. At the top of the spur we camped on Jackson Lake, and watched the sun disappear behind the Tetons. It was beautiful.

Thank god Jackson was as good as what was coming up the following day was very different. It started off a gentle ride in Teton/ Yellowstone countryside, then up a gravel road to our highest pass to date.  Togwotee pass was a massive 9658ft high and what followed that was union pass at roughly 100ft higher. Two passes in one day and roughly 75 mile on the clock. The pace was picking up as matty wanted to be in Rawlins by Wednesday and it was Saturday evening with 400 miles to go. It was getting dark and we were in the middle of mountain forest and Shingle Mountain sides. This was perfect bear country I thought as we gathered wood for fire, collected water from the creek and set up our tents in the dark, it was the one night I insisted matty put his tent right next to mine, with the bear spray close at hand for both.  Our food was tied up a long way away from us so we had taken every precaution possible. I slept relatively well that night and heard nothing. Matty heard a few animals rummaging around in the bush but no bears. It was probably the coldest night we have had; my thermometer broke so at a guess it was around 2-3 degrees when we went to sleep and definitely under 0 over night. We were camping at 9200ft high which contributed. Our tents were iced over and under the fly in the morning but we didn’t have time to fully dry them, so packed them damp. Not the first time, not the last, and they dry in about 30 mins so not a major bother...

We were on the road early, mp3’s plugged in and grooving along up onto the top of union pass.  This wasn’t like our normal pass, where we go up and down. This pass just went up and stayed there. We rode 45 miles along this pass at over 9000ft. It was tough going. Wind, slight rain, thin air and loads of deer running around. Hunters were about in there camouflage gears, 4wheeler motorbikes with bows and arrows. Yep, that’s right it was only Bow hunting season. Rifle was a week away. The whole hunting thing is quite complex. You have different licenses for different animals, released at different stages of the two hunting months.  All this can differ state by state, park by park and everything is calculated and accounted for. EG. One hunter can buy an Elk license for his closest state park. This may cost him around 80 dollars and entitle him to one kill. A non-resident may pay upward of 200d. Once you have shot you elk that’s your lot which is why they put so much prep time into a kill. They bush bash for a month prior to suss out their spots, set up their tree lofts and plan their flanking push if working in threes or fours.  Montana and maybe other states will sometimes release extra licenses if the auditing returned higher or growing numbers of a particular animal. To be honest, I have a new appreciation into hunting.  It’s tightly controlled, keeps numbers level and there is shit all else to do for the people that live out here. I’m not cool with Bow season though. A bad shot makes for a slow death and a long chase.  As were in a relatively populated hunting ground, matty and I put on our orange. I had bought a vest and matty a cap. You can see us coming from a mile away, so hopefully we won’t get a titanium arrow head through our arses.

Finally we dropped out or the cold down the pass, but only 1000ft. We needed water so stopped at a little country dinner pub.  We filled up from the bar and chatted to the locals for a while. This is unavoidable even if you didn’t want to talk to them as they will always strike it up. There were about seven tidily locals downing beers. One couple had just come off an Alaskan cruise ship. They said that the boat was full of Aussies, kiwis, and Japanese.  They had decide to stay at their union pass holiday house before returning to the main home 20 miles down the road in Pinedale. I don’t think I really understood the why it was so close but they like to get away from all the people in Pinedale. Population 2000 or something like that. HA.  We were cycling along, destination Pinedale camp ground when a car pulled up alongside us. It was the couple and they invited us to stay at their place in Pinedale. We said we would love to pitch our tents on their lawn. They said they would find us when we got to town and drove off. We had cycled another huge day of 75miles, into head winds, and we were very thankful of the invite.

We hit town and they drove up and directed us to their place. They had been waiting in the pub playing pool looking out the window for us. How cool is that! And how amazing, as they were quite pissed. We followed them up there street and Joe said we could put our bikes in the garage. He offered beer and I went to help get them as they were in the shed. In the shed, past the awesome fishing/jet boat, through the locked rear door, into the gun room, to the fridge. His beer was as important as his guns. I like a man with his priorities right. This guy’s gun room was huge; he had about 12 cupboards full of home pressed bullets from the press machine on the bench. He laughed and took the piss out of my accent when I said bullets. So I said Cartridges like he did and he laughed harder.

The coupe were so nice, they repeated over and over how nice it was to meet new friends. Their kids were just a little older than us and I guess that’s why they enjoyed our company. Annie made us an awesome dinner of lamb, or maybe pronghorn, beans, salad before peach schnapps and hunting talk amongst other things.  Annie said to sleep in the lounge but we opted for the garage, me half under the boat. Bacon, eggs, coffee, toast and homemade cherry jam for breaky, SO good!!! We said our goodbyes then hit the trail again only stopping to get some food and stove gas. We spoke about how nice they were as we cycled out of town into another huge day’s ridding.

We were still at 8000ft and it was now apparent that Wyoming is mostly high altitude desert. 230 miles there was only two water stop. It was a surreal place to be. Nothing higher than us, except for the lightning storms lingering and circling around the plateau.  There were no trees, just dry sagebrush, and sand as far as the eye could see and we zig zagged over the continental divide all day. We came close to one of the storms and stopped to admire its sheets of rain curving out the bottom of the black clouds. Thank fuck that’s not coming our way, I said to matty, and we rode on. A few miles down the road matty was ahead and had stopped to put his jacket on. I stopped turned my head and the huge cloud had turned was about to release it’s load on us. It did, lightning was going off and we had to decide whether to tent up or push through. Matty, man on a mission wanted to push through so we did, We came out of it only a few minutes later, wet and cold but happy to be away from the lightning and ice rain. We were basically the highest thing around, so lightning wise ,I crouched when riding next to matty. J We trudged on to get to a informal campground, riding the last 6miles in the dark. Set up, ate, then slept and woke to the same conditions. Down the road was another old historic town, South Pass City. This was better than Bannack du to how well it was run. All the houses had original furniture in them and boards with the history written. You really feel what life was like in these old gold towns. They had two bars, gambling rooms the mill, hotel, bachelors houses, black smith, paper press, it was very cool. Further down the road was Alantic city. Not a city at all just a few buildings. Two bars and a café. We had burgers, and spoke to three guys out on there motor bikes for a few weeks. They were just picking roads on the map and gunning them. Their friend went home the day before with a broken collarbone.  Over the next 85 miles into it was getting dark and another storm was about to release its load on us again. I’d had enough for the day and said my goodbyes to matty, wishing him the best in sanfran.  He had to cover more ground to make it to Rawlins mid afternoon the next day. I popped up my tent just before a wave of rain came over, it stopped I cooked and watched the most magnificent vibrant rainbow form in front of me. It was another surreal moment. I jumped back into my tent as the rain started again, wondered if matty was getting soaked, then got out my minibook laptop and watched the God Father as the lightning flashed and thunder rolled in the distance, and occasionally over the top of me.

It was a little hard to sleep that night. There were packs of coyotes all around the desert. They howl, bark, and laugh, as they hunt out food. I was waiting for a band of the cheeky buggers to come sniffing around the tent. I heard them plenty of times through the night, waking me every once and a while. I know they were just a hundred meters from me from the foot prints in the morning. Coyotes hardly ever attack humans so that’s a relief.

The morning light gave way to a clear day, the wind had picked up and I knew it was going to be a hard tough day. I saw mattys tracks after a few miles and noticed two other tracks as well. I thought it would be the Duchies we had met in Canada. After 60miles I came down off the plateau another 1000ft. Now sitting at 7000ft and the weather was boiling. It had been a hard ride with a strong head wind. Three days of head wind now and four of the longest days ridden. I was beat! Right then, my tire went flat.  It had a tear through the road wall. The bead was sticking out and must of torn on the downhill. The rocks were vicious. After patching and pumping it up it had a bulge which jolted the bike every time it hit the road. I coasted into Rawlins Town to the campsite. A nice campground and probably nicer than the hotels which looked run down or deserted. Rawlins is not a holiday town but an oil and tradesman town.  Like a sugary donut, rough around the edges with nothing in the middle. Na, it’s not too bad. Great bakery and ice-cream store. The campsite was 7.50d with internet, showers, free coffee and hot choc, and a lounge with TV.  When I arrived there were a cycling couple camped up. I thought it was the Dutchies but when they came back from town it was two different people. Matt and Nancy were an aus, American couple. They knew the dutchies and we figured out they must be coming shortly. The following morning they arrived, opted for a nice hotel over the road, but we all made plans to have a picnic dinner that night. It was a good night of food beers and laughs. 

I managed to buy some good tires online and have them sent to a bike shop further down the line, Steamboat Springs, and pick up a second hand pair from a local bike shop from 6bucks. They should get me there I hope. Its three days away with no services. The good thing is I’ll be out of the desert and back in the lush mountains of Colorado.
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