I’ve now reached New York, bikeless. Since boxing and shipping my bike in Denver, Colorado, I’ve spent four days on long distancs trains and visiting friends through the West and Midwest. But before the train tales, let’s go back to Pinedale…
Things always happen for a reason. Such a cliché, but loosely scientifically and philosopically correct,so I’ll stick with it. If my luggage rack hadn’t broken on the rocky descending road from Union Pass, I wouldn’t have taken a rest in Pinedale. That would mean I wouldn’t have been outside AZ Hardware late the next morning and wouldn’t have met Renato and Doug, who were coming in off a ‘Nero’ (nearly zero I.e. nearly zero miles ride) day, soon joined by Cheryl and later by Cedric and Justin. Then finally Mike, found way out in the desert the next afternoon.
It was because of the support and camaraderie of this group that I made it to Rawlins and on to Colorado, a gruelling, windy and extremely remote route that took four days across dusty and windy roads. If I had been on my own I’m not sure I could have made it. But as a group it made it manageable and enjoyable, and Wyoming is a state that will forever be etched in my memory for those epic four days.
On the first day we made it across a huge swathe of desert to Atlantic City, an eleven and a half hour cycle not helped by the fact that myself and Cedric lost the group for a few hours and first thought they were behind us, eventually figuring out that they were ahead when we saw four dots on the distant horizon.
Atlantic City is a semi abandoned gold rush town, far from anywhere. Populated only by a few families, on one side of a dried up dusty creek we stayed with Wild Bill, a hunter/boutique knife craftsman/beef jerky producer who put us up in his cabins and served us a massive bottomless breakfast the next morning in his front room, surrounded by his stuffed prize animals staring down at us as we gorged on pancakes, coffee, sausages, eggs etc.
The next morning we set off into rolling desert, losing the way a couple of times through criss crossing tracks. The only water source that day was Diagnus Well, miles into the desert and only marked by a white rock lying by the road side. Eventually, at 8.20pm that night we made camp at AM reservoir, a man made lake stocked with fish to keep the oil workers out here occupied.
On the third day we rolled in to Rawlins, a wild west town with saloons, cheap motels and an off license. It was such a relief to get out of the barren wastelands of the Wyoming Basin, but even though it was tough it was one of the highlights of the trip, due to the surreal nature of the never ending views and end of the world feel.
Two days later and we were in Colorado, having lunch at a ranch right on the border. The ranch manager told us of his 900 cows which wander in to the surround kilometers of forest in Spring, just to wander with the encouragement of some cowboys back before the snows come in October. The remoteness out here is huge. He was just leaving on a six and a half hour drive to south dakota, to an agriculture sales event.
And finally made it to Steamboat Springs. A resort town in the heart of the Rockies, we set down our bikes and went to the bar. There was a mountain bike race in town that weekend and it was very busy. The local bike shop advised against riding over the pass to Denver due to narrow shoulders and heavy traffic, so we reluctantly boxed our bikes, saying goodbye to those who were continuing the trail south (they’ll eventually end up in New Mexico).
In Denver I stayed with Gareth and Aubrey, two friends from my time in Korea. We went to Breweries, went out in the gentrified warehouse district in downtown Denver, and cooked up some mean Korean food at home. It was a perfect rest time after 5 weeks and 3300kms in the saddle.
Then on Tuesday I began my four day journey East on Amtrak, the US long distance rail network. On the first overnight to Omaha, we were three hours late due to weather and freight trains taking priority on the line.
I spent the next day in Omaha with Justin, a former band member. Omaha is famous for Warren Buffet and Steak, and it didn’t disappoint. We cycled along the Missouri river, had a huge American breakfast (this is a solid theme in all my travels this year you’ll notice) and went line dancing in athe club called ‘Rednecks’ that night. A great introduction to Midwestern culture.
From there I hopped back on the Amtrak to Chicago. Distances are huge in America: this leg was a ten hour trundle through endless corn and soy fields. The trains are two storey, and give a great view of the surrounding countryside. The panoramic viewing car is where you end up talking to all sorts of people. I got chatting to ayou pig farmer from Iowa who was going to visit her son in Chicago, and a marijuana farmer from California who was going to visit his mother in Baltimore (with a large rolly bag of his own product hiding in the luggage compartment)
Now I’m finally in New York and ready to go see some sights over the next few days. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the states from the train. People are always so friendly and talkative and you get a real sense about what people think about their country, as we whizz by on the double decker coaches…