Monday, July 23, 2007

Lander, WY

So far, approximately 100% of our riders want to move here. Specifically to Lander. It is the international headquarters of NOLS and most people here seem to embody that type of spirit. Most of us atae lunch at the Gannett Grill which is a popular local microbrewery. I had the salad I've been craving basically since Providence (Greek salad with chicken and...this is the important part...AVOCADO. Mmm.)

We've been through a lot of diversity here in Wyoming. First we came into Lusk where I talked to a man in the drugstore about the coal mining industry and the railroad that ran right through town. He said about 30 fully-loaded trains run through there everyday. That has been happening for many many years...imagine how much coal is shipped and has been shipped.

We went from Lusk into Douglas where we were able to explore a (free) Pioneer Museum. It had everything from weapons to covered wagons to furniture from the early 1900's. Also in Douglas, we were served a big dinner at the ranch owned by the Pastor from the Baptist church in Lusk. When we first got there, we got the full tour of the barns and the grounds, and some of us even rode horses around the land.

The ride from Douglas to Casper was one of my favorites thus far. About 10 of us decided to take and alternate route to avoid Highway 25. We climbed an additional 1,000 feet but the little traffic, antelope sightings, and amazing views made it all worth it. We also discovered Wyoming is a major Uranium testing center.

I can't forget about the build site we worked on in Casper. Dean and Bill were good guys to work for. A few of us worked on the same room all day - insulating and putting drywall on the ceiling and walls. It was difficult work - strenuous on the neck and arms and a few annoying angles to cut, but it was rewarding. At the end of the day, our room looked like a real room and we imagined a child laying on his bed staring up at the ceiling, our ceiling. The house next door was the mirror image of ours, so we were able to go over there and see what the finished product would eventually look like. The most rewarding part of the day came at the end (possibly the epitome of what this trip has been about for me), when Bill, a comical and facetious guy said to Jackie and I, "Boy, I will never, ever bad mouth anyone from your generation again. I don't care what they say. You guys have restored my faith in humanity."

From Casper, we rode into Shoshoni. I was up and ready to leave at 6:45am when I realized that it was my day to sweep with Bridget, something I had been looking forward to, but it was difficult to get into the sweeping frame of mind being ready to go so early. After about an hour of letting everyone get ahead, we biked out of town and met up with the coffee drinkers about 5 miles down the road. Since we had about 100 miles to bike that day, we had scheduled 2 lunches. The first was at Hell's Half Acre - a section of the desert overlooking a strange 320 crater.
It was a hot and slightly hilly ride into that point, but we left there with about 1/2 the trip under our belt. Half way to the second lunch, the headwinds picked up and we were treated to a 20 minute thunderstorm with just enough rain to cool us off and just enough thunder to make it thrilling (a thunderstorm in the desert!). My sweeping duty paid off at this point though, because after the storm the winds shifted and provided us with a very strong tailwind. We rode the last 40 miles between 22 and 30 mph with little to no effort. That was something else. The rest of the group unfortunately came in too early and were bucking the storm winds the whole way. It all turned out ok once we were in town though, and everyone treated themselves to a malt or milkshake at the locally famous Yellowstone Drug.

So, after a 50 mile ride today, we're finally here in Lander at the base of the Rockies. For the next few days we're going to be going up and up and up. I'm off to go relax in preparation.

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