Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wyoming Day 16 Middle of Great Divide Basin to Rawlins

The sound of a dog barking in the distance began to stir my senses to life. While attempting to unzip my sleeping bag to investigate it suddenly dawned on me that the noise must be Joseph’s alarm on his phone. For some reason he had his alarm set as the sound of a dog barking. I had heard it many times so far on this trip but every time it went off my sleep-addled brain was convinced that it was encircled by extremely vocal canines. Willing to do anything to make the racket stop I kicked an ear-plug-wearing Joseph softly but firmly in the shoulder. Measuring the width of my arm span against the cramped confines of our tent, I stretched and started with the morning routine.

The sun coming up over the reservoir full of nasty warter

A prairie chicken, I think.

            Since we knew that the wind would start up around mid-morning we had decided to hit the trail as early as possible this morning. The alarm went off at 5:30 and mere minutes later we were stuffing clothes and sleeping paraphernalia into our bike bags. We split a small serving of oatmeal, tossed back a granola bar each, and then tore into the last of our meager food supply. After the feeding frenzy had ended we were left with a few granola bars and a small bag of almonds and cashews between the two of us. It wasn’t much but we should be able to make it to Rawlins, fifty miles distant, on what remained. We had drained most of the water we had treated the evening before, so before we could leave we needed to get some more out of the reservoir. I filled up two water bottles, dumped in copious quantities of hopefully microbe-killing iodine, swung my aching leg over my bike, and pedaled away from our campsite. I felt bad leaving Joseph behind feverishly treating water with his Steripen (a device that kills bacteria using UV radiation), but I wanted to ride alone for a little while. It seems incongruous to search for this on one the most sparsely populated areas in America, but I really craved the feeling of being totally alone with my thoughts for at least a few miles. After around a thousand miles of having a riding partner always within sight, I wanted a few moments of solitude. 

On a whim I decided to get out my Ipod to listen to a little music. I hit shuffle, and let some digital hand of fate choose my music for me. I pedaled steadily south while the sun cast my tall shadow on the few plants that could survive in such harsh conditions. As I crested a small rise I heard a solemn hymn fill my ears. I don’t know what it was about this combination of desolate scenery and sparse minor chords but suddenly I was overcome with unaccountable emotion. I stopped at the side of the road and while the somber notes rose to praise a majestic God I could feel tears springing to the corners of my eyes. I was barely able to sort through the emotions that crowded upon me because I simultaneously felt like a tiny, inconsequential speck in a giant cosmos, as well as implausibly being the recipient of the greatest honor bestowed to man, the offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  I would have loved to stay there and soak in the desolate scenery around me but I was already getting hungry and food was still forty miles away.

Beautiful Desolation
            I wanted to let Joseph catch up with me eventually, so I slowed down enough that he caught me just before we turned left. For the next twenty-five miles we followed a badly paved road in what can only be described as the shortest distance between two points. I looked behind me as well as before me and all I could see was where the horizon met the road. The wind was picking up by this time so Joseph and I took turns drafting off of each other so we could make good time. We finally hit a slight turn toward the west, and a far-off highway. The vastness of our surroundings and the straightness of the road constantly made me underestimate distances. I saw a vehicle heading toward us and I was sure it would get to us in no more than 45-60 seconds. Two minutes later when the vehicle finally became recognizable, I realized that instead of being a mere mile away, we had actually sighted the truck three to four miles away! Although realizing the highway was twice as far away as I thought was rather disheartening, we had no choice but to keep turning over the pedals. We finally reached the highway and headed toward the city of Rawlins, only the second decent sized town we would pass through in all of Wyoming. We climbed steadily for miles until we crested a divide and then it was all downhill to Rawlins. With tractor trailers and cars buzzing by, mere feet from my left ear, we put all we had left into forward momentum. With my legs totally shot from pedaling 170 miles in just over 24 hours we pulled into the parking lot of a Pizza Hut in Rawlins. Carefully placing our bikes so we could see them from inside the restaurant, we straggled into a welcoming booth and ordered pasta and soft drinks. Forty-five minutes and well over a thousand calories later, we searched around for a post office. We did find the post office with the magic of Google Maps and an IPhone  but only to find it had closed less than an hour before. Since our drop box had our maps for the next section of the route we were in a bit of a pickle. I decided we would just pick the maps up tomorrow when it opened, but closer inspection of the hours posted on the door showed that it was closed on Sundays, and tomorrow just happened to be a Sunday. We were both very tired, as well as low on calories and sleep, so we decided the best plan was to find a motel room and do what we could to revitalize our parched bodies. We picked up some groceries at a store and then checked into a room. After a shower and a short nap, we ordered Dominoes and watched some TV to pass the time. With my mind still fixated on the problem of the maps I was having a hard time relaxing. Finally, out of desperation, I called the post office in Rawlins. Expecting no one to pick up, I was surprised to hear a voice on the other end of the line. After recovering from my amazement I asked if we could have our box forwarded to Silverthorne Colorado, about 300-350 miles away. From my previous experience with government employees I was not expecting much help. Thankfully this person was much more helpful than your average DMV teller. After only a few sentences describing my predicament he said, “Yeah that shouldn't be a problem.” With my fears quelled, I was now able to go to sleep knowing that, at least for now, all was well with my world.

Til next time,

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