Miles Today: 59
Miles to Date: 3,827
States to Date: 17
I was up, coffeed, oatmealed, and packed by six. I stopped at Albertson’s to belly up on yogurt and cinnamon buns before tackling the 50-mile desolate stretch from Cheyenne to Laramie on a featureless grey morning, spitting rain. My warmshowers host Tom warned me – it’s up all the way, until the last nine miles, which are straight down.
Tom is a trustworthy guide. I left Cheyenne (elevation 6,062) and pedaled long stretches of gentle rise. The higher I climbed, the greyer the sky became. The hissing energy of the West flanked my left – crackling power lines and flittering windmills. Vast ranches lay to my right – cows lined tight to the fence with their inscrutable gaze fixed on my tiny form. Yet the immense grey sky dominated them both and the crisp fresh air was infiltrated by musky char from the giant fires in Canada that have laid a haze over the entire continent.
Fifteen miles in I could make out the profile of distant ridges, not so far away to pretend I wouldn’t have to climb them. The rain came stronger as I pedaled higher. The wind was light, and it’s safer to pedal up rain streams than down them. When I reached the ridge crest the rain was steady. It bounced off the road, into my shoes, up and around my fenders. The precipice was a false peak, followed by a dozen more. Short shallows followed by long climbs. Another reprieve; another climb. The rain puttered away to nothing. So did the visibility. I rolled though dense fog, glad to have enough shoulder to veer clear of intermittent vehicles.
The sky lightened up at 36 miles, so I took a break and had a snack. I hadn’t stopped for two minutes when I realized that all around me was dark. Worse was coming from any direction. So, I got back in the saddle and pedaled on, another six miles into the spirit realm of foggy invisibility. Rolling through the atmosphere I could have been on an English heath or Russian steepe or Argentine plateau. There was nothing distinct about my particular location. Yet the ambiguity was gentile and light. I didn’t feel lost or afraid. The solid road and easy wind robbed the rain and fog of danger.
Out of nothing a Stop sign appeared. I was finally at the summit, 8,600 feet, and Interstate 80, though I couldn’t see it and could barely hear it. I eased my way onto the ramp and kept to the shoulder for several miles of 5% grade. With each passing mile the fog lifted, distinct clouds formed, the sides of the adjacent cliffs displayed their rock faces. Within half an hour I dropped to 7100 feet and was in Laramie.
For some reason I hoped that coming off this ethereal climb would make Laramie different. But of course it isn’t. After all, I am in the United States. U.S. 30 has the same Wal-Mart and Applebees as every other commercial strip.
University of Wyoming is larger than I expected; the sandstone buildings are stunning. Downtown is nice, with just enough funk to be interesting. I had the lunch buffet at Grand Pizza, which was quite good. By the time I finished lunch the rain had stopped, so I toured city and campus by bike, took a writing break, and enjoyed a terrific conversation and dinner with Linda and Phil, my warmshowers hosts.