Trans Am Bike Race Day 11 Report
Tuesday June 13, 2017: My plan to get my bike looked over at a local bike shop in Lander afforded me quite the sleep in as The Bike Mill didn’t open until 10 am. By the time I finally left the worlds dodgiest hotel room I was far from top form however. I was still a tad frayed from the previous day’s wind storm and feeling frustrated at the loss of progress from both that storm and what would be at least half a day off the road getting my bike looked at.
Walking my bike down Main Street, Lander with a coffee I was trying to reframe my mindset from frustration to determination. Determination to smash the back part of the day and get as far up the route as possible and maybe even catch up with the other racers that had stayed in Lander the previous night. I would be well rested, fed and my bike freshly serviced so why not!
I left my bike at The Bike Mill and then headed off for the biggest baddest hot breakfast I could find hoping that I would be back on the road by midday at the very latest.
Marking Time in Lander, Wyoming
I found a rather fancy (fancy for those attired in lycra and flip flops that is) brunch restaurant called Middle Fork on Main Street and ordered an omelette with the lot, coffee and juice. The guy (I can’t remember his name – a lovely chap) at the bike shop then rang informing me that he had identified a knock in the bottom bracket that would take him up to 3 hours to sort. “Bugger!” I thought although I could see that there was absolutely no point slipping back into a mood of frustration. Indeed I felt justified in my decision to get my bike looked at. A few hours off the road now may well save me many more down the track.
I thus had plenty of time to burn so I ordered another omelette, made a few phone calls and mucked about on social media for a while. I even read some of the local paper. It felt quite bizarre kicking back over breakfast in this way. A long breakfast is one of life’s simple luxuries and one that I haven’t indulged in for years given the chaos that having 2 young boys brings and yet here I was in the middle of Wyoming 10 days into a bike race across the US ordering more food and coffee and reading the bloody newspaper……..Bizarre!
Surely Not Again?
I was back on the bike at 1:21pm, bike freshly serviced and a new front light fitted as my dyno light had not been working. I was dead keen to ride hard into the afternoon and then late into the night to try and make up for the 8 hours lost so far that day. A digital road sign not long out of Lander indicating “strong winds” warned that mother nature may well have other plans for me however.
It was breezy as I followed US Route 287 out into the wide open grass plains of central Wyoming but nothing I couldn’t handle and I was hopeful that the road sign was out of date, referring instead to conditions of the previous afternoon or earlier in the day.
Surely not again?
With about 90 minutes and 30 kilometres under the belt it became obvious that the wind was going to play a major part in my progress or lack thereof that day. It was blowing from the south west and picking up force as US Route 287 snaked its way in a south easterly direction. I was being buffeted by the resultant crosswind and progress became painstakingly slow and indeed dangerous as it had yesterday afternoon. I would find out later via the race Facebook Page that a fellow racer would pull out of the race after being blown over and almost hit by a car on this stretch, understandably freaked out by the experience.
No such horrible luck for me however, probably assisted in no small part by my ample body weight, although I did become a frequent visitor of a part of the road that was not meant for cyclists. Thank crap there where barely any cars on the road.
Even during the lighter gusts I was being pushed onto the ripple strip and/or these god awful divots about the width of a bicycle tyre that ran along the hard shoulder.
It was miserable going and the only thing keeping me from having a good old cry was a visceral anger. I was not angry at it being windy. Shit, wind is as much part of cycling as the wheels on a bike. It was more the fact that this wind seemed to wish me harm in some way, by constantly pushing me into the middle of the road, that had me fuming. I was also greatly offended by the original engineers of US Route 287 who in 1935 bloody well insisted on pointing the road in a south-easterly direction when a more easterly direction would have suited me better 82 years later…….bastards!
Yep, I was becoming rather irrational!
In between profanity laced screams at my situation I came across JJ Simon who was standing next to his bike on the hard shoulder waiting for some particularly intense wind gusts to pass. Although I hadn’t met JJ before or indeed spoken with a fellow Trans Am Racer for over a day all I could muster was a grunt along the lines of “This is f*cked!” before peddling on into the wretchedness.
A Temporarily Granted Wish
By the time I reached Sweetwater Station I had covered only 62 kilometres in just under 3.5 hours. I stopped at the tourist rest stop to top up my water bottles and indeed my sanity levels out of the wind for a while. Ah, the sweet serenity of shelter.
I noticed a massive American flag stiff as a board facing pretty much the direction I was to travel. US Route 287 was finally facing in a more Easterly direction and my wish of a tailwind was to be granted. I eagerly scrambled to get back on my bike and set sail downwind. I barely touched the pedals yet was flying along north of 45 km/hr.
The tailwind was temporary however as about 7 kilometres from Sweetwater the road bent to the right. I was still wind assisted but the push was now ever so slightly across me. I was going fast at a reduced effort but had to constantly fight being blown onto the road……again. It was more of the tweekers high than the relaxed euphoria of a pure tail wind.
I was hungry but daren’t stop at Jeffrey City (population 106 – City ????) for food as I just wanted to squeeze as much assistance out of the wind as possible.
Back to Reality
From Sweetwater Station I had made pretty damn good progress covering the 50 kilometres in under 1.5 hours. I was in high spirits but constantly on edge, aware that my luck could change at any moment. If the road veered right I was screwed.
And of course this is exactly what happened. My heart almost broke as the evil crosswind from the dark side of Hell rejoined me as the road veered right. The next 15 kilometre stretch to the Three Forks, Muddy Gap Gas Station took me over an hour.
Three Forks, Muddy Gap Gas Station
It was about 7:30 pm when I rolled up to the oasis of the Three Forks, Muddy Gap Gas Station. A tin shed in the middle of bloody nowhere. It was quite the traveller’s rest stop and had handwritten messages from all sorts of crazy adventurers written on the walls and ceiling. The friendly and eccentric (in equal measure) clerk pointed out one particular message written by some lad who had walked across the US……yes, you read that right…..walked. And I thought I was the one a few screws short of a hardware store for attempting the same on a bike.
Having not eaten a meal since breakfast I was ravenous and gathered up armfuls of microwavable gas station staples to “cook” right then and there. As I was waiting for my selection d’Burritto to reach optimum temperature (ie cooked but not too hot to demolish immediately) I started to rethink my plan for the day. The original plan of simply riding into the late night to see how far I could get was no longer really a viable option. The ferocious crosswind that had plagued a majority of the afternoon would now be closer to a ferocious headwind as the route had turned right at the gas station. The next town of Rawlins was still over 70 kilometres away and with said headwind would probably take me another 5 to 7 hours of extremely hard slog. Possibly worth a crack BUT if it all went pear-shaped there would be nowhere to take shelter.
JJ Simon who had since rocked up was on the same page. That is, trying for Rawlins that night was a fool’s errand. Best to take shelter, get some sleep and wait out the worst of it.
But take shelter where?!
The Gas station was perfect but not an option unfortunately as it closed at 9 pm and as it was approaching 8:30 pm the clerk was all of a sudden keen to get rid of us. We had quickly gone from the source of mild amusement and conversation to inconvenience. He did show us a spot out the back of the gas station where we could camp however but it was nowhere near being out of the wind.
That left one possible option, a small house a few hundred metres back down the road we had come. The new plan was to knock on their door and literally plead for some shelter in whatever form they were prepared to offer it.
Failing that my new best mate JJ and I were collectively faaaarcked.
The Love Shack
Not knowing the outcome of our little mission we dressed in all our cold weather gear, packed up our bikes and rode over to the house. Thank goodness it was still light. A nighttime approach may well have been met by 2 barrels of the 2nd amendment but instead a little old lady appeared armed only by an ever so slightly suspicious expression.
Putting on our most polite and charming demeanours (not easy for 2 road-hardened Trans Am racers) we both explained our situation. The lady took it all on board and then disappeared back inside to consult with her husband.
After what seemed liked ages the little old lady re-appeared with the sweet sweet news that JJ and I could sleep in the outbuilding / shed. It was rough as guts but it might as well have been the 7 star Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai……we were out of the wind baby!
In the fading light JJ and I set up our sleeping gear, JJ with his well honed MacGyver abilities making good use of that mattress you can see in the photo above as well as some other bits and pieces of shed detritus. It was my first night sleeping rough thus far on the Trans Am and I couldn’t help but chuckle that I was finally hardening the f*ck up.
We chatted a while whilst the wind roared outside, comfortable and extremely grateful for the shelter. It turned out that JJ, a Canadian lived only about an hours drive from me in Philly. I would see him many more times during the race and have caught up with him and his wife Jacquelynn a few times since the race. Lovely people!
Yeah, it was another tough day but exactly the type of hardship / no safety net experience I was after. I entered the Trans Am to really push myself outside my comfort zone and here it was actually happening.
I was living the dream!
Day 11 Territory Covered and Stats
3D overview from Relive:
2D overview from Strava
- Distance = 131 km
- Cycling (ie moving) Time = 5 hours and 35 minutes
- Stopped Time = 1 hour and 43 minutes
- Elevation = 1,091 m
- Money Spent = $246 ($61 on food/drink, $0 on accommodation, $185 on bike maintenance/stuff)
Keep reading…..Day 12.