Day 74: Riding through the smokey Rez to Dubois

Wyoming keeps blowing me away, and ironically I say that on a rare day with minimal wind issues. The people are some of the nicest I’ve met anywhere and every bend in the road gives me a more spectacular view than the last. 

Leaving Lander gave me a feeing I haven’t had since leaving Chicago for Joliet – if the situation were right, I could totally try to make a life there for a bit. It was such a surprise of a town, a mixture of cowboys, Native Americans, outdoorsy types, and hippies. And its surrounded by an amazing pet of the country that I didn’t see coming. But it was time to ride on, and ride on I did. First stop? The Wind River Indian Reservation:

I’ve heard that riding through reservations further north can be problematic – quite a few stories out there of trash thrown at pedaling bourgeois white people. But this is the TransAm, and I wasn’t worried. I’m one of many on this road. 

The lone town was Fort Washakie, where I stopped to load up on Gatorade. I had plenty of water but this was the desert, and it’s very, very dry. I couldn’t drink enough. Luckily the general store had reservation prices:

I was the only whitey in there and felt a pang of white guilt but the people were exceptionally friendly. And then the road went on, with a reminder of just Where I was leaving:

It was a day to start the gradual climb to Togwotee Pass, the second highest point to be graced with my two wheels on the tour. But before the climb north there was plenty of downhills, which I of course thoroughly enjoyed:

While it was an issue all morning, it took a little bit of climbing to really see the smile from the wildfire up the road:

It would be a bit till I really smelled it, but I knew it was comig…I had talked to several eastbound cyclists and they had stories to add to the visuals. 

And then a super steep descent with a spectacular view of the desert landscape that just kept getting more epic:

There was an oasis in the desert – a rest area, where I was able to refill my water, which was already low. I felt like I turned into the local celebrity – so many people stopped, and so many people were taken with my story. It had been a while since I got a bunch of jaws agape and it was entertaining. One couple from California were particularly in awe – the wife asked if she could look at my bike. I laughed, thinking how silly this question was. What was I going to say, no? I said “look at it? You can even touch it!” She almost seemed nervous at the prospect. 

I met another eastbound rider from the Netherlands – he started in Banff, Canada, and was headed to Denver. He had a can of bear spray – he told me he didn’t need it anymore and wanted to “trade” it for $20 – this seems steep, but bear spray off the shelf is very expensive. If I were interested it would have been a deal, but I wasn’t. I don’t really know why but bears don’t concern me. 

The rest area gave me my first great view of the Wind River, which was on my side the rest of the day:

It was fascinating in a way to see such a rush of water in such a dry desert. It was also some of the clearest stream water I’ve ever seen. 

Before long I made it to Crowheart, a town consisting of a gas station and general store, a fire department, and a church. It was nice to stop under the shade – such a rarity anymore. A family from Illinois stopped by and when they saw me they strongly insisted on taking my picture. I don’t mind these things at all, but the woman wanted my phone to take it. I thought this was funny; why get so excited to take a picture you’re not keeping for yourself, especially when the other person never asked for the picture to be taken anyway? Here it is, with a full on squint in the early afternoon sun:

And then the road went up, with the wind Screaming at me. I was getting pretty tired but I had to make it to Dubois – no other place to stop for miles and miles. 

But just look at the colors!


These people have a pretty horrible view out their back door:

And then the big kahuna of the day, complete with a call for antlers and horns:

This massive, divot of red earth blew me away. 

I stayed around for probably 15 minutes just marveling at it:

Climbing got more substantial as I got closer to Dubois, with maybe the oddest road sign I’ve seen yet:

Huh?

The smoke was definitely getting heavier in the last 15 miles on the day. It was a struggle to breathe but there was no option but to keep trudging on.

I passed these green markers the whole day, and I have no idea what they mean. Maybe they’re just reflectors for night driving?

Even with the smoke the views were mesmerizing:

And then I made it into Dubois, with my first view of the wildfire in question:

It was exhilarating to see. I got very excited at the prospect of riding through it the next day, which was matched by nervousness. 

The stop in Dubois was the Episcopal church, which had a community center that is basically a haven for cyclists and hikers on the Continental Divide Trail. That’s when I met some of the most memorable guys on the tour, Monty and James, joined by Marius, who had been riding with them for the previous few days. 

We all went over to John’s place, the guy who orchestrates the biker haven at the church. He showed us his 3D printer:

And we had some dinner mixed in with plenty of laughs. 

Then there was an impromptu tour of the taxidermy shop behind the church:

Whoa. John said that all the animals that come in get thrown in the fridge. I asked if I could take a peek:

This guy keeps dead animals in with his beer. It takes all kinds. 

Back at the church the lights continued. James and Monty are some of the wittiest people I’ve ever met in my life and they had me in stitches as they just riffed off of each other. We all got a picture together from a Korean hiker who only knew how to say “hi” and “beer” in English:

Marius, James, yours truly, Monty. 

Through sign language Korean Hiker insisted on a goofy picture, so here you go:

And then it was time to sleep. The next day called for a wildfire and a mountain to climb into the Tetons…

-J
 

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