I’m at a gas station in Moorcroft, Wyoming, about thirty-five miles from Devil’s Tower National Monument. I’ll go there today. Easy rock is playing from a speaker right above my head. It’s hard on the stomach. I just ate three chocolate chip muffins. They’re easy on the stomach. Outside, men are buying gas and they’re wearing cowboy hats and nobody is making fun of them.
This post explains my time at Ten Sleep to my time in Buffalo. We’re almost caught up to the present:
The road to Ten Sleep was relaxing. I take my time each day because I don’t have to do squat for mileage. Hitchhiking and ridesharing has put me well ahead of schedule.
Ten Sleep was nice, but everything closed early because it was Sunday. I sat in front of the café/bakery to use their wireless. Young boys, about nine or ten-years-old, were playing next to the road and making a ruckus each time a car drove by. I wanted to throw mud at them and yell, “Simmer down, I’m trying to type a blog and your mom’s bakery hasn’t got any damn muffins left.” But that would have been misdirecting my negative feelings about Sunday in Ten Sleep.
I biked out of town and camped in the canyon. A sign pointed to the campground. The sign read, “Wigwam Reserve and Camping Area.” Free camping, the nicest campground I’ve seen. It was surrounded by the canyon cliffs and a stream ran through it, straight from a John Wayne movie. I pitched my tent and relaxed, but I thought, “If I get ambushed by Apaches right now, I’m screwed.”
The next day, I biked the Big Horn Mountains. That was the most challenging day of biking that I’ve had, yet. The pass was 9,666 feet. Three hours of bicycling uphill to reach the pass. 86 degrees at the base, 59 degrees at the top. The day was hot. I was pulling chunks of sweat salt out of my beard. No joke.
… then I was mixing them with my water with a bit of orange juice because I was worried about my salt intake. Homemade Gatorade.
… I didn’t really do that, but I was worried about my salt, and the beard salt was real.
I pounded water and sweat it out. Luckily, near the top of the pass, a lovely elderly couple refilled my water bottles from a thermos that they had.
These Bighorn Mountains weren’t as rewarding as the mountains at Yellowstone. That’s probably because I didn’t know that I had to bike them. Biking them felt good in the same way having to do sprints after basketball practice feels good. I’m feeling like I’m about done with mountains. Give me South Dakota.
I reached Buffalo and wanted to chill and eat. So I pulled into the first campground that I saw, talked the guy down to ten dollars for the night, went to the IGA to buy a shit ton of food, collapsed on the picnic table, and shoved a handful of butter toffee peanuts into my mouth.
I lay on the picnic table and read. I read Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye. That book either inspires individualism on a bike trip or causes cynicism for my privileged ability to take a bike trip. I lay on the picnic table until late evening, reading and pondering, then I set up my tent and lay in my tent until late morning, sleeping.
The Mango Sentinel needed some tuning in the morning. I inflated some tires and tightened some bolt things and realized that I broke a spoke and needed new brake pads. The Buffalo Bike Shop guy was nice. He showed me how to do both of those things but didn’t charge me labor. He told me that most people on bike tours wouldn’t have even attempted the repairs. I don’t believe that, but it was nice of him to say it.
I left the bike shop, crossed the street, and sat on a bench in front of the book store. I wanted to finish my book. A lady going into the bookstore chatted me up. She had a vivid smile and was very interested in the bike trip. She seemed concerned about my well-being. At that point, I didn’t know if this concern was a motherly type of concern or a Buffalo Bill type of concern. Her name was Debra. When she came out, she invited me to stay at her house for the night. She explained that she had sons that had taken similar adventures and that people had been kind to them on their adventures. She wanted to give back. Also, her husband, Gordy, was into bicycling and she was into reading. I decided that her concern for my well-being was a motherly type of concern. I decided to stay with her and Gordy.
I followed her to her house on my bike. She gave me a towel to shower and showed me the washer and the dryer for my clothes. The washer and dryer were especially nice. I’ve washed my clothes a few times since California, but this was the first time I’ve used soap to wash them in while. She showed me her books and recommended that I read a C.J. Box book that she had. Box is a local Wyoming writer. Then Debby went to the grocery store. I sat in a comfy chair and read Box.
She came back with an amount of groceries that rivals a Guimond grocery shopping outing. I helped her bring them inside, then she gave me a submarine sandwich and a Gatorade for late lunch. Yeahaheasss.
Debby and I chatted. She studied art in college. Lately, she’s been into doing post card sized paintings of little stories that she hears or encounters. She works at the elementary school and gets some of her stories from the tall tales that the elementary students tell her. The paintings have words that tell the story. One painting showed a dead elk in the back of a truck. The story went something like this:
Judy, a third grader, and I saw a dead elk in the back of a truck. I said, “You would never see something like that in Illinois.” Judy asked, “Why not, Debby?” I replied, “Well, for one, they don’t have elk in Illinois.” Judy said, “Those poor people.”
And I read some more, and it was about time to start cooking dinner. She had bought New York strips, and she asked me to cook them on the grill. All good things.
Gordy came home from his job at Child Services, and we dined on steaks, potatoes, rolls, beer, and… I seem to recall some sort of fruity-vegetable-y substance on the table, too, but the memory of what it was exactly seems to be dominated by the steak and beer.
After dinner, we went outside. Gordy pulled out a fiddle, I pulled out my harmonica, and we played some bluegrass. Gordy was better than me, but he didn’t care. We sang some verses and took solos and generally got down with our badselves. I’m pretty confident that some windows around the neighborhood opened and, by the end of the concert, we had a substantial audience. But we can’t be certain.
Debby brought out cobbler and ice cream for everybody. Gordy gave me a beer that he brought from Wisconsin, Spotted Cow. That was a heartfelt gesture because he only brought back six beers.
I slept in the guest bedroom. The next morning, Gordy gave me a bicycling shirt and a bunch of electrolyte bicycling nutrient things and a book about cycling. And he made blueberry pancakes. Debby gave me jar of peanut butter. An entire jar of crunchy peanut butter. And she gave me the C.J. Box book that I had been reading.
I felt welcome in their home. It wasn’t that they gave me all that noise. They were just nice to talk to, fun to chill with. It was relaxing. At first, I had been thinking that I could attribute all this beautiful hospitality that I had been receiving from various Wyominians to a disposition native to Wyominians, but I don’t think it’s that. I think I have just been getting damn lucky with the generous and genuine people that I have been meeting. But the people that I’ve been meeting help the case for Wyoming. I dig this state.