W-W-Wyoming

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
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30
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Trip End Aug 20, 2007


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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Saturday, July 7, 2007

Where/when/how (that part's easy - on a bike).

Monday 2nd July: Teton Village, WY - Dubois, WY
Tuesday 3rd: Dubois, WY - Riverton, WY
Wednesday 4th: Riverton, WY - Worland, WY
Thursday 5th: Worland, WY - Buffalo, WY
Friday 6th: Buffalo, WY - Gillette, WY
Saturday 7th: Gillette, WY - Devil's Tower, WY

Distance gone this week: 508.9 miles
Speed of the week: 43.2 mph

How high were the passes?
Togwotee Pass: 9658 ft
Powder River Pass: 9666 ft

Perplexed by how retarded I seem to be, I decided to give the getting up early lark a go this week. Thwarted early in the week by a desire to go back to bed, I had finally had enough of the searing heat that appeared in the afternoon by the middle of the week, so bit the bulllet and got up at a time I didn't believe existed. By the afternoon down at the 4000ft level (rather than the 9,000 ft level of the mountain passes) the temperature was up to near 100 farenheit, and even by 7.30 it was in the mid 80s. Not pleasant. By getting up some time around 4.30am (I never realised it was light this early) and being out, breakfast eaten, not much after 6am, much of the heat got knocked on the head. The earliest I managed to get in on my brief spurt was 11am, though it then poses the question 'what can I do for the rest of the day?' Sleep's a good option, as is free internet at a library. Though getting up early when I had to go to work was a chore, I'm prepared to do it to beat the heat. Don't get any ideas though parentals - I still like my sleep and am not going to go to bed at 9pm every night so that I can get up early at home.

This week had the overall highest consecutive amount of elevation for the whole trip. Not only is Wyoming the least populous state, but it's also the highest (much being over 4,000ft). Then came the mountains. Mile upon mile of continuous uphill. At least it's quite a bit cooler further up, but after about thirty miles of going up grades from 5-10%, you don't really care. The most taxing day was going over the Powder River Pass in the Boghorn Mountains (Worland to Buffalo day), which at 9,666 ft was the highest point on the entire trip. It was also billed as the toughest of the whole way across - 9,000ft of vertical climbing, around 90 miles in length, and a fat mountain pass of 9,666ft. As the last few digits suggest, it was a devil of a climb, though by going up so far it meant there was also a heck of a long way down on some pretty fast downhills. Down the final four mile stretch into Buffalo, i was tailed all teh way down by an RV. As I was going somewhere between 35-40mph, there was no way it would be able to overtake me on the bends, so it just sat there. Not especially reassuring, but there was not much I could do about it, as I was not stopping. Whilst the spectacular speeds were reserved for this, the spectacular scenery award of the week has to go to the first day, and cycling through the Teton National Park. With clear sky and spectacular views of the mountains, it's going to be pretty hard to beat. Being in there early also meant that the wild things were doing their business before the ehat struck - I saw numerous Pronghorn antelope things, Elk, something that looked like a Coyote but which I rather hoped was a wolf, and my piece-de-resistance, an Eagle. That was extremely cool.

The Wyoming attitude to safety is not necessarily what you'd expect from litigation strewn America. Still very much a frontier state, it was no surprise when, faced by 'blasting zone' at a construction site on the way to Togwotee Pass, the flag waving dude (he thought we were all mad, but I've come to expect that of people now) told us to wait whilst his mate came down in a pick-up. With said pick-up now with us, it was open the back, chuck the bikes in, then jump into the back with them. No worries about seatbelts/falling out over the precipice. Worse things could happen. There seem to be two seasons in Wyoming - rain and construction. We hit the construction one, and they really do mean construction. The whole road is taken up as they put a new one down, but in the areas just before and after there are the remnants of core-sample holes, left from seeing how bad the road really is. Fine when going up hill at not too fast a pace, but a real dodgem test when zooming down in the 30s. There also seems to be an inability to pronounce anything French - Dubois, one of the towns we stayed in, is pronounced as if by some mafia boss. Imagine your finest New York/Chicago gangster wanting the boys to come round for an afternoon shoot-out, and that is how you pronounce it - 'de-boys' - rather than how it looks, du bois.

In such a sparesely populated state, the most fantastic aspect is the scenery. No two days are the same (though this can be said for pretty much any of the days here), and you can be in the striped, pointed domes of Death Valley one minute, before crossing over to blood red cliffs that would not look out of place in the Australian Outback the next. All before entering a gap in a seemingly impenetrable hill and coasting down a canyon that would not look out of place in Arizona. The final destination for the week, Devil's Tower, was no exception. A remnant of previous volcanic activity, it sits rather at odds with the landscape around it, a giant plug plonked in the middle of rolling hills. If you think you've seen it before, you probably have - Close Encounters of a Third Kind, where the ship came in (looks a bike like a giant, plug shaped version of the Giant's Causeway in Ireland if you're stuck). There were also Prarie Dogs, and lots of them, in a colony by the base. Sounding a bit like a Jack Russell on speed, they furiously yap at you, even if you just stop to have a look, before beating their tails on teh ground and scurrying back into their hole. Hilarious, especially when there's hundreds of them doing it.
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