July 15, 2001 - Mike and Marilyn's 2001 TranAmerican Bike Tour

Mike and Marilyn's
2001 TransAm Bike Trip
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July 15, 2001

TRANSAM 2001 > Wyoming

Rawlins to Jeffrey City, Wyoming. (69 mi.) Mile 2761

Riders in the storm

The Western Hills Campground in Rawlins, where I used the RV data port to connect the computer because the data port in the office wasn't working. This is an attractive campground if you like treeless, shadeless, gravel parking lots.

Last night we delayed setting up our tent because of intermittent rain, then made a late evening decision to walk to a restaurant for more food (we keep getting hungry). When we got back, it was 10:00 pm and dark. We decided to set up our tent near the only shelter in the whole campground, a picnic pavilion on the other side of a wall from the designated tent area. This area offered softer grass and more protection from the wind and rain. We were sound asleep before 10:30, when suddenly we were awakened by someone outside the tent, "Hello? Is anyone in there? You have to move your tent! You can't have your tent here!"

It was Doreen, the campground host, whom we had watched earlier telling some Boy Scout leaders they couldn't cook in the picnic pavilion in case a rogue briquette escaped their BBQ grill under their watchful eyes and ignited the pavilion during the current rain storm. The Scout leaders gave a sigh and moved their BBQ out of the shelter and into the rain. Now Doreen was on our case. Apparently she suspected earlier that we would try to camp outside the tent area and came checking. I protested that it was 10:30 at night and we would be gone by 6:00 am, but she said no exceptions could be made. "No camping in the pavilion area!"

She sat in her truck with her headlights on (not in a helpful way) until we got out, pulled up stakes, and dragged our tent 10 yards to the other side of the wall. I told her this experience would go into my journal, which prompted her to get out of her truck and get in my face with a prolonged lecture on why she couldn't allow tents in the pavilion area. "That's where people eat! I can't make exceptions!"

When we got up the next morning (Sunday) at 5:30 am, it was raining hard, and no one was was trying to eat in the picnic area. It looked grim for bicycling, with thunder and lightening in all directions. We packed up, though, and left Western Hills Campground as promised, riding across the street to the shelter of a Super 8 Motel, where they let us use the lobby to watch the Weather Channel and listen to our NOAA weather radio.

6:00 AM and stormy at the Western Hills Campground's designated tent area,
where Boy Scouts huddle under tarps.

By 10:00 am, the storm had passed, the sun came out, and we thought we could make it to our next destination in a window of good weather. We rode like crazy, fighting a blustery side wind across big open spaces to outrun another storm system. We only stopped a few times, once for food, a few times to check out the historical points indicating we were paralleling parts of the Oregon Trail, Mormon Pioneer Trail, and Pony Express Route. I imagined the Pioneer women facing the same weather under tougher conditions.

Wyoming landscape

Roadside crosses

Split Rock - a landmark on the Oregon Trail and Pony Express routes. Thousands of overland westward emigrants passed through this valley in the mid-1800s.

Pie stop

Miles and miles between services, Mike gets lucky

Twenty miles from Jeffrey City, we pulled over and stared into a dark, ugly thunderstorm that had formed over the route ahead of us, sending down rain and lightening. Two motorcyclists stopped behind us and did the same, also reluctant to continue until the thunderhead slowly moved to the north. Once it did, we again pedaled like crazy into what we hoped would be a clearing in the growing number of thunderheads. Ten miles from Jeffrey City, we found ourselves under another storm. I was becoming increasingly unnerved as lightening flashed in all directions. Suddenly there was a blinding flash overhead, with an deafening boom and crack that caused me to instinctively duck and swerve. An antelope, spooked by the thunder, ran toward us. The rain started to pour as we pulled our bikes into the ditch and covered up with our tent fly until the storm passed.

Our shelter from the storm. Thanks to bicycle kickstands, we aren't quite the highest thing around.

It had been a long day and I was very glad to see Jeffrey City, or what is left of it. Jeffrey City is a present day ghost town. The only services still open are a bar/cafe and a motel. The town was founded in 1955 for uranium mining, boomed to a population of 4,000, then collapsed to its present population of 200. Houses, gas stations, a school, tennis courts, all are abandoned and boarded up. We got a burger, a beer, and a motel room, and collapsed in exhaustion.

The sun shines on the abandoned buildings of Jeffrey City as the next thunderhead builds in the background

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