Portland, Oregon to Chicago


Fall 2008


Denis Kertz, ©2008


Day 16: Tue, Sep 16, 2008 - Driggs, ID to Jenny Lake, WY [67.2, 7:19:28, 9.2 mph]

I had an amazing view from my bed – I could just sit up and see the Tetons.  Somehow it didn't seem right that it should be that easy but it was.  I packed up in the morning by carrying my panniers down the stairs to my bike below.  Sally was out and was in a funk again where she barked at me and would hardly come close to me.  Eventually we sort of worked out our differences.

It was obvious that it made sense for me to take care of my own breakfast given the household uncertainty with Tyler.  Kim apparently had some difficulties with Tyler and was up a good part of the night and was sound asleep when I was ready to leave.  So I just thanked Frank for the hospitality and was on my way back to town, 5 miles away.  When I got back to the main road, I was surprised to see a long line of traffic heading south.  Fortunately, there was little traffic heading north so the miniscule shoulder wasn't a major problem.

In town I decided to try the Milk Creek Grill which was one of two places Frank had suggested.  It was expensive and they wanted $2 per pancake.  So I decided to go with an omelet but it wasn't cheap either at $9.  Breakfast was $12 plus tip, the most expensive of the trip.

Leaving town there was a bike path paralleling the road and I took it to Victor.  Victor was the last town before going over the pass to Jackson and was where a lot of Jackson workers lived because they couldn't afford to live in Jackson.  It was only 9 miles from Driggs but I decided to stop there for my second breakfast because there wouldn't be anything else until I reached the other side of the pass.

Frank told me about another road that paralleled the main road for a ways before starting the climb to Teton Pass.  I found it and rode it for a few miles before it joined Hwy 33.  The early part of the pass wasn't too bad but it got steeper on the way up.  Most notably the last few miles were really steep and signs warned about 10% grade.  I was going so slow my bike computer showed less than 3 mph.  What made this extra hard was that it is really hard to balance a bike, especially a loaded one, at that speed.  So it wasn't just a matter of cranking the pedals, it was also a matter of continually wrestling with the handlebar to keep the bike tracking straight ahead.

Finally around 1:00 I crested the pass and was faced with an awesome view of the Jackson Hole Valley.  The view was so good and the climb so hard it only made sense to linger for a while and enjoy the hard earned view.  When I started the descent I started on the bike path that Frank told me about but it appeared to deteriorate to gravel so I abandoned it and stayed with the road.  The road really wasn't a problem because I could just about keep up with traffic if I really wanted to.  Of course, it was somewhat of a dilemma between wanting to go screaming down the descent versus controlling the descent and enjoying the view.  I did mostly the latter but I did cut loose at one point and hit a peak of 44 mph and could have gone a little faster if I really tried.

At the bottom I stopped at a food mart in Wilson for a snack and a break.  Then I rode into Jackson through an interesting landscape.  My plan was to stay some place in Jackson and then decide what to do tomorrow.  I was getting to the point where a rest day made sense and Jackson could have been that place.  However, after checking around I learned at the Info Center that $60 was the absolute best I could do if I got lucky and $90 was more likely.  After checking a few places I decided I didn't have the patience to mess around in Jackson. 

The nearest campground was in Teton National Park so I headed north.  It wasn't that far to the park and it was fairly easy riding through the valley.  I was surprised that my legs felt fine after the strenuous climb over the pass.  The closest campground was Gros Ventre but I decided to head to Jenny Lake which I was sure would be more scenic if a little farther.  It was obvious I had the legs to make Jenny Lake but there was some question about the campground availability.  When I took the Jenny Lake Junction, I came to a sign-in booth that was closed for the day and also declared that the Jenny Lake campground was full.

At that point I was pretty well committed so I decided I would just continue on and hope the park wouldn't turn away a cyclist.  I actually rode past the Jenny Lake campground turnoff because the sign didn't mention a campground.  A little later I grew increasingly concerned that I should have taken the earlier turnoff to Visitor Services and eventually was able to ask a couple ladies at a turnout.  They were able to verify with their map that I needed to retrace my way and take the Visitor Services turnoff.

When I got to the campground, several signs said full but this campground, which was limited to tents only, had a hiker-biker site where I was able to get a site for $7 compared to the regular $19 rate.  So this turned out to be a good deal and much better than I would have done in Jackson.  There were a couple of other cyclists in the hiker-biker area and one of them was doing the Great Divide route from the Canadian to the Mexican border – fairly ambitious plan for this time of the year.

This campground was also in bear country and all food and smelly articles had to be locked up.  The hiker-biker site had bear proof containers for just this purpose.

This was an interesting day.  I started it on the west side of the Tetons and ended up on the east side, not all that much progress as the fly crows.  I ended up just doing a big U turn for the day.

Day 17: Wed, Sep 17, 2008 - Jenny Lake, WY to Dubois, WY [66.3, 6:17:08, 10.6 mph]

I think I was the first one up in the hiker-biker camp.  I didn't think I would find breakfast any time soon so I ate my cereal breakfast in bed, after I dragged all of my food out of the bear proof locker.  After I packed up I rode the short distance down to the Jenny Lake dock so I could see the actual lake.  There was a nice view of the lake and I saw a deer at the lake shore mosey into the woods.

After I was back on the main road I saw another cyclist behind me.  I guessed it was Craig, the guy I met last night who was doing the Great Divide route.  However, after a while he disappeared from view so he must have taken a turnoff.  I stopped occasionally for photos of the Tetons who dramatically just appear out of the ground and project themselves into the sky.

After 8 miles or so I reached the Signal Mountain junction and I realized there was a lodge there and I might be able to get breakfast.  I also noticed the cyclist had reappeared behind me and it was Craig and he also stopped for breakfast.  So we ended up having breakfast together and it was pretty decent and only a little more expensive than a typical place.  I also learned that Craig planned to cycle South America after he completed the Great Divide route.

After breakfast we parted ways since he wasn't planning as ambitious a route to Dubois as I was.  I rode past Jackson Lake and past Moran Junction towards Dubois.  A short while later there was a line of cars on both sides of the road so I stopped to check out the interest.  There was a grizzly foraging in the bushes just off the road, maybe 100 feet away.  However, you couldn't see anything except for some occasional shaking of the bushes.  This obviously disappointed the crowd who was waiting for the grizzly to make a photo appearance.  Eventually a ranger showed up and directed everybody back to the other side of the road.  Then the grizzly briefly stood up to reach a tall part of a bush and I got a shoulder shot.

With that I moved on since it was still quite a ways to Dubois with a big climb ahead over Togwotee Pass.  Further up the road I stopped at an RV store for some food in anticipation of the upcoming climb.  There the proprietor warned me about road construction and said I would most likely be shuttled across the repair area. 

I continued riding and the climbing started in earnest.  Before long I was climbing at the 3-4 mph rate with quite a ways to go.  Road construction warning signs started showing up but it was a while before I reached the actual construction area.  Then a contractor for the constructionwork who I had briefly met at the RV store stopped and offered a ride through the construction.  So even though I did a fair amount of climbing I also managed to bypass a fair amount of climbing as I got a ride to the top along with some interesting conversation about the construction project and the area in general.

I got dropped off at Togwotee Pass at 9,658 feet.  I immediately backtracked a bit so I could say I rode over the pass and the continental divide.  Then it was a fairly leisurely descent with interesting scenery the rest of the way to Dubois.  The scenery included mountains and some very scenic meadows where the bushes in the meadows had just changed to their bright yellow fall colors.  Later, the landscape changed to ranches as I rolled into Dubois around 6:00.  After a food break I found a KOA was the only camping option.  Normally I'm not a fan of KOAs but this one was right in town and reasonably priced at $16 and even had WIFI.

In camp I also met Andy, a touring cyclist who was headed west on the TransAm route.  We ended up walking into town where he had a meal and I had a couple of beers and we talked about our various cycling tours.  Andy had already toured Ireland and New Zealand and planned to cycle down the Pacific Coast after completing the TransAm.  So we had some pretty interesting conversation along with some beers which is usually a good combination.

It was almost 9:00 by the time we got back to camp and I was able to write up my daily notes.

Day 18: Thu, Sep 18, 2008 - Dubois, WY: rest day

After debating taking a rest day today or tomorrow I finally decided on today.  Lander would most likely have been a more interesting town than Dubois but the KOA in Dubois was a great location and inexpensive and I doubted I could replicate that in Lander.  So after eating breakfast I washed my clothes and retreated to a coffee shop across the street for Internet access.  Later I visited the Dubois Museum which was very extensive.  After that I walked back to my campsite and discovered that Craig, the Great Divide rider, had set up camp at the KOA rather than ride over Union Pass.  He had already eaten so I walked up town and ate at the Cowbow Cafe.

Back at camp I took care of a few odds and ends including lubing my bike chain.  Craig had walked to town so I figured I would too and have a beer.  At this time some clouds were appearing and there was a little thunder and apparently a few raindrops while Craig and I were in the Cowboy Cafe.

Day 19: Fri, Sep 19, 2008 - Dubois, WY to Lander, WY [98.3, 8:22:17, 11.7 mph]

It was chilly in the morning, just at the edge where I almost needed to put on some more clothes.  After I packed I rode back to town and the Cowboy Cafe and Craig joined me for breakfast.  This place offered several varieties of pancakes so I had a honey wheat pancake and a pecan pancake.  They were a little expensive at $3 per pancake so I limited myself to two.  Both were great and the wheat pancake came with real honey.

After breakfast Craig headed back to camp to pack up for his trip over Union Pass and I started towards Lander, 75 miles away.  It was a nice scenic start to the ride.  There were some mountains on the north side of the road that were horizontally striped with reddish brown and limestone white from layers of rock.  Later there was some redrock and then there were what looked like badlands.

It was mostly downhill to Crowheart, the first place to stop so I stopped there after an easy 30 miles and had my second breakfast.  Then I did an incredibly dumb thing, the no-no of cycling.  I took off without thinking.  It wasn't until 10 miles later when I saw a sign that said 20 miles to Dubois that it finally struck me that something was wrong.  I checked my handlebar compass which said I was going west.  I couldn't understand how that could be and looked at my Wyoming map to see if I could have somehow taken a wrong turn that looped me back but that wasn't possible.  Then I realized what happened.  When I rode into the Crowheart food mart I turned my bike around and leaned it against a bench.  That made it easy to get my money pouch out of my front left pannier.  Then I forgot all about that when I left and just rode off in the direction my bike was pointed.

What a major goof.  Now I had to turn around and ride 10 more miles just to get back to Crowheart, costing me 20 miles and about 2 hours.  Then to add insult to injury I started getting some headwind, nothing really hard but enough to cause me to have to pedal on the modest downhills.  I figured that was the cycling gods punishing me for being stupid, as if 20 miles and 2 hours wasn't enough.  All the way back to Crowheart  I kept trying to figure out how I could go 10 miles without realizing anything was wrong.  Often riding a route in reverse looks completely different but there was the Crowheart Butte that I was riding towards and after leaving Crowheart I thought it was strange that it appeared well behind me in my rear view mirror even though I didn't ever remember passing it.  Had I looked more closely I would have noticed it appeared over my right shoulder rather than over my left, where it would have been if I had been headed in the right direction.

20 miles after leaving Crowheart I came back to Crowheart.  It would have been a reasonable time to stop for a cold drink but I didn't want to have to explain my gaffe so I continued on.  Fortunately, about 13 miles later there was a rest stop and I was able to get some cold water to drink.

A little further on the road split and I took the right side, US287 south, to Lander.  At this point I entered desert landscape that was often very picturesque as I rode through rolling brown hills in wide open spaces.  Fortunately, the headwind shifted to mostly a cross wind and I started making good time.  Although the road lost altitude between Crowheart and Lander there were still some undulations and some fair climbs.

15 miles from Lander I stopped in Fort Washakie for a cold drink.  From there to Lander the scenery wasn't very interesting but I was very interested in finally making Lander.  I got to Lander a little before 6:00 and thought I might take a motel if I found something reasonable.  No chance.  If there was anything reasonable, it wasn't available as tomorrow was the one-shot antelope annual hunt so hunters were in town.  I learned this as I checked a few motels as I rode through town.  When I saw a Subway I figured I better eat since I would probably be staying at an RV Park on the east side of town.

I rode all the way through town and found the Sleeping Bear RV Park and Campground.  It turned out to be a pretty decent place at $16.  The camp site wasn't much, just a small piece of ground next to an RV, but it was grass and the park had nice facilities, including WIFI that I was able to use from the laundry room where I could plug in my PC.

So it was a day that should have been fairly easy since it was mostly downhill but I managed to turn it into almost a century ride.  I'm sure this gaffe will remind me in the future to check my directions, or the cycling gods will have more fun in store for me.

Day 20: Sat, Sep 20, 2008 - Lander, WY to Jeffrey City, WY [61.6, 6:42:13, 9.2 mph]

I packed up and rode back into town looking for a breakfast place.  I saw a grocery store so I did a little shopping.  Then I found a breakfast place but it was a disappointment.  It was kind of an upscale place that I should have just skipped.  I didn't like the looks of the pancake offering so I had a basic breakfast which was OK but expensive.  When I left town I found the breakfast place I was looking for when I rode into town but it was too late.

There was a fair amount of traffic as I left town.  However I had to turn left to get on to US287 going south – I double and triple checked that it was the right left turn – and then the traffic became very light.  The road was up and down but mostly climbing but nothing difficult.  It was more scenic desert – sagebrush and yellow grassy fields with hills/mountains.  It was a cloudy day, even a little threatening when I left, but it got better late in the morning.  When I reached the top of the morning's top climb I could look back and see the peaks of the Wind River Mountains in the distance although the cloudy day affected the visibility somewhat.

After some descending I began the climb of the day.  It was about a 6 mile climb where I spent at least half of it climbing at 4 mph.  During this climb I met Aaron who was riding in the opposite direction.  We traded info on our routes.  Aaron was doing mostly the TransAm but was also improvising at times.  He was somewhat concerned about the weather since he was about 3 weeks behind after having got hit 3 days after starting his trip and spending some time recovering.  I gave him some thoughts on riding through Idaho in a more direct route to the coast and gave him my profiles for the route that I covered in case he wanted to improvise around my route.

Then I completed the climb and had a great view looking towards the Wind River Mountains, the last I would see of them on this trip.  After cresting Beaver Rim I rode on to Sweetwater Junction where there was a rest stop.  Unfortunately, it didn't have any water but I ate my second breakfast.  I stopped at a Mormon historical ranch across the street and filled my water bottle.

At this point I only had 20 miles to Jeffrey City but the wind picked up.  It was a cross wind and it slowed me somewhat.  As I got closer to Jeffrey City and couldn't see it in the distance I had a panic attack that I had taken a wrong turn or rode by Jeffrey City and just missed it.  However, I hadn't accounted for about 3 miles of riding in Lander so it was a premature panic attack and Jeffrey City appeared shortly. 

It was an old mining town that had seen better days.  It had a bar/cafe and a small motel.  I thought surely its motel couldn't be expensive, especially after I saw the motel, and I had read another cyclist’s trip report in 2002 who said it was inexpensive.  I rode back to the bar/cafe to inquire and was shocked to hear a room cost $65.  That made no sense since there was a place across the street where I could stay for free.  Then I inquired about food and discovered they had a buffet for $7 with ham, green beans, baked potato, and desert.  This was a great and unexpected deal and I jumped at it, stuffing myself.

Afterwards I rode across the road to a building that was open on 2 sides and had picnic tables under the roof with a concrete floor.  Aaron had told me about this place and said he slept on a picnic table.  I set up to do the same thing.  Then I cleaned up and walked back to the bar for a beer and discovered it had WIFI.  So I sat down at a table and drank my beer while I wrote my notes and browsed the Internet.

Day 21: Sun, Sep 21, 2008 - Jeffrey City, WY to Casper, WY [106.1, 8:15:36, 12.8 mph]

I was really tired last night so I went to bed at 8:00, on top of a picnic table.  I woke up around 9:30 and noticed the cafe/bar light was off so they must have closed around 9:00.  There was a fair amount of lightning during the night but most of it appeared at least a mile away.  However, it did rain so it was great to be under the pavilion and protected.

When I woke up I headed to the cafe/bar after packing up.  The cook didn't appear all that enthused about my being there but I ordered a full stack of pancakes, despite the menu saying the pancakes were huge.  They were reasonably large but not huge and they were fine.  It was good I showed up when I did because a group showed up about 15 minutes after I did.  Had I been a little later it would have taken forever to get my breakfast.

I left around 8:30, having decided Jeffrey City turned out to be an interesting place to stay.  Leaving I soon saw Split Rock in the distance, a landmark of the Oregon Trail, and the name of the cafe/bar – Split Rock Cafe.  Most of the day I would be riding along the Oregon Trail and seeing several famous landmarks, Split Rock being one of them.

I stopped at the Split Rock Recreation Site and hiked the short distance to the top of the nearby granite mound which afforded a great view of the surrounding area.  When I left I started a long but moderate climb that was made harder by the side wind.  The wind was already picking up and it was projected to be a windy day.  For the time being it was a side wind and hurting but that would only last until I reached Muddy Gap Junction when the side wind would become a tail wind.  Even descending to the Muddy Gap Junction was slow due to the side wind.

When I reached the Muddy Gap Junction there was a food mart so I stopped for my second breakfast around 11:00.  Then I started a long ride through mostly flat yellow grassland with sagebrush with mountains in the distance.  Sagebrush is a staple of the Pronghorn Antelope and I saw 3 herds of Pronghorns, two herds had about 20 each and the other had 15.  As usual they cast a wary eye on me but I managed photos of them before they wandered off.

With the former side wind now a tailwind I was really cooking and cycling was easy.  I saw another famous landmark – Devil's Gate – which was a gap in the mountains where the Sweetwater River passed through.  Then a little further I stopped at the most famous landmark in the area – Independence Rock.  This granite rock was a hunk of granite that rose 120 feet above the surrounding area.  It was a benchmark for the Oregon Trail riders.  The idea was to make it by July 4 which was enough progress that the train could still reach the west coast before the snows came.  I took the time to hike to the top of the rock which was relatively easy but it was very windy on top.

After the rock I pumped out the miles through the desert with the aid of the wind.  Even a fairly long moderate climb didn't slow me down much.  It was really awesome riding through this area where you could see for miles and just see the pioneers walking along side their wagons as they pressed on to Oregon and California.

Then I started a long descent to Alcova that marked a change in the landscape to a more ragged land.  I had thoughts of camping at the Alcova Lake but it looked like I would have to ride 4.5 miles off the road to a campground.  Since it was just 3:30 and only another 30 miles to Casper I decided to push on.

The ride to Casper was easier than I thought based on my altitude profile which showed more up and down while I seemed to be descending modestly for the most part.  There was one modest climb of 1-2 miles and then I descended the rest of the way to Casper.  Since I expected to motel it in Casper I kept a look out for motels.  I saw a promising sign for a National 9 motel at $40 but when I reached the area where it was supposed to be I only found another motel that was somewhat more expensive.

So I pushed on hoping to find something better in town.  I found another motel for $54 that wasn’t particularly well located so I passed, a decision I would regret.  Riding on through Casper I found a couple of other motels but they appeared to be longer term rentals.  Eventually I reached the east side and my worst fears came true.  I was stuck at an Interstate exit with the expensive motels.  I didn't have the time or energy to backtrack to the west side so I ended up with a Super 8 room for $89, $20 off the regular rate.  That was pretty disappointing since I could have done quite a bit better.  At least I was in an area with plenty of food options and I ended up at another buffet that was OK but not as good a deal as the Jeffrey City buffet.

After that I settled in my room which was really nice but at least 3 times larger than I needed with a microwave and a refrigerator that I also didn't need.

Day 22: Mon, Sep 22, 2008 - Casper, WY to Douglas, WY [59.2, 5:26:27, 10.9 mph]

I planned to make this a relatively easy day so I took my time getting out of town.  The Super 8 had a good breakfast deal.  I had 2 waffles and 2 small bowls of cereal so it was a pretty good breakfast for me.  I finally left around 9:15.

The plan was to make it to Douglas, about 50 miles away.  Since I was on the east side of town it was easy to get started although it took me a couple false starts before I gained my bearings.  I took 20/26 to Glenrock.  Since the Interstate also went there 20/26 had light traffic as it followed a shallow valley along with the North Platte River.  This was still part of the Oregon Trail where the travelers continued to follow the river to have access to water. 

It was an easy 20 mile ride to Glenrock but not particularly scenic.  The sky was mostly overcast and the prediction was for rain in the afternoon with some thunderstorms.  As I approached Glenrock I felt a few drops and I wondered if I might need to stop there but the sky cleared up a bit as I rode through town.

From Glenrock to Douglas my goal was to ride as little on the Interstate as possible.  I had mapped out a route with Google Map's help that looked like I could limit the Interstate to one exit.  Just before having to get on the Interstate leaving town I took Old Douglas Highway.  This looked like a great choice until a mile or so later when the pavement turned to gravel.  I debated backtracking but decided I could manage the gravel until the road reached the Interstate.

The gravel road was mostly pretty good but it had some washboard sections that were difficult for a bicycle so I weaved around the road to find the smoothest parts which wasn't a problem because of the low traffic.  When the road veered left and crossed the North Platte I was a little concerned but stuck with the road.  Soon I was rewarded with a number of Pronghorn sightings along the way.  I also saw a train strung out in its entirety along the track before it moved on.  Then the road crossed under the railroad track and headed north again – not a good sign.  Fortunately, there was a fork where I chose to head east rather than continue north and I saw I was on Tank Farm Road, which didn't sound like Old Douglas Highway.  I saw more Pronghorns and the road became sandy in spots where it was a little hard to guide the bike.  On a very short but steep hill I had to push the bike because I couldn't get enough traction from the sandy road.

My concern, of course, was that I was pulling another Dubois and would have to backtrack all the way back to Glenrock.  Fortunately, another vehicle came along and I flagged the driver down.  He reassured me I could get to Douglas by continuing east for another 5 miles where I would hit pavement.  I had been fairly confident that I was OK since the road was paralleling the North Platte but I was still very relieved to receive this confirmation.

After the approximate 5 miles I turned right on to the paved 93 to take me to Douglas.  However, the clouds were looking bad again and it was questionable whether I could make town before rain and I couldn't.  There was some lightning in the distance and then it started to rain.  It seemed like the rain might blow through as the wind picked up but I donned my rain gear because it was a chilly rain.  I could have made it without rain gear but I rode with it all the way to town.  Along the way I saw two herds of Pronghorns of about 20 each. They were sitting down in the field, perhaps their approach to weathering the rain.

After stopping for a drink in town, I rode through town where I found the Plains Motel that I suspected would be the best bet.  There was actually a better choice right across the street but when I inquired I found they had no vacancy due to hunters.  So I checked into the Plains Motel for $47, still a bit expensive but at least under $50.  It was a basic motel which was my preference.  After settling in I walked across the street to a place that was open 24 hours and had a beef and bean burrito that was quite good and filling.

Later in the evening I spent a good part of the evening on the phone with my ISP.  One of my email accounts got filled up with over 9,000 emails, mostly of the “message delivery failure” type, so I think it was some kind of spam.  This all apparently happened over the last 2 days.  I had to call my ISP because there was no way I could delete that volume of emails with my web access and I had to rely on my ISP and it took them 30-40 minutes.  I called them twice.  The first time they tried to say they couldn't delete the emails but with persistence they finally said they deleted them.  But I checked later and they were still there so I called again.  The second time I got someone who knew how to delete them but could only delete 1,000 at a time and he eventually got them deleted.  During this time my motels WIFI also had some problems where I couldn't access the Internet.  So I had to use the WIFI from the motel across the street.  A fun evening.

One of my goals for the day was to minimize riding the Interstate and I unexpectedly achieve zero Interstate riding.  Afterwards I used Google Maps to check my route and saw where I think I should have gone straight, rather than following the road when it veered left, to stay on Old Douglas Highway but I never noticed any sign and where the road veered left appeared to be the obvious route.  Despite the gravel and uncertainty, the route turned out pretty well.  I'm sure it was more scenic than the Interstate and I saw a lot of Pronghorns.  Of course, if I had just ridden the Interstate I would most likely have made Douglas in time to avoid the little rain I caught.

Day 23: Tue, Sep 23, 2008 - Douglas, WY to Lusk, WY [57.6, 4:31:00, 12.7 mph]

I only had to walk across the street to the restaurant I ate at last night for breakfast.  Their pancakes were so cheap  I figured they couldn't be enough so I had 2 pancakes with eggs and bacon and it was just adequate.  Before I left I checked my email and found some more spam email but few enough that I could handle them myself.

On my way out of town I did a little grocery shopping and then I took the frontage road just past the truck stop at the edge of town.  It was nice again to be able to avoid the Interstate although the frontage road was so close that the Interstate could still be heard.  There were some reasonable views looking south towards the Laramie Mountains.  I was also leaving the Oregon Trail behind since it cut inland a bit away from the North Platte.

After a little over 10 miles the frontage road ended at the Orin exit and I picked up US20 heading east.  There was a train sitting on the tracks as I road over it on the overpass with all its cars loaded with coal.  The next 10 miles or so were scenic with wide expanses of yellow grassland and sagebrush and some rolling hills in the distance.  This was also prime Pronghorn habitat.  I saw bunches of Pronghorns along the way in groups of up to 10.  They all eyed me warily as I rode past.

I was really moving along because I had a good tail wind.  It was 40 miles from the Orin exit to Lusk, the planned destination and the next real town along the way.  There were several small towns listed on the map but none except the last had any kind of services.  Just before Shawnee there was some kind of railroad track maintenance going on.  At Lost Springs, I turned off to see if it had anything and it had a bar and a post office and a store with miscellaneous stuff but no food.  I was also intrigued because the Wyoming map listed Lost Springs with a population of 1 and I wondered who that person was.

Just when I tried to get back on the main road a coal train came through.  I guessed this was the train I saw sitting at the Orin exit and it had to wait for the track maintenance to clear before it could roll on.  After it passed I rode on to catch it.  I had that chance because there was a modest uphill.  I gained on the train as it chugged up the modest upgrade and got within maybe the first third of the train.  Then the grade leveled off and the train picked up speed and left me behind.  I tried counting the cars and got something around 140.

Just after this train passed by another came from the other direction, another coal train with empty cars, no doubt looking to load up.  I counted 130 cars.  Then another train followed shortly but I lost focus on the count and gave up on counting.

The scenery wasn't all that interesting the rest of the way but I still had a good tail wind and made good time.  I rode into Lusk just after 1:00 or so.  I would have been happy to ride on but the next town was 30 miles away and it only had a population of 300 so I wasn't sure what services it would have.  So I made it a short day and stayed in Lusk.  I found an RV park in the southeast part of town that didn't have tent sites but they were well short of capacity so the proprietress offered me an RV site away from the RVs.  When I asked the rate she said “what are you willing to pay.”  I said $10 because the going rate seemed to be about $16 and that seemed like a reasonable deal.

After setting up I walked downtown and ate at a Subway.  Then I cleaned my bicycle chain which was pretty dirty.  I tried to get Internet access at the RV park which the proprietress believed I could even though it wasn't their WIFI.  Unfortunately, what I could receive was password protected.  So I walked downtown to a bar and tried there.  I could access two different WIFIs but couldn't get connected for some reason.  Then I walked to another bar and got connected.  Well, sort of.  I kept losing access and kept reconnecting to a WIFI and managed to complete what I wanted but it was a bit of a hassle.





Copyright Denis Kertz, 2008. All rights reserved.