As we rode south from Grand Teton National Park the vastness of Wyoming opened to us. In total, our passage through the state covered over 450 miles.

From elevations so high that ice still covered the lakes…

To near endless rolling steppes where the summer grasses bent to the winds in wave upon wave.

One afternoon we did battle with a thunderstorm that hammered us with lightning and gusting side-winds exceeding 50 mph. Sorry, no pictures as it was everything I could do just to keep my bicycle vertical and on the road.

We prided ourselves on riding our bikes every single mile, however there was one location of mountain road construction where non-motorized traffic was prohibited. Kindly, the construction crew accommodated us.

The variety of geology that surrounded us was an ever changing treat.

One morning we encountered a group of young cyclists on the road. They were “Push America”, another charity ride crossing the United States, west to east. Strong riders every one of them. Having “eaten her Wheaties” that morning our petite Lissa, aged well into her 50’s, decided to join their pace line. For miles she rode with them achieving for the day her fastest average speed of the entire Summer, nearly 20 mph.

We crossed through the Wind River Indian Reservation where we were hosted at Mass at St. Stephens Mission Church. It was striking to see how familiar Christian images of worship had been ethnocentrically translated.

Upon reflection that is precisely what our European ancestors had done for millennia in creating images of a central European Christ, and blue eyed Mother Mary, and a Latin liturgy.

On July 1st (2010) we were hosted for Mass and dinner by St. Joseph  parish in Rawlins, Wyoming. Near the church we had encountered another cross-country cyclist who we called “Milwaukee Tom”.

Tom (of course from Milwaukee) had recently completed his service commitment in the US Navy. He had mustered out in San Diego California. Tom decided that he was not yet ready to return to the conventions and restraints of civilian life, so he took his discharge pay and bought a bicycle. Tom outfitted his bike for long distance touring and embarked upon a journey of no particular duration to no particular destination. At our invitation Tom enthusiastically joined us at St. Joseph parish for companionship and dinner.

On the evening of July 1st we were joined by a new segment rider, Tom Dillon from Kansas City. Tom’s first riding day with us was on the 2nd, a tough 66 miles to Riverside Wyoming (pop. 52), on the banks of the Encampment River. Our accommodations in Riverside were rustic log cottages that dated to the early 20th Century. The cabins bore such names as, “Sodbuster”, “Wildcatter”, “Mountainman”, and “Muleskinner”.

A welcome sight was the Bear Trap Saloon, situated across the street.

Needless to say…

Next: Into Colorado High Country.
Peace Everyone. Pete

PS: It occurred to me how difficult it must have been for Tom Dillon to join our group of cross-country cyclists, having long solidified into a “family”. Tom’s answer to this challenge was masterfully presented on the morning of July 3rd:

“The Coffee Pot”

I have pondered the inevitable times that we would be called upon to bring “others” into our fold. The “segment riders”… people who wholeheartedly embrace our undertaking, but because of work, family, or other considerations, are unable to assume the obligations of our entire coast to coast journey. What a challenge to suddenly appear, bags and bicycle in hand, among 16 people who have evolved their common experiences into understandings that need no words. We read the shrug of a shoulder, the furl of a brow, the shuffle of a step, as a melody in another member’s day. Sometimes our emotions sing the same song, sometimes another… but almost always with harmony… we are a chorus. Enter the “stranger”, the unknown voice.

Tom Dillon had not bicycled with any of us. He is from Kansas City, but he is a member of another parish. Tom faced the challenge I had pondered… how a “stranger” best enters the ecology of our emotional and physical environment.

Tom arrived in time to join us for the long and challenging ride from Rawlins to Riverside, Wyoming. That day’s ride on July 2nd had seen us persevere over rough narrow roads, through thunderstorms and hail, with headwinds and crosswinds gusting to over 50 miles per hours. There was no time for small talk, and no polite social graces were exchanged. At the end of the day no one was in the mood to “welcome” anyone or anything other than a cold beer, a hot shower, and a warm bed.

At 5:30 a.m. on July 3rd I reluctantly stuck my head out the warped doorway of my cabin and looked through the open and shredded screen. Like “Punxsutawney Phil” of Groundhog Day fame, I was looking to see if there were signs of another day of hell-weather. The sky was ambiguous but the scent was not. My nostrils were assailed by the rich pungent aroma of fresh roasted coffee. There was real caffeine in the air. Not the thin hint of the tepid dark imitation that is served up by most drip machines, but coffee with the raven darkness of abused motor oil. Tom, like the Pied Piper, was calling all of us coffee loving “rats” out of our lairs with the melody of his brew. He stood upon the dew sodden grass, illuminated by the early hint of dawn, with a large old style pewter espresso coffee pot in hand. I and the other “customers” lined up at his bidding, cups in hand. The tribulations of the prior day were forgotten and Tom was instantly “one of us”.

The next few days gave me pause to consider the genius of Tom’s foresight. It occurred to me that anyone entering into an established social order has a limited number of options. One may ignore the group and remain a non-person. One may choose to identify oneself to the group by emphasizing one’s distinctions and differences. And then there is the “coffee pot”. The foresight to think of the others, to strive to embrace what we have in common, what we share, what we understand.

In our cycling group, we are not lawyers, clergy, doctors, social workers, retirees… we are people and we are family. We strive to be “we”, “us”, “our” and never “them” or “they”. As it should be with the human family. It makes it so much easier to help and be helped, to accept and be accepted.

-Pete Schloss, July 7, 2010.

3 thoughts on “Across America by Bicycle, Part 15: Wild Wonderful Wyoming

What Do You Think?