Fifty-Two: What’s a Couple Orders of Magnitude? (Lander to Dubois)

Miles: 79
Total: 3,192

Hikers popped up in the park overnight like mushrooms after a hard rain. When I turned in, only a handful of tents marred the lawn. In the morning, I saw close to a dozen hikers putting away bivy sacks and flattening air mattresses.

My ride today was sponsored by wind: I rode along the Wind River, through the Wind River Indian reservation, and through the Wind River mountains. And, after about 1 p.m., into a 24-m.p.h. headwind. Slow going, but the morning was lovely.

In Fort Washakie, I came across a bunch of cyclists stopped at the service station. They’re a supported group called Bike and Build, riding from Rhode Island to Washington, stopping every so often to help raise a roof. I talked to Everret, who told me they were holding here because one of his teammates went in for snacks totaling $18, but the clerk rang him for $1,800 worth of merch. So they were waiting for a Lander-based IT guru to sort things out. Sacajawea’s grave’s nearby, about four miles off route. I didn’t visit, just like I didn’t visit Jefferson’s at Monticello, but find it interesting the TransAm takes you within spitting distance of both.

West of Lander the valley’s much greener — there’s a host of irrigation projects bringing water in and plenty of grass and cattle to graze it. Great scenery, including a Crowheart Butte, so named because Shoshoni Chief Washakie displayed a Crow Indian’s heart on his lance after a successful battle over land around the formation.

About the time I left the reservation, the wind came on like someone flipped a light switch. At times, I was pedaling on the rare downhill (you gain about 1,700′ between Lander and Dubois) for forward progress. But the scenery kept getting more and more spectacular. Red rocks, blush-colored mountains with the Wind River in the background.

In Dubois, I asked for directions to the city park after lunch and it looked like a great spot to camp. Quiet and shady with bathrooms, water and electric. Unfortunately, coming out from a great visit to the Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center (probably worth the $3) I noticed a big “No Camping” sign. Nuts. It was getting a little late and after a shower at the laundromat (great concept, even if our ideas of how long a minute is don’t quite agree), I headed to the library, which was closed but broadcasting a wifi signal. A woman taking advantage of the internet suggested I visit Saint Thomas Church. I did, and found all 29 of the Bike and Build crew there. The church hosts welcomed me warmly, even as a hanger-on. And I was offered a hot meal of veggie lasagna. It was a real relief to answer the question of where to lay my head. It certainly beats heading out of town to camp on BLM land or paying $30 for a KOA site.

Greg, Jamie and Petunia rolled in later on — they took a long lunch and Greg had a flat, but they saw my bike and camped on the lawn (no dogs in the sanctuary). They’re headed to Jackson Hole tomorrow, so we may not meet again, but I could have said the same thing after Lookout, Kentucky, so who knows.

The Bike and Build folks are great. It was interesting to watch them work. With 29 riders, it’s like seeing an army in action. Everyone has a job.