Hanson Memorial Park
We slept pretty well last night. I thought I heard an elk or a deer walking around our tent in the middle of the night, but I fell back asleep pretty quickly.
After breakfast, we were putting on sunscreen in the sanctuary when Pastor Roy walked in. He's the temporary pastor here, and next Sunday is his last Sunday before he heads back home to Florida. He talked to us for a little while about our trip, and he thought it sounded pretty cool. He prayed with us (we love when people do that), and then we all headed out.
Much to my dismay, when we left, we entered a seemingly never ending series of big hills. We went up, and down, and up, and down with no flat spot in sight. This was not how I had hoped to start the day.
And then the wind picked up.
I decided that I was not going to give in and get crabby again. I had a new pair of goggles, and now would be a good time to try them out so I could keep the wind out of my eyes.
Well, long story short, after a LOT of fussing with them, I couldn't seem to get them situated on my face very well. My helmet came down too much on my forehead for them to sit where they were supposed to, so now the tops were on my eyebrows and the bottom of the goggles were on my cheekbones. Because of this, they didn't keep the wind out and they fit badly over my nose. There is an air vent on each side of the eye pieces, and even though I closed them both, they just slid open again. I finally stopped fussing with them and just looked at Nathan, who was laughing because I looked funny.
He took my picture, and the first picture I was bummed about my goggles, but I got in a better mood for the second one because he was laughing, so I struck a pose! I think the first picture, where I'm sticking my lip out, might be one of Nathan's favorite pictures from the whole trip. He laughs every time he looks at it. Admittedly, I laugh every time too. :-)
Then we started riding again, and I was getting tired. It was still hot, hilly, shadeless, sunny dessert, and I was getting sort-of cranky, but the good thing about the goggles, even though they didn't fit right, is that after Nathan had laughed at me, I couldn't even take myself seriously in them. Every time a car would pass by, I would crack up wondering how I looked to the people driving by.
After a few miles, I took the goggles off because they just weren't working, and I put my sunglasses back on. By now the headwind was strong enough that it kept the glasses pressed to my face. That was kind-of nice.
We stopped for lunch on the side of the road again because there was nothing around. We had only gone 15 miles, and I was totally worn out again. This was not good and didn't bode well for how far we'd get the rest of the day.
We made a tee-pee out of our bikes (Nathan's brilliant discovery for how to park our bikes without laying them down, because we don't have kickstands). We had peanut butter/honey/nuts/berries tortilla rollups, power bars, and cheese for lunch.
All too soon, lunch was over and we were back on our bikes. And we were at the bottom of a big hill. Of course.
When we made it to the top of the hill, we saw a sign we've never seen before: 7% grade! The steepest grade we'd ever seen until now was 6%. Even over mountain passes, it never got higher than 6%, so this was great!
The 7% hill was awesome, but it too was over all too soon for me and suddenly we were on our way up the next big hill. Almost at the top, I was stunned to see two bikers coming our way! But I was happy because it meant we could stop again. :-)
One of the bikers sped by, but the other stopped to talk. Apparently, there used to be 3 bikers in their group, but one had quit just the day before due to injury and the fact that he just didn't want to ride anymore.
They told us we were about to enter some of the most beautiful country in America once we hit Colorado. We told them they had about 4 more days of desert through Wyoming. I think we got the better news.
After they left, I whined about how hot it was and then we kept going. We took lots of breaks, and then we finally made it to mile 26 - the Wyoming/Colorado border, and here's what it looked like. It was o-so-slowly changing out of desert into an area with life and plant growth.
We took a picture of the "Welcome to Colorado" sign, and since we hadn't ever gotten a good "Welcome to Wyoming" sign, we took a picture of it too. (Or maybe Nathan just took the "Welcome to Wyoming" picture because I wanted one and he didn't want to argue about it...).
Our next rest break was the town of Cowdley, a very small, closed down, wide-spot-in-the-road kind of town. Naturally, we had more big hills to ride over to get to it. I started walking my bike on the hills. I think the desert is just wearing me out. It's been really hard for me mentally to keep going, and the heat and opposing winds every day are starting to feel like they're just beating me up. Back in Missoula, one of our hosts Brad Dickson described opposing winds as "soul sucking". I think I was starting to understand.
It seemed to take forever to make it down the road (maybe it's because I was walking my bike?), but eventually we changed roads and started out across this huge valley towards Cowdley. Because we were crossing a flat area, we could see very far ahead, and about 4 miles away, we could see Cowdley.
When we got there, we sat under the porch of an old, closed up building, ate power bars, drank water, and watched a farmer stack hay.
We thought Hot Sulphur Springs, our rest-day destination, was 120 miles from Encampment (where we started this morning). We had now gone 40 miles. There was a town 10 miles away and another one 30 miles away. I wanted to stop, but the catch was that if we only went 50 miles today, we'd have to go 70 tomorrow. But if we went 70 today, then we'd only have 50 more tomorrow. I told Nathan I was trying to decide if I could make it another 30 miles to the 70-mile mark for today, and he responded, "I'm not taking you 30 more miles! We're stopping in Walden (the town 10 miles away)."
That meant we'd have a big day tomorrow. I didn't know how I felt about that, but I was too tired to complain.
We made it the 10 miles to Walden, and were delighted to find that Walden is a real city! It's not just a gas station, it's not all boarded up, it's not mostly abandoned. It had stores, and people, and cars driving down the road! It even had a city park, and a school, and a recreation center with showers!!
The city park allowed camping, so we rode there and locked up our bikes. Then we walked to the gas station to buy groceries and ice cream bars. While we were eating our ice cream bars, we met some other bikers. One of the bikers' derailleurs had broken, so they were unable to bike for a little while waiting for it to be fixed. They were also going cross-country, but instead of using Adventure Cycling's maps, they were making their own trail. Interesting!
After our ice cream, we took showers for $5 each at the rec center. The showers were great, except there was very little privacy. I had a VERY SMALL shower stall with a curtain, and almost every time I moved, I rubbed up against the curtain. Nathan's shower was just a big room with several shower heads. No curtains. Fortunately for us, the rec center was pretty empty at that time, so we were both the only ones in our locker rooms while we took showers.
After the showers, I made dinner and Nathan pitched our tent. He thought he'd picked a good, out of the way, grassy spot, but after the sun went down and the security lights came on, we discovered the tent was almost directly under one of the security lights! So instead of being inconspicuous in the city park, it was more like "HERE'S OUR TENT! RIGHT HERE!". For the first time in a while, I got to laugh while Nathan was frustrated.
I read some more of my Undaunted Courage book in the tent while Nathan worked on the computer after dinner. I am really liking my book, and I would recommend it to you to read. It's an amazing and inspiring true story of bravery and heroism and selflessness. My only warning would be that it reads a bit like a history book, but I like that kind of thing, so I don't mind.
Before bed, we went to the park's bathrooms to brush our teeth, and found that they were heated! It was getting cold outside, so when we walked into the heated bathrooms, it was like walking into a sauna. It was awesome! I though about sleeping in them. :-)
Now it's time for bed under our spotlight. I hope no one gets too curious about our tent tonight...
(In this picture, the spotlight is just to the left of the photo's border, and it's not on quite yet.)