Category Archives: Wyoming

Mad Dash to Promised Land

There’s always a chance of precipitation in the forecast; this much we’ve come to accept in setting out on our days ride… When we were fed and dressed and ready to escape the small town of Pinedale, Wyoming tiny amounts of snow sprinkled from the sky, providing a merry farewell. Just two miles outside the town, a mild sunshine prevailed over the flurries, obliging us to pull over to the shoulder and remove our rain gear. We were entering the flats of Wyoming, a very mind-numbing expanse of high dessert, much of it dusted with snow. One tends to be consumed with inner dialogue or with attempts at reciting the entirety of a rock album rather than stare blankly across the sprawling monotony. We pass a little four-by-four trail intersecting the highway marked with a little wood sign: ‘Historic Mormon Trail’. The thought of driving brutish pack animals and a wooden wagon filled with a family of undernourished children and consumptive wives through this basin didn’t appeal to my sensibility. My reverie was suddenly interrupted by a large pickup truck screeched to an abrupt stop in the left lane, the driver rolled the window down and shouted at me; “You want me to fix your bike�. I recognized the bearded face as that belonging to a welder acquaintance I made in Pinedale. Goat and I had accompanied Annie –reporter for the Pinedale Roundup- on her quest to taste the perfect burger. Annie required just a bite or two of each burger from eight different restraints to complete her journalistic review, and so hired us to finish off the balance of the meal. Will, one of Annie’s friends had just gotten off his job working as a welder in the oil fields, and joined us for a beer at the All American Diner. I told him I would need his services before I left Pinedale, fearing the large rusty crack in my xtracycle frame would quickly turn into a full blown fissure. Here on the road our paths crossed once again, but I was too spaced out to realize the convenience of the situation.

“Uh… I’ll probably be able to get the job done in the next town�, I muttered.

“Suit yourself�, Will fired back, and without hesitation sped off down the highway.

Just as his truck was out of sight, the realization dawned on me that Will kept his Welding rig in the back of his truck. Welding the crack in my frame could have been easily completed on the side of the road. I shook my feeble fist in rage and would have hit myself square on my incompetent noggin had not my hand bounced harmlessly off my helmet.

Endless spools of barbwire held by splintering posts and huge wooden wind disrupters contained the flat highway as a channel for human transportation apart from the bleak expanses of desert. Goat had just overtaken me in the lead, and was pulling over to the left side of the highway to inspect a small valley for a suitable camping sight. A small road began from the shoulder of the highway, down toward a half frozen stream. We still had at least an hour left of sunlight to ride, yet this road presented the first break in the fencing in over an hour of riding; we decided to camp.

Late at night the winds kicked up, the snow began to fall and our tent, haphazardly staked to the ground, seemed ready to lift off its anchors and begin its own solo tour south. Snow blew in the gap between the tent floor and roof caking our sleeping bags and accumulating in small mounds beside our heads. The next morning we awoke to yet another white out, our bikes were white, the ground white, and the sky presented an eerie kind of ghostly grey. Long stretches of the highway shoulder were glazed in frosty ice causing minor annoyance when speeding cars wavered too close for cycling comfort. We did however enjoy a steady tail wind the entire day, allowing us to virtually fly through eighty miles of flat land on our way to Rock Springs. In a small truck stop town on the 191 south I gazed down the turnoff for an east bound highway that led toward the Great Divide Basin –where we would be headed if we were still following the Great Divide Trail. A road condition warning sign flashed the message in orange luminescence that the road was currently subject to heavy blizzards and dissuading any unnecessary travel. I imagined us attempting to decipher the correct route through the maze of snowy trails –the amount of crisscrossing dirt roads portrayed on the Divide map looked confusing enough. I could picture us arguing about the meaning of the different signs one inevitably encounters along the way that give completely different information then any and all maps one manages to acquire.

By sundown that day we had come within ten miles of the city of Rock Springs. Possessing little in the means of sustenance we pressed ahead toward the city limits knowing all to well what grim challenges urban landscapes pose to free camping. At the beginning of a steady downhill section I noticed a man outside his pickup truck, locking up the gate to a chain link fence.

“Are you the last one�, He called out to me.

“No, There’s still one more guy behind me.� So focused was I on arriving in the city before unbearable cold set into my limbs that I couldn’t fathom a reason for this man’s curiosity in our numbers.

“Well then, I’ll be picking him up�. I managed to hear the guy swear before I drifted out of hearing distance. I wanted to shout back, “Well good luck trying to convince Jacob that he needs a ride!�

A few miles outside of town Jacob caught up with me. “Do you realize we have our own private escort following behind us?� Looking back I could see the headlights of that same pickup truck blazing fifty feet away. The same man that had yelled to me from the side of the road was rolling slowly along the shoulder taking great care to ensure our safety. Once inside the city, we all pulled over to the edge of a shopping center to ponder our fate. Our shoulder guarding angle stepped out of his truck wearing a garage mechanics jumpsuit; a small patch on his chest read ‘Mike’.

“Yeah, Just wanted to make sure you guys don’t get splattered all over the pavement back there.� Mike began, “Its sort of trucker’s rush hour right now, they’re all hauling extra quick to get off the highway, and it’s likely that they just won’t see you.�

Mike asked the usual questions we hear from people unacquainted with the customs of the bike nomads. After we assured him that we were not insane, and that there was no telling where we would set up camp that night he invited us to pitch our tent outside his modest trailer dwelling on the other side of town. Cold, tired, and starving for calories, we followed his benevolent pace through town, biking up small but grueling hills till we came to the trailer park.

Mike’s wife Trish seemed a little shy about greeting us outside, what with not having groomed her hair appropriately, but their two dogs were riled up and ready to tear at our throats in ferocious embrace. It took a good fifteen minutes for the smaller dog –a Chihuahua- to calm down. The larger dog that had the features and meanness of a Chow but wasn’t a Chow held us in the same contemptuous glare for the rest of the evening, letting us know that dire consequences awaited any one of us who stepped out of line. Mike raked a section of his snowy lawn clean for us to pitch our tent. Eventually we were invited inside the trailer to throw back a few Budweisers and devour the remains of Mike’s dinner; “Trish always ends up cooking enough for four people anyway� we were assured. While eating dinner the glowing boob tube weaved its hypnotic spell over our weary continence. Any will power with which I usually manage to pry myself from the screen must have been depleted long before the last hill leading into town. Besides who could possibly resist watching Emit Smith paired with a voluptuous Latin beauty battle an especially dexterous young stud from ‘Saved By the Bell’ in a ballroom dance competition. Mike supplemented the T.V. entertainment with tales of his Navy service, descriptions of the beauty of Flaming Gorge (where we would be headed in the morning), and talk of the methamphetamine use afflicting his part of town.

“Even our next door neighbors indulge�, Mike admitted. Proving his assertions, we would hear the high-pitched voices of the neighboring couple arguing and rambling to themselves all through the night.

Being an early morning riser Mike managed to escape before we could thank him for the hospitality. Instead we spent an hour drinking coffee and watching the ‘Jerry Springer’ show with Trish. Amidst shouts and squeals of heavy set women bitch-slapping each other and pinning one another to the ground, Trish showed us pictures of her Chow dog straddling the seat of her Harley Davidson.

“The only time that dog changes its expression is when it feels the rumble of the engines between its legs, but it hates it when we dress it up.�

“Dress it up?�

“This last Halloween, Mike dressed up like the dog, and dressed the dog up like himself. Mike even made a scene screaming after his tail got stuck in the door of his favorite biker bar.�

We eventually made our way out of the trailer park and wandered into the heart of the city to buy supplies for the next four days of touring. Outside the supermarket, while dividing the grocery weight three ways, a trucker walked up to us, shaking his head in disbelief.

“You’re those crazy bastards who’re riding the Rockies in the middle of winter. I heard about you guys over the radio this morning.�

We were sure Mike was responsible for informing the radio station of our arrival in Rock Springs. We felt a little disappointed at having been subjected to the likes of Jerry Springer during the hour of the announcement. It would have been one hell of a wake up call to hear about our bike tour over public radio.

Just outside of Rock Springs, behind a Flying J truck stop, in a muddy ditch offering a small time landfill and a view of the freight tracks, I set to work cooking our breakfast. Jacob was feeling ill, and was scrunched up in a ball in his sleeping bag. Having witnessed Jacob spontaneously passing out on the side of the road many times before, I had hardly given any notice, until I heard footsteps two feet behind me and a loud firm voice that triggered my paranoia prone hand nerves to retract and pocket my five inch knife.

“Hey there, is your buddy alright there, looks like he might be dying�. A man in a sheriff’s uniform questions me, his face complete sincerity.

The same paranoid nerves at work in my hands just a moment ago now restrain a stupid grin from spreading across my face. “No, he’s doing alright, he’s just having a bit of a belly ache. Jacob!� I yell at Jacob, nearly throwing my cooking spoon to wake him up. Luckily he sits upright, rubs his eyes, and gasps at the sight of the sheriff beaming down upon him with a sardonic maternal impersonation that expressed Rise-and-shine you grungy bum.

The Sheriff had his assistant collect our Drivers licenses whereupon he conducted background checks on the in-car laptop computer. We spoke at length about how we were just on our way out of his fair city yet we; could not hope to be persuasive enough to convince this sturdy authority of our intentions.

“I suggest you boys hop on them bicycles as soon as possible and ride south… fast.� It was obvious that the sheriff had us pegged as vagabond hippy moochers. “There’s a huge storm that’s going to be coming over this area as soon as tomorrow afternoon.�

“Yeah, that’s no news to us,� Jacob retaliated “The big storm’s always following me; I’m a magnet for poor weather.�

The Sheriff set his big toothy jaw in motion to a hideous rendition of Goofy’s cartoon laugh. He then restated his previous warning; “yeah, the big ones coming around fast, best get south as quick as you can�. After we had entertained the sheriffs ‘subtle’ attempts to drive us far from his jurisdiction, he allowed his assistant to return our I.D. cards; apparently we weren’t on any wanted lists yet. I can only imagine that the Sheriff was just too busy to be bothered with the local news radio and hadn’t heard the flattering remarks about us Good’ole American Boys made earlier that morning.

The next day we experienced the tremendous good fortune of exiting the state of Wyoming. Scenic byway 191 leads along a ridge affording breathtaking views of red rock crusted valleys. Chilly Wyoming winds whipped us into submissive snails crawl paces up and over the hills, until we were exactly two miles past the Utah border. Suddenly, as if the Mormons themselves had willed it, the bitter winds ceased to batter our raw faces and the air began to feel considerably warmer. Upon the landscapes before us lay oily hues of orange, red and brown sand stones unadulterated with the familiar white fluff that had for so long been our companion. So ecstatic was I with the dramatic climate transformation that I nearly jumped into a crystal clear lake in the Flaming Gorge National park.

Goat and I waited around for Jacob at the Dutch John Trading post located just a mile away from the Flaming Gorge Dam. Jacob crept up to the storefront looking a bit haggard, and without saying anything went inside to buy Gatorade and Imodium ad. While checking out at the register, Jacob attempted some light conversation with the female store clerk.

“It’s a good ways up hill to Vernal, Right?� He pondered. “Lot of climbing?�

“Well, no, actually its mostly downhill.� The store clerk replied completely unaware of the absurdity of her statement.

“But there’s a giant mountain before us,� I cried out,� If I just step outside this store I can see some of the switchbacks.�

“Well, I just live here.� She pleaded trying to preserve her innocence.

We left the poor woman alone to restock the pitiful gas station food section and hurried up the hill to find a camp spot.

Even the evening air was warm around the Flaming Gorge. It was one of the first nights in over two weeks that it was warm enough for me to pluck my guitar for more than five minutes.

The next days ride was as had been expected, a grueling twenty-mile climb up a mountain range, followed by a fifteen-mile stretch of downhill. The downhill section consisted of sixteen switchbacks all graded from six to ten percent. Long lines of truckers roared down the hill on low gears; it was irritating for a biker to be stuck behind such giant monstrosities for so long a downhill stretch. All of us at some point ended up passing large double tankers in the left lane, taking thirty-five mile and hour plunges around the curves of the switchbacks. Terraced sections of distant hills revealed large-scale strip mine operations, and to the south we caught our first glimpses of giant red rock edifices jetting out from the desert floor. The sun was setting, it seemed prudent to save the grand entrance into our first Utah town for the pure light of morning, and so Goat and I stopped by a day-use hiking trail and waited for Jacob. A man in a cowboy hat trailing a horse trailer behind his grey 4*4 pickup smiled and rolled down his window to ask about our unique bike frames. After Goat gave his explanation of the xtracycle, I enthusiastically praised the raw beauty inherent in the wilderness. The man took the comment straight to heart without chaser; “why thank you, I live right down the road, that’s my property line down there!�

Unfortunately, as we would come to understand the next morning, the serene desert setting lost all appeal just beyond the city limits of Vernal. The city itself consisted of flat sprawling suburbia, complete with a surplus of identical shopping centers. A small café near the town bike shop offered pints of Polygamy Porter among few other beer options –Utah beer cannot have alcohol contents higher than 4% by volume. Naturally, after having had to patch the same stubborn flat tire three different times I settled down to sample a few of Utah’s finest, only to feel a lingering dissatisfaction of the taste buds –like someone suffering low blood sugar desperately chugging diet pop to get a fix.

After a bite to eat, we all gathered inside the town library till our welcome wore as thin as our withered break pads. I had noticed as early as noon that day a short stocky girl sporting a red sweatshirt with gold letters spelling out ‘Coca-Cola’. She appeared to be moving aimlessly among the grass lawn and rock garden in front of the city civic center with the determination of a runner training for a marathon.

I saw the same girl walking the same rounds nearly three hours later, after Goat and I had finished shopping for supplies. I had been searching for Jacob, and found him passed out under the shade of a tree bearing rotting apples. He asserted that he had felt light headed and ready to faint after enduring a miserable episode of liquid shits among the spotless porcelain bowls of Seven- Eleven. I am about to lay down upon the grassy knoll and feign illness as well, when the devoted pedestrian girl skews slightly from her route and comes to stand before me, her eyes begging to make my acquaintance.

“How long you’ve been riding?� she asks.

“Been on the road for four months now�. Trying hard to rap this one up quick.

“I used to bike� her eyes were burrowing into my own, perhaps searching for evidence of the same callous reservation lining the pupils of every other stranger like a three story retaining wall. I get the fear that I’m being distant and unfriendly for no good reason.

“My father took the bike away with him, so now I just walk around here.� She waves her hand over her precious domain. “Do you know, I’m twenty one and I already smoke?� The girl exclaims not without a touch of pride. “I don’t know what brand I like, I just smoke whatever I can find over there.� She points her stubby finger to an ashtray.

“Ah, re-fries�. I respond, wanting to wretch in disgust instead. There ensued a bit of awkward silence between us, yet the girl presses ahead, determined as ever to reach new heights in the delicate art of conversation.

“I saw a man from the prison put up these Christmas lights.� She points to the haphazardly draped roll of burnt out bulbs tacked on the rot-bearing trunk. I smile and devote all my attention to a careful study of the handiwork.

“My father’s in prison and I’m going to get to see him just before Christmas. He’s been locked up for over a year since he was caught running a drug lab.�

“How was he caught?� Jacob’s has finally found a point of entry into the conversation.

“Well, they usually catch you when you’re based out of a van or trailer.� She explains.
I nod and grind my teeth.

“I have a boyfriend, and we’re planning on beginning a life together.� She quickly inserts, still probing my face for some human characteristic. Perhaps she was experimenting to see if the mention of being engaged would provoke some jealousy.

“He’s getting a job that pays twenty five dollars an hour, so that we can save up for a house.�

“That’s uh…� I choke in the process of forming a reply. “I mean what kind of job is he getting?�

“Oh, I don’t know, all he tells me is that he’s been hired. He’s been fired from plenty of jobs; jobs at the oil fields, retailing jobs…�

Suddenly some young yuppie wearing a tattered beanie shouts something unintelligible in our direction and then darts down an alleyway.

Jacob, in his divine haggardness musters the strength to make his second comment. “He a friend of yours?�

“Oh no,� she replies objects. “The only way anybody would know me at all would be through knowing my boyfriend.� Her gay expression revealed absolutely no awareness of the tragedy she was imparting.
Sometime, much too late in the day I found my savior in the form of a Goat riding a bike down the street. He had finished up some phone calls and appeared as ready as Jacob and I to make a quick exit out of mind numbing Vernal. We had a real challenging ride ahead us; it would be ten miles of narrow highway riding before we would encounter non-private property suitable for camping. Those ten miles turned out to be some of the most dangerous of the whole trip. Deadly wide loaded tankers screamed down the shoulderless road. At one point the edge of the road crumbled into a cliff of dried mud upon which both Goat and I slid off of while avoiding impact with the rush of traffic. On the left side of the murderous motorway there appeared a parting in the barbwire fence. It felt too good to pronounce the word ‘home’, after surviving such a frightful ride –and for that matter such a terrifying town. The ground bellow us was grossly barren, naked as the moon and mysteriously full of humps and ridges.

“This looks like an off-road vehicles paradise�, Goat remarked.

We found a flat spot to pitch the tent, laid down our bedrolls, made a brief attempt to read but quickly extinguished our head torches in favor of the silent darkness.

Twenty minutes later the sound of a powerful engine drowned out the early whispers of blissful dreamscapes.

After at least ten minutes of the engine’s sustained roar Goat speaks up: “that has to be a generator, nobody lets their off-road bikes stay idle that long�.

“It’s a motorbike,� I predict, “there’s more than one rider standing side by side passing a bottle of cheap booze among themselves. We’ll hear a crash of glass and then boom…� It was after all a clear starry Saturday night, what the hell else were rebellious Mormon youths going to do in Vernal for fun.

Soon we hear the bikers kick the accelerators to their machines, and then our flamboyantly colored circus tent got caught in the line of blinding headlights. Our late night off-roading visitors wasted no time pondering the odd site of our bike camp, they zoomed right alongside our tent shouting out loud with jovial spirits.

I suddenly felt like an old man who’s only recourse was to strut out the tent door completely naked, slowly unlatch the bindings to my rifle case, and fake out the delinquents with my Martin guitar.

We heard a girl screaming with delight and then the sound of a bike slowly approaching our tent, the rider calling back to his friends, “you think they’re asleep in there?�
The brave young souls remain content to torment us for another half hour, while we lay impotently in our grease bags. As we heard the drone of the bike engines fade for a final time into the distance I heaved a sigh of relief, realizing that the weather was still mild and bearable.

“Best campsite ever!� Jacob mutters dreamily.

Yellowstriping Through Yellowstone






The thermometer had sunk into low teens and the intrepid trio of travelers had courageously slept indoors at a hotel in West Yellowstone braving the comforts of warmth, friends and family. From the outside of the hotel room, it looked quite normal, indistinguishable from the other 87. Theoretically, if you looked inside you would see a hotel room resembling the rest. But, an aerial view inside the room would expose an abstract painting splattered with an explosion of geometrical shapes from the neon dry bags and Thermarests which disrupted the conservative array of pre-installed furniture and 7 adults having to play hop scotch with the few square inches of unoccupied space to get across the room. With the wave of a magician’s handkerchief, the 7 adults spilled out of the impossibly small hotel room and made all the food at the continental breakfast disappear. This would not be as remarkable if the buffet did not include omelettes that were a chemically crafted combination of neon Velveeta and Egg-Beaters.

Just as promised, the Yellowstone National Park had been closed to the vehicular masses, and reserved for our own enjoyment and safe passage. Days before, I asked a Park Ranger if we could still ride our bikes through the park after it closed. “Let me put it to you this way, a snow plow slid off the road,� Was her cold response. It seemed quite obvious she was ready to get all the tourists out of the park so she could be on vacation.

“Sweet! So you’re saying we can,� I thought enthusiastically as she walked off.

Old Faithful erupted, exactly as described by the hotel clerk, except for one detail. We did not have to share the view with 4,000 other eager tourists. I could swerve blindly from one side of the road to another, a personal over-sized bike path through some of the most beautiful scenery a mortal could imagine. Buffalo somehow managed to appear out of nowhere while I got lost in my pedal strokes. I suddenly found my way, startled by the appearance of the car-sized creature a mere 5 feet away from me, silently chewing on some grass.

Towards the end of our day we had climbed into the snowy elevations and crossed the Continental Divide. We dropped down into West Thumb to find a camping spot before it got too cold. Wind and snow inspired us to seek more comfortable accommodations in a nearby building.

We explored the psychedelically painted pools of scorching effervescent liquid. Steam rose from the pools with an ethereal quality, dancing with the chilling gusts of cold air and fading towards the heavens. Streams of super-heated geyser water trickled towards the shore, singeing the delicate waves on contact. I had found myself on another planet with no signs of human life for hundreds of miles and explored the area with the care and interest of an astronaut. We were treated to an explosive sunset that blasted its way over the mountains, foreshadowing the powerful storm that would follow.

Weather patterns brewed up a fierce climate while we relaxed with the comfort of our indoor accommodations. Cued by our departure, the storm was released the moment we stepped onto our bikes. A dualistic presence of ice and rain ensured that we would experience the worst of both worlds. Rain soaked us as we climbed up towards the next divide crossing where it promptly fluctuated between a combination of snow and ice. An unrelenting wind picked up, ferociously sweeping its way through the park, carrying the ice into our face with tremendous force. Seventy feet off the road I saw a fifty foot tree come crashing down, echoing its power across the valley. “Of course this storm waited for us to get back on our bikes,� I thought.

It was hard to enjoy the view as we rode out of Yellowstone. I put my face down to avoid the wind and icy debris. Progress was slow, despite pedaling as fast as I could against the elements. After leaving the confines of the park, the weather relaxed a little and gave us the chance to achieve a reasonable day’s mileage. Enriched by our human-less national park experience, we were enticed to head through the Grand Teton Park with the same private reservation as Yellowstone. We opted to yellowstripe the Great Divide section for more pristine “bike paths.�

But, our fearless leader Sean passed the turn and we wound up riding along a busy road just East of the vacant wilderness pavement. The weather was so poor that it didn’t really matter, because the Grand Tetons were shying behind the clouds and the wind/ice forced us to put our heads down and grind away at our gears. Our next stop was Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

We dropped into famed ski town beneath towering snowy cliffs and a hanglider floating overhead. I looked up at the colorful triangle and thought how nice it would be to experience moments without gravity and resistance. Two qualities that ensure each and every day, no matter how good of shape we are in, will be exhausting and challenging. But then I realized that in some twisted way; that is also why I enjoy it so much.

In Jackson Hole the next day, we drank beer at the local brewery with Peter Wuerslin and Tim Young, two guys who traveled the world on bikes in the early 80’s on what was deemed the “Too Tyred Tour.� They passed through civil war torn Central America, crossed the Darien Gap down through S. America, and flew over the pond to S. Africa with their remaining funds. Earned some money and continued up through Africa, designed innovative bikes to pedal on railroad tracks to cross the sandy deserts of Sudan. They passed through Iran & Iraq during the war and were the first bicycle tourists ever to enter Tibet. 55,000 miles and 6-1/2 years, they finished their tour around the world. I was what would be described as star struck, sitting across the table from these guys.

Bike touring really didn’t exist in that scope, when they began their journey. Bike racks had to be custom designed to accommodate their gear and special bike frames were also created for the occasion. Communications were comparatively primitive, with fax machines being touted as state-of-the-art. They weren’t just riding their bikes around the world, they were bicycle nomads, living on their bikes.

They couldn’t just have a bottom bracket air mailed to them if theirs broke. They had to get the parts machined, they had to fix things, invent things, to continue their journey. Their life was bicycle touring, much as someone else gets up each day and goes to work, they get up each day and ride their bike. Conversations with them proved invaluable and helped give us insight into our own experience and journey.

They had traveled with three people and commented on the advantage of the “democracy of three.� Decisions will always weigh towards one side, and no matter what the decision is, you have to go with it. A four-person group could reach a 2-2 decision that has the potential to split up the group, making three a powerful number. They continued by describing how they felt like brothers and the extent they would go to stick up for each other, under any circumstances. “We were a force to be reckoned with,� Tim said.

Their philosophy of bike touring as a lifestyle was really inspiring and helped solidify our own direction with the adventure. We had yellowstriped some of the dangerously snowy sections of the Great Divide Route and were frustrated by our inability to stick with our plan. We wanted to get bikes designed to ride in the snow so we could continue. Our attempts to get sponsored with snow bikes were futile and we felt defeated when we detoured away from the snowy passes. It would cost a little over 1,000 dollars for each of us to get frames that could accommodate a 3-4� wheel that could get some traction on the snow. Unfortunately, there is no way we could afford this. We are not a well funded expedition attempting the world’s first something or other, we are simply bicycle nomads trying to migrate south towards warmer weather. It appeared so simple under their perspective.

At this point, we would have a better chance at continuing the off-road bike touring if we dropped in elevation some, which was our priority. Trails like the Kokopelli from Grand Junction to Moab, Utah, and the Arizona Trail from Utah into Mexico, offered a promising alternative. If we stayed close to our designated route, we would be forced to take busier highways, plowed and maintained for the multitude of vehicles traveling. Our experiences with black ice and vehicles swerving off the road, just a few feet from killing us, have left us to fear and respect the automobile, especially in icy circumstances. Some of the off-road routes on the great divide trail could put you over a steep pass and drop you down at the base of another. A two-three day ride under normal conditions, and twice that in the snow. The thought of the sky dumping a couple feet of powder overnight, could turn the joyride, into..well.. our last ride, I suppose. Our next stop was Pinedale, Wyoming and an opportunity to get back on the great divide trail. We would consider our options when we got there.

In the Jackson Hole community, effigies were burned as sacrifices to the snow gods, grown men danced various jigs outside of the local brewery to encourage the powder to fall, and we remained the only sacrilegious people in confines of the city that did not want snow (except for Tim and Peter). Luckily, we were granted a snow-free day to pedal out of town, despite our inability to craft up any ceremonial dances to preserve the sunshine. We sailed south along a chocolate ribbon of road, cutting up through the freshly frosted canyon. After one final icy stretch, we made it out and onto level ground. I drifted far behind the others, feeling spent within an hour of riding. No amount of candy or Peruvian frosting given to us by Goat’s dad, could revive me. It wasn’t until after it got dark that I saw the familiar flashing red light in the distance of Sean.

But Goat was nowhere to be seen. The freezing temperatures had taken their toll on my feet, and riding into the night only made my frostbitten toes worse, I could only imagine what Goat’s felt like. Sean was miserable as well and ready to camp, and it was out of the ordinary for Goat to blast ahead of us like this. I reached a junction with a truck stop just 10 miles shy of Pinedale.

I parked my bike near the street and left my flashing light on while I sought warmth inside the building. At first, I wandered through attempting to coax the blood to flow to my feet once again. I cursed the holes in my shoes and aimlessly sauntered through the store, pretending like I was there for something besides the free heater. Eyes of the clerks began falling on me, suspiciously; so I made conversation, hoping to comfort them with my unusually haggard presence.

“Have you seen another cyclist stop through here?� I asked, as I sat down at a table near the counter and began taking off my shoes and socks.

“If you ask me, I think you’re crazy to be riding this late in the cold,� She said and looked at me like I was dangerously dumb.

I struggled to maintain a level of courtesy with my reply, “Uhm…well..I actually just asked you if you had seen another cyclist.�

“Nope. Can’t say that I have. When’d ya last see him?�

“Noon-ish, I suppose. Just south of Jackson City.�

Her face seemed to flush with concern. She said, “Honey, he may be in trouble. Jes last year, a snowboarder your age was hitchin’ ‘long this road, found a few miles from here, stabbed ‘bout 27 times.�

“Wow. Did they ever find the murderer?� I asked.

“Nope. They shor haven’t.� She slowly and dramatically shook her head back and forth, like I had just given her news of another fatal tragedy.

Just then, the bell on the door jingled and let in a cold gust of air as Sean walked through the door. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking about how I had looked coming in just a few minutes before. Frozen moisture from his breathe had added an extra ¼ inch of ice to his beard. Failed snot rockets caught on his mustache leaving two green icicles above his lips. His bloodshot eyes rolled around the room while he tried to pull off his gloves. He laughed when he found me sitting at a table with my shoes and socks off, trying to rub some circulation back in my feet. Somehow, his feet, inside Keen sandals still had plenty of life to them. We were not the picture of sanity, verified when I glanced up at the clerk behind the counter, shaking her head.

“Have you seen Goat?� He asked as he inspected his icy beard with his frozen hands.

“Nah.. But the lady behind the counter informed me that he is probably bleeding on the side of the road from knife wounds.�

“Oh really,� he replied incredulously. “That’s too bad. I sort of enjoyed his company.�

The lady interjected, “I’m closin’ it on up in here. Ya’ll are welcome to hang ‘round outside. But I gotta lock up and you don’t wanna be stuck in here all night.�

I surveyed the room and saw the shelves of food. I was certain I would enjoy a night in the food mart. But I obediently stepped outside and paced around in the cold. We were both dumbfounded by the disappearance of Goat and exhausted enough to set up camp without him but Sean claimed he had seen Goat’s tire tracks and was sure he was ahead of us so we pushed on. A huge raised pickup almost hit Sean as he crossed the sizeable intersection. I followed behind and feared something was wrong with my bottom bracket.

I had one seize up on me just before setting up my bike for the trip and wanted to get the best one available to prevent any failures. A bottom bracket should not fail. Phil Woods was reputed to have some of the best bottom brackets, so I splurged 150 dollars on the finely crafted component, handmade in San Jose CA. It started to feel a bit loose; soon it evolved into an aggravated grinding rattle. And within about 15 minutes the cranks developed a significant wobble that accompanied the painful sound of clenching metal. The right side of my bottom bracket completely blew out and little ball bearings were littering the highway. I thought back to the day it arrived in a sleek box, with each little piece sitting in a slot perfectly form fit to it. A work of art, really. Goat and Sean settled for the bottom of the line Shimano BB, which set them back about 8 bucks. I was furiously disappointed with Phil. My pathetic bike hobbled towards the edge of town where Goat was patiently waiting for us.

The man seemed un-phased by the ridiculous cold we slid through all day and night. Didn’t see any need to stop at the gas station, had no frozen limbs to defrost, and so he kept going. We were expecting a package at the post office the next day, and we had to pick it up early before it closed. So he charged ahead stretching our daily mileage into about 80. Camped out on the side of the highway behind some bushes and I woke up early to get into town.

The post office was closed, and the sign on the door explained that it was Veteran’s Day. We would have to hang out in Pinedale over the weekend. I found a hardware store/bike store and was able to get a new bottom bracket, a bottom of the line Shimano. There was a nice coffee shop with free internet access that we spent a good amount of time at. Small enough place that our conversations were quite transparent. And a guy working on his computer at the other table heard us whining about having to spend the next few days in the snow. He invited us over to his house to spend the weekend.