This morning I'm actually going to get to enjoy a hotel breakfast. All this money spent on hotel rooms thus far and I've been out the door so early I haven't been able to gorge on a single one. It's your typical US style motel breakfast fare, but who really cares? Anything with the smallest amount of caloric value is sliding down the gullet without any hesitation. A few plates of eggs that resemble crumbling tofu squares and enough sausage links to spike Tyson Foods stock prices... all while wearing bike shoes, running shorts and a cycling jersey.
I've decided to wait in Lander until the bike shop opens to see if I can get the growing issue with my bike fixed. Looking at a map, there ain't much for bike shops past this point for a good ways. The additional rest also gives my chamois a chance to fully dry, which is really nice, and I use the opportunity to catch up with family and friends.
The Bike Mill in Lander, WY is a small shop that opens at 9am on Saturdays. I pack up my gear and camp out on the sidewalk until the first employee shows up. He wasn't the gentlemen I spoke with last night, but escorts me into the shop and takes my bike to the service area. It's difficult to completely diagnose the issue at this point- the symptoms can point to several areas, so it's a step by step review to rule out certain things. I am trying to not let my need to get back on the road quickly show... "let's get this fixed right and not rush it, Tim...". Rusty, the main mechanic who I spoke with the night before rushes through the front door. He knows I'd be there and understands the need to get me back on the road quickly. He focuses all his immediate attention towards my bike, which I am extremely grateful for.
The hub is first inspected and regreased- nope, not the issue (but good to have that done). I'm watching trackleaders as they work and seeing Matthijs close in. Rear derailleur cable is then changed. Tony is now closing in, Jason isn't far behind him. The RD cable swap seemed to have fixed most of the issue. I check again and Matthijs has now passed through Lander. We test in the parking lot and consider it a vast improvement. Rusty wanted to keep going, but I had to stop him and push to wrap things up and get back on the road. Thanks again Rusty and The Bike Mill for prioritizing me that morning! Back on the road at 10:45am with Matthijs about 2 hours ahead.
Out of Lander, things return to desolation very quick. It's not that things were that lively before Lander, but I've been in this town for over 12 hours and have quickly forgotten the loneliness that most of WY brings. It takes a minute to calibrate my mind back. I was hoping to complete the stretch from Lander to Rawlins in the early am, to avoid high winds. At 11am, it's already pretty gusty, and it's forming into a cross/head.
Already aggravated with losing a few hours of riding, the day feels like it's wasted. Couple that with these riding conditions, and my head isn't in the best place. The wind is ruthless- it's a constant howl into your front wheel, blowing you all over the road, keeping you from finding any resemblance of rhythm. Luckily I get a chance to meet another tourer, in a velomobile. We have a small chat on the road, and have a chance to catch a meal at a good ol' boys cafe in Jefferey City. We both sit at the bar, fully clad in spandex and caked in sweat. The rest of the crowd is locals, in boots and cowboy hats, RAM trucks strewn about in a dirt parking lot, large dogs sleeping all over the cracked tile floor inside. While on the surface it's apparent we don't fit in, there is also some underlying respect for the feat we are trying to accomplish. These men know how harsh this area is; we get a few head nods as we depart.
It's raging hot, the winds are brutal and honestly, it sucked. I rarely get aggravated when riding- I ride rather to decompress and relax...but the stretch from Muddy Gap into Rawlins was one that really tested the nerves. Once we turned south in Muddy Gap, road construction began. The road didn't have much of a shoulder to begin with, but with the construction the entire shoulder was gone. The rumble strip was also directly on the white line, forcing you to ride the edge of a skinny traffic lane, on a two lane highway, with a speed limit around 65. Traffic was constant in both directions, making it difficult for vehicles to give you that much room. The wind was now a strong side wind, fluttering the front wheel violently and pulling the bike into the lane of traffic. Every other vehicle seemed to be a semi, passing so close I could practically touch them, stirring up another wind pocket to pull you further into the lane. I'd try and correct only to get stuck in the rumble strip, jarring my bike and bones apart. I was pulling over constantly to try and regroup, let a few cars pass and refocus. It was honestly one of the toughest parts of the race mentally for me.
The construction ended within the last 20 miles to Rawlins. I was destroyed from the work of the last two hours, and wasn't thinking I could get much further past Rawlins that night. The improvements I thought we had made on my bike also seemed to have vanished- the knocking/hesitation during gear shifts was back.
I tried to keep some optimism open as I rolled into town and found a restaurant for dinner. I was lucky to find a Thai restaurant, and actually met some folks from SLC which was a nice suprise. We chatted for a little bit, but it was time to keep moving.
I had my eyes set on Saratoga, but my body was telling me to stay in Rawlins. On the very far side of Rawlins, just as I was about to head back out into the darkness, I saw a hotel light shining and my bike steered me into the parking lot.
Better hopes for tomorrow.