Day 25: Hunkering Down

September 27, 2002
Gillette to Sundance
62 Miles Google Map

My (cycling) hat goes off to those people working the early shift at the Conoco gas stations. It cannot be a very rewarding job, and having to rise before sunup on a cold day seems to only add insult to injury.

Not that they’d necessarily want to trade places with what I’m doing at the moment.

This morning was a textbook ride. Again, I’d gotten started early and had covered an impressive number of miles before I stopped to enjoy a snack. Returning to work, I was vigorously peddling my way towards lunchtime when everything suddenly went south.

Northeast, actually. The Interstate began turning in that direction and an opposing breeze appeared. Now, I knew from the Weather Channel that winds would be shifting that way. What I had not anticipated was a seemingly endless rise I had to struggle up at the same time — probably the third or fourth longest of the trip. Thankfully the breeze weakened, but by the time I reached the “summit” I was nevertheless pooped. 

At least the scenery was turning out to be interesting. The area I was cycling through is the gateway to the Wyoming Black Hills. Soon after leaving Gillette, I had noticed how the land was becoming flatter and greener. Then to my surprise, long-needled pines began appearing. It was like some magician had conjured them up. Quite a transformation over the course of thirty miles.

But back to the story. There I was at the top of the extended hill, having my lunch in a convenient parking area. Just happy to have made it to the top, though more than a little weary. But when I finished my meal and did the descent, it seemed like I went maybe a third of the way down compared to the elevation gain coming up. Not fair! I should have been able to enjoy the full fruits of my labor.

Then there was the wind. It was now blasting out of the north-northeast at over twenty miles an hour. Worse, the highway had positioned itself so that I was biking right into the teeth of it.

How bad was it? I had trouble cycling downhill, having to drop into the lower gears. And going uphill (yet another long incline) was an absolute nightmare. After Steven’s Pass and the demanding “canyon” on the way to Waterville, this was the toughest ride of the entire trip. There was a viciousness to the wind that I felt helpless before.

In one sense, I was very fortunate in being “only” seven miles from my destination when the conditions deteriorated. Still, those miles went by with excruciating slowness. Cresting the final hill, it was a battle all the way down and into Sundance. There I was fortunate to quickly locate a rustic hotel (which had a collection of old-style, western furniture). Once unpacked, went out to round up some ice cream and a Cherry Pepsi. I felt I had earned it on a day like this.

Rather than have dinner perched in front of the TV, I decided to go out to eat. The hotel woman pointed out a place just across the street where I had an open turkey sandwich and a mashed potato, both smothered in gravy. A welcome change from The Colonel and Ronald. Since it was a Friday night, the restaurant was nearly full, making for a pleasant atmosphere. I noticed a few of the locals glancing over at me so I tried to use the silverware properly. For my dessert, I walked down to the Conoco for a candy bar. The wind was still howling. Probably upset that I made it here in one piece.

    Today:          62 Miles 
    To Date:  1,223 Miles / 1,968 Kilometers

Morning Fog Bank

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