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Biking Across the USA - July Diary

Thursday July 1st 2004

Lincoln Homestead to Upton (Avery Campground). A 76 mile day. Cloudy and humid when we set off, sun broke through and starting warming things us seriously! Landscape now undulating, some very long stretches where you can see for a couple of miles, or three, ahead. A few dogs, but nothing alarming just tail wagging friendly chasers. Went past the place where the author of 'My Old Kentucky Home' lived. Beautiful and commercialised (how surprising!). Burst of rain forced us off road for a while - so heavy you could hardly see where you were going. Guy got a bit sleepy and had to snooze in a field - sleeping at the Lincoln Homestead in high humidity had not been easy. I (Steve) got a flat tyre near the end of the day, and had a slow ride into Upton (a little off the main route). The campsite was charming, if very popular with mosquitos. The price was only a few dollars, and the lady running the campsite said how much she enjoyed the flow of transAm cyclists going through. There was hardly anyone about at the campsite, which made the fact that the male toilets and showers were all in one room, with shower curtains partially hiding them from each other, less of a potential embarrassment than it might have been. Once again, the campsite was very near a railway line and the night's sleep was interspersed with sudden clangings and whistles. This 'casey-jones' experience is wearing a little thin!

Friday July 2nd 2004

A nice easy day of about 50 miles from Avery Campground, Upton through to the Rough River Dam State Park. Picturesque, smallish hills, nothing too challenging. Pretty hot and humid as usual. Only one really severe thunderstorm - and took shelter for that. Got a little hillier round the Rough River Area. The Rough River may have been rough once, but it's tamed by dams now and there's not much to it but a stretch of water on which Americans do everything except exert themselves - they jetski, powerboat, boat - but just about never seem to swim or canoe, and certainly not windsurf. Actually I did see a canoe on a truck, so maybe sometimes sweat actually happens. This is a culture determined by the price of gasoline. We wondered where the footpaths across fields were - suddenly struck us that there aren't any. We were later enlightened that they don't do footpaths - land ownership appears somewhat more absolute. Is America a land of the individual? Anyway, because there are no footpaths, it makes getting fit much harder since the only place where it is then easy to walk is in parks (if you have one). We've noticed people driving up to the local park, getting out and doing a 'power walk' (arms vigorously swinging, a brisk pace) around a circular path. Rough River Dam State Park was excellent - had a unauthorised swim in a lovely pool while the sun set over the trees (no one about, and it looked so lovely - and the lake beach was closed - smell of effluent so I think there's an ecological problem lurking in Rough River Lake!). Ate at the restaurant and slept soundly. Mark and Wanda showed up - with more mechanical problems with the trailer - so they were waiting for a lift to 4th July celebrations in Missouri and a bit of a mechanical makeover.

Saturday 3rd July 2004

A hot and humid ride of 72 miles from Rough River State Park to Sebree Baptist Church. Well, it was just a bit hot - I don't know how humid, but I felt I was swimming in sweat a lot of the time I'm afraid! Pretty agricultural scenery again - maize and tobacco. Some rather friendly dogs today!! Tail wagging and not barking! Hot, sweaty and dirt stained - it was tricky going into shops with air conditioning alongside people who had just stepped out of air conditioned cars! This is not a land where sweat is displayed proudly. Sebree First Baptist is marvellous - showers, comfort, hot water, tea making facilities (I think I drank about 8 cups of Earl Grey... - I'm carrying a large supply of tea bags for just such eventualities...). The Pastor Bob, and his wife Violet, invited us to dinner. Violet respected our vegetarianism brilliantly - what wonderful sweetcorn, tomatoes, strawberries! Had a pleasant discussion of cultural differences, politics and religion - and without arguing! The pastor described his surprisingly demanding duties. You might have thought that being one of several pastors in a small town in Kentucky would not be difficult - there's money, not that many people (no parish of 20000+ as many a vicar in the UK) and what looks like a well equipped church. But this is only half the story - since the pastor is evidently expected to be on hand at just about any liminal moment, life stage, etc, he or she must keep moving pretty fast. The pastor is usually paid by the congregation (no hiding behind a centralised funding body like the UK Church of England), so there's clearly a very obvious link between performance and pay. Pastor Bob looks like he's a bit of a super-pastor to me, judging by the stuff he does. My extremely dirty Celtic Football Team shirt (bought for its bright yellow and a liking for the word 'celtic' rather than the football team) finally got washed. We realised that we've seen some Amish - in horse-drawn buggies. Apparently they don't have bumper stickers supporting the Iraq War - and won't serve in the military. I'm warming to them a great deal - no infernal combustion engine! What a contrast with most of America - which seems solidly Iraq War positive, flags waving.No doubt there are complexities beneath the surface... Slept like a log because, for once, there was a few solid walls between us and the nearby railroad! They seem to specialise in very very late night trains.

Sunday 4th July 2004

Guy on the Ohio River FerrySebree First Baptist Church to Cave in Rock, Illinois. About 57 miles. A pleasant and speedy day of cycling - flat to undulating with a cross wind that at times seemed to be a tailwind. The wind seems to depend on cloud formations - thermals set up by the high heat accelerate the local winds and make them very variable but, at present, mainly from the south. First of all we met a tandem recumbent - see their blog - heading east at high speed. Then we met 2 American tandems -doing the transAm. Wonderful people from Kansas - lots of advice and humour. One of the tandem teams had been doing the transAm for 5 years out of the past 7 - just in the Summer hols. Ahh, well it was to avoid that sort of 'bit by bit' ride that the current 3 month bike ride seemed so wise. Finally reached the Ohio River - across on the (free) Ferry and straight to the Campground - no pool, and the River Ohio is grotty (like brown soup) - so no swimming today. We wandered along the river bank exploring the scenes linked to the Ohio River Pirates. Ate beans and rice at the restaurant, along with as much hot tea as we could, without amazement, consume. For the 4th July, it was very quiet at the Cave in Rock campsite - just a few bangers and rockets, and then blissful silence. On a quiet, hot, sunny day it's hard to image the pirates raiding the river traffic on the Ohio River. Appears, apparently, in the film, 'How the West was Won' (? was it).

Monday July 5th 2004

Cave-in Rock to Devil's Kitchen Lake Campground. 75 miles. We set off early but it's a hilly road to Eddyville (should be on 'The Archers'!) - so we made slow progress. The sky kept threatening rain, and eventualy there was a huge thunderstorm just before we got to Eddyville - we sheltered in the woods, getting slowly wetter and the rain dripped through the trees. Met Don and Graham - two British Cyclists who have done the route from San Francisco to Virginia (well, so far, just to Eddyville - a mere 2000+ miles). Seemed so English after meeting American cyclists, day after day (so quiet, so self-effacing!). One of them had the cruelty to ask, looking at my cobbled together bike, "what's that, a flying gate?". Well, my bike does look a bit gate like, being a cheap alu racing frame heap up with too much luggage and bits of touring equipment (there was once a racing bike known as the flying gate). After the huge thunderstorm, the weather was much nicer - cooler, sunny and much less humid. Thunderstorms seem a useful thing. The campground at Devil's Kitchen Lake was fine - hot showers, and a nice grassy place to camp away from the sea of 'recreational vehicles' (huge camper vans). No swimming! Just fishing sadly. Etched into one of the wooden tables - 'Subert the dominant paradigm'.

Tuesday 6th July 2004

alaskan cyclists heading southDevil's Kitchen Lake Campground to HI3 Motel, Chester. Initially an easy and pleasant ride into Carbondale to get bits for the bikes (bits for brakes, my cycle computer, spare tyres - Carbondale is an oasis of biking after the desert that was Kentucky - hundreds of miles with no bike shop). Got heaps of stuff, but they still didn't have the bit for my bike computer, so I was rash and bought another one! If I get the part back in England, I'll have two! In Carbondale we met Mark and Wanda, and Jason, and two Alaskans (see photo) heading towards Florida for a youth conference and holiday. They were riding a tandem from about 40 years ago. One brake had ceased to work, so they described their braking technique. It involved putting all four feet down at the same time as using their remaining brake. A sort of centipede style of slowing down. Their bottom bracket was being mended in one of the shops. They were hurtling along, partly thanks to following winds. They recommended camping for free at Wal-Marts. They'd only been moved on once, unfortunately it was in the dead of night. The ride from Carbondale to Murphysboro was brisk - we took the big road, not the transAm trail, because of running late and a big deviation to get to the bike shop. Then in Murphysboro there was a huge thunderstorm - so we sheltered for ages (and ate a heap of food), then we couldn't find the route, then we found a route and ploughed along it until there was another thunderstorm (took shelter on the porch of a house for sale). By now we were really late! More rain but we cycled on, then two flat tyres on my back wheel. Hmmm, would we reach anywhere before it gets dark! My puncture repair outfit glue doesn't work in humid weather, so I was wondering about walking the last 6 miles! Then Guy's puncture repair kit came to the rescue - it does work in humid weather! Finally reached Chester (a small place compared with Chester, England) and found the cheapest motel possible - and collapsed under the weight of a major shop at the very nice store across the way. A real bottle of wine! Kentucky had mostly been 'dry' so a bottle of Australian Merlot is wonderful!

Wednesday 7th July 2004

Popeye People in ChesterChester HI3 Motel to Farmington, Missouri. About 50 miles. Briefly explored the Popeye bits of Chester, partly by posing in a silly montage (that's a vegetable marrow playing the role of Sweetpea, with Steve as Popeye and Guy as Olive Oil). Popeye was created by a resident of Chester and he's left a legacy of curious artwork (see photo), a Popeye shop and various other touristic features. Crossed the Missisippi (spelling? sorry I've forgotten my primary school lesson where we did that river) - very wide (c. 1/4 mile) and very muddy looking. Along the floodplain a bit then through moderate hills, very pretty with lots of deciduous woods and small-ish fields. All very nice in the cooler weather - the wind has gone northerly - there's not the same intense humid heat that there was before. We were amused by the fact that letters were now used for road naming. We were on the Z, were we nearly zzzz'd, it was so warm.We meant to go on to Pilot Knob, but the commuting traffic and the low sun in the eyes of the drivers looked like a bit of a dicey combination. So we stayed for the night in the Park - where we noticed stuff from other cyclists already, so we knew "there's going to be a few of us". We were hoping for an early start the next day before the traffic got to heavy and a good store for food immediately - or a restaurant - so many stores are sooooo predictable - Hershey bars, doughnuts, fizzy pop in many different varieties, but all basically the same. America is a land of choice - so long as you want the same as everyone else and it's sweety, sticky and full of fat! Obesity here we come. See the film Belleville Rendez-Vouz - what a true picture of America so far - there's an awful lot of oversized people in oversized vehicles, 'doing it large' (Bellville-RendezVouz but remove the emphasis on red wine...). The cyclists turned out to be just Larry Holt, an inhabitant of Denver doing the transAm, but heading eventually towards North Carolina and family. A wonderful person - not least for the fact that he brewed me my first cup of tea in a few days - Earl Grey! He's got a campervan (Americans would say 'RV' for Recreational Vehicle) full of stuff in one bike trailer, so not surprisingly it weighs a huge amount. He even had a waffle iron and a tent with a large awning. He's working out what he can abandon (not the tea bags please!). Larry headed off with, I guess, a bit too much stuff, which was fine when the going was flat, but now it is getting hilly. He looks very strong, and very healthy. But a bike cannot be an RV, that we can see (or else it's the end of one or the other knee).

Thursday 8th July 2004

Farmington, Missouri, in the City Park, to Owl's Bend, Ozark Hills. About 76 miles, and quite enough at that! The Ozarks are called "mountains", but they're actually just large hills peaking at around 1700 feet, so in theory they are not too difficult to cycle over. However, whoever designed the roads here largely ignored contour lines, so a road is often very straight, but makes many completely unnecessary ups and downs. In ordinary temperatures, this would be very charming, etc, etc. But it is very hot (90F plus and humid), so the charm was reduced. Farmington to Pilot Knob (Civil War battlefield) was easy going, finishing with a pleasant conversation with, firstly, an slightly inebriated man waiting for the liquor store to open, and secondly, a WW2 veteran, who told us about landing on the Normandy beaches when he was (to quote) 'just a kid'. Fascinating. He had a number plate of "WW2 VET". Then on to Johnson's "Shut Ins" - basically swimming pools in a tumbling river. Steve had a very quick swim because, as usual, we are running late. At Johnson's, we found other cyclists - a tandem recumebent with Bill and his daughter Jenny who were also doing the transAm. Then the road got hillier and hillier! Owl's Bend offered basic facilities (12 dollars for two people) - chemical toilets, water, but not showers at all. Pity considering the number of insects stuck to me today (even in the 30 miles since the swim in the river!). Had a swim in the Current River (see photo) instead of a shower. The current of the Current River was strong. The popular sport here is drifting downstream in a thing that looks like an overinflated inner tube. But deliciously tinglingly cold and clean. Slept well.

Friday 9th July 2004

Steve N Guy do Blue SpringOwl's Bend Camping Area to Houston Motel, Houston. A delightful ride, for the most part - and of only 56 miles. Hilly for the most part, though decreasing. Before we set off we walked to the Blue Spring - and indeed, a wonderful blue spring, about 300 feet deep, turned up at the end of the 1.6 miles path. It's a small river emerging from a rock face a bit like a small Malham Tarn. The blueness of the water is incredible, apparently the Native Americans called it the spring of the summer sky. Such pure blue, and so far from the sea (I'm getting wistful about the coast - I've never been this far from it before!). On the way back from the walk a snake was curled up right in the middle of the path in the remains of an old tree trunk - it had a diamond shape on the back of its neck. We hung around, went back to the Spring for a second look and then tried again - and thankfully it had gone. Stopped at Alley Spring during the day - old mill in wonderful condition (tho' not, apparently, working order yet) - another gushing mass of clear water, this time gushing from a deep green depth. A big hill out of Alley Spring - wow, it was meltingly hot! But then the hills eased off considerably and it wasn't at all difficult to get to Houston (Missouri, not Texas!). Staying in a cheap motel, doing the laundry and catching up with my diary. The nearby presence of a Wal-Mart meant that a beer looked likely (a rare occurence through Kentucky due to the number of 'dry counties'). We walked along the road to the Wal-Mart - not a lot of people do that, walk that is. And then shopped like crazy before a wonderfully large meal.

Saturday 10th July 2004

Houston Motel, Houston to City Park, Marshfield. A day of easy cycling for the most part - and 64 miles were covered. Easy because it's just a big undulating plateau, even though technically it is the Ozark Hills, still. Nice conversation at Ben Davis - convenience store owner commented on London (seen on TV) - 'All those buses - who'd want to live in that sort of crowd' - well there's no crowd at Ben Davis which has a population, optimistically, of about 10. It's very wide horizons country. The owner of the store told us that it wouldn't be good to swim in the pools of water in the fields - apparently the turtles in them are vicious - he finds them hanging on to his cows udders by their teeth! Having helped a turtle off the road the other day, I saw what he meant. It gave me a look that said "touch me again and I'll bite". The convenience store at Ben Davis has a cycle log - excellent! Nice to have a coffee in air conditioning while the heat rages outside. There's no hassle in Ben Davis - no queueing, no crowds, just a lot of space. Neither are there any jobs, I guess! We met a Virginian cyclist in Hartville - heading East, and a bit on his own after the even greater emptiness of Kansas. Made me realise that having someone to talk to can be a great help in a big bike ride. Mark Hollinger has a Web Site. We camped free in Marshfield - by a closed swimming pool (closed just as we arrived sad to say).

Sunday 11th July 2004

a cow bathing in KansasMarshfield City Park through to Golden City, Missouri. A 79 mile day! Rather hillier than I expected - the Ozark hills made an unexpected return - hilly, hot and humid initially, so going was slow. Went through loads of groves - Walnut Grove, Ash Grove, Fair Grove. Ash Grove had a college 1884 - 1894 (it burnt down, rather early on) - classic education college of the end of the last century - so like Lincoln Theological College, of fond memory (which didn't burn down, but was given an episcopal chop instead). After Pennsboro the hills relented and it became fairly easy. The landscape now is wide open agricultural land, building up to Kansas. Herds of cows and bulls, lots of crops. Colden City (is this an inspiration for the Emerald City of Oz?) was not golden, but it was immensely friendly. First of all we were invited into a cafe that had just, in theory closed, but was still in full swing (Cooky's Cafe, Golden City is excellent!). The food was plentiful and cheap. Finally one of the Bike Hostel owners turned up (summoned by one of the cafe staff on their mobile 'phone) and joined us. Then over to the hostel, carrying rather a lot of free pie (I'd especially recommend the Apple, it was wonderful), and into a tea drinking binge in conversation with the Hostel owner. His career has seen Vietnam, the Navy, and now business in a small town in Missouri. A pleasant character to talk to. Gave us the low down on just how many churches the baptists have split into! Each time there's a disagreement there's a split, just about! A great way to end up with religion in 9999 flavours. As usual today, the cows were bathing. I quite understand.

Monday 12th July 2004

Golden City to Walnut City Park. Today was hot and sunny. We headed through Girard at one point, where I got to the library and typed "We are heading for Walnut, or somewhere there abouts, in Kansas. At present I'm typing away in Girard Public Library, Girard. An excellent public investment and full of teenagers playing war games on the computers. It's a very hot day and I'm intending to refill the water bottles in the library! Will write more soon." The ride to Walnut was fine, the landscape becoming quite flat - though there's a slight undulation. At Walnut we met a cycling Mennonite family, Charlene and Ken Schildt with their two very impressive cycling offspring - wonderful group of people who seemed incredibly together after cycling so far in a group (from San Francisco) - I'd have thought most families would be a bit frazzled after cycling so far together, if not in the throes of divorce!!! They helped us understand the Amish, which we have been puzzled by - we have seen buggies, with Amish people in them, leading their non-infernal combustion engine life. But why the long trousers, the beards (for men, that is!), and no sign of cycling (surely an ideal thing for the Amish). We'd also wondered if we could photograph them - it turns out we'd best not! Photography is, they reckon, a making of a graven image, so no photos please. There's logic there. As for bicycles, the situation was not clear - it seems to hinge on the presence of a bicycle chain - which seems to be a negative thing. Anyway, we feel positive about the Amish because they certainly have opted away from the motor engine, and in doing so offer something that is parallel in some ways to us bikers. Walnut City Park was liveable but basic, and with an amazing number of creepy crawlies. I lost a significant amount of blood to the mosquitoes! The spiders seemed extra large too! The toilets are, err, not quite the nicest we've come across. Walnut does have a very pleasant cafe - "Boots and Saddles" - which fed us wonderful pancakes in the morning, and where also I had my blood pressure taken (after eating the pancakes, perhaps it was wise). The community nurse was looking in, so why not? The National Health Service in England hasn't bothered to take my pressure for about a decade, so it's nice to get it done in the USA. "Boots and Saddles" also offers some super drinks - ice cream floating on coffee, hot chocolate. Fond memories, remarkable friendliness. The photo show the usual road scene at the moment - a nice little mirage of water in the distance.

Tuesday 13th July 2004

Walnut City Park to the Carriage House Motel, Eureka. 88 miles, our longest day so far. The landscape was pretty flat - not as flat as an ironing board but there is very little up or down around this part of the states. Cycled to Chanute, initially, where we went to the City Park to restock on water since the day was already like an oven. From Chanute we headed into deepest rurality, went past Toronto Lake (just before this there was an uphill - a rare thing and quite unwelcome in the heat), which was very quiet (not one jetski to be seen) and had a bit of a flake out in the woods by the lake. Too hot to move for a short while. Then on through Toronto where it looks like nothing has happened since the day they built the place. It was very hot indeed and the lady who sold me a half gallon of orange juice in Toronto (Kansas) said "it's a 100F out there, you know". It felt like it was at least that. Continued plodding on through the quiet farmland to Eureka, we'd found it. Because the City Park had no showers (the swimming pool having closed before we arrived), we opted for the cheapest motel we could find, which was the Carriage House Motel, which gave us a room, all included, for 35 dollars (about the price of a Youth Hostel bed in England). The City Park had two other bikers in - Jason and another man who said 'I don't need to do centuries anymore' (a century is a 100 mile day). We agreed utterly and indeed we never did a century. It would, we thought, be more a sign of bad planning than rugged masculinity. We didn't see Jason again on the transAm, so we don't know if he finished. We got knews about Mark and Wanda from cyclists heading east, but never heard again about Jason. Hope he's OK. The transAm is a bit like the internet - things, and people, can disappear and never be found again (unless google has cached them). We bathed (there was a bath) - which was important given how much dirt had stuck solidly and be baked by the sun into place - and then tried "Coors Light" - which I'm a bit ashamed to admit. If a real ale fan is reading this they'll be horrified. Suffice to say, it was like slightly alcoholic lemonade, with a slight hoppy taste. It was very cold, which was the best thing about it.

Wednesday 14th July 2004

Eureka Carriage House Motel to Newton Athletic Park, 74 miles. Although motels are nice enough places to stay, they have the disadvantage that you have to leave all that delicious air conditioning when you step out to go cycling. So we were not very quickly off in the morning. Along a busy-ish road to start with, then turned off at Rosalia to go along a very quiet road. At Rosalia I went into a store and discovered a biker's log! There's a lot of people who care about the bike route, even if they've never been on a bike, which is very touching. Signed it - and was adopted by the store dog, who sat by us as we got through our heap of sugary goo (Ice lollies plus orange juice). The scenery is not very memorable - flat to undulating (at its most exciting) and consisting of fence posts, cattle, crops (maize mostly I think) and telegraph poles. Fence posts are interesting things when there isn't much else to look at. Apparently there've been bloody feuds over them around here - when 'the range' was enclosed the farmers enclosed 'their' land and tempers heated up. Fence posts can be stone, metal or wood - the earliest ones, apparently, are stone. Barbed wire seems to be an essential commodity too! On the road we met three very strong looking cyclists (heading East, opposite way to us) who were cycling for charity - swapped recommendations for places to stay and eat. See their Web Site. They'd been cycling with two other lads, but had been sprinting a bit too fast for the other two. We saw the other two cyclists later on, carrying one bike trailer between them, alternating who was pulling it each day. A bag of finest white bread was perched on top of a heap of possessions. A recipe for a row, I'd say, pulling the trailer each alternate day. I'd get it whenever the day was hilly, if it was me and Guy...!

Eventually got to Newton, Kansas, and had a swim! For once, we'd arrived before pool closing time. It was lane swimming apparently, though I didn't see anyone in the pool doing that, it was full of ladies dancing to music - water-robics. The battle against obesity no doubt. We met a cycling enthusiast who told us of how she was part of the bike across Kansas week - lovely to see such enthusiasm for the bike. Apparently they always include a 100 mile day ("knock in a century") - but they aren't carrying panniers. Finally went to Mokas cafe, on Main Street in Newton, which is a lovely haven of very nice coffee, and similar, cheap eats (including some vegetarian food - a rarity in these parts), and some free (if you're drinking) internet access. Finally camped in the City Park - and tried a couple of imported wheat beers from a local liquor store. Beautiful after Coors Light!

Thursday 15th July 2004

Newton Athletic Park to Sterling (Sterling Lake Campsite). 57 miles on route, plus a few off route (total about 64 miles). On awaking, we appeared to be surrounded by lawnmowers. They were everywhere. It turned out that in the dark, under the influence of a wheat beer or two, we had camped next to the lawnmower maintenance shed. A bit of a shock at 6am in the morning. They start early here. We got going - and headed off route to Hutchinson to see the Cosmosphere. A busy road to Hutchinson, with the usual rural scenery of fence posts and cattle, plus a few nodding donkeys (pumping water, I suppose?). Cosmosphere charged us $8.50 approx inc. tax to see an interesting collection. Bit of a shock after the free Smithsonian museums in Washington DC. Excellent section on the human background to rocketry - the concentration camp victims who died in the tunnels of Nordhausen, building V2 rockets (the 'V' in V1 and V2 is for 'vengeance' after the allied ing raids on Germany). More died building the rockets that they killed in England when the landed! Also nice to see the Apollo 13 module that came back after the fire that nearly caused disaster out in space. There is a huge blackbird spyplane in the lobby. The panniers got left with the volunteer ladies at the information desk. I suppose the museum is a bit of a "boy's own facts" place - gigantic speeds, distances, temperatures. But the bit about 2nd World War rocketry was for me an interesting bit of history. Fortunate that didn't achieve his aim of building a rocket that could hit the USA! Ploughed on from Hutchinson to Nickerson, part of the time we were lost but steering by the sun (! oh dear), and finally we got to Sterling, on a hunch that the place was big enough for a pool, and it was, and we swam and pitched up, and went for a cheap pizza in town. Eating pizzas we met a reporter from the local paper (which I was reading at the time), and her brother, Ray Williford, who kindly then transferred pictures from my camera onto CD. So then there were pictures. Well, not at the first library I came to because "the lady at the desk hasn't got the password/key to unlock the CD drive on this computer!". Anyway, thanks to Ray and to Newton Presbyterian College for their kindness and technology!

Friday 16th July 2004

From Sterling Lake Campground to Larned City Park - 49 miles on route and a fair few a bit off route! There's not much in the way of services between Sterling and Larned, on the whole, so we were careful to carry lots of water and food. The whole day was in a straight line, the Quivira Nature Refuge was the only notable thing we went past. You can hunt on the refuge, so its a funny kind of refuge! No doubt it makes ecological sense to someone. Hunting seems popular - not least by the number of 'no hunting' notices around. Is that was the NRA (National Riflemen's Association) is keen on? We've seen lots of NRA stickers on pickup trucks. Today was relatively cloudy so not as hot as usual. Arrived early in Larned, c. 3.30pm, went for a swim in the pool, and discovered that it doesn't close until 8pm (well, the building closes at 8pm, you have to be out of the pool a little before). Excellent! Went to the library and spent a long time in there - typing up some of my diary. It was in Larned that I finally got a few pictures onto this website. More to come!

Saturday 17th July 2004

66 miles, from Larned City Park to Ness City, City Park. A pleasant road for Kansas - just gentle undulations. Contrary to what people say, Kansas isn't at all flat. It is either undulating slightly, or else a tilted plane - i.e. you are climbing as you go from East to West. So we keep going up a few feet. By the time we reach the rockies we'll be at c. 5000 feet. That's not flat... Visited Fort Larned - National Historic Site - basically a 19th Century fort in a bend of a river, well defended against Indian attacks, and defending the Santa Fe trail that took goods to Santa Fe - the Spanish trading post of the time (seems to become American after some war or other!). Never a huge place, but the barracks could cram in over a hundred soldiers - sleeping 4 to a bunk bed. The tent suddenly seems more spacious. The surgeon got a very nice house to live in, and there were some alarming instruments displayed (the usual amputation saw, blood-letting razor, etc, etc). A very nice looking piano too! Met Lynda and Larry from Seattle at Fort Larned - they offered us helpful comments on the road ahead - including ideas about how to get from the coast to our aeroplane at Seattle.

We met an Oregon cyclist later on - Tony - who suggested other routes too! Tony was on a racing bike pulling a Burley. We saw a massive storm ahead, the storm was heading south so we missed it. You can see Tony and a corner of the large storm on the photo! Turned out that the storm hit Ness City and closed the swimming pool early - so even if we'd been on time (which we weren't) we wouldn't have got a swim. A headwind developed which slowed us still further. Went through the little town of Alexander - which has, just after the town, a very very impresssive toilet, with Alexander carved into its marble lintel. Finally got to Ness City, rejected the Motel as too expensive and so ended up in, guess where?, the City Park. Ate at pizza place where we met a couple doing the transAm on a tandem. They also intended to camp in the City Park. Mark and Wanda, they said, are about 50 - 60 miles ahead of us. See their Web Page.

Sunday 18th July 2004

sunflowers are all aroundNess City Park to Leoti, total of 81 miles. Set of early, since we've a fair way to go and the winds get worse during the day. We also were told there was a swimming pool at Leoti and we wanted to get their for 5pm assuming a 6pm closing time. Had elevenses at Dighton, then Scott City for 1.45pm, had lunch. Ploughed on for 5.15 arrival at Leoti. We are rarely so early. And the swimming pool was not just open, but open until 7pm (after which it was family swimming - and I was told that an individual cannot count as a family - a family of one?). But we had a great swim, the lifeguards suggested a good place to camp in the park and someone else suggested somewhere to eat. We got some groceries, ate them in the park and then had a large amount of cake, courtesy of a 100th birthday party that was happening nearby! Thanks! Then we had a heap of icecream, courtesy of a church party in the park that was happening nearby as well. The only toilets were in the nearby health centre, right next to the park, but they stayed open all night and so that was fine. One lady at the birthday party said she'd been to Yorkshire - near Norwich! It turned out to be Norfolk. She also said that people do their shopping at the Wal-Mart 60 miles away in Garden City - 120 mile round trip to do the big shop! Explains why the local grocery stores are so basic. This all depends, obviously, on cheap gasoline. We noticed that Leoti is quite a spanish town - a mixture of white anglo-saxon and hispanic population. This has not been so noticeable before. On the road to Leoti we did meet Mike, doing San Diego to Ohio via a large chunk of transAm. More greetings from Mark and Wanda! Mark and Wanda were travelling fast and we didn't look like catching up. Leoti is a typical Kansas town - it looks a bit empty, not a lot seems to happen, and you wonder how much life is left in them - especially when people do their shopping 60 miles away. The next day I typed away in Tribune, in the County Library. I typed "It's hot, and I'd better get doing some miles - we're heading for Eads, Colorado, We've just crossed a timezone, and we're about to cross the State border". There's not always much that's obvious to look at alongside the road at this point in the transAm trail - but there are almost always sunflowers. The photo shows a typical straggly bunch (photo taken on the 17th July). Some people start to wax eloquent about fence posts too! Grass is also pretty amazing if you look at it for long enough. Any moment now I'll be saying 'hello sky, hello flowers". This is the Kansas effect.

Monday 19th July 2004

The spaciousness of KansasLeoti City Park to Eads, Econolodge, Colorado. 80 miles on the transAm route (plus a few miles looking for swimming pools, food, etc!). Got going early from the City Park. Got to Tribune, where we bought food for mid morning snack. Their was a librry at Tribune, as witnessed in my last entry, and there I typed up my log. We then headed out towards Colorado, passing a timezone just a little before Tribune had prepared us for changes! Guy had a puncture in a very bleak and empty, and hot, and dry, bit of Kansas, just before we got to Colorado. Two cyclists turned up - Franz has a Web Page!. We were all being eaten by sand flies at this point - so the conversation was pretty efficient - good places to stay, experiences on route. They took a picture of us, with Guy mending his tyre. Eventually we got into Colorado and reached Sheridan Lake, which has to be one of the most out of the way places we have yet been to! There is a lake, but the town (hamlet more like!) isn't by it sadly, and all we could find was a garage with a heap of saturated fat to offer to travellers. Guy found the saturated fat level a bit severe and didn't eat much. I managed a bit better and got through an ice cream, a packet of crisps, a heap of peanuts and some other 'goodies'. Fortunately, we don't eat like this very often. Shade was found by sitting round the side of the garage. There's few trees and little shade around here. We reached Eads quite early (before 6pm) but it was very shut. The library was shut, the swimming pool looked like it had never opened, the store had just closed, and there was an air of shutness about the whole place. Eads, Colorado, was even more of a ghost town than some of the places in Western Kansas. Does the swimming pool ever open? Since no times were posted up, we have no way of knowing! The water was a lovely, if unreachable, blue, though. Stayed in the motel because we couldn't find a park that looked reasonable. We did find a liquor store, and asked for real ale, or European style beer. This did not succeed, so we drank a bit of fizzy stuff instead. Went to the Econolodge Motel, which was comfortable, but not much 'econo' about it ($50 for the two of us). Can't be doing that very often...

The picture shows a typical scene looking across the road between Leoti City and Eads - it's was taken just before the border with Colorado, and at the place where Guy had a puncture. I've kindly decided not to put the pictures of Guy, wearily mending his puncture, on the web. We also have a short clip of video footage of Guy cycling along the road near Tribune. It's available for 56K (280K) or you can have a similarly sized and equally grainy ogg. It's a bit grainy, but at least you get a 360 degree view of the landscape, and see Guy pedalling away. It has a voiceover by Steve. It seems to work nicely in RealPlayer. Quicktime plays it nicely too - but the default sound setting is usually too low, so turn the sound up on your Quicktime player, otherwise all you hear is a lot of squeaks....

Tuesday 20th July 2004

From Eads, not-very-econolodge to Ordway Bike Hostel - a grand distance of only about 62 miles on route. Got off not too late - think it was about 8.15am, cycled to Haswell where we had a mid morning snack in the Park and filled up with water. While we were there, Chuck and his daughter arrived on bikes, heading East, hailing from Washington State. The usual exchange of advice and experiences followed. Chuck encouraged us to play on the roundabouts - rather pleasant silliness with all four cyclists getting dizzy on the park equipment. The toilets in Haswell park are, err, not the sort that you'd use without a very good reason, so we avoided them. There is decent water though. Chuck recommended the coastal route to Seattle via Raymond, etc. Helpful advice I think and indeed this was the way we got to Seattle in the end. Headed on to Ordway, where we considered stopping, and did! The library closed 15 minutes after we entered, sadly, so not much typing done there. It's only open afternoons between 2 and 6pm. Ordway doesn't have a swimming pool. Clearly there's not much public finances around in Colorado for the finer things in life - how does Kansas manage to do 'being a town' so much better when it comes to public institutions? Ordway Hotel/Bike Hostel is nice, cost not too much ($30 for two people, each given their own room which is more than we needed!). The liquor store sold a beer from New Belgium Beer Company - called 'Fat Tire' - excellent beer after all that light fizzy stuff. Apparently the beer was named after a bike tour of Belgium, sampling their finest. Well, it certainly wasn't Belgian beer in the style of Trappist, but it was drinkable and pleasantly hoppy.

Wednesday 21st July 2004

From Ordway Hostel/Hotel to Lake Pueblo State Park RV area. Had an excellent and cheap breakfast at 'Spurs and Bits' - a cafe on Main Street, Ordway. Pancakes, Maple Syrup and a (!can this be real) a vegetarian breakfast. Don't see many of them in these parts. Off at 8.15am, and fast - we averaged over 15mph to Boone, where we arrived for a mid morning stop. Boone is tiny, but the store owner pointed out the various mountain ranges that were coming into view. He's a very friendly and helpful character - we refilled our water bottles at the store. The big mountain was Pike's Peak, over 14000 feet, visible to the right, while to the left a long, lower, range of very arid looking hills were the Spanish Hills. Got to Pueblo, found bike shop, rejected their tyres as not sufficiently reinforced for touring (well, Guy bought one, I didn't), but bought more spares (this is getting a bit obsessive - but we're worried about getting stranded in one of these long 30 - 40 miles stretches with no shops, no towns, etc!). Found El Pueblo museum. Interesting - though a big building for such a relatively small collection (at least, on display). Indian artefacts, lots about the history of the town - it's a melting pot of various cultures. El Peublo museum is built on the site, more or less, of the intial El Peublo trading post. Then heading out rather later than we wished to Lake Pueblo - later because we had got lost getting into Peublo - there's a profusion of cycle route signs as you come into Pueblo but some of them are nothing to do with our route, as we discovered!

Lake Pueblo SunsetLake Pueblo heaved in to view, just as a storm arrived and almost blew us off our bikes. The picture is of the calm sunset after the storm. We pitched tent behind two sturdy bushes, expecting a night storm. All went quiet though - apart from thunder and lightning all around in the clouds - lighting them up spectacularly. The landscape has become extremely arid - mesas (tables) of rock, with scrubby semi desert. But as usual powerboats by the dozen.

Thursday 22nd July 2004

California or Oregon?From Lake Pueblo to, we hope, somewhere on the climb up to the Hoosier Pass (a bit over 11000 feet). We haven't seen mountains since Virginia, so we were a bit apprehensive, do our legs work on hills? Set off from Lake Pueblo after a visit to the Marina Store. I suggested to the owner that the boats were a bit big for the lake - they are, too! Huge yachts that would look OK at Marseille or Cannes, but a bit big for a puddle in the semi-desert of Colorado. He said they were really houses - log cabins - for people to live aboard, rather than necessarily actually moving. It's the triumph of over-specification - instead of a screwdriver to do up a screw round here they'd reckon you needed a rechargeable pump action, electric, multi-function tool! I guess selling people more than they need is much more profitable than selling people what they really could do with. Then on to Wetmore where the Western Express bike route separated off from us and headed towards, eventually, San Francisco (the picture shows the junction where you make the choice), we turned north and reached Canon City (pronounced Canyon City) via Florence. Between Wetmore and Florence we met Mickey and his father Steve, doing a very high tech tour - Mickey was carrying a five pound laptop plus a flexible (marine) solar panel and a modem! You can see the very nice results of being able to play with your computer all the time you want when you aren't cycling at Mickey's Web Site. A big prison loomed as we reached Florence - plenty of evidence of the boom in the incarceration business around here (three huge prisons in two days). Florence is very nice - and we had a big lunch at the Mainstreet Grill - $13 but very filling and tasty. Thank goodness the pound is strong against the dollar at the moment. Then we went on to Canon City, where I typed away in the town library - "Got to go now to find the bike shop (can I find a tyre that'll suit?). Once again the public library is a heaven of water fountains, internet access and shade! Think of us as we start doing our 5000 foot climb!". Well, it certainly is one of the biggest climbs on the transAm route.

We decided to do the climb up to around 8500, lured on by a flyer that suggested there was a hostel in Guffy. Well, there wasn't as far as we were concerned. There is a telephone number to ring, but no one was in, a local bar helped out (especially by providing us with a couple of beers - a wheat beer and a beer named 'Avalanche' - both very good, and real micro brewery stuff I think) by directing us to the hostel owner's house. It had a skull with glowing red lights stuck in the eye sockets. It was dark by now. There was a sound of music coming from within, but no amount of knocking did any good. The bar fed us very well and we reeled out into the cold and dark wondering what to do. Well, we pitched our tent outside the community school (it's the school holidays so can't be any problem with that). A very mediocre night's sleep followed and a very early start today. Oh - by the way - we noticed that one of the prisons we cycled past recently had a riot on Tuesday of this week - Olney Springs. The news was on the front of the Denver Times, or suchlike. Perhaps the inmates rioted seeing the freedom of the open road? There is nothing in the world that gives a greater sense of freedom than being on a bike on the open road with a tent. Colorado, a state with horizons big as you could wish, specialises, paradoxically, in providing imprisonment services to the rest of the USA!

Friday 23rd July 2004

Vik Choudhuri Going to ArgentinaAfter an early start so as not to disturb anyone, we were off on the road by 7.30am. Our experience says - do not rely on Guffy Hostel, you must phone well in advance and even then, will the owner be in? Answer the call? We can't recommend it anyway. We cycled off to Hartsel where we met Vik Choudhuri doing Alaska to Tierra del Fuego via off road transAm going North to South. He's a remarkable character - it's going to take a year for him to do his ride, including Peru, Chile, etc. Then, after pancakes and a omlette we headed to Fairplay, skirting some very very large rainstorms. There's a good deal of snow on the mountains and the sky is quite cloudy. The mountains run in ridges above a plain, on which we cycle, that's at about 8 - 9000 feet. Very wide open country - we can see the storms coming miles and miles away. We reached Fairplay, where I'm now typing this. An nice little library in Hartsel, and another larger library in Fairplay. Hartsel's modem was destroyed by a lightning strike. There's a great deal of thunder and lightning about just a the moment. In Fairplay we witnessed the following sequence of odd events. First of all a dog was hit by a car and, only slightly injured, rescued by a troop of small girls. Saved! Then we reached the excellent bakery - where we met a lovely man that was driving a flower power VW van. Photos to come of Steve at the wheel - this is the acceptable face of Recreational Vehicles (RVs)! Alot of the RVs we've seen are huge things towing a car or a boat, I think in one instance both! Then I got asked about folk clubs in Leeds! A cowboy singer (Smokey Ritter the singing cowboy!) wants to do a tour. I think he hopes he could finance a trip out of doing the folk clubs of the UK - given their weak state this may not be so easy. Then we witnessed an arrest and a caution (something to do with a car - a car is now immobilised at the side of the street). At present we are building up our strength with a large Cinnamon and Apple Loaf - in order to cycle over a very stormy looking Hoosier pass. We're at almost 10000 feet already, so it may not be such a climb to 11500-ish feet.

Steve at the Hoosier Pass our highest point...Later... finally got over the Hoosier in rain, but a brief bit of sun at the top of the pass (11,500 feet). Excellent downhill, though freezing on the hands, stayed in the rather expensive hostel - Fireside Inn (50 dollars + tax for the two of us - not English Youth Hostel prices! but this is Breckenridge, which caters for the fast spend rates of the skiing crowd, not the slow spend rates of the long distance cycle tourist!). Breckenridge is clearly in the middle of a second home boom - which means that for a small town it has s ludicrous number of 'realtors' - estate agents. Is this the cause of the amazing levels of debt run up by US consumers?! It also makes Breckenridge feel a little 'fake' - not many people walking around the street actually live here - most are sort of living here, but really making their money, etc, someplace else.

Saturday 24th July 2004

bikers are massing in kremmlingFrom Breckenridge Fireside Inn to the Old Volunteer Firestation, Kremmling - only 50 miles! After a nice bowl of Hot Oats at the Fireside Inn (which, though pricey for cycle tourists, is comfy), we headed off a short distance to tinker with our bikes. Stopping on the cycle path down the valley to Frisco we noted the huge number of cyclists - Saturday morning is the time to do some cycling round here, clearly. Headed down, eventually to Frisco, then Silverthorne. We got a bit lost getting to Silverthorne and found ourselves briefly but alarmingly on an Interstate - which we got off as quickly as possible. Then a bit of a headwind slowed our progress, after lunch in silverthorne, down the valley to Kremmling. Eventually rolled into Kremmling and discovered Mark and Wanda, who we'd last seen a couple of weeks ago, shopping in the grocery store. They were at the local motel. We set up camp for free at the Old Volunteer Fire Station. Three mountain bikers turned up - doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike route. All teachers - and nice characters. John, Mike and Mark (I think! - correct me if you are these bikers and I've got it wrong). Mark, of the mountain bikers, commented on the way debt finances the second home and huge RV industries. Mark and Wanda met us in the highly recommended Saloon Bar - where they have a decent range of real ales (microbrews, as they say here). The photo shows a bikers get together in the main street of Kremmling. A remarkable number of muscley legs on display! The people are Mike, Mark, Mark (of Mark and Wanda), John, Wanda, Guy. Notice Guy's trademark carrier bag (from Waterstones - a British Bookshop chain)!

Sunday 25th July 2004

the Muddy Gap RoadKremmling to Walden (62 miles). We go going eventually, at about 10.30am. Got to Muddy Creek Pass after 2 and a half hours of gentle uphill, except for the last bit which was steep. Sunny weather and pretty impressive mountains scenery on either side of the road - though big plains all around before you get to the foot of the mountains. Mark and Wanda caught us up, and we all had lunch at the top of the pass. Sunny and grassy - and woods! The mountains around here are not very wooded - the landscape around Kremmling was tending towards desert - semi-desert, with the occasional cactus even. Pat and Sue, two cyclists doing the transAm hailing from Pennsylvania, turned up at the end of our lunch - swapped recommendations - including the hot springs at Saratoga (YES - they are excellent, and make you feel like a lobster being slowly boiled - see tomorrow's entry). Fast rolling countryside down to Walden - where we set up camp in the City Park after all dining together in town. Walden is nothing to do with Thoreau's famous book - it was named, apparently, after an early inhabitant. Slept OK - but a fair few dogs barking in the area, Walden City Park is, though, very green. Swimming pool closed before we arrived, sadly. Mark and Wanda were camping nearby.

Monday 26th July 2004

Paul, Ally, Danni and GuyWalden City Park to Saratoga (Lake Saratoga Campground) - 68 miles. Had breakfast, went shopping for breakfast and lunch - because there is nothing much before 50 miles are up today! Before breakfast Mark showed us his innovative aluminium can stove. A alu can cut in half and shoved back together with various ingenious holes for flames and fuel. It works apparently - no one has been blown to pieces as yet but there's plenty of time. Headed off, across the 'North Park' - a huge expanse of plains hemmed in by mountains in the distance. Mountains were streaked with snow in the distance, but it was warm in the valley. Eventually over into Wyoming, after a little climb to get out of North Park. Fast undulating road, up and down but with no headwind. We met Paul, a Canadian, with his two daughters, getting back into cycling by doing Jasper, Canada to Florida. Nice people to meet in the middle of the emptiness that seems to be Wyoming. The photo shows the nicely symmetrical group comprising Paul Comparelli, his daughters and Guy, just into Wyoming. Admire that sagebrush that's stretching as far as the eye can see. Eventually had lunch at the side of the entrance to the Presbyterian Skyline Camp - wonderful views for miles and miles. Mark and Wands caught us up just as we finished lunch. Headed on to Riverside - refilled water bottles at the little park (left off the main road in amidst the trees) at Riverside. Lovely to have cool water. Guy's tooth was hurting slightly - we may have to explore dental treatment in the US (expensive?!!!). Then a headwind developed as a huge storm passed us to the East - slow cycling over more undulating roads (big switchbacks - you can see about 2 - 3 miles of road ahead at a time) to Saratoga. Followed signs to Hot Springs. Swimming pool closes, on Monday, at 6pm, so we were just to late for that, but we sat in the open-all-hours hot springs. Delicious and very hot, with showers and toilet at the springs. Free too! Felt like a boiled lobster. Tried to find a campsite, failed initially. Getting dark - so we headed out to the lake - difficult in the dark believe me, along a bumpy road to the North of town. Pitched tent in the dark and went almost immediately into a deep sleep. Now, in the morning, the place looks a lot nicer than in a stormy evening - the thunder is mostly an afternoon phenomenon. We've just done our washing in the launderette and are about to head out to Rawlins.

Our philosophical question today was 'Are Americans just Brits with more space?' - well, we were inclined to think that largely they were - that the stressed nature of Brits compared with Americans (rural ones anyway) is due to being compressed into a small space. The same economy of debt, keeping up with the next door neighbours, second homes, house price inflation, bigger and bigger cars, is evident. Steve comments that Americans don't do sailing much in the states we've seen - just powerboating. This is, I reckon, the unconscious of the American soul (some American souls anyway!) - power, not oneness with nature. Where are the windsurfers, catamarans, sailing boats?

There's a short video [mpeg] clip (or try the ogg format) for today's ride - a 360 degree view of North Park, with Guy stationary in the huge landscape. It works in both RealPlayer and Quicktime, but Quicktime defaults to a too low volume, and you'll very probably just hear squeaks unless you turn the volume up!

Tuesday 27th 2004

big trains, big skyFrom Saratoga Lake Campground to Rawlins (Key Motel)- a distance of only 42 miles. A light day today, largely because we are trying to sort out Guy's painful tooth. Well, sorted out it was - first of all he got soothed his gums via a pharmacy, then he tried a dentist in Rawlins, who xrayed his tooth, gave him a prescription for antibiotics and charged him around 60 dollars. The relief, once he was taking the pills was rapid. Before all that happened, though, we had a fast bike ride from Saratoga to Walcott, took cover in a cheap cafe while a large storm raged outside, then took off at high speed along the Interstate's hard shoulder, helped along by the passing large lorries, stopping only to photograph a very impressive Union Pacific loco! The storms passed to north and south, but missed us in the afternoon. They seem to generate anti-clockwise winds (? is this correct) - because after a light headwind in the morning we had a slight tailwind going West in the afternoon. The Key Motel (40 dollars for two) was pleasant enough - and came with lots of hot water via the microwave, so plenty of tea... Walked to downtown Rawlins - some nice buildings, and the library was open late, so we found the addresses of dentists in Lander - to fix Guy's tooth. The landscape around here is an arid, semi-desert. The ranches may be big but can you really grow much on them(I suppose the quantity of land makes up for the quality?).

Wednesday 28th 2004

split rockFrom Rawlins (Key Motel) to Jeffrey City (J. C. Motel) - a distance of 66 miles. After shopping for breakfast in Rawlins - at a nearby supermarket, we phoned some dentists in Lander to fix up an appointment for Guy - Hooray! Guy's got an appointment. He now has an appointment to fix his painful tooth in Lander in a couple of days, at 8.30am in the morning. None-the-less, we still went to a dental practice to get some antibiotics, since the tooth is clearly infected in some way. After an X-ray, and 60 dollars lighter, antiobiotics were obtained. Finally we started cycling, rather late. As we cycled out of Rawlins, Guy was feeling a lot better! We sped on through a landscape of semi-desert, rocky thorny hills. Eventually reached Muddy Gap - a small gap in a range of dry hills, and were sad that there was a lack, these days, of mud. Got food at the little shop at Muddy Gap, then headed for Jeffrey City. A bit before Jeffrey City we saw Split Rock - a split in the range of low rocky hills that was an important place for wagon trains on the Oregon trail - and also important to the Pony Express - the romantic Pony Express turned out to have run for only about 18 months and to have been a financial disaster. Still romantic legends come from strange real events. Is this the same place that Mark Twain (in Roughing It) calls Devil's Gap? Sounds like the same place from the description.

Jeffrey CityFinally reached Jeffrey City, all 20 houses of it! It's tiny, having lost most of its population when the Uranium mining closed down, due (depending on who you ask) to either 1) 3 miles island nuclear catastrophe 2) the SALT treaty reducing the number of nuclear warheads or 3) the outsourcing of uranium for missiles in the US to Canada. The last, and sadly most cynical, sounds the most plausible. Anyway, c. 1983 the population of Jeffrey City fell by about 5000 as the mining jobs disappeared. After examining the mosquito infested grass that were the two possibilities for camping - and the associated lack of showers and toilets, we opted for the delightfully cheap and thoroughly comfortable J C Motel - just under 30 dollars for two people. We'd eaten at the nearby bar and cafe. The meal was unfortunately the familiar Wyoming saturated fat, with trans and hydrogenates, but it was tasty. Chatted to a man in the cafe about politics - staunch Republican - thought that the democrats were going away from the American ideal. We commented that perhaps that ideal had missed out the fraternity and egality sides of the American dream - perhaps that's where the democrats come in. He wasn't convinced. Wyoming is very Republican - to the extent that it appears to be a one party state!


Thursday 29th July 2004

near desert near LanderFrom Jeffrey City (J C Motel) to Lander, Wyoming, City Park - a grand total of 58 miles on route. Before leaving Jeffrey City, I discovered a puncture in my kevlar reinforced back tyre. It was a metal staple - so leaving was delayed somewhat. Left motel a tiny bit before check out time. We headed to the local cafe for a heap of pancakes and omlettes. That gave us the carbs we needed to leave. We headed out onto the road and immediately noted a strong headwind. The headwind got steadily stronger until it was a gusty force 5 - 6. We had to pedal so as not to stop even on the downhills - and even then getting into double figure mphs was a rarity! Guy was particularly exhausted - being on antibiotics at the moment for his tooth. There was nowhere to buy food for about 30 miles, to start off with, and then water started to get a bit low! Anyhow, we crawled on. The landscape was the usual interesting but bleak arid semi-desert of southern Wyoming. The photo shows the entrance to a big ranch - "I got a whole lot of nothing"! We arrived exhausted at Lander, where we noted that a Jacuzzi was available at the local swimming baths. We headed straight there after a brief glance at the local city park and having noted a brew pub on Main Street. We arrived in time for a swim and jacuzzi! Lane swimming - but the water made us feel like doing laps (well - Steve felt like doing laps). Eventually it closed so we moved to the brew pub - and sampled a variety of beers, chatting to two locals (Chris and Andy - both keen cyclists) who gave us the low down on Wyoming, life, music, etc. Many thanks! We discovered that Lance Armstrong had won the Tour de France - so improving the image of cycling in the USA. A little worse for wear we headed to the park to pitch the tent. Which we did by torchlight. We both slept very soundly. Lander City Park is excellent - we didn't get any mosquito bites! Perhaps this was due to the lateness of the hour when we set up camp? Anyway, Lander is brilliant, and especially the Brew Pub on Main Street.

Friday 30th July 2004

From Lander City Park to Circle Up Campground, Dubois - a total of 74 miles. Guy had his tooth repaired at 8.30am, an impressive bit of metal has appeared in his mouth and things seem much better. By the time we had finished shopping, trying to do internet and email, etc, etc, it was 1pm. An appallingly late start! Headed out fast - did a quick 35 miles until lunch, then set off again. The landscape - well, it was a sort of arid semi-desert. Familiar. the wind stayed at a force 3-4 headwind, which was better than yesterday. Saw the fascinating Crowheart Butte, where Chief Washakies defeated various enemies, and ended up by celebrating in gory style with a Crow heart stuck on his lance. Picturesque history. Crowheart Butte is a rocky outcrop, rising out of the arid semi desert.

near DuboisAs you approach Dubois, there are some wonderful rock faces, especially in the sunset (see photo) - which since we were late was just happening. There are some benefits to being slow! We ploughed relentlessly on, and finally arrived at the campground in Dubois, only to discover that the only food was another few miles down the road. Well, we headed on out to the Bernie Cafe - a very Republican establishment, full of puerile stickers like 'Shoot a Tree Hugger, it's target practice' - well, the food was OK and it was open. I'm not sure they get many vegetarians in there. They are apparently proud to be white, straight, republican, family centred people. I suppose in a homey sort of way, it is understandable. I guess they don't do spend much on education in Wyoming, though. Fell into our sleeping bags and went into a deep sleep. I think I dreamt of windsurfing - on a huge ocean. I think that's where my unconcious must be.

Saturday 31st July 2004

Teton Mountains from Togwotee PassFrom Circle Up Campground, Dubois (pron. Duboys) to Hatchet Campground, Teton National Park - a total of 48 miles on the route. Another appallingly slow start - but this time 12 noon. After various breakfasts, shopping, attempts at email and internetting, we finally got going. Headed uphill towards the Togwotee Pass. A brisk headwind appeared and progress slowed. We crawled up the 2500 feet of the pass, which without the headwind would have been easy enough. The landscape became increasingly beautiful - real numbers of trees, huge rock faces, green grass (not a thorny semi-desert thank goodness). The volcanic landscape of the pass means that huge walls of rock appeared on our right hand side. On the way up we met a cyclist doing the transAm - David Seidman (web site) and a teacher from Austin Texas, doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike route and seriously self sufficient. He had water filters so as to drink from streams, etc, without getting bugs. We exchanged experiences pleasantly with both. Reaching the top of the pass was great because it was a brisk 18 miles downhill to the Forestry Service campground and food. For the first time on this trip we had to put food, and the like, in a bear box, because this is bear country. There was an attack on a cyclist doing the Togowotee Pass off road a month or so after we went over it. Bear spray saved the day. We did it without bear spray but perhaps being on road was a wise move! In spite of thoughts of bears we slept well, none the less! We saw outlines in the distance of the most fantastic mountains - the Tetons. Coming up soon.

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