The Wonderful Wild, Wild West

I crossed into Wyoming five days ago! Since then a lot has happened. Doug left to go back to Tennessee, I went horse back riding, and met up with a group of guys traveling west.

Doug and I parted ways last Tuesday morning. We had a good couple of days exploring the mountains away from the cities. However, it was a bit of an adventure trying to get out of Fort Collins. After I wrote the last blog post we went to two more breweries to finish up the brew tour. We tried to locate Ft. Collins Brewing Co., but instead found a different brewery in its place. We come to find out that Ft. Collins Brewing Co. moved their beer operations to a new facility. Now, a tiny microbrewery call Funkwerks has taken over the old location. They specialize in producing saison style beers. And they do a damn good job of it! This brewery was definitely in my top two favorites. After visiting Funkwerks we found the Ft. Collins Brewing Co. just down the road. They also had good beer, but I do prefer the microbrews. We found great food afterwards at a little Thai restaurant near the college campus.

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A this point we decided to try to find a rental car company. Much to our dismay we learned that the rental car companies close their offices at 1pm on Saturdays. We had just missed them by an hour. So we spent the remainder of the day trying to figure out where we could spend the night. First we decide to ride over to the Horsetooth reservoir to see if there are any camping spots. We didn’t realize until we were at the foot of the reservoir that there was a decent climb involved. A this point there are storms blowing in and out of town. They were incredibly unpredictable. One minute the wind was calm and the next it was blowing at 60 miles per hour. When we got to the top four realized that there wasn’t a single place that was suitable for camping. We roll back down the hill to make a new plan. There was a man that we met earlier who offered to let us camp in his back yard if we didn’t have a place to stay. So Doug and I start riding north, back towards downtown, when another round of gusty wind hits. The weather was starting to make things difficult and dangerous for us. We finally decide to see if we can get a motel. Well, because there was a big music festival happening, all the hotels were booked and the only room available would have cost us $170. No way we were willing to pay that. We ended up finding a fire station and asked them if they would be willing to let us camp in their yard. They weren’t keen on the idea, but they were really helpful and pointed us in the direction of a prairie dog reserve where we wouldn’t be bothered by homeless people or the police. It turned out to be a really nice place to camp. It beat sleeping in a ditch with prickly pears!

The next morning Doug and I finally got a rental car. We drove into the mountains toward the TransAm. The first night we camped in a public campground on a feeder stream for the Colorado river near Hot Sulfur Springs. We spent some time in the surrounding towns. I hung out iinter hot springs in town for a couple of hours while Doug drove around exploring an flooding for a decent place to eat dinner. The campsite was really nice, it had tent pads, fire rings, and pit toilets. That night was really enjoyable. We ended up caching the tail end of a meteor shower! Those shooting stars were the largest and most brilliant shooting stars I have ever seen in my entire life. They were awesome! The tails were long and broad, shimmering with green and gold specks. It was definitely worth putting up with the Fort Collins mayhem.

The next day we drove up Rabbit Ears pass, got out of the car and went on a 5ish mile hike. It was an easy hike that wound up through alpine meadow to the Rabbit Ears rock structure. Doug took the challenge and scrambled up the last bit to summit the mountain. We didn’t see much wild life, just chipmunks and birds. When we got back to the car we drove down to Steamboat springs and got some Mexican food. That was the most expensive Mexican food I have ever eaten. Don’t eat Mexican food in ski resort towns! Then we went into the western store around the corner. I tried on a few Stetson hats and found one that looked pretty good, but it’s hard justify buying an $80 hat, especially when you’re traveling by bike. That evening we camped near the top of Rabbit Ears pass. It was a nice site, but still nowhere near as cool as the one the night before.

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The following morning Doug drove me to Walden CO where he dropped me off and we parted ways. I stayed for a day and did my tour chores: laundry, call friends and family (not that y’all are chores!), accumulate groceries, and repack my bags. Even though Doug and I were riding around on bikes, all the beer drinking kind of got me out of tour mode. So for the last 5 days I’ve been “getting back in shape”. I was only able to ride 50 miles to Riverside WY. I had a nice 3 mile, 7% grade climb right after the Wyoming border. After that descent the winds picked up and wildfire smoke filled the valley. It was tough riding and it really wore me out. I ended up staying the night at a campground in Riverside WY. It was nice because they had a hiker/biker camp rate. The campground host told me that all the young folks from the dude ranches go to the bar across the street on Wednesday nights. I was planning on having my evening gin and tonic anyway, so I decided to see what it was all about. Well, basically it’s a bunch of college kids who go work n the resort ranches during the summer. Most of them are recruited from the south. I didn’t really chat with any of them, but I did meet a couple on vacation who originally met on one the the ranches a few years ago. They were pretty interesting and we had a lot of fun chatting with one another.

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One of the things that I’ve been wanting to do out here in the wild west is to go horse back riding. I probed my new friends on where I can find a place to do such a thing for an inexpensive rate. They didn’t really know other than to sign up at one of the resort ranches. Well it just so happened that at that moment a few real cowboys entered the bar! Half jokingly, I turned to them and asked “Which one of you handsome cowboys wants to take me horse back riding in the morning?” Needless to say they all did. We started talking logistics and cowboy Orin was more than happy to pick me up in the morning. 9:30 am rolls around and Orin arrives. He helps me load my bike on top of his pathfinder, and it’s a pretty redneck looking setup, and off we go to his family’s farm. We didn’t bother saddling up the horses because I decided to take the challenge and ride bareback! We rode into the back country toward this really cool rock formation. It was pretty awesome, all of the dogs followed us, the horses were great, we found a ton of deer sheds, and saw a bunch of animal skeletons. Orin was telling me that they have all kinds of wild life: badgers, moose, porcupines, antelope (we saw a small herd of them), elk, prairie dogs, chipmunks, raptors, rattlesnakes, and the list goes on. We parked the horses (can you park horses?) and started climbing up the rocks. The dogs were right behind us the whole time and the closer we got to the top the more difficult the climbing became. It was worth the challenge, because at the top we had a 360 degree view of Wyoming and the surrounding mountains. It was incredible! Certainly one of my favorite experiences on bike tour so far. We rested on the top for a little while, then finally decided that we were ready for lunch and made our way down the rocks and rode the horses back to the farm.

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When Orin and I got to town we had a quick lunch and then we both needed to get back to our regular schedules. He needed to pick up parts for equipment in the next town over and I needed to hit the road. Right after we unloaded my bike three west bound cyclists roll into town! This day kept getting better by the minute! Orin left and I went to chat with my fellow cyclists. It’s a group for three guys, Joe, Jake, and John. It took me a good day or so to get their names straight. It was easy after their nick names were established, Brown Sugar, Rogue Cow, and Skinny. They are a trip! I’ve been riding with them now for the past five days. We keep a decent pace and camp in all the free spots. The first night with them we camped on a lake outside of Saratoga WY. It was a really nice campground and free for the cyclists. The next night we ended up talking the fair grounds host in Rawlins to let us camp there. He opened the bathrooms and we were able to take showers. However, he didn’t turn the sprinklers off. I kept telling the boys that the grass looked too beautiful and soft and perfect for there not to be irrigation. They didn’t believe me. Well, guess who showed them. That’s right. The sprinklers! Ha! The sprinklers were a pain in the ass but it was all I good humor.

From Rawlins we rode to Jeffery City. In Jeffery City there is absolutely nothing there, besides the town bar and Monk King Bird Pottery. We all meet up at the town bar to figure out where we are staying. Earlier in the day we tried calling a fellow that puts up cyclists but never heard back from him. As we arrive there are a bunch of east bound riders showing up, too. I finally got to have some quality lady cyclist time with two other girls traveling together. There was a nineteen year old guy traveling alone and father/son duo as well. All in all there were 9 touring cyclists hanging out in Jeffery City, in the middle of bumfuck Wyoming. It was awesome! Then, it turns out the town party animal, Byron, is our host! He greets us at the bar with high fives and beers! His place is Monk King Bird Pottery across the road from the bar. He had all kinds of crazy things thrown about the yard, a bonfire, and beer and whiskey waiting for all of us. He’s a mad potter, according to himself and his business card. A super nice fellow, but down right crazy! He showed us the party trick where you fill a beer bottle with water, smack the top of it, and the bottom falls out. Except it took him 7 tries and when he succeeded, smashed the reminding bottle over his head. Later on he showed us ladies how to throw pottery on the wheel. He said that he would sell the pieces that we made and we would have to come back to get our money. Ha! Yeah right! When we finally went to bed you could hear the coyotes in the distance. A lovely end to the evening.

Yesterday we woke up and had a it breakfast at the bar across the street. Everyone said their goodbyes, we stared heading west, and everyone else started heading east. The ride was mostly downhill through the canyons into a different valley. The rock formations were pretty neat looking and they stretched on for miles. We all arrived in Lander Wy and made camp in the city park. Lander is a pretty cool little town. It’s certainly a less popular gate to the great outdoors in Wyoming, which makes it a little more down to earth than other towns known for their ecotourism. Theres a brewery here, too! Along with a bike shop, outdoor outfitter shops, an ice cream parlor, and more attractive amenities. I could certainly spend some time here!

Anyway, I need to get going. We bought some growlers and I think the boys and I are going to cook brats on the grill!

Cheers, y’all!

Lauren

PS – sorry the image quality sucks. I won’t get to upload good photos for a little while.

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