Monday, September 7, 2009
Land of Wide, Smooth Shoulders
Last night my cousin Julie, her husband Mark and their boys Kolby and Kale came over and took me to a fabulous dinner. It's cool to finally, actually know someone in a town I arrive in. Mark teaches at the college in Casper, and Julie has been a teacher for many years in the nearby town of Glenrock. It was two for one night, so the beer we ordered each arrived as two beers. I didn't think, after having been up until one-thirty the previous night, I'd be able to drink two pints of beer, but it was a lot easier than I anticipated. Casper didn't look too bike friendly, and I was a little stressed about what route I should take out of town. I received some good advice from the Casper Cabs driver that brought me back from Hertz, and with Mark's advice modified it a bit and we did a quick test run before parting company.
I got up and out while it was still dark, and rolled up to a diner I had found that opens at five-thirty. The waitress saw my bike, and asked about my ride. She says: "I live six blocks from here and I drove to work." I think if I started at five-thirty, I might too. I'm finding that a big breakfast with lots of coffee is making all the difference in how my day on the road starts out.
Yellowstone Highway (26) out of Casper has huge, wide shoulders with very smooth surfaces. I was cruising easily at fifteen and above even with the trailer. This was the first truly chilly morning of my trip. I had my arm warmers on for the first twenty miles or so. About thirty miles out of Casper (or four miles out of Glenrock), The highway joins up with the big divided highway, State Route 25. Now I had even wider shoulders to ride in, far from the traffic, and it was still so smooth that I felt like there was hardly any effort to keeping up to speed. The previous evening, my Uncle Gary in Scottsbluff gave me a blow-by-blow preview of every hill and rest stop along the way, so my "big" eighty-four mile day turned out to be the easiest of the ride so far. I did great for water, even though it was headed for ninety degrees. The freeway would sometimes rise very gradually, about three degrees, and as I crested the top, I'd just coast my way up to about thirty miles per hour on the mile or two of gentle downhill.
Just prior to the seventy mile point, I reached the rest stop at Orin junction, and left the freeway to head down the Old Glendo Highway, for the last sixteen miles into town. Just before Glendo, I was expecting to see a huge body of water (Glendo Reservoir) shown on the map, but it turned out to be a nearly empty basin. I don't know if that's just the time of the year or a sign of a water table in trouble. I saw my first oil well this morning, as well as a huge coal power plant. I read in the paper that wind power is moving in here just like it is in eastern Washington.
It finally started feeling deliriously hot in the final ten miles, and the highway was chip seal, so the surface texture was starting to frazzle the big head of steam I had started with. Still, I got in at two pm, eighty-four miles in seven and a half hours, which is great with a trailer in tow.
I'm holed up in a little basic room tonight, thirty dollars, it has a bed, a shower, electrical outlets. Just fine for me. Tomorrow I move on to one of my favorite places: Fort Laramie!