Jeffery City, WY
Abandoned Lion's Club building
The Holiday Lodge offers continental breakfast, and even though it was almost all junk (danishes, cinnamon rolls, and other individually-wrapped cheap pastries), we downed enough of it to make almost anyone sick to their stomach. I had a cup of tea, but Nathan topped his breakfast off with THREE cups of hot chocolate!
Wondering how bad our sugar-crash would be later in the day, I went back to pack up camp, and Nathan went to the post office to mail back some extra things we've been carrying around that we don't need. It was nice to get rid of the extra stuff.
While at the post office, he noticed a new sports store that had just opened, so on our way out we stopped by. And they sold the cooking fuel that we needed!!! Yay! It turns out that it's super hard to find the fuel we need in the bottle we need it to be in, so this was great! I was so happy to have it, I just walked around the store hugging it until we checked out.
Today turned out to pretty much be a repeat of yesterday, only now there were no gas stations for shade or cold drinks. The day went something like this: hot, hills, more hills, hot, no shade, hot, hills, still no shade, and the road stretching out before us.
We stopped for lunch on the side of the road and leaned our bikes against the guard rail while we ate peanut butter/honey/trail mix sandwiches and power bars. After lunch, we climbed a big hill and finally made it to the high point of our day - Beaver Rim. After we got up there, we learned that we had been climbing (sometimes steeply, sometimes not steep) for 28 miles. Whoo! (<-- to be interpreted as "woah, that was hard", NOT a "yay!")
We were almost too thirsty and hot to enjoy being at the top, but we did pause to take in our accomplishment and share the view with you.
After Beaver Rim, we had about 7 more miles until there was a rest area with bathrooms, and, I was hoping, cold water. When we got there, they had both shade and cold water - two things we were desperately wanting.
At the rest stop, we met a retired man who was biking across the USA. He had come all the way from Maryland, but thought he was about done because he was just too tired to keep going. He told us he was carrying about 100 lbs on his bike (our bikes only weigh 65-70 lbs)! He commented quite a few times on our panniers, told us how much he liked them, and asked where we bought them. When we told him that Nathan had made them, he was very surprised, and he suggested we go into business making them. He said they were unique and looked like they had a good design.
We just looked at each other in amazement at how much attention our bags were getting and smiled.
As we pedaled towards Jeffery City, our destination for the day, we talked more and more about making and selling the bags. I think perhaps God is trying to encourage us to make them. It is odd for us, because it is completely out of the blue, but when you think about it, wouldn't anyone looking for business ideas WISH and HOPE to get as much encouragement in a single direction as we're getting? I mean, I can't even count the times we've heard from strangers, other cyclists, and even bike store owners how much they love our bags and how much they hope we make and sell them.
We're on this trip looking for direction for our future, and over and over and over again, we hear ONE message about what we should do when we finish: make and sell panniers. It's not even like we've heard multiple messages, just one, just panniers.
So I'm thinking "Isn't this what a 'neon sign' looks like?". It's gotta be.
So we talked and talked about panniers, cloth options, design difficulties, marketing ideas, performance concerns, etc... It was a great conversation. Probably the 2nd or 3rd one we've had where we've begun thinking seriously about making panniers.
While talking, we passed some very interesting hills/rocks. I thought they looked like brownies. Nathan thought they looked like dinosaur poop. Nathan won, and we had to take a picture. It's not every day you pass prehistoric poo!
When we finally made it to Jeffery City, it felt eerie. The city consisted of about 15 or so buildings, mostly warehouse style, but almost all of them looked abandoned, closed down, and neglected. There was some trash lying around and generally no activity whatsoever on the streets.
Not to be deterred, I found a building that said "Fire Station", and thought that would be a good place to ask about camping, and, of course, the possibility of finding some ice cream. When we pulled up, the fire station looked empty, but there were some men talking outside in a truck with a bunch of dogs lying around.
They pointed across the street to a very abandoned wooden building when I asked about camping and said it was empty and unlocked, so we could sleep there if we wanted, or we could stay in the park (read: field) right next door. When I asked about ice cream, they laughed out loud and said "There's a cow in the field somewhere you can go milk!! HaHaHa!!" Clearly, we wouldn't be having any ice cream tonight.
When we went over to inspect the "campsite", the abandoned building gave off a very unwelcoming and creepy vibe.
It looked like the meeting place of a gang or some other dangerous group. There were large pieces of trash inside, random metal chairs, and all the doors were missing except for the ones in the main entryways. The outhouses were covered in dirt, and all the plumbing had been ripped out, leaving only dirt-filled toilets and bugs behind the creaky doors. There was a pavilion next door with a chair hanging from a wooden beam by a rope and some trash thrown around. Trying to quickly erase the visions of someone being tied to the hanging chair and harassed, I climbed on a table, untied the chair from the beam, and set it on the ground.
I asked Nathan "Does this place scare you?"
His answer unsettled me even more. He said, "Yes! Of course it does!"
Darn - I had been hoping it was just me.
We ate dinner quietly and then wrote in our journals a little. We set up our sleeping pads and sleeping bags inside the abandoned building as a few men started making noise in the parking lot of the only restaurant/bar in town that was just down the street.
We walked over to check it out and refill our water bottles and found a middle-aged man, who was obviously very drunk, trying to get a nervous and skittish dog to come inside the building. He kept calling, "Here puppy. Come here puppy," as the dog ran from him and hid under cars.
We bought some chocolate so we could get access to the bathrooms and also refill our water bottles (everything was for "Patrons Only").
After walking back down the street to the abandoned building, we unwrapped our candy and found that, even thought it was in the refrigerator when we bought it, it had definitely been in the heat on the way to the store originally. These are our Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. :-)
But since Reese's cups are delicious no matter what they look like, we scarfed them down happily! Then we brushed our teeth, and headed for bed. While outside brushing our teeth, we happened to look up at the sky, and to our great surprise, it was stunningly beautiful. The sky was absolutely FILLED with stars. It was so clear, we could even see the Milky Way! We were in awe; it was amazing.
It was a good reminder that God is in this place, even if it is definitely the creepiest, scariest, most unsettling place we've been yet...
So, I'm not sure how we'll sleep tonight. It depends on 1) if we can quiet all the scary voices and visions in our heads of all the "what if's", and 2) if anything scary actually happens tonight.