Day 52: Lander to DuBois (88 miles*)
I knew today would be a long day. Lander is in a valley and over the course of two days we would need to go over Togwotee pass and the continental divide. As such I strongly suggested to everyone that we leave early for our 75 mile, all uphill day.
To be quite honest I’m not really sure why I try to plan to have us move by a certain hour. The group moves when the group moves, even if I wake up at 7. The rest of the crew was up and packed by 8 so we decided to grab a coffee at the place I spent the entirety of yesterday, Crux Coffee. Another eastbound TransAm cyclist Lila had met at the campsite, Sam, joined us.
At around 10 I was getting a little antsy to go. As a general rule the weather tends to get a little aggressive in the afternoon so I like to get as many miles done early on as possible.
However, before we could get going Lila needed to go to the NOLS headquarters across the street to buy a pot. She had left the pot in the bathroom overnight soaking because there was burnt spaghetti on the bottom. Come morning, it was gone.
Lila returned with a brand new pot and we got on the road at 10:30 with only 75 miles to go. While Lila was buying the pot I had downloaded a playlist of club bangers called “It’s Lit!!!” The melodies of Future, 21 Savage, and The Weeknd helped me to glide through the first 40.
After stopping for lunch we noticed the wind start to pick up. It was a manageable but noticeable headwind. The day progressed without much issue until about 4 pm around mile 55 when the 60 mile per hour headwind began.
Now before I describe just how awful this wind was I first must express how happy I am to be under 7,000 feet. Under 7,000 feet the air’s oxygen concentration is normal so you can breathe without too much effort. In a way, this strong wind is almost like the weather compensating for the oxygen it deprived us of in Colorado by blowing as much oxygen as possible down our throats at 60 mph.
There was no getting through this wind. Even in our granny gears we were blown off our bicycles after a couple of strokes. To make matters worse, every time a car or (god help us) an RV came from behind, the change in wind flow would whip us back and forth. If that wasn’t enough, there was, what looked like, a massive thunderstorm on the horizon to which we were headed.
Under these extreme conditions, with twenty miles left of travel, I was uncertain of my ability to get to DuBois. Just as I had been bucked off my bicycle for the 600th time an SUV pulled up next to me on the shoulder. A woman inside, whom I will call Janet, offered me a ride.
Now it should be known that using a car to progress on my journey goes against nearly all of my rules and ethics. That being said I hope the reader can understand me in my moment of weakness given the extreme conditions: 20 miles to go, no shelter further down the road, an impending thunderstorm, and 60 mile per hour winds. Once Lila arrived we agreed, windswept and broken, to accept her offer.
After about half an hour in the car we arrived at the St. Thomas Episcopal church in downtown DuBois. There we found the fellowship hall filled with 5 other cyclists. Having left a bit earlier in the morning than we, they avoided most of the winds. After we got settled we all decided to go to the bar.
The three cyclists whom we joined at the bar had all met on the road. One was from Greensboro, NC and had torn his shoulder apart during a crash on the road only to rest for a week and rejoin the trail. Another was from England and was seeing the states for the first time. The third was a guy named Joe who was too afraid of bears for his own good. After a beer with them I realized that I needed to redeem myself. I wanted to bicycle every mile of the TransAmerica so I saddled up and headed back to where we got picked up.
While it wasn’t storming in DuBois, the thunderstorm was still on the horizon headed east. As I cycled to where we were picked up I was moving away from it. I knew when I turned around I would have to contend with it.
Unfortunately, because it was about to get dark and the rain started coming down on me I only made it 15 miles back to where we got picked up. While it wasn’t the full distance, the fact that I had to bicycle that same 15 back meant that I actually did more miles than I would have if I just went straight through.
I know it’s not the same as going straight through but I hope that the extra distance I traveled, through a storm no less, will make up for my moment of weakness. I realize that I would much rather endure a storm than take an easy way out.
When I got back Lila was still at the bar. I made us a dinner of macaroni and mashed potatoes. We ate and then we slept. What a day.