american journeys   

Gary and Peter Ride Across America In 2004
 June 12 - August 21, 2004

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Day 33 (Friday, July 23, 2004):  As has become our custom, we were at breakfast before 6:30 AM, and we were on the road at 7:20 AM. It was raining as we rode out of the Cottonwood Motel in Phillipsburg, KS, and we were suited up in our yellow rain jackets. As had happened the day before, the soft rain quit about 15 minutes after we started to ride, and we had to stop to put the rain jackets in our packs. However, the sky was dark and threatened rain all day, and the threat was carried out with a heavy rain shower just before our breakfast stop at 10:45 AM in Norton, KS, that caused us to enter the café wet and dripping water on the floor. The second heavy rain shower occurred starting about 8 miles outside of Oberlin, KS, which was our destination for the day. This last rainstorm thoroughly soaked us, and we checked into the Landmark Inn (a Victorian B&B in an old restored bank building in downtown Oberlin) dripping water and more than ready for a warm shower.

Along the road this day was some "country art" that made good use of large rolls of hay. The three pieces of sculpture that were spotted represented the major characters in "The Land Of Oz", a fanciful cricket with human rider, and a large truck with an oversized load. Pictures of these creations are posted in the picture gallery for everyone to enjoy. I learned something about Kansas mud when I was photographing this country art: When I stepped off the roadway onto the wet (remember, it had been raining) bare soil that was the shoulder of the road, my bicycle wheel picked up an enormous amount of mud and so did the soles of my shoes. Most of this mud did fall off before the end of the day thanks to the rain that we rode in during the day, but it was a mess to be dealt with for the next few miles of riding.

About 15 miles from Oberlin, we met three touring cyclists coming towards us. These were the first touring cyclists that we had encountered on this trip, so I crossed the road to talk with them. The group was composed of three college students (one man and two women) on a summer vacation tour. They had started in Seattle, WA, traveled down the Pacific Coast to mid Oregon, crossed the middle of Oregon through Bend, down to the Rocky Mountain National Park, now traveling east to meet up with the Lewes & Clark Trail which they would follow as far as possible as they travel back to Washington State University in Spokane, WA. This is what I call a real vacation.  Our mileage for the day was 64 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip up to 1,948 miles.

Day 34 (Saturday, July 24, 2004):  We stayed the night at the Landmark Inn (a B&B) in Oberlin, KS. This Inn was created by the restoration of a Bank Building built in the late 1800's, and it was restored and furnished as a Victorian hotel: Stay here if you ever have an opportunity to do so.

Breakfast was not served until 7:30 AM so we did not get onto the road until 8:10 AM. The streets were wet with the rain that had fallen during the night, and the dark sky threatened more rain. As we wheeled onto US Rt. 83N, we were met by a strong headwind directly in our face. To compound the problem, the temperature was only about 50 degrees F, and the forecast was for a high of only 59 degrees F (this is 30 degrees below normal). Of course, our way for the day was to be through the usual Kansas (and soon to be Nebraska) rolling countryside with its long uphill climbs and seemingly short downhill runs which with the strong headwind required pedaling downhill to keep up our usual road speed of 10 to 12 MPH, and struggling to get up the hills at any speed.

We arrived in McCook, NE, at 11:00 AM, and had to make an important decision: Do we go on the 60 miles to North Platte, NE, or do we stay the night in McCook to rest up and hope for a favorable change in the weather (Note: It is interesting that weather comes in day long increments. This is very apparent when you are doing a long tour by bicycle). It was one or the other since there was no place to stay between these two towns. We decided to stay in McCook which gave us time to shop for Peter's special groceries, repack our sag wagon, and do maintenance on our bicycles: All of which were important. Our mileage for the day was 28miles giving us a total mileage for the trip to date of 1,976 miles.

It is noteworthy that Gary was interviewed by a reporter for the McCook (NE) Gazette. Someone had called this reporter telling her that there was a strange bicycle on the road coming into town, and that she should go out and find out what it was. This reporter was a bicycle rider who had just completed a triathlon, so we had a great conversation. Her story should be on the internet  at after July 26.

Tomorrow we have a difficult 60 mile day going from McCook to North Platte with many long hills. We will do fine if we do not have to face headwinds so we are hoping for the wind to shift to the south (unlikely) or to die down. You will learn what happens in tomorrow's comments.

Day 35 (Sunday, July 25, 2004):  Our overnight was at the Best Western Motel in McCook, NE. On checking in we learned that the town's water supply had a high level of nitrates (contamination from the cattle feed yards and fertilizers applied to the corn and other agricultural crops), and we were advised to drink only bottled water. Farmers resist the changes needed in their practices to reduce the nitrate levels in the ground water, and ultimately the consumers of the food products involved will have to go up. However, the changes must be made for the sake of the health of the community.

We rode out of our motel at 7:30 AM. The sky was dark and threatening rain, and the temperature was cool (near 50 degrees F). The good news was that there was no wind. The bad news was that our route was north on US Hwy. 83, and this route is very hilly. Also, there were no services (I.e. restaurants, motels etc.) until we reached our day's destination in North Platte, NE, which was 65 miles away. Peter had a particularly difficult time because he had contracted a slight case of diarrhea and he had not slept well the night before. Irene and our sag wagon saved us with lunch supplies that we enjoyed at a small park in Wellfleet, NE (population 76), that had a table with benches and a port-a-potty. While we were eating, we were visited by the park's neighbors and the town's Mayor Paul who wanted to know all about our bicycles. The friendly conversation that ensued made for a very pleasant lunchtime stop.

Our destination this day was North Platte, NE. The final 10 miles of this day's ride brought us into the most urban environment that we have been in since we left Topeka, KS, 5 days earlier. This meant riding over Interstate Hwy. 80, riding through a ˝ mile of road construction where all traffic was forced into 2 lanes with no shoulders, and into the town center through a series of traffic lights to our Best Western Motel at the corner of US Route 83 and 30. We arrived at our motel at 2:30 PM. Our mileage for the day was 65 miles brining our total miles for the trip to date to 2,041 miles.

A note about wildflowers: Wildflowers are not as abundant in Nebraska as they were in Kansas, but they were very interesting. The most abundant wildflower on our route was the Kansas sunflower which we tried to ignore. More interesting were the beds of prairie coneflowers that lined the road just beyond the reach of the mowers that ply our American highways. There was also a purple flower that was beautiful, but whose name is unknown to us: Can anyone supply the name of this flower?

We had only been at our motel for 15 minutes when Irene's cell phone rang. It was Tammy Haley checking up on our progress. We had a long conversation, and I can say that having a friend like Tammy is pure gold.

Finally, I want to thank the people who made my bike whole and roadworthy again in Baldwin City, KS. I am speaking of Diane Blake of Victory Bicycles, Jim and Jimmy Spillane of Whitney Bicycles, and Ray Rittenhouse - the Indiana Tiring Man. My 54" Whitney/Victory ordinary bicycle is going strong and I do believe that it will take me to the end of our ride across America.

Day 36 (Monday, July 26, 2004):  We stayed the night at the Best Western Motel on the corner of US Route 83 and 30 in North Platte, NE. After a very continental breakfast at the motel, we wheeled out onto US Rt. 30 heading west at 7:45 AM (CST). It was sunny and cool promising to be a great day for riding. However, once out of town we encountered a slight wind from the south which was not a problem until about two hours later when the wind picked up speed and shifted to a southwest direction that vectored to a headwind that was strong at times. On top of this, the road to Ogallala, NE (our destination for the day), was a constant gradual uphill pull which added to the headwind, and tired us out early in the day's ride.

About 10 miles into the day's ride, Peter mentioned that it looked like we had not traveled very far. The road was almost straight, the upward pitch of the road was very gradual and uniform, the wooded area along the South Platte River was on our left, and fields of corn and alfalfa were on our right; and this scene went on for 20 miles or more. The birds interested me in that they were of the type that seemed to nest on the ground instead of in trees as is more common in the East: I recognized several grouse, and possibly some quail, but most of the birds were strange to me.

US Rt. 30 is a very special transportation corridor. It is the route of the first transcontinental highway that was called the Lincoln Highway, and it has always been a major route for transcontinental railways. And, in this area US Hwy. 30 also follows closely the route of the pioneer's Oregon Trail and the Mormon trail. The reason for this concentration of transportation routes is the relatively low (easy) pass through the Rocky Mountains that lies directly west of us: At least this is our understanding. We will let you know our opinion of the easiness of this route through the Rocky Mountains after we have made the passage on our ordinary bicycles.

I called Paul Brekus, and Jeff Nye and Nancy Dobbs, tonight, and they will try to get time off to ride with us on Thursday (July 29) when we will be riding the 60 miles from Kimbel, NE, into Cheyenne, WY. We do hope that they can join us for as long as their time allows because it does make our ride all that more special.

Our riding day ended at 1:00 PM (MST) when we rode into Ogallala, NE. Our mileage for the day was 50 miles bringing our total mileage to date up to 2,091 miles.

Having ended the day early, I went to the Ogallala Library to use their computer to send my comments and pictures to Karen Turner , the Master of The Wheelmen Web-Site, for posting to our "Ride across America" web-page. The staff at the library were most helpful, and I am hopeful that the material needed to update our web-page is now in the capable hands of Karen without whose help our website would be a shadow of what it is. (Note: Normally, I am using AOL email to send updates for our web-page to Karen. However, this requires that AOL have a local phone number to connect to in the towns that we overnight in so that I will not incur long distance phone charges. For the past week, we have been riding through countryside in which AOL has no phone connections making it impossible to get the information to Karen by this means. If today's use of the town's library computers was successful, I will be able to keep our web-page more up-to-date in the future.)

Day 37 (Tuesday, July 27, 2004):  We rode out of the Grey Goose Lodge in Ogallala, NE, at 7:40 AM to begin our day's ride. After crossing the train tracks (a defining feature of most towns on US Rt.30 in this part of the country) on a high bridge, we turned left onto US Rt. 30 to begin our day's journey. The day was sunny and cool with a light wind blowing from the S to the SSW. We climbed all day long; gradually most of the time, but steadily.

As mentioned in earlier comments, in this area US Rt. 30 closely follows several pioneer trails including the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the route of the Pony Express. We observed several historical markers that explain parts of this rich history, and we took a few pictures to remind us of what we were riding through. Another feature of US Rt. 30 is the dereliction of many of the small towns that prospered when this route reigned as a major transcontinental highway named the Lincoln Highway. The towns are still there with water towers to announce their presence to approaching travelers, but much of their formerly thriving roadside businesses are evidenced only by abandoned buildings that are falling into ruin. The main cause of decline in these small towns was the coming of Interstate 80 that closely parallels US Rt. 30, and that takes most of the traffic nowadays. The plus is that these small towns are quieter with little traffic, but the downside is that most of the business generated by the traffic has gone to new establishments that have sprung up alongside the Interstate highway.

We saw three young male deer today (they all had a single fork of horns) feeding alongside the corn next to the road. The first one jumped up when we came along and ran across the road into the thicket on the other side of the road. The second pair of young bucks ran a short way along the edge of the corn when when they say us, and then they stopped, stood still, and watched us as we wheeled past. It is likely that Thomas Stevens would have fired a few shots from his pistol at these animals, but we felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to see these beautiful animals in the wild.

It is summer, and time for road construction. This day's ride took us over about 20 miles of roadway that is under construction/improvement. The new roadbed was exceptionally smooth, but there was no sign of shoulders being constructed. When we inquired about the absence of shoulders on the newly reconstructed US Rt. 30, we were told that shoulders were not being added to this road because most of the heavy traffic was now being carried by Interstate 80 eliminating the need for shoulders on this road. It is true that we had no problems with traffic as we rode westward on US Rt. 30 using the right side of the right lane to ride in.

As usual, many people approached us during the day to ask about our bicycles, and we were happy to take the time to talk with these people. There is no doubt in my mind that Wheelmen do a significant amount of educational work for the benefit of the public when we are out with our bicycles.

We arrived in Sidney, NE, at 3:00 PM having ridden 66 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 2,157 miles.

Day 38 (Wednesday, July 28, 2004):   We stayed at the "Sleep for Le$$" motel on the east side of Sidney, NE, and we rode out of this comfortable place onto the old Lincoln Highway at 7:50 AM. Riding through town early in the morning was pleasant and easy, but once outside of the protecting buildings of the town, we were attacked by a strong wind from the north that vectored into a forceful headwind from our right side.

We stopped to rest about 12 miles out of town at a historical marker that told about a large US Army Depot that had existed in the area during WWII. A reporter from the "Sidney News" drove up and we had a very pleasant half hour interview with picture taking. This reporter asked more than the usual number of technical questions about our bicycles so we are very interested to find out what will appear in print (we were promised copies of the relevant newspaper).

After three hours we had traveled only 20 miles. We stopped in Potter, NE, at this time for lunch, and we were engaged by virtually the whole town with friendly questions about our trip and our bicycles: A picture of Peter and Gary with a group of about a dozen children illustrates the happy situation. This town of about 100 residents was built in the early 20th century as a base for maintenance of the railroad. When Thomas Stevens passed through this place in 1884 there was probably only a railroad maintenance shack with one, or at least only a few, persons stationed there. However, it was the railroad with its maintenance shacks at regular intervals that Thomas Stevens used to sustain himself on his historic ride across America.

After this long lunch (about 12:00 AM), we hit the road again only to face the same strong headwind on or steady climb up to Kimball, NE, our destination for the day. Peter was riding rather slowly at this point so Gary went ahead in order to get to the library in Kimball in time to use the Kimball Library computers. Gary finished the day's ride at 2:00 Pm and Peter came in at 2:20 PM (he must have speeded up after Gary went ahead). Our mileage for the day was 38 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 2,195 miles.

Day 39 (Thursday, July 29, 2004): 
Wheelmen Paul and Barbara Brekus (from Denver, CO) arrived at the Day's Inn Motel in Kimball, NE (the motel that we were staying in), at 11:00 PM the night before so that they could join us for this day's ride. We were all up in time to partake of the breakfast that was promised by the motel at 7:00 AM. This breakfast proved to be cellophane wrapped bakery goods and coffee made a pot at a time for about 20 waiting motel guests. We were all in a good mood, and the disappointment about the scanty breakfast offered did not dampen our spirits.

Peter, Gary and Paul wheeled out of the motel at 7:50 AM onto US Rt. 30 heading for Cheyenne, WY, riding their ordinary bicycles. About 4 miles down the road we met Wheelman Jeff Nye (from Ft. Collins, CO) on his Eagle high wheel bicycle. Jeff had driven up early in the morning in order join us for the 20 mile ride to the Wyoming border. Barbara rode in the sag wagon with Irene, and these Wheel-ladies enjoyed themselves visiting and ministering to the riders at sag stops that averaged about 5 miles apart.

When we got to Pine Bluff, WY, on the border between Nebraska and Wyoming, we stopped for a real breakfast, and Jeff said his goodbyes as he turned to ride back to his car. Peter, Gary, and Paul mounted their ordinaries and rode onto I-80W continuing on toward Cheyenne. (Note: Bicycles are allowed on the Interstate highways in Wyoming because there are no alternative roads in most cases.) Riding on the Interstate Highway provides some interesting experiences. First, there is the heavy traffic with a high percentage of large trucks whizzing past at 70+ MPH. The shoulder was usually about 5 feet wide which gives the bicycles plenty of room, but these shoulders have grooved rumble strips every few feet that tended to shake our bicycles to pieces. Luckily, the design of the rumble strips changed after about 20 miles to a line of grooves in the pavement that runs parallel to the roadbed, but which leave about 3 feet of flat surface outside of the row of grooves for bicycles to run on.

The road climbed gradually all day, and the wind came from the S-SW which vectored into a headwind that varied from mild to strong during the day. Whenever we came to the top of a butte we could see for miles in every direction, and there was nothing to see but grassy plains that sloped gradually upward from east to west. This vastness had a special beauty of it's own, and I thought about Thomas Stevens riding his ordinary bicycle over these grassy plains when the only roads were wagon trails.

As we approached Cheyenne, US Rt. 30 separates from I-80, and we rode on US Rt. 30 through the center of the town of Cheyenne to get to our Best Western Motel on the west side of the city. Cheyenne was having it's Frontier Days Festival so we had to pay a hefty premium for our motel room and be thankful that we had a room at all. Our mileage for the day was 63 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 2,258 miles.

While Irene and Barbara were out retrieving the Brekus car, Paul solved some of Gary's computer problems, and he provided Gary with some software needed for the Wheelmen Meet in 2005: This was a very productive interlude in a busy day. Paul and Barbara stayed in Cheyenne long enough to have dinner with us making for a fulfilling ending to a great day of camaraderie and ordinary bicycle touring.

Day 40 (Friday, July 30, 2004): 
Gary and Peter rode out of the Best Western Motel in Cheyenne, WY, at 7:50 AM after stopping briefly to take a picture of the giant decorated cowboy boot in front of our motel (these were all over town for the Frontier Days Festival). We followed US Rt. 30 out of town and onto I-80W for another fun day of riding on the shoulders of the Interstate highway. This day was memorable because we climbed steadily for the first 30 miles of the day's ride from an elevation of 5,000 feet to the top of the pass on the route to Laramie, WY, with an elevation of 8,640 feet. This pass was the highest point on the old Lincoln Highway: The Lincoln Highway was established in 1912, and it was the first transcontinental highway in the USA. To make the climb just a little more difficult, we faced headwinds that increased in intensity as the day went on. At the top of the pass, there is a visitor center with a large statue of Abraham Lincoln, and a story board that tells the story of the old Lincoln Highway. Our long climb was rewarded by a steep descent (5 miles of a 5% downhill grade) into Laramie. We arrived at our Comfort Inn Motel in Laramie (our destination for the day) at 3:00 PM. Our mileage for the day was 44 miles bringing our total miles for the trip to date up to 2,302 miles.

Day 41 (Saturday, July 31, 2004): 
We rode out of the Comfort Inn in Laramie, WY, at 7:50 AM to begin our ride for the day. We followed US Rt. 30 through the historic downtown and out into the countryside heading west. The first 18 miles were wonderful: The road was nearly flat, there was no wind, and the countryside was awesome because of it's expanse (grasslands as far as the eye could see with almost no human buildings of any kind.

Our road followed the route of the Union Pacific Railroad which is the route that Thomas Stevens followed when he rode across America in 1884. At one point Gary laid his bicycle on the side of the road and walked the 200 yards across pasture land to the railroad to take pictures of the railroad and the path alongside the railroad that Thomas Stevens may have rode over 120 years ago. Fortunately, a train came along during the picture taking episode which provided an opportunity to get a very special picture. One or more of these pictures will be found in the picture gallery associated with these comments.

Another special feature of this day's ride were the large number of antelope that we saw grazing on the rangeland near the road. These graceful animals were often in small herds of 8 to 15, but single bucks and does with as many as three fawns were also seen. Irene who was confined to driving the sag wagon only saw a few of these animals confirming the advantages of doing this trip by ordinary bicycle.

About 10:00 AM the wind began, and (you probably guessed right) it was a headwind. To make our ride even more challenging, the route became rather hilly. We stopped for lunch in Rock River, WY, at 12 noon, and the wind picked up while we ate to become a major force. Our ride after lunch was characterized by a battle to get up the hills and maintain our headway against the headwinds. By the time we got to Medicine Bow, WY (our destination for the day) at 3:00 PM, we were more than ready to call it a day. Our mileage for the day was 57 miles, and our total mileage for the trip to date was 2,359 miles.

We stayed at the restored Virginian Hotel that was built in 1911 when Medicine bow was a bustling prosperous frontier town at the end of the railroad. It is also the hotel that author Owen Wister made famous by his novel "The Virginian". This is the fourth historic hotel that we have stayed in on this ride across America, and we hope that there will be more to come. Not as many amenities, but comfortable and more interesting.

Day 42 (Sunday, August 1, 2004): 
Before I forget again, I want to record for the record that yesterday's ride from Laramie, WY, to Medicine Bow, WY, was all above 6,800 ft. elevation and most of it was above 7,000 ft. Apparently, we are fit because this elevation did not seem to have an ill effect on us.

Also, more can be said about the windiness of the part of Wyoming that we are passing through. We took our diner at the Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow, WY, and we meet two gentlemen who were in the wind machine (electricity generation) business. They operate multiple wind machines in the area, and they were unhappy because the wind that day only got up to 30 MPH whereas their wind machines need winds of least 38 MPH to get up to full generating power. We wished them well with their project, but we also hoped that we were out of the area before the winds got up to the speeds that they were wishing for.

We got up early hoping to get most of our mileage in before the winds picked up (usually about 10:30 AM we were told). This allowed us to wheel out of the Virginian Hotel parking lot, and onto US Rt. 30W, at 7:00 AM. The road was rather hilly, but the country through which we were passing was beautiful in it's bigness. I have said this before, but it is very impressive high up on the saddle of an ordinary bicycle. And the wildlife seen was amazing to us city dwellers: We saw at least 50 antelope in different herds and small groups, rabbits including a jack rabbit dead on the road, a rattle snake, some grouse, and a coyote. The coyote was part of a drama in nature that was being played out: The drama started with a herd of antelope about 100 yards on our left that seemed to be running toward us (which seemed to be very strange), and then we spotted a coyote in full pursuit. We do not know who won this race, but all involved were magnificent in their wild run to destiny.

By 9:00 AM the wind had picked up to where we were feeling it's force, and, you guessed it, it was a headwind. The wind got so strong that Gary had to walk up one hill which was the first time that this had happened since the first hill that Gary encountered when we entered Kansas. At about 10:30 AM after 35 miles of riding, our road joined up with I-80W, and our riding conditions changed abruptly: The traffic increased at least 10-fold, the roadbed was smoother and the grades up the hills were less steep, and there was no wildlife evident. Conclusion: Interstate highways are great to get from A to B in a hurry, but take the side roads if you want to see, and enjoy, nature and the countryside.

We arrived at the The Lodge in Rawlins, WY (our destination for the day), at 2:00 PM (our legs were very tired). Our mileage for the day was 57 miles, bringing our total mileage up to 2,416 miles.

Day 43 (Monday, August 2, 2004):  First, a few comments about the pictures sent with yesterday's comments. The first picture shows Peter and Gary as they are about to start the day's ride leaving from The Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow, WY. The other pictures were taken by Irene from the window of our sag vehicle: These pictures show Peter and Gary riding on I-80W about 10 miles from Rawlins, WY, which was our destination for the day.

There is one important correction to the comments for Day 42. An encounter between a coyote and a small herd of antelope was described. We have discussed this incident among ourselves at great length, and we have concluded that the coyote was really a mountain lion. Obviously, we cannot be absolutely sure whether it was a coyote or a mountain lion, but we feel that the deciding factor was the loping way that the animal was running. Does anyone reading this have advice on how to tell the difference between a coyote and a mountain lion when they are about 500 yards away and running very fast.

Our Ride Day 43 began at The Lodge in Rawlins, WY. We anticipated a short 40 mile day so we got slept in till 6:00 AM, and did not start our ride until 7:45 AM. It took about 20 minutes to ride across town and to get onto I-80W, and we sailed along with no wind until about 9:00 AM when the wind (a headwind again) picked up to make the hills steeper and the flats seem like they were mild hills. But, by this time, the wind was expected and the day seemed normal: It was warm but not hot, and the road (I-80W) was hilly but highly graded so that we had no serious impediments to our progress except the perpetual Wyoming headwinds.

About 15 miles out of Rawlins, we crossed the Continental Divide at 7000 feet of elevation. I-80 crosses the continental divide a couple of times in the next 100 miles going west from here. One of our pictures shows us at this place with the Wyoming expanse ahead of us.

In yesterday's comments, I said that no wildlife was to be seen when traveling the interstate highways. Well, to prove that there are few, if any, absolutes in life, Gary was riding down I-80W trying to ride a straight line so that he would not get hit by one of the 18-wheelers whizzing by, when he spotted 6 beautiful antelope on a hill near the road. Feeling that there was nothing to loose, Gary stopped his bike, whipped out his camera, and got several great shots of these magnificent animals before they leapt away over the hill. Gary's picture is in this day's gallery of pictures, but nothing can compare with actually seeing these graceful animals at home in Wyoming.

One of Irene's relatives remarked that the pictures were great, but there were not enough of Gary (Gary is the primary photographer on this trip) so she tried to rectify this by taking a few of Gary riding, standing, etc. Now that responsibility is fulfilled.

We are in a part of the country where places to stay are limited so that trip planning is important. We had planned to stay the night in Wamsutter, WY, which was only 40 miles from our start point (Rawlings), but the next town with accommodations was Rock Springs, WY, which was 105 miles from our start point. This would have worked out except that when we got to Wamsutter we found that all the motel rooms were taken (all 30 available rooms were taken by agriculturalists who were having meetings and railroad people who were there to do remedial work needed because of a recent train wreck nearby). We fast formulated an alternative plan which was to ride 20 miles further to Table Rock, WY, put our bikes on the sag van, and drive into Rock Springs for the night. Tomorrow we will drive back to Table Rock, and continue our ride from here to make our ride across America a continuous ride: This expediency was adopted with some misgiving, but sleeping in tents alongside the road without a real meal seemed like an even less desirable choice.

We arrived in Table Rock, WY (the terminus of our day's ride) at 3:30 PM. Our mileage for the day was 60 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip up to 2,476 miles.

Day 44 (Tuesday, August 3, 2004):  
This day stated with a ride in our sag wagon from Rock Springs, WY (where we spent the night), back to Table Rock, WY, which was the point where we ended yesterday's riding day and loaded our bicycles onto the sag wagon for the 49 mile trip to our night's resting spot. Upon arrival in Table Rock, we reassembled our bicycles and we were on the road (I-80W) at 8:40 AM heading back to Rock Springs on top of our ordinary bicycles.

After 3 miles of a slight downgrade going into a flat grade, we began a 7 mile uphill slog with a heavy headwind. You may recall from my comments of two days earlier that the wind machines in Medicine Bow, WY, require 38 MPH winds to get up to full generating power. Well, I am sure that they were up to full power this morning. By the time we reached a rest area at the top of the hill, we were ready to collapse. However, Irene and the sag wagon was parked at the rest area with refreshments, and it only took about 15 minutes and some bananas to get us going again.

The strong head wind continued throughout our riding day, but we are now accepting this as normal. The main effect of this wind is to make our normal 50 to 60 mile days seem like 80 to 100 mile days under more favorable riding conditions. Special sights and encounters included passing a large open pit mine on the hills on our left, and a meeting with a lady who had stopped in a pull-over to take our pictures and hear the story of our trip. Whenever we stop, we are generally approached by people who have seen us on the road and want to know more about us and our bicycles, but this was a special encounter because she had approached Irene first to get the basic information, and then she had walked 200 yards up the road so that she could get a good picture of us on the road as we passed by. Also, she had a story about the Kodak company and stolen technology some 80 years ago which intrigued Peter (he worked for Kodak Ireland for over 40 years).

We passed no restaurants this day, so our sustenance on the road was taken entirely from our travel bags and from our sag wagon. I thought of Thomas Stevens who, according to his account of his ride across America in 1884, carried very little food or drink on his bicycle, but depended on finding sources of these essential items along the way. In fact, I have been thinking a lot about Thomas Stevens as we ride across Wyoming close to the route that he followed in 1884: The difficulty of our crossing increases my awe at his accomplishment at a time when human amenities were few and far between.

To get to our motel in Rock Springs, we had to ride through about 3 miles of serious road construction. All traffic was confined to the two lanes normally used by the west bound traffic only, and there was precious little room left over for a shoulder and bicycles. To make matters worse, rumble strips that ran the entire width of the shoulder (no way to escape them) appeared once again. We made it through this gauntlet safely, but it certainly was not a fun part of our ride.

Our riding day ended at 2:00 PM when we rode into the Day's Inn in Rock Springs. Our mileage for the day was 49 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date to 2,525 miles. This means that we have less than 1,000 miles to go before we reach the Pacific Ocean at Newport, OR (if my estimates are correct).

For those who are following our trip, we have decided to take a slightly different route from Little America, WY, to Twin Falls, ID, than is given in our proposed route. From Little America, we will leave I-80W and go north-west on US Rt.30W through Kemmerer, WY; Pocatello, ID; and on to Twin Falls where we will rejoin the route that I had originally laid out for this ride across America. The change is based on conversations with Barbara Brekus who grew up in Pocatello and who knows the roads in this area. She tells us that we will not miss the fun riding through a lot of high hills, but the route is shorter, it is more scenic, and there is far less high speed traffic. Also, please note that we will be traveling through territory in which we will have no possibility of an internet connection with the service that Gary is using. As a result, there will probably be no updating of our ride comments until we reach Pocatello, ID, which will be 4 or 5 days from now. As always, we appreciate your good wishes for our safety on the road.

Day 45 (Wednesday, August 4, 2004):  
We (Peter and Gary) were up, had breakfast at our motel (the Day's Inn in Rock Springs, WY), and were ready to ride out onto the highway at 7:20 AM. This was the opening day for the Sweet Water County Fair, and everyone was talking about this event which was reputed (by the local people) to be bigger and better than the State Fair. In any case, the trick bicycle riders that were to perform at this event were checked into our motel, and we stopped to have our picture taken in front of the trailer that carried their ramps, bicycles, and other gear. Then we went over to the breakfast room to show our bicycles to the guests and staff that had inquired about our ride across America. By 7:30 AM we were finished with these preliminary matters, and we rode out onto I-80W (Bus) that took us through the town and out onto the main interstate roadway heading west.

We passed through Green River, WY, at 8:15 AM which was too early to stop and shop for a book on the history of the Union Pacific Railroad at the Beans and Book Shop, so we continued on our way with only a short stop to talk about out bicycles with a local resident in a pick-up truck that had chased us down. Riding through the town of Green River enabled us to bypass the dual tunnels with narrow roadbeds that carries the I-80 traffic around the town.

We had considered ending our day's ride at Little America, WY, which is only 47 miles from Rock Springs, but this was an unusual day in that we had tail winds all morning. We arrived at Little America at 11:00 AM, and we were still fresh so we opted to ride on to Diamondville/Kemmerer, WY, which was 47 miles further along our route (there were no intermediate possibilities for overnight accommodations). We ate lunch at Little America and we were on the road again by 11:45 AM. We had traveled only one mile when our luck changed abruptly.

First, Peter's rear tire flew off the rim as he was climbing up a gradual incline in I-80W: The wire that was internal to this tire had broken. Irene and our sag wagon with all our repair materials had gone ahead to a point 10 miles up the road. Gary tried to call Irene on his cell phone, but we could not be connected because AT&T Wireless does not have service in this area. It turns out that even though we were denied a cell phone connection, Irene could hear Gary's voice, and Gary was explaining the situation even though the silence on his phone lead him to believe that Irene was not connected. Gary jumped on his bicycle to race to find Irene, and Peter was left to patch his bike with bailing wire found on the roadside, Gary's pocket knife, and the rubber tiring that had come off his rear wheel. Gary found Irene and the sag wagon about 1 mile up the road: She was returning to the site of the breakdown based on what she had heard on her cell phone. We quickly fastened Gary's bicycle to the back of the sag wagon and drove back to where Peter was struggling forward with his makeshift repair: He had fastened the rubber tiring onto the rear wheel by wrapping bailing wire around the rim with the tiring in place (please see my picture for clarification of this fabulous temporary fix). When we found Peter, he had traveled about 1/4th mile on his "repaired" rear wheel, and he was so proud of his handiwork that he wanted to continue riding with this contrivance to see how far it would go before breaking again. However, Gary and Irene convinced Peter that he must repair his rear wheel properly so as not to cause further delay to our ride. I am happy to report that this entire affair delayed us for less than one hour and that Peter's repair job is holding up splendidly.

Second, our tail winds swirled around and at different times became wind from our left side, strong headwinds, or weak tailwinds. I have developed a theory about these Wyoming winds: The sky is always full of big beautiful clouds, and there is a 10 to 15 degree F temperature difference on the ground depending on whether you are in the shade of a cloud or exposed directly the bright sun. These large temperature differences that are constantly playing across the countryside, that is mostly desert with very few trees, causes air to rush from cooler areas to warmer areas. Certainly, when large dark clouds appear in the sky, the winds get stronger (sometimes with almost gale force), and they may come from any direction. These winds have certainly played a major role in our progress across Wyoming more so than in any other state. We were told by our motel keeper tonight that we will not be bothered by these winds once we cross over the border into Idaho.

We learned from a storyboard at a rest stop that the Wyoming winds together with the omnipresent sagebrush play a critical role in the lives of the antelope, the grouse, a large herd of elk, herds of wild horses, and other wildlife in this state. The sagebrush (see a picture of sagebrush with yesterday's pictures) is the staple food for these animals, and the wind ensures that snow in winter is cleared from patches of this sagebrush ensuring that these animals have enough to eat even in the severest weather. So, sagebrush is good, and the wind has its good points.

A third observation is the amount of military vehicles that we have seen moving on the highways. During the time that we have been traveling on I-80, we have met and talked with a group of California National Guardsmen now on active duty, we have been passed by three military convoys, and we have been passed by dozens of large trucks carrying new military vehicles to some destination. The implications for all this military activity are scary to me, and I only hope that all Americans are thinking about the implications of the course that our country is on.

About 2 miles from Little America (after fixing Peter's rear tire), we turned north off of I-80W to follow US Rt. 30W as it winds northwestward. All afternoon we struggled with winds coming from different directions as explained above, and we also had to contend with several long uphill pulls as we pushed on to arrive at our day's destination in Diamondville, WY , at 4:30 PM. You can be sure that we were very tired at the end of this riding day. Our mileage for the day was 84 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip up to 2,609 miles.

Day 46 (Thursday, August 5, 2004):  
We rode out of the Energy Inn in Diamondville, WY, at 7:20 AM. Our first stop was 1 mile down the road at the Busy Bee Restaurant in the center of Kemmerer for our breakfast. Across the street was the Mother Store of the J.C. Penny Company. When you think about a nationwide chain of retail stores starting in a place like Kemmerer , a town with a population of about 400, you realize that it is possible to go from humble beginnings to riches in America if you have a good idea, the know how to make it work in the marketplace, and some luck. (The same story has played out more recently with Sam Walton and the Wal-Mart stores).

After breakfast, we followed US Rt. 30W out of town, and we found the riding to be relatively easy because the road was fairly level and there was no wind from any direction. This route follows the old Oregon and California Trails, and you can see why the pioneers who were emigrating chose this route: It is relatively flat although there are real hills on either side of the road, and a stream flows in the bottom of the valley through which the trail passed making it easy to get water.

About 10 miles down the road we came to a turnoff for the Fossil Butte National Monument. We parked our bikes, climbed into the sag wagon, and drove 4 miles up a side road to an Interpretive Center. Fifty million years ago the middle levels of this butte were the bottom of a lake that contained many species of fish, turtles, crocodiles, etc., and was located in a rich, moist environment that supported luxuriant, and varied, vegetation. The wealth of fossils in the middle strata was discovered in the nineteenth century, and a significant portion of the fossils in museums in the world (especially fish fossils) have come from this area. This National Monument is worth a visit is you are ever in the area.

During the hour that we were visiting the Fossil Butte National Monument, a strong wind from the west had come up which made out travel very difficult until our route turned northward at Sage, WY, when it became a strong tailwind. We traveled the last 19 miles into Cokeville, WY (our destination for the day), with ease thanks to this wind. In fact, the tailwind made riding our bicycles so easy we were tempted to continue on to the next motel stop (Montpellier, ID) which was 31 miles further down the road, but we decided against it knowing that (a) the winds can shift and they usually do, and (b) there is a big mountain to cross between here and there.

We ate our lunch on the road out of the sag wagon after about 25 miles of riding. Storyboards at this pull-out on the road explained that this was on a major migratory path of the Wyoming mule deer herd. It also reminded us about the importance of Wyoming sagebrush as a food material for these animals (especially in winter). To help me remember all this, I took another picture of sagebrush that grows everywhere that we have been in this state. (Note: For those who do not know the sagebrush plant, it is a shrub that grows about waist high, and it needs only 7 inches of rainfall in a year to survive.)

Irene had booked us into the Valley Hi Motel in Cokeville. When the proprietor heard that we were riding high wheel bicycles from the 1880's, she called the local press so we ended our riding day with an interview and Peter did some trick riding for the camera.

We finished our riding day at 1:00 PM in Cokeville. We rode 46 miles this day bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 2,655 miles. The rest of the day was spent resting, sorting out our gear, and reviewing the maps for details relating to the remainder of our ride across America.

Day 47 (Friday, August 6, 2004):  
We spent the night before this ride day in Cokeville, WY, which is a small town with a population of about 200 persons. A new Flying J Truck Service Center has been built across US Rt. 30 from our motel (the Valley Hi Motel) with a restaurant where we ate our meals. After dinner (about 7:00 PM) we sat on the swing set in front of our motel and watched the sunset which was spectacular with an abundance of large moving clouds, a full rainbow in the east, lightening in the south, and great rays of sunlight coming from the west as the sun sank below the horizon: The show was certainly much better than TV.

After the evening sky show, Gary was playing with his laptop computer, and he found that he could connect with the internet from the Flying J Truck Stop via WIFI . We learned that all Flying J Truck Stops and affiliated Truck Stops have this service available for truckers (and anyone else who subscribes) across the country. We are not only a globalized society, we are also a computerized society.

Our ride for the day started at 7:50 AM as we rode out of our motel in Cokeville and onto US Rt. 30W. The air temperature was cool, and the road was almost flat. There was no wind. After one hour of riding (11 miles) we reached the Idaho border, and a small green marshy valley that provided the emigrants following the Oregon and California Trails some special difficulties. We were thrilled to see a large number of Canadian geese here as well as 5 sand hill cranes. To make it even more exciting, we saw a fox that ran back and forth alongside a fence only about 20 yards from Peter and Gary as they rode along on the highway. As soon as we had crossed this small valley we encountered a long (over 2 miles) steep (about 4% grade) hill. Peter and Gary both rode up this hill, but Gary was really hurting by the time the top was reached.

We found the countryside in Idaho to be quite different from Wyoming. In Idaho, the hills are more pronounced, there are more and bigger streams and rivers, and the terrain tends to be more varied. Gary stopped at one point to take a picture of all this, and two mule deer that had been grazing near the road began to run up the hill: A picture of the hillside with these two deer is included in the pictures for the day along with a picture of the road alongside a small river that we were following at this time. A picture of some thistles growing alongside the road is also included: Gary has been looking for some thistles to photograph all this trip, and he finally found some in Idaho.

As was pointed out in previous day's comments, US Rt. 30 in Wyoming and in Idaho closely follows the old Oregon and California Emigrant Trails. On this day's ride we passed more than a dozen story boards that give interesting facts about these trails, and a few of them were photographed for inclusion in the picture gallery accompanying this day's ride. There is also a large museum dedicated to the history of these trails in the town of Montpellier, ID, for anyone interested in more details.

We ate lunch at 11:00 AM in Montpellier which was at the half way point on this day's ride. After lunch we had one more big hill to climb (Fish Creek Hill), but this was not as hard as the big hill that we climbed earlier in the day. The remainder of the ride was through valleys that were sometimes wide and sometimes narrow, up and over small hills, and generally in sight of either a river or a stream and mountains of varying heights. All of today's travel was on a road that was over 6,000 feet elevation. The wind came up in the afternoon, but it was almost always from our left side giving our forward motion little resistance.

We arrived in Soda Springs, ID (our destination for the day), at 2:15 PM. This town is known for its captive geyser that is managed to erupt (a 100 foot high column of water) every hour.  Our mileage for the day was 60 miles bringing our total mileage for the trip to date up to 2,715 miles.

Addendum for Those Interested:

a. Our Daily Routine: We set the alarm for 6:00 AM, and we rise from bed promptly. We wash our faces and dress, pack our clothes in plastic bags, and go out for breakfast (breakfast is taken at the motel when available or at a nearby restaurant). After breakfast, we pack our belongings and put them into the sag wagon or on our bicycles. We then mount our bicycles and ride out onto the highway (this is usually between 7:30 and 8:00 AM). After about 25 miles (2 ˝ hours of riding), we stop for lunch at a restaurant or eat out of the sag wagon if a restaurant is not available within 5 miles distance. After lunch, we ride until we get to our destination for the day. Our destination is generally dictated by the availability of a place to stay within a day's riding distance of 40 to 60 miles: Our objective is to ride an average of over 55 miles per day for the total trip, and we are trying to ride into and out of our accommodation for each day. Upon arrival at our destination, we shower, wash our riding clothes and hang them out to dry, and Gary sets up his laptop computer so that he can write his Comments and enter the day's digital pictures: All this is forwarded to Karen Turner for inclusion in our web-pages on The Wheelmen web-site (see below for details). We eat dinner at a local restaurant, and return to our motel so that we can be in bed by about 10:00 PM at the latest (Peter is generally in bed asleep by 9:00 PM).

b. Daily Maintenance of our Web-Site: Gary did four things before starting this Ride Across America to enable the daily updating of a web-site dedicated to our ride: (1) He bought a lap top computer, (2) he signed up for AOL so that he could connect with the internet in most cities across America, (3) he set up a personal web-site through Comcast. Net (Gary's primary internet service provider), and (4) (most important) he enlisted the assistance of Karen Turner, our Wheelmen Web Master. The original concept was that Gary would update his personal web-site directly each day, and Karen would post pictures sent to her via AOL and provide a link between these pictures on The Wheelmen Web-Site and Gary's Personal Web-Site. The AOL connection was to be made by plugging into the phone line in the motel room each night, and connecting with AOL (and the internet) by dialing the local AOL phone number. As it turned out, using Gary's personal web-site using AOL to connect with did not work well, so Karen agreed to manage our "Ride Across America" web-pages as part of The Wheelmen Web-Site. This arrangement was worked out early in our ride, and since then Gary composes comments after each day's ride and he attaches the digital pictures taken during on that day. These comments and pictures are sent to Karen on the same day that they are put together via AOL if there is a local AOL connection in the town that we are staying in. If no local AOL connection is available, the comments are saved until such time as we do stay in a town with the required connection.


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