Somewhere in Middle America: A Coast-to-Coast Bicycle Trek

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West Yellowstone to Merriman, Nebraska

We had a great time in Yellowstone. Wills & Dad flyfished for two days and caught some big rainbow and brown trout. Caroline and Patrice went horseback riding one of the days. We saw Old Faithful erupt and got to drive around, which was a nice change, and see lots of wildlife including elk, buffaloes, deer, big horn sheep, some bald eagles, and a bear.

We had a fabulous meal which featured bison one night at the Bar N Ranch outside of Yellowstone, along with quite possibly the best dessert ever. We were a bit too tipsy to remember what is was called, but know that there was "molten lava" in the title. Enough said. We also took a nice drive up to Gardiner, Montana to see the fmaous North entrance. We introcduced Dad and Patrice to our custom of frequenting local bars in the mid-afternoon. They were a quick study and the next day we stopped for drinks at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel. It was one of the most gorgeous sights in the park, with the Tetons looming int he background. We loved it.

From Yellowstone, Dad and Patrice drove us down to Colter Bay in Teton National Park. We were sooo sad to say goodbye to them, particularly since they left us in Bear Country!! I seriously don't know how they drove away, but I'm thankful that they did and allow us the chance to have such adventures, even though its tough sometimes. Soon after stuffing all of our belongings into a "bear locker" Wills and I went down to Jackson Lake to watch the sunset and eat as far away from our campsite as possible in order to give the bears no reason to come near us.

On the hike back to our tent, Caroline thought she recognized a woman in a campsite we walked past. Caroline stopped and asked the lady if her name were Catherine. It was! Turned out Catherine and her husband, Will, were spending the night with some friends from Jackson up at COlter Bay as well. Caroline used to work with Will and had done a triathlon with Catherine last summer. They were so sweet to us and eased our fears about the bears. That, and the free beer they gave us helped immensely! Thanks guys!!

We survived the night sans bear attacks, but did have a vistior the next morning. As we were unloading our "bear locker," Caroline said, "Wills, don't move!" Needless to say, he did and saw what I saw. As I ran around to the otherside of the picnic table, Wills whipped out the camera to take picutres of the Coyote that was not ten feet awat from us. Wiley Coyote passed through our camp several more times before meandering off to scare other ladies in camp.

From Colter Bay, we headed south through the Tetons along Jackson Lake. It was the prettiest, most beautiful part of our trip! We loved the Tetons. We'd been warned they'd be beautiful but breathtaking is the only word to describe them. We spent time taking pictures (which we will try and post at some point) before beginning our last climb over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass. However, there was road construction and we were forced into the back of a pilot truck with our bikes as the road was only open to ride at 1:30 in the morning. We happily hopped in and took the five mile, uphill lift to arrive about half-a-mile from the summit. This pass at nearly 10,000 feet was our highest pass, though the sign at the top was nothing btu a let down. We still took pictures and Wills continued his legacy of eating Zebra Cakes on the Continental Divide. (THey taste even better once you've climbed a mountain, i promise.)

THe downhill ride was awesome. Since the traffic came in waves due to the construction, we had lots of cruise room and took advantage of it. We rolled into DuBois, Wyoming. We stopped at the KOA, only to find out that there was a "Chuckwagon" show at the KOA that night. What Luck?!? An assemblage of local country western singers screaming out old ballads not 30 feet from our heads!! This was complimented by the fact that finding our nightly beer was rather tricky as we discovered that in Wyoming, you can't buy beer at gas stations. Consider yourselves warned. If you ever need beer in Wyoming, you must buy directly from the bar and order your drinks "to go". The awful Chuckwagon performance did not deter us from sleeping at all, and we were zonked out after a double portion of beans, mac&cheese, and corn. Yummy.

Woke up the next morning and rode through the lovely Red Hills. Cruised into Riverton, Wyoming in a huff because our bike tune-up in West Yellowstone had made our bikes worse. Caroline kept skiping gears (and wouldn't stop complaining about it) and Wills' bike would get stuck in gears. We found a bike shop after some turmoil and then had a nice fight right in the middle of the store. Wills quickly headed out the door and Caroline soon followed. Luckily, great minds think alike and we found ourselves in the closest bar. A quick pint and we were back to being great friends, well at least brother and sister again. This fight, however, turned out to be quite a blessing.

After stockikng up on $60 worth of protein bars at $1/bar (you do the math on how many we bought), we headed to Owl Creek Campground. As we arrived, we found the place to have a substantial amount of water on the roads. We quickly learned that there had just been a flash flood!!! Luckily no one was hurt. Everyone was in remarkably good spirits, and Dee, the owner, danced right up to us in the mud signing and laughing. We loved it!! SHe let us camp there free for the night and even fed us pizza and beer. Her attitude was so charming and we loved her spirit and determintation to "go with the flow" and laugh despite the flood.

We were up early the next morning and headed to Worland. Twenty miles out of Riverton, we arrived in Shoshoni and inquired about the route to Thermopolis. The clerks at the gas station informed us that there was a 9% grade to Thermopolis. (That's REALLLY steep.) When we left the Tetons, we rejoiced that we were through with the mountains and so we were pretty bummed to hear that what we heard about "the rest of Wyoming is flat" to be a complete lie. That, plus the fact that our ride the next day involved a 10,000 ft pass with over a mile vertical ascent. THe other option was to head to Casper, which was described as "flat and boring". We said, "we'll take it!"

Wish we had asked a few more questions about that route as we soon learned that there were no service stops between Shoshoni and Casper. Well, almost none. After some difficult riding and several miles spent riding straight into a headwind, we were spent. We pulled over to the side of the road and literally said a prayer outloud asking God for a place to fill our water bottles and get out of the sun. Not 1/2 a mile later, a man on a horse walks by. He informed us that there was a "tavern" about 10 miles away. Hallelujah! We thanked him for the news and wished him well as he was riding his horse across the country!! (and you people thought we were crazy!!!)

We arrived in Hiland, Wyoming, or as we like to call it "a little slice of Heaven," about 2 hours later. Now we were skeptical at first as the town's population was a documented 10 people. We pulled into the bar/service station/store/motel parking lot and were greeted by Vicky. She told us upfront that we just didn't know how lucky we were. And she was right. We stumbled into the bar after Wills held back tears of joy and ordered our customary beers. Several rounds in, we grabbed some delicous food. The chicken fingers are better than the UClub's!!

The bar was perfect. A stool for every person in town - all ten of them. But the nicest people for miles and miles. Morgan, the bar tender, got us set up in one of the rooms and gave us fresh linens for a nice shower. (When you are using a camp towel 80% of the time, fresh linen is like 1200 count sheets.) We showered and watched Lance Armstrong during his time trail. We have never watched the Tour de France and don't understand it much, but we were happy to watch someone else ride a bicycle for a while.

We wandered back into the bar after watching Return of the Jedi, a nice tribute to Wills' bike aptly christened R2D2. Back in the bar, we were treated to an amazing steak dinner courtesy of Miles, the bar manager, and a fabulous firewroks display courtesy of Mark & Celeste, the owners of the bar. (Did we mention this was the 4th of July.) We truly felt at home in Hiland and it remains up there with Council as our favorite places on the trip.

THe next morning, we slept in a bit and headed back to the bar to get some coffee before leaving Hiland. There, we met Houston who was from Louisiana and had made some fabulous homemade biscuits and sausage gravy. They didn't let us pay for one thing and we could not say thank you enough. We appreciate yalls' hospitality and look forward to seeing you again!!

We were sad leaving HIland, but couldn't complain because we had a nice, strong tailwind and plenty of downhill into Casper. Stopped at the first motel, the Sage & Sand motel and luckily escaped the heat. The hotel was really nicee, owned by a really kind couple from India. We went to Subway for lunch and then came back to the hotel and took a nap. We woke up only to feed again, this time on Domino's delivery. On another food note, the Indian man came by later and offered us some authentic Indian food that he and his wife had made. It sounds sketchy, eating Indian food from the motel owner, but it was fantastic.

We got up the next morning and packed up, ready to head to South Dakota. We decided that Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands sounded like a great idea while we were sitting in the living room planning the trip, but it was 2 days out of the way. Instead, we opted to just head across Nebraska. We headed out the door and ran into the owner, he offered to let us stay another night for free but we had to decline because we had alot of riding to do. So, we hit the road. We made it 20 miles to Glenrock and stopped to eat lunch. We got some turkey sandwiches, fountain soda drinks, a block of cheese, yogurt, and a quarter watermelon that Wills proceeded to eat with his hands and face rather than silverware.

After lunch, we were absolutely exhausted and decided to stay there for the night. We'd been getting sick and trying to ride as much as we were and fight a cold with the sun on you all day just wears you out. We tried to find a decent motel, but there wasn't one to be found. We stayed in a complete dive where we called the number and they told us some rooms that they had that were unlocked. The motel was disgusting and utterly foul complete with stained sheets. We each got a 2 liter of soda and some soup and split a whole box of Ritz crackers.

We left early the next morning, headed for Lusk, Wyoming. We rode around 85 miles and found BJ's Campground to stay at. We got into town around 1:30 and it was fantastic getting into camp early for a change. Our campsite was "over by the lilacs" or as we found out, between the dumpster and the fence.

We had dinner at the local cafe around 3:30 and were the only people without white hair in the whole restaurant. The meal was fabulous and we inhaled it quickly. ANd, to top it off, had a delicious dessert of strawberry shortcake for a whopping 95 cents. Heading back to camp, we se tup our tent and tried to get to bed early. God had other plans for us though as an awful thrunderstorm came through that night and we hid out in the camp office. Luckily, Wills had the premonition to get us out of the tent in time before the wind and rain started.

The next morning we finally made it to Nebraska! We made it to Chadron, Nebraska early that afternoon. It didn't do much good because Wills was suffering from a bit of sun poisoning and it was just too hot to sleep. We made a resolution to start getting up early!! The next morning we were up at 3:30 adn on the road by 5. We made a quick trip to Wal-Mart to re-stock and then a slight detour to McDonald's for our coffee fix. We made it 50 miles to Gordon and decided not to "over do" it. We holed up at yet another motel and continued to watch Lance dominate. And revel in watchign other people ride in the rain. We walked across the parking lot to Pizza HUt and got three pizzas, bread sticks, and salads. The waitress seemed a bit scared that we could eat that much. We didn't finish it all, but made an Uncle Buck effort and put a good dent in it.

Woke up earl this morning (7/10), and got on the road shortly before 6. Made good time in to Merriman, Nebraska where we decided to stop and have breakfast at the local cafe. Another excellent decision!! There, we met Sybil. She was sweet enough to pick up our breakfast and then invited us out to her family's ranch. She showed us around the farm and answered our countless questions about life on a farm. We met her dad, Bob, and step-mother, Arliss, who graciously invited us to lunch at the Senior Center in town. Everyone was so nice and welcoming to us. Now, we are back at the MOreland Ranch hanging out, drinking Root Beer and chatting with the nicest people in Nebraska. Not sure what the plan is for the rest of the day. But we've loved everything so far.

Will update you guys at the next stop. Pray for tailwainds!!!